The ComeUp Pence
The little bell made the same sounds all little bells make when disturbed by an opening door.
“May I help you sir?” asked the little bald man behind the counter. Maybe he hadn’t been there a moment before. Maybe he had and Philip didn’t notice him. That was possible; he had a habit of not noticing certain people until they became relevant to him somehow. Shopkeepers not the least of these.
“I understand,” Philip said, “That you sell revenge.”
The old shopkeeper didn’t even blink. “One cannot sell revenge, Sir. One can only enact it. If, on the other hand, you mean do I sell the means for enacting revenge, then you were informed correctly. I have in my possession the dreaded ComeUp Pence.”
“You mean ‘comeuppance,’ don’t you?”
“No Sir, I mean the ComeUp Pence, a very rare coin with a special quality—whoever owns it will receive whatever they deserve. As you might well imagine, there are precious few owners, to misquote the Bard, who would ‘scape hanging. I myself am not affected, as I am the coin’s…caretaker, if you will, not its owner.”
Philip almost smiled thinking about his so-called “friend” Daniel Fairchild getting his proper comeuppance. Stealing away the wealthy young woman Philip planned to marry and thus restore his family fortune and support his gambling passion. Instead Mary had met that insufferable Fairchild at the same soirée and now they were engaged! Intolerable!
The shopkeeper opened a simple wooden box and there, lying on a pillow of stained satin, was the ComeUp Pence.
“It looks rather ordinary,” Philip said.
“Looks, as we all know, are deceiving,” the shopkeeper said. Despite Philip’s misgivings they agreed on a price, and Philip took the coin. Before he could reach Fairchild’s house he was twice chased by stray dogs and once almost run down by a team of horses. All his doubts faded away.
Pretending friendship, Philip gave the coin to Fairchild, claiming it would bring him luck in his upcoming marriage.
“Incredibly decent of you, old thing,” Fairchild said, and Philip could only smile.
No more than a week after her marriage to Fairchild, Mary’s family came into an unexpected inheritance and her portion had risen from 5000 to 10000 pounds a year. Worse, Fairchild’s charity work had been recognized by the Crown and he was to be knighted! In a white hot fury, Philip wondered what next? An elevation to the peerage?
“I must stop it,” Philip said. “Somehow.”
“Somehow” proved easier than anticipated. Fairchild simply turned up at his door the next day and presented him with the ComeUp Pence. “It did bring us luck, and we’re forever grateful. Surely you deserve this more than I do.”
Well, Philip thought, At least Fairchild doesn’t have it.
That very night Philip’s house burned down with him in it. And somewhere, somehow, in some little nondescript curio shop, a well-traveled coin returned to its rightful place.
“Back again, I see,” the shopkeeper said, and gently closed the box.
© 2019 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.