|Newspaper Title||The Record and Emerald Hill and Sandridge Advertiser (Vic. : 1872 - 1881)|
|Trove Title||The Law's Decree: An Original Story|
THE LAW'S DECREE.
AN ORIGINAL STORY,
? \ CHAPTER YI.
The morning succeeding the riigbt upon which the foregoing incidents transpired, was iu (keeping with''the peculiar nature of the atmosphere-c;ilin, clear and refreshing, and the varied unpronounccd hues of the streaky mellow clouds that sped transitorily from place to place across tho broad blue expanso of limitless opacity overarching thcqu:el little township, offering a dalliance to tho fresh breezy nicssongcr of dawn, presented tho peculiar transformation of appearances which lakes place during these early aud untroubled hours, The fresh morning air enlivoned I hc dulucss of the place, and'gave a zest to trie early movements of the industrious, who. tnus cirly were lo bo met with in almost svery direction, bmying- themselves about the turmoil aud consequences of the day. Here and there along the dreary streets a cast off or neglected mule might be seen drugging itself -sUwly from side to side picking up between its uudecayed butstrangely discolored teeth, inconsiderable trilles du biously digestive, us it proceeded 011 its way to the green common, to lounge away the day'in idleness. Tiio indications of life, followed by more unmistakable signs of ac tivity, such as tho movements of the mule teams, tho opening of shops with the pulling dow.ii and .clattering together of shutters, tbe tho appearance of the milkman, the butcher, and tho .-muffin man, with the shuflling and hustling usual at the railway station ou the departure of the first train to the metropolis, betokened a busy day. Earlier than usual the offices or tho lawyer were being swept aud duslcd, olid the mats boing sliakeu out side the door, by two industrious charwomen, who together managed to monopolise all this class of work procurable in tho little town ship, while their youngest wallowed in the mire which had been heaped up on tho side of the street by tli6 still.earlier.sweepors, who had performed tlioir menial employment with tho first grey tint of dawn iu the eastern sky. The little world was in the ecstucy of motion, und continued to proceed throughout the -morning as if l-lwt day were lo be tho last of its primitivo existence, aud it was ever so. Tho freshness of the morning reinvigorated the early risers, and instilled into their being an inceutivc to activity and " go," only expcricne'cd by thoso who pructieo early rising.
Percival Gray was tho first to arrive at the office, but he was so quickly followed by his employer, accompanied by Dorset Severn, that precedence might easily have boon re duced to a question of seconds, instuud of as was usually the case-hours. Tho latter geutlemcu passed through the clerk's oliice, tho lawyer pas-ing the usual familiar saluta tion with his confidential, and seated them selves at a table bestrewn with innumerable
documents of a business-like iniporl, in the comfortable private consultation room, and the lawyer at once placed his baud upon the bell, to summon his confidential clcrk, when Dorset arrested his intention, by covering
" Would it not bo as "well," said Dorset Severn, hesitatingly, " to discuss the other affair, before entering further into that of tho pocket book ?"
" We can see Grst to the recovery of the book; it is most important; and while dis cussing that question perhaps Gray will sug gest a more agreeable way of getting over tho other difficulty.""
" Gray!" exclaimed Dorset in a tremor of alarm, "You surely will not allow hi:u to know anything whatever of the other allair? It would inevitably prove disastrous." . " Why do you think so ?"
" .Because ho is tho chief cauac of our estrangement."
"That is untrue," answered tho lawyer' with unusual warmth. "Ifyou aro desirous of making him your scapc goat, your victim, you had better seek other assistance than that which I am prepared to render ; I will not; contribute lo his fall. He is my private and confidential clerk, however, and any business which may have passed through this oliice in times past, must be known to him. I cannot now doubt his sincerity, because you are suspicious," aud before tho other could reply, or oiler answer or objection, the fatal bell reverberated through the room, the door opened, aud Percival Gray stood upon
Dorset Severn was somewhat startled at so suddeiL, a. cliuias.. being plaeeit upon his wheedling and protesting,"ami lie could not desist from perusing the intruder, not withstanding his unwillingness lo be thought desirous of avoiding the 'searching glauce which fell upon him immediately upon tile door opening. He retained his equilibrium -and placidity under Gray's marked aud al most rudely searching scrutiny, by sheer dogged determination alone, aud his cold irou heart flushed within him when his eye met the cool ,coniomp°uous glauce of the calculating lawyer's clerk, aud tho latler, though unconscious of the fact that iu the briof encounter which was desLined to follow, so much would depend upon demeanor rather thau expression, ho nevertheless felt, that more Lima ho liked to admit depended upon his own behavior.
; These thoughts only occupied a passing
instant aud had passed away to oblivion before anything like suspicion of their having over entered tr.e minds the two genllomeii
wilh whom he was about to enter in consul tation, touching the calm matter of fact la.vyer.
" We havo business of some import auco ou baud, Mr. Gray," said tho lawyer, looking over tho lop of his spectacles, "and desire your assistance."
, " iTou allude, of course," said Dorset in an undertone tj tho lawyer, '. lo the loss ol tho pocket book ?"
" Yes, Mr. Gray," said tho lawyer, chang ing the poso of his little head that ho might Oo enabled to look under his spectacles-he was seldom known to look through theui "Mr. Dorset Severn has mislaycd or lost a morocco-cased pocket book containing docu ments of u most valuable description !"
" It contained tho papers," said Dorsot, speaking to Gray, but looking at a roll ot parchment whioh the latter held in his hand,
whioli you gave mo the other night."
" Tho papers," interposed Gray, " which you, sir, (.to the lawyer) directed Mr. Severn
to obtain from me
Mr. Dorset Severn wiccod,- but the law yer's suddeu interposition prevented a dis
" Yes," said lie, " tho same."
" That is most uufortuuutc." replied Gray, as lie affected surprise, but there may not be much trouble in making a speedy re covery."
" Wliht do you mean," said Dorset ex citedly, "I tell you it is lost, lost, ubso-. lutely." ' ' . -
Percival Gray edged up to the table im mediately in front of tho lawyer aud huving
?\Doroot,-'wh-j-ivuo oitting'ittt-tlio corucr 'or the
table, close at hand on his right, he placcd his hand omplmtically upon the papers strewn upon it and said
"iSo, tho book has not been lost, but it has been mislaid. When you c.illed for the papers ou the night you speak of 1 had just received a pocket-book containing a number of valuable papers connected wilh tbo trial of liichard Wearing for tho escort robbery, which I had promised to convey to him."
Tho lawyer looked over his spectacles into the face "of his clerk in surprise, and Dulcet edged impatiently in his chair, both becomiug undeniably interested iu the clerk's narrative. The lutter turned to Dorsot und looking him calmly iu the lace, continued
"It was marked outside 'strictly confiden tial ' aud was ieft hero by Detective Snipe,
who told me that lie had to return to the metropolis immediately and could not there fore spare tho time to hunt Wearing up."
Dorset ..became suddenly restless and for get! iug that Gray was watohing him searcli ingly, plunged his bauds into his trousers pockets, but recollecting hiinselfaftora pauso, looked up and met the clerk's large blue eyes reading his discomforturo with undisguised delight.'
'? You'll remember," continued Gray, ad dressing Dorset, " it was somewhat lato when you called, and desirous that von should not be detained longer than was necessary, I went to the safe without a light and foolishly enough took from iL the lii'it book which camo to my hand, forgetting for the nomeut that I had only a lew moments previously placed a book similar to yours in the drawer for safety till I could liud its owner. You carried away with you Weariug's --" / -
" You still 1mvo mine then,", said Dorset, flying olf into a little burst of oxciteuiciit in
which ho roso from tho chair, as if releasod from a. heavy weight of trouble, but ho aooti had occasion to seek the chair again, disoorn lited, wlieu Gray auswered
" Unfoituuately no. "\Ye,lrln3 received his book this "morning just beforu you arrived. Ha was passing the window and seeing me, put his head in and passed tho. compliments of tho morning. I then remembered the book and gave it to him and it was not till after lie hud departed that 1 discovered my mistake; After ho had gone I remembered that the book ivhicU X gave ysu tod a white label
across the front, you will recollect that youc own book was perfectly clean, it. wus tbo clean book n'hich I gave to Wcarini*."
. They'were dumb in consternation and
looked, from one to tlio other for want of'. words ^ to express their annoyance ami I'er ©ival Gr.iy whether ho aUected the concern which ho appeared to .'eel for the loss of tlio pocket-book, or not, fully convinced them with his minute description of tho accident, of the veritableness of the error into which ho alleged himself to have faileu.
'.'That is better than X expected. It Mas a very fortunate mistake of yours, Mr. Gray," said tho lawyer, looking at Dorset-, " tor Mr.
Severn has lost the book you gave him, and . is not opparently able to discover its wherea bouts, so you see if it had been his own the consequences might ho very serious indeed. 1'hcre will be no difficult; in getting tho book back, when once Wearing is made acquainted
with tho mistake."
"Yes," interjected Dorset; with his usual mistaken conning, " and you lioed not tell him of the book having been left by Snip till
ho returns mine."
" 1 have already dono so," promptly replied Gray, before tho lawyer had time to give expression to his opinion on so disagreeable a matter. Gray had a motive for almost every thing lie did, but his haste on this occasion oausod tho lawyer to suspect for tho Grsfc time that his clork was playing a double game. Ho did not, however, say anything, but reserved an expression of his snspioions until a niaro opporluue occasion.
"Imuicdiutcly upon discovering iny mis take, I forwarded a letter to Wcariug's lodg ings in ChaugeAlly, explaining how it occurred and asking to see him. Perhaps tho mes senger has not been succcssful in seeing Wearing, howovor ?" and ringing the boll, the office boy entered the room.
" Have you seen Mr. Wearing, Tommy?" asked the lawyer, in as modest as possible.
" Yes, sir," answered the ill-paid youngster, as he looked over the table ut Dorset, not at all at ease with himself, undor the gaze of that gentleman.
"Did jou give him Mr. Gray's letter?" continued tho lawyer. .
" Yes; sir," ugaiu laconically anstvered tlio boy, lojking askance at Percival Gray, as if protesting against " leadiug questions." Dorset noticed tho boy's unwillingnoss, or rather reticence to answer, and put this and that together.
" Where did you see him, Tommy?;' asked the lawyer..
" At tho stables." " What stables ?"
" The Xanunda Arms, where he keep3 his
" Well, what did he say.'
" When I gave him Mr. Gray's letter, sir, he read it and said ' ho-ho,' and me ' all right,' and when I was coming up the street I saw him riding out as if ho was going to Barossa.' When tho boy started he never minded his grammar, but dashed away, pell raell, right on to a conclusion not unliko many of his elders. Having said so much ho looked up at Gray in such a way as to convoy to that gentleman an idea that ho WAS buing forced into ' cracking- on him, and that he couldn't help it, but ho would mako up for it some other way."
"Probably Wearing may refuse to give up the book," said the lawyer addressing himself to Dorset, "until his own is returned."
" I tear so," answered Dorset, " but cannot wo compel him to do so."
" Yes," iuterpjsed Grey, " we can prose
cute him for restitution."
" 01 course, of course," chimed in tho lawyer looking over his spectacles at Dorset,
but he might mako mischief you know aud tiiat would he disagreeable."
" [s there no other way to force him to our wishes should he be uuwilliug to return tho
book : "
" Yon might find a way to have feim arrested. Mr. Gray."
"Yes, so we could," said Gray, "as wo did in the escort nllUir, and with about as much fairness."
" It is not n question of fairness, sir," re plied tho lawyer angrily at being picked up so sharply, " It is whether we are to have a book containing most"! important private documents in the hands of a stranger."
"If there is to be no fairness shown in tho
matter," warmly replied Gray, " you had better work the matter out without my know ledge or assistance. Dut before you do any thing, consider what tho consequence of hasty action may be. If you lake my advico you'll abandon prosecution and try a littlo persecu
tion. It will go better. Send to towu for . Detective Snipe and ho will do your bidding for a consideration," and with this extraor dinary outburst of antagonism Percival Gray quitted the room.
(To he Continued.)