Chapter 82327460

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82327460
Full Date1902-12-15
Page Number75
Corrections0
Word Count1319
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 - 1905)
Trove TitleHis Only Debt: A Christmas Story
article text

CHAPTER II

Horace Hornby was in despair . Al ways weak, now ,that troubles had xlosed over him, he determined - to 'throw up the sponge," as h$ ex pressed it, and shirk the duties of Ills portion altogether. A loaded pistol lay: before him on the table. He was alcne in the room. His wife was dead; hi® children were too young,to understand. Someone would be good to them no doubt; the Providence which watches over all young things would See to that.

He was prepared to rush into the great Herealjber with acrime upon his son!. " It Is only iny own. life I mean to lake," he argued^ forgetting that he did not givehimself that life, which belonged to his Creator.

Hfc toyed wa,th the pistol in his hand, poMng the pile of bills upon, thetablewith itfe butt end. How dis appointed the creditors would be! With the exception of the landlord they would get litjtle or nothing, and they would jnot have the gratification of blaming him. A coward's way out o* it, was it? Well, then, he was -a coward. He could not help that any more than he could his debts. He

had always been weak and-easily per suaded. It was to pleaise his wife he had spent so much money. The doc tors said she had nc|t long to live, and he wished her to be happy and have everything she desired. She thought him richer than he was, and he had not had the courage to undeceive her. "Well, Annie was happy," he (saiid to himself, "and now she has gone, and I have to pay the penalty—I alone." Alone! Wais he really alone—quite along in the world ? There were the children—Annie's children and his. "I wish 1 could do something better for them," he muttered. "If work would do it, I would work like any thing. But the old power to write seems to have left me—and there is no time."

He went to a cabinet, unlocked the door's. &nd took out a heap of closely written manuscript. "My last novel," he said, looking at it disconcolately, "which no publisher will accept, be cause they say it has none of my for mer brilliance in it Brilliance! could they write brilliantly if the'r wife were dying? No, I cannot sell

this." He thrrist it back into the cabinet and locked the doors. Re turning to the table he once more took up the loaded pistol.

"If there were anything else that I could dot," he said aloud, "I would do It. If I could even get a clerttship I would do the work for a bare living. Bat. I might tramp all over the city vainly endeavouring to get a place! Brewer hasnt answered me! He was my last hope. The beat fellow I know; but I treated him badly, and he is but human after all. Ha<! What is that?"

The front door bell was ringing. There was a voice in the hall, a voice asking for him. Whose voice? Whose? Great dropte of perspiration broke out on Hornby'© brow. "Thank Heaven!" he whispered; "thank Heaven, it ia

he!"

"Well, Hornby, how do you do? My good fellow, how is this?" cried Brew er, entering and shaking Hornby's hand most heartily. "Why, man, how till you look!" he continued, shocked at his ghastly appearance.

Hornby's face wafc ashen in hue. Furtively he tried to push some pa pers over the pistol lying on the table, but could not do so before it was seen. He laughed feebly. "I'm a bit down on my luck!" he said; with quivering lips. I've been a fool, Brewer. I'm in a mess; I don't know which way to

turn."

"But I do. Tou mtfst come and stay with us—till you get clear again. Yes, and bring the children; they'll be happy with mine. Mrs. Brewer has sent you all a very warm invitation. Couldn't you come ic-night?"

"To-night? To your home? What do you mean?" Hornby looked at him. wildly.

"Mean? Why, what I say. You must come and stay with us until you get upon your feet again. Don't think fo much of these troubles of yours; I'll see you .through them; I'll see your creditors and get them to give you

time."

"God bless you! Why, man, you're ah aagel!"

"It's my wife's doing," blurted out Brewer. In no small embarrassment.

"She's an angel too!"

"There I agree with you. But this is nothing. Pooh! man, you are mak ing too much of it! You must come to us. It is Christmas time, you know, and one likes the house to be full."

<{Full of bankrupts?" said Hornby, with a heart-broken sigh.

"Full of gueists " corrected the other gravely. "My dear fellow, would you rather come at once or in the morn ing?" -

The children were in bed, so Horn by chose .the laitter time. He wrung his friend's hand, promising to bring the little ones himself early the next day, then turned away, too much over come to say a word of thanks; but

Brewer understood.

f . ...

0 m? - • ~ * * . *

"The book has made our*: fortunes! Brewer, did you imagine such a ..result when you took me in last Christmas, and encouraged me-to. write by propos

ing that we should collaborate in writ

ing a novel?''

"I never dreamt it, Hornby. In fact, I felt certain that the collaboration, wouid prove pecuniarily a failure; but I thought that i,t would do you good and get you into the way of writing again. Now we have proved that two heads are better than one at making a novel, and—we'll do it again."

"We will indeed."

There was no doubt abouit that ta either of their minds, for their half shares in the profits of that one book came to more than either of them ever received for one work alone. More over, they liked the arrangement of living together; , their children were happy companions; Mrs. Brewer look ed after them all; and the two men's literary sympathy stimulated each other's minds, making them more pro ductive. Perhaps eventually jthey would take a large house; but they were neither of them desirous of mak ing more changes than were absolutely necessary. It was better to let well alone, they thought; for in that house Brewer was very happy, ana Hornby, having paid his bills, was at peaces whilst their little ones filled it with merry voices and much laughter.

"It is so nice to have a boy to play with," Robin exelaiimed sometimes, surveying litjtle Eric Hornby witli great satisfaction. "Cissy was not mnch good at acting!*'

To which Cissy retorted: "You never did play the Good Samaritan properly —you would give the corn and oil la writing! Then she turned to littto Gertie Hornby, threw her arms round her neck, and, giving her a great hug, cried, "'You -dear, sweet little sister!"

* * * * * *

It wais Christmas time again, and the waits were ringing from house to house,' standing out in the falling snow, whilst the bells in the old church tower brokb out continually with peals of gladness. "All the debts are paid, Robert," said Mrs. Brewer to

her husband, when pier

. selvei5|E^iiepot amulet tilk|^.-| t* "Yei tbs^3k% 0^" be

there is a good balance at Xtie oaxtfc." " Expenses have been heavy this year— Bometimce I have feared-—bat now'Che Buccctes of our joinjt book has more than lightened everything."

"And the best of all," said Mi*. Brewej^ with shining eyes, "is that, with (M'e help, we have fulfilled the law of love as far as was possible f;>F . US." . . - ' i;'Z'

"Yes, thank God," be said once more, and then they were silent, lis tening to the bells.