The affair was quickly settled. The solicitor went carefully over Mr. Benjamin’s figures, representing principal and interest up to date, and expressed himself as satisfied; it was extortionate but legal, he declared. The sum total was a little over twenty-five hundred pounds—Bertie had received less than two-thirds of it in cash—and Jimmie promptly hauled out a fat roll of Bank of England notes and paid down the amount. He took the canceled paper, nodded coldly to the Jew, and left the money-lender’s office with his companions.
Mr. Grimsby, declining an invitation to lunch, hailed a cab and went off to the city to keep an appointment with a client. The other two walked on to Piccadilly, and Bertie remembered that morning, months before, when Victor Nevill had helped him out of his difficulties, only to get him into a tighter hole.
“No person but myself was to blame,” he thought. “Nevill meant it as a kindness, and he advised me to pull up when he found what I was drifting into—I never mentioned the last bill to him. Dear old Jimmie, he’s given me another chance! How jolly to feel that one is rid of such a burden! I haven’t drawn an easy breath for weeks.”
“We’ll go to my place first,” said Jimmie. “I want a wash after the atmosphere of that Jew’s den. And then we’ll lunch together.”
It was a dull and cheerless day, but the sitting-room in the Albany looked quite different to Bertie as he entered it. Was it only a few hours before, he wondered, that he had stood there by the window in the act of taking that life which had become too great a burden to bear? And in the blackness of his despair, when he saw no glimmer of hope, the clouds had rolled away. He glanced at the pistol, harmlessly resting on a shelf, and a rush of gratitude filled his heart and brought tears to his eyes. He clasped his friend’s hand and tried incoherently to thank him.
“Come, none of that,” Jimmie said, brusquely. “Let us talk of something more interesting. I have a pot of money; and this stuff,” pulling out the packet of bills, “don’t even make a hole in it. It was a jolly little thing to do—”
“It wasn’t a little thing for me, old chap. I shall never forget, and be assured that you will get your money back some day, with interest.”
“Oh, hang the money!” exclaimed Jimmie. “If I’m ever hard up I’ll ask for it. If you want to show your gratitude, my boy, see that you stick to your promise and run straight as a die hereafter.”
“I swear I will, Jimmie. I would be worse than a blackguard if I didn’t. Don’t worry—I’ve had my lesson!”
“Then let it be a lasting one. There are plenty of fellows who never get clear of the Jews.”
Jimmie vanished into the next room, and in a few moments reappeared, rubbing his face vigorously with a towel.
“Do you remember in the Jew’s den,” he said abruptly, “my calling your attention to the men talking in the back office?”