‘Yes, sir,’ said the elder man, with something of an American accent, ’I have somehow taken a fancy to this place. The situation is healthy.’
‘Well, I don’t know; I’ve had more than one touch of fever here.’
‘The climate is lovely—’
‘Except in the rains.’
‘The soil is fertile—’
’I’ve dropped five thousand in it, and they haven’t come up again yet.’
’They will. I have been round the estate, and I see money in it. Well, sir, here’s my offer: five thousand down, hard cash, as soon as the papers are signed.’
Reginald sat up. He was on the point of accepting the proposal, when a pony rode up to the house, and the rider, a native groom, jumped off and gave him a note. He opened it and read. It was from his nearest neighbour, two or three miles away:
Don’t sell that man your estate. Gold has been found. The whole country is full of gold. Hold on. He’s an assayer. If he offers to buy, be quite sure that he has found gold on your land.
He put the note into his pocket, gave a verbal message to the boy, and turned to his guest, without betraying the least astonisment or emotion.
’I beg your pardon. The note was from Bellamy, my next neighbour. Well? You were saying—’
’Only that I have taken a fancy—perhaps a foolish fancy—to this place of yours, and I’ll give you, if you like, all that you have spent upon it.’
‘Well,’ he replied reflectively, but with a little twinkle in his eye, ’that seems handsome. But the place isn’t really worth the half that I spent upon it. Anybody would tell you that. Come, let us be honest, whatever we are. I’ll tell you a better way. We will put the matter into the hands of Bellamy. He knows what a coffee plantation is worth. He shall name a price, and if we can agree upon that, we will make a deal of it.’
The other man changed colour. He wanted to settle the thing at once as between gentlemen. What need of third parties? But Reginald stood firm, and he presently rode away, quite sure that in a day or two this planter, too, would have heard the news.
A month later, the young coffee-planter stood on the deck of a steamer homeward bound. In his pocket-book was a plan of his auriferous estate; in a bag hanging round his neck was a small collection of yellow nuggets; in his boxes was a chosen assortment of quartz.
‘Well, sir,’ said the financier, ’you’ve brought this thing to me. You want my advice. Well, my advice is, don’t fool away the only good thing that will ever happen to you. Luck such as this doesn’t come more than once in a lifetime.’
‘I have been offered ten thousand pounds for my estate.’
’Oh! Have you! Ten thousand? That was very liberal—very liberal indeed. Ten thousand for a gold reef!’