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Hard Cash by Charles Reade

Part 6 out of 15

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"Ah! I see, going to make a purchase. By-the-bye, I believe Mr. Hardie
means to offer you some grounds he is buying outside the town: will that
suit your book?"

"I dare say it will, sir."

"Then perhaps you will wait till our governor comes in?"

"I have no objection."

"He won't be long. Fine weather for the gardens, Mr. Maxley."

"Moderate, sir. I'll take my money if you please. Counting it out, that
will help pass the time till Muster Hardie comes. You han't made away
with it?"

"What d'ye mean, sir?"

"Hardies bain't turned thieves, be they?"

"Are you mad or intoxicated, Mr. Maxley?"

'Neither, sir; but I wants my own, and I wool have it too: so count out
on this here counter, or I'll cry the town round that there door."

"Henry, score James Maxley's name off the books," said Skinner with cool
dignity. But when he had said this, he was at his wits' end: there were
not nine hundred pounds of hard cash in the bank, nor anything like it.

CHAPTER XVI

SKINNER--called "young" because he had once had a father on the
premises--was the mole-catcher. The feelings with which he had now for
some months watched his master grubbing were curiously mingled. There was
the grim sense of superiority every successful detective feels as he sees
the watched one working away unconscious of the eye that is on him; but
this was more than balanced by a long habit of obsequious reverence. When
A. has been looking up to B. for thirty years, he cannot look down on him
all of a sudden, merely because he catches him falsifying accounts. Why,
Man is a cooking animal: bankrupt Man especially.

And then Richard Hardie overpowered Skinner's senses: he was Dignity in
person: he was six feet two, and always wore a black surtout buttoned
high, and a hat with a brim a little broader than his neighbours', yet
not broad enough to be eccentric or slang. He moved down the street
touching his hat--while other hats were lifted high to him--a walking
volume of cash. And when he took off this ebon crown and sat in the bank
parlour, he gained in appearance more than he lost; for then his whole
head was seen, long, calm, majestic: that senatorial front and furrowed
face overawed all comers. Even the little sharp-faced clerk would stand
and peep at it, utterly puzzled between what he knew and what he eyed:
nor could he look at that head and face without excusing them. What a lot
of money they must have sunk before they came down to fabricating a
balance-sheet!

And by-and-bye custom somewhat blunted his sense of the dishonesty, and
he began to criticise the thing arithmetically instead of morally. That
view once admitted, he was charmed with the ability and subtlety of his
dignified sharper; and so the mole-catcher began gradually, but
effectually, to be corrupted by the mole. He who watches a dishonest
process and does not stop it, is half way towards conniving: who
connives, is half way towards abetting.

The next thing was, Skinner felt mortified at his master not trusting
him. Did he think old Bob Skinner's son would blow on Hardie after all
these years?

This rankled a little, and set him to console himself by admiring his own
cleverness in penetrating this great distrustful man. Now of all
sentiments, Vanity is the most restless and the surest to peep out.
Skinner was no sooner inflated than his demure obsequious manner
underwent a certain change: slight and occasional only; but Hardie was a
subtle man, and the perilous path he was treading made him wonderfully
watchful, suspicious, and sagacious. He said to himself, "What has come
to Skinner? I must know." So he quietly watched his watcher; and soon
satisfied himself he suspected something amiss. From that hour Skinner
was a doomed clerk.

It was two o'clock: Hardie had just arrived, and sat in the parlour,
Cato-like, and cooking.

Skinner was in high spirits: it was owing to his presence of mind the
bank had not been broken some hours ago by Maxley. So now, while
concluding his work, he was enjoying by anticipation his employer's
gratitude. "He can't hold aloof after this," said Skinner; "he must
honour me with his confidence. And I will deserve it. I do deserve it."

A grave, calm, passionless voice invited him into the parlour.

He descended from his desk and went in, swelling with demure complacency.

He found Mr. Hardie seated garbling his accounts with surpassing dignity.
The great man handed him an envelope, and cooked majestic on. A wave of
that imperial hand, and Skinner had mingled with the past.

For know that the envelope contained three things: a cheque for a month's
wages; a character; and a dismissal, very polite and equally peremptory.

Skinner stood paralysed: the complacency died out of his face, and rueful
wonder came instead. It was some time before he could utter a word: at
last he faltered, "Turn me away, sir? turn away Noah Skinner? Your father
would never have said such a word to _my_ father." Skinner uttered this
his first remonstrance in a voice trembling with awe, but gathered
courage when he found he had done it, yet lived.

Mr. Hardie evaded his expostulation by a very simple means: he made no
reply, but continued his work, dignified as Brutus, inexorable as Fate,
cool as Cucumber.

Skinner's anger began to rise, he watched Mr. Hardie in silence, and said
to himself, "Curse you! you were born without a heart!"

He waited, however, for some sign of relenting, and, hoping for it the
water came into his own eyes. But Hardie was impassive as ice.

Then the little clerk, mortified to the core as well as wounded, ground
his teeth and drew a little nearer to this incarnate Arithmetic, and said
with an excess of obsequiousness, "Will you condescend to give me a
reason for turning me away all in a moment after five-and-thirty years'
faithful services?"

"Men of business do not deal in reasons," was the cool reply: "it is
enough for you that I give you an excellent character, and that we part
good friends."

"That we do not," replied Skinner sharply: "if we stay together we are
friends; but we part enemies, if we do part."

"As you please, Mr. Skinner. I will detain you no longer."

And Mr. Hardie waved him away so grandly that he started and almost ran
to the door. When he felt the handle, it acted like a prop to his heart.
He stood firm, and rage supplied the place of steady courage. He clung to
the door, and whispered at his master--such a whisper: so loud, so
cutting, so full of meaning and malice; it was like a serpent hissing at
a man.

"But I'll give _you_ a reason, a good reason, why you had better not
insult me so cruel: and what is more, I'll give you two: and one is that
but for me the bank must have closed this day at ten o'clock--ay, you may
stare; it was I saved it, not you--and the other is that, if you make an
enemy of me, you are done for. I know too much to be made an enemy of,
sir--a great deal too much."

At this Mr. Hardie raised his head from his book and eyed his crouching
venomous assailant full in the face, majestically, as one can fancy a
lion rearing his ponderous head, and looking lazily and steadily at a
snake that has just hissed in a corner. Each word of Skinner's was a
barbed icicle to him, yet not a muscle of his close countenance betrayed
his inward suffering.

One thing, however, even he could not master: his blood; it retired from
that stoical cheek to the chilled and foreboding heart; and the sudden
pallor of the resolute face told Skinner his shafts had gone home. "Come,
sir," said he, affecting to mingle good fellowship with his defiance,
"why bundle me off these premises, when you will be bundled off them
yourself before the week is out?"

"You insolent scoundrel! Humph! Explain, Mr. Skinner."

"Ah! what, have I warmed your marble up a bit? Yes, I'll explain. The
bank is rotten, and can't last forty-eight hours."

"Oh, indeed! blighted in a day--by the dismissal of Mr. Noah Skinner. Do
not repeat that after you have been turned into the streets, or you will
be indicted: at present we are confidential. Anything more before you
quit the rotten bank?"

"Yes, sir, plenty. I'll tell you your own history, past, present, and to
come. The road to riches is hard and rugged to the likes of me, but your
good father made it smooth and easy to you, sir. You had only to take the
money of a lot of fools that fancy they can't keep it themselves; invest
it in Consols and Exchequer bills, live on half the profits, put by the
rest, and roll in wealth. But this was too slow and too sure for you: you
must be Rothschild in a day; so you went into blind speculation, and
flung old Mr. Hardie's savings into a well. And now for the last eight
months you have been doctoring the ledger--Hardie winced just
perceptibly--"You have put down our gains in white, our losses in black,
and so you keep feeding your pocket-book and empty our tills; the pear
will soon be ripe, and then you will let it drop, and into the Bankruptcy
Court we go. But, what you forget, fraudulent bankruptcy isn't the
turnpike way of trade: it is a broad road, but a crooked one: skirts the
prison wall, sir, and sights the herring-pond."

An agony went across Mr. Hardie's great face, and seemed to furrow as it
ran.

"Not but what you are all right, sir," resumed his little cat-like
tormentor, letting him go a little way, to nail him again by-and-bye:
"You have cooked the books in time: and Cocker was a fool to you. 'Twill
be all down in black and white. Great sacrifices: no reserve: creditors
take everything; dividend fourpence in the pound, furniture of house and
bank, Mrs. Hardie's portrait, and down to the coalscuttle. Bankrupt saves
nothing but his honour, and--the six thousand pounds or so he has
stitched into his old great-coat: hands his new one to the official
assignees, like an honest man."

Hardie uttered something between a growl and a moan.

"Now comes the per contra: poor little despised Noah Skinner has kept
genuine books while you have been preparing false ones. I took the real
figures home every afternoon on loose leaves, and bound 'em: and very
curious they will read in court alongside of yours. I did it for
amusement o' nights: I'm so solitary, and so fond of figures. I must try
and turn them to profit; for I'm out of place now in my old age. Dearee
me! how curious that you should go and pick out me of all men to turn
into the street--like a dog--like a dog--like a dog."

Hardie turned his head away; and in that moment of humiliation and abject
fear, drank all the bitterness of moral death.

His manhood urged him to defy Skinner and return to the straight path,
cost what it might. But how could he? His own books were all falsified.
He could place a true _total_ before his creditors by simply adding the
contents of his secret hoard to the assets of the Bank; but with this
true arithmetical result he could not square his books, except by
conjectural and fabricated details, which would be detected, and send him
to prison; for who would believe he was lying in figures only to get back
to the truth? No, he had entangled himself in his own fraud, and was at
the mercy of his servant. He took his line. "Skinner, it was your
interest to leave me whilst the bank stood; then you would have got a
place directly; but since you take umbrage at my dismissing you for your
own good, I must punish you--by keeping you."

"I am quite ready to stay and serve you, sir," replied Skinner hastily
"and as for my angry words, think no more of them! It went to my heart to
be turned away at the very time you need me most."

("Hypocritical rogue!" thought Hardie.) "That is true, Skinner," said he;
"I do indeed need a faithful and sympathising servant, to advise,
support, and aid me. Ask yourself whether any man in England needs a
confidant more than I. It was bitter at first to be discovered even by
you: but now I am glad you know all; for I see I have undervalued your
ability as well as your zeal."

Thus Mr. Hardie bowed his pride to flatter Skinner, and soon saw by the
little fellow's heightened colour that this was the way to make him a
clerk of wax.

The banker and his clerk were reconciled. Then the latter was invited to
commit himself by carrying on the culinary process in his own hand. He
trembled a little, but complied, and so became an accomplice. On this his
master took him into his confidence, and told him everything it was
impossible to hide from him.

"And now, sir," said Skinner, "let me tell you what I did for you this
morning. Then perhaps you won't wonder at my being so peppery. Maxley
_suspects:_ he came here and drew out every shilling. I was all in a
perspiration what to do. But I put a good face on, and----"

Skinner then confided to his principal how he had evaded Maxley and saved
the Bank; and the stratagem seemed so incredible and droll, that they
both laughed over it long and loud. And in fact it turned out a
first-rate practical jest: cost two lives.

While they were laughing, the young clerk looked in and said, "Captain
Dodd, to speak with you, sir!"

"Captain Dodd!!!" And all Mr. Hardie's forced merriment died away, and
his face betrayed his vexation for once. "Did you go and tell him I was
here?"

"Yes, sir: I had no orders; and he said you would be sure to see _him._"

"Unfortunate! Well, you may show him in when I ring your bell."

The youngster being gone, Mr. Hardie explained to his new ally in a few
hurried words the danger that threatened him from Miss Julia Dodd. "And
now," said he, "the women have sent her father to soften his. I shall be
told his girl will die if she can't have my boy, &c. As if I care who
lives or dies."

On this Skinner got up all in a hurry and offered to go into the office.

"On no account," said Mr. Hardie sharply. "I shall make my business with
you the excuse for cutting this love-nonsense mighty short. Take your
book to the desk, and seem buried in it."

He then touched the bell, and both confederates fell into an attitude:
never were a pair so bent over their little accounts--lies, like
themselves.

Instead of the heart-broken father their comedy awaited, in came the
gallant sailor with a brown cheek reddened by triumph and excitement and
almost shouted in a genial jocund voice, "How d'ye do sir? It is a long
time since I came across your hawse." And with this he held out his hand
cordially. Hardie gave his mechanically, and remained on his guard, but
somewhat puzzled. Dodd shook his cold hand heartily. "Well, sir, here I
am, just come ashore, and visiting you before my very wife; what d'ye
think of that?"

"I am highly honoured, sir," said Hardie: then, rather stiffly and
incredulously, "and to what may I owe this extraordinary preference? Will
you be good enough to state the purport of this visit--briefly--as Mr.
Skinner and I are much occupied?"

"The purport? Why, what does one come to a banker about? I have got a lot
of money I want to get rid of."

Hardie stared, but was as much on his guard as ever; only more and more
puzzled.

Then David winked at him with simple cunning, took out his knife, undid
his shirt, and began to cut the threads which bound the Cash to his
flannel.

At this Skinner wheeled round on his stool to look, and both he and Mr.
Hardie inspected the unusual pantomime with demure curiosity.

Dodd next removed the oilskin cover, and showed the pocket-book, brought
it down with a triumphant smack on the hollow of his hand, and, in the
pride of his heart, the joy of his bosom and the fever of his blood--for
there were two red spots on his cheek all the time--told the cold pair
Its adventures in a few glowing words: the Calcutta firm--the two
pirates--the hurricane--the wreck--the land-sharks--he had saved it from.
"And here It is, safe in spite of them all. But I won't carry It on me
any more: it is unlucky; so you must be so good as to take charge of It
for me, sir."

"Very well, Captain Dodd. You wish it placed to Mrs. Dodd's account, I
suppose?"

"No! no! I have nothing to do with that: this is between you and me."

"As you please."

"Ye see it is a good lump, sir."

"Oh, indeed!" said Hardie a little sneeringly.

"I call it a thundering lot o' money. But I suppose it is not much to a
rich banker like you." Then he lowered his voice, and said with a certain
awe: "It's--fourteen--thousand pounds."

"Fourteen thousand pounds!!!" cried Hardie. Then with sudden and
consummate coolness, "Why, certainly an established bank like this deals
with more considerable deposits than that. Skinner, why don't you give
the Captain a chair?"

"No! no!" said Dodd. "I'll heave-to till I get this off my mind, but I
won't anchor anywhere but at home." He then opened the pocket-book and
spread the contents out before Mr. Hardie, who ran over the notes and
bills, and said the amount was L. 14,010, 12s. 6d.

Dodd asked for a receipt.

"Why, it is not usual when there is an account."

Dodd's countenance fell: "Oh, I should not like to part with it unless I
had a receipt."

"You mistake me," said Hardie with a smile. "An entry in your banker's
book is a receipt. However, you can have one in another form." He then
unlocked a desk, took out a banker's receipt; and told Skinner to fill it
in. This done, he seemed to be absorbed in some more important matter.

Skinner counted the notes and left them with Mr. Hardie; the bills he
took to his desk to note them on the back of the receipt. Whilst he was
writing this with his usual slowness and precision, poor Dodd's heart
overflowed. "It is my children's fortune, ye see: I don't look on a
sixpence of it as mine: that it is what made me so particular. It belongs
to my little Julia, bless her:--she is a rosebud if ever there was one;
and oh! such a heart; and so fond of her poor father; but not fonder than
he is of her--and to my dear boy Edward; he is the honestest young chap
you ever saw: what he says, you may swear to with your eyes shut. But how
could they miss either good looks or good hearts, and _her_ children? the
best wife and the best mother in England. She has been a true consort to
me this many a year, and I to her, in deep water and shoal, let the wind
blow high or low. Here is a Simple Simon vaunting his own flesh and
blood! No wonder that little gentleman there is grinning at me. Well,
grin away, lad! perhaps you haven't got any children. But you have, sir:
and you know how it is with us fathers; our hearts are so full of the
little darlings, out it must come. You can understand how joyful I feel
at saving their fortune from land-sharks and sea-sharks, and landing it
safe in an honest man's hands like you and your father before you."

Skinner handed him the receipt.

He cast his eye over it. "All right, little gentleman. Now my heart is
relieved of such a weight: I feel to have just cleared out a cargo of
bricks. Good-bye: shake hands. I wish you were as happy as I am. I wish
all the world was happy. God bless you! God bless you both!"

And with this burst he was out of the room and making ardently for Albion
Villa.

The banker and his clerk turned round on their seats and eyed one another
a long time in silence and amazement. Was this thing a dream? their faces
seemed to ask. Then Mr. Hardie rested his senatorial head on his hand and
pondered deeply. Skinner too reflected on this strange freak of Fortune:
and the result was that he burst in on his principal's reverie with a
joyful shout: "The bank is saved! Hardie's is good for another hundred
years.

The banker started, for Skinner's voice sounded like a pistol-shot in his
ear, so high strung was he with thought.

"Hush! hush!" he said, and pondered again in silence. At last he turned
to Skinner. "You think our course is plain? I tell you it is so dark and
complicated it would puzzle Solomon to know what is best to be done."

"Save the bank, sir, whatever you do."

"How can I save the bank with a few thousand pounds, which I must refund
when called on? You look keenly into what is under your eye, Skinner, but
you cannot see a yard beyond your nose. Let me think."

After a while he took a sheet of paper, and jotted down "the materials,"
as he called them, and read them out to his accomplice:--

"1. A bank too far gone to be redeemed. If I throw this money into it, I
shall ruin Captain Dodd, and do myself no good, but only my creditors.

"2. Miss Julia Dodd, virtual proprietor of this L. 14,000, or of the
greater part, if I choose. The child that marries first usually jockeys
the other.

"3. Alfred Hardie, my son, and my creditor, deep in love with No. 2, and
at present somewhat alienated from me by my thwarting a silly love
affair; which bids fair to improve into a sound negotiation.

"4. The L. 14,000 paid to me personally after banking hours, and not
entered on the banking books, nor known but to you and me,

"Now suppose I treat this advance as a personal trust? The bank breaks:
the money disappears. Consternation of the Dodds, who, until enlightened
by the public settlement, will think it has gone into the well.

"In that interval I talk Alfred over, and promise to produce the L.
14,000 intact, with my paternal blessing on him and Miss Dodd, provided
he will release me from my debt to him, and give me a life interest in
half the money settled on him by my wife's father, to my most unjust and
insolent exclusion. Their passion will soon bring the young people to
reason, and then they will soon melt the old ones."

Skinner was struck with this masterly little sketch. But he detected one
fatal flaw: "You don't say what is to become of me."

"Oh, I haven't thought of that yet."

"But do think of it, sir, that I may have the pleasure of co-operating.
It would never do for you and me to be pulling two ways, you know."

"I will not forget you," said Hardie, wincing under the chain this little
wretch held him with, and had jerked him by way of reminder.

"But surely, Skinner, you agree with me it would be a sin and a shame to
rob this honest captain of his money--for my creditors--curse them! Ah!
you are not a father. How quickly he found that out! Well, I am, and he
touched me to the quick. I love my little Jane as dearly as he loves his
Julia, every bit: and I feel for _him._ And then he put me in mind of my
own father, poor man. That seems strange, doesn't it? a sailor and a
banker. Ah! it was because they were both honest men. Yes, it was like a
wholesome flower coming into a close room, and then out again and heaving
a whiff behind was that sailor. He left the savour of Probity and
Simplicity behind, though he took the things themselves away again. Why,
why couldn't he leave us what is more wanted here than even his money?
His integrity: the pearl of price, that my father, whom I used to sneer
at, carried to his grave; and died simple, but wise; honest, but
rich--rich in money, in credit, in honour, and eternal hopes. Oh,
Skinner! Skinner! I wish I had never been born."

Skinner was surprised: he was not aware that intelligent men who sin are
subject to fits of remorse. Nay, more, he was frightened; for the emotion
of this iron man, so hard to move, was overpowering when it came: it did
not soften, it convulsed him.

"Don't talk so, sir," said the little clerk. "Keep up your heart! Have a
drop of something."

"You are right," said Mr. Hardie gloomily; "it is idle to talk: we are
all the slaves of circumstances."

With this, he unlocked a safe that stood against the wall, chucked the L.
14,000 in, and shammed the iron door sharply; and, as it closed upon the
Cash with a clang, the parlour door burst open as if by concert, and
David Dodd stood on the threshold, looking terrible. His ruddy colour was
all gone, and he seemed black and white with anger and anxiety; and out
of this blanched yet lowering face his eyes glowed like coals, and roved
keenly to and fro between the banker and the clerk.

A thunder-cloud of a man.

CHAPTER XVII

JAMES MAXLEY came out of the bank that morning with nine hundred and four
pounds buttoned up tight in the pocket of his leather breeches, a joyful
man; and so to his work, and home at one o'clock to dinner.

At 2 P.M. he was thoughtful; uneasy at 3; wretched at 3.30. He was
gardener as well as capitalist, and Mr. Hardie owed him 30s. for work.
Such is human nature in general, and Maxley's in particular, that the L.
900 in pocket seemed small, and the 30s. in jeopardy large.

"I can't afford to go with the creditors," argued Maxley: "Dividend on
30s.! Why, that will be about thirty pence: the change for a hard*
half-crown.

*_I.e._ a half-crown in one piece.

He stuck his spade in the soil and made for his debtor's house. As he
came up the street, Dodd shot out of the bank radiant, and was about to
pass him without notice, full of his wife and children; but Maxley
stopped him with a right cordial welcome, and told him he had given them
all a fright this time.

"What, is it over the town already that my ship has been wrecked?" And
Dodd looked annoyed.

"Wrecked? No; but you have been due this two months, ye know. Wrecked?
Why, Captain, you haven't ever been wrecked?" And he looked him all over
as if he expected to see "WRECKED" branded on him by the elements.

"Ay, James, wrecked on the French coast, and lost my chronometer, and a
tip-top sextant. But what of that? I saved _It._ I have just landed It in
the Bank. Good-bye; I must sheer off: I long to be home."

"Stay a bit, Captain," said Maxley. "I am not quite easy in my mind. I
saw you come out of Hardie's. I thought in course you had been in to
draa: but you says different. Now what was it you did leave behind you at
that there shop, if _you_ please: not money?"

"Not money? Only L. 14,000. How the man stares! Why, it's not mine,
James; it's my children's: there, good-bye;" and he was actually off this
time. But Maxley stretched his long limbs, and caught him in two strides,
and griped his shoulder without ceremony. "Be you mad?" said he sternly.

"No, but I begin to think you are."

"That is to be seen," said Maxley gravely. "Before I lets you go, you
must tell me whether you be jesting, or whether you have really been so
simple as to drop fourteen--thousand--pounds at Hardie's?" No judge upon
the bench, nor bishop in his stall, could be more impressive than this
gardener was, when he subdued the vast volume of his voice to a low grave
utterance of this sort.

Dodd began to be uneasy. "Why, good heavens, there is nothing wrong with
the old Barkington Bank?"

"Nothing wrong?" roared Maxley: then whispered': "Holt! I was laad once
for slander, and cost me thirty pounds: nearly killed my missus it did."

"Man!" cried Dodd, "for my children's sake tell me if you know anything
amiss. After all, I'm like a stranger here; more than two years away at a
time."

"I'll tell you all I know," whispered Maxley, "'tis the least I can do.
What (roaring) do--you--think--I've forgotten you saving my poor boy out
o' that scrape, and getting him a good place in Canada, and--why, he'd
have been put in prison but for you, and that would ha' broken my heart
and his mother's--and----" The stout voice began to quaver.

"Oh, bother all that now," said Dodd impatiently. "The bank! you have
grounded me on thorns."

"Well, I'll tell ye: but you must promise faithful not to go and say I
told ye, or you'll get me laad again: and I likes to laa _them,_ not for
_they_ to laa me."

"I promise, I promise."

"Well then, I got a letter to-day from my boy, him as you was so good to,
and here 'tis in my breeches-pocket.--Laws! how things do come round
sure_ly:_ why, lookee here now; if so be _you_ hadn't been a good friend
to _he, he_ wouldn't be where he is; and if so be _he_ warn't where _he_
is, _he_ couldn't have writ _me_ this here, and then where should _you_
and _I_ be?"

"Belay your jaw and show me this letter," cried David, trembling all
over.

"That I wool," said Maxley, diving a hand into his pocket. "Hush! lookee
yander now; if there ain't Master Alfred a-watching of us two out of his
window: and he have got an eye like a hawk, _he_ have. Step in the
passage, Captain, and I'll show it to you.

He drew him aside into the passage, and gave him the letter. Dodd ran his
eye over it hastily, uttered a cry like a wounded lion, dropped it, gave
a slight stagger, and rushed away.

Maxley picked up his letter and watched Dodd into the bank again and
reflected on his work. His heart was warmed at having made a return to
the good captain.

His head suggested that he was on the road which leads to libel.

But he had picked up at the assizes a smattering of the law of evidence;
so he coolly tore the letter in pieces. "There now," said he to himself,
"if Hardies do laa me for publishing of this here letter, why they pours
their water into a sieve. Ugh!" And with this exclamation he started, and
then put his heavy boot on part of the letter, and ground it furtively
into the mud; for a light hand had settled on his shoulder, and a keen
young face was close to his.

It was Alfred Hardie, who had stolen on him like a cat. "I'm laad,"
thought Maxley.

"Maxley, old fellow," said Alfred, in a voice as coaxing as a woman's,
"are you in a good humour?"

"Well, Master, Halfred, sight of you mostly puts me in one, especially
after that there strychnine job."

"Then tell me," whispered Alfred, his eyes sparkling and his face
beaming, "who was that you were talking to just now? Was it?--wasn't
it?--who was it?"

CHAPTER XVIII

WHILE Dodd stood lowering in the doorway, he was nevertheless making a
great effort to control his agitation.

At last he said in a stern but low voice, in which, however, a quick ear
might detect a tremor of agitation: "I have changed my mind, sir: I want
my money back."

At this, though David's face had prepared him, Mr. Hardie's heart sank:
but there was no help for it. He said faintly, "Certainly. May I
ask----?" and there he stopped; for it was hardly prudent to ask
anything.

"No matter," replied Dodd, his agitation rising even at this slight
delay. "Come! my money! I must and will have it."

Hardie drew himself up majestically. "Captain Dodd, this is a strange way
of demanding what nobody here disputes."

"Well, I beg your pardon," said Dodd, a little awed by his dignity and
fairness, "but I can't help it."

The quick, supple banker saw the slight advantage he had gained, and his
mind went into a whirl. What should he do? It was death to part with this
money and gain nothing by it. Sooner tell Dodd of the love affair, and
open a treaty on this basis: he clung to this money like limpet to its
rock; and so intense and rapid were his thoughts and schemes how to
retain it a little longer, that David's apologies buzzed in his ear like
the drone of a beetle.

The latter went on to say, 'You see, sir, it's my children's fortune, my
boy Edward's, and my little Julia's: and so many have been trying to get
it from me, that my blood boils up in a moment about it now.--My poor
head!--You don't seem to understand what I am saying! There then, I am a
sailor; I can't go beating and tacking like you landsmen, with the wind
dead astern. The long and the short is, I don't feel It safe here: don't
feel It safe anywhere, except in my wife's lap. So no more words: here's
your receipt; give me my money."

"Certainly, Captain Dodd. Call to-morrow morning at the bank, and it will
be paid on demand in the regular way: the bank opens at ten o'clock."

"No, no; I can't wait. I should be dead of anxiety before then. Why not
pay it me here and now? You took it here."

"We receive deposits till four o'clock, but we do not disburse after
three. This is the system of all banks."

"That is all nonsense: if you are open to receive money, you are open to
pay it."

"My dear sir, if you were not entirely ignorant of business, you would be
aware that these things are not done in this way. Money received is
passed to account, and the cashier is the only person who can honour your
draft on it. But, stop; if the cashier is in the bank, we may manage it
for you yet. Skinner, run and see whether he has left: and if not, send
him to me directly." The cashier took his cue and ran out

David was silent.

The cashier speedily returned, saying, with a disappointed air, "The
cashier has been gone this quarter of an hour."

David maintained an ominous silence.

"That is unfortunate," remarked Hardie. "But, after all, it is only till
to-morrow morning. Still I regret this circumstance, sir; and I feel that
all these precautions we are obliged to take must seem unreasonable to
you. But experience dictates this severe routine, and, were we to deviate
from it, our friends' money would not be so safe in our hands as it
always has been at present."

David eyed him sternly, but let him run on. When he had concluded his
flowing periods, David said quietly, "So you can't give me my own because
your cashier has carried it away?"

Hardie smiled. "No, no; but because he has locked it up and carried away
the key."

"It is not in this room, then?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"What, not in that safe of yours, there?"

"Certainly not," said Hardie stoutly.

"Open the safe: the keys are in it."

"Open the safe? What for?"

"To show me It is not in the right-hand partition of that safe; there:
there." And David pointed at the very place where it was.

The dignified Mr. Hardie felt ready to sink with shame: a kind of shudder
passed through him, and he was about to comply, heart-sick; but then
wounded pride and the rage of disappointment stung him, and he turned in
defiance. "You are impertinent, sir, and I shall not reward your
curiosity and your insolence by showing you the contents of my safe."

"My money! my money!" cried David fiercely: "no more words, for I shan't
listen to them: I know you now for what you are--a thief! I saw you put
It into that safe: a liar is always a thief. You want to steal my
children's money: I'll have your life first My money! ye pirate! or I'll
strangle you. And he advanced upon him purple with rage, and shot out his
long threatening arm and brown fingers working in the air. "D'ye know
what I did to a French land-shark that tried to rob me of It? I throttled
him with these fingers till his eyes and his tongue started out of him.
He came for my children's money, and I killed him so--so--so--as I'll
kill you, you thief! you liar! you scoundrel!"

His face black and convulsed with rage, and his outstretched fingers
working convulsively, and hungering for a rogue's throat, made the
resolute Hardie quake. He whipped out of the furious man's way, and got
to the safe, pale and trembling. "Hush! no violence!" he gasped: "I'll
give you your money this moment you ruffian."

While he unlocked the safe with trembling hands, Dodd stood like a man
petrified, his arm and fingers stretched out and threatening; and Skinner
saw him pull at his necktie furiously, like one choking.

Hardie got the notes and bills all in a hurry, and held them out to Dodd.

In which act, to his consternation and surprise and indignation, he
received a back-handed blow on the eye that dazzled him for an instant;
and there was David with his arms struggling wildly and his fists
clenched, his face purple, and his eyes distorted so that little was seen
but the whites the next moment his teeth gnashed loudly together, and he
fell headlong on the floor with a concussion so momentous that the
windows rattled and the room shook violently; the dust rose in a cloud.

A loud ejaculation burst from Hardie and Skinner,

And then there was an awful silence.

CHAPTER XIX

WHEN David fell senseless on the floor, Mr. Hardie was somewhat confused
by the back-handed blow from his convulsed and whirling arm. But Skinner
ran to him, held up his head, and whipped off his neckcloth.

Then Hardie turned to seize the bell and ring for assistance; but Skinner
shook his head and said it was useless: this was no faint: old Betty
could not help him.

"It is a bad day's work, sir," said he, trembling: "he is a dead man."

"Dead? Heaven forbid!"

"Apoplexy!" whispered Skinner.

"Run for a doctor then: lose no time: don't let us have his blood on our
hands! Dead?"

And he repeated the word this time in a very different tone, a. tone too
strange and significant to escape Skinner's quick ear. However, he laid
David's head gently down and rose from his knees to obey.

What did he see now, but Mr. Hardie, with his back turned, putting the
notes and bills softly into the safe again out of sight. He saw,
comprehended, and took his own course with equal rapidity.

"Come, run!" cried Mr. Hardie; "I'll take care of him; every moment is
precious."

("Wants to get rid of me!" thought Skinner.) "No, sir," said he, "be
ruled by me: let us take him to his friends: he won't live; and we shall
get all the blame if we doctor him."

Already egotism had whispered Hardie, "How lucky if he should die!" and
now a still guiltier thought flashed through him: he did not try to
conquer it; he only trembled at himself for entertaining it.

"At least: give him air!" said he in a quavering voice, consenting to a
crime, yet compromising with his conscience, feebly.

He threw the window, open with great zeal--with prodigious zeal; for, he
wanted to deceive himself as well as Skinner. With equal parade he helped
carry Dodd to the window; it opened, on the ground: this done, the
self-deceivers put their heads together, and soon managed matters so that
two porters, known to Skinner, were introduced into the garden, and
informed that a gentleman had fallen down in a fit, and they were to take
him home to his friends, and not talk about it: there might be an
inquest, and that was so disagreeable to a gentleman like Mr. Hardie. The
men agreed at once for a sovereign apiece. It was all done in a great
hurry and agitation, and while Skinner accompanied the men to see that
they did not blab, Mr. Hardie went into the garden to breathe and think.
But he could do neither.

He must have a look at It.

He stole back, opened the safe, and examined the notes and bills.

He fingered them.

They seemed to grow to his finger.

He lusted after them.

He said to himself, "The matter has gone too far to stop; I _must_ go on
borrowing this money of the Dodds, and make it the basis of a large
fortune: it will be best for all parties in the end."

He put It into his pocket-book; that pocket-book into his breast-pocket;
and passed by his private door into the house, and to his dressing-room.

Ten minutes later he left the house with a little black bag in his band.

CHAPTER XX

"WHAT will ye give me, and I'll tell ye?" said Maxley to Alfred Hardie.

"Five pounds."

"That is too much."

"Five shillings, then."

"That is too little. Lookee here; your garden owes me thirty shillings
for work: suppose you pays me, and that will save me from going to your
Dad for it."

Alfred consented readily, and paid the money. Then Maxley told him it was
Captain Dodd he had been talking with.

"I thought so! I thought so!" cried Alfred joyfully, "but I was afraid to
believe it: it was too delightful. Maxley, you're a trump you don't know
what anxiety you have relieved me of. Some fool has gone and reported the
_Agia_ wrecked; look here!" and he showed him his Lloyd's. "Luckily it
has only just come, so I haven't been miserable long."

"Well, to be sure, news flies fast now-a-days. He have been wrecked for
that matter." He then surprised Alfred by telling him all he had just
learned from Dodd; and was going to let out about the L. 4,000, when he
recollected this was the banker's son, and while he was talking to him,
it suddenly struck Maxley that this young gentleman would come down in
the world should the bank break, and then the Dodds, he concluded,
judging others by himself, would be apt to turn their backs on him. Now
he liked Alfred, and was disposed to do him a good turn, when he could
without hurting James Maxley. "Mr. Alfred," said he, "I know the world
better than you do: you be ruled by me, or you'll rue it. You put on your
Sunday coat this minute, and off like a shot to Albyn Villee; you'll get
there before the Captain; he have got a little business to do first; that
is neither here nor there: besides, you are young and lissom. You be the
first to tell Missus Dodd the good news; and, when the Captain comes,
there sits you aside Miss Julee: and don't you be shy and shamefaced,
take him when his heart is warm, and tell him why you are there: 'I love
her dear,' says you. He be only a sailor and they never has no sense nor
prudence; he is a'most sure to take you by the hand, at such a time: and
once you get his word, he'll stand good, to his own hurt. He's one of
that sort, bless his silly old heart."

A good deal of this was unintelligible to Alfred, but the advice seemed
good--advice generally does when it squares with our own wishes. He
thanked Maxley, left him, made a hasty toilet, and ran to Albion Villa.

Sarah opened the door to him in tears.

The news of the wreck had come to Albion Villa just half an hour ago, and
in that half hour they had tasted more misery than hitherto their
peaceful lot had brought them in years. Mrs. Dodd was praying and crying
in her room; Julia had put on her bonnet, and was descending in deep
distress and agitation, to go down to the quay and learn more if
possible.

Alfred saw her on the stairs, and at sight of her pale, agitated face
flew to her.

She held out both hands piteously to him: "O Alfred!"

"Good news!" he panted. "He is alive--Maxley has seen him--I have seen
him--he will be here directly--my own love, dry your eyes--calm your
fears--he is safe--he is well: hurrah! hurrah!"

The girl's pale face flushed red with hope, then pale again with emotion,
then rosy red with transcendent joy. "Oh, bless you! bless you!" she
murmured, in her sweet gurgle so full of heart: then took his head
passionately with both her hands, as if she was going to kiss him:
uttered a little inarticulate cry of love and gratitude over him, then
turned and flew up the stairs, crying "Mamma! mamma!" and burst into her
mother's room. When two such Impetuosities meet as Alfred and Julia,
expect quick work.

What happened in Mrs. Dodd's room may be imagined: and soon both ladies
came hastily out to Alfred, and he found himself in the drawing-room
seated between them, and holding a hand of each, and playing the man
delightfully, soothing and assuring them. Julia believed him at a word,
and beamed with unmixed delight and anticipation of the joyful meeting.
Mrs. Dodd cost him more trouble: her soft hand trembled still in his, and
she put question upon question. But when he told her he with his own eyes
had seen Captain Dodd talking to Maxley, and gathered from Maxley he had
been shipwrecked on the coast of France, and lost his chronometer and his
sextant, these details commanded credit. Bells were rung: the Captain's
dressing-room ordered to be got ready; the cook put on her mettle, and
Alfred invited to stay and dine with the long-expected one: and the house
of mourning became the house of joy.

"And then it was he who brought the good news," whispered Julia to her
mother, "and that is so sweet."

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Dodd, "he will make even me love him. The L.
14,000! I hope that was not lost in the wreck."

"Oh, mamma! who cares when his own dear, sweet, precious life has been in
danger, and is mercifully preserved? Why does he not come? I shall scold
him for keeping us waiting. You know I am not a bit afraid of him, though
he is papa. Indeed, I am ashamed to say I govern him with a rod of--no
matter what. Do, do, do let us all three put on our bonnets, and run and
meet him. I want him so to love somebody the very first day."

Mrs. Dodd said, "Well, wait a few minutes, and then, if he is not here,
you two shall go. I dare hardly trust myself to meet my darling husband
in the open street."

Julia ran to Alfred: "If he does not come in ten minutes, you and I may
go and meet him."

"You are an angel," murmured Alfred.

"You are another," said Julia haughtily. "Oh, dear, I can't sit down, and
I don't want flattery: I want papa. A waltz! a waltz! then one can go mad
with joy without startling propriety. I can't answer for the consequences
if I don't let off a little, little happiness."

"That I will," said Mrs. Dodd; "for I am as happy as you, and happier."
She played a waltz.

Julia's eyes were a challenge: Alfred started up and took her ready hand,
and soon the gay young things were whirling round, the happiest pair in
England.

But in the middle of the joyous whirl, Julia's quick ear, on the watch
all the time, heard the gate swing to: she glided like an eel from
Alfred's arm and ran to the window. Arrived there, she made three swift
vertical bounds like a girl with a skipping rope, only her hands were
clapping in the air at the same time; then down the stairs, screaming,
"His chest his chest! he is coming, coming, come!"

Alfred ran after her.

Mrs. Dodd, unable to race with such antelopes, slipped quietly out into
the little balcony.

Julia had seen two men carrying a trestle with a tarpauling over it, and
a third walking beside. Dodd's heavy sea-chest had been more than once
carried home this way. She met the men at the door, and overpowered them
with questions:--

"Is it his clothes? Then he wasn't so much wrecked after all. Is he with
you? Is he coming directly?. Why don't you tell me?"

The porters at first wore the stolid impassive faces of their tribe; but
when this bright young creature questioned them, brimming over with
ardour and joy, their countenances fell and they hung their heads.

The little sharp-faced man, who was walking beside the others stepped
forward to reply to Julia.

He was interrupted by a terrible scream from the balcony.

Mrs. Dodd was leaning wildly over it, with dilating eyes and quivering
hand, that pointed down to the other side of the trestle: "Julia!!
Julia!!"

Julia ran round, and stood petrified, her pale lips apart, and all her
innocent joy frozen in a moment

The tarpauling was scanty there, and a man's hand and part of his arm
dangled helpless out.

The hand was blanched, and wore a well-known ring.

CHAPTER XXI

IN the terror and confusion no questions were then asked: Alfred got to
David's head, and told Skinner to take his feet; Mrs. Dodd helped, and
they carried him up and laid him on her bed. The servant girls cried and
wailed, and were of little use: Mrs. Dodd hurried them off for medical
aid, and she and Julia, though pale as ghosts, and trembling in every
limb, were tearless and almost silent, and did all for the best. They
undid a shirt button that confined his throat: they set his head high,
and tried their poor little eau-de-Cologne and feminine remedies; and
each of them held an insensible hand in both hers, clasping it piteously
and trying to hold him tight, so that Death should not take him away from
them.

"My son, where is my son?" sighed Mrs. Dodd.

Alfred threw his arm round her neck: "You have one son here: what shall I
do?"

The next minute he was running to the telegraph office for her.

At the gate he found Skinner hanging about, and asked him hurriedly how
the calamity had happened. Skinner said Captain Dodd had fallen down
senseless in the street, and he had passed soon after, recognised him,
and brought him home: "I have paid the men, sir; I wouldn't let them ask
the ladies at such a time."

"Oh, thank you! thank you, Skinner! I will repay you; it is me you have
obliged." And Alfred ran off with the words in his mouth.

Skinner looked after him and muttered: "I forgot _him._ It is a nice
mess. Wish I was out of it." And he went back, hanging his head, to
Alfred's father.

Mr. Osmond met him. Skinner turned and saw him enter the villa.

Mr. Osmond came softly into the room, examined Dodd's eye, felt his
pulse, and said he must be bled at once.

Mrs. Dodd was averse to this. "Oh, let us try everything else first,"
said she. But Osmond told her there was no other remedy: "All the
functions we rely on in the exhibition of medicines are suspended."

Dr. Short now drove up, and was ushered in.

Mrs. Dodd asked him imploringly whether it was necessary to bleed. But
Dr. Short knew his business too well to be entrapped into an independent
opinion where a surgeon had been before him. He drew Mr. Osmond apart,
and inquired what he had recommended: this ascertained, he turned to Mrs.
Dodd and said, "I advise venesection or cupping."

"Oh, Dr. Short, pray have pity and order something less terrible. Dr.
Sampson is so averse to bleeding."

"Sampson? Sampson? never heard of him."

"It is the chronothermal man," said Osmond.

"Oh, ah! but this is too serious a case to be quacked. Coma with stertor,
and a full, bounding pulse, indicates liberal bloodletting. I would try
venesection; then cup, if necessary, or leech the temple. I need not say,
sir, calomel must complete the cure. The case is simple, and, at present,
surgical: I leave it in competent hands." And he retired, leaving the
inferior practitioner well pleased with him and with himself; no
insignificant part of a physicians art.

When he was gone, Mr. Osmond told Mrs. Dodd that however crotchety Dr.
Sampson might be, he was an able man, and had very properly resisted the
indiscriminate use of the lancet: the profession owed him much. "But in
apoplexy the leech and the lancet are still our sheet-anchor."

Mrs. Dodd utter a faint shriek: "Apoplexy! Oh, David! Oh, my darling,
have you come home for this?"

Osmond assured her apoplexy was not necessarily fatal; provided the
cerebral blood-vessels were relieved in time by depletion.

The fixed eye and terrible stertorous breathing on the one hand, and the
promise of relief on the other, overpowered Mrs. Dodd's reluctance. She
sent Julia out of the room on a pretext, and then consented with tears to
David's being bled. But she would not yield to leave the room. No; this
tender woman nerved herself to see her husband's blood flow, sooner than
risk his being bled too much by the hard hand of custom. Let the peevish
fools, who make their own troubles in love, compare their slight and
merited pangs with this: she was his true lover and his wife, yet there
she stood with eye horror-stricken yet unflinching, and saw the stab of
the little lancet, and felt it deeper than she would a javelin through
her own body, and watched the blood run that was dearer to her than her
own.

At the first prick of the lancet David shivered, and, as the blood
escaped, his eye unfixed, and the pupils contracted and dilated, and once
he sighed. "Good sign that!" said Osmond.

"Oh, that is enough, sir," said Mrs. Dodd: "we shall faint if you take
any more.

Osmond closed the vein, observing that a local bleeding would do the
rest. When he had staunched the blood, Mrs. Dodd sank half fainting in
her chair. By some marvellous sympathy it was she who had been bled, and
whose vein was now closed. Osmond sprinkled water on her face; she
thanked him, and said sweetly, "You see I could not have lost any more."

When it was over she came to tell Julia; she found her sitting on the
stairs crying and pale as marble. She suspected. And there was Alfred
hanging over her, and in agony at her grief: out came his love for her in
words and accents unmistakable, and this in Osmond's hearing and the
maid's.

"Oh, hush! hush!" cried poor Mrs. Dodd, and her face was seen to burn
through her tears.

And this was the happy, quiet, little villa of my opening chapters.

Ah! Richard Hardie! Richard Hardie!

The patient was cupped on the nape of the neck by Mr. Osmond, and, on the
glasses drawing, showed signs of consciousness, and the breathing was
relieved. These favourable symptoms were neither diminished nor increased
by the subsequent application of the cupping needles.

"We have turned the corner." said Mr. Osmond cheerfully.

Rap! rap! rap! came a telegraphic message from Dr. Sampson, and was
brought up to the sick-room.

"Out visiting patients when yours came. In apoplexy with a red face and
stertorous breathing, put the feet in mustard bath and dash much cold
water on the head from above. On revival give emetic: cure with sulphate
of quinine. In apoplexy with a white face, treat as for a simple faint:
here emetic dangerous. In neither apoplexy bleed. Coming down by train."

This message added to Mrs. Dodd's alarm; the whole treatment varied so
far from what had been done. She faltered her misgivings. Osmond
reassured her. "Not bleed in apoplexy!" said he superciliously; "why, it
is the universal practice. Judge for yourself. You see the improvement."

Mrs. Dodd admitted it.

"Then as to the cold water," said Osmond, "I would hardly advise so rough
a remedy. And he is going on so well. But you can send for ice; and
meantime give me a good-sized stocking."

He cut and fitted it adroitly to the patient's head, then drenched it
with eau-de-Cologne, and soon the head began to steam.

By-and-bye, David muttered a few incoherent words, and the anxious
watchers thanked God aloud for them.

At length Mr. Osmond took leave with a cheerful countenance, and left
them all grateful to him, and with a high opinion of his judgment and
skill, especially Julia. She said Dr. Sampson was very amusing to talk
to, but she should be sorry to trust to that rash, reckless, boisterous
man in time of danger.

About two in the morning a fly drove rapidly up to the villa, and Sampson
got out.

He found David pale and muttering, and his wife and children hanging over
him in deep distress.

He shook hands with them in silence, and eyed the patient keenly. He took
the nightcap off, removed the pillows, lowered his head, and said
quietly, "This is the cold fit come on: we must not shut our eyes on the
pashint. Why, what is this? he has been cupped!" And Sampson changed
colour and his countenance fell.

Mrs. Dodd saw and began to tremble. "I could not hear from you; and Dr.
Short and Mr. Osmond felt quite sure: and he seems better. Oh, Dr.
Sampson, why were you not here? We have bled him as well. Oh, don't,
don't, don't say it was wrong! He would have died; they said so. Oh,
David! David! your wife has killed you." And she knelt and kissed his
hand and implored his pardon, insensible.

Julia clung sobbing to her mother, in a vain attempt to comfort her.

Sampson groaned.

"No, no," said he: "don't go on so, my poor soul; you did all for the
best; and now we must make the best of what is done. Hartshorn! brandy!
and caution! For those two assassins have tied my hands."

While applying these timid remedies, he inquired if the cause was known.
They told him they knew nothing; but that David had been wrecked on the
coast of France, and had fallen down senseless in the street: a clerk of
Mr. Hardie's had recognised him, and brought him home: so Alfred said.

"Then the cause is mintil," said Sampson, "unless he got a blow on the
hid in bein' wrecked."'

He then examined David's head carefully, and found a long scar.

"But this is not it," said he; "this is old."

Mrs. Dodd clasped her hands, and assured him it was new to her: her David
had no scar there when he left her last.

Pursuing his examination, Sampson found an open wound in his left
shoulder.

He showed it them; and they were all as pale as the patient in a moment.
He then asked to see his coat, and soon discovered a corresponding
puncture in it, which he examined long and narrowly.

"It is a stab--with a one-edged knife."

There was a simultaneous cry of horror.

"Don't alarm yourselves for that," said Sampson; "it is nothing: a mere
flesh-wound. It is the vein-wound that alarms me. This school knows
nothing about the paroxysms and remissions of disease. They have bled and
cupped him for a _passing fit._ It has passed into the cold stage, but no
quicker than it would have done without stealing a drop of blood.
To-morrow, by disease's nature, he will have another hot fit in spite of
their bleeding. Then those ijjits would leech his temples; and on that
paroxysm remitting by the nature of the disease, would fancy their
leeches had cured it."

The words were the old words, but the tone and manner was so different:
no shouting, no anger: all was spoken low and gently, and with a sort of
sad and weary and worn-out air.

He ordered a kettle of hot water and a quantity of mustard, and made his
preparations for the hot fit, as he called it, maintaining the
intermittent and febrile character of all disease.

The patient rambled a good deal, but quite incoherently, and knew nobody.

But about eight o'clock in the morning he was quite quiet and apparently
sleeping: so Mrs. Dodd stole out of the room to order some coffee for
Sampson and Edward. They were nodding, worn out with watching.

Julia, whose high-strung nature could dispense with sleep on such an
occasion, was on her knees praying for her father.

Suddenly there came from the bed, like a thunder-clap, two words uttered
loud and furiously--

"HARDIE! VILLAIN!"

Up started the drowsy watchers, and rubbed their eyes. They had heard the
sound, but not the sense.

Julia rose from her knees bewildered and aghast: she had caught the
strange words distinctly--words that were to haunt her night and day.

They were followed immediately by a loud groan, and the stertorous
breathing recommenced, and the face was no longer pale, but flushed and
turgid. On this Sampson hurried Julia from the room, and, with Edward's
help, placed David on a stool in the bath, and getting on a chair,
discharged half a bucket of cold water on his head: the patient gasped:
another, and David shuddered, stared wildly, and put his hand to his
head; a third, and he staggered to his feet.

At this moment Mrs. Dodd coming hastily into the room, he looked steadily
at her, and said, "Lucy!"

She ran to throw her arms round him, but Sampson interfered. "Gently!
gently!" said he; "we must have no violent emotions."

"Oh, no! I will be prudent." And she stood quiet with her arms still
extended, and cried for joy.

They got David to bed again, anti Sampson told Mrs. Dodd there was no
danger now from the malady, but only from the remedies.

And in fact David fell into a state of weakness and exhaustion, and kept
muttering unintelligibly.

Dr. Short called in the morning, and was invited to consult with Dr.
Sampson. He declined. "Dr. Sampson is a notorious quack: no physician of
any eminence will meet him in consultation."

"I regret that resolution," said Mrs. Dodd quietly, "as it will deprive
me of the advantage of your skill."

Dr. Short bowed stifly. "I shall be at your service, madam, when that
empiric has given the patient up." And he drove away.

Osmond, finding Sampson installed, took the politic line; he contrived to
glide by fine gradations into the empiric's opinions, without recanting
his own, which were diametrically opposed.

Sampson, before he shot back to town, asked him to provide a good
reliable nurse.

He sent a young woman of iron. She received Sampson's instructions, and
assumed the command of the sick-room, and was jealous of Mrs. Dodd and
Julia, looked on them as mere rival nurses, amateurs, who, if not
snubbed, might ruin the professionals. She seemed to have forgotten in
the hospitals all about the family affections and their power of turning
invalids themselves into nurses.

The second night she got the patient all to herself for four hours, from
eleven till two.

The ladies having consented to this arrangement its order to recruit
themselves for the work they were not so mad as to intrust wholly to a
hireling, nurse's feathers smoothed themselves perceptibly.

At twelve the patient was muttering and murmuring incessantly about
wrecks, and money, and things: of which vain babble nurse showed her
professional contempt by nodding.

At 12.30 she slept

At 1.20 she snored very loud, and woke instantly at the sound.

She took the thief out of the candle, and went like a good sentinel to
look at her charge.

He was not there.

She rubbed her eyes, and held the candle over the place where he ought to
be--where, in fact, he must be; for he was far too weak to move.

She tore the bedclothes down: she beat and patted the clothes with her
left hand, and the candle began to shake violently in her right.

The bed was empty.

Mrs. Dodd was half asleep when a hurried tap came to her door: she
started up in a moment and great dread fell on her; was David sinking?

"Ma'am! Ma'am! Is he here?"

"He! Who?" cried Mrs. Dodd, bewildered.

"Why, _him!_ He can't be far off"

In a moment Mrs. Dodd had opened the door, and her tongue and the nurse's
seemed to dash together, so fast came the agitated words from each in
turn; and crying, "Call my son! Alarm the house!" Mrs. Dodd darted into
the sickroom. She was out again in a moment, and up in the attics rousing
the maids, while the nurse thundered at Edward's door and Julia's, and
rang every bell she could get at. The inmates were soon alarmed, and
flinging on their clothes: meantime Mrs. Dodd and the nurse scoured the
house and searched every nook in it down to the very cellar: they found
no David.

But they found something.

The street door ajar.

It was a dark drizzly night.

Edward took one road, Mrs. Dodd and Elizabeth another.

They were no sooner gone, than Julia drew the nurse into a room apart and
asked her eagerly if her father had said nothing.

"Said nothing, Miss? Why he was a-talking all the night incessant."

"Did he say anything particular? think now."

"No, Miss: he went on as they all do just before a change. I never minds
'em; I hear so much of it."

"Oh, nurse! nurse! have pity on me; try and recollect."

"Well, Miss, to oblige you then; it was mostly fights this time--and
wrecks--and villains--and bankers--and sharks."

"Bankers??!" asked Julia eagerly.

"Yes, Miss, and villains, they come once or twice, but most of the time
it was sharks, and ships, and money, and--hotch-potch I call it the way
they talk. Bless your heart, they know no better: everything they ever
saw, or read, or heard tell of-- it all comes out higgledy-piggledy just
before they goes off. We that makes it a business never takes no notice
of what they says, Miss, and never repeats it out of one sick house into
another, that you _may_ rely on."

Julia scarcely heard this: her hands were tight to her brow as if to aid
her to think with all her force.

The result was, she told Sarah to put on her bonnet and rushed upstairs.

She was not gone three minutes, but in that short interval the nurse's
tongue and Sarah's clashed together swiftly and incessantly.

Julia heard them. She came down with a long cloak on, whipped the hood
over her head, beckoned Sarah quickly, and darted out. Sarah followed
instinctively, but ere they had gone many yards from the house, said,
"Oh, Miss, nurse thinks you had much better not go."

"Nurse thinks! Nurse thinks! What does she know of me and my griefs?"

"Why, Miss, she is a very experienced woman, and she says--Oh, dear! oh,
dear! And such a dark cold night for you to be out!"

"Nurse? Nurse? What did she say?"

"Oh, I haven't the heart to tell you: if you would but come back home
with me! She says as much as that poor master's troubles will be over
long before we can get to him." And with this Sarah burst out sobbing.

"Come quicker," cried Julia despairingly. But after a while she said,
"Tell me; only don't stop me."

"Miss, she says she nursed Mr. Campbell, the young curate that died last
harvest-time but one, you know; and he lay just like master, and she
expecting a change every hour: and oh, Miss, she met him coming
down-stairs in his nightgown: and he said, 'Nurse, I am all right now,'
says he, and died momently in her arms at the stair-foot. And she nursed
an old farmer that lay as weak as master, and just when they looked for
him to go, lo! and behold him dressed and out digging potatoes, and fell
down dead before they could get hands on him mostly: and nurse have a
friend, that have seen more than she have, which she is older than nurse,
and says a body's life is all one as a rushlight, flares up strong
momently just before it goes out altogether. Dear heart! where ever are
we going to in the middle of the night?"

"Don't you see? To the quay."

"Oh, don't go there, Miss, whatever! I can't abide the sight of the water
when a body's in trouble." Here a drunken man confronted them, and asked
then if they wanted a beau; and on their slipping past him in silence,
followed them, and offered repeatedly to treat them. Julia moaned and
hurried faster. "Oh, Miss," said Sarah, "what could you expect, coming
out at this time of night? I'm sure the breath is all out of me, you do
tear along so."

"Tear? we are crawling. Ah! Sarah, you are not his daughter. There,
follow me! I cannot go so slow." And she set off to run.

Presently she passed a group of women standing talking at a corner of the
street, and windows were open with nightcapped heads framed in them.

She stopped a moment to catch the words; they were talking about a ghost
which was said to have just passed down the street, and discussing
whether it was a real ghost or a trick to frighten people.

Julia uttered a low cry and redoubled her speed, and was soon at Mr.
Richard Hardie's door; but the street was deserted, and she was
bewildered, and began to think she had been too hasty in her conjecture.
A chill came over her impetuosity. The dark, drizzly, silent night, the
tall masts, the smell of the river--how strange it all seemed: and she to
be there alone at such an hour!

Presently she heard voices somewhere near. She crossed over to a passage
that seemed to lead towards them; and then she heard the voices plainly,
and among them one that did not mingle with the others, for it was the
voice she loved. She started back and stood irresolute. Would he be
displeased with her?

Feet came trampling slowly along the passage.

His voice came with them.

She drew back and looked round for Sarah.

While she stood fluttering, the footsteps came close, and there emerged
from the passage into the full light of the gas-lamp Alfred and two
policemen carrying a silent senseless figure in a night-gown, with a
great-coat thrown over part of him.

It was her father, mute and ghastly.

The policemen still tell of that strange meeting under the gaslight by
Hardie's Bank; and how the young lady flung her arms round her father's
head, and took him for death, and kissed his pale cheeks, and moaned over
him; and how the young gentleman raised her against her will, and sobbed
over her; and how they, though policemen, cried like children. And to
them I must refer the reader: I have not the skill to convey the
situation.

They got more policemen to help, and carried him to Albion Villa.

On the way something cold and mysterious seemed to have come between
Julia and Alfred. They walked apart in gloomy silence, broken only by
foreboding sighs.

I pass over the tempest of emotions under which that sad burden entered
Albion Villa, and hurry to the next marked event.

Next day the patient had lost his extreme pallor, and wore a certain
uniform sallow hue; and at noon, just before Sampson's return, he opened
his eyes wide, and fixed them on Mrs. Dodd and Julia, who were now his
nurses. They hailed this with delight, and held their breath to hear him
speak to them the first sweet words of reviving life and love.

But soon, to their surprise and grief, they found he did not know them.
They spoke to him, each in turn, and told him piteously who they were,
and implored him with tears to know them and speak to them. But no; he
fixed a stony gaze on them that made them shudder, and their beloved
voices passed over him like an idle wind.

Sampson, when he came, found the ladies weeping by the bedside.

They greeted him with affection, Julia especially: the boisterous
controversialist had come out a gentle, zealous artist in presence of a
real danger.

Dr. Sampson knew nothing of what had happened in his absence. He stepped
to the bedside cheerfully, and the ladies' eyes were bent keenly on his
face in silence.

He had no sooner cast eyes on David than his countenance fell, and his
hard but expressive features filled with concern.

That was enough for Mrs. Dodd. "And he does not know me," she cried: "he
does not know my voice. _His_ voice would call me back from the grave
itself. He is dying. He will never speak to me again. Oh, my poor orphan
girl!"

"No! no!" said Samson, "you are quite mistaken: he will not die. But----"

His tongue said no more. His grave and sombre face spoke volumes.

CHAPTER XXII

To return to the bank. Skinner came back from the Dodds' that miserable
afternoon in a state of genuine agitation and regret. He was human, and
therefore mixed, and their desolation had shocked him.

The footman told him Mr. Hardie was not at home; gone to London, he
believed. Skinner walked away dejected. What did this mean? Had he left
the country?

He smiled at his fears, and felt positive Mr. Hardie had misled the
servants, and was quietly waiting for him in the bank parlour.

It was now dusk: he went round to that little dark nook of the garden the
parlour window opened on, and tapped: there was no reply; the room looked
empty. He tried the sash: it yielded. Mr. Hardie had been too occupied
with embezzling another's property to take common precautions in defence
of his own; never in his life before had he neglected to fasten the iron
shutters with his own hand, and to-day he had left the very window
unfastened. This augured ill. "He is off: he has done me along with the
rest," thought Skinner. He stepped into the room, found a lucifer-box,
shut the shutters, lighted a candle, and went peering about amongst the
banker's papers, to see if he could find a clue to his intentions; and,
as he pottered and peered, he quaked as well: a detector by dishonest
means feels thief-like, and is what he feels. He made some little
discoveries that guided him in his own conduct; he felt more and more
sure his employer would outwit him if he could, and resolved it should be
diamond cut diamond.

The church clock struck one.

He started at the hour, crept out and closed the window softly, then away
by the garden gate.

A light was still burning in Alfred's room, and at this Skinner had
another touch of compunction. "There is one won't sleep this night along
of our work," thought he.

At three next afternoon Mr. Hardie reappeared.

He had gone up to town to change the form of the deposit:-- He took care
to think of it as a deposit still, the act of deposit having been
complete, the withdrawal incomplete, and by no fault of his, for he had
offered it back; but Fate and Accident had interposed. He had converted
the notes into gold direct, and the bills into gold through notes; this
was like going into the river to hide his trail. Next process: he turned
his gold into L. 500 notes, and came flying home with them.

His return was greeted by Skinner with a sigh of relief. Hardie heard it,
interpreted it aright, and sent for him into the parlour, and there told
him with a great affectation of frankness what he had done, then asked
significantly if there was any news at Albion Villa.

Skinnier in reply told Mr. Hardie of the distress he had witnessed up at
Albion Villa: "And, sir," said he, lowering his voice, "Mr. Alfred helped
carry the body upstairs. It is a nice mess altogether, sir, when you come
to think."

"Ah! all the better," was the cool reply: "he will be useful to let us
know what we want; he will tell Jane, and Jane me. You don't think he
will live, do you?"

"Live! no: and then who will know the money is here?"

"Who should know? Did not he say he had just landed, and been
shipwrecked? Shipwrecked men do not bring fourteen thousand pounds
ashore." The speaker's eyes sparkled: Skinner watched him demurely.
"Skinner," said he solemnly, "I believe my daughter Jane is right, and
that Providence really interferes sometimes in the affairs of this world.
You know how I have struggled to save my family from disgrace and
poverty: those struggles have failed in a great degree: but Heaven has
seen them, and saved this money from the sea, and dropped it into my very
hands to retrieve my fortunes with. I must be grateful: spend a portion
of it in charity, and rear a noble fortune on the rest. Confound it all!"

And his crestfallen countenance showed some ugly misgiving had flashed on
him quite suddenly.

"What sir? what?" asked Skinner eagerly.

"The receipt!"

CHAPTER XXIII

"THE receipt? Oh, is that all? _You_ have got that," said Skinner very
coolly.

"What makes you think so?" inquired the other keenly. He instantly
suspected Skinner of having it.

"Why, sir, I saw it in his hand."

"Then it has got to Albion Villa, and we are ruined."

"No, no, sir; you won't hear me: I am sure I saw it fall out of his hand
when he was taken ill; and I think, but I won't be sure, he fell on it.
Anyway, there was nothing in his hands when I delivered him at Albion
Villa; so it must be here. I daresay you have thrown it into a drawer or
somewhere, promiscuously."

"No, no, Skinner," said Mr. Hardie, with increasing alarm: "it is useless
for us to deceive ourselves. I was not three minutes in the room, and
thought of nothing but getting to town and cashing the bills."

He rang the bell sharply, and on Betty coming in, asked her what she had
done with that paper that was on the floor.

"Took it up and put it on the table, sir. This was it, I think." And she
had her finger upon a paper.

"No! no!" said Mr. Hardie. "The one I mean was much smaller than that."

"What" said she, with that astonishing memory for trifles people have who
never read, "was it a little crumpled up paper lying by the basket?"

"Yes! yes! that sounds like it."

"Oh, I put that _into_ the basket."

Mr. Hardie's eye fell directly on the basket, but it was empty. She
caught his glance, and told him she had emptied it in the dust-hole as
usual. Mr. Hardie uttered an angry exclamation. Betty, an old servant of
his wife's, resented it with due dignity by tossing her head as she
retired.

"There is no help for it," said Mr. Hardie bitterly; "we must go and grub
in the dust-hole now."

"Why, sir, your name is not on it, after all."

"What does that matter? A man is bound by the act of his agent; besides,
it is my form, and my initials on the back. Come, let us put a good face
on the thing." And he led the way to the kitchen, and got up a little
laugh, and asked the scullery-maid if she could show Mr. Skinner and him
the dust-hole. She stared, but obeyed, and the pair followed her, making
merry.

The dust-hole was empty.

The girl explained: "It is the dustman's day: he came at eleven o'clock
in the morning and carried all the dust away: and grumbled at the paper
and the bones, he did. So I told him beggars musn't be choosers: just
like his impudence! when he gets it for nothing, and sells it for a mint
outside the town." The unwonted visitors left her in dead silence almost
before she had finished her sentence.

Mr. Hardie sat down in his parlour thoroughly discomposed; Skinner
watched him furtively.

At last the former broke out: "This is the devil's doing: the devil in
person. No intelligence nor ability can resist such luck. I almost wish
we had never meddled with it: we shall never feel safe, never be safe."

Skinner made light of the matter, treated the receipt as thrown into the
sea. "Why, sir," said he, "by this time it will have found its way to
that monstrous heap of ashes on the London Road; and who will ever look
for it there, or notice it if they find it?" Hardie shook his head: "That
monstrous heap is all sold every year to the farmers. That receipt, worth
L. 14,000 to me, will be strewed on the soil for manure; then some
farmer's man, or some farmer's boy that goes to the Sunday-school, will
read it, see Captain Dodd's name, and bring it to Albion Villa, in hopes
of a sixpence: a sixpence! Heaven help the man who does a doubtful act
and leaves damnatory evidence on paper kicking about the world."

From that hour the cash Hardie carried in his bosom, without a right to
it, began to blister.

He thought of telling the dustman he had lost a paper, and setting him to
examine the mountain of ashes on the London Road; but here caution
stepped in: how could he describe the paper without awakening curiosity
and defeating his own end? He gave that up. It was better to let the
sleeping dog lie.

Finally, he resolved to buy security in a world where after all one has
to buy everything: so he employed an adroit agent, and quietly purchased
that mountain, the refuse of all Barkington. But he felt so ill-used, he
paid for it in his own notes: by this means the treaty reverted to the
primitive form of barter*--ashes for rags.

* Or exchange of commodities without the aid of money: see Homer, and
Welsh Villages, _passim._

This transaction he concealed from his confederate.

When he had completed it he was not yet secure; for another day had
passed and Captain Dodd alive still. Men often recover from apoplexy,
especially when they survive the first twenty-four hours. Should he live,
he would not now come into any friendly arrangement with the man who had
so nearly caused his death. So then good-bye to the matrimonial
combination Hardie had at first relied on to patch his debt to Alfred and
his broken fortunes. Then as to keeping the money and defying Dodd, that
would be very difficult and dangerous. Mercantile bills are traceable
things, and criminal prosecutions awkward ones. He found himself in a
situation he could not see his way through by any mental effort; there
were so many objections to every course, and so many to its opposite. "He
walked among fires," as the Latins say. But the more he pondered on the
course to be taken should Dodd live, the plainer did this dilemma stare
him in the fade: either he must refund or fly the country with another
man's money, and leave behind him the name of a thief. Parental love and
the remains of self-respect writhed at this thought; and with these
combined a sentiment less genuine, but by no means feeble: the love of
reputation. So it was with a reluctant and sick heart he went to the
shipping office, and peered at the posters to see when the next ship
sailed for the United States. Still, he did go.

Intent on his own schemes, and expecting every day to be struck in front,
he did not observe that a man in a rusty velveteen coat followed him, and
observed this act, and indeed all his visible acts.

Another perplexity was, when he should break? There were objections to
doing it immediately, and objections to putting it off.

With all this the man was in a ferment: by day he sat waiting and
fearing, by night he lay sleepless and thinking; and, though his stoical
countenance retained its composure, the furrows deepened in it, and the
iron nerves began to twitch at times, from strain of mind and want of
sleep, and that rack, suspense. Not a night that he did not awaken a
dozen times from his brief dozes with a start, and a dread of exposure by
some mysterious, unforeseen means.

It is remarkable how truths sometimes flash on men at night in hours of
nervous excitement; it was in one of these nightly reveries David Dodd's
pocket-book flashed back upon Mr. Hardie. He saw it before his eyes quite
plain, and on the inside of the leather cover a slip of paper pasted, and
written on in pencil or pale ink, he could not recall which.

What was that writing? It might be the numbers of the notes, the
description of the bills. Why had he not taken it out of the dying man's
pocket? "Fool! fool!" he groaned, "to do anything by halves."

Another night he got a far severer shock. Lying in his bed dozing and
muttering as usual, he was suddenly startled out of that uneasy slumber
by three tremendous knocks at the street door.

He sprang out of bed, and in his confusion made sure the officers of
justice were come for him: he began to huddle on his clothes with a vague
notion of flight.

He had got on his trousers and slippers, and was looking under his pillow
for the fatal Cash, when he heard himself called loudly and repeatedly by
name; but this time the sound came from the garden into which his bedroom
looked. He opened it very softly, in trepidation and wonder, which were
speedily doubled by what met his eyes; for there, right in front of his
window, stood an unearthly figure, corresponding in every particular to
that notion of a ghost in which we are reared, and which, when our nerves
are healthy, we can ridicule as it deserves; but somehow it is never
cleaned out of our imagination so thoroughly as it is out of our
judgment.

The figure was white as a sheet and seemed supernaturally tall; and it
cried out in a voice like a wounded lion's, "You villain! you Hardie!
give me back my money: my fourteen thousand pounds. Give me my children's
money, or may your children die before your eyes: give me my darlings'
money, or may the eternal curse of God light on you and yours, you
scoundrel!"

And the figure kneeled on the grass, and repeated the terrible
imprecation almost in the same words, with such energy that Hardie shrank
back, and, resolute as he was, cowered, with superstitious awe.

But this sentiment soon gave way to vulgar fears; the man would alarm the
town. And in fact Mr. Hardie, in the midst of his agitation, was dimly
conscious of hearing a window open softly not very far from him. But it
was a dark night. He put his head out in great agitation, and whispered,
"Hush! hush! I'll bring it you down directly."

Internally cursing his hard fate, he got the fatal Cash, put on his coat,
hunted for the key of the bank parlour, and, having found it, went softly
down the stairs, unlocked the door, and went to open the shutters.

At this moment his ear caught a murmur, a low buzzing of voices in the
garden.

He naturally thought that Captain Dodd was exposing him to some of the
townspeople. He was puzzled what to do, and, like a cautious man as he
was, remained passive but on the watch.

Presently the voices were quiet, and he heard footsteps come very slowly
towards the window at which he stood, and then make for the little gate.
On this he slipped into the kitchen, which faced the street and got to a
window there, and listened. His only idea was to catch their intentions
if possible, and meet them accordingly. He dared not open the window; for
about him on the pavement he saw a female figure half standing, half
crouching: but soon that figure rushed wildly out of his sight to meet
the footsteps, and then he ventured to open the window, and listening,
heard cries of despair, and a young heart-broken voice say her father was
dead.

"Ah!! that is all right," muttered Hardie.

Still, even this profound egotist was not yet so hardened but that he
felt one chill of horror at himself for the thought--a passing chill.

He listened and listened, and by-and-bye he heard the slow feet
recommence their journey, amidst sobs and sights; and those sorrowful
feet, and the sobs and sighs of his causing, got fainter, and fainter,
retreated, and left him in quiet possession of the L. 14,000 he had
brought down to give it up: two minutes ago it was not worth as many
pence to him.

He drew a long breath of relief. "It is mine; I am to keep it. It is the
will of Heaven."

Poor Heaven!

He went to his bed again, and by a resolute effort composed himself and
determined to sheep. And in fact he was just dropping off, when suddenly
he started wide awake again: for it recurred to him vividly that a window
in his house had opened while David was cursing him and demanding his
children's money.

Whose window?

Half-a-dozen people and more slept on that side of the house.

Whose window could it be?

He walked among fires.

CHAPTER XXIV

NOT many days after this a crowd of persons stood in front of the old
bank, looking half stupefied at the shutters, and at a piece of paper
pasted on them announcing a suspension, only for a months or so, and
laying the blame on certain correspondents not specified.

So great was the confidence inspired by the old bank, that many said it
would come round, it must come round in a month: but other of Mr.
Hardie's unfortunate clients recognised in the above a mere formula to
let them down by degrees: they had seen many statements as hopeful end in
a dividend of sixpence in the pound.

Before the day closed, the scene at the bank door was heart-rending:
respectable persons, reduced to pauperism in that day, kept arriving and
telling their fellow-sufferers their little all was with Hardie, and
nothing before them but the workhouse or the almshouse: ruined mothers
came and held up their ruined children for the banker to see; and the
doors were hammered at, and the house as well as the bank was beleaguered
by a weeping, wailing, despairing crowd.

But like an idle wave beating on a rock, all this human misery dashed
itself in vain against the banker's brick walls and shutters, hard to
them as his very heart

The next day they mobbed Alfred and hissed him at the back-door. Jane was
too ashamed and too frightened to stir out. Mr. Hardie sat calmly putting
the finishing strokes to his fabricated balance-sheet.

Some innocent and excited victims went to the mayor for redress; to the
aldermen, the magistrates--in vain.

Towards afternoon the banker's cool contempt for his benefactors, whose
lives he had darkened, received a temporary check. A heavy stone was
flung at the bank shutters: this ferocious blow made him start and the
place rattle: it was the signal for a shower; and presently tink, tink,
went the windows of the house, and in came the stones, starring the
mirrors, upsetting the chairs, denting the papered walls, chipping the
mantelpieces, shivering the bell glasses and statuettes, and strewing the
room with dirty pebbles, and painted fragments, and glittering ruin.

Hardie winced: this was the sort of appeal to touch him. But soon he
recovered his _sang froid._ "Thank you," said he, "I'm much obliged to
you; now I'm in the right and you are in the wrong." And he put himself
under protection of the police; and fee'd them so royally that they were
zealous on his behalf and rough and dictatorial even with those who
thronged the place only to moan and lament and hold up their ruined
children. "You _must_ move on, you Misery," said the police. And they
were right: Misery gains nothing by stopping the way; nothing by
bemoaning itself.

But if the banker, naturally egotistical, and now entirely wrapped in his
own plans, and fears, and well-earned torments, was deaf to the anguish
of his clients, there were others in his house who felt it keenly and
deeply. Alfred and Jane were heart-broken: they sat hand in hand in a
little room, drawn closer by misfortune, and heard the groans at their
door; and the tears of pity ran down their own cheeks hot with shame; and
Alfred wrote on the fly-leaf of his "Ethics" a vow to pay every shilling
his father owed these poor people--before he died. It was like him, and
like his happy age, at which the just and the generous can command, in
imagination, the means to do kindred deeds.

Soon he found, to his horror, that he had seen but a small percentage of
the distress his father had caused; the greater griefs, as usual, stayed
at home. Behind the gadding woes lay a terrible number of silent, decent
ruined homes and broken hearts, and mixed sorrows so unmerited, so
complicated, so piteous, and so cruel, that he was ready to tear his
hair, to know them and not be able to relieve them instantly.

Of that mere sample I give a mere sample: divine the bulk then; and
revolve a page of human history often turned by the people, but too
little studied by statisticians and legislators.

Mr. Esgar, a respectable merchant, had heavy engagements, to meet which
his money lay at the old bank. Living at a distance, he did not hear the
news till near dinner-time, and he had promised to take his daughters to
a ball that night. He did so; left them there; went home, packed up their
clothes and valuables, and next day levanted with them to America, taking
all the money he could scrape together in London, and so he passed his
ruin on to others. Esgar was one of those who wear their honesty long but
loose: it was his first disloyal act in business. "Dishonesty made me
dishonest," was his excuse. _Valeat quantum._

John Shaw, a steady footman, had saved and saved, from twenty-one years
old to thirty-eight, for "Footman's Paradise," a public-house. He was now
engaged to a comely barmaid, who sympathised with him therein, and he had
just concluded a bargain for the "Rose and Crown" in the suburbs.
Unluckily--for him--the money had not been paid over. The blow fell: he
lost his all; not his money only, but his wasted life. He could not be
twenty-one again; so he hanged himself within forty-eight hours, and was
buried by the parish, grumbling a little, pitying none.

James and Peter Gilpin, William Scott, and Joel Paton, were poor
fishermen and Anglo-Saxon heroes--that is, heroes with an eye to the main
chance; they risked their lives at sea to save a ship and get salvage;
failing there, they risked their lives all the same, like fine fellows as
they were, to save the crew. They succeeded, but ruined their old boat. A
subscription was raised, and prospered so, that a boat-builder built them
a new one on tick, price L. 85; and the publicans said, "Drink, boys,
drink; the subscription will cover all; it is up to L. 120 already." The
subscription money was swallowed with the rest, and the Anglo-Saxon
heroes hauled to prison.

Doctor Phillips, aged seventy-four, warned by growing infirmities, had
sold a tidy practice, with house, furniture, and good-will, for a fair
price, and put it in the bank, awaiting some investment. The money was
gone now, and the poor old doctor, with a wife and daughter and a crutch,
was at once a pauper and an exile: for he had sold under the usual
condition, not to practise within so many miles of his successor. He went
to that successor, and begged permission to be his assistant at a small,
small salary. "I want a younger man," was the reply. Then he went round
to his old patients, and begged a few half-guineas to get him a horse and
chaise and keep him over the first month in his new place. They pitied
him, but most of them were sufferers too by Hardie, and all they gave him
did but buy a donkey and cart; and with that he and his went slowly and
sadly to a village ten miles distant from the place where all his life
had been spent in comfort and good credit. The poor old gentleman often
looked back from his cart at the church spires of Barkington.

"From seventeen till now, almost fourscore,
There lived he, but now lived there no more.
At seventeen many their fortunes seek;
But at fourscore it is too old a week."

Arrived at his village, he had to sell his donkey and trust to his
crutch. And so Infirmity crept about begging leave to cure Disease--with
what success may be inferred from this: Miss Phillips, a lady-like girl
of eighteen, was taken up by Farmer Giles before Squire Langton for
stealing turnips out of a field: the farmer was hard, and his losses in
Hardie's Bank had made him bitter hard; so the poor girl's excuse, that
she could not let her father starve, had no effect on him: to jail she
should go.*

*I find, however, that Squire Langton resolutely refused to commit Miss
Phillips. The real reason, I suspect, was, that he had a respect for the
Gospel, and not much for the law, except those invaluable clauses which
restrain poaching. The reason he gave was: "Turnips be hanged! If she
hadn't eaten them, the fly would." However, he found means to muzzle
Giles, and sent the old doctor two couple of rabbits.

Took to the national vice, and went to the national dogs, Thomas Fisher,
a saving tinman, and a bachelor: so I expect no pity for him.

To the same goal, by the same road, dragging their families, went the
Rev. Henry Scudamore, a curate; Philip Hall, a linen-draper; Neil Pratt,
a shoemaker; Simon Harris, a greengrocer; and a few more; but the above
were all prudent, laborious men, who took a friendly glass, but seldom
exceeded, until Hardie's bankruptcy drove them to the devil of drink for
comfort

Turned professional thief, Joseph Locke, working locksmith, who had just
saved money enough to buy a shop and good-will, and now lost it every
penny.

Turned atheist, and burnt the family Bible before his weeping wife and
terrified children and gaping servant-girl, Mr. Williams, a Sunday-school
teacher, known hitherto only as a mild, respectable man, a teetotaler,
and a good parent and husband. He did not take to drinking; but he did to
cursing, and forbade his own flesh and blood ever to enter a church
again. This man became an outcast, shunned by all.

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