“Manasseh,” said his master, “take that guinea and bring me change for it. If you have no silver in the treasury get the landlady to change it for you.”
Manasseh was affronted. His hand came near to shaking as he poured and handed the coffee.
“Yo’ Hon’ah doan off’n use de metal,” he answered. “Dat’s sho’. But whiles an’ again yo’ Hon’ah condescends ter want it. Dat bein’ so, I keep it by me—an’ polished. I doan fetch yo’ Hon’ah w’at any low trash has handled.”
He withdrew, leaving this fine shaft to rankle, and by-and-by entered with a small velvet bag, from the neck of which he shook a small cascade of silver coins, all exquisitely polished.
“Count me out change for a guinea,” commanded his master.
“Now empty the bag, put into it what you have counted, and sweep up the rest.”
Manasseh dropped in the coins one by one, and tied the neck of the bag with its silken ribbon. The Collector took it from him and tossed it to the girl.
“Here—catch!” said he carelessly.
But her burnt hands shrank from closing on if, and it fell to the floor. She stooped, recovered it, and slipped it within her bodice. As she rose erect again her eyes rested in wonder on the black servant who with a crumb-brush was sweeping the rest of the money off the table and catching it upon the coffee-salver. The rain and clash of the coins appeared to confuse her for a moment. Then with another curtsy and a “Thank your Honour,” she moved to the door.
“But wait,” said the Collector sharply, on a sudden thought. “You are not meaning to walk all the way home, surely?”
“At this hour?”
“The wind has gone down. I do not mind the dark, and the distance is nothing. . . . Oh, I forgot: your Honour thinks that, with all this money, some one will try to rob me?”
The Collector smiled. “You would appear to be a very innocent young woman,” he said. “I was not, as a fact, thinking of the money.”
“Nobody will guess that I am carrying so much,” she said simply; “so it will be quite safe.”
“Nevertheless this may help to give you confidence,” said he. Feeling in the breast pocket of his laced satin waistcoat, he drew forth a diminutive pistol—a delicate toy, with a pattern of silver foliated over the butt. “It is loaded,” he explained, “and primed; though it cannot go off unless you pull back the trigger. At close quarters it can be pretty deadly. Do you understand firearms?”
“Grandfather has a fowling-piece,” she answered; “and, now that his sight has failed, on Sundays I try to shoot sea-birds for him. He says that I have a good eye. But last week the birds had all flown inland, because of the gale.”
“Then take this. It is nothing to carry, and you may feel the safer for it.”
She put up a hand to decline. “Why should I need it?”