Imágenes de páginas

I'll put

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


been indirectly the cause of Raffage's desire to try a similar game.

“Let him off this time,” said Louis to his brother. down the ten shillings for him, and he won't do it again, I dare say. You'll promise, won't you ?”

Raffage began at once to promise “faithful," but Victor interrupted him.

“I am afraid his promises would not be worth much,” he said. “The boy has told so many falsehoods. Since he has been in this room he has said repeatedly he had lost the money in the street.”

So I did, sir; that was where it went; it was quite true, sir, that was.”

"You see,” said Victor, turning to his brother, “the poor boy does not know what truth is; he elaborates a lie, and calls that truth.”

“Well,” said Louis, “I'll leave you to deal with him;" and taking his hat he went towards the door. He did not feel that it was a case in which he could say much, and was anxious to get out of the way. But just at that moment Mr. Beverley, who had heard a rumour of what had happened, came to the room, and Louis was obliged to remain. Mr. Beverley took a decided

a view of the case. Peculation or embezzlement was a fault he never would overlook, especially when backed up and defended by a lie. He had a great mind to send for a policeman. As for allowing the felony to be compounded, he was surprised that any one should think of such a thing. Raffage must be dismissed; that was the least that could happen to him-and let him never show his face in Bread Lane again. Victor would have interceded for him, but he knew that it would be useless. The boy was sent away from the door there and then, and Mr Beverley, hurling a severe reprimand after him as he descended the stairs, turned back, and said solemnly to the two Darvilles,


and to the clerks who were standing by, “ That is one of my maxims, gentlemen. Dishonesty-embezzlement is bad enough; but, under certain conditions, I can conceive it possible that it might be overlooked; I don't say it ought to be, but still, where the temptation has been strong, and the previous character of the offender good, I should be disposed to make allowances; but fraud, when it is covered by falsehood, is hopeless; it shows a corrupt mind. I have had two or three painful cases of this sort in the course of my experience, and I never overlook it. I am sorry for the boy's mother, but I could not, under the circumstances, do otherwise than send him away at once, disgraced and without a character.”

As soon as Mr. Beverley had withdrawn, Victor Darville turned the key in the door of the room, in which he and his brother remained alone, and going up to Louis, who was standing before the empty fire-place examining the almanack, laid his hand upon his shoulder, and said, “Louis, you heard what Mr. Beverley said ?”

“ Of course I did.”
“What do you think of it ? "
It's a shame.”

“It seems hard upon a young boy like that to send him away without a character; and yet I am not surprised. The lie was the chief offence; the prevarication and the artfulness, shallow as it was, sealed his fate, and, I think, rightly. Now, Louis, answer me one question, and do not be offended with me for asking it. Are your accounts straight at this moment?”

“Yes,” said Louis, promptly and impatiently.

You know what I mean. You have been speculating again; you have bought those Sandy Frith shares. Where did you get the money for that ? ”

“I thought you knew," said Louis. “The Abyssinian Bank shares were not altogether a failure; I had a dividend from them at last."

Victor had heard of this, and was surprised at the time that his brother had not brought the money to him, as he had promised to do repeatedly.

"Then you are straight ?" said Victor.

"I have told you so," Louis answered. Why do you bother me?”

"I beg your pardon," Victor answered, gently. “I felt a little uneasy, but I have done you wrong. You have relieved my mind."

" You need not be uneasy on my account,” said his brother. “Let me alone and I shall come out all right.”

He was still looking at the almanack, passing his finger up and down the calendar. It was a way he had when speaking about anything that embarrassed or displeased him, to turn his eyes away and to occupy his hands in trifling. Victor would have liked to have looked him straight in the face, but that was impossible. Soon afterwards Louis turned and left the room, and was seen no more in the counting-house that day.




Every hair has its shadow.-Jacula Prudentium. ICTOR DARVILLE was so much concerned about the fate of

young Raffage, that he called at Mulberry Lawn the same evening to tell Miss Beverley what had occurred. He was often drawn to the same spot about the same hour by events of much smaller importance: and it was a matter of course that he should go there two or three times a week at least. He had begun again, latterly, to be a little strange, Joan had fancied-absent in mind though not in person—as if the secret which she had resolved not to think any more about was still causing him some embarrassment. She wondered what it could be, that secret. She was not to know it, not to ask about it, not even when she should be his wife. It was very odd that he should be so reserved upon this one point, being, as she had always found him, so open and candid about everything else. But she was not to think about it, and she would banish it altogether from her mind. She was to trust her Victor implicitly, and she resolved that she would do so, if he had fifty secrets. Perhaps it had nothing to do with her; it was another person's secret, he had said. She wondered whose it could be, and of what sex that other person was.

She wished very much that he had never told her that he had a secret, but that would have been one secret more; it was a proof of his candour and confidence that he had revealed so much.

With reflections and arguments such as these Joan Beverley would try to dismiss from her thoughts the secret which curiosity, and perhaps a more anxious feeling, brought back to her continually, in spite of all her efforts.

Miss Beverley had heard already of young Raffage's dismissal. She had met him going home in a very disconsolate and shamefaced manner, and had gone with him to his mother's house, which was near at hand. The account which the boy had given of himself was very far from being correct; he had had a misfortune, and had lost some money, and Mr. Pyper had made a tale about it, and he had been dismissed; that was all he would say. Miss Beverley accepted the account with reserve; and as soon as her father return applied to him for particulars. She knew, when she had heard all, that it would be useless to intercede with him for the culprit, and, after his repetition of the falsehood, did not feel inclined to do so, but being very sorry

[graphic][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »