Checkmate, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Chapter 47.

By the River.

“You mentioned, Mr. Levi, in your note, that you were instructed, by some person who takes an interest in me, to open this business,” said Richard Arden, in a more conciliatory tone. “Will your instructions permit you to tell me who that person is?”

“No, no,” drawled Mr. Levi, with a slow shake of his head; “I declare to you sholemnly, Mr. Harden, I couldn’t. I’m employed by a third party, and though I may make a tolerable near guess who’s firsht fiddle in the bishness, I can’t shay nothin’.”

“Surely you can say this — it is hardly a question, I am so sure of it — is the friend who lends this money a gentleman?”

“I think the pershon as makesh the advanshe is a bit of a shwell. There, now, that’sh enough.”

“But I said a gentleman,” persisted Arden.

“You mean to ask, hashn’t a lady got nothing to do with it?”

“Well, suppose I do?”

Mr. Levi shook his head slowly, and all his white teeth showed dimly, as he answered with an unctuous significance that tempted Arden strongly to pitch him into the river.

“We puts the ladiesh first; ladiesh and shentlemen, that’s the way it goes at the theaytre; if a good-looking chap’s a bit in a fix, there’sh no one like a lady to pull him through.”

“I really want to know,” said Richard Arden, with difficulty restraining his fury. “I have some relations who are likely enough to give me a lift of this kind; some are ladies, and some gentlemen, and I have a right to know to whom I owe this money.”

“To our firm; who elshe? We have took your paper, and you have our cheques on Childs’.”

Your firm lend money at five per cent.!” said Arden with contempt. “You forget, Mr. Levi, you mentioned in your note, distinctly, that you act for another person. Who is that principal for whom you act?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come, Mr. Levi! you are no simpleton; you may as well tell me — no one shall be a bit the wiser — for I will know.”

“Azh I’m a shinner — as I hope to be shaved ——” began Mr. Levi.

“It won’t do — you may just as well tell me — out with it!”

“Well, here now; I don’t know, but if I did, upon my shoul, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“It is pleasant to meet with so much sensitive honour, Mr. Levi,” said Richard Arden very scornfully. “I have nothing particular to say, only that your firm were mistaken, a little time ago, when they thought that I was without resources; I’ve friends, you now perceive, who only need to learn that I want money, to volunteer assistance. Have you anything more to say?”

Richard Arden saw the little Jew’s fine fangs again displayed in the faint light, as he thus spoke; but it was only prudent to keep his temper with this lucky intervenient.

“I have nothing to shay, Mr. Harden, only there’sh more where that came from, and I may tell you sho, for that’sh no shecret. But don’t you go too fasht, young gentleman — not that you won’t get it — but don’t you go too fasht.”

“If I should ever ask your advice, it will be upon other things. I’m giving the lender as good security as I have given to any one else. I don’t see any great wonder in the matter. Good-night,” he said haughtily, not taking the trouble to look over his shoulder as he walked away.

“Good-night,” responded Mr. Levi, taking one of Dignum’s cigars from his waistcoat-pocket, and preparing to light it with a lazy grin, as he watched the retreating figure lessening in the perspective of the street, “and take care of yourshelf for my shake, do, and don’t you be lettin’ all them fine women be throwin’ their fortunes like that into your ‘at, and bringin’ themshelves to the workus, for love of your pretty fashe — poor, dear, love-sick little fools! There you go, right off to Mallet and Turner’s, I dareshay, and good luck attend you, for a reglar lady-killin’, ‘ansome, sweet-spoken, broken-down jackass!”

At this period of his valediction the vesuvian was applied to his cigar, and Richard Arden, turning the far corner of the street, escaped the remainder of his irony, as the Jew, with his hands in his pockets, sauntered up its quiet pavement, in the direction in which Richard Arden had just disappeared. It seemed to that young gentleman that his supplies, no less than thirteen hundred pounds, would all but command the luck of which, as his spirits rose, he began to feel confident. “Fellows,” he thought, “who have gone in with less than fifty, have come out, to my knowledge, with thousands; and if less than fifty could do that, what might not be expected from thirteen hundred?”

He picked up a cab. Never did lover fly more impatiently to the feet of his mistress than Richard Arden did, that night, to the shrine of the goddess whom he worshipped.

The muttered scoffs, the dark fiery gaze, the glimmering teeth of this mocking, malicious little Jew, represented an influence that followed Richard Arden that night.

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49