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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 7
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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 7 Post by :Brad_Holmes Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2914

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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 7



"Darrell," said Colonel Morley, "you remember my nephew George as a boy? He is now the rector of Humberston; married--a very nice sort of woman--suits him Humberston is a fine living; but his talents are wasted there. He preached for the first time in London last year, and made a considerable sensation. This year he has been much out of town. He has no church here as yet.

"I hope to get him one. Carr is determined that he shall be a Bishop. Meanwhile he preaches at--Chapel tomorrow; come and hear him with me, and then tell me frankly--is he eloquent or not?"

Darrell had a prejudice against fashionable preachers; but to please Colonel Morley he went to hear George. He was agreeably surprised by the pulpit oratory of the young divine. It had that rare combination of impassioned earnestness with subdued tones, and decorous gesture, which suits the ideal of ecclesiastical eloquence conceived by an educated English Churchman

"Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

Occasionally the old defect in utterance was discernible; there was a gasp as for breath, or a prolonged dwelling upon certain syllables, which, occurring in the most animated passages, and apparently evincing the preacher's struggle with emotion, rather served to heighten the sympathy of the audience. But, for the most part, the original stammer was replaced by a felicitous pause, the pause as of a thoughtful reasoner or a solemn monitor knitting ideas, that came too quick, into method, or chastening impulse into disciplined zeal. The mind of the preacher, thus not only freed from trammel, but armed for victory, came forth with that power which is peculiar to an original intellect--the power which suggests more than it demonstrates. He did not so much preach to his audience as wind himself through unexpected ways into the hearts of the audience; and they who heard suddenly found their hearts preaching to themselves. He took for his text: "Cast down, but not destroyed;" and out of this text he framed a discourse full of true Gospel tenderness, which seemed to raise up comfort as the saving, against despair as the evil, principle of mortal life. The congregation was what is called "brilliant"--statesmen, and peers, and great authors, and fine ladies--people whom the inconsiderate believe to stand little in need of comfort, and never to be subjected to despair. In many an intent or drooping farce in that brilliant congregation might be read a very different tale. But of all present there was no one whom the discourse so moved as a woman who, chancing to pass that way, had followed the throng into the Chapel, and with difficulty obtained a seat at the far end; a woman who had not been within the walls of a chapel or church for long years--a grim woman, in iron grey. There she sate unnoticed, in her remote corner; and before the preacher had done, her face was hidden behind her clasped hands, and she was weeping such tears as she had not wept since childhood.

On leaving church, Darrell said little more to the Colonel than this: "Your nephew takes me by surprise. The Church wants such men. He will have a grand career, if life be spared to him." Then he sank into a reverie, from which he broke abruptly: "Your nephew was, at school with my boy. Had my son lived, what had been his career?"

The Colonel, never encouraging painful subjects, made no rejoinder.

"Bring George to see me to-morrow. I shrunk from asking it before: I thought the sight of him would too much revive old sorrows; but I feel I should accustom myself to face every memory. Bring him."

The next day the Colonel took George to Darrell's; but George had been pre-engaged till late at noon, and Darrell was just leaving home, and at his street door, when the uncle and nephew came. They respected his time too much to accept his offer to come in, but walked beside him for a few minutes, as he bestowed upon George those compliments which are sweet to the ears of rising men from the lips of those who have risen.

"I remember you, George, as a boy," said Darrell, "and thanked you then for good advice to a schoolfellow, who is lost to your counsels now." He faltered an instant, but went on firmly: "You had then a slight defect in utterance, which, I understand from your uncle, increased as you grew older; so that I never anticipated for you the fame that you are achieving. Orator fit--you must have been admirably taught. In the management of your voice, in the excellence of your delivery, I see that you are one of the few who deem that the Divine Word should not be unworthily uttered. The debater on beer bills may be excused from studying the orator's effects; but all that enforce, dignify, adorn, make the becoming studies of him who strives by eloquence to people heaven; whose task it is to adjure the thoughtless, animate the languid, soften the callous, humble the proud, alarm the guilty, comfort the sorrowful, call back to the fold the lost. Is the culture to be slovenly where the glebe is so fertile? The only field left in modern times for the ancient orator's sublime conceptions, but laborious training, is the Preacher's. And I own, George, that I envy the masters who skilled to the Preacher's art an intellect like yours."

"Masters," said the Colonel. "I thought all those elocution masters failed with you, George. You cured and taught yourself. Did not you? No! Why, then, who was your teacher?"

George looked very much embarrassed, and, attempting to answer, began horribly to stutter.

Darrell, conceiving that a preacher whose fame was not yet confirmed might reasonably dislike to confess those obligations to elaborate study, which, if known, might detract from his effect or expose him to ridicule, hastened to change the subject. "You have been to the country, I hear, George; at your living, I suppose?"

"No. I have not been there very lately; travelling about."

"Have you seen Lady Montfort since your return?" asked the Colonel.

"I only returned on Saturday night. I go to Lady Montfort's at Twickenham, this evening."

"She has a delightful retreat," said the Colonel. "But if she wish to avoid admiration, she should not make the banks of the river her favourite haunt. I know some romantic admirers, who, when she re-appears in the world, may be rival aspirants, and who have much taken to rowing since Lady Montfort has retired to Twickenham. They catch a glimpse of her, and return to boast of it. But they report that there is a young lady seen walking with her an extremely pretty one--who is she? People ask me--as if I knew everything."

"A companion, I suppose," said George, more and more confused. "But, pardon me, I must leave you now. Good-bye, uncle. Good day, Mr. Darrell."

Darrell did not seem to observe George take leave, but walked on, his hat over his brows, lost in one of his frequent fits of abstracted gloom.

"If my nephew were not married," said the Colonel, "I should regard his embarrassment with much suspicion--embarrassed at every point, from his travels about the country to the question of a young lady at Twickenham. I wonder who that young lady can be--not one of the Viponts, or I should have heard. Are there any young ladies on the Lyndsay side?--Eh, Darrell?"

"What do I care?--your head runs on young ladies," answered Darrell, with peevish vivacity, as he stopped abruptly at Carr Vipont's door.

"And your feet do not seem to run from them," said the Colonel; and, with an ironical salute, walked away, while the expanding portals engulfed his friend.

As he sauntered up St. James's Street, nodding towards the thronged windows of its various clubs, the Colonel suddenly encountered Lionel, and, taking the young gentleman's arm, said: "If you are not very much occupied, will you waste half an hour on me?--I am going homewards."

Lionel readily assented, and the Colonel continued "Are you in want of your cabriolet to-day, or can you lend it to me? I have asked a Frenchman, who brings me a letter of introduction, to dine at the nearest restaurant's to which one can ask a Frenchman. I need not say that is Greenwich: and if I took him in a cabriolet, he would not suspect that he was taken five miles out of town."

"Alas, my dear Colonel, I have just sold my cabriolet." What! old-fashioned already!--True, it has been built three months. Perhaps the horse, too, has become an antique in some other collection--silent--um!--cabriolet and horse both sold?"

"Both," said Lionel, shamefully.

"Nothing surprises me that man can do," said the Colonel; "or I should be surprised. When, acting on Darrell's general instructions for your outfit, I bought that horse, I flattered myself that I had chosen well. But rare are good horses--rarer still a good judge of them; I suppose I was cheated, and the brute proved a screw."

"The finest cab-horse in London, my dear Colonel, and every one knows how proud I was of him. But I wanted money, and had nothing else that would bring the sum I required. Oh, Colonel Morley, do hear me?"

"Certainly, I am not deaf, nor is St. James's Street. When a man says, 'I have parted with my horse because I wanted money,' I advise him to say it in a whisper."

"I have been imprudent, at least unlucky, and I must pay the penalty. A friend of mine--that is, not exactly a friend, but an acquaintance--whom I see every day--one of my own set-asked me to sign my name at Paris to a bill at three months' date, as his security. He gave me his honour that I should hear no more of it--he would be sure to take up the bill when due--a man whom I supposed to be as well off as myself! You will allow that I could scarcely refuse--at all events, I did not. The bill became due two days ago; my friend does not pay it, and indeed says he cannot, and the holder of the bill calls on me. He was very civil-offered to renew it--pressed me to take my time, &c.; but I did not like his manner: and as to my friend, I find that, instead of being well off, as I supposed, he is hard up, and that I am not the first he has got into the same scrape--not intending it, I am sure. He's really a very good fellow, and, if I wanted security, would be it to-morrow to any amount."

"I've no doubt of it--to any amount!" said the Colonel.

"So I thought it best to conclude the matter at once. I had saved nothing from my allowance, munificent as it is. I could not have the face to ask Mr. Darrell to remunerate me for my own imprudence. I should not like to borrow from my mother--I know it would be inconvenient to her.

"I sold both horse and cabriolet this morning. I had just been getting the cheque cashed when I met you. I intend to take the money myself to the bill-holder. I have just the sum--L200."

"The horse alone was worth that," said the Colonel, with a faint sigh-- "not to be replaced. France and Russia have the pick of our stables. However, if it is sold, it is sold--talk no more of it. I hate painful subjects. You did right not to renew the bill--it is opening an account with Ruin; and though I avoid preaching on money matters, or, indeed, any other (preaching is my nephew's vocation, not mine), yet allow me to extract from you a solemn promise never again to sign bills, nor to draw them. Be to your friend what you please except security for him. Orestes never asked Pylades to help him to borrow at fifty per cent. Promise me--your word of honour as a gentleman! Do you hesitate?"

"My dear Colonel," said Lionel frankly, "I do hesitate. I might promise not to sign a money-lender's bill on my own account, though really I think you take rather an exaggerated view of what is, after all, a common occurrence--"

"Do I?" said the Colonel meekly. "I'm sorry to hear it. I detest exaggeration. Go on. You might promise not to ruin yourself--but you object to promise not to help in the ruin of your friend."

"That is exquisite irony, Colonel," said Lionel, piqued; "but it does not deal with the difficulty, which is simply this: When a man whom you call friend--whom you walk with, ride with, dine with almost every day, says to you 'I am in immediate want of a few hundreds--I don't ask you to lend them to me, perhaps you can't--but assist me to borrow--trust to my honour that the debt shall not fall on you,--why, then, it seems as if to refuse the favour was to tell the man you call friend that you doubt his honour; and though I have been caught once in that way, I feel that I must be caught very often before I should have the moral courage to say 'No!' Don't ask me, then to promise--be satisfied with my assurance that, in future at least, I will be more cautious, and if the loss fall on me, why, the worst that can happen is to do again what I do now."

"Nay, you would not perhaps have another horse and cab to sell. In that case, you would do the reverse of what you do now--you would renew the bill--the debt would run on like a snowball--in a year or two you would owe, not hundreds, but thousands. But come in--here we are at my door."

The Colonel entered his drawing-room. A miracle of exquisite neatness the room was--rather effeminate, perhaps, in its attributes; but that was no sign of the Colonel's tastes, but of his popularity with the ladies. All those pretty things were their gifts. The tapestry on the chairs their work--the Sevres on the consoles--the clock on the mantel-shelf--the inkstand, paper-cutter, taper-stand on the writing-table--their birthday presents. Even the white woolly Maltese dog that sprang from the rug to welcome him--even the flowers in the jardiniere--even the tasteful cottage-piano, and the very music-stand beside it--and the card-trays, piled high with invitations,--were contributions from the forgiving sex to the unrequiting bachelor.

Surveying his apartment with a complacent air, the Colonel sank into his easy _fauteuil_, and drawing off his gloves leisurely said--

"No man has more friends than I have--never did I lose one--never did I sign a bill. Your father pursued a different policy--he signed many bills--and lost many friends." Lionel, much distressed, looked down, and evidently desired to have done with the subject. Not so the Colonel. That shrewd man, though he did not preach, had a way all his own, which was perhaps quite as effective as any sermon by a fashionable layman can be to an impatient youth.

"Yes," resumed the Colonel, "it is the old story. One always begins by being security to a friend. The discredit of the thing is familiarised to one's mind by the false show of generous confidence in another. Their what you have done for a friend, a friend should do for you;--a hundred or two would be useful now--you are sure to repay it in three months. To Youth the Future seems safe as the Bank of England, and distant as the peaks of Himalaya. You pledge your honour that in three months you will release your friend. The three months expire. To release the one friend, you catch hold of another--the bill is renewed, premium and interest thrown into the next pay-day--soon the account multiplies, and with it the honour dwindles--your NAME circulates from hand to hand on the back of doubtful paper--your name, which, in all money transactions, should grow higher and higher each year you live, falling down every month like the shares in a swindling speculation. You begin by what you call trusting a friend, that is, aiding him to self-destruction--buying him arsenic to clear his complexion--you end by dragging all near you into your own abyss, as a drowning man would clutch at his own brother. Lionel Haughton, the saddest expression I ever saw in your father's face was when--when--but you shall hear the story--"

"No, sir; spare me. Since you so insist on it, I will give the promise--it is enough; and my father--"

"Was as honourable as you when he first signed his name to a friend's bill; and, perhaps, promised to do so no more as reluctantly as you do. You had better let me say on; if I stop now, you will forget all about it by this day twelve-month; if I go on, you will never forget. There are other examples besides your father; I am about to name one."

Lionel resigned himself to the operation, throwing his handkerchief over his face as if he had taken chloroform. "When I was young," resumed the Colonel, "I chanced to make acquaintance with a man of infinite whim and humour; fascinating as Darrell himself, though in a very different way. We called him Willy--you know the kind of man one calls by his Christian name, cordially abbreviated--that kind of man seems never to be quite grown up; and, therefore, never rises in life. I never knew a man called Willy after the age of thirty, who did not come to a melancholy end! Willy was the natural son of a rich, helter-skelter, cleverish, maddish, stylish, raffish, four-in-hand Baronet, by a celebrated French actress. The title is extinct now, and so, I believe, is that genus of stylish, raffish, four-in-hand Baronet--Sir Julian Losely--"

"Losely!" echoed Lionel. "Yes; do you know the name?"

"I never heard it till yesterday. I want to tell you what I did hear then--but after your story--go on."

"Sir Julian Losely (Willy's father) lived with the French lady as his wife, and reared Willy in his house, with as much pride and fondness as if he intended him for his heir. The poor boy, I suspect, got but little regular education; though of course, he spoke his French mother's tongue like a native; and, thanks also perhaps to his mother, he had an extraordinary talent for mimicry and acting. His father was passionately fond of private theatricals, and Willy had early practice in that line. I once saw him act Falstaff in a country house, and I doubt if Quin could have acted it better. Well, when Willy was still a mere boy, he lost his mother, the actress. Sir Julian married--had a legitimate daughter--died intestate--and the daughter, of course, had the personal property, which was not much; the heir-at-law got the land, and poor Willy nothing. But Willy was an universal favourite with his father's old friends--wild fellows like Sir Julian himself amongst them there were two cousins, with large country-houses, sporting-men, and bachelors. They shared Willy between them, and quarrelled which should have the most of him. So he grew up to be man, with no settled provision, but always welcome, not only to the two cousins, but at every house in which, like Milton's lark, 'he came to startle the dull night'--the most amusing companion!--a famous shot--a capital horseman--knew the ways of all animals, fishes, and birds; I verily believe he could have coaxed a pug-dog to point, and an owl to sing. Void of all malice, up to all fun. Imagine how much people would court, and how little they would do for, a Willy of that sort. Do I bore you?"

"On the contrary, I am greatly interested."

"One thing a Willy, if a Willy could be wise, ought to do for himself--keep single. A wedded Willy is in a false position. My Willy wedded--for love too--an amiable girl, I believe (I never saw her; it was long afterwards that I knew Willy)--but as poor as himself. The friends and relatives then said: 'This is serious: something--must be done for Willy.' It was easy to say, 'something must be done,' and monstrous difficult to do it. While the relations were consulting, his half-sister, the Baronet's lawful daughter, died, unmarried; and though she had ignored him in life, left him L2,000. 'I have hit it now, 'cried one of the cousins; 'Willy is fond of a country life. I will let him have a farm on a nominal rent, his L2,000 will stock it; and his farm, which is surrounded by woods, will be a capital hunting-meet. As long as I live, Willy shall be mounted.'

"Willy took the farm, and astonished his friends by attending to it. It was just beginning to answer when his wife died, leaving him only one child--a boy; and her death made him so melancholy that he could no longer attend to his farm. He threw it up, invested the proceeds as a capital, and lived on the interest as a gentleman at large. He travelled over Europe for some time--chiefly on foot--came back, having recovered his spirits--resumed his old desultory purposeless life at different country-houses, and at one of those houses I and Charles Haughton met him. Here I pause, to state that Willy Losely at that time impressed me with the idea that he was a thoroughly honest man. Though he was certainly no formalist--though he had lived with wild sets of convivial scapegraces--though, out of sheer high spirits, he would now and then make conventional Proprieties laugh at their own long faces; yet, I should have said that Bayard himself--and Bayard was no saint--could not have been more incapable of a disloyal, rascally, shabby action. Nay, in the plain matter of integrity, his ideas might be called refined, almost Quixotic. If asked to give or to lend, Willy's hand was in his pocket in an instant; but though thrown among rich men--careless as himself--Willy never put his hand into their pockets, never borrowed, never owed. He would accept hospitality--make frank use of your table, your horses, your dogs--but your money, no! He repaid all he took from a host by rendering himself the pleasantest guest that host ever entertained. Poor Willy! I think I see his quaint smile brimming over with sly sport! The sound of his voice was like a cry of 'o-half-holiday' in a schoolroom. He dishonest! I should as soon have suspected the noonday sun of being a dark lantern! I remember, when he and I were walking home from wild-duck shooting in advance of our companions, a short conversation between us that touched me greatly, for it showed that, under all his levity, there were sound sense and right feeling. I asked him about his son, then a boy at school: 'Why, as it was the Christmas vacation, he had refused our host's suggestion to let the lad come down there?' 'Ah,' said he, 'don't fancy that I will lead my son to grow up a scatterbrained good-for-nought like his father. His society is the joy of my life; whenever I have enough in my pockets to afford myself that joy, I go and hire a quiet lodging close by his school, to have him with me from Saturday till Monday all to myself--where he never hears wild fellows call me "Willy," and ask me to mimic. I had hoped to have spent this vacation with him in that way, but his school bill was higher than usual, and after paying it, I had not a guinea to spare--obliged to come here where they lodge and feed me for nothing; the boy's uncle on the mother's side--respectable man in business--kindly takes him home for the holidays; but did not ask me, because his wife--and I don't blame her--thinks I'm too wild for a City clerk's sober household.'

"I asked Willy Losely what he meant to do with his son, and hinted that I might get the boy a commission in the army without purchase.

"'No,' said Willy. 'I know what it is to set up for a gentleman on the capital of a beggar. It is to be a shuttlecock between discontent and temptation. I would not have my lost wife's son waste his life as I have done. He would be more spoiled, too, than I have been. The handsomest boy you ever saw-and bold as a lion. Once in that set' (pointing over his shoulder towards some of our sporting comrades, whose loud laughter every now and then reached our ears)--'once in that set, he would never be out of it--fit for nothing. I swore to his mother on her death-bed that I would bring him up to avoid my errors--that he should be no hanger-on and led-captain! Swore to her that he should be reared according to his real station--the station of his mother's kin--(I have no station)--and if I can but see him an honest British trader--respectable, upright, equal to the highest--because no rich man's dependant, and no poor man's jest--my ambition will be satisfied. And now you understand, sir, why my boy is not here.' You would say a father who spoke thus had a man's honest stuff in him. Eh, Lionel!"

"Yes, and a true gentleman's heart, too!"

"So I thought; yet I fancied I knew the world! After that conversation, I quitted our host's roof, and only once or twice afterwards, at country-houses, met William Losely again. To say truth, his chief patrons and friends were not exactly in my set. But your father continued to see Willy pretty often. They took a great fancy to each other. Charlie, you know, was jovial--fond of private theatricals, too; in short, they became great allies. Some years after, as ill-luck would have it, Charles Haughton, while selling off his Middlesex property, was in immediate want of L1,200. He could get it on a bill, but not without security. His bills were already rather down in the market, and he had already exhausted most of the friends whose security was esteemed by accommodators any better than his own. In an evil hour he had learned that poor Willy had just L1,500 out upon mortgage; and the money-lender, who was lawyer for the property on which the mortgage was, knew it too. It was on the interest of this L1,500 that Willy lived, having spent the rest of his little capital in settling his son as a clerk in a first-rate commercial house. Charles Haughton went down to shoot at the house where Willy was a guest-shot with him--drank with him--talked with him--proved to him, no doubt, that long before the three months were over the Middlesex property would be sold; the bill taken up, Willy might trust to his Honour. Willy did trust. Like you, my dear Lionel, he had not moral courage to say 'No.' Your father, I am certain, meant to repay him; your father never in cold blood meant to defraud any human being; but--your father gambled! A debt of honour at piquet preceded the claim of a bill-discounter. The L1,200 were forestalled--your father was penniless. The money-lender came upon Willy. Sure that Charles Haughton would yet redeem his promise, Willy renewed the bill another three months on usurious terms; those months over, he came to town to find your father hiding between four walls, unable to stir out for fear of arrest. Willy had no option but to pay the money; and when your father knew that it was so paid, and that the usury had swallowed up the whole of Willy's little capital, then, I say, I saw upon Charles Haughton's once radiant face the saddest expression I ever saw on mortal man's. And sure I am that all the joys your father ever knew as a man of pleasure were not worth the agony and remorse of that moment. I respect your emotion, Lionel, but you begin as your father began; and if I had not told you this story, you might have ended as your father ended."

Lionel's face remained covered, and it was only by choking gasps that he interrupted--the Colonel's narrative. "Certainly," resumed Alban Morley, in a reflective tone "certainly that villain--I mean William Losely, for villain he afterwards proved to be--had the sweetest, most forgiving temper! He might have gone about to his kinsmen and friends denouncing Charles Haughton, and saying by what solemn promises he had been undone. But no! such a story just at that moment would have crushed Charles Haughton's last chance of ever holding up his head again, and Charles told me (for it was through Charles that I knew the tale) that Willy's parting words to him were 'Do not fret, Charles--after all, my boy is now settled in life, and I am a cat with nine lives, and should fall on my legs if thrown out of a garret window. Don't fret.' So he kept the secret, and told the money-lender to hold his tongue. Poor Willy! I never asked a rich friend to lend me money but once in my life. It was then I went to Guy Darrell, who was in full practice, and said to him: 'Lend me one thousand pounds. I may never repay you.' 'Five thousand pounds, if you like it,' said he. 'One will do.'

"I took the money and sent it to Willy. Alas! he returned it, writing word that 'Providence had been very kind to him; he had just been appointed to a capital place, with a magnificent salary.' The cat had fallen on its legs. He bade me comfort Haughton with that news. The money went back into Darrell's pocket, and perhaps wandered thence to Charles Haughton's creditors. Now for the appointment. At the country-house to which Willy had returned destitute, he had met a stranger (no relation), who said to him: 'You live with these people--shoot their game--break in their horses--see to their farms--and they give you nothing! You are no longer very young--you should lay by your little income, and add to it. Live with me and I will give you L300 a-year. I am parting with my steward--take his place, but be my friend.' William Losely of course closed with the proposition. This gentleman, whose name was Gunston, I had known slightly in former times--(people say I know everybody)--a soured, bilious, melancholy, indolent, misanthropical old bachelor. With a splendid place universally admired, and a large estate universally envied, he lived much alone, ruminating on the bitterness of life and the nothingness of worldly blessings. Meeting Willy at the country-house to which, by some predestined relaxation of misanthropy, he had been decoyed-for the first time for years Mr. Gunston was heard to laugh. He said to himself, 'Here is a man who actually amuses me.' William Losely contrived to give the misanthrope a new zest of existence; and when he found that business could be made pleasant, the rich man conceived an interest in his own house, gardens, property. For the sake of William's merry companionship, he would even ride over his farms, and actually carried a gun. Meanwhile, the property, I am told, was really well managed. Ah! that fellow Willy was a born genius, and could have managed everybody's affairs except his own. I heard of all this with pleasure--(people say I hear everything)--when one day a sporting man seizes me by the button at Tattersall's--'Do you know the news? Will Losely is in prison on a charge; of robbing his employer.'"

"Robbing! incredible!" exclaimed Lionel.

"My dear Lionel, it was after hearing that news that I established as invariable my grand maxim, _Nil admirari_--never to be astonished at anything!"

"But of course he was innocent?"

"On the contrary, he confessed,--was committed; pleaded guilty, and was transported! People who knew Willy said that Gunston ought to have declined to drag him before a magistrate, or, at the subsequent trial, have abstained from giving evidence against him; that Willy had been till then a faithful steward; the whole proceeds of the estate lead passed through his hands; he might, in transactions for timber, have cheated undetected to twice the amount of the alleged robbery; it must have been a momentary aberration of reason; the rich man should have let him off. But I side with the rich man. His last belief in his species was annihilated. He must have been inexorable. He could never be amused, never be interested again. He was inexorable and--vindictive."

"But what were the facts?--what was the evidence?"

"Very little came out on the trial; because, in pleading guilty, the court had merely to consider the evidence which had sufficed to commit him. The trial was scarcely noticed in the London papers. William Losely was not like a man known about town. His fame was confined to those who resorted to old-fashioned country-houses, chiefly single men, for the sake of sport. But stay. I felt such an interest in the case, that I made an abstract or praecis, not only of all that appeared, but all that I could learn of its leading circumstances. 'Tis a habit of mine, whenever any of my acquaintances embroil themselves with the Crown--" The Colonel rose, unlocked a small glazed bookcase, selected from the contents a MS. volume, reseated himself, turning the pages, found the place sought, and reading from it, resumed his narrative. "One evening Mr. Gunston came to William Losely's private apartment. Losely had two or three rooms appropriated to himself in one side of the house; which was built in a quadrangle round a courtyard. When Losely opened his door to Mr. Gunston's knock, it struck Mr. Gunston that his manner seemed confused. After some talk on general subjects, Losely said that he had occasion to go to London next morning for a few days on private business of his own. This annoyed Mr. Gunston. He observed that Losely's absence just then would be inconvenient. He reminded him that a tradesman, who lived at a distance, was coming over the next day to be paid for a vinery he had lately erected, and on the charge for which there was a dispute. Could not Losely at least stay to settle it? Losely replied, 'that he had already, by correspondence, adjusted the dispute, having suggested deductions which the tradesman had agreed to, and that Mr. Gunston would only have to give a cheque for the balance--viz. L270.' Thereon Mr. Gunston remarked: 'If you were not in the habit of paying my bills for me out of what you receive, you would know that I seldom give cheques. I certainly shall not give one now, for I have the money in the house.' Losely observed 'That is a bad habit of yours keeping large sums in your own house. You may be robbed.' Gunston answered 'Safer than lodging large sums in a country bank. Country banks break. My grandfather lost L1,000 by the failure of a country bank; and my father, therefore, always took his payments in cash, remitting them to London from time to time as he went thither himself. I do the same, and I have never been robbed of a farthing that I know of. Who would rob a great house like this, full of menservants?'--'That's true,' said Losely; 'so if you are sure you have as much by you, you will pay the bill and have done with it. I shall be back before Sparks the builder comes to be paid for the new barn to the home farm-that will be L600; but I shall be taking money for timber next week. He can be paid out of that."

GUNSTON.--'No. I will pay Sparks, too, out of what I have in my bureau; and the timber-merchant can pay his debt into my London banker's.'

LOSELY.--'DO you mean that you have enough for both these bills actually in the house?'

GUNSTON.--'Certainly, in the bureau in my study. I don't know how much I've got. It may be L1,500--it may be L1,700. I have not counted; I am such a bad man of business; but I am sure it is more than L1,400.' Losely made some jocular observation to the effect that if Gunston never kept an account of what he had, he could never tell whether he was robbed, and, therefore, never would be robbed; since, according to Othello,

'He that is robbed, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know it, and He's not robbed at all.'

"After that, Losely became absent in manner, and seemed impatient to get rid of Mr. Gunston, hinting that he had the labour-book to look over, and some orders to write out for the bailiff, and that he should start early the next morning."

Here the Colonel looked up from his MS., and said episodically: "Perhaps you will fancy that these dialogues are invented by me after the fashion of the ancient historians? Not so. I give you the report of what passed, as Gunston repeated it verbatim; and I suspect that his memory was pretty accurate. Well (here Alban returned to his MS.) Gunston left Willy, and went into his own study, where he took tea by himself. When his valet brought it in, he told the man that Mr. Losely was going to town early the next morning, and ordered the servant to see himself that coffee was served to Mr. Losely before he went. The servant observed 'that Mr. Losely had seemed much out of sorts lately, and that it was perhaps some unpleasant affair connected with the gentleman who had come to see him two days before.' Gunston had not heard of such a visit.

"Losely had not mentioned it. When the servant retired, Gunston, thinking over Losely's quotation respecting his money, resolved to ascertain what he had in his bureau. He opened it, examined the drawers, and found, stowed away in different places at different times, a larger sum than he had supposed--gold and notes to the amount of L1,975, of which nearly L300 were in sovereigns. He smoothed the notes carefully; and, for want of other occupation, and with a view of showing Losely that he could profit by a hint, he entered the numbers of the notes in his pocketbook, placed them all together in one drawer with the gold, relocked his bureau, and went shortly afterwards to bed. The next day (Losely having gone in the morning) the tradesman came to be paid for the vinery. Gunston went to his bureau, took out his notes, and found L250 were gone. He could hardly believe his senses. Had he made a mistake in counting? No. There was his pocket book, the missing notes entered duly therein. Then he re-re-counted the sovereigns; 142 were gone of them--nearly L400 in all thus abstracted. He refused at first to admit suspicion of Losely; but, on interrogating his servants, the valet deposed, that he was disturbed about two o'clock in the morning by the bark of the house-dog, which was let loose of a night within the front courtyard of the house. Not apprehending robbers, but fearing the dog might also disturb his master, he got out of his window (being on the ground-flour) to pacify the animal; that he then saw, in the opposite angle of the building, a light moving along the casement of the passage between Losely's rooms and Mr. Gunston's study. Surprised at this, at such an hour, he approached that part of the building and saw the light very faintly through the chinks in the shutters of the study. The passage windows had no shutters, being old-fashioned stone mullions. He waited by the wall a few minutes, when the light again reappeared in the passage; and he saw a figure in a cloak, which, being in a peculiar colour, he recognised at once as Losely's, pass rapidly along; but before the figure had got half through the passage, the light was extinguished, and the servant could see no more. But so positive was he, from his recognition of the cloak, that the man was Losely, that he ceased to feel alarm or surprise, thinking, on reflection, that Losely, sitting up later than usual to transact business before his departure, might have gone into his employer's study for any book or paper which he might have left there. The dog began barking again, and seemed anxious to get out of the courtyard to which he was confined; but the servant gradually appeased him--went to bed, and somewhat overslept himself. When he awoke, he hastened to take the coffee into Losely's room, but Losely was gone. Here there was another suspicious circumstance. It had been a question how the bureau had been opened, the key being safe in Gunston's possession, and there being no sign of force. The lock was one of those rude old-fashioned ones which are very easily picked, but to which a modern key does not readily fit. In the passage there was found a long nail crooked at the end; and that nail, the superintendent of the police (who had been summoned) had the wit to apply to the lock of the bureau, and it unlocked and re-locked it easily. It was clear that whoever had so shaped the nail could not have used such an instrument for the first time, and must be a practised picklock. That, one would suppose at first, might exonerate Losely; but he was so clever a fellow at all mechanical contrivances that, coupled with the place of finding, the nail made greatly against him; and still more so when some nails precisely similar were found on the chimney-piece of an inner room in his apartment, a room between that in which he had received Guarston and his bed-chamber, and used by him both as study and workshop. The nails, indeed, which were very long and narrow, with a Gothic ornamental head, were at once recognised by the carpenter on the estate as having been made according to Losely's directions, for a garden bench to be placed in Gunston's favourite walk, Gunston having remarked, some days before, that he should like a seat there, and Losely having undertaken to make one from a design by Pugin. Still loth to believe in Losely's guilt, Gunston went to London with the police superintendent, the valet, and the neighbouring attorney. They had no difficulty in finding Losely; he was at his son's lodgings in the City, near the commercial house in which the son was a clerk. On being told of the robbery, he seemed at first unaffectedly surprised, evincing no fear. He was asked whether he had gone into the study about two o'clock in the morning. He said, 'No; why should I?' The valet exclaimed: 'But I saw you--I knew you by that old grey cloak, with the red lining. Why, there it is now--on that chair yonder. I'll swear it is the same.' Losely then began to tremble visibly, and grew extremely pale. A question was next put to him as to the nail, but he secured quite stupefied, muttering: 'Good heavens! the cloak--you mean to say you saw that cloak?' They searched his person--found on him some sovereigns, silver, and one bank-note for five pounds. The number on that bank-note corresponded with a number in Gunston's pocket-book. He was asked to say where he got that five-pound note. He refused to answer. Gunston said: 'It is one of the notes stolen from me!' Losely cried fiercely: 'Take care what you say. How do you know?' Gunston replied: 'I took an account of the numbers of my notes on leaving your room. Here is the memorandum in my pocket-book--see--' Losely looked, and fell back as if shot. Losely's brother-in-law was in the room at the time, and he exclaimed, 'Oh, William! you can't be guilty. You are the honestest fellow in the world. There must be some mistake, gentlemen. Where did you get the note, William--say?'

"Losely made no answer, but seemed lost in thought or stupefaction. 'I will go for your son, William--perhaps he may help to explain.' Losely then seemed to wake up. 'My son! what! would you expose me before my son? he's gone into the country, as you know. What has he to do with it? I took the notes--there--I have confessed.--Have done with it,'--or words to that effect.

"Nothing more of importance," said the Colonel, turning over the leaves of his MS., "except to account for the crime. And here we come back to the money-lender. You remember the valet said that a gentleman had called on Losely two days before the robbery. This proved to be the identical bill-discounter to whom Losely had paid away his fortune. This person deposed that Losely had written to him some days before, stating that he wanted to borrow two or three hundred pounds, which he could repay by instalments out of his salary. What would be the terms? The money-lender, having occasion to be in the neighbourhood, called to discuss the matter in person, and to ask if Losely could not get some other person to join in security--suggesting his brother-in-law. Losely replied that it was a favour he would never ask of any one; that his brother-in-law had no pecuniary means beyond his salary as a senior clerk; and, supposing that he (Losely) lost his place, which he might any day, if Gunston were displeased with him--how then could he be sure that his debt would not fall on the security? Upon which the money-lender remarked that the precarious nature of his income was the very reason why a security was wanted. And Losely answered, 'Ay; but you know that you incur that risk, and charge accordingly. Between me and you the debt and the hazard are mere matter of business, but between me and my security it would be a matter of honour.' Finally the money-lender agreed to find the sum required, though asking very high terms. Losely said he would consider, and let him know. There the conversation ended. But Gunston inquired 'if Losely had ever had dealings with the money-lender before, and for what purpose it was likely he would leant the money now;' and the money-lender answered 'that probably Losely had some sporting or gaming speculations on the sly, for that it was to pay a gambling debt that he had joined Captain Haughton in a bill for L1,200.' And Gunston afterwards told a friend of mine that this it was that decided him to appear as a witness at the trial; and you will observe that if Gunston had kept away there would have been no evidence sufficient to insure conviction. But Gunston considered that the man who could gamble away his whole fortune must be incorrigible, and that Losely, having concealed from him that he had become destitute by such transactions, must have been more than a mere security in a joint bill with Captain Haughton.

"Gunston could never have understood such an inconsistency in human nature, that the same man who broke open his bureau should have become responsible to the amount of his fortune for a debt of which he had not shared the discredit, and still less that such a man should, in case he had been so generously imprudent, have concealed his loss out of delicate tenderness for the character of the man to whom he owed his ruin. Therefore, in short, Gunston looked on his dishonest steward not as a man tempted by a sudden impulse in some moment of distress, at which a previous life was belied, but as a confirmed, dissimulating sharper, to whom public justice allowed no mercy. And thus, Lionel, William Losely was prosecuted, tried, and sentenced to seven years' transportation. By pleading guilty, the term was probably made shorter than it otherwise would have been."

Lionel continued too agitated for words. The Colonel, not seeming to heed his emotions, again ran his eye over the MS.

"I observe here that there are some queries entered as to the evidence against Losely. The solicitor whom, when I heard of his arrest, I engaged and sent down to the place on his behalf--"

"You did! Heaven reward you!" sobbed out Lionel. "But my father?--where was he?"

"Then?--in his grave."

Lionel breathed a deep sigh, as of thankfulness.

"The lawyer, I say--a sharp fellow--was of opinion that if Losely had refused to plead guilty, he could have got him off in spite of his first confession--turned the suspicion against some one else. In the passage where the nail was picked up there was a door into the park. That door was found unbolted in the inside the next morning: a thief might therefore have thus entered and passed at once into the study. The nail was discovered close by the door; the thief might have dropped it on putting out his light, which, by the valet's account, he must have done when he was near the door in question, and required the light no more. Another circumstance in Losely's favour: just outside the door, near a laurel-bush, was found the fag-end of one of those small rose-coloured wax-lights which are often placed in Lucifer-match boxes. If this had been used by the thief, it would seem as if, extinguishing the light before he stepped into the air, he very naturally jerked away the morsel of taper left, when, in the next moment, he was out of the house. But Losely would not have gone out of the house; nor was he, nor any one about the premises, ever known to make use of that kind of taper, which would rather appertain to the fashionable fopperies of a London dandy. You will have observed, too, the valet had not seen the thief's face. His testimony rested solely on the colours of a cloak, which, on cross-examination; might have gone for nothing. The dog had barked before the light was seen. It was not the light that made him bark. He wished to get out of the courtyard; that looked as if there were some stranger in the grounds beyond. Following up this clue, the lawyer ascertained that a strange man had been seen in the park towards the grey of the evening, walking up in the direction of the house. And here comes the strong point. At the railway station, about five miles from Mr. Gunston's, a strange man had arrived just in time to take his place in the night-train from the north towards London, stopping there at four o'clock in the morning. The station-master remembered the stranger buying the ticket, but did not remark his appearance. The porter did, however, so far notice him as he hurried into a first-class carriage, that he said afterwards to the stationmaster: 'Why, that gentleman has a grey cloak just like Mr. Losely's. If he had not been thinner and taller, I should have thought it was Mr. Losely.' Well, Losely went to the same station the next morning, taking an early train, going thither on foot, with his carpet-bag in his hand; and both the porter and station-master declared that he had no cloak on him at the time; and as he got into a second-class carriage, the porter even said to him: ''Tis a sharp morning, sir; I'm afraid you'll be cold.' Furthermore, as to the purpose for which Losely had wished to borrow of the money-lender, his brother-in-law stated that Losely's son had been extravagant, had contracted debts, and was even hiding from his creditors in a county town, at which William Losely had stopped for a few hours on his way to London. He knew the young man's employer had written kindly to Losely several days before, lamenting the son's extravagance; intimating that unless his debts were discharged he must lose the situation, in which otherwise he might soon rise to competence, for that he was quick and sharp; and that it was impossible not to feel indulgent towards him, he was so lively and so good-looking. The trader added that he would forbear to dismiss the young man as long as he could. It was on the receipt of that letter that Losely had entered into communication with the money-lender, whom he had come to town to seek, and to whose house he was actually going at the very hour of Gunston's arrival. But why borrow of the money-lender, if he had just stolen more money than he had any need to borrow?

"The most damning fact against Losely, by the discovery in his possession of the L5 note, of which Mr. Gunston deposed to have taken the number, was certainly hard to get over; still an ingenious lawyer might have thrown doubt on Gunstun's testimony--a man confessedly so careless might have mistaken the number, &c. The lawyer went, with these hints for defence, to see Losely himself in prison; but Losely declined his help--became very angry--said that he would rather suffer death itself than have suspicion transferred to some innocent man; and that, as to the cloak, it had been inside his carpet-bag. So you see, bad as he was, there was something inconsistently honourable left in him still. Poor Willy! he would not even subpoena any of his old friends as to his general character. But even if he had, what could the Court do since he pleaded guilty? And now dismiss that subject, it begins to pain me extremely. You were to speak to me about some one of the same name when my story was concluded. What is it?"

"I am so confused," faltered Lionel, still quivering with emotion, "that I can scarcely answer you--scarcely recollect myself. But--but--while you were describing this poor William Losely, his talent for mimicry and acting, I could not help thinking that I had seen him." Lionel proceeded to speak of Gentleman Waife. "Can that be the man?"

Alban shook his head incredulously. He thought it so like a romantic youth to detect imaginary resemblances.

"No," said he, "my dear boy. My William Losely could never become a strolling-player in a village fair. Besides, I have good reason to believe that Willy is well off; probably made money in the colony by some lucky hit for when do you say you saw your stroller? Five years ago? Well, not very long before that date-perhaps a year or two-less than two years, I am sure-this eccentric rascal sent Mr. Gunston, the man who had transported him, L100! Gunston, you must know, feeling more than ever bored and hipped when he lost Willy, tried to divert himself by becoming director in some railway company. The company proved a bubble; all turned their indignation on the one rich man who could pay where others cheated. Gunston was ruined--purse and character--fled to Calais; and there, less than seven years ago, when in great distress, he received from poor Willy a kind, affectionate, forgiving letter, and L100. I have this from Gunston's nearest relation, to whom he told it, crying like a child. Willy gave no address! but it is clear that at the time he must have been too well off to turn mountebank at your miserable exhibition. Poor, dear, rascally, infamous, big-hearted Willy," burst out the Colonel. "I wish to heaven he had only robbed me!"

"Sir," said Lionel, "rely upon it, that man you described never robbed any one--'tis impossible."

"No--very possible!--human nature," said Alban Morley. "And, after all, he really owed Gunston that L100. For, out of the sum stolen, Gunston received anonymously, even before the trial, all the missing notes, minus about that L100; and Willy, therefore, owed Gunston the money, but not, perhaps, that kind, forgiving letter. Pass on--quick--the subject is worse than the gout. You have heard before the name of Losely--possibly. There are many members of the old Baronet's family; but when or where did you hear it?"

"I will tell you; the man who holds the bill (ah, the word sickens me) reminded me when he called that I had seen him at my mother's house--a chance acquaintance of hers--professed great regard for me--great admiration for Mr. Darrell--and then surprised me by asking if I had never heard Mr. Darrell speak of Mr. Jasper Losely."

"Jasper!" said the Colonel; "Jasper!--well, go on." "When I answered, 'No,' Mr. Poole (that is his name) shook his head, and muttered: 'A sad affair--very bad business--I could do Mr. Darrell a great service if he would let me;' and then went on talking what seemed to me impertinent gibberish about 'family exposures' and 'poverty making men desperate,' and 'better compromise matters;' and finally wound up by begging me, 'if I loved Mr. Darrell, and wished to guard him from very great annoyance and suffering, to persuade him to give Mr. Poole an interview.' Then he talked about his own character in the City, and so forth, and entreating me 'not to think of paying him till quite convenient; that he would keep the bill in his desk; nobody should know of it; too happy to do me a favour'--laid his card on the table, and went away. Tell me, should I say anything to Mr. Darrell about this or not?"

"Certainly not, till I have seen Mr. Poole myself. You have the money to pay him about you? Give it to me, with Mr. Poole's address; I will call, and settle the matter. Just ring the bell." (To the servant entering) "Order my horse round." Then, when they were again alone, turning to Lionel, abruptly laying one hand on leis shoulder, with the other grasping his hand warmly, cordially: "Young man," said Alban Morley, "I love you--I am interested in you-who would not be? I have gone through this story; put myself positively to pain--which I hate--solely for your good. You see what usury and money-lenders bring men to. Look me in the face! Do you feel now that you would have the 'moral courage' you before doubted of? Have you done with such things for ever?"

"For ever, so help me Heaven! The lesson has been cruel, but I do thank and bless you for it."

"I knew you would. Mark this! never treat money affairs with levity--MONEY is CHARACTER! Stop. I have bared a father's fault to a son. It was necessary--or even in his grave those faults might have revived in you. Now, I add this, if Charles Haughton--like you, handsome, high-spirited, favoured by men, spoiled by women--if Charles Haughton, on entering life, could have seen, in the mirror I have held up to you, the consequences of pledging the morrow to pay for to-day, Charles Haughton would have been shocked as you are, cured as you will be. Humbled by your own first error, be lenient to all his. Take up his life where I first knew it: when his heart was loyal, his lips truthful. Raze out the interval; imagine that he gave birth to you in order to replace the leaves of existence we thus blot out and tear away. In every error avoided say, 'Thus the father warns the son;' in every honourable action, or hard self-sacrifice, say, 'Thus the son pays a father's debt.'"

Lionel, clasping his hands together, raised his eyes streaming with tears, as if uttering inly a vow to Heaven. The Colonel bowed his soldier-crest with religious reverence, and glided from the room noiselessly.

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