To make matters worse he fell in love with Laura Merton. Hugh won Laura’s affection and they were the nicest couple in London. Laura’s father was very fond of Hugh, however, he said he could only let his daughter marry Hugh when the young man got ten thousand pounds. It was an enormous sum for Hugh.
One morning, on his way to Laura’s house, Hugh dropped in to see a great friend of his, Alan Trevor. Alan was a brilliant artist: a real master. His paintings were wonderful and sold very successfully.
When Hugh came in, he found Trevor finishing a life-size picture of a beggar-man. The beggar himself was standing on a platform in the corner of the studio. He was an elderly person, with a miserable expression on his face and poor, torn clothes over his body. He was an amazing model, absolutely different from Alan’s other models!
Trevor told Hugh that he paid the model a shilling an hour. Hugh said that the pay was unfair because the painter would get at least a thousand pounds for the picture. Hugh was sure that the model should be paid more for standing all day long in the studio. But Alan only smiled back. When Trevor went out for a moment, Hugh gave the beggar the only sovereign he had in his pocket. The old man smiled mysteriously and thanked Hugh.
The next day Hugh met Alan Trevor in the club. Trevor confessed that the beggar was Baron Hausberg, the richest man in London, and Trevor’s great friend. He bought many of his pictures and that day he had asked to paint him in beggar’s clothes. Trevor also said that he had told Baron about Hugh’s love and money problems.
“And I gave him a sovereign!” Hugh cried out, red with shame. Trevor continued laughing loudly. He added that Baron Hausberg was in high spirits after Hugh had left and was rubbing his hands together. Nevertheless, Hugh was so unhappy that he asked Trevor not to tell the story to anyone else and left the club.
The next morning the servant brought Hugh a visiting card. The visitor, an old man in golden spectacles, was from Baron Hausberg. As he came into the room, Hugh expressed sincere apologies to the Baron. Instead the man handed Hugh an envelope. On the outside it was written, ‘A wedding present to Hugh Erskine and Laura Merton, from an old beggar’.
Hugh opened the envelope. Inside, there was a cheque for ten thousand pounds.