Chapter 93841527

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93841527
Full Date1886-11-06
Page Number16
Corrections0
Word Count3452
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSouth Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889)
Trove TitleA Lost Reputation
article text

%ht Icnng JfoM

A LOST REPUTATION.

[By J. T. Teoweeidge, in the; Youth's Com panion.]

IN TWO CHAPTPPO ? PninKFD TT

The flight of the cashier occasioned not only an lntenae excitement in the Massachusetts town, where he had been so long known and trusted, but the news of it flew upon telegraph wires all over the country. f An examination of his accounts showed that he had been carrying on for a long time a cunningly-concealed system of embezzlement dating back beyond thetimewhenthemysteriou3 loss of Mr. Badwood's hundred dollars took place. Then the shining armor of this man's

reputation turned aside suspicion, aud the shaft had struck Robert. It bad pierced him more deeply than any body dreamed ; and be had gone off with the in curable wound in bis heart. A consciousness of innocence is, no doubt, the richest consola tion a wrongfully accused person can have. It may make up for the loss of wordly possessions, and even of the world's esteem. But when our friend's turn against us, and we meet with coldness and distrust where we had reason to look for mote devoted affection, the injury seems more than we can bear. ' Hcmeniber, Robert, that no person can commit a wrong vjithout doing serious and perhaps lasting harm to others besides himself.' These words, spoken in kindness by one of his best friends, had burnt themselves into the boy's memory ; and Mr. Badwood himself had cause to think of them now with shame and remorse. Mr. Cushing's wrong-doing had spread ruin and disaster throughout the com munity ; he had robbed widows and despoiled orphans ; but the injury Robert had received was the bitterest of all. Tbe boy had gone off with the gloomy deter mination that those who had been so ready to think evil of him should never see his face again. He did not greatly blame Mr. Bad wood, who had really meant to be kind to him ; but aunt CeJia's unjust reproaches were not sq easy to forgive. Her fretful, complaining disposition made it hard for anybody to get along with her;.and, fond as she really was of her nephew, he found life with her simply intolerable, after his disgrace. He did not once write to her in his absence ; and she might never have heard from him again, if an old acquaintance of the boy'a had

not met him one day in Toronto. Robert had had a hard struggle with fortune, but he had made his way heroically, and had finally obtained employment in a forwarding house at Lewiston, on the Niagara River. His duties took him sometimes across the lake to Toronto, where he at length remained, and where brighter days seemed to have dawned for him. It was there that the drummer, Dick Ward well, saw him on the street — if indeed the pale sickly youth, limping slowly with one arm in a sling, could be the once ruddy robust Robert. ' Why, Rob !' he cried, as the cripple spoke to him, 'who would ever have known you ? You look as if you had been through the mill!' 'I have,' said Robert, 'and I have been ground pretty fine !' He waB deeply affected by this meeting with an old friend — the first familiar face he had seen since he left home. It was some time be fore he could command himself sufficiently to tell his story, ' I didn't use to think there was such a thing as downright bad luck. I believed if a person had a reasonable share of good sense and resolution he could get on, in spite of obstacles. I have tried to do my best, but one thing after another has' — his voice choked — ' well, you see what I am come to at last !' 'Tell me about it,' said Ward well, ' if you can.' Seeing how feeble Bob was, he took him by the well arm to steady his steps as they walked along together. 'Ill tell you only the last thing.' Rob re plied after a while. 'It would take too long to go back to the beginning.' His voice choked again, as he remembered what that beginning was.

I thought -the worst was over,' he went on presently. ' I had a very good place herein Toronto ; the work was hard, but I never was afraid of hard work. I have generally had to Euffet by other people's mistakes and misdeeds, and so it happened again. About three weeks ago a drunken man's team came rushing around a comer and ran into a waggon I was riding on, beside the driver. The shock threw me off, and two heavy wheels passed over me ; my right arm was broken, and I was hurt internally, in a way the doctors don't under stand. My arm is getting better, but I seem to be getting worse. It has taken nearly all rcy money to pay the expenses of my sickness ; and the Lord only knows when I shall be able to get to work again, if ever. I tell you what, Dick,' Rob added, with an effort at cheerful »ness, 'I was never so broken up in my life before — except once !'' Dick did his best to encourage him. ' Yes, you've had a rough time, Rob ! But I guess thiigs will come out all right with you. You heard, of course, the great news about your frit nd Cushing V ' My friend Cushing !' Rob exclaimed bit terly. 'You mean the cashier? No; what has happened to him ?' ' Is it possible you never saw anything of it in the newspapers?' cried Dick. They were full of it.' '1 haven't always been in a way of seeing the newspapers.' Rob replied. ' He can't have been elected President of the United States ; I should have heard of that.' 'Well, no; I don't think he would have accepted that modest situation, on account of the email salary,' said Dick. 'It cost Mr. Cushing a good deal to live. Will you balieve that, in his last year in the bank, he embezzled about seventy -five thousand dollars belonging to stockholders and depositors, just about ruining your poor old Aunt Mortimer, among others? And to think you never heard of it 1' In* his feeble condition the news gave Robert such a shock that he would have sunk down in the nearest door- way if Dick had not held him up. ' Of course you will be anxious to know what has become of your friend and benefactor,' the Baicastic drummer continued. ' Well, a good many people share that anxiety. One night he packed up what there was left in the bank worth carrying off, and skipped over the border ; he was traced to Canada-, but he waB never arrested, and if he had been I don't sup pose he could have been taken back to the yeaniing embraces of his friends. The extra diction treaty don't cover offences .of just that sort, as it ought to. He never sent for his poor wife, and she is in town there now ; she does dressmaking for a living.' 'Scoundrel?' muttered Rob in a voice so deep and hoarse as to be scarcely audible. 'He was held up as such a pattern to young men ! And all the while— — ' 'And all the while he was gambling in stocks with other people's money, and living a corrupt private life, which even his own wife never tuspected. But things against him were beginning to leak cut. He got the start of an investigation by scrambling up what he could at the last moment, and wrecking the bank, which must have been about as good as wrecked already.' ' How long ago was this !' Rob asked, 'Almost three years.' 11 And l never knew it !' 'You poor innocent!' said Dick. 'No doubt you thought he was still flourishing like a green bay-tree, a shining example to the rising generation, while you ? ' He suddenly stopped and faced Robert. ' Do you know, my boy, that new departure of the brilliant Cashing explained Bome things that were mysteries before?' Rob trembled, but when he would have

words. ' Yes, my boy ; about that hundred dollars, for instance. Nobody believed a man in bis boots would be guilty of such a trick. Now everybody believes he took advantage of bis good name to ward off suspicion from himself and to let it fall upon another party we know. There is one thing, Rob, nobody now has any idea that that other party took Badwood's hundred dollars.' 'I wish I had known ! Three years ! and I have gone on thinking folks still suspected — O, Dick, Dick ! it is too much ! ' The effect of the disclosure upon Robert was far different from what the drummer had an licipated. The joy in his vindication seemed quite lost in the overwhelming recollection of his long and needless sufferings. ' It is too late now !' he said. ' The harm has been done. I am glad they know — but — but I can never be now what I might have been.' He trembled so that Dick had to help him to his lodgings, where he left him, promising to see him again before quitting Toronto, if he could spare the time. But after transacting his business in the city, he thought he might as well run for a train that was just leaving for Hamilton ; and he saw Robert no more. It was two or three weeks before Dick, re turning from his trip, reported Rob's condition to the_ boy's friends at home. Aunt Celia immediately wrote to him, but received no reply to her letter. Then Mr. Badwood packed his valise, and saying that he was going to take a short vacation? started one morning for Toronto. Hardly giving himself time for needed rest and refreshment after his arrival, the old gen tleman sallied forth from his hotel and began a long, {harassing, and fruitless search for Robert. He found the room where Dick had last seen him; but he had left that for cheaper lodgings. He was still sick at the time. What bad afterwards become of him, or whether he was yet alive, could, not be learned in an hour. Mr. Radwood was on his way to make enquiries at the post-office, eagerly scanning every face he saw, when he encountered one that gave him more surprise than pleasure. He recognised it at once, notwithstanding a

full beard that was unfamiliar. He paused, directly in tbe way of its approach. It turned . to notice him, when Air. Badwood said in a voice that commanded attention — 'Mr. Cuthing I' 'Ah, Radwood!' exclaimed the ex-cashier, feigning surprise, 'What brings you to— to the Dominion ?'' It was the same alert, smart, self-possessed! Cushing ; but the meeting had evidently flus tered him a little. 'Mot the same business that brought you here, I am happy to say,' replied the old merchant, with smiling but terrible frank nefs. 'Although a bad business, it isn't so bad as that.' 'I see, you — and I suppose, most people — blame me more than I, perhap3, deserve,'' said the embezzler, evidently anxious to hasten on. The two had not shaken hands. But the old; gentleman took the other by the arm to detain Lim. ' You now have an opportunity to explain yourself,' he said. ' There is one little thing fspecially which I wish cleared up. Come, Cusning ! lef s step out on the pier yonder and have a talk.' Cushing drew a deep breath, gave a shrug, nd complied. They sat down on a solitary ox, in i full view of the bright lake, enlivenedr ly^? iB ^d *%?* ' and conversed in voices hardly louder than the murmur of the waves dashing against the wharf. 'I suppose it was generaUv thought that I ^b^ly fT^ thA Appropriation of the funds of the bank'-thi3 w£ the ex cashier^ term for the thing to which some plain people had given a less polite name. ' But it isn t so. I began borrowing a little at a time meaning to return it all when I could. But T met with losses which made that impossible Then, when I found it was all up with me, I own I helped myself to what I could when I left. A man will protect himspif, you know. And one may as well be accused of taking a» old sheep as a lamb.' Mr. dishing smiled in a ghastly sort of way, for he could see that the upright old merchant had only a frown for sophistry of. that Eort. 'Yes, a burglar will protect himself with a a pistol; and, having committed one crime, save himself by another. But there is no w and' then a man, I am happy to think,' Mr. Bad wood continued, ''here and there an old fashioned individual, who would prefer to atone for a wrong, even at the cost of self sacrifice. Whathaveyou gained, Mr. Cushing' Wouldn't you be vastly better off, back where yon were, an honest, self-respecting man, though ever bo poor, than you could ever pos sibly be, with any amount of illgotten wealth? Be candid, Cushing !' 'No doubt, no doubt!' the fugitive ad mitted, with a nickering eye and a twitching lip. 'But I am not rich. I haven't beer* lucky in my ventures ; I am really a poor man, Mr. Kadwood.' He had, in fact, a sort of un wholesome, brushed-up, seedy-genteel look, which bore witness to his words. ' I came up here from Kingston on a little business, which has turned out badly, and '—he faltered, and gave the old gentleman a wistful look—' I was wondering where I could borrow money to pay my passage back on the steamer.' ' I'll lend it to you if you'll frankly tell me one thing, Gushing.' Cushing gave a hopeful, eager start. ' I'll tell you anything,' he exclaimed. The old merchant now put bluntly the question which he had in his mind from the first. _' How dared you do it ?' he asked after re minding the peculator of the circumstances attending the loss of a certain hundred dollars. 'I dared because nobody would believe I dared,'Cushing replied, with shameless candor.. 'And 111 tell you what put it into my head. While your errand boy was waiting for the cash I saw his cousin waiting for him outside the door. I was juet beginning to get into trouble. I wanted just that hundred dollars. I said to myself, ' If that Dan Ames was ts receive the money it would be easy for any one to believe he stole a part of it.' My next thought was, 'A boy that goes with him' — andr before I got farther, thinking of the conse quences, I kept back the hundred and put the reBt in a loose wrapper. I really hoped people might think it had been lost. I waB awfully sorry for the result ! What ever be came of that boy ?' 'Ah! that's what I would like to know. I would like to know, also,' exclaimed the old merchant in an agonised tone. ' Is it possible for a man like you to realise the enormity of the wrong you did, and — I am bowed to the earth when I think of it ! — made me do ? Suffer ing as I must, as long as I live, for my part in it— a comparatively innocent part — 1 wonder how you can endure existence a day with such a thing on your conscience !' Then, while the ex-cashier nervously whittled a stick and let the shavings blow off into the water, the old man told the story, as far as he knew it, of what that wrong had caused Robert Moitimer to suffer. 'I am very sorry,' Cashing faltered, with a sincerity as deep perhaps as hi3 shallow, selfish nature was capable of. ' Of course I never dreamed of such consequences.' 'No !' Mr. Radwood exclaimed, with strong feeling. 'Ihe consequences of a wrong are eternal, but what wrong-doer ever stops to tliirjkof that?' He rose to his feet. ' Go with me to the steamboat office over yonder and you Bhill have your ticket for Kingston. Then I must resume my dreary hunt for that poor boy.' 'I am very sorry for him,' Cushing re peated as they walked away together. ' So am I, bo am I,' said the old merchant, 'but I am far more sorry for you, far more sorry for you.' Those were almost the last words he addressed to the defaulter, whom he left waiting for the boat, which could be seen steaming over from Lewiston. At the post-office he found that Aunt Celia's letter to her nephew bad never been delivered. He remained in the city two days, when, con vinced that Robert had left it, he took the boat for Lewiston, and continued the hunt for him there. But neither could any of the boy's Lewiston friends give any information regard ing him. Sadly discouraged, the old gentleman took the train for home ; and immediately on his. arrival the next day called at Miss Morti mer's door to report to her the ill success of his journey. ' Come in ! come in !' she said, grasping his hand and drawing him into the house, while bright tears flashed in her eyes. ' You have been away for news, and got none. I have stayed at home, and I have news for you.' There was exultation in her trembling voice as Ehe threw open the door, and showed a pale but very contented-looking young man rising from a lounge. It was Robert himself, who a moment later was clasped in the old merchant's fatherly arms. His story was quickly told. After learning from Dick that his aunt had lost a large part of her income through Cushing's dishonesty, his heait bad softened towards her, and a deep yearning, combined with a strong sense of duty, impelled him to set out for home shortly before Mr. Radwood started on his journey. He was gradually getting better of his bodily injuries,, and he no longer carried his arm in a sling. From bis deeper hurts, too, he was fast re covering ; and if any additional s=alve for them wete needed it came in the account the old. merchant gave of his meeting with Cushing. ' Ob, that man ! that man !' exclaimed Aunt Celia, with passionate indignation; 'how- could I ever take his word against that of my - own truthful Robert ? Oh, the misery he has caused us ! But we don't care now, do we, ? Rob ? If he had robbed me of every cent I. have I should care now_ only for your sake* since I have you back again.' 'I think we shall get along,' said Robert, with a glistening smile. ' I am not good for much yet, butl think I shall be able to get to work and find something to do before a great while. Then I shall try to repay you for all you have ever done for me.' ' O Robert ! don't speak of that !' she implored ; while the old merchant, giving the boy'B hand an ardent shake, exclaimed — - 'Sick or well, Robert, remember youalways have a place in my store. Your salary bagins to-day ; but you needn't put in an appearance tbere for three months unless you wish to.' Within a week, however, Robert was in his old place again, or rather in a new and much better position, which he continued to hold nntal he was promoted to a partnership in the business. The relations of father and son could not be more affectionately confidential that those thenceforward existing between Him and Mr. Radwood. At the same time a miracle seemed to have been wrought in Aunt Celia; for she never again gave her nephew a fretful or impatient word. And Dan Ames, who was often heard from, still wore a good hat and bore a respect able name. And the cashier? We only know that his deserted wife still gains a humble but honeet living by dressmaking.