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incapable of any want of sincerity in his friendships, and he had equal confidence in Joan. If there was any misunderstanding between them, the sooner it was cleared up the better. No doubt they were both of them very unhappy about it. Tom was unhappy himself that two whom he loved, and who had been so kind to him, should be, as he feared, at variance. But it was evident that Mrs. Beverley would not like him to interfere in any way; so he bade them good night, vexed and puzzled, and beginning to doubt whether he should have quite such a jolly time as he had expected this Christmas.

Socrates woke up after Tom was gone to bed, and Mrs. Beverley repeated to him what the boy had been saying.

“It is strange," she remarked, “ that Mr. Darville should be so altered, though I cannot say that I regret it. Joan says very little, and though of course she feels it, I hope she will not mind much about it, after a time. Mr. Darville is not exactly the person we should have chosen for her if we had known everything; and if he has other views, it may be quite as well for us all. He is not behaving well to Joan—that is undeniable. How does he go on in the City ?”

“Very well—very well indeed. I do not see him, though, except when he has occasion to refer to me. He seldom comes to my room. He is very steady and punctual, and all that. His brother is not so satisfactory; he never has been.”

“Ha!” said Mrs. Beverley, folding her hands upon her lap, and gazing at the fire with a look of complacency. There was something wrong with both of them, she thought, and the idea was not wholly unwelcome.

“ Louis is idle,” Mr. Beverley continued. “He neglects his business. I suspect he has other irons in the fire; he is impatient of the drudgery of the desk, and even when he goes into the country he does not keep to his proper route, but lingers here and there to amuse and please himself,"

“You don't say so!”

“But that has nothing to do with Victor. I have no complaints to make against him ; he is even more attentive to business than before, if possible. He tries to screen his brother, and I fancy does some of his work for him. That may be one reason why he does not go out so much in the evenings.”

“True," said Mrs. Beverley. “Still he might find time to look in sometimes, if he wished it; of course he might, and would. What are we to do about asking them to come here at Christmas?”

“Invite them as usual.”
“And if they do not come ?"
"They always have come hitherto."

Yes; therefore if they refuse this time it will be plain that they have a reason for it, and in that case I should never ask them again. The only doubt I feel is whether, as they have several times declined our invitations lately, I should ask them now.” "Yes," said Mr. Beverley; "ask them once more. ”

Write a note to-morrow, and let Tom Howard take it. I have no doubt they will come at Christmas."

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Bear me forth unto his creditor,

And, kuowing how the debt grows, I will pay it.-Shakespeare. HRISTMAS was approaching, and there had been for some

weeks past, and was still, a great pressure of business at Messrs. Beverley and Darville's. Orders had been continually arriving from the country and from retail houses in town ;


and there were consignments from abroad to be looked after, accounts to be made up, and altogether a great deal to be done. Mr. Beverley went by an earlier train than usual to the City each day; and as he passed the room in which the Darvilles usually sat together he looked in to hear about the letters and anything else that might require his attention.

“I am sorry not to see your brother here,” he said to Victor, on one of these occasions. “I have missed him several times lately; just at this busy time, too, it is doubly inconvenient. I hope he is not ill.”

“No, Mr. Beverley; he is very well, I believe."

“Do you know why he does not come to business more punctually ?”

“No. I am sorry he is absent again.”
“I wish you would speak to him about it.”

Victor had made up his mind to do so, but he had not seen his brother for two or three days, as he had not been home.

Mr. Beverley looked annoyed. He went to the window and stood watching the movements of the sparrows opposite.

"I wish, Mr. Darville," he said slowly, without looking round, “I wish you would-err-say to your brother-errthat I wish he would be-err-more punctual and—err-more attentive to business. He is setting a very bad example to all the young men; and it is very annoying to everybody and to myself-err-personally, of course. I will speak to him if you prefer it; but it is unpleasant to have to do such things, and he is under you, you know.”

“I will tell him what you say, Mr. Beverley,” Victor replied. "I have already spoken to him on the subject, but a message from you may have more effect."

“What has he got-err-into his head ?" Mr. Beverley asked. “What can he be thinking about ?”

Victor made him no answer.

“You are not vexed with me for mentioning the matter I hope, Darville,” said his principal.

“On the contrary, sir, I think you are quite right. I hope it may do my brother good to know that you have inquired about him.”

“Then you will speak to him, and—err—decidedly, plainly, Mr. Darville. Let him understand that he must alter his conduct; must, I say."

"I will be very plain with him."
"Yes; very well; thank you; if you don't mind."

" Mr. Beverley left the room and went to his own office, and Victor with a troubled countenance sat down to reflect upon the task which his principal had given him to do. He was only about two years older than his brother, and the latter had always had the reputation of being sharper and more clever than himself. Louis had been his mother's favourite, partly perhaps on account of his resemblance in character and person to his father. She had taken his part whenever any one found fault with him; she had indulged him as a child a great deal more than was good for him, and even in riper years had made excuses for him when he did wrong. This rendered it the more difficult, now that both parents were dead, for the elder brother to exercise any salutary influence over him. He had remonstrated with him more than once, both on the subject of his inattention to business and on some graver matters, and Louis had borne it impatiently. He did not like to be found fault with, and was apt to be rude and angry when spoken to. Victor had reason to fear that his brother was going wrong in more ways than one. He was extravagant as well as idle; he had failed lately to account for several sums of money which he had received as Mr. Beverley's agent, and the books, for which Victor was responsible, were not properly posted up in consequence

. Victor had urged him to make up his accounts, but Louis had carried it off with a high hand, telling him that it would be all right, and giving him to understand that he had means at his disposal of which the other knew nothing. It was indispensable, however, that the books should be balanced and audited at the end of the year, and Victor was now resolved to insist upon a complete statement being rendered, and proper payments made, though he greatly feared that when it should come to the point difficulties would arise. He was full of anxiety on this head, not knowing what amount of defalcations might appear; but he was determined to bring matters to a crisis, and hoped that as he should now speak with particular authority in Mr. Beverley's name, his words would have more weight than usual. He had, besides, received a letter that morning referring to some transactions of his brother’s which he could not quite understand, but which gave him additional reason for disquietude.

About midday Louis Darville came sauntering in.
"I am glad you are come," said Victor, "at last.”
“Why do you say 'at last'?”
“ Because I have been waiting for you a long while.”

Waiting for me?"
“Yes, Louis; I have something to say to you."

“Something pleasant, as usual, I dare say. Well, out with it!”

He walked towards the door as he spoke, looking over his shoulder, as if he were going away again immediately.

“Mr. Beverley has been speaking to me about you. He wishes you would be more punctual, and more attentive to business."

“ Business! what a word that is! I hate the sound of it." “I am afraid it is not much to your taste, but as you have


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