The Wrecker

Page 114

"And you were afraid to tell me that!" I cried. "You poor, old, cheerless dreamer! what would it matter what you did or didn't? Can't you see we're doomed? And anyway, that's not my point. It's how I stand that I want to know. There is a particular reason. Am I clear? Have I a certificate, or what have I to do to get one? And when will it be dated? You can't think what hangs by it!"

"That's the worst of all," said Jim, like a man in a dream, "I can't see how to tell him!"

"What do you mean?" I cried, a small pang of terror at my heart.

"I'm afraid I sacrificed you, Loudon," he said, looking at me pitifully.

"Sacrificed me?" I repeated. "How? What do you mean by sacrifice?"

"I know it'll shock your delicate self-respect," he said; "but what was I to do? Things looked so bad. The receiver----" (as usual, the name stuck in his throat, and he began afresh). "There was a lot of talk; the reporters were after me already; there was the trouble and all about the Mexican business; and I got scared right out, and I guess I lost my head. You weren't there, you see, and that was my temptation."

I did not know how long he might thus beat about the bush with dreadful hintings, and I was already beside myself with terror. What had he done? I saw he had been tempted; I knew from his letters that he was in no condition to resist. How had he sacrificed the absent?

"Jim," I said, "you must speak right out. I've got all that I can carry."

"Well," he said--"I know it was a liberty--I made it out you were no business man, only a stone-broke painter; that half the time you didn't know anything anyway, particularly money and accounts. I said you never could be got to understand whose was whose. I had to say that because of some entries in the books----"

"For God's sake," I cried, "put me out of this agony! What did you accuse me of?"

"Accuse you of?" repeated Jim. "Of what I'm telling you. And there being no deed of partnership, I made out you were only a kind of clerk that I called a partner just to give you taffy; and so I got you ranked a creditor on the estate for your wages and the money you had lent. And----"

I believe I reeled. "A creditor!" I roared; "a creditor! I'm not in the bankruptcy at all?"

"No," said Jim. "I know it was a liberty----"

"O, damn your liberty! read that," I cried, dashing the letter before him on the table, "and call in your wife, and be done with eating this truck "--as I spoke, I slung the cold mutton in the empty grate--"and let's all go and have a champagne supper. I've dined--I'm sure I don't remember what I had; I'd dine again ten scores of times upon a night like this. Read it, you blaying ass! I'm not insane. Here, Mamie," I continued, opening the bedroom door, "come out and make it up with me, and go and kiss your husband; and I'll tell you what, after the supper, let's go to some place where there's a band, and I'll waltz with you till sunrise."

"What does it all mean?" cried Jim.

"It means we have a champagne supper to-night, and all go to Napa Valley or to Monterey to-morrow," said I. "Mamie, go and get your things on; and you, Jim, sit down right where you are, take a sheet of paper, and tell Franklin Dodge to go to Texas. Mamie, you were right, my dear; I was rich all the time, and didn't know it."

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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