Model Millionaire Summary – Oscar Wilde
The Protagonist of the short story “Model Millionaire” by Oscar Wilde is a young man called Hughie Erskine. Hughie is handsome, charming, and popular but he has been very unlucky as far as financial matters are concerned. He has left nothing of any great value in his father’s will. He has tried his hand at several different businesses, all of which have failed.
Having no job, Hughie has the only source of income is two hundred pounds a year, which is given to him by an elderly aunt. In “Model Millionaire” Hughie has fallen in love with a woman named Laura Merton and she loves him in return. Laura’s father, Colonel Merton, is fond of Hughie but, due to his poor financial prospects, he does not want the young man to marry his daughter. He has often told Hughie that he will only allow him to be engaged to Laura after he has earned ten thousand pounds.
One day Hughie goes to see his artist friend Alan Trevor in his studio. He finds that Alan is painting a portrait of an old man who appears to be a beggar. The old man is wearing a tattered brown cloak and boots, which have been mended several times. He has a rough walking staff in one hand and in the other hand, he is holding out an old hat as if to beg alms. His face is heavily wrinkled and he looks extremely sad.
Both Alan Trevor and Hughie Erskine agree that the old man is an excellent subject for a painting. Hughie, however, cannot help feeling sorry for the measurable state of the man. He thinks it is unfair that, although paintings regularly sell for two thousand guineas, He only pays his models one shilling for an hour to pose for him and does not give them a percentage of the money, which he makes from sales of their portraits.
When Alan leaves the studio to meet the frame designer for his paintings, Hughie fumbles in his pockets finds the sovereign and drops it into the withered hands of a beggar. Hughie gives the coin to the old man, who appears very happy to receive it although it means great value to him for the expense of the entire month. Soon Hughie leaves the studio.
Alan and Hughie meet again in a smoking room of a restaurant. The artist, Alan tells his friend that, after he left, an old man asked several questions about him. Alan goes on to say that he told the old man all about Hughie, Laura Merton, and the condition, that Colonel Merton set that prevents their marriage. Hughie feels very unhappy that his friend told that old beggar all about his private life.
Hughie is amused that Alan tells Hughie that the old man he was painting was Baron Hausberg, one of the wealthiest men in Europe and someone who often buys Alan’s paintings. For reasons, which Alan does not really understand, the millionaire baron had asked to be painted as a beggar. Alan supplied the tattered clothes he was wearing. Hughie feels ashamed about having given a coin to a millionaire, although Alan tells him not to worry.
The following day, a representative of Baron Hausberg comes to Hughie’s house with an envelope. The writing on the envelope says that it contains a wedding present “from an old beggar”. Inside the envelope, Hughie finds a bank cheque for ten thousand pounds. Hughie and Laura get married. Baron Hausberg attends their wedding feast.