“don’t go on in this way,” i continued, rather weakly, for i did not know whether i was in a dream. “if you offer me a thousand guineas for this box i must take it. mustn’t i, dear granny?”the table most distinctly said, “yes;” and putting out hisclaws to seize the box, mr. pinto plunged his hooked nose into it, and eagerly inhaled some of my 47 with a dash of hardman.
“but stay, you old harpy!” i exclaimed, being now in a sort ofrage, and quite familiar with him. “where is the money? where isthe check?”
“james, a piece of note-paper and a receipt stamp!”
“this is all mighty well, sir,” i said, “but i don’t know you; i never saw you before. i will trouble you to hand me that box back again, or give me a check with some known signature.”“whose? ha, ha, ha!”
the room happened to be very dark. indeed, all the waiters were gone to supper, and there were only two gentlemen snoring in their respective boxes. i saw a hand come quivering down from the ceiling — a very pretty hand, on which was a ring with a coronet, with a lion rampant gules for a crest. i saw that hand take a dip of ink and write across the paper. mr. pinto, then, taking a gray receipt-stamp out of his blue leather pocket-book, fastened it on to the paper by the usual process; and the hand then wrote across the receipt-stamp,went across the table and shook hands with pinto, and then, as if waving him an adieu, vanished in the direction of the ceiling.
there was the paper before me, wet with the ink. there was the pen which the hand had used. does anybody doubt me? i have that pen now. a cedar-stick of a not uncommon sort, and holding one of gillott’s pens. it is in my inkstand now, i tell you. anybody may see it. the handwriting on the check, for such the document was, was the writing of a female. it ran thus:—“london, midnight, march 31, 1862. pay the bearer one thousand and fitty pounds. rachel sidonia. to messrs. sidonia, pozzosanto and co., london.”
“noblest and best of women!” said pinto, kissing the sheet of paper with much reverence. “my good mr. roundabout, i suppose you do not question that signature?”
indeed, the house of sidonia, pozzosanto and co., is known to be one of the richest in europe, and as for the countess rachel, she was known to be the chief manager of that enormously wealthy establishment. there was only one little difficulty, the countess rachel died last october.