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Erewhon

9. To The Metropolis
With the above words the good man left the room before I had time to express my
astonishment at hearing such extraordinary language from the lips of one who seemed to
be a reputable member of society. "Embezzle a large sum of money under singularly
distressing circumstances!" I exclaimed to myself, "and ask ME to go and stay with him!
I shall do nothing of the sort--compromise myself at the very outset in the eyes of all
decent people, and give the death-blow to my chances of either converting them if they
are the lost tribes of Israel, or making money out of them if they are not! No. I will do
anything rather than that." And when I next saw my teacher I told him that I did not at all
like the sound of what had been proposed for me, and that I would have nothing to do
with it. For by my education and the example of my own parents, and I trust also in some
degree from inborn instinct, I have a very genuine dislike for all unhandsome dealings in
money matters, though none can have a greater regard for money than I have, if it be got
fairly.
The interpreter was much surprised by my answer, and said that I should be very foolish
if I persisted in my refusal.
Mr. Nosnibor, he continued, "is a man of at least 500,000 horse- power" (for their way of
reckoning and classifying men is by the number of foot pounds which they have money
enough to raise, or more roughly by their horse-power), "and keeps a capital table;
besides, his two daughters are among the most beautiful women in Erewhon."
When I heard all this, I confess that I was much shaken, and inquired whether he was
favourably considered in the best society.
"Certainly," was the answer; "no man in the country stands higher."
He then went on to say that one would have thought from my manner that my proposed
host had had jaundice or pleurisy or been generally unfortunate, and that I was in fear of
infection.
"I am not much afraid of infection," said I, impatiently, "but I have some regard for my
character; and if I know a man to be an embezzler of other people's money, be sure of it, I
will give him as wide a berth as I can. If he were ill or poor--"
"Ill or poor!" interrupted the interpreter, with a face of great alarm. "So that's your notion
of propriety! You would consort with the basest criminals, and yet deem simple
embezzlement a bar to friendly intercourse. I cannot understand you."
 
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