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Chapter 1

It was not on a first impulse, but after due reflection, that I, George Dunning, articled cleric in tho oflice of IVlessrs, Bustler and Clark, Solicitors, decided on retaining the bank note which I had found behind my desk. My first impulse, I need hardly say, was to carry it to one of the firm, with an explanation of the way in which I discovered it. For tire money was certainly not mine ; and I hope I was a sufficiently honest man, if a poor one, to scout the idea of keeping what did not belong to me. So, as i say, my first thought was to carry it to one of my chiefs the earliest thing next morning, and to relate how, moving my desk in a search after a favourite pen which had sbpped behind it and the wall, I had come upon this Bank of England note amid the dust and scraps there accumulated. But second thoughts brought doubt, and perhaps a grain of selfishness. Suppose, I argued to myself (the rest of the clerks were gone for the night : I had the office to myself, and plenty of leisure for reflection), suppose this money does not belong to Bustler and Clark more than to . myself 1 They have only tenanted this office for abcari two years, and the note is dusty enough to have lain between the desk and the wall for eight or ten years. Then Bustler and Clarke took the furniture as it stands, on moving ip. It is possible the note may have lain there all the time. If they had lost it, I should surely have heard something of it. All things considered, I may have a right to keep the money without forfeiting my claim to bo called an honest fellow ; at all events, I shall acquire that right if 1 . convince myself that the note never belonged to Bustler and Clark. Thinking it out thus, I again scrutinised the valuable scrap of tissue-paper in my hand. Upon first finding it, I had thought it was some such trash as Tom, our office boy was accustomed to purchase in the street. Tom was for ever buying cheap penknives which would not cut ; cheap cast-iron cannons which burst with the first discharge. And a favorite bargain of Tom’s was to spend a penny in a curious assortment of useless articles, including four brass rings, a sham breastpin, a counterfeit sovereign, a printed puzzle, a couple of ballads, and a note for five pounds on tho “Bank of Elegance.” Therefore I thought my treasure trove might be one of Tom’s precious JBank of Elegance notes. . Yet it was no sham paper money, mine ; but a veritable Promise to Pay, signed on behalf of the Governor and Company of the nationl establishment. Number 07,482 ; and for five hundred pounds. Trembling with hope at so sudden an accession to fortune—more wealth than I had ever owned at once—and with the fear of losing it as suddenly, I reopened the safe which it was my duty to lock at night, and took out the bill-book. Herein I knew the numbers of all bank-notes were entered which ? passed through the hands of Bustler and Clarke during the last five years, I should find a record of it in a special portion of the bill-book aportioned to Bank of England notes. I ran my eye down the money columns, looking for five hundred pounds. A chill sense of disappointment struck me as I came upon an entry opposite a date of some eighteen months back. Number 07,482 had passed through tho hands of Bustler and Clarke. Moreover it stood recorded as having been paid away to William Wylde ; and there was a marginal note attached : “See letter of instruction from Thcophilus Langbrace, Esquire,” with number and date quoted. Here was a mystery at the outset. Number 07,482 had been paid to William Wylde eighteen months ago, and yet 1 held it in my hand. I hunted up the letter of instruction referred to, among the tied-up correspondnce of a couple of years back. The entry was correct. I found the letter of Theophilus Longbrace, one of the firm’s clients, authorising Messrs Bustler and Clarke to pay William Wylde the sum of five hundred pounds “in discharge of ail claims” on Theopliilus Lanhraco, and further requiring Messrs. Bustier and Clarke to obtain Wylde’s receipt in full for the amount. I remembered Wylde now. A shabby actor, who filled secondary parts at a transpontine theatre, and who frequented a tavern at which our office boy Tom was too often seen. It was in Tom’s presence that I had met Wylde, in whom I saw little to admire or even to tolerate. A boastful, truculent man he seemed at the best, much given to gin and to an inordinate estimation of his own abilities which were more patent to himself than to the manager. He had married, as I learnt from Tom on the first introduction, above his station ; in fact, it was said that his wife had been a lady, the daughter of our client Theophilus Langbrace. How Wylde’s vulgar manner and loud assertiveness had fascinated her was a mystery which the poor, lady would never answer now, for she was dead. It had been an ill-assorted union ; and Wylde who had received some assistance from his father-in-law during his wife’s life-time, fell into worse ways after her death, and grew more drunken, more dissipated, and more arrogant,

This, then, was the person for whom the note for five hundred pounds had evidenty been intended, and who appeared in our books as having received Number 07,482. That ho had never come into possession of his due, the obvious gift of his father-in-law, was proved by the note in my possession. The mystery was not to be cleared up that night, it was certain ; so I determined to wait till next day, and question old Graham. Old Graham was a clerk in the employment of Busier and Clarke, a fellowworker of mine, and with- whom we younger fellows held little communion. He was a shy, little, broken-down, prematurely old man, whose retiring habits and general timorousness left nothing in common between him an the rest, who •made few acquaintances. The younger men spoke of old Graham with a halfpitying, half contemptuous tone, as one whose ways of life did not consort with the ardent spirits who enjoyed existence on eighty pounds a year. I believe I understood the old man the best of all my colleagues. We were good friends, for beneath that shy and shambling exterior he possessed a kind heart, and he had a treasure in his home of which the rollicking young bloods at Busier and Clarke’s never dreamt. I alone could estimate that treasure. I alone was a welcome guest in the modest ground floor at Kennington, and knew how much beauty and gentle worth were represented in Kate Graham. My intimacy with her father had taught me this, and the knowledge soon brought a warmer feeling. Seeing how dear she was to him, I had come to hope for a time when I should supplant him in her care and love. I knew that I was welcome in the household (it consisted but of himself and her), and I left the rest to time and constancy. As matters stood, I was too poor to marry, until the discovery of the five hundred pound note awakened a hope which I determined should only be realised according to the dictates of strict honesty. (7 o be continued. )

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Bibliographic details

THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 107, 1 June 1880

Word Count

THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 107, 1 June 1880

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