“Whatever else I am, however, I am not a hypocrite. I do not pretend to be anything more than a common swindler. If I return you your papers intact, it is only on the same principle as that of the Australian bushranger, who made a lady a present of her own watch because she had sung to him and reminded him of England. In other words, he did not take it from her. In like manner, when I found you had behaved, for once, like a gentleman, contrary to my expectation, I declined to go on with the trick I then meditated. Which does not mean to say I may not hereafter play you some other. That will depend upon your future good behaviour.
“Why, then, did I get White Heather to purloin your dispatch-box, with intent to return it? Out of pure lightness of heart? Not so; but in order to let you see I really meant it. If I had gone off with no swag, and then written you this letter, you would not have believed me. You would have thought it was merely another of my failures. But when I have actually got all your papers into my hands, and give them up again of my own free will, you must see that I mean it.
“I will end, as I began, seriously. My trade has not quite crushed out of me all germs or relics of better feeling; and when I see a millionaire behave like a man, I feel ashamed to take advantage of that gleam of manliness.
“Yours, with a tinge of penitence, but still a rogue, CUTHBERT CLAY.”
The first thing Charles did on receiving this strange communication was to bolt downstairs and inquire for the dispatch-box. It had just arrived by Eagle Express Company. Charles rushed up to our rooms again, opened it feverishly, and counted his documents. When he found them all safe, he turned to me with a hard smile. “This letter,” he said, with quivering lips, “I consider still more insulting than all his previous ones.”
But, for myself, I really thought there was a ring of truth about it. Colonel Clay was a rogue, no doubt—a most unblushing rogue; but even a rogue, I believe, has his better moments.
And the phrase about the “position of trust and responsibility” touched Charles to the quick, I suppose, in re the Slump in Cloetedorp Golcondas. Though, to be sure, it was a hit at me as well, over the ten per cent commission.
THE EPISODE OF THE GAME OF POKER
“Seymour,” my brother-in-law said, with a deep-drawn sigh, as we left Lake George next day by the Rennselaer and Saratoga Railroad, “no more Peter Porter for me, if you please! I’m sick of disguises. Now that we know Colonel Clay is here in America, they serve no good purpose; so I may as well receive the social consideration and proper respect to which my rank and position naturally entitle me.”
“And which they secure for the most part (except from hotel clerks), even in this republican land,” I answered briskly.