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THE MESSAGE FROM JONES
A new point of view gradually came to Brewster. All his life had been spent in wondering how to get enough money to pay his bills, and it had not occurred to him that it might be as difficult to spend as to acquire wealth. The thought staggered him for a moment. Then he cried triumphantly, "I can decline to accept grandfather's million."
"You cannot decline to accept what is already yours. I understand that the money has been paid to you by Mr. Buskirk. You have a million dollars, Mr. Brewster, and it cannot be denied."
"You are right," agreed Montgomery, dejectedly. "Really, Mr. Grant, this proposition is too much for me. If you aren't required to give an immediate answer, I want to think it over. It sounds like a dream."
"It is no dream, Mr. Brewster," smiled the lawyer. "You are face to face with an amazing reality. Come in to-morrow morning and see me again. Think it over, study it out.
Remember the conditions of the will and the conditions that confront you. In the meantime, I shall write to Mr. Jones, the executor, and learn from him just what he expects you to do in order to carry out his own conception of the terms of your uncle's will."
"Don't write, Mr. Grant; telegraph. And ask him to wire his reply. A year is not very long in an affair of this kind." A moment later he added, "Damn these family feuds! Why couldn't Uncle James have relented a bit? He brings endless trouble on my innocent head, just because of a row before I was born."
"He was a strange man. As a rule, one does not carry grudges quite so far. But that is neither here nor there. His will is law in this case."
"Suppose I succeed in spending all but a thousand dollars before the 23d of next September! I'd lose the seven millions and be the next thing to a pauper. That wouldn't be quite like getting my money's worth."
"It is a problem, my boy. Think it over very seriously before you come to a decision, one way or the other. In the meantime, we can establish beyond a doubt the accuracy of this inventory."
"By all means, go ahead, and please urge Mr. Jones not to be too hard on me. I believe I'll risk it if the restrictions are not too severe. But if Jones has puritanical instincts, I might as well give up hope and be satisfied with what I have."
"Mr. Jones is very far from what you'd call puritanical, but he is intensely practical and clear-headed. He will undoubtedly require you to keep an expense account and to show some sort of receipt for every dollar you disburse."
"Good Lord! Itemize?"
"In a general way, I presume."
"I'll have to employ an army of spendthrifts to devise ways and means for profligacy."
"You forget the item which restrains you from taking anybody into your confidence concerning this matter. Think it over. It may not be so difficult after a night's sleep."
"If it isn't too difficult to get the night's sleep."
All the rest of the day Brewster wandered about as one in a dream. He was pre-occupied and puzzled, and more than one of his old associates, receiving a distant nod in passing, resentfully concluded that his wealth was beginning to change him. His brain was so full of statistics, figures, and computations that it whirled dizzily, and once he narrowly escaped being run down by a cable car. He dined alone at a small French restaurant in one of the side streets. The waiter marveled at the amount of black coffee the young man consumed and looked hurt when he did not touch the quail and lettuce.
That night the little table in his room at Mrs. Gray's was littered with scraps of pad paper, each covered with an incomprehensible maze of figures. After dinner he had gone to his own rooms, forgetting that he lived on Fifth Avenue. Until long after midnight he smoked and calculated and dreamed. For the first time the immensity of that million thrust itself upon him. If on that very day, October the first, he were to begin the task of spending it he would have but three hundred and fifty-seven days in which to accomplish the end. Taking the round sum of one million dollars as a basis, it was an easy matter to calculate his average daily disbursement. The situation did not look so utterly impossible until he held up the little sheet of paper and ruefully contemplated the result of that simple problem in mathematics.
It meant an average daily expenditure of $2,801.12 for nearly a year, and even then there would be sixteen cents left over, for, in proving the result of his rough sum in division, he could account for but $999,999.84. Then it occurred to him that his money would be drawing interest at the bank.
"But for each day's $2,801.12, I am getting seven times as much," he soliloquized, as he finally got into bed. "That means $19,607.84 a day, a clear profit of $16,806.72. That's pretty good — yes, too good. I wonder if the bank couldn't oblige me by not charging interest."
The figures kept adding and subtracting themselves as he dozed off, and once during the night he dreamed that Swearengen Jones had sentenced him to eat a million dollars' worth of game and salad at the French restaurant. He awoke with the consciousness that he had cried aloud, "I can do it, but a year is not very long in an affair of this kind."
It was nine o'clock when Brewster finally rose, and after his tub he felt ready to cope with any problem, even a substantial breakfast. A message had come to him from Mr. Grant of Grant & Ripley, announcing the receipt of important dispatches from Montana, and asking him to luncheon at one. He had time to spare, and as Margaret and Mrs. Gray had gone out, he telephoned Ellis to take his horse to the entrance to the park at once. The crisp autumn air was perfect for his ride, and Brewster found a number of smart people already riding and driving in the park. His horse was keen for a canter and he had reached the obelisk before he drew rein. As he was about to cross the carriage road he was nearly run down by Miss Drew in her new French automobile.
"I beg your pardon," she cried. "You're the third person I've run into, so you see I'm not discriminating against you."
"I should be flattered even to be run down by you."
"Very well, then, look out." And she started the machine as if to charge him. She stopped in time, and said with a laugh, "Your gallantry deserves a reward. Wouldn't you rather send your horse home and come for a ride with me?"
"My man is waiting at Fifty-ninth Street. If you'll come that far, I'll go with pleasure."
Monty had merely a society acquaintance with Miss Drew. He had met her at dinners and dances as he had a host of other girls, but she had impressed him more than the others. Something indescribable took place every time their eyes met. Monty had often wondered just what that something meant, but he had always realized that it had in it nothing of platonic affection.
"If I didn't have to meet her eyes," he had said to himself, "I could go on discussing even politics with her, but the moment she looks at me I know she can see what I'm thinking about." From the first they considered themselves very good friends and after their third meeting it seemed perfectly natural that they should call one another by their first names. Monty knew he was treading on dangerous ground. It never occurred to him to wonder what Barbara might think of him. He took it as a matter of course that she must feel more than friendly toward him. As they rode through the maze of carriages, they bowed frequently to friends as they passed. They were conscious that some of the women, noticeably old Miss Dexter, actually turned around and gazed at them.
"Aren't you afraid people will talk about us?" asked Monty with a laugh.
"Talk about our riding together in the park? It's just as safe here as it would be in Fifth Avenue. Besides, who cares? I fancy we can stand it."
"You're a thoroughbred, Barbara. I simply didn't want you talked about. When I go too far, say the word and drop me."
"I have a luncheon at two, but until then we have our ride."
Monty gasped and looked at his watch. "Five minutes to one," he cried. The matter of his engagement with the attorney had quite escaped him. In the exhilaration of Miss Drew's companionship he had forgotten even Uncle James's millions.
"I've got a date at one that means life and death to me. Would you mind taking me down to the nearest Elevated — or — here, let me run it."
Almost before Barbara was aware of what was happening they had changed places and the machine, under Monty's guidance, was tearing over the ground.
"Of all the casual people," said the girl, by no means unequal to the excitement, "I believe you're kidnapping me."
But when she saw the grim look on Monty's face and one policeman after another warned him she became seriously alarmed. "Monty Brewster, this pace is positively dangerous."
"Perhaps it is," he responded, "but if they haven't sense enough to keep out of the way, they shouldn't kick if they get run over."
"I don't mean the people or the automobiles or traps or trees or monuments, Monty; I mean you and me. I know we'll either be killed or arrested."
"This isn't anything to the gait I'll be going if everything turns out as I expect. Don't be worried, Babs. Besides it's one now. Lord, I didn't dream it was so late."
"Is your appointment so important?" she asked, hanging on.
"Well, I should say it is, and — look out — you blooming idiot! Do you want to get killed?" The last remark was hurled back at an indignant pedestrian who had escaped destruction by the merest chance.
"Here we are," he said, as they drew up beside the entrance to the Elevated. "Thanks awfully, — you're a corker, — sorry to leave you this way. I'll tell you all about it later. You're a dear to help me keep my appointment."
"Seems to me you helped yourself," she cried after him as he darted up the steps. "Come up for tea some day and tell me who the lady is."
After he had gone Miss Drew turned to her chauffeur who was in the tonneau. Then she laughed unrestrainedly, and the faintest shadow of a grin stole over the man's face.
"Beg pardon, Miss," he said, "but I'd back Mr. Brewster against Fournier any day."
Only half an hour late, Brewster entered the office of Messrs. Grant and Ripley, flushed, eager, and unconscious of the big splotch of mud that decorated his cheek.
"Awfully sorry to have kept you waiting," he apologized.
"Sherlock Holmes would say that you had been driving, Mr. Brewster," said Mr. Ripley, shaking the young man's hand.
"He would miss it, Mr. Ripley. I've been flying. What have you heard from Montana?" He could no longer check the impatient question, which came out so suddenly that the attorneys laughed irresistibly, Brewster joining them an instant later. They laid before him a half dozen telegrams, responses from bankers, lawyers, and mine-operators in Montana. These messages established beyond doubt the extent of James T. Sedgwick's wealth; it was reported to be even greater than shown by the actual figures.
"And what does Mr. Jones say?" demanded Montgomery.
"His reply resembles a press dispatch. He has tried to make himself thoroughly clear, and if there is anything left unsaid it is past our comprehension. I am sorry to inform you, though, that he has paid the telegraph charges," said Mr. Grant, smiling broadly.
"Is he rational about it?" asked Montgomery, nervously.
Mr. Grant gave his partner a quick, significant glance and then drew from his desk the voluminous telegram from Swearengen Jones. It was as follows:
GRANT & RIPLEY,
Yucatan Building, New York.
I am to be sole referee in this matter. You are retained as my agents, heir to report to me through you weekly. One desire of uncle was to forestall grandfather's bequest. I shall respect that desire. Enforce terms rigidly. He was my best friend and trusted me with disposition of all this money. Shall attend to it sacredly. Heir must get rid of money left to him in given time. Out of respect to memory of uncle he must take no one into his confidence. Don't want world to think S. was damned fool. He wasn't. Here are rules I want him to work under: 1. No reckless gambling. 2. No idiotic Board of Trade speculation. 3. No endowments to institutions of any character, because their memory would be an invisible asset. 4. No indiscriminate giving away of funds. By that I don't mean him to be stingy. I hate a stingy man and so did J. T. S. 5. No more than ordinary dissipation. I hate a saint. So did J. T. S. And both of us sowed an oat or two. 6. No excessive donations to charity. If he gives as other millionaires do I'll let it go at that. Don't believe charity should be spoiled by indulgence. It is not easy to spend a million and I won't be unreasonable with him. Let him spend it freely, but not foolishly, and get his money's worth out of it. If he does that I'll consider him a good business man. I regard it foolish to tip waiter more than dollar and car porter does not deserve over five. He does not earn more than one. If heir wants to try for this big stake he'd better begin quick, because he might slip up if he waits until day of judgment. It's less than year off. Luck to him. Will write you more fully.
"Write more fully!" echoed Montgomery. "What can there be left to write about?"
"He is explicit," said the attorney, "but it is best to know all the conditions before you decide. Have you made up your mind?"
Brewster sat silent for a long time, staring hard at the floor. A great struggle was going on in his mind.
"It's a gamble, and a big one," he said at last, squaring his shoulders, "but I'll take it. I don't want to appear disloyal to my grandfather, but I think that even he would advise me to accept. Yes, you may write Mr. Jones that I accept the chance."
The attorneys complimented him on his nerve and wished him success. Brewster turned with a smile.
"I'll begin by asking what you think a reasonable fee for an attorney in a case of this kind. I hope you will act for me."
"You don't want to spend it all in a lump, do you?" asked Mr. Grant, smiling. "We can hardly act as counsel for both you and Mr. Jones."
"But I must have a lawyer, and the will limits the number of my confidants. What am I to do?"
"We will consult Mr. Jones in regard to the question. It is not regular, you see, but I apprehend no legal difficulties. We cannot accept fees from both sides, however," said Mr. Grant.
"But I want attorneys who are willing to help me. It won't be a help if you decline to accept my money."
"We'll resort to arbitration," laughed Ripley.
Before night Montgomery Brewster began a career that would have startled the world had the facts been known. With true loyalty to the "Little Sons of the Rich," he asked his friends to dinner and opened their eyes.
"Champagne!" cried Harrison, as they were seated at table. "I can't remember the last time I had champagne."
"Naturally," laughed "Subway" Smith. "You couldn't remember anything after that."
As the dinner progressed Brewster explained that he intended to double his fortune within a year. "I'm going to have some fun, too," he said, "and you boys are to help me."
"Nopper" Harrison was employed as "superintendent of affairs"; Elon Gardner as financial secretary; Joe Bragdon as private secretary; "Subway" Smith as counsel, and there were places in view for the other members.
"I want the smartest apartment you can find, Nopper," he commanded. "Don't stop at expense. Have Pettingill redecorate it from top to bottom. Get the best servants you can find. I'm going to live, Nopper, and hang the consequences."