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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lighted Way - Chapter 12. Jarvis Is Justly Disturbed
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The Lighted Way - Chapter 12. Jarvis Is Justly Disturbed Post by :dean_z Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2081

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The Lighted Way - Chapter 12. Jarvis Is Justly Disturbed

CHAPTER XII. JARVIS IS JUSTLY DISTURBED

It was fully half-past three before Arnold found himself back in Tooley Street. He hung up his coat and hat and was preparing to enter Mr. Weatherley's room when the chief clerk saw him. Mr. Jarvis had been standing outside, superintending the unloading of several dray loads of American bacon. He laid his hand upon Arnold's shoulder.

"One moment, Chetwode," he said. "I want to speak to you out here."

Arnold followed him to a retired part of the warehouse. Mr. Jarvis leaned against an old desk belonging to one of the porters.

"You are very late, Chetwode," he remarked.

"I am sorry, but I was detained," Arnold answered. "I will explain it to Mr. Weatherley directly I go in."

Mr. Jarvis coughed.

"Of course," he said, "as you went out with Mrs. Weatherley I suppose it's none of my business as to your hours, but you must know that to come back from lunch at half-past three is most irregular, especially as you are practically junior in the place."

"I quite agree with you," Arnold assented, "but, you see, I really couldn't help myself to-day. I don't suppose it is likely to happen again. Is that all that you wanted to speak to me about?"

"Not altogether," Mr. Jarvis admitted. "To tell you the truth," he went on, confidentially, "I wanted to ask you a question or two."

"Well, look sharp, then," Arnold said, good-humoredly. "I dare say Mr. Weatherley will be getting impatient, and he probably saw me come in."

"I want to ask you," Mr. Jarvis began, impressively, "whether you noticed anything peculiar about the governor's manner this morning?"

"I don't think so--not especially," Arnold replied.

Mr. Jarvis took off his gold-rimmed spectacles and wiped them carefully.

"Mr. Weatherley," he proceeded, "has always been a gentleman of very regular habits--he and his father before him. I have been in the service of the firm for thirty-five years, Mr. Chetwode, so you can understand that my interest is not merely a business one."

"Quite so," Arnold agreed, glancing at the man by his side with a momentary curiosity. He had been in Tooley Street for four months, and even now he was still unused to the close atmosphere, the pungent smells, the yellow fog which seemed always more or less to hang about in the streets; the dark, cavernous-looking warehouse with its gloomy gas-jets always burning. From where they were standing at that moment, the figures of the draymen and warehousemen moving backwards and forwards seemed like phantoms in some subterranean world. It was odd to think of thirty-five years spent amid such surroundings!

"It is a long time," he remarked.

Mr. Jarvis nodded.

"I mention it," he said, "so that you may understand that my remarks to you are not dictated by curiosity or impertinence. Mr. Weatherley's behavior and mode of life has been entirely changed, Chetwode, since his marriage."

"I can understand that," Arnold replied, with a faint smile. What, indeed, had so beautiful a creature as Fenella to do with Samuel Weatherley of Tooley Street!

"Mrs. Weatherley," Mr. Jarvis continued, "is, no doubt, a very beautiful and accomplished lady. Whether she is a suitable wife for Mr. Weatherley I am not in a position to judge, never having had the opportunity of speech with her, but as regards the effect of his marriage upon Mr. Weatherley, I should like you to understand, Chetwode, at once, that it is my opinion, and the opinion of all of us, and of all his business friends, that a marked change for the worse in Mr. Weatherley has set in during the last few months."

"I am sorry to hear it," Arnold interposed.

"You, of course," Mr. Jarvis went on, "could scarcely have noticed it, as you have been here so short a time, but I can assure you that a year or so ago the governor was a different person altogether. He was out in the warehouse half the morning, watching the stuff being unloaded, sampling it, and suggesting customers. He took a live interest in the business, Chetwode. He was here, there and everywhere. To-day--for the last few weeks, indeed--he has scarcely left his office. He sits there, signs a few letters, listens to what I have to say, and goodness knows how he spends the rest of his time. Where the business would be," Mr. Jarvis continued, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "if it were not for us who know the running of it so well, I can't say, but a fact it is that Mr. Weatherley seems to have lost all interest in it."

"I wonder he doesn't retire," Arnold suggested.

Mr. Jarvis looked at him in amazement.

"Retire!" he exclaimed. "Why should he retire? What would he do? Isn't it as comfortable for him to read his newspaper over the fire in the office here as at home? Isn't it better for him to have his friends all around him, as he has here, than to sit up in his drawing-room in business hours with never a soul to speak to? Such men as Mr. Weatherley, Chetwode, or as Mr. Weatherley's father was, don't retire. If they do, it means the end."

"Well, I'm sorry to hear what you tell me," Arnold said. "I haven't seen much of Mr. Weatherley, of course, but he seems devoted to his wife."

"Infatuated, sir! Infatuated is the word!" Mr. Jarvis declared.

"She is very charming," Arnold remarked, thoughtfully.

Mr. Jarvis looked as though there were many things which he could have said but refrained from saying.

"You will not suggest, Chetwode," he asked, "that she married Mr. Weatherley for any other reason than because he was a rich man?"

Arnold was silent for a moment. Somehow or other, he had accepted the fact of her being Mrs. Weatherley without thinking much as to its significance.

"I suppose," he admitted, "that Mr. Weatherley's money was an inducement."

"There is never anything but evil," Mr. Jarvis declared, "comes from a man or a woman marrying out of their own circle of friends. Now Mr. Weatherley might have married a dozen ladies from his own circle here. One I know of, a very handsome lady, too, whose father has been Lord Mayor. And then there's young Tidey's sisters, in the office there. Any one of them would have been most suitable. But no! Some unlucky chance seems to have sent Mr. Weatherley on that continental journey, and when you once get away from England, why, of course, anything may happen. I don't wish to say anything against Mrs. Weatherley, mind," Mr. Jarvis continued, "but she comes from the wrong class of people to make a city man a good wife, and I can't help associating her and her friends and her manner of living with the change that's come over Mr. Weatherley."

Arnold swung himself up on to the top of a barrel and sat looking down at his companion.

"Mr. Jarvis," he said, "you and I see this matter, naturally, from very different standpoints. You have known Mr. Weatherley for thirty-five years. I have known him for four months, and he never spoke a word to me until a few days ago. Practically, therefore, I have known Mr. and Mrs. Weatherley the same length of time. Under the circumstances, I must tell you frankly that my sympathies are with Mrs. Weatherley. Not only have I found her a very charming woman, but she has been most unnecessarily kind to me."

Mr. Jarvis was silent for a moment.

"I had forgotten," he admitted, "that that might be your point of view. It isn't, of course, possible to look for any feeling of loyalty for the chief from any one who has only been here a matter of a few months. Perhaps I was wrong to have spoken to you at all, Chetwode."

"If there is anything I can do," Arnold began,--

"It's in this way," Mr. Jarvis interrupted. "Owing, I dare say, to Mrs. Weatherley, you have certainly been put in a unique position here. You see more of Mr. Weatherley now than any one of us. For that reason I was anxious to make a confidant of you. I tell you that I am worried about Mr. Weatherley. He is a rich man and a prosperous man. There is no reason why he should sit in his office and gaze into the fire and look out of the window as though the place were full of shadows and he hated the sight of them. Yet that is what he does nowadays, Chetwode. What does it mean? I ask you frankly. Haven't you noticed yourself that his behavior is peculiar?"

"Now you mention it," Arnold replied, "I certainly have noticed that he was very strange in his manner this morning. He seemed very upset about that Rosario murder. Mr. Rosario was at his house the other night, you know. Were they great friends, do you think?"

Mr. Jarvis shook his head.

"Not at all," he said. "He was simply, I believe, one of Mrs. Weatherley's society acquaintances. But that there's something gone wrong with Mr. Weatherley, no one would deny who sees him as he is now and knows him as he was a year or so ago. There's Johnson, the foreman packer, who's been here as long as I have; and Elwick, the carter; and Huemmel, in the export department;--we've all been talking together about this."

"He doesn't speculate, I suppose?" Arnold enquired.

"Not a ha'penny," Mr. Jarvis replied, fervently. "He has spent large sums of money since his marriage, but he can afford it. It isn't money that's worrying him."

"Perhaps he doesn't hit it off with his wife," Arnold remarked.

Mr. Jarvis drew a little breath. For a moment he was speechless. To him it seemed something like profanity that this young man should make so casual a suggestion.

"Mrs. Weatherley, sir," he declared, "was, I believe, without any means whatever when Mr. Weatherley made her his wife. Mr. Weatherley, as you know, is at the head of this house, the house of Samuel Weatherley & Co., bankers Lloyds. It should be the business of the lady, sir, to see that she hits it off, as you put it, with a husband who has done her so much honor."

Arnold smiled.

"That is all very well, Mr. Jarvis," he said, "but you must remember that Mrs. Weatherley had compensations for her lack of wealth. She is very beautiful, and she is, too, of a different social rank."

Mr. Jarvis was frankly scornful.

"Why, she was a foreigner," he declared. "I should like to know of what account any foreign family is against our good city firms, such as I have been speaking of. No, Chetwode, my opinion is that she's brought a lot of her miserable, foreign hangers-on over here, and that somehow or other they are worrying Mr. Weatherley. I should like, if I could, to interest you in the chief. You can't be expected to feel as I do towards him. At the same time, he is the head of the firm, and you are bound, therefore, to feel a certain respect due to him, and I thought that if I talked to you and put these matters before you, which have occurred not only to me but to those others who have been with Mr. Weatherley for so many years, you might be able to help us by watching, and if you can find any clue as to what is bothering him, why, I'd be glad to hear of it, for there isn't one of us who wouldn't do anything that lay in his power to have the master back once more as he used to be a few years ago. Why, the business seems to have lost all its spring, nowadays," Mr. Jarvis went on, mournfully. "We do well, of course, because we couldn't help doing well, but we plod along more like a machine. It was different altogether in the days when Mr. Weatherley used to bring out the morning orders himself and chaff us about selling for no profit. You follow me, Chetwode?"

"I'll do what I can," Arnold agreed. "Of course, I see your point of view, and I must admit that the governor does seem depressed about something or other."

"If anything turns up," Mr. Jarvis asked eagerly, "anything tangible, I mean, you'll tell me of it, won't you, there's a good fellow? Of course, I suppose your future is outside my control now, but I engaged you first, you know, Chetwode. There aren't many things done here that I haven't a say in."

"You may rely upon me," Arnold promised, slipping down from the barrel. "He's really quite a decent old chap, and if I can find out what's worrying him, and can help, I'll do it."

Mr. Jarvis went back to his labors and Arnold made his way to Mr. Weatherley's room. His first knock remained unanswered. The "Come in!" which procured for him admittance at his second attempt sounded both flurried and startled. Mr. Weatherley had the air of one who has been engaged in some criminal task. He drew the blotting-paper over the letter which he had been writing as Arnold entered.

"Oh! it's you, is it, Chetwode?" he remarked, with an air of relief. "So you're back, eh? Pleasant luncheon?"

"Very pleasant indeed, thank you, sir," Arnold replied.

"Mrs. Weatherley send any message?" her husband asked, with ill-assumed indifference.

"None at all, sir."

Mr. Weatherley sighed. He seemed a little disappointed.

"Did you lunch at the Carlton?"

"We took our coffee there afterwards," Arnold said. "We lunched at a small foreign restaurant near Oxford Street."

"The Count Sabatini was there?"

"Yes, sir," Arnold told him. "Also Mr. Starling."

Mr. Weatherley nodded slowly.

"How do you get on with Count Sabatini?" he inquired. "Rather a gloomy person, eh?"

"I found him very pleasant, sir," Arnold said. "He was good enough to ask me to dine with him to-night."

Mr. Weatherley looked up, a little startled.

"Invited you to dine with him?" he repeated.

Arnold nodded.

"I thought it was very kind of him, sir."

Mr. Weatherley sat quite still in his chair. He had obviously forgotten his secretary's presence in the room, and Arnold, who had seated himself at his desk and was engaged in sorting out some papers, took the opportunity now and then to glance up and scrutinize with some attention his employer's features. There were certainly traces there of the change at which Mr. Jarvis had hinted. Mr. Weatherley had the appearance of a man who had once been florid and prosperous and comfortable-looking, but who had been visited by illness or some sort of anxiety. His cheeks were still fat, but they hung down toward the jaw, and his eyes were marked with crowsfeet. His color was unhealthy. He certainly had no longer the look of a prosperous and contented man.

"Chetwode," he said slowly, after a long pause, "I am not sure that I did you a kindness when I asked you to come to my house the other night."

"I thought so, at any rate, sir," Arnold replied. "It has been a great pleasure to me to make Mrs. Weatherley's acquaintance."

"I am glad that my wife has been kind to you," Mr. Weatherley continued, "but I hope you will not misunderstand me, Chetwode, when I say that I am not sure that such kindness is for your good. Mrs. Weatherley's antecedents are romantic, and she has many friends whose position in life is curiously different from my own, and whose ideas and methods of life are not such as I should like a son of my own to adopt. The Count Sabatini, for instance," Mr. Weatherley went on, "is a nobleman who has had, I believe, a brilliant career, in some respects, but who a great many people would tell you is a man without principles or morals, as we understand them down here. He is just the sort of man to attract youth because he is brave, and I believe him to be incapable of a really despicable action. But notwithstanding this, and although he is my wife's brother, if I were you I would not choose him for a companion."

"I am very much obliged to you, sir," Arnold answered, a little awkwardly. "I shall bear in mind all that you have said. You do not object, I presume, to my dining with him to-night?"

"I have no objection to anything you may do outside this building," Mr. Weatherley replied, "but as you are only a youngster, and you met the Count Sabatini at my house, I feel it only right to give you a word of warning. I may be wrong. One gets fancies sometimes, and there are some strange doings--not that they concern you, however," he added, hurriedly; "only you are a young man with your way to make in the world, and every chance of making it, I should think; but it won't do for you to get too many of Count Sabatini's ideas into your head if you are going to do any good at a wholesome, honest business like this."

"I quite understand, sir," Arnold assented. "I don't suppose that Count Sabatini will ask me to dine with him again. I think it was just kindness that made him think of it. In any case, I am not in a position to associate with these people regularly, at present, and that alone would preclude me from accepting invitations."

"You're young and strong," Mr. Weatherley said thoughtfully. "You must fight your own battle. You start, somehow, differently than I did. You see," he went on, with the air of one indulging in reminiscences, "my father was in this business and I was brought up to it. We lived only a stone's throw away then, in Bermondsey, and I went to the City of London School. At fourteen I was in the office here, and a partner at twenty-one. I never went out of England till I was over forty. I had plenty of friends, but they were all of one class. They wouldn't suit Mrs. Weatherley or the Count Sabatini. I have lost a good many of them.... You weren't brought up to business, Chetwode?" he asked suddenly.

"I was not, sir," Arnold admitted.

"What made you come into it?"

"Poverty, sir," Arnold answered. "I had only a few shillings in the world when I walked in and asked Mr. Jarvis for a situation."

Mr. Weatherley sighed.

"Your people are gentlefolk, I expect," he said. "You have the look of it."

Arnold did not reply. Mr. Weatherley shrugged his shoulders.

"Well," he concluded, "you must look after yourself, only remember what I have said. By the bye, Chetwode, I am going to repose a certain amount of confidence in you."

Arnold looked up from his desk.

"I think you may safely do so, sir," he declared.

Mr. Weatherley slowly opened a drawer at his right hand and produced two letters. He carefully folded up the sheet upon which he had been writing, and also addressed that.

"I cannot enter into explanations with you about this matter, Chetwode," he said, "but I require your promise that what I say to you now is not mentioned in the warehouse or to any one until the time comes which I am about to indicate. You are my confidential secretary and I have a right, I suppose, to demand your silence."

"Certainly, sir," Arnold assured him.

"There is just a possibility," Mr. Weatherley declared, speaking thoughtfully and looking out of the window, "that I may be compelled to take a sudden and quite unexpected journey. If this be so, I should have to leave without a word to any one--to any one, you understand."

Arnold was puzzled, but he murmured a word of assent.

"In case this should happen," Mr. Weatherley went on, "and I have not time to communicate with any of you, I am leaving in your possession these two letters. One is addressed jointly to you and Mr. Jarvis, and the other to Messrs. Turnbull & James, Solicitors, Bishopsgate Street Within. Now I give these letters into your charge. We shall lock them up together in this small safe which I told you you could have for your own papers," Mr. Weatherley continued, rising to his feet and crossing the room. "There you are, you see. The safe is empty at present, so you will not need to go to it. I am locking them up," he added, taking a key from his pocket, "and there is the key. Now you understand?"

"But surely, sir," Arnold began,--

"The matter is quite simple," Mr. Weatherley interrupted, sharply. "To put it plainly, if I am missing at any time, if anything should happen to me, or if I should disappear, go to that safe, take out the letters, open your own and deliver the other. That is all you have to do."

"Quite so, sir," Arnold replied. "I understand perfectly. I see that there is none for Mrs. Weatherley. Would you wish any message to be sent to her?"

Mr. Weatherley was silent for a moment. A boy passed along the pavement with a bundle of evening papers. Mr. Weatherley tapped at the window.

"Hurry out and get me a _Star_, Chetwode," he ordered.

Arnold obeyed him and returned a few moments later with a paper in his hand. Mr. Weatherley spread out the damp sheet under the electric light. He studied it for a few moments intently, and then folded it up.

"It will not be necessary for you, Chetwode," he said, "to communicate with my wife specially."

The accidental arrangement of his employer's coat and hat upon the rack suddenly struck Arnold.

"Why, I don't believe that you have been out to lunch, sir!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Weatherley looked as though the idea were a new one to him.

"To tell you the truth," he said, "I completely forgot. Help me on with my coat, Chetwode. There is nothing more to be done to-day. I will call and get some tea somewhere on my way home."

He rose to his feet, a little heavily.

"Tell them to get me a taxicab," he directed. "I don't feel much like walking to-day, and they are not sending for me."

Arnold sent the errand-boy off to London Bridge. Mr. Weatherley stood before the window looking out into the murky atmosphere.

"I hope, Chetwode," he said, "that I haven't said anything to make you believe that there is anything wrong with me, or to give you cause for uneasiness. This journey of which I spoke may never become necessary. In that case, after a certain time has elapsed, we will destroy those letters."

"I trust that it never may become necessary to open them, sir," Arnold remarked.

"As regards what I said to you about the Count," Mr. Weatherley continued, after a moment's hesitation, "remember who I am that give you the advice, and who you are that receive it. Your bringing-up, I should imagine, has been different. Still, a young man of your age has to make up his mind what sort of a life he means to lead. I suppose, to a good many people," he went on, reflectively, "my life would seem a common, dull, plodding affair. Somehow or other, I didn't seem to find it so until--until lately. Still, there it is. I suppose I have lived in a little corner of the world, and what seems strange and wild to me might, after all, seem not so much out of the way to a young man with different ideas like you. Only, this much I do believe, at any rate," he went on, buttoning up his coat and watching the taxicab which was coming along the street; "if you want a quiet, honest life, doing your duty to yourself and others, and living according to the old-fashioned standards of honesty and upright living, then when you have had that dinner with the Count Sabatini to-night, forget him, forget where he lives. Come back to your work here, and if the things of which the Count has been talking to you seem to have more glamor, forget them all the more zealously. The best sort of life is always the grayest. The life which attracts is generally the one to be avoided. We don't do our duty," Mr. Weatherley added, brushing his hat upon his sleeve reflectively, "by always looking out upon the pleasurable side of life. Good evening, Chetwode!"

He turned away so abruptly that Arnold had scarcely time to return his greeting. It seemed so strange to him to be talked to at such length by a man whom he had scarcely heard utter half a dozen words in his life, that he was left speechless. He was still standing before the window when Mr. Weatherley crossed the pavement to the waiting taxicab. In his walk and attitude the signs of the man's deterioration were obvious. The little swagger of his younger days was gone, the bumptiousness of his bearing forgotten. He cast no glance up and down the pavement to hail an acquaintance. He muttered an address to the driver and stepped heavily into the taxicab.

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