As soon as they were gone, and Charles had recovered breath sufficiently to listen to rational conversation, I ventured to observe, “This comes of being too sure! We made one mistake. We took it for granted that because a man wears a wig, he must be an impostor—which does not necessarily follow. We forgot that not Colonel Clays alone have false coverings to their heads, and that wigs may sometimes be worn from motives of pure personal vanity. In fact, we were again the slaves of preconceptions.”
I looked at him pointedly. Charles rose before he replied. “Seymour Wentworth,” he said at last, gazing down upon me with lofty scorn, “your moralising is ill-timed. It appears to me you entirely misunderstand the position and duties of a private secretary!”
The oddest part of it all, however, was this—that Charles, being convinced Forbes-Gaskell, though he wasn’t Colonel Clay, had been fraudulently salting the rocks with gold, with intent to deceive, took no further notice of the alleged discoveries. The consequence was that Forbes-Gaskell and Sir Adolphus went elsewhere with the secret; and it was not till after Charles had sold the Seldon Castle estate (which he did shortly afterward, the place having somehow grown strangely distasteful to him) that the present “Seldon Eldorados, Limited,” were put upon the market by Lord Craig-Ellachie, who purchased the place from him. Forbes-Gaskell, as it happened, had reported to Craig-Ellachie that he had found a lode of high-grade ore on an estate unnamed, which he would particularise on promise of certain contingent claims to founder’s shares; and the old lord jumped at it. Charles sold at grouse-moor prices; and the consequence is that the capital of the Eldorados is yielding at present very fair returns, even after allowing for expenses of promotion—while Charles has been done out of a good thing in gold-mines!
But, remembering “the position and duties of a private secretary,” I refrained from pointing out to him at the time that this loss was due to a fixed idea—though as a matter of fact it depended upon Charles’s strange preconception that the man with the wig, whoever he might be, was trying to diddle him.
THE EPISODE OF THE JAPANNED DISPATCH-BOX
“Sey,” my brother-in-law said next spring, “I’m sick and tired of London! Let’s shoulder our wallets at once, and I will to some distant land, where no man doth me know.”
“Mars or Mercury?” I inquired; “for, in our own particular planet, I’m afraid you’ll find it just a trifle difficult for Sir Charles Vandrift to hide his light under a bushel.”
“Oh, I’ll manage it,” Charles answered. “What’s the good of being a millionaire, I should like to know, if you’re always obliged to ‘behave as sich’? I shall travel incog. I’m dog-tired of being dogged by these endless impostors.”