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[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,J I WAYSIDE ROMANCES. A BLIGHTED LIFE. BY ALLEN CARTER. I Author of "A Woman's Sacrifice," &c. 1 ""Our pleasant vice3 j Are made the whips to scourge us. —SHAKESPEARE, j 4* Guilt is a timorous thing."—COLERIDGE. PART I. I thought you told me there'd be no Jallger about it—that the cheque was sure not to be prescll ted." How did I know F hiker would be pressed for numey and have to part with the cheque ?" was the reply. Wei!, what am f to do now ? I can no more ra<: -» eighty pounds ju.-flr now tlian I can fly. It's absolute ruin for me, if nothing worse, should the cheque be presented. i wish the Derby and you, too, had been at the devil." Ah dear boy, that's ungrateful of you. I could not help Blair Athol winuing. I didn't tell you to back him, remember, any 7)1ore than I forged the cheque to pay the bet." "ConPoundyou. hold your row, can't you, or someone may overhear. You needn't throw the thing at me in that way. Hadn't it been for you I shouldn't have dreamt of doiflg such a mad thing. The bet might have gone to the deuce before I'd have paid it with money which didn't belong to me." "That sort of talk shows how little a man of the world yon are yet, and how much you have to learn. No man with any respect for himself would neglect a debt of honour.' That's just what f cun'r understand, How can it be a debt of honour-when dishon- ourable means have to be adopted to pay it 1 I can't think whatever possessed me to do it. I certainly shouldn't but for you and the drink." And that's all the thanks I get for tak- ing you into society and showing you what life IS." j helped get me into the mess, you II have to help get me out, that's all." Now. Dick, I like to hurt your feelings, but when you speak in that threatening tone [ am boundto again remind you that I didn t do it. After all, what a fuss you're making about a trifling thing like that. You can surely borrow money enough from your uncle to redeem that :tht:que before it is presented. It being one of his loose cheques, and not torn from the book, some excuse can easily be made for its disappearance supposing, which isn't very probable, he should miss it at all. It's hardly likely Fluker would let it out of his hands nfter the car.) ion I gave him without knowing it was safe." My uncle won't lend me money for anything, I know. responded Dick Lang- ford, ruefully. He'd more likely turn me off at once if he knew I'd been doing anytiliug of the kind." I'm positively astonished at you, Dick, that I am. I've seen a few green 'uns in my time, but you beat the lot. You surely don't mean to say you'd go ask your uncle for money bccause you'd been losing ou horse-racing," No. But he'd want to know what I wanted so much for, and I should have to give him a sufficient reason before I got it." Nothing easier a dozen sufficient reasons could be given. However, I'll tell you wha" I'll do. I'm going on 'Change 1'11 see Fluker, and, if possibly the man he's given the cheque to, and see what can be done. This kind of thing happens nearly every day in connection with horse racing, and men like Fluker are fly to it. Depend upon it the matter can be arranged all right, only you will have to iind the money as soon as possible. Ta, ta keep up a light heart, dear hoy." And Arthur Morris airily reached his hat from its peg. placed it on his head, with an elaborate mock bow towards Dick, and sailed down the office steps as though the establishment belonged to him. The silly muggins," he mur- I mured, he's got himself in a pretty mess I this time. Hooked him proper, and no mistake shouldn't have thought he'd been a fiat. Ha ha my pretty Janet. you won't long have much cause to be proud of the man for whom you refused tne." Curse him It won't be my fault if he hasnt to hook it before to-morrow. It won't do for him to stay au exposure might involve me. The scene of the conversation above recorded was a merchant's ottico in Low- church-street, and the speakers were I respectively the confidential and head clerks of the establishment. Richard Langford, a young man of four and twenty, was a nephew by marriage of Mr Stephen Plummer, of the firm of Plummer, Brazen, and Co. and. on I' the somewhat sudden death of his parents, had been taken into the office, where he was speedily promoted to the position in which we find him. Some three years before this he secured for his wife the daughter of the National schoolmaster in the village of Daisywood, a woman who with youth, beauty, and education, combined a true loving heart, and sincere regard for her I husband. They ltvcd with their one child in a pretty cottago on the outskirts of the Metropolis—a coitage which was a picture of nracness and prettiness, and the walis of I which, during the summer months, were covered with a profusion of eglantine and honeysuclde, the preponderance of the former having probably suggested the I christening of the place Eglantine Cottage. Mrs Langford was passionately attached to the place, for here her husband bad brought her after their brief honeymoon, her-T had been her home since her marriage, here her child had been born. She lad little to grieve her until the last few months. Previously Richard had hastened hom as soon as the office closed with all fche speed possible. Now lie often did not come in until a late hour in the evening sometimes not until the arrival of the mid night train, which stopped at the station a few yards from their home. He made a variety of excuses, but his flushed face, un- steady gait. and uneven temper proved to her too well that he had got into bad com- pany and was getting into bad ways. He was always thoroughly ashamed of himself the following morning, and bore her mild remonstrances with an air of penitence. But alas I, he was weak and easily led, and Janet's bitter cup was continually being filled. l'> Arthur Morris, Richard's tempter, and the companion with whom he mostly went astray, was a young man of good position but loose principles who had early broken away from all home restraints, and, bejig unmarried, "let himself go in a way which could only mean ultimate ruin to him, as it involved in ruin those who associated with him. Some time before Richard Langford attracted Janet's attention Arthur had beeu paying his addresses to her. But he met with no encouragement. When Dick came in her way it was a case of love at first sight, and Arthur found himself shunted, He apparently took the matter cooiiy and resigned himself to the inevitable. But he neither forgot nor forgave the rebuff, and mentally vowed he would some day be even with both of them. Under pretence of showing Dick life and jiving him the knowledge and experience of the world he alleged to be necessary to a man who wished to be on anything like equal footing with his fellows, he gradually led Dick into haunts and practices which cuuld only tend to demoralise him. Hence when he backed a horse he was told was a moral certainty for the Derby, and lost money which he hsd no prospect of being able to pay from his own resources, he fell only too readily into the trap set for him by his companion, and in an evil moment, when his senses were numbed with drink, imitated his uncle's signature to a cheque for £80. He was cute enough to extort a promise that the cheque should not be eaehed nor paid away until he had an oppor- tunity to raise the money where with to redeem it. But he soon found what such promises were worth. Dick awaited in an agony of suspense the return of his friend. He knew the forged signature was but clumsily done, and had no doubt it would be challenged the moment it was presented at the bank on which the cheque was drawn. It was some minutes after four when Morris returned. All the clerks hact gone and he and Dick had the office to themselves, the partners being out of town. Arthur looked very grave. I'll tell you what it is, old chap," he said, "if I were you I'd hook it while I'd the chance, I've seen Fluker—I couldn't get to see the other man-and he says the cheque would have been pre- sented this morning but for him, and that it was sure to be presented before the bank closed. You see Fluker guessed there was something wrong, and would have held the bit uf paper till you had a chance of buying it back hadn't he been pressed for money j through a run of ill-luck. But he couldn't tell that to the man he passed it to, and could only ask him for private reasons not to present it without giving him notice." I see it's the same old game of the spider and the fly, only in this case I've been tiie prey of more than one spider," replied Dick, passionately. I'm beginning to see things now it's too late—how I've been drawn on and on from one step to another led on to involve myself so deeply in debt as to make it impossible I couid raise money, and then lured into an act which brings me within the pale of the law. What have I done to you that you should have drawn me on in this way A sneer passed over Arthur's face, but he only quietly replied, Don't be a fool, Dick. What yuu've done has been of your own free will. I ve only been your friend." Confound all such friends, say I," he retorted. "Even now the police may be on my track." Tut, tut, man. Who's to know you did it until it's proved a forgery and in- quiries are made. You take my advice- though you don't deserve it after what you've said. The bank may not suspect the cheque at once if they do they can do nothing till your uncle turns up to-morrow. You've got eighteen hours' start at least, make your way down to the docks you're sure to find some vessel ready to leave—the smaller and more insignificant the better." z, How can I go without monev ? Besides what's to become of Janet and the child ?'' Well, you've simply to consider which will be best for them and yourself. If you're arrested ;nd get, say live years' penal servi- tude. what then becomes of you '? Whereas if you can get safe away the affair will soon blow over, you can settle down somewhere and your wife could come to you or possibly your uncle may refuse to take any action, in which case you can come back. I'm not too well off myself just now, but I'll lend you 20 quid to help you off. And I'll break the intelligence to your wife, for it'll be better you shouldn't go down there it would give the police such a clue to work from." With specious argaments such as these was Dick plied until lie decided to do as his false friend advised. The vaunted know- ledge of the world for which he had already paid so dearly had not availed him much, since it did not enable him to see that Arthur Morns had a much deeper motive to serve than the securing of Dick's safety. Morns knew very well that the cheque had been presented, and in the hurry of business had been cashed, for ho had already received his share of the proceeds. Any moment the forgery might be detected, it was true. But there was little doubt that Mr Plummer, if properly approached, would have stopped short of prosecution. At all events Morris knew he must be more or less involved in any disclosures which might be made, just as he felt sure if Dick was allowed to see his wife she would counsel him to stay and take the consequences, whatever they might be. It was therefore to his interest to get. Dick away, and he didn't leave him until he had seen him quite safe on a Nor- wegian boat which was to sail that very night. Vainly Mrs Langford awaited her hus- band's return in that blossomed-bowered j cottaye at Daisywood. He had said he should be home early that evening, for they were to take the child-a bright boy just beginning to walk-tor a ramble thruugh the green lanes. Janet's heart was full of weariness and trouble as, having put the boy to reat, she sat down in the gloom and waited for her husband's return. The tears filled her eyes as she thought of the change since the time when every moment not occupied in his duties at the office was spent with her. A footfall on the gravel aroused her. It was not her husband's—could any- thing have happened to him. As well as her trembling hands would permit, she lighted the lamp, then opened the front door, and admitted Arthur Morris. Mr Morris she exclaimed, starting back in alarm. h You here, and alone ? Then something has happened to my hus- band. Oh I tell me, what is it Don't keep mem suspense, I beg. Calm yourself, Mrs Langford. Your husband is well enough in health but he is unfortunately unable to come home or to see you." What do you mean 1" she exclaimed, greatly agitated. You surely can't mean that ¡Ie's-oh no, it can't be." Perhaps you had better read that, Mrs Langford." was the reply, as Arthur handed to her a letter addressed in her husband's writing, "it will tell you in his own words all there is to tell." Mrs Langford seized upon the envelope and tore it open with frantic eagerness. The words swam before her eyes. By a resolute effort she mastered the dizziness which came over her while she read the brief epistle. My Darling Wife,- Nhen you receive this I shall be leaving England. I have never realised how precious you aro to me until now, when I am leaving you and our darling boy without so much as a parting look or caress. Had I realised it before I should not be as I now am—a miserable fugitive. Arthur will explain, and has promised to look after you and see you do not want. Take care of our child, darling, and if you can, forgive.—Your erring hus- band." Gone My Dick, my husband—gone exclaimed the stricken woman. And with a low moauing cry as if from a breaking heart she sank unconscious upon the floor. Five years have elapsed when we resume our story. Those years have been trying ones. Mr Plummer was furious when he discovered the use that had been made of his name. The discovery was not made till the absence of Richard from his post led to inquiries. At first he thrsatened to have him found and brought back, if he was still above ground, though the whole world had to be searched. But his common- sense came back after passion had subsided, and he came to the con- clusion that it would only bd throwing good money after bad, and bringing a scan- dal upon the family name. Possibly Mrs Langford's intercession on her husband's behalf had some weight, though he would not own as much. She pleaded with him for forgiveness for her husband—that she might send him word he could return, as she would not have pleaded for her life. Beyond that, she had worked her fingers almost to the bone until she had repaid every farthing of the eighty pounds of which the old man had been defrauded. He did not know from whom it came though he knew what it was tor, and he supposed Dick, wherever he was, was getting on, and was sending the money to the solicitor from whom it was received. Before this was accomplished Janet had news which made a sacred duty of the task she had undertaken partly as a precaution for her husband's safety. Arthur Morris was still in the office in Lowchurch-street, and he still lived a bachelor life at Daisywood. Mrs Langford had no idea that he had been instrumental in her husband's downfall. The man who without a pang of remorse had sent her hnsband away in disgrace in order to gratify his revenge, and whose one object in life was to make Janet his/ treated her always with the utmost respect, made him- self almost necessary to her, and succeeded in completely ingratiating himself with the bright-eyed boy to whom his own name had been given. But he never forgot that she had once refused his love, and cast him aside for another. And though he had no definite notion how. he was determined she should drink to the dregs the cup of bitterness she had made him drink when he would have almost sold his soul to possess her. Janet wondered that she had no news of her husbaud, or message from him. One day Arthur told her the vessel in which Dick had sailed had not been heard of for months, and was believed to have been lost with all on board. And he showed her a list of passengers, among which occurred the name under which he said her husband had taken his passage. She hoped against hope for some time, but receiving no news mourned him as dead. But for her child life at this period would have become a burden to her. Gradually, however, Arthur felt his way with her, drawing upon her sympathy by references to the long and patient waiting his love had undergone. It was a strange phase of human nature that this man should spend so much of his life to obtain this woman for his wife; not, as he took pains to impress upon him- self from a desire to make her happy, but in order to gratify a desire fur revenge. Ill ¡ the result he would find that he was really acting under the impulse of the old love—smothered but not destroyed, and his revenge so far as it touched her would then only recoil upon himself. She at length yielded to his per- sistence, though not till nearly four years after the reported death of her husband would she consent that a day should be fixed for the ceremony. The baseness of Arthur's character, leavened though it was by a really great love for Janet—a leaven which in time might even eradicate the baseness—was shown even more in the deliberate falsehood with which he had beguiled Mrs Langford into a belief in her husband's death than in the incident of the forgery, which had arisen more from force of circumstances than malicious pre-arrangement. He not only knew very well that the vessel whose loss occasioned such grief to Jauet was not that in which Dick had sailed, but he had taken pains to satisfy himself that Dick reached his destination. What had since become of him he did not know it was the fact that no letter or message had reached Janet from him that first put it into Arthur's head to further his own plans by representing Dick as being drowned. What he should do if the supposed dead man turned up he couid not quite determine. He could easily make an excuse for being misled, if the excuse was necessary. But he knew full well, though he would not give the thought expression, that Richard Lang- ford should never more see Janet if he could help it. He could not prevail upon her to leave Daisywood pnor to the marriage. That over he would take care she never set foot in the place again. (To he concluded to-morruw.)

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