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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 110, 8 June 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE LOST BANK NOTE. CONTINUED. On recognising us, Mr. Willi un Wylde struck a dignified attitude, and burst into a quotation, after the manner of his tribe. Eying me sternly, and then lifting his eye-brows up to his hair, he asked dramatically — . _ . “Came you from Padua, from Bellario ! ” . “From both my lord; Bellano greets ypur grace,” answered that imp Tom, readily. Mr. Wylde smiled loftily, and closed his eyes." “Which?” he enquired, *• which is the merchant here and which the Jew ? ” I modestly replied that for myself I was inclined to mercantile pursuits in prefer- . ftneo. Mr. Wylde waved his hand. .“Then must the Jew be merciful.” "Whereupon he took a seat and ordered refreshment. It is unnecessary to rslate by what degrees Mr. Wylde attained his ulterior condition of intoxication, how he passed from the jubilant to the noisy stage, thence to the desponding stage, thence to the fiercely morose stage. Suffice it to say that I kept him well supplied with his favorite refreshment and we grew confidential. “ I’ll tell you what my boy ” said Mr. Wylde, when he had reached the depths of melancholy; “if ever you think of embracing our profession, think well. Think twice. Its a sickening life. Genius may starve in it. Gin—gin—l mean genius, is not patronised as ii should be. Look at me. What keeps me down ? I’ve had experience enough; I know my business ; there’s not another man in the company that can beat me at versatility. I’ve played J eremy Diddler, Romeo, and Long Tom Coffin in one bill. I’m not a fool What, then, keeps mo back 1 I’ll tell you. Its combinations. It’s professional jealousy. It’s cliques. That’s what it is, my boy.” “ Yet you have done well n your time,” I urged. For example, you imarried well.” Mr. Wylde shook his head mournfully. “ I married, sir, a lady of family. She was not clever, but I waived that. She brightened my home for a spell ; but she is gone. After life’sjfitful fever she sleeps well.” _ “ And your wife’s family ” “My wife’s family, sir,” broke out Wylde wrathfully, “are not to be mentioned by friends of mine. A set of curmudgeons—an ungrateful brood. Why, they are base, common, and popular.” “ Did they never recognise your abilities ? ” “Never. Aset of arrogant, stuck-up, conceited But there. Pah ! ” “ It’s said,” I remarked' confidentially —“ it’s said in legal circles (you know how rumors get about among us lawyers) that after your wife’s death her father came down with something solid.” “ It’s a lie, then,” returned Wylde concisely. “ Did you ever get a remittance from him—about a year, or t a year and a half ago ? ” “ Remittance egad ! I’d like to see the old screw coming down with even a post-age-stamp. It wasn’t for the want of asking though. By Jupiter, I tried all I knew, but the old flint was not to be come over.” “ Then the rumor about your getting five hundred pounds was false ? ” .“False as ” “ I thought so,” was my reply ; “ I never gave it any credence myself. Good night, Wylde. I think you have been badly used ; but never mind, your peculiar talents will find their due yet.” .The eminent gentleman had a further stage which I did not wish to await—that of blasphemy. I bade him farewell, and went my way thoroughly convinced of what I had guessed all along, that he had never received the money’s worth of Number 07,482. Next morning I wrote an urgent letter to Kate, praying her to meet me in a quiet city square at one o’clock ; telling her briefly that I had a way by which I could probably benefit her father and herself, and on wliich I wished to confer with her. This letter I dispatched by hand. In the office I took no notice of either Murdon or Graham, but went about my dnties quietly. On their parts they were equally reserved, and nothing of importance transpired until dinner-time. Then I slipped out, and went to the place of rendezvous to meet Kate. I found her waiting for me, troubled but possessed. We took a turn round the square, and I besought her, in as few and forcible words as I could command, to tell me the stoi’y of her father’s implication with the banknote business, and the extent to which he was committed to Murdon. I told her that I had the means of freeing him from any pecuniary liability under under which he had fallen ; but, before putting irto operation the means I have at my command, I must know how he stood, and what was the danger threatening him. I urged that my love for her gave me a right to ask this, and that the same love was the guarantee that I would only uso the knowledge to her father’s advantage. After some hesitation, and exacting many promises, she told me with such reluctance as was natural to a pure end loving girl forced to acknowledge a father’s guilt. The story dated eighteen months back from the day on which the letter of instruction had arrived from Theophilus Langbrace, Esquire, authorising Messrs. Bustler and Clark to pay Wylde five hundred pounds. On that day it was a national festivity, and the office was to be closed early. Murdon, the cashir, wishing to get away for a private engagement, had handed a bank-note for five hundred pounds to the oldest clerk, Graham, with a memorandum of Wylde’s address, and directions to pay the money to him personally, and obtain his receipt for it on a printed form which the firm kept for payments generally; the words being added in writing, “in discharge of all claims.” This bank-note had lain on Graham’s desk until the clerks were preparing to leave the office. The old clerk had just recovered from a nervous attack to which he was subject, and which, as Kate said, was wont to impair his memory. The bustle of preparing for the half holiday, superadded to the feebleness of his mental powers consequent on this illness, had caused him utterly to forget his mission. The banknote had been tossed aside, and had apparently fallen into the waste-paper basket close to his desk. At three o’clock the gas was turned off (there had been a dense fog all day in the City, necessitating lights) ; and the clerks emerged in high spirits at their release, Graham accompanying the rest. On the stairs one of them asked for, a light for his pipe; but nobody had matches. Old Graham good-naturedly volunteered to go hack and get a bit of paper, so that the clerk could light his pipe at a gas-burner on the stair-case lower down ; and making his way hack into the office, he found in the yellow obscurity the waste paper basket, and twisted into a pipe-light the first hit of tissue-paper that come to hand. The clerk lit his pipe, and playfully thrust the extinguished bit of paper into Graham’s face. The old clerk received it in his hand, unconsciously retained it, walked a few yards homeward still holding it, and ' then, wondering what he was carrying, 1 opened out the folds. To his dismay, he ] found in the charred fragment of tissue- , paper a corner of the bank-note which he now remembered he ought to have paid away to William Wylde ! [TO BE CONTEfCEX).] J
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 110, 8 June 1880
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