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PART III CHAPTER I THE LAST SOVEREIGN
On the morning of the fourth of June, the same morning on which Simon had broken like a butterfly from his chrysalis of long-moulded custom and stiff routine, Mr. Bobby Ravenshaw, nephew and only near relation of Simon Pettigrew, awoke in his chambers in Pactolus Mansions, Piccadilly, yawned, rang for his tea, and, picking up the book he had put beside him on dropping to sleep, began to read.

The book was Monte Cristo. Now Pactolus Mansions, Piccadilly, sounds a very grand address, and, as a matter of fact, it is a grand address, but the address is grander than the place. For one thing, it is not in Piccadilly, the approach is up a dubious side street; the word "Pactolus" bears little relationship to it, nor the word "Mansions," and the rents are moderate. Downstairs there is a restaurant and a lounge with cosy corners.

People take chambers in Pactolus Mansions and vanish. The fact is never reported to the Society for Psychical Research, the levitation being always accountable for by solid reasons. To stop them from vanishing before their rent is paid they have to pay their rent in advance. No credit is given under any circumstances. This seems hard, yet there are the compensating advantages that the rent is low, the service good, and the address taking.

Bobby Ravenshaw had chosen to live in Pactolus Mansions because it was the cheapest place he could get near the gayest place in town.

Bobby was an orphan, an Oxford man without a degree, and with a taste for literature and fine clothes. Absolutely irresponsible. Five hundred a year, derived from Simon, of whose only sister he was the son, and an instinct for bridge that was worth another two hundred and fifty supported Bobby in a lame sort of way, assisted by friends, confiding tailors and bootmakers, and a genial moneylender who was also a cigar merchant.

Bobby had started in life a year or two ago with cleverness of no mean order and the backing of money, but Fate had dealt him out two bad cards: a nature that was charming and irresponsible, and good looks. Girls [Pg 89]worshipped Bobby, and if his talents had only cast him on the stage their worship might have helped. As it was, it hindered, for Bobby was a literary man, and no girl has ever bought a book on the strength of the good looks of the author.

His tea having arrived, Bobby drank it, finished the chapter in Monte Cristo and then rose and dressed.

He was leaving Pactolus Mansions that day for the very good reason that, if he wished to stay beyond twelve o'clock, he would have to pay a month's rent in advance, and he only had thirty shillings.

Uncle Simon had "foreclosed." That was Bobby's expression, a month ago. For a month Bobby had watched the sands running down; no more money to come in and all the time money running out. Absolutely unalarmed, and only noticing the fact as he might have noticed a change in the weather, he had made no provision, trusting to chance, to bridge that betrayed him, and to friends. Literature could not help. He had got into a wrong groove as far as moneymaking went. Little articles for literary papers of limited circulation and a really cultivated taste are not the immediate means to financial support in a world that devours its fictional literature like ham sandwiches, forgotten[Pg 90] as soon as eaten—and only fictional literature pays.

He was thinking more of Monte Cristo than of his own position as he dressed. The fact that he had to look out for other rooms worried him as an uncomfortable business to be performed, but not much. If he couldn't get other rooms that day he could always stay with Tozer. Tozer was an Oxford man with chambers in the Albany—chambers always open to Bobby at any hour. A sure stand-by in trouble.

Then, having dressed, he took his hat and stick and the sovereign and half-sovereign lying on the mantel, tipped the servant the half-sovereign, and ordered that his things should be packed and his luggage taken to the office to be left till he called for it.

"I'm going to the country," said Bobby, "and I'll send my address for letters to be forwarded."

Then he started.

He called first at the Albany.

Tozer, the son of a big, defunct Manchester cotton merchant, was a man of some twenty-three years, red-haired, with a taste for the good things of life, a taste for boxing, a taste for music, and a hard common sense that never deserted him even in his gayest and most [Pg 91]frivolous moods. His chambers were newly furnished, the walls of the sitting-room adorned with old prints, mostly proofs before letter; boxing gloves and single-sticks hinted of themselves, and a violoncello stood in the corner.

He was at breakfast when Bobby arrived. Tozer rang for another cup and plate.

"Tozer," said Bobby, "I'm bust."

"Aren't surprised to hear it," replied Tozer. "Try these kippers."

"One single sovereign in the world, my boy, and I'm hunting for new rooms."

"What's the matter with your old rooms? Have they kicked you out?"

Bobby explained.

"Good Lord!" said Tozer. "You've cut the ground from under your feet, staying at a place like that."

"It's not all my fault, it's my relative. I always boasted to him that I paid my rent in advance; he took it as a sign of wisdom."

"What made him go back on you?"

"A girl."

"Which way?"

"Well, it was this way. I was staying with the Huntingdons, you know, the Warwickshire lot."

"I know—bridge and brandy crowd."

"Oh, they're all right. Well, I was staying with them when I met her."

"What's her name?"

"Alice Carruthers."

"Heave ahead."

"I got engaged to her; she hadn't a penny."

"Just like you."

"And her people haven't a penny, and I wrote like a fool telling the relative. He gave me the option of cutting her off or being cut off. It seems her people were the real obstacle. He wrote quite libellous things about them. I refused."

"Of course."

"And he cut me off. Well, the funny thing was she cut me off a week later, and she's engaged now to a chap called Harkness."

"Well, why don't you tell the relative and make it up?"

"Tell him she'd fired me! Besides, it's no use, he'd just go on to other things—what he calls extravagances and irresponsibilities."

"I see."

"That's just how it is."

"Look here, Bobby," said Tozer, "you've just got to cut all this nonsense and get to work. You've been making a fool of yourself."

"I have," said Bobby, helping himself to marmalade.

"There's no use saying, 'I have,' and then forgetting. I know you. You're a good sort, Bobby, but you are in the wrong set; you couldn't keep the pace. You've loads of cleverness and you're going to rot. Work!"

"How?"

"Write," said Tozer, who believed in Bobby and hated to see him going to waste. "Write. I've always been urging you to settle down and write."

"I made five pounds ten last year writing," said Bobby.

"I know—articles on old French poetry and so on. You've got to write fiction. You can do it. That little story you wrote for Tillson's was ripping."

"The devil of it is," said Bobby, "I can't find plots. I can write all right if I have only something to write about, but I can't find plots."

"That's rubbish, and pure laziness. Can't find plots, with your experience of London and life! You've got to find plots, and find them sharp; it's the only trade open to you. You can do it, and it pays. Now look here, B. R. I'll finance you——"

"Thanks awfully," said Bobby, helping himself to a cigarette from a box on a little table near by.

"Reserve your thanks. I'm not going to finance a slacker, which you are at present, but a hard-working literary man, which you will be when I have done with you. I will give you a room here on the strict conditions that you keep early hours five days a week."

"Yes."

"That you give up bridge."

"Yes."

"And fooling after girls."

"Yes."

"And this day set out and find a plot for a good, honest, payable piece of fiction, novel length. I'm not going to let you off with short-story writing."

"Yes."

"I know a good publisher, and I will assure you that the thing shall be published in the best form, that I will back the advertising and pushing—see? And I will promise you that, however the thing turns out, you shall have two hundred pounds. You will get all profits if it is a success, understand me?"

"Yes."

"You shall have five pounds a week pocket-money whilst you are writing, to be repaid out of profits if the profits exceed two hundred, not to be repaid if they don't."

"I don't like taking money for nothing," said Bobby.

"You won't get it, only for hard work. Besides, it's for my amusement and interest. I believe in you, and I want to see my belief justified. You need never bother about taking money from me. First, I have plenty; secondly, I never give it without a quid pro quo, the trading instinct is too strong in me."

"Well," said Bobby, "it's jolly good of you, and I'll pay you the lot back, if——"

Tozer was lighting a cigarette; he flung the match down impatiently.

"If! You'll do nothing if you begin with an 'if.' Now, make up your mind quick without any 'ifs.' Will you, or won't you?"

"I will," said Bobby, suddenly catching on to the idea and taking fire. "I believe I can do it if——"

"If!" shouted Tozer.

"I will do it. I'll find a plot. I'll dig in my brains right away—I'll hunt round."

"Off with you, then," said Tozer, "and send your luggage here and come back to-night with your plot. You can work in your bedroom and you can have all your meals here—I forgot to include that. Now I'm going to have a tune on the 'cello."

Bobby departed with a light heart. His position, before calling on Tozer, had really be............
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