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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTrue Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings - Chapter 8
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True Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings - Chapter 8 Post by :Dave_Smith Category :Long Stories Author :T. S. Arthur Date :May 2012 Read :2596

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True Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings - Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII

"I don't just understand this," said Jasper to himself, after the interview with his clerk described in another chapter. "I thought him perfectly satisfied. He didn't say he was offered a higher salary. Ah! guess I've got it now. It's only a bit of a ruse on his part to get me to increase his wages. I didn't think of this before. Well, it has succeeded; and, in truth, he's worth all I've offered him. Shrewd, quick, and sharp; he's a young man just to my mind. Should he grow restless again, I must tempt him with the idea of a partnership at some future period. If business goes on increasing, I shall want some one with me whom I can trust and depend on more fully than on a clerk."

Thus, in the mind of Jasper, all was settled; and he was fully prepared, on the next morning, when he met Edward to hear from him that he would remain in his service. A different decision took him altogether by surprise.

"Where are you going?" he asked. Edward hesitated a moment ere replying.

"Back to Mr. Melleville's."

"To Melleville's! Will he give you more salary than I have agreed to pay?"

"No," was the answer; "but I have reasons for wishing to accept the place he offers me."

"Well, just as you please," said Jasper, coldly. "Every one must suit himself."

And, with the air of a person offended, he turned himself from the young man. Soon after he went out, and did not come back for two or three hours. When he re-entered the store there was an angry flash in his eyes, which rested somewhat sternly upon Claire.

"Let me say a word with you, Edward."

There happened to be no customer in to engage the clerk's attention, and he retired, with his employer, to the back part of the store. Jasper then turned and confronted him with a stern aspect.

"Well, young man!" said he sharply, "it seems that you have been making rather free with my good name, of late; representing me as a cheat and a swindler."

For a few moments the mind of Claire was strongly excited and in a perfect maze of confusion. The blood mounted to his face, and he felt a rising and choking sensation in his throat. Wisely he forbore any answer until he had regained his self-possession. Then, with a coolness that surprised even himself, he said--

"That's a broad accusation, Mr. Jasper. Will you go with me to your authority?"

Jasper was not just prepared for a response like this; and he cooled down, instantly, several degrees.

"My authority is quite satisfactory," he returned, still manifesting angry feeling. "That you have been slandering me is plain; and, also, betraying the confidential transactions of the house. It is full time we parted--full time. I didn't dream that I was warming an adder to sting me?"

"I must insist, Mr. Jasper," said Claire firmly, "that you give me your authority for all this. Let me stand face to face with the man who has so broadly accused me."

"Then you deny it all?"

"I shall neither affirm nor deny any thing. You have angrily accused me of having done you a great wrong. All I ask is your authority, and the right to stand face to face with that authority. This is no light matter, Mr. Jasper."

"Well said, young man. It is no light matter, as you will, perhaps, know to your sorrow in the end. Don't suppose, for a moment, that I shall either forget or forgive this outrage. Leave me because I cheat in my business!" An expression of unmitigated contempt was on his face. "Poh! What hypocrisy! I know you! And let Mr. Melleville beware. He, I more than suspect, is at the bottom of this. But he'll rue the day he crossed my path--he will!"

And Jasper ground his teeth in anger.

By this time, Claire had become entirely self-possessed. He was both surprised and troubled; yet concealed, as far as possible, the real state of his feelings.

"So far as Mr. Melleville is concerned," said he, "I wish you to understand, that I applied to _him for the situation."

"Exactly! That is in agreement with what I heard. I was such a rogue that you could not live with me and keep a clear conscience--so you sought for a place with an honest man."

Claire dropped his eyes to the floor, and stood musing for some considerable time. When he raised them, he looked steadily at his employer and said--

"Mr. Jasper, I never made use of the words you have repeated."

"If not the very words, those of a like signification?"

"To whom? There is no need of concealment, Mr. Jasper." Claire was feeling less and less anxious for the result of this conference every moment. "Speak out freely, and you will find me ready to do the same. There had been some underhand work here--or some betrayal of an ill-advised confidence. The former, I am most ready to believe. In a word, sir, and to bring this at once to an issue--your informant in this matter is Henry Parker, who lives with Mr. Melleville."

The change instantly perceptible in the manner of Jasper showed that Edward's suspicion was right. He had, all at once, remembered that, during his conversation with Melleville, this young man was near.

"I see how it is," he continued. "An eavesdropper has reported, with his own comments and exaggerations, a strictly confidential interview. Such being the case, I will state the plain truth of the matter. Are you prepared to hear it?"

"Oh, certainly," replied Jasper, with a covert sneer in his voice. "I'm prepared to hear any thing."

"Very well. What I have to say is now wrung from me. I did not wish to leave you in anger. I did not wish to draw upon me your ill-will. But, what is unavoidable must be borne. It is true, Mr. Jasper, as you have been informed, that I am not satisfied with your way of doing business."

"How long since, pray?" asked Jasper, with ill-disguised contempt.

"I did not like it in the beginning, but gradually suffered myself to think that all was fair in trade, until I found I was no better than a common cheat! Happily, I have been able to make a sudden pause in the way I was going. From this time, I will serve no man who expects me to overreach a customer in dealing. So soon as my mind was fully made up to leave your employment, I called to see my old friend, Mr. Melleville; stated to him, frankly and fully, what I thought and felt; and asked him if he could not make room for me in his store. Parker doubtless overheard a part of what we were saying, and reported it to you. I would, let me say in passing, much rather hold my relation to this unpleasant business than his. Mr. Melleville offered me my old salary--four hundred dollars--and I agreed to enter his service."

"Four hundred dollars!" Jasper said this in unfeigned surprise.

"Yes, sir; that is all he can afford to pay, and of course all I will receive."

"And I offered you six hundred and fifty."

"True."

"Edward, you are the most consummate fool I ever heard of."

"Time will show that," was the undisturbed reply. "I have made my election thoughtfully, and am prepared to meet the result."

"You'll repent of this; mark my word for it."

"I may regret your ill-will, Mr. Jasper; but never repent this step. I'm only thankful that I possessed sufficient resolution to take it."

"When are you going?"

"Not before the end of this month, unless you wish it otherwise. I would like to give you full time to supply my place."

"You can go at once, if it so please you. In fact, after what has just passed, I don't see how you can remain, or I tolerate your presence."

"I am ready for this, Mr. Jasper," coolly replied the young man.

"How much is due you?" was inquired, after a brief silence.

"Twenty-five dollars, I believe," answered Claire.

Jasper threw open a ledger that lay on the desk, and, turning to the young man's account, ran his eyes up the two columns of figures, and then struck a balance.

"Just twenty-seven dollars," said he, after a second examination of the figures. "And here's the money," he added, as he took some bills from the desk and counted out the sum just mentioned. "Now sign me a receipt in full to date, and that ends the matter."

The receipt was promptly signed.

"And now," sneered Jasper, bowing with mock deference, "I wish you joy of your better place. You will, in all probability, hear from me again. I haven't much faith in your over-righteous people; and will do myself the justice to make some very careful examinations into your doings since you entered my service. If all is right, well; if not, it won't be good for you. I'm not the man to forgive ingratitude, injury, and insult--of all three of which you have been guilty."

"We will not bandy words on that subject, Mr. Jasper," said Claire--"I simply deny that I have been guilty of either of the faults you allege. As for an investigation into my business conduct, that you can do as early and as thoroughly as you please. I shall feel no anxiety for the result."

Jasper did not reply. For a few moments the young man stood as if expecting some remark; none being made, he turned away, gathered together a few articles that were his own private property, tied them into a bundle and marked his name thereon. Then bowing to the merchant, he retired--oppressed from recent painful excitement, yet glad, in his inmost feelings, that a connection so dangerous as that with Jasper had been dissolved--dissolved even at the cost of making an enemy.

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CHAPTER VII"Well, Edward, what does your wife say?" Such was the inquiry of Jasper, immediately on the return of his clerk from dinner. "There will be no difficulty, so far as she is concerned," the young man answered. "None, did you say, Edward?" "None. She is willing to take the child, under the arrangement you propose." "That is, for three hundred dollars a year, to find her in every thing?" "Yes; until she is twelve years of age." "So I understand it. After that, as the expense of her clothing and education will increase, we can make a new arrangement. Very
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