Chapter 2: Family Troubles
Soon after the debate, which went heavily in Cone’s favour, much to Cone’s surprise, Cone went to see Mr. Longteeth in London, though not before smoking a victory pipe. As Cone exited the train at Victoria Station, he saw masses of people getting out of the train, both further up the train, and further down the same. Except for next to Mr. Cone, since he personally owned three cars of the train, which he had won in a bet with the train company’s owner. It was quite some time ago, though, and Cone couldn’t even remember his name anymore. Bah, couldn’t be someone that important, now, could it? No, it could not. This was Cone’s train of thoughts as he left the station, heading for his carriage, which was parked outside.
Cone climbed into the carriage and told the coachman to drive to 7 Longstreet, where Mr. Longteeth lived, while in the city, that is, since Mr. Longteeth, like every other gentleman, had an estate in countryside as well. As Cone got seated in the carriage, his third butler Alfred prepared some lovely tea for him and, of course some of the finest British biscuits, made in Belgium by one of Mr. Cone’s old companies. By St. George, they were delicious!
At Victoria Street, a cart, driven by a peasant, passed Cone’s carriage, throwing dust up its sides. This unfortunate event enraged Cone enormously, and Cone ordered his coachman to catch up with the cart and stay by its side. When Cone was next to the peasant, he told Alfred to open the carriage’s door, so Mr. Cone could address the peasant:
“Why, hello there!” Cone said, smiling excessively and in an evil manner. “You seem to have... dirtied... my carriage. That, surely, is unfortunate. For the both of us. You see, I am quite a wealthy, and by extension, quite a powerful man. Perhaps you might have heard of me, my name is Count Harry Winston Scipio John Cone, Lord Redcliff, By the Grace of God and Her Majesty. I can tell from your cart and the fact you yourself is the coachman, that your names and titles are far fewer. Now, I am a kind person, but an apology will not do. I will not kill you, but I will offend you, like you have offended me. Not in the same way, of course, that would be ridiculous. I will do it in a gentlemanly and sophisticated way. Alfred! Shoot his horse. I will not bloody my own hands. Oh, and since we are all out of lassos, please shoot the man’s leg as well, but I will pay for his medical care, he shall not die on my watch. Vote for me, I am merciful. Am I not?” This all happened in the streets of London, but people did not care, since gentlemen were offended every day around these parts and many, if not most, acted as Cone did, and some even much worse than him, I say!
When that awful... Incident... Had been resolved, Cone’s carriage continued onward, through the streets of London, towards Longstreet. As Mr. Cone arrived, a few minutes later, he, much to his surprise, saw Mr. Longteeth sitting, in quite a weird manner, on the street. The street! Can you believe that, a gentlemen resting his bum on the street? Absurd! The sight disturbed Mr. Cone, as Longteeth was one of Cone’s closest acquaintances. He told the coachman to stop the carriage, and then he exited it, after Alfred had opened the door. Alfred then quickly rushed (“rushed” as in walked with a brisk pace) over to Longteeth and signalled for a footman to aid Mr. Longteeth as he rose. Alfred then served the gentleman a cup of warm tea, with milk and sugar, and a biscuit, both of them especially procured for the purpose of comforting those in need. By the time Mr. Cone’s feet hit the ground, Longteeth was already standing up again, tea and biscuit in his hands. Looking quite proper, I dare say. Proper enough for Mr. Cone at least, who proceeded to shake Mr. Longteeth’s hand in a friendly way, uttering the phrase: “Good day, my old friend. How do you do?” Longteeth replied with a simple:
“How do you do?” in return.
“Now that the formalities have been dealt with”, Cone said, “how do you really do? My point being, of course, what cause do you have for sitting out here, on the street, like some poor beggar, albeit a well dressed one? I have to say that, that surely is a splendid coat!” Longteeth, wasting no time, replied without hesitation: “You raise a good question, my dear friend, and one which confounds me as well. The answer to your sublime question will have to be quite a long one, I’m afraid...”
“That will not be a problem!” Cone interrupted him. “Alfred!” The butler quickly arrived along with two servants, who each held an armchair, quite comfortable looking ones even. Cone and Longteeth sat down in them, as Alfred prepared a fire, to cook some more tea.
Not long after the fire had started raging, a policeman arrived. He
quickly seated himself in a large armchair, which Alfred quickly retrieved from
the carriage. The policeman sat there for a while, silent, catching his breath
and warming himself. Cone, looking mildly confused, asked him: “Excuse me, sir,
but I have now extended my hospitality for as long as politeness requires me to
do. What, sir, are you doing here? You are an enforcer of our country’s law,
are you not?” It took a while for the
officer to respond. He appeared to be very tired, but not necessarily old,
perhaps somewhere in his late thirties. Eventually, he opened his mouth and
spoke: “Well, it seems to me as if you have started a fire here, on the street.
Is this legal? Please, remind me, I have had quite a lousy day, sir. I woke up
this morning with a terrible toothache. And, as if that was not enough, my
employer fired me for having a toothache; he did not take kindly to that. So I
joined the police, though, I do not know the law very well. I took this
opportunity to sit here and calm down. But now, back to business, are you
breaking a law by having started this fire?”
“That may be, sir. If I recall correctly, it depends on your wealth, measured in money, but including owned property and other holdings. If, however, one is belayed with debt, that debt will be subtracted from the total amount, however debt owed to one from someone else is included. The currency is in pounds, even if you may be positioned in such a grizzly place as France. Bah!”
“Well, I can see, or rather hear, that you know your laws. And since the levels of wealth are the same for many crimes, I remember those, at least. To walk away from this, you need to have at your disposal a fortune worth at the very least £97,823.43. There is actually an equation for this, based on average wealth, average level of crime in the country, politeness, inflation, average number of servants, the weather, whether the current chief of police is queer, in the homosexual way, his salary and his mood in general. This is added and/or multiplied together and then the result is divided by some random numbers, picked out by a monkey from blocks with numbers on them, changing from day to day, and then rounded to the nearest penny. Basically, sir, it is all quite random. But I digress, do you have that sum, and can you prove it?”
“Haha! But of course. You can ask my servant, his salary exceeds that sum. Per month. Also, I have that very sum in my carriage. For my servant, that is. My personal travelling treasury is quite a ways larger. You may leave, sir.”
“Very well, sir, but, sir, I must ask, since you seem familiar, what might be your name?”
“The long version or the short one? And with or without titles?”
“The short one will suffice, without titles.”
“My name is Cone, Harry Cone.”
“Hah, I knew it. You, sir, are my older brother.”
“Well, well. I say! Is that you, Jonapham? Or maybe I should say John Little.”
“Shut it, sir. Have you some spare food? I have had quite some trouble with money since I left Redcliff with our older brother.”
“Of course. Here, you are, a pitiful sum of £10000 and 1d. That extra penny is for you being my brother. Now, be gone!“ Jonapham then rose and left the gentlemen, though he lingered for a few seconds, observing the fire.
Following that... dreadful... business, Cone and Mr. Longteeth sat
silent for a few minutes, contemplating what had just happened. It did not take
too long, however, before Cone uttered the first words:
“So, my dear old friend, what might be the cause of you resting some of the lower parts of your body here, in the street?” Longteeth hesitated slightly and took a breath before answering: “Well, my friend, as I have told you, that tale is quite a long one. I shall begin by recounting yesterday’s happenings to you. I was, as is my custom, down at the Gentlemen’s Society. We were having a splendid game of whist, and I accidentally had a few too many Sherries. After the game, Mr. Laepton and I decided to do something out of ordinary, something... Naughty... I think you can see where this is going...?”
“But of course”, Cone replied. “You, sir, visited a drinking establishment for the lower classes, and lower classes only, I cannot stress that enough, also known as a pub. Admit it!”
“Yes, sir, you are quite right.” Longteeth hung his head in shame and regret. “Well, I and Mr. Laepton caused a bit of a mess. We need not go into further details. Sufficed to say, I owe that establishment a not too disrespectable sum of money. Just this morning, a few minutes before your arrival, my dear wife found out about this. She said that she could see the guilt in my eyes or something. How on Earth...” Cone interrupted him by saying: “Yes, I can see it too. Go on:” Longteeth coughed before continuing: “There is not much more to say, really. She threw me out, and then you came along. You know the rest.” Cone nodded and asked: “Shall we bring the party inside then?”
“My wife... She is still in there. I would not recommend entering; it is a complete hellhole in there...” At that instance, they heard an angry, female, voice from inside, yelling “I heard that!”, followed by a vase thrown out of a window, which was smashed into one thousand four hundred and thirty-seven pieces when it hit the ground. Alfred counted them. As a matter of fact, that number was later used in the equation previously explained. Longteeth, now visibly angry, yelled back: “I had that brought here from China! From China! You hear me, you old hag!?” Turning to Cone, he said: “Your place, perhaps, sir?”
“Certainly, it would be my pleasure. Alfred, the carriage, if you please.”