A Millionaire of Yesterday

E. Phillips Oppenheim

Chapter 36


The old man and the girl were equally terrified, both without cause. Da Souza forgot for a moment to be angry at his daughter's disobedience; and was quick to see that her presence there was all to his advantage. Monty, as white as death, was stricken dumb to see Trent. He sank back gasping into a chair. Trent came up to him with outstretched hands and with a look of keen pity in his hard face.

"Monty, old chap," he said, "what on earth are you scared at? Don't you know I'm glad to see you! Didn't I come to Attra to get you back to England? Shake hands, partner. I've got lots of money for you and good news."

Monty's hand was limp and cold, his eyes were glazed and expressionless. Trent looked at the half-empty bottle by his side and turned savagely to Da Souza.

"You blackguard!" he said in a low tone, "you wanted to kill him, did you? Don't you know that to shut him up here and ply him with brandy is as much murder as though you stood with a knife at his throat?"

"He goes mad without something to drink," Da Souza muttered.

"He'll go mad fast enough with a bottle of brandy within reach, and you know it," Trent answered fiercely. "I am going to take him away from here."

Da Souza was no longer cringing. He shrugged his shoulders and thrust his fat little hands into his trousers pockets.

"Very well," he said darkly, "you go your own way. You won't take my advice. I've been a City man all my life, and I know a thing or two. You bring Monty to the general meeting of the Bekwando Company and explain his position, and I tell you, you'll have the whole market toppling about your ears. No concern of mine, of course. I have got rid of a few of my shares, and I'll work a few more off before the crash. But what about you? What about Scarlett Trent, the millionaire?"

"I can afford to lose a bit," Trent answered quietly, "I'm not afraid."

Da Souza laughed a little hysterically.

"You think you're a financial genius, I suppose," he said, "because you've brought a few things off. Why, you don't know the A B C of the thing. I tell you this, my friend. A Company like the Bekwando Company is very much like a woman's reputation, drop a hint or two, start just a bit of talk, and I tell you the flames'11 soon do the work."

Trent turned his back upon him.

"Monty," he said, "you aren't afraid to come with me?"

Monty looked at him, perplexed and troubled. "You've nothing to be afraid of," Trent continued. "As to the money at Mr. Walsh's house, I settled that all up with him before I left Attra. It belonged to you really, for I'd left more than that for you."

"There is no one, then," Monty asked in a slow, painful whisper, "who will put me in prison?"

"I give you my word, Monty," Trent declared, "that there is not a single soul who has any idea of the sort."

"You see, it isn't that I mind," Monty continued in a low, quivering voice, "but there's my little girl! My real name might come out, and I wouldn't have her know what I've been for anything."

"She shall not know," Trent said, "I'll promise you'll be perfectly safe with me."

Monty rose up weakly. His knees were shaking, and he was in a pitiful state. He cast a sidelong glance at the brandy bottle by his side, and his hand stole out towards it. But Trent stopped him gently but firmly.

"Not now, Monty," he said, "you've had enough of that!"

The man's hand dropped to his side. He looked into Trent's face, and the years seemed to fade away into a mist.

"You were always a hard man, Scarlett Trent," he said. "You were always hard on me!"

"Maybe so," Trent answered, "yet you'd have died in D.T. before now but for me! I kept you from it as far as I could. I'm going to keep you from it now!"

Monty turned a woebegone face around the little room.

"I don't know," he said; "I'm comfortable here, and I'm too old, Trent, to live your life. I'd begin again, Trent, I would indeed, if I were ten years younger. It's too late now! I couldn't live a day without something to keep up my strength!"

"He's quite right, Trent," Da Souza put in hastily. "He's too old to start afresh now. He's comfortable here and well looked after; make him an allowance, or give him a good lump sum in lieu of all claims. I'll draw it out; you'll sign it, won't you, Monty? Be reasonable, Trent! It's the best course for all of us!"

But Trent shook his head. "I have made up my mind," he said. "He must come with me. Monty, there is the little girl!

"Too late," Monty moaned; "look at me!"

"But if you could leave her a fortune, make her magnificent presents?"

Monty wavered then. His dull eyes shone once more!

"If I could do that," he murmured.

"I pledge my word that you shall," Trent answered. Monty rose up.

"I am ready," he said simply. "Let us start at once."

Da Souza planted himself in front of them.

"You defy me!" he said. "You will not trust him with me or take my advice. Very well, my friend! Now listen! You want to ruin me! Well, if I go, the Bekwando Company shall go too, you understand! Ruin for me shall mean ruin for Mr. Scarlett Trent - ah, ruin and disgrace. It shall mean imprisonment if I can bring it about, and I have friends! Don't you know that you are guilty of fraud? You sold what wasn't yours and put the money in your pocket! You left your partner to rot in a fever swamp, or to be done to death by those filthy blacks. The law will call that swindling! You will find yourself in the dock, my friend, in the prisoners' dock, I say! Come, how do you like that, Mr. Scarlett Trent? If you leave this room with him, you are a ruined man. I shall see to it."

Trent swung him out of the way - a single contemptuous turn of the wrist, and Da Souza reeled against the mantelpiece. He held out his hand to Monty and they left the room together.