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"one Of My Clerks."

"one Of My Clerks." image
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I. There was ruuch speculation and suppressed excitement in thé office oí Messrs. Cragsby and Golding, Colonial Brokers, of Fenchurch Street. Mr. agsby, for many years the senior lartnerin the Brm, had just died, and he conduct and management of afairs had thus devolved upon Mr. ïolding, who was now sole partner, and also nephew and executor to the deceased. The event had caused in he office a feeling of unanimous re;ret. While by nature a just man, Mr. Cragsby had been an unusually kind one- so far, at all events, as those whom he employed were concerned. A man of high principie and strict pro)ity, he never made his own uprightness and rectitude an excuse for severely judging othera. As one of his clerks put it, "Cragsby was strict, but rou couldn't help liking him. for he would never find fault without a cause for it." This necessarily ensurjd him the respect and liking of those vho were under his authority. Another circumstance which added ;o his popularity was the fact that ie disliked making changos in the arangement of thu firm. Having once mployed a man and found him trustvorthy Mr. Cragsby preferred to reain him, even t'hough the salary paid ontinously increased. This gave a. eeling of security to clerks and wareïousemen which runiained undisturbd till the death of the chief rudely awakened them, when they rememberd how different were the views and opinions of the junior partner, who vould now hold undisputed sway. Tor Mr. Golding w;is accustomed to ate his social inferiora by a very diferentscale. Each, in his eyes had "a market value." That was hisphrase. A man might have served the firm well and faithfully fortwenty orthirty years, but this, in Mr. Golding's estimation, gave him no claim to regard or consideration. But, as almost always happens, here was one person with wliom his udenesB of manner was veiled by ourtesy, his asperity softened into mildness, by thedesire to please, and his person was the daughter of the ate partner, and consequently his ousin, Elinor Cragsby. For sorae years, Mr. Golding had herished in his inmost heart - or perlaps it would be better to say mind ;han heart - a liking for her favorable eg.ard. As yet, however, he had not achieved any marked success, but he was of a dogged, persevering nature, md did not despair. The match vould be a very aávantageous one, or Elinor was, by her father's death, laced in possession of a considerable ortune, which would be of use in ex;ending and improving the business. 'For," as Mr. Golding was wont to say to a few f riends, "Cragsby was a ood ffllow enough, but slow and oldaehipned - couldn't keeppacewith the agr." And now that the game was in lis own hands he began to launch out non: boldly. But to do this required capital, and this, if he could but win lis cousin's regard, was ready to his ïand. Elinor's personal attractions, which had in reality at first captivated liin, would have been almost sufficient ;o induce him to seek the alliance; ut Elinor's wealth was irresistible. II. "Renshaw, the governor wantsyou," said one of the seniors to a young man who,bending over his desk, appeared so uitent upon his occupation ïhat the other had to repeat the words, and in a louder key, belore any notice waa taken. Then Gilbert Renshaw, with a brief "Tliank you, Brown," put his work cai etully in his desk, locking it, burned and walked quietly across :1h oflice to the private room. Mr. Brown looked after him. 'He's a queer one," he soliloquized. "llc's been here tour or five years, and tie takes thinga as coolly, as if he had been here all his life - more coolly, in Eact. Half of us would have gone to Golding full pelt, but not he; culch liim hurrying. I can't makehimout," and with this candid admission, Mr. Brown turned his attjntion to his writ ing. Meanwhile (Jilbirt Renshaw had entered thr private room where Mr. Golding sat alone. "You have kept me waiting, Mr. Renshaw." "I regret to hear it, sir," was tin. quiet reply, The chief shifted in his chair, and looked up at the young man. Oí all his clerks, apart trom the important question of their "market value," Gilbert Renshaw was the one whom he most disliked. "I have sent for you, Mr. Renshaw," resumed the chief, "to point out an error of yours in these - an error which might have involved grave consequeiHcs." Gilbert Renshaw bowed but said nothing. The error thus magnified into so much importance, was in reality a trifling oversight, ind waa for the most part the iault of ajunior. This, probably, Mr. Goldhjg well know; but is the papers would come before Renshaw for revisión, he ehoose to assume that the entire blatne rus teil with him. The young man was at once too high-minded and kind-hearted to excúlpate himself by accusing his junior, and in a few words expressed his regret. ':It must not oceur again, Mr. Renshaw." GUbert bowed, but madenoreply, and then, after taking his principal's directiona, left the room. Mr. Golding looked after him with an annoyed expresaiononhis face. "If I catch you tripping again," he muttered to himself, "you shall suffer for it my friend." But the days went by, and for a time bis vindictiveness remained without an opportunity to exercise itself. He was slirewd enough, howover, to wait his opportunity. And that was not long in coming. One Saturday afternoon he happened to want Gilbert for sonie purpose, and sent for him. The young man could nowhere be found. Mr. Golding glanced at the clock and frowned angrily. It was just ten minutes to the time at which, their work being done, the clerks were entitled to leave. Some were already closing their desks, and making preparations for departure, but the suddon appearance of thechief in the outer office galvanized them into renewed activity. A kind-hearted senior in the mean time surreptitiously dispatched an oiiiceboy to the restaurant which üilbert generally frequonted, but tho well-meanteffort wasfruitless. Mr. Golding walked across the office to the farther window, which, the house being a corner one, commanded the longth of the street, and stood looking out. Suddenly he uttored a slight exclamation, which drew all eyes, with alances more or lessfurtive, to the window. There, at some little distance, quietly st rolling along, was Gilbert Renshaw. Unconciousof those watching him he pauaed atthecorner, looked at his watch, and, after a moment's hesitation as if uncertain what couvseto pursue, turned into a sido street and disappeared. III. Monday morning carne, and to tho amazement of each and all Mr. Golding was first at the office. The junior who were naturally among the earliest, were warned by the houseIceeper in a mysterious whisper that "the governor was there." A greater degree of order and silence reigned that morning thari was usual. One by one, as the clerks came in, Lhe arioua posts were taken up. By the senior clerk's desk stood Mr. Golding, a hard, pitiless expression on his face. The clock was juátehimingnine, when tho door swung open, and Gilbert Renshaw walked in. He glanced round, evidently rather surpnsed at seeing Mr. Golding, and then walked toward his desk. Ere he had taken three steps the principal's voice checked him: "You need not trouble to open your desk, Mr. Renshaw. Gilbert turned round, still more surprised at Ihis intimation. Mr. Goldinp; had walked across the office, and the two men stood facing ench other. One glance at the stern face, those eold, keen eyes betore him, and Gilbert saw the other's purpose in a moment. Every one in the office looked on, either stealthily or openly, with interest, and every one was puzzled by the way in which the young man maintained his usual air of easy indifïerenee. But Mr. Golding gave but little time for speculation. "You left before the time on Saturday, Mr. Renshaw?" "About ten minutes before two," answered the other. "And your reason for doing so?" "My woik was linished and I had an important engagement." "Indeed!" answered his employer. "But I do not allow any one of my clerks to keep important engagoments till the office is closed, and as you have thought fit to leave at your own time, you will not be Burprised if I inform you that I shall not need your services longer. This is the amount due to you," and Mr. Golding held out a slip of paper, but Gilbert made no movement to take it. "I understand you, Mr. Golding and I am as ready to leave your service as you are to require me to do so. Technically, you are in the right, andl therefore opologizeforhavingdeprived yon oí ten minutes on Satuday. My presence, doubtless, is not very agreeablo to you, but we may meet again before long; should such an even't happen you will please understand that the interview will not be of my seeking. Good-day, gentlemen;" and with a comprehensive glance and bow totheamazed onlookers, the young man turned and quitted the office, leaving his employer standing, as much astonished as any one, I with the unheeded check still between his fingers. IV. Elinor Cragsby sat with her friend and compiuiion dreamily gazing into the fire. After a while the eider lady looked up f rom thebookshe wasreading. "A penny for your thoughts, Nelll" Thegirl started at the voice, and the words had to be repeated before she seemed to understand them. "I'm not sure," shesaid meditatively, "that they are worth the sum." "Then," said lier friend with a smile, "without wisbing to be uncomplimentary to the subject of them, I think I can guess their direction." "I wish I could make him see how useless it is," the girl broke out, apparently irrelevantly. "He doesn't wish to see that," said her companion. As I have often told you, it appears to me that he has deliberately resolved to succeed in the attempt to win your regard, and he is not a man of fine feelings. Nothing short of absolute discourtesy or rudeness would repel him, unless indeed, it were the presence ofa successful rival," she added in a lower and a meaning tone. There was something in the lastsentence that brought a flush to Elinor Cragsby's face. Sherose fromlierseat and moving toward the window, stood looking out. Sudddenlyshe uttered an exclamation of annoyance. Her friend looked up. "Here ho is!" said Elinor, as if in answer to the look. A smile played for a moment around Mrs. Seaforth's Ups, then vanished. "Shall I leave you?" shesaid, halfrising. "No - on no account;" and Elinor, smiling herself, in spite of her vexation recrossed the room, and with gentle force pushed the eider lady into her seat again and t hen ivsiuned her own. Scarcely had she done so when the 8ervant announced "Mr. Golding," and that gentleman entered, all bows and smiles. "Ellen," he said, attempt ing to take her hand, "you must know how long and how devotedly I havo been attached to you, how I have longed for the hour that should enable me to approach you and offer myself as a suitor for you hand." He paused to note the effect of thia deciaration which, in reality, he had carefully prepixred before he reached the house that evening. Buthelearnt nothing f rom the contemplation of the face before him. It was slightly avovted, as was natural, but in no wiee did its fair owner seem discomposed. Mr. Golding begon to feel a little uneasy, and a new idea for the Brst timo flashed upon his mind. Could there be another? It seemed too absurd, luit it would not be dismissed. He roso from his chair and bent over her for a last appeal. "Can it be?" he niunmired lialf reproachfully. "Have I a rival?" Aa the words left his lips, tho room door oponed, and a voice announced "Mr. Kenshaw." At the sound Mr. Golding, with a suelden start, faced round, and to lïis ut ter astonishment beheld bofore him, emiling courteously, and with ontstretched hand, the man whoni hu had flismissed from his service, whoni hu had even spoken of contemptuously to Elinor herself as "one of iny clerks." "A friend of yours?" he said interrogatively, butjn a tone thatsounded strange in his own ears, and caused tho other thiee to look curiously at him. Thegirl blushed, smiled, but did not answer; and Mrs. Seaforth, who had risen and approaohed them, came to lier rescue. "Mr. Rensbaw was a friend of Mr. Cragsby's and is still a friend of OUTS." "Mr. Renshaw," said the other, "probably has good reasons for his tnendship. Fortunc-hunters usually have." Gilbert Renshaw took a slepforward. "That i.s true as ageneral statement, Mr. Golding," he said, with all his former easy indifference, "but it is not true, if you will al'ow me to say so, in this particular instante. I, personaíly, am not a fortuhe-hunter. Perhaps you know of sonie onewhomay bitt er deserve the name?" "You wero niy clerk," said Golding with a bitter sneer; "what are you now?" "I will teil you," replied Üie other in the same unrumed tone. "As you rightly said, J was your clerk, and it came about in this way. At niy father's death, the property to which I succeeded was somewhat encumbered. Your late partner was an old triend of ours, and he suagested that Ishould obtain a situation for sonie fewyears, leaving tho property thus to clear itsilf y applying the income to the extinction of the debt. To simplify mattere, he kindly oflered me apositionin his own office at a good salary, Btipulating that nothing should be said or known of his long friendship with our family, lest it should be thought he niight favor me. I accepted the post. In a few years, ;is we planned, my property was unencumbered, and your sudden dismissal of mo simply anticipated my own reeignation by two or three weeks. You 6ee, Mr. Golding, while I give you tull credit for having intended to injure me, I can very readily treat with indifference a course of action that has ended in failure." As Oilbert ceased speaking.heglanced meaningly at Elinor, who, with Mrs. Seaforth, had stood quietly by. It was evidently no news to them, and Mr. Golding, as his gaze travelled from one face to another, saw that his efïorts had been in vain, and that success was hopeless. But the whole matter wassoutterly unexpected that for a moment he feit that it could not be reallv true. He turned to Elinor. "You knew of all this, it seems?" "Yes," she said, but speaking in so low a tone thathe could scarcely catch the words; "I knew of all; but it was my father's wish that the matter should not bc tnentioned. That, of course, was sufficient. You would, however, have known it iefore long, tor- for " She hesitated, and cast an appealing glance at Gilbert. "We are to be married shortly," said that gentleman promptly, complet ing the setitence. The blushing face, the downcast eyes beside him confirmed the statement, if, indeed, conlirmation was needed. Mr. Golding waitéd to hear no more, but, turning short on his heel with a niuttered execration, left the room and the house.


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