“No, my lord, but this hotel is such a Noah’s ark, that it’s no wonder I thought of it.”
“You’re an undutiful dog, not to ask after your mother, sir.”
“I was about—”
“I see—I see,” interrupted his lordship; “but recollect, John, that she still is your mother. By-the-by, have you read the papers yet?”
“No, sir,” replied I, “there they are,” pointing to them on the side table. “I really do not like to break the seals.”
“That they will not contain pleasant intelligence, I admit,” replied his lordship; “but until you have read them, I do not wish to converse with you on the subject, therefore,” said he, taking up the packet, and breaking the seals, “I must now insist that you employ this forenoon in reading them through. You will dine with me at seven, and then we will talk the matter over.”
“Certainly, sir, if you wish it, I will read them.”
“I must insist upon it, John; and am rather surprised at your objecting, when they concern you so particularly.”
“I shall obey your orders, sir.”
“Well, then, my boy, I shall wish you good morning, that you may complete your task before you come to dinner. To-morrow, if you wish it—but recollect, I never press young men on these points, as I am aware that they sometimes feel it a restraint—if you wish it, I say, you may bring your portmanteaus, and take up your quarters with me. By-the-bye,” continued his lordship, taking hold of my coat, “who made this?”
“The tailor to his Serene Highness the Prince of Darmsradt had that honour, my lord,” replied I.
“Humph! I thought they fitted better in Germany; it’s not quite the thing—we must consult Stulz, for with that figure and face, the coat ought to be quite correct. Adieu, my dear fellow, till seven.”
His lordship shook hands with me, and I was left alone. Timothy came in as soon as his lordship’s carriage had driven off. “Well, sir,” said he, “was your uncle glad to see you?”
“Yes,” replied I; “and look, he has broken open the seals, and has insisted upon my reading the papers.”
“It would be very undutiful in you to refuse, so I had better leave you to your task,” said Timothy, smiling, as he quitted the room.
I open an account with
my bankers, draw largely upon credulity, and
am prosperous without a check.
I sat down and took up the papers. I was immediately and strangely interested in all that I read. A secret!—it was, indeed, a secret, involving the honour and reputation of the most distinguished families. One that, if known, the trumpet of scandal would have blazoned forth to the disgrace of the aristocracy. It would have occasioned bitter tears to some, gratified the petty malice of many, satisfied the revenge of the vindictive, and bowed with shame the innocent as well as the guilty. It is not necessary, nor, indeed, would I, on any account, state any more. I finished the last paper, and then fell into a reverie. This is, indeed, a secret, thought I; one that I would I never had possessed. In a despotic country my life would be sacrificed to the fatal knowledge—here, thank God, my life as well as my liberty are safe.