|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||A Calculated Revenge|
A CALCULATED REVENGE.
It was ten o clock on Tuesday morning, I bad already been at the office a couple of hours, hard at work over ledgers and day- biioks. They had been my constant com panions for many days past. I was beginning to tiro of their company. But at last I had
discovered that of which I was in search. I whistled down my speaking tube for Mr. Jenkin, the head clerk of the firm. " Is Mr. Macfarlanu como yot " No, sir," was the reply. I felt annoyed. Ho ought to have arrived half an hour ago. Was it possible he had taken fright ? I gave orders that ho should bo sent to me directly he came. I had been engaged on an important affair, but I believed I had carried it through success fully. So far as I knew, my examination of the books had been made without exoiting sus picion, but it was difficult to bo quito sure. Half an hour passed before Macforlane made his appearance. When he entered tho room it was evident he thought he was about to be reprimanded for his tardy arrival, for he began to apologise. I listened to his excuses, which I happenod to know were pure inventions, and then turned to the matter in hand. " Can you explain theso figures !" I asked him quietly, opening tho ledger at a certain page,
He gave a slight start, and then moved slowly forward to inspect the entry. " What is it that requires explanation ?" ho asked. " According to tho returns which I liavo re ceived from 1'rodsham and Walker," I replied, " the amount of alloy in their last consignment does not tally with that stated in your entry. Moreover, they do not soem to havo been al lowed tho usual discount, though you havo de ducted it from the sums for which you havo accounted."- ' Tho evidence was 03 clear as day. Ho could give no explanation. " It must havo been a mistake," he said. "Wo used not to allow the discount, and I Bupposo I must have overlooked the recent chango in my instructions." . ' " It's a curious mistako," I observed. " It has occurred in tho only case in which, in the ordinary conrso of business, we should have no check on your transactions. Pure accidont rendered mo suspicious, and I re solved to see if there were any ground for my suspicions." He made no reply. " Havo you anything to say ?" I de manded. "Only that it was a mistake," he re iterated. " I am afraid that oxcuso will scarcely bo sufficient. A mistako which results in a loss to the firm of a hundred and seventy-five pounds is not ono that can be passed over." ' What do yon mean to do ?" ho asked. " Naturally, I shall put the whole affair be fore my partners. In the meantime, you will remain here till they decide what steps to take." Ho moved a step towards tho door, hut I had my hand on the bell, and he stopped. " I have told yon it was a mistake," he re peated ; "but I am ready to suffer tho conse quences of it; It will ruin me to replace the money, but I can give yon half of it, and you can retain the balance by degrees from my salary." " That is not the usual method in which em bezzlement is treated," I replied coldly. "Do you moan that you will prosecute me?" " I have no doubt whatever that the firm will." " It's no good pntting it on the firm," he said angrily. " It is you who have discovered it all. No one will know a word of it if you do not speak." " You confess it, then?" I asked. " I confess to nothing, except a mistake. It is for you to undertake the responsibility of treating it as anything more. Are you going to ruin mo ? Don't you know that if I am ar rested my lifo is wrecked !" I hesitated. It is a serious tiling to blast a man's prospects for ever, however he may descrvo punishment, He saw my hesitation, and took advantage of it. " Why do you waut to injure mo ? What good will it do you ? You know I am the best man in tile whole place. Ib it wiso to lose mc ? I will work as hard as a dozen of them if you will let me off. You will always havo a hold over xne in futnro, and if yon see me shirking, yon will alwayB be ablu to keep me up to my work. If only you will keep Bllcnt I No ono clao knows !" His argument was the worst he coald have usod ; it determined mo finally. I saw that if I consented to hold my tongue I should be as much at his mercy as he at mine — we should be accomplices. "It is too late," I said. "You should havo thought of all this before. I have no choice." "You will send me to prison, then 5'' " I shall report what I have discovered." " Very well, then," ho said in a whisper, " if you do, I swear I'll have my revenge ! Another conplo of years, and I Bliould make my fortune ; now you are destroying every thing. Take care !" " I am uot to be hindered from doing my duty by idlo threats," I retorted as I rose. " You will find thoy are not idle," he re turned. " I'll make yon repent this day, if I have to wait half my life for it." I disdained to hear more. I left the room, locking the door behind me. Macfariono at tempted no resistance ; lie knew escape was impossible. To reach tho street ho would have to traverse a roomful of men, even sup posing I could not have prevented him from leaving the room. An hour afterwards he was given into custody. .When the trial camo on there was no difficulty in proving his guilt ; it also como out that ho had squandered the money lie had appropriated in dissipation, and that he was oven a more wortlile-s charaoter than I had be lieved. I felt no compunction for the part I had played. I had only fulfilled my duty. Nor did I anticipate that his threats were any thing moro than the expressions of the hate which he naturally felt towards me. He was condemned to two years' imprison ment with hard labor. Chapter II. Tho two years passed swiftly by. I had nearly forgotten Macfurlane. Tho only result of the affiairas regards me had been that my partners conceived an exaggerated notion of my ability and tact, and reposed greater confidence in mo than bofore, The firm of whicli I was a junior partner was nn old estahlished one. Our business was that of manufacturing goldsinfths, and was a profitable one. However, trade was by no means bo prosperous as it hod been ; in spito of unremitting efforts tho income of the firm gradually sank. Our only consolation was the knowledge that our rivals Buffered even mora than wo did. Personally I spared no pains. I was not by nature a business man, preferring tho profes sions to manufactures, but circumstances having led mo to embark in business, I deter mined to make the host of it, at all events. Naturally I was dissatisfied with the recent course of things, and cast my oyes round in overy direction for a fresh field of activity. At the samo time it behoved ns to bo cnrcful ; more than ono firm had recently como to grief, driven into dangorous speculations by tho ne. cessity of doing something, I waa in tho refreshment room at Boston ono day, taking a hasty lunoh on my return from a journey to Birmingham, when I was conscious of somoono looking at mc. I turned round and faced a man who scorned familiar to mo. A momont's reflection and I recognisod him— Macforlane. Ho hesitated a moment, and then lifted his hat to mo. Almost unconsciously I gave him a sign of recognition. He at once camo for ward.
" How do you do, sir ?" ho asked. "I was afraid you would not caro to recognise me." " I am scarcely sure I do," was my reply, £ wanted to let bim see that I was not anxious to renew our acquaintance. At tho samo time tho meeting had taken mc so by surprise that I had not made up my mind to cut him dead, " You've every oxcuso for not recognising me." ho said. "My face is a little altered, isn't it?" It certainly was. He wore. a beard and moustache instead of being cloan shnvod. His hair was differently arranged, his whole dress and appearanoe were, quieter and more gentle manly than formorly. Ho had immensely im proved in every respect. "It is somo time Binco we met," he con tinued. " Yes, I suppose it is," I replied, wishing ho ImhI avoided the topic, for I felt very un comfortable. " It is nearly four yoars," ho said. "Pour years make a good deal of difference to n man, especially when two of them have been spent in prison." what conld I say? It would have been inBulting, even cruel, to say that I was sorry, "You don't mind talking to a gaolbird, I hope ?" ho said, with a smile, "You need not be afraid of my being recognisod ; no ono bat yon has recognised me, yet I don't think you wonld have done so if I hadn't fixed my eyes on you." " I should have thought that it would havo been you who would havo been the first to ob ject to our meeting," I Baid. " The sight of me cau't be very pleasant to yon, I'm afraid." He almost langhed. " You're mistaken, I'm glad to say," lie re plied. " My ono hope lately has beon to meet yon. We can't talk quietly here," he added ; " there is sncii a crew. Could you spare me half an hour ? I think I can promise you you won't regret it," I wanted to get back to my work, but Macfarlauc interested mc, I had been Bevero perhaps with liim in old days. I might at all events grant him the small favor of an inter view now. We took a cab to his hotel — a quiet one In a Btreot off the Strand. He had a private room, and ho ordered up somo coffee. Evidently ho waB in different circumstances than when a junior clerk and traveller in our firm. " Try ouo of these," he said. He produced some cigars. I took ono ; it was in the green condition that Americans love. "Not dry enough for you," lie asked. " It will suit mc admirably," I replied. " Didn't you get these in America ?" " Yea ; I only crossed a week ago. I ve been there for the lost two years or so — ever since —yon know what." " I am glad to seo that yon havo not been so utterly ruined as yon anticipated," I said, conscious that the remark was in bad taste. But I was in a false position, and everything I said must be either stupid or awkward. " Do you remember," ho asked, . " tho day when you had me up in your room I remembered it as woil as he probably. " Do you remember what I said when you wouldn't let me off ?" I nodded. Was he going to spring somo mine on me ? Was all this a preparation for a deadly revenge ? Impossible ; he was 03 harmless looking a companion ob one could wish for. " I said that I'd be revenged on you if I had to wait years. Well, I havo waited years, and here is my revenge. I'm treating you to coffee and cigars, and talking away to you just as if I were the senior partner, and you a clerk. That's a better reveugo than trying to put a bullet into you and then getting hung for it, Isn't it ? Upon my word though, sir, when I made that threat I meant doing you a mischief, if ever I got the chance." " I am very glad you have thought belter of it," I remarked, truthfully enough, " So am I," he said. " So far from wanting to serve you out for tho part you took iu that wretched buaiuess, I am thankful to tho last degree for what you did. I was on tho way to ruin when you stopped mo ; you cut me adrift from all my old temptations and com panions, aud when I left prison I was free, in more senses than one. I went to America and there I got ou. You know I have a certain sort of talent — even you must acknow ledge that ?" " I know you were the best man in tho plaoe," I said, " aud we were sorry to lose your services." " I think it was fortunate for. you that you did," ho said with a laugh, "or in a few years I should havo appropriated a good proportion of your profits. I saw where the chances lay. However, I've lately been turning my energies into a more legitimate channel, and find it pays better, as well as being more comfortable to my- conscienco. I've no longer a constant dread of a policeman, and can look every man in the face." Wo continued tallring somo timo longer he waa an amusing companion, and regnled me with tho most entertaining stories of his lifo in America. At last my business com pelled me te leave hiin, so I rose and excused my unwilling departure. Ho held out Ids hand as I wont, and I shook it. I did so with considerable satisfac tion. I felt an immense relief in finding that the man whom I fcarod I had irreparably in jured had become a changed character, and had actually profited through the very ex perience that might have been expected to ruia him. " I'm glad you'll shako hands with me," he said warmly ; " it shows that you, at all events, 110 longer dospise me." "Every ono must respect a man who has done as you have," I said, "I am_ afraid not— at all events, I don't mean to risk it. If you should happen ever to talk of mo to any one at your pluco, I wish you would not tneution that you have aeeu mo." " I am sure no one would wish to rake up tho past," I said. . . " Perhaps not,' but I don't waut auyqub to be reminded of it, I don't object to your speaking nbout it, bnt no one else shall, I've even changod my name ; here is my card." I took it — Mr. Charles Farebrother. " II I can be of any assistance to you, I hopo you will say so," I remarked, as I put on my hat. " I should bo glad of an ojvKjrt unity of making you forget, as far as possible, that we once were on bad terms." " You are vory good ; I should scarcely have ventured to ask you to do me a favor, You
are in a hurry now, I seo ; will yon honor me by dining with mc some night this week T should very much liko a talk with you ; perhaps it might result in odvantajo to both of us." I consented, partly ' through curiosity.' A few minutes nftonvards I waa on my wa'v to the office, I was careful not to mentiou that I had seen Maofarlauo ; his wishes were entitled to respect. At the appointed hour I met him at his hotel. Ho gave me on admirable little dinner and supplemented it with some of hia choice cigars. Not a word did lie say which could havo reference to our past connection j he was simply an agreeable host. I was curiouB to learn how it was he had changed bo marvellously in his circumstances but lie seemed iu no hurry to enlighten me' However, as we sat chatting after dessert, he gradually led tho talk up to tho reaaou 0! his iuvitation. To condense his stoiy, it appeared that on leaving prison ho managed to Borape together £50, which took him to America. He obtained employment in a small jeweller's store or shon bnt soou managed to find a better situation,' Instrumental in saving the place from a bur glary, ho was handsomely rewarded— a timely investment of his gift turned out successfully, and I10 found himself in possession of 10,000 dollars. All this time he had been on the lookout, and I10 thought ho saw an opening for making money. The knowledge which he had acquired ns traveller for our firm showed him tlmt the goldswith'B art was not in a high state of perfection in America, es pecially in the Western States, lie conceived the idea of buying the raw material and sendiug it across to England for manu facture — the smaller cost and greater finish of workmanship in this country amply repay ing the comparatively small charges for freight and duty. The business prospered; he took two partners who brought considerable capital into the firm, and lio was now tho head of a flourishing concern. 'Of course all this was intensely interesting to me. There was evidently a field for further enterprise, of which I knew but little, I once had made inquiries about tho American market, but had failed to Bosnre an opening. " I'm over about it now," said Macfarlnno, " and one of my partners, Richardson, will be over next week. Now what wo waut to find ib a firm over here who will do the manufactur ing for us at fixod and moderate rates— a firm we can trust for good workmanship, and so save tlio cost of a London agont and place of husinosB. Richardson recommended Jackson's, but they have served us rather badly, and we have come over to make fresh arrangements." My mouth watered. If only our firm could get hold of such a splendid job, it would go far to revive our sinking prosperity. My business energy got the upper hand of me, aud I dropped a hint that possibly wc might come to some arrangement. "I confess that is just what I should like," he said, " but I was nfraid to propose it. You are not likely to want to do business with me, considering what has happened in the past." I did not know what to say, so I kept silent, " However, you would keep your eyes open this time, no doubt," he continued, with a laugh. "Seriously, though, nothing would ploaso me more than to havo you as our manu facturers ; I know your stylo of work, aud am suro you would treat us generously. Only I must insist ou one tliiDg, should wo come to any understanding. There ore to be no run ning accounts betweon us, we pay ou tho nail for all work done, not in bills or cheques, but in cash. Unless you consent to that pro viso, I docline to carry the matter a step farther." I protested against his want of belief in my change of convictions regarding him. But he was firm, ho would not feci comfortable unless he put ail possibility of doubt ou our part out of tho question. Af tor all, tho advantage waa on my side. The upshot of it was that it appeared there was an immediate domand for certain work — ; a domand bo pressing that there was no time j to manufacture to meet it— it must he supplied from stock. This, of course, was agreed to. Raw gold was to bo supplied at varying inter vals to be made up as directed, and when the metal was not forthcoming, orders were to be execnted in tho ubuuI manner from metal iu stock. The only proviso of importance was that neither firm was to deal with another as re garded the American agency. To thi3 I had no objection. About cloven o'clock we aolliod forth to gether ; I10 offered to walk with me part of the way. Happening to pas3 an American bar, he said lie would show mo what American drinks were liko. Wo had two or three, for which he paid. We then had a cab to Paddington, from which station I had to start for homo. He wanted some fresh air, so camo with mo to walk back by the park. Ho insisted on paying for everything that evening, so produced a five pound note for tho faro, having no chango left. Naturally tho cabman had none. Mac farlauc would not hear of my paying, but con sented in olianging his note for him. I made an appointment with him far next day, and returned homo immonsoly pleased with my evening's work. It things went well, It meant n cloar proGt of many hundreds a year to the firm, When I was in bod, however, nn unpleasant idea camo into my head. Was it possible ? But no ! I dismissed the thought, which, howover, would not bo dismissed finally. Was tho note I had changed for Macfurlane a good one ? I had heard of tricks of a similar kind ofton enough. Macfarlnno had not made a had thing out of me if ho had palmed off a l>ugu3 note in exchange for my five sovereigns. _ I got out of bod and examinod it enrofuhy. It appeared all right. I was ashamed of my self for doubtiug him. Nevertheless, I went to tho Bank of Eng land next morning, and had it examined. It was pronounced genuine. Judge how ashamed I felt ! What, then, were my feelings when I caught sight of Mae- farlane standing at the counter not two yards from me, filling a stout pockutbook with notes. I tried to slip out unobserved, fearful lest he had soou the transaction I had bcutt engaged in. But ho happened to look up, and oought sight of mo. My only consolation
Was the hope that ho had not seen the business upon which I had boon engaged. I responded to his greeting, and wo walked away together. He had rccoivcd a telegram that morning from America to the effect that hia partner had started for England. So it was ton late to instruct him to bring the gold with him ; or the present Macfarlano would bo obliged to give his orders to ns to bo executed from our own stock. Fortunately, ho observed, his capital was large enough to enable him to do SO. The one point on which he insisted, which I thought unnecessary, if not foolish, was that no mention of his former name should bo made to my partners. It was a moot point With me for some time whether I lmd any right to embark in transactions with liim with out informing tbo members of my firm of all I knew, bnt the security was so good, and the transactions so profitable, that I yiolded to his condition, ClIArTEH lit In tho course of the next few weolrs we exe cuted a valuable series of orders for him. He always paid me himself on the delivory of the goods. Tbo payment was Invariubly in notes or gold. Only once did ho offer me a cheque. I took it, and it was honored without ques tion. His partner arrived in the courso of ten days or so, and Macfarlano introduced mo, apologising first for the want of refinement observable in him. " He's a rough diamond, a self mado man. Bnt he has money and honesty, and knows his business." As I had scarcely any transactions with him personally, I could not object to his appear ance and manners ; but I should have put him down as a villain of considerably deop dye had not Macfarlano given him so good a character. Business boenmo oven more brisk between Macfarlano and our firm, At tho end of a fortnight the former Bhowed me a largo con signment of metal which bo bad just received. He promised to send it to ns next morning. The same day we took for the second time a cheque from him. Tho reason of his offering it was that ho had been obliged to pay on tho spot for duties, &c., of the gold. I received it Without a misgiving, " I wish you'd come and epond a quiet evening with mo and a few others," he said, as ho handed me the cheque. " I have been making some arrangements which I think may open up a new field for both of us. Will you come ?' I assented. He gave me an address — a new ono, He warned mo that it woe not a swell affair, that the men I should meet were of the typo of Itichardson. Having plenty of time on my hands, I walked to the rendezvous at the time appointed, hut Was overtaken by Maefarlane a fow yards from the door, " I'm rather late," he said. " I've had a little business to Bee to. Come along." He took my arm, and led tho way " by a short cut," as he said, to a house in a street not far from Solio-sqaaro, A latch key gavo him admittance to a passage, at the end of which were stairs, np which wo clambered. " Brutal hole this is," ho explained ; " bat It holds more money than yon would believe. Here we are." He pushed open a door, and ushered me into a large room, almost hare of furniture, and half filled with tobacco smoke. Macfarlano was greeted with words from most of the men, somo of whom did not appear to me to be very Well disposed towards him. " You're late," Baid one, with an oath. " Yes, I know," was the answer. " Richard son, you know this gentleman, I bcliove ; will you introduco him ?' " Why don't you do it yourself ?" was his renlv.
" I want to look ont somo Bamplcs from tho next room," said Macfarlano. "I shall bo back in half a minute." He slid out of the room, leaving me rather uneasy. Tho company wns an ill looking one. Even making allowance for the fact that they were miners, perhaps, and self mado mon, their appearance was unprepossessing. " This is the gentleman that helps to dis tribute," said Itichardson to tbo company generally. " I wondor how much sticks to him," said OQO speaker. " Hot so much as to that fellow in tho next room," muttered another, with a glance towards tho door out of which Macfarlano had departed, A vaguo fear fell on me. What did these Strange remarks mean ? " I don't quite understand you," I said to Richardson, " Mr. Fnrebrother asked me to meet you to-night on a matter of business." "Exactly, and the sooner wo get to work tho better. How much have you to account for?' One thing was plain by this time — that I had been deceived. I was in a nest of hornets, and I doubted if I could escape without being Stung. " If you will wait till Mr. Fare-brother comes back, he will, no doubt, explain why I have Como here," I said as quietly as I could. "I am at a loss to understand to what you refer." "Ho, no," said a tall, cadaverous man, oye- ing me suspiciously. " We should like a settlement of this job without Fnrobrother's putting his foot into it. The less wo eeo of him the bottor till wo have done with you. How muoh did you got for that last packet of flimsies 1" Tho word was a revelation. I know it was U3cd to denote forged notes. Liko a flash, tho whole tiling became clear, I - had been skil fully trapped into boing an accomplice of note- forgers. My friend Maefarlane, instead of be ing a reformod character, was the villain ho always had been. He had kept his word. This had been his revongo. Fortunately I did not loso my head. I could see that I was amongst a desperate sot of men. If countenances told anything, they wero an unmitigated lot of scoundrels. Should I cross them I would repent it. I resolved that the safost thing to do was to pretond that I was the accomplice thoy sup posed me ; then, when I was safoly out oi their hands, the police should soon bo on thou: traok. I temporised j I said that Maefarlane — known to them as Farebrother — had tho accounts oE what I had received. I would step into tho next room and ask him Eor them. - - - This was prevented by a man looking tho door, and swearing I should not leave the toom till their demands were satisfied.
I listened patiently to tho confused uproar of voices. As far as I could gather, Maefar lane, who soomed tho chief of the coiners, had takou considerable quantities of notes, stating that a friend of his was passing thorn very suc cessfully. After some time had elapsed and ho had produced very small amounts for dis tribution, pressure was put on him, and ho promised tnat hia agent Bhould como and him self clear up the balanco due. I was the agent, and now thoy demnnded, in no measured terms, sums amounting to several hundred pounds, I explained that Maefarlane had deceived thorn; that I had never received the sums, I was rndcly searched, and several notes and Macfarlanc's cheque wore found on mo. The threats became more violent. I begnn to fear for my safety, when there was a sadden hush. Steps were heard on the stairs ; the door was rudely Bbalcen, and then hurst in, and a file of polico marched into the room. Hover had I seen policemen with such gratitude, I leaped towards them for pro tection. I was only just in time ; thore was a loud report, and I felt a bullet whiz past my car. I almost suffored the reward of a traitor, for the gang evidently thought that I had be trayed them. So agitated and overcome was I that it wns somo time before I realised that I, too, was a prisoner. However, it was so ; but I had no anxiety on that score ; explanation would bo sufficient to restore mo to liberty. I yielded without a protest ; thankful enough to find myself under tho careful guard of the stern policomen. Little did I think then of what was about to happen to mo. I had not reckoned on the calculating viilnny of my old enemy. He had so entangled me in his transactions, so carefully put on mo personally tho re sponsibilities of his nefarious transactions, that when I heard my solictor unfold the cvi- denco against me as an accomplice, I was horror struck. I was a known companion of Macfarlano. I had concealed his identity with an embezzler. I had passed numerous false notes, taking advantage of ray secure business reputation. I had even acknowledged to the gang that I had been a partner in their swindling transactions. Worst of all, Macfarlano was froo, Ho had given information to the authorities of the mooting of the forgers, and then quietly absconded, whithor no ono know. I fur nished every particular about him, but all attempts to track him failed. Now that hia scheme of rovongo and profit had succeeded, it was easy for mo to seo how it had been accomplished, and to wonder at my own blindness in never suspecting that I was being made a victim. Haviug once put mo off my guard by professing iiis gratitude for my prosecution of, him, he gave me tho note to chango with the idea of my making it a test of his honesty. He wns waiting for" me at tho bank next morning with his pocket book open to display tho magnitude of his transactions. He came to my firm because we could supply him with easily convertible goods which, when molted, could not be traced. The gold be Bhowed mo was bogus. The cheque he gave mo on tho morning of my ar rest was dishonored. Everything was managed to get as much as possible out of me first, and then involve me in ruin. I bad almost resigned myself to being fonnd guilty. Judge then of my joy. when my soli citor brought me nows one morning of the capture of Maefarlane. It had been effected in the most unexpected way. So far as we knew all the members of tbo gang had assembled on that memorable night. There was, however, one exception — a man named Barker was delayed. He ar rived at the house an hour or two late, thought
that things looked strange, and found the
police in possession. Ho naturally withdrew, He heard faH de tails of the capture, and then went to find Macfarlano, who owed him personally a con siderable sum. Macfarlano was not to be found. But Barker pcrsevorcd ; tracked him at last and demanded his money. Macfarlano refused it ; Barker went the Bame day to in form tho authorities of Maofarlane's where abouts, offering to turn Queen's evidence, an offer that was accepted, Tho result of the evidence that he produced was that tho jury inclined to the belief that I had been , a victim, and I was adjudged not guilty. But though I left the court pro claimed to be on innocent man, nono tho less Was I aware that Macfarlano had kept to the letter tho vow he made to be revenged on me. — All the year Sound.