The Model Millionaire (Wilde)

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The Model Millionaire
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A young man unknowingly gave a sovereign to a disguised millionaire, who later gifted him £10,000 as a wedding present, proving that model millionaires are rarer than millionaire models.

Hughie Erskine was a charming, good-looking young man who was popular with both men and women. However, he was not wealthy and struggled to find a profession that suited him. He was in love with Laura Merton, the daughter of a retired Colonel, but her father would not allow them to marry until Hughie had £10,000 of his own.

Hughie Erskine — young, good-looking, charming, but poor; in love with Laura Merton.
Laura Merton — beautiful young woman; daughter of a retired Colonel; in love with Hughie Erskine.

Come to me, my boy, when you have got ten thousand pounds of your own, and we will see about it.

One day, Hughie visited his friend Alan Trevor, a painter, and found him working on a life-size portrait of a beggar. The beggar was an old man with a pitiful expression, dressed in tattered clothes. Hughie felt sorry for him and gave him a sovereign, despite knowing that it would mean he couldn't afford a taxi for a fortnight.

Alan Trevor — painter and artist; friend of Hughie; rough-looking but talented.

An artist’s heart is his head.

Later that night, Hughie met Alan at a club and learned that the beggar was actually Baron Hausberg, one of the richest men in Europe. The Baron had commissioned Alan to paint him as a beggar for fun. Hughie was embarrassed and worried about what the Baron must think of him.

Baron Hausberg — rich, old man; disguised as a beggar; generous and mysterious.

The next morning, an old gentleman arrived at Hughie's home with a letter from the Baron. Inside the envelope was a cheque for £10,000, a wedding present for Hughie and Laura from the "old beggar."

A wedding present to Hugh Erskine and Laura Merton, from an old beggar.

The couple got married, with Alan as the best man and the Baron giving a speech at the wedding breakfast. Alan remarked that while millionaire models were rare, model millionaires were even rarer.