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Книга Beyond The City. Содержание - Chapter 12 – Friends In Need

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"It is dishonor. I cannot ask you to share it."

"Dishonor! The loss of some miserable gold and silver coins!"

"Oh, Clara, if it were only that! We could be far happier together in a little cottage in the country than with all the riches of the City. Poverty could not cut me to the heart, as I have been cut this morning. Why, it is but twenty minutes since I had the letter, Clara, and it seems to me to be some old, old thing which happened far away in my past life, some horrid black cloud which shut out all the freshness and the peace from it."

"But what is it, then? What do you fear worse than poverty?"

"To have debts that I cannot meet. To be hammered upon 'Change and declared a bankrupt. To know that others have a just claim upon me and to feel that I dare not meet their eyes. Is not that worse than poverty?"

"Yes, Harold, a thousand fold worse! But all this may be got over. Is there nothing more?"

"My partner has fled and left me responsible for heavy debts, and in such a position that I may be required by the law to produce some at least of this missing money. It has been confided to him to invest, and he has embezzled it. I, as his partner, am liable for it. I have brought misery on all whom I love-my father, my mother. But you at least shall not be under the shadow. You are free, Clara. There is no tie between us."

"It takes two to make such a tie, Harold," said she, smiling and putting her hand inside his arm. "It takes two to make it, dear, and also two to break it. Is that the way they do business in the City, sir, that a man can always at his own sweet will tear up his engagement?"

"You hold me to it, Clara?"

"No creditor so remorseless as I, Harold. Never, never shall you get from that bond."

"But I am ruined. My whole life is blasted."

"And so you wish to ruin me, and blast my life also. No indeed, sir, you shall not get away so lightly. But seriously now, Harold, you would hurt me if it were not so absurd. Do you think that a woman's love is like this sunshade which I carry in my hand, a thing only fitted for the sunshine, and of no use when the winds blow and the clouds gather?"

"I would not drag you down, Clara."

"Should I not be dragged down indeed if I left your side at such a time? It is only now that I can be of use to you, help you, sustain you. You have always been so strong, so above me. You are strong still, but then two will be stronger. Besides, sir, you have no idea what a woman of business I am. Papa says so, and he knows."

Harold tried to speak, but his heart was too full. He could only press the white hand which curled round his sleeve. She walked up and down by his side, prattling merrily, and sending little gleams of cheeriness through the gloom which girt him in. To listen to her he might have thought that it was Ida, and not her staid and demure sister, who was chatting to him.

"It will soon be cleared up," she said, "and then we shall feel quite dull. Of course all business men have these little ups and downs. Why, I suppose of all the men you meet upon 'Change, there is not one who has not some such story to tell. If everything was always smooth, you know, then of course every one would turn stockbroker, and you would have to hold your meetings in Hyde Park. How much is it that you need?"

"More than I can ever get. Not less than thirteen thousand pounds."

Clara's face fell as she heard the amount. "What do you purpose doing?"

"I shall go to the City now, and I shall ask all our creditors to meet me Tomorrow. I shall read them Pearson's letter, and put myself into their hands."

"And they, what will they do?"

"What can they do? They will serve writs for their money, and the firm will be declared bankrupt."

"And the meeting will be Tomorrow, you say. Will you take my advice?"

"What is it, Clara?"

"To ask them for a few days of delay. Who knows what new turn matters may take?"

"What turn can they take? I have no means of raising the money."

"Let us have a few days."

"Oh, we should have that in the ordinary course of business. The legal formalities would take them some little time. But I must go, Clara, I must not seem to shirk. My place now must be at my offices."

"Yes, dear, you are right. God bless you and guard you! I shall be here in The Wilderness, but all day I shall be by your office table at Throgmorton Street in spirit, and if ever you should be sad you will hear my little whisper in your ear, and know that there is one client whom you will never be able to get rid of-never as long as we both live, dear."

Chapter 12 – Friends In Need

"Now, papa," said Clara that morning, wrinkling her brows and putting her finger-tips together with the air of an experienced person of business, "I want to have a talk to you about money matters."

"Yes, my dear." He laid down his paper, and looked a question.

"Kindly tell me again, papa, how much money I have in my very own right. You have often told me before, but I always forget figures."

"You have two hundred and fifty pounds a year of your own, under your aunt's will.

"And Ida?"

"Ida has one hundred and fifty."

"Now, I think I can live very well on fifty pounds a year, papa. I am not very extravagant, and I could make my own dresses if I had a sewing-machine."

"Very likely, dear."

"In that case I have two hundred a year which I could do without."

"If it were necessary."

"But it is necessary. Oh, do help me, like a good, dear, kind papa, in this matter, for my whole heart is set upon it. Harold is in sore need of money, and through no fault of his own." With a woman's tact and eloquence, she told the whole story. "Put yourself in my place, papa. What is the money to me? I never think of it from year's end to year's end. But now I know how precious it is. I could not have thought that money could be so valuable. See what I can do with it. It may help to save him. I must have it by Tomorrow. Oh, do, do advise me as to what I should do, and how I should get the money."

The Doctor smiled at her eagerness. "You are as anxious to get rid of money as others are to gain it," said he. "In another case I might think it rash, but I believe in your Harold, and I can see that he has had villainous treatment. You will let me deal with the matter."

"You, papa?"

"It can be done best between men. Your capital, Clara, is some five thousand pounds, but it is out on a mortgage, and you could not call it in."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!"

"But we can still manage. I have as much at my bank. I will advance it to the Denvers as coming from you, and you can repay it to me, or the interest of it, when your money becomes due."

"Oh, that is beautiful! How sweet and kind of you!"

"But there is one obstacle: I do not think that you would ever induce Harold to take this money."

Clara's face fell. "Don't you think so, really?"

"I am sure that he would not."

"Then what are you to do? What horrid things money matters are to arrange!"

"I shall see his father. We can manage it all between us."

"Oh, do, do, papa! And you will do it soon?"

"There is no time like the present. I will go in at once." He scribbled a cheque, put it in an envelope, put on his broad straw hat, and strolled in through the garden to pay his morning call.

It was a singular sight which met his eyes as he entered the sitting-room of the Admiral. A great sea chest stood open in the center, and allround upon the carpet were little piles of jerseys, oil-skins, books, sextant boxes, instruments, and sea-boots. The old seaman sat gravely amidst this lumber, turning it over, and examining it intently; while his wife, with the tears running silently down her ruddy cheeks, sat upon the sofa, her elbows upon her knees and her chin upon her hands, rocking herself slowly backwards and forwards.

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