“Whose bills you instructed me to call in, sir.”
“Yes; well, I met him yesterday and promised to intercede for him you.” He laughed harshly. “What fun it is, poor idiot! He shook my hand with profuse expressions of gratitude. Mr. Leroy will back the renewal and you can let it run. Beaumont’s the second son, Lord Dunford is on his last legs, and the heir won’t live another year, we can come down like kites when the gallant captain has the title and estates. Till then we’ll wait; but stick out for another two-and-a-half per cent. Make the calves bleed, Harker; it will do them and me good.”
About that small matter of the young artist, Wilson, sir?”
“Eh! Wilson? Oh, yes. You got instructions to proceed in the usual way to sell him up.”
“Yes, sir, that was your order. He called yesterday, and pleaded for another week. His wife is dying, and they are starving. He begs hard for another week——”
Stuff, another week! the dog means another year. He should have thought of the time for repaying when he was borrowing. Another week—not another day. Start proceedings at once. Mind, I say it. Didn’t I hear him call me a ‘parasite from the pavement’ one night at a ball? Screens have ears, Mr. Wilson, and parasites have memories. Sell him up—do you hear, Harker?”
“I do sir; it shall be done,” replied his servant meekly.
“And now for Leroy’s account.” With a gleam of fiendish delight in his eyes, he scrutinized the figures and statements. “Ah! you are getting them in fast.”
“All Mr. Leroy’s bills we are getting in—buying up wherever they are met with, sir, according to your instructions.”
“Right, get him into your hands—you know how. Be prepared for—you know!”
Mr. Harker inclined his head.
“Now for the women. Ah, those dear butterfly creatures will come to the nasty sticky papers that were meant to catch bluebottles only; well, then, they must take the consequences. What! Lady Merivale—the fair Eveline. Does she want to borrow money?”
“She dabbles in the Stock Exchange. I know her business man; he owes us money, sir, and we know some of his secrets. She has been losing lately, and has deposited her diamonds, sir—”
“Her diamonds? The famous Merivale diamonds? Where are they?”
“Here, sir.” Mr. Harker produced from his long pocket a shallow morocco case which he tendered mechanically to his employer.
Jasper Vermont opened the case, and gazed on its contents with twinkling eyes; then, shutting it with a laugh, he leaned back in his chair, rubbing his smooth fat hands over his chin.
“What will her ladyship do for them, and when were those left? I saw her last night and—by Heaven! she wore—”
“Paste imitations, sir. I had them made up for her. Did you think the counterfeit good?”
“Capital. Oh, isn’t it rich! that old idiot must have eyed her proudly, gloating over his famous diamonds on his wife’s fair bosom, little guessing they were Mr. Harker’s tawdry glass mockeries. Capital, Harker, but take care, take care. Remember the duchess who brought her jewels to pledge, and discovered that they were paste already, and that the duke had done the transmutation before her. Beware!”