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Tales of Terror and Mystery

The Brazilian Cat
It is hard luck on a young fellow to have expensive tastes, great expectations, aristocratic
connections, but no actual money in his pocket, and no profession by which he may earn
any. The fact was that my father, a good, sanguine, easy-going man, had such confidence
in the wealth and benevolence of his bachelor elder brother, Lord Southerton, that he took
it for granted that I, his only son, would never be called upon to earn a living for myself.
He imagined that if there were not a vacancy for me on the great Southerton Estates, at
least there would be found some post in that diplomatic service which still remains the
special preserve of our privileged classes. He died too early to realize how false his
calculations had been. Neither my uncle nor the State took the slightest notice of me, or
showed any interest in my career. An occasional brace of pheasants, or basket of hares,
was all that ever reached me to remind me that I was heir to Otwell House and one of the
richest estates in the country. In the meantime, I found myself a bachelor and man about
town, living in a suite of apartments in Grosvenor Mansions, with no occupation save that
of pigeon-shooting and polo-playing at Hurlingham. Month by month I realized that it
was more and more difficult to get the brokers to renew my bills, or to cash any further
post-obits upon an unentailed property. Ruin lay right across my path, and every day I
saw it clearer, nearer, and more absolutely unavoidable.
What made me feel my own poverty the more was that, apart from the great wealth of
Lord Southerton, all my other relations were fairly well-to-do. The nearest of these was
Everard King, my father's nephew and my own first cousin, who had spent an
adventurous life in Brazil, and had now returned to this country to settle down on his
fortune. We never knew how he made his money, but he appeared to have plenty of it, for
he bought the estate of Greylands, near Clipton-on-the-Marsh, in Suffolk. For the first
year of his residence in England he took no more notice of me than my miserly uncle; but
at last one summer morning, to my very great relief and joy, I received a letter asking me
to come down that very day and spend a short visit at Greylands Court. I was expecting a
rather long visit to Bankruptcy Court at the time, and this interruption seemed almost
providential. If I could only get on terms with this unknown relative of mine, I might pull
through yet. For the family credit he could not let me go entirely to the wall. I ordered my
valet to pack my valise, and I set off the same evening for Clipton-on-the-Marsh.
After changing at Ipswich, a little local train deposited me at a small, deserted station
lying amidst a rolling grassy country, with a sluggish and winding river curving in and
out amidst the valleys, between high, silted banks, which showed that we were within
reach of the tide. No carriage was awaiting me (I found afterwards that my telegram had
been delayed), so I hired a dogcart at the local inn. The driver, an excellent fellow, was
full of my relative's praises, and I learned from him that Mr. Everard King was already a
name to conjure with in that part of the county. He had entertained the school-children,
he had thrown his grounds open to visitors, he had subscribed to charities--in short, his
benevolence had been so universal that my driver could only account for it on the
supposition that he had parliamentary ambitions.
 
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