Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
HOW THE MILLION DISAPPEARED
Soon after noon on the 22d of September, Monty folded his report to Swearengen Jones, stuck it into his pocket and sallied forth. A parcel delivery wagon had carried off a mysterious bundle a few minutes before. Mrs. Gray could not conceal her wonder but Brewster's answers to her questions threw little light on the mystery. He could not tell her the big bundle contained the receipts that were to prove his sincerity when the time came to settle with Mr. Jones. Brewster had used his own form of receipt for every purchase. The little stub receipt books had been made to order for him and not only he but every person in his employ carried one everywhere. No matter how trivial the purchase, the person who received a dollar of Brewster's money signed a receipt for the amount. Newsboys and bootblacks were the only beings who escaped the formality; tips to waiters, porters, cabbies, etc., were recorded and afterward put into a class by themselves. Receipts for the few dollars remaining in his possession were to be turned over on the morning of the 23d and the general report was not to be completed until 9 o'clock on that day.
He kissed Peggy good-bye, told her to be ready for a drive at 4 o'clock, and then went off to find Joe Bragdon and Elon Gardner. They met him by appointment and to them he confided his design to be married on the following day.
"You can't afford it, Monty," exploded Joe, fearlessly. "Peggy is too good a girl. By gad, it isn't fair to her."
"We have agreed to begin life to-morrow. Wait and see the result. I think it will surprise you. Incidentally it is up to me to get the license to-day and to engage a minister's services. It's going to be quiet, you know. Joe, you can be my best man if you like and, Gardie, I'll expect you to sign your name as one of the witnesses. To-morrow evening we'll have supper at Mrs. Gray's and 'among those present' will not comprise a very large list, I assure you. But we'll talk about that later on. Just now I want to ask you fellows to lend me enough money to get the license and pay the preacher. I'll return it to-morrow afternoon."
"Well, I'm damned," exclaimed Gardner, utterly dumbfounded by the nerve of the man. But they went with him to get the license and Bragdon paid for it. Gardner promised to have the minister at the Gray house the next morning. Monty's other request made in deep seriousness was that Peggy was not to be told of the little transaction in which the license and the minister figured so prominently. He then hurried off to the office of Grant & Ripley. The bundles of receipts had preceded him.
"Has Jones arrived in town?" was his first anxious question after the greetings.
"He is not registered at any of the hotels," responded Mr. Grant, and Brewster did not see the troubled look that passed over his face.
"He'll show up to-night, I presume," said he, complacently. The lawyers did not tell him that all the telegrams they had sent to Swearengen Jones in the past two weeks had been returned to the New York office as unclaimed in Butte. The telegraph company reported that Mr. Jones was not to be found and that he had not been seen in Butte since the 3d of September. The lawyers were hourly expecting word from Montana men to whom they had telegraphed for information and advice. They were extremely nervous, but Montgomery Brewster was too eager and excited to notice the fact.
"A tall, bearded stranger was here this morning asking for you, Mr. Brewster," said Ripley, his head bent over some papers on his desk.
"Ah! Jones, I'm sure. I've always imagined him with a long beard," said Monty, relief in his voice.
"It was not Mr. Jones. We know Jones quite well. This man was a stranger and refused to give his name. He said he would call at Mrs. Gray's this afternoon."
"Did he look like a constable or a bill-collector?" asked Monty, with a laugh.
"He looked very much like a tramp."
"Well, we'll forget him for the time being," said Monty, drawing the report from his pocket. "Would you mind looking over this report, gentlemen? I'd like to know if it is in proper form to present to Mr. Jones."
Grant's hand trembled as he took the carefully folded sheet from Brewster. A quick glance of despair passed between the two lawyers.
"Of course, you'll understand that this report is merely a synopsis of the expenditures.
They are classified, however, and the receipts over there are arranged in such a way that Mr. Jones can very easily verify all the figures set out in the report. For instance, where it says 'cigars,' I have put down the total amount that went up in smoke. The receipts are to serve as an itemized statement, you know." Mr. Ripley took the paper from his partner's hand and, pulling himself together, read the report aloud. It was as follows:
York, Sept. 23, 19 .
TO SWEARENGEN JONES, ESQ.
Executor under the will of the late James T. Sedgwick of Montana:
In pursuance of the terms of the aforesaid will and in accord with the instructions set forth by yourself as executor, I present my report of receipts arid disbursements for the year in my life ending at midnight on Sept. 22. The accuracy of the figures set forth in this general statement may be established by referring to the receipts, which form a part of this report. There is not one penny of Edwin Peter Brewster's money in my possession, and I have no asset to mark its burial place. These figures are submitted for your most careful consideration.
"It's rather broad, you see, gentlemen, but there are receipts for every dollar, barring some trifling incidentals. He may think I dissipated the fortune, but I defy him or anyone else to prove that I have not had my money's worth. To tell you the truth, it has seemed like a hundred million. If anyone should tell you that it is an easy matter to waste a million dollars, refer him to me. Last fall I weighed 180 pounds, yesterday I barely moved the beam at 140; last fall there was not a wrinkle in my face, nor did I have a white hair. You see the result of overwork, gentlemen. It will take an age to get back to where I was physically, but I think I can do it with the vacation that begins to-morrow. Incidentally, I'm going to be married to-morrow morning, just when I am poorer than I ever expect to be again. I still have a few dollars to spend and I must be about it. To-morrow I will account for what I spend this evening. It is now covered by the 'sundries' item, but I'll have the receipts to show, all right. See you to-morrow morning."
He was gone, eager to be with Peggy, afraid to discuss his report with the lawyers. Grant and Ripley shook their heads and sat silent for a long time after his departure.
"We ought to hear something definite before night," said Grant, but there was anxiety in his voice.
"I wonder," mused Ripley, as if to himself, "how he will take it if the worst should happen."