There were fourteen people at the dinner party. The Duke and Duchess
of Shoreditch, and their daughter, Lady Anne-Grace-Eleanor de Bohun, the
Earl and Countess of Newgate, Viscount Cheapside, Lord and Lady
Blatherskite, the Ambassador and his wife and daughter, and some other
people. There was also a beautiful, twenty-two-year old English girl, named
Portia Langham. I fell in love with her in two minutes, and she with me!
After a while, the house servant presented another guest, Mr Lloyd
Hastings. When Mr Hastings saw me, he said, "I think I know you."
"Yes, you probably do."
"Are you the— the—"
"Yes, I'm the strange millionaire with the million-pound note in his
"Well, well, this is a surprise. I never thought you were the same Henry
Adams from San Francisco! Six months ago, you were working in the
offices of Blake Hopkins in San Francisco. I remember clearly. You had a
very small salary. And, at night, you helped me arrange the papers for the
Gould and Curry Mining Company. Now you're a millionaire, a celebrity
here in London. I can't believe it! How exciting!"
"I can't believe it, either, Lloyd."
"Just three months ago, we went to the Miner's Restaurant"
"No, no, it was the What Cheer Restaurant."
"Right, it was the What Cheer. We went there at two o'clock in the
morning. We had steak and coffee. That night we worked for six long
hours on the Gould and Curry Mining Company papers. Do you remember,
Henry, I asked you to come to London with me. I wanted you to help me sell
the Gould and Curry gold mine shares. But you refused."
Of course I remember. I didn't want to leave my job in San Francisco. And
I still think it's difficult to sell shares of a California gold mine here in
"You were right, Henry. You were so right. It is impossible to sell these
shares here in London. My plan failed and I spent all my money. I don't
want to talk about it."
"But you must talk about it. When we leave the dinner party, you must tell
me what happened."
"Oh, can I? I really need to talk to a friend," Lloyd said, with water in his
"Yes, I want to hear the whole story, every word of it."
"Thank you, Henry. You're a true friend."
At this point, it was time for dinner. Thanks to the English system of
precedence, there was no dinner.
The Duke of Shoreditch wanted to sit at the head of the table. The
American Ambassador also wanted to sit at the head of the table. It was
impossible for them to decide, so we had no dinner.
The English know about the system of precedence. They have dinner
before going out to dinner. But strangers know nothing about it. They
remain hungry all evening.
Instead, we had a dish of sardines and a strawberry. Now it was time
for everyone to play a game called cribbage. The English never play a
game for fun. They play to win or to lose something.
Miss Langham and I played the game, but with little interest.
I looked at her beautiful face and said, "Miss Langham, I love you!"
"Mr Adams," she said softly and smiled, "I love you too!"
This was a wonderful evening. Miss Langham and I were very happy. We
smiled, laughed and talked.
I was honest with her. I told her that I was poor and that I didn't have a
cent in the world. I explained that the million-pound note was not mine. She
was very curious to know more. I told her the whole story from the start. She
laughed and laughed. She thought the story was very funny. I didn't
understand why it was funny. I also explained that I needed an important job
with a big salary to pay all my debts.
"Portia, dear, can you come with me on the day I must meet those two
"Well, yes, if I can help you," she replied.
"Of course you can help me. You are so lovely that when the two
gentlemen see you, I can ask for any job and any salary. With you there, my
sweet Portia, the two gentlemen won't refuse me anything."