Imágenes de páginas

" It must be done now—at once. Beverley must see this letter; I cannot keep it from him any longer. It will betray you as to one transaction, and everything else will then be looked into. I have already done wrong and compromised my own position, by keeping back things from his knowledge, in order to screen you. I will do so no longer. Again I ask, how much are you deficient ? ” Louis jotted down a few figures upon a slip of paper, taking

, them from his pocket-book, but covered it with his hand, as if he could not make up his mind to show it. Victor gently lifted his brother's arm and examined the paper.

“Is this the whole ?” he said, after a long pause, during which he had been endeavouring to recover calmness after the shock which he had experienced on seeing the unexpected largeness of the amount.

“Yes; that's all."
“Are you certain ?”
“Quite certain."

“And what have you done with this money? You cannot have spent it!”

Spent it? No. I was offered a good thing, and safe, and I went in for it. I shall have the money all back again in a few days, as I told you, with a good premium to boot. There is nothing to make a fuss about." "You hope so ?”

Yes, it's safe enough :" but he looked anxious and doubtful while he said it.

“You had no right to play with money that did not belong to you. What is it in ?"

“Bank shares.”
“Abyssinian, that you have often talked about ?"

Oh, Louis ! you don't mean that?”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Yes; it is quite safe, I hope!” said Louis, looking up with alarm at his brother's exclamation.

Victor took up the Times, which was lying on the table, and pointed to a paragraph which at once annihilated all his remaining confidence. The Royal Abyssinian Banking Company had utterly failed.

“ I'm done for,” said Louis, as soon as he could speak. “I may as well go and—” He made a gesture with his hand, instead of finishing his speech.

“For shame! How can you dare to talk so wickedly? If you could vindicate your own honour by fleeing from the consequences of your crime—for such I must call it-have you no thought or care for others, whose reputation is bound up with your own? It is a large sum that you have to account for; but I said I would help you if possible; I will do it for my own sake as well as for yours, though it will take nearly every shilling that I possess. But it must be on one condition, Louis. You must promise never again to be guilty of such an act; you must promise to be regular and attentive to your duties in the office; to give up all thoughts of growing rich by rash and hasty speculations. You will promise me this, will

you not?

Louis, who had looked his brother in the face with amazement when he first offered him relief, sank down immediately afterwards with his face upon the table, and was unable to speak. His bosom heaved; his breathing was quick and hard. At length he could no longer restrain himself, but broke forth into sobs, and catching hold of his brother's hand, clasped it between his own and pressed it to his heart.

“Oh, Victor,” he said at length, between his sobs, “ I'll do anything you ask me. I have been in such misery for weeks past. I hope I shall not put you to inconvenience. I'll pay you back every penny, with interest. I promise you that.”

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

“When you can,” said Victor, quietly.

"I'll go without everything. I'll save it somehow. You shall not suffer for your generosity.”

“Don't say any more about that,” said Victor. “I am glad to find that the amount is just within my means. I shall not grudge to part with my money if it saves your honour. The only promise I require of you is, that you will never do anything of this kind again. It is neither safe nor honest to play with other people's money. You do not know what this • little indiscretion' of yours has cost me. You spoke just now of Miss Beverley. I have not been to Mulberry Lawn for weeks, solely because I could not feel justified in doing so with this anxiety upon my mind. If this matter had not been set right you would have been dismissed from this house with disgrace, and I must have followed you. You will never again expose me to such misery as I have lately undergone on your account I hope."

“Never, Victor. I'll swear it upon the Bible.”

"No, Louis; you shall not do that. I would rather have your word than your oath. Promise me on your honour: that will be sufficient."

“On my honour, then !” said the young man, striking his hand upon his breast.

Victor sighed. He could not help wishing that his brother would be less demonstrative, not to say less theatrical. A quieter and humbler manner would have inspired him with more confidence. But Louis was always excitable; he spoke as he acted, upon impulse. He meant all that he said, no doubt, but manifested too little sense of shame and too much selfreliance, all things considered. Would the feelings and intentions which he proposed be permanent and fruitful ? that was the question. Louis himself had no doubt about it, evidently, but Victor could not feel so sanguine.

[ocr errors]

“We will make the books right now," said Victor, without any further remark. “I can draw this cash at a day's notice: I have held it in readiness; it shall be done at once.”

"It's awfully kind of you,” Louis said; and sitting down at his place, he applied himself with all his energy to business. Mr. Beverley looked in, as usual, early next morning on his arrival at the counting-house, and finding him there already, hard at work, gave him a friendly greeting, and that same day the books were balanced and submitted to the principal for his inspection.



Thou oughtest to be nice, even to superstition, in keeping thy promises ; and therefore thou shouldest be equally cautious in making them.



ICTOR and Louis Darville walked home together after the

important business of squaring accounts had been completed. They occupied apartments in common on the outskirts of London to the north ; but Louis did not often leave the house at the same time with his brother, nor return to it in his company. He preferred, as a rule, to spend his evenings at some of the clubs or pleasure resorts of the metropolis with companions whose tastes were congenial to his own. He was in excellent spirits now, as he took his brother's arm, and talked and laughed incessantly, while Victor, though anxious to make himself agreeable, could not help feeling a little weary and depressed.

“How pleasant it is,” said Louis, “coming out into the fresh air after being shut up all day in the counting-house. It is rather dull in winter in that room of ours; but I did not feel it so to-day, I was too busy; and I begin to like business pretty well;

I think I shall soon get used to it. Of course, I should stick to it all the same now, whether I liked it or not." “Yes,” said Victor; “I hope you will."

Oh, yes; you need not be afraid about that. If I had known that it would make so much difference to you, Victor, I should have been more careful. I don't see, though, after all, why it need have compromised you, if—if I had gone wrong."

Victor did not like the “if,” nor the manner in which it was spoken. Although the evil consequences had been averted, there was no question about the wrong-doing. But he did not wish to offend his brother by lecturing him, and therefore said only, “We shall stand or fall together, Louis, as far as our connection with the Beverleys is concerned. If I were to get into disgrace and abscond, how would it fare with you, do you think?"

“Oh, that is different.” “Why ?

"Oh, because, in the first place, you are so very careful and steady, and could not do anything of the kind.”

"You are evading the question. If I were to turn out dishonest, I say, what should you do ?”

Louis, being pressed for an answer, could not but admit that he should either be dismissed simultaneously, or should take himself off without waiting for the catastrophe. “But you may make yourself easy,” he said ; "there's no fear of my going wrong again; I shall be as careful and particular as you are. If I leave Beverley's, it will be for a better position.”

“Don't think of it, Louis.”

“No, I won't, I promise you. I mean to be quite a pattern of industry, and so on, in future. I wonder whether I could get anything to do at home in the evening to earn a few pounds, so as to pay you that money."

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »