“Well, the old peach brandy, then—get it at once and serve it in the large glasses.”
St. George had now reached the last stage of his poverty. The selling or pawning of the few valuables left him had been consummated and with the greatest delicacy, so as best to spare his feelings. That he had been assisted by hitherto unknown friends who had sacrificed their own balances in his behalf, added temporarily to his comforts but did not lessen the gravity of the present situation. The fact remained that with the exception of a few possible assets he was practically penniless. Every old debt that could be collected—and Gadgem had been a scourge and a flaming sword as the weeks went on in their gathering—had been rounded up. Even his minor interests in two small ground rents had, thanks to Pawson, been cashed some years in advance. His available resources were now represented by some guns, old books, bridles, another saddle, his rare Chinese punch-bowl and its teakwood stand, and a few remaining odds and ends.
He could hope for no payment from the Patapsco—certainly not for some years; nor could he raise money even on these hopes, the general opinion being that despite the efforts of John Gorsuch, Rutter, and Harding to punish the guilty and resuscitate the innocent, the bank would finally collapse without a cent being paid the depositors. As for that old family suit, it had been in the courts for forty-odd years and it was likely to be there forty-odd years more before a penny would be realized from the settlement.
Had he been differently constructed—he a man with scores and scores of friends, many of whom would gladly have helped him—he might have made his wants known; but such was not his make-up. The men to whom he could apply—men like Horn, the archdeacon, Murdoch, and one or two others—had no money of their own to spare, and as for wealthier men—men like Rutter and Harding—starvation itself would be preferable to an indebtedness of that kind. Then again, he did not want his poverty known. He had defied Talbot Rutter, and had practically shown him the door when the colonel doubted his ability to pay Harry’s debts and still live, and no humiliation would be greater than to see Rutter’s satisfaction over his abject surrender. No—if the worst came to the worst, he would slip back to Wesley, where he was always welcome and take up the practice of the law, which he had abandoned since his father’s death, and thus earn money enough not to be a burden to Peggy. In the meantime something might turn up. Perhaps another of Gadgem’s thumb-screws could be fastened on some delinquent and thus extort a drop or two; or the bank might begin paying ten per cent.; or another prepayment might be squeezed out of a ground rent. If none of these things turned out to his advantage, then Gadgem and Pawson must continue their search for customers who would have the rare opportunity of purchasing, direct “from the private collection of a gentleman,” etc., etc., “one first-class English saddle,” etc., etc.