“By gum, mister!” said he, “that’s heavy!”
It, in fact, weighed nearly two stone.
“Yes,” said Denry, “it’s full of sovereigns, of course.”
And everybody laughed.
At Crewe, where they had to change, and again at Knype and at Bursley, he produced astonishment in porters by concealing the effort with which he handed them the hat-box, as though its weight was ten ounces. And each time he made the same witticism about sovereigns.
“What have you got in that hat-box?” Ruth asked.
“Don’t I tell you?” said Denry, laughing. “Sovereigns!”
Lastly, he performed the same trick on his mother. Mrs Machin was working, as usual, in the cottage in Brougham Street. Perhaps the notion of going to Llandudno for a change had not occurred to her. In any case, her presence had been necessary in Bursley, for she had frequently collected Denry’s rents for him, and collected them very well. Denry was glad to see her again, and she was glad to see him, but they concealed their feelings as much as possible. When he basely handed her the hat-box she dropped it, and roundly informed him that she was not going to have any of his pranks.
After tea, whose savouriness he enjoyed quite as much as his own state dinner, he gave her a key and asked her to open the hat-box, which he had placed on a chair.
“What is there in it?”
“A lot of jolly fine pebbles that I’ve been collecting on the beach,” he said.
She got the hat-box on to her knee, and unlocked it, and came to a thick cloth, which she partly withdrew, and then there was a scream from Mrs Machin, and the hat-box rolled with a terrific crash to the tiled floor, and she was ankle-deep in sovereigns. She could see sovereigns running about all over the parlour. Gradually even the most active sovereigns decided to lie down and be quiet, and a great silence ensued. Denry’s heart was beating.
Mrs Machin merely shook her head. Not often did her son deprive her of words, but this theatrical culmination of his home-coming really did leave her speechless.
Late that night rows of piles of sovereigns decorated the oval table in the parlour.
“A thousand and eleven,” said Denry, at length, beneath the lamp. “There’s fifteen missing yet. We’ll look for ’em to-morrow.”
For several days afterwards Mrs Machin was still picking up sovereigns. Two had even gone outside the parlour, and down the two steps into the backyard, and finding themselves unable to get back, had remained there.
And all the town knew that the unique Denry had thought of the idea of returning home to his mother with a hat-box crammed with sovereigns.
This was Denry’s “latest,” and it employed the conversation of the borough for I don’t know how long.