A new business proposal.
Professor Riccabocca put the wallet in his pocket with a sigh of satisfaction. There were still sixty dollars or more in it, and it was long since he had been so rich.
He began to think now that it might be well to revive the combination. There was some doubt, however, as to how Philip would receive the proposal.
He looked at his young partner and was not much encouraged. He felt that he must conciliate him.
“Mr. de Gray,” he began.
“Call me Gray. My name is not de Gray.”
“Well, Mr. Gray, then. I hope you don’t have any hard feelings.”
“About what?” inquired Philip, surveying the professor curiously.
“About—the past,” stammered the professor.
“You mean about your running off with my money?” returned Philip plainly.
Professor Riccabocca winced. He did not quite like this form of statement. “I am afraid you misjudge me,” he said, rather confused.
“I shall be glad to listen to any explanation you have to offer,” said our hero.
“I will explain it all to you, in time,” said the professor, recovering his old assurance. “In the meantime, I have a proposition to make to you.”
“What is it?”
“Suppose we give an entertainment in Knoxville—on the same terms as the last.”
“I shouldn’t think you would like to appear before an audience here, Professor Riccabocca.”
“Before night everybody will have heard of your running away with the proceeds of the last concert.”
“Public men are always misjudged. They must expect it,” said the professor, with the air of a martyr.
“I should think you would be more afraid of being justly judged.”
“Mr. Gray,” said the professor, “I have done wrong, I admit; but it was under the influence of neuralgia. When I have a neuralgic headache, I am not myself. I do things which, in a normal condition, I should not dream of. I am the victim of a terrible physical malady.”
Philip did not believe a word of this, but he felt amused at the professor’s singular excuse.
“Come, Mr. Gray, what do you say?”
“I think I must decline,” returned Philip.
But here Professor Riccabocca received unexpected help.
Mr. Perry, the landlord, who had listened to the colloquy, approached the two speakers and said:
“Gentlemen, I have a proposal to make to you both.”
Both Philip and the professor looked up, with interest.
“Some of the young men in the village,” said the landlord, “have formed a literary club, meeting weekly. They have hired and furnished a room over one of our stores, provided it with, games and subscribed for a few periodicals. They find, however, that the outlay has been greater than they anticipated and are in debt. I have been talking with the secretary, and he thinks he would like to engage you to give an entertainment, the proceeds, beyond a fixed sum, to go to the benefit of the club. What do you say?”