Two Strings to His Bow: In Two Parts. Part Two



MEANWHILE, Robert Kenworthy — as the Rev. Cresswell Price had now become — had quietly settled himself in a respectable boarding-place which suited his condition. As he stepped from the train at the Grand Central, he felt that his old life had been left behind. He began by following up the list of advertisements he had gathered, making up his mind not to be in haste, but to get by degrees a clear notion of what would be expected of him; to learn the ruling rates of wages, so as not to set his terms too high or too low ; to find out the privileges which he should stipulate for; and generally to make it appear that he declined rather than that he was not acceptable.

What he had in view was to get a country place at or near Bilhope, or else a city place with one of the directors of the Plutonian. It was the early spring, when waiters who had “ no objection to the country ” were in demand, and also largely in evidence. His ultimate purpose was to get under Mr. Penny backer’s own roof, where he knew that a semiannual change was usual. But for that he must first find a footing elsewhere. For a week “ the costly first step ” was not taken, and it seemed to be as far away as at the start. At last, however, he found a rich widow who wanted a young man who was not too young, who could assist her petted and spoiled butler, now growing old and unequal to the heavier duties of his place. She wanted one who would not flirt with the female domestics, did not drink, would not grumble at having to do the most of the work for by no means the lion’s share of the wages, and who would not intrigue against the autocrat of the pantry. It was hardly in the capacity of the ordinary servingman to meet all these requirements, and the better class of attendants promptly and firmly refused to undertake the task ; the inferior order generally broke down in their trial month. Consequently, as little was hoped of Kenworthy, he proved, at the end of his novitiate, a pleasant surprise.

“ I will say, mum,” remarked the butler to his mistress, “ that for one as never ’as ’ad the experience of the hold country, Robert is as ’andy and conformable as I could hask for a ’elper; ’e is not himperent like them Hirish, ’e bain’t stoopid and pig -’eaded like them Germans, and ’e do pick up my ways uncommon ready; ’e don’t drink, ’e don’t swear, and ’e ’s as careful of the silver and linning as I am myself, mum ; ’e goes to church of a Sunday reg’lar when ’e ’as ’is houting, and I think, mum, ’e’s gettin’ a bit more ’igh than ’e was. If you re agreeable. I think we ’ll keep ’im, and make it a dollar more a month.

“ Very well, Hilary,” replied his mistress. “ You know I would n’t retain any one with whom you are not satisfied, and so Robert can continue.”

Meanwhile, Robert was keeping a fixed eye on the Pennybacker household. He had the opportunity of waiting at table when the banker dined with Mrs. Kenyon Scott, his mistress, who was a large stockholder in the Plutonian, and he could not but contrast in his own mind this occasion with the last time he had been present at the banker’s table. Then he had felt acute misery at his own gauche, blunders and ignorance of the conventionalities. Now he was able to minister to the special tastes of his former host; to see that, the cayenne was offered at the right moment with the mayonnaise, the claret poured into the proper glass, and the asparagus deftly slid upon the plate without interrupting the anecdote the banker was telling. Only one trial befell him, when, in reply to a question, the senior warden said, “ Well, St. Faith’s is a sore point with me, madam. I must say I miss poor Price more than I ever thought I should. We’ve not called any one yet. We’ve been trying a lot of youngsters from the seminary, who are always instructing me in my duties, and setting up their new-fangled ways. I begin to see what a real comfort in the parish the old rector was.”

“ What made him leave so strangely ? Do you think he committed suicide ? ”

“ I — well, I did fear so, but I have reason to think I was mistaken, and that he is still living here in the city.”

At this, for the first time in his professional career, Robert let a knife and fork slide off the salver he was carrying, and the jingle caused a moment’s break in the talk. As he stooped to pick them up he heard the banker say, “ I got news of him the other day; that is, a person in my employ saw him down by the Fulton Market. He was wearing the uniform of the Salvation Army, and looked very thin and seedy. If I can, I shall try to get some aid to him.”

Robert had by this time picked up the fallen articles, and rose with a very red face. As he passed behind Mrs. Kenyon Scott’s chair, he whispered in a low voice, “ Please excuse me, ma’am. I had a little giddy turn.”

“Never mind, Robert,” she said graciously, and then went on with the topic : “ But you never have told me why he left. He must have given up the ministry ? ”

“ Well, as to that, no action was ever taken by the vestry, and of course none by the bishop. Now, please ask me no more questions, for I really am not free to speak; but if it did happen that he came back, I dare say we might welcome him again.”

“ Oh, then I suppose it was nothing discreditable. I heard that there was something about money matters, but what I feared was — well, complication with one of my own sex,” replied the hostess, with a slight rise of color.

“ Mamma, how absurd ! ” said one of the daughters of the house. “ As if any living woman could have fancied such a miracle of awkwardness! I never saw him take the alms basin without expecting to see its contents tipped all over the chancel. Robert, please take my cup and give me a little more coffee. I like,” she continued, addressing her mother, “a full cup, and Robert is the one waiter we ever had who could bring me a really full cup without spilling. Dennis used to ruin my dinner dresses regularly.”

“ Dennis, my dear, was not always in condition at the close of a dinner, I ’m sorry to say. This one never fails that way, but is always deft and has his wits about him.”

“Madam,” said the banker, “I may say as much as this, that to a moral certainty there was no Eve chargeable with the expulsion of our Adam from his paradise, though I can’t say that we made St. Faith’s exactly an Eden; but, if you will excuse me, I hope to know more definitely in a few days about the matter, and till then I should rather not say anything.”

A few days, however, made it clear that the private of the Salvation Army was a broken-down clerk who had come to grief through variety shows and racingpools, and was living as an adventurer.

A month later, Mrs. Kenyon Scott suddenly decided to go abroad. Hilary was left in charge of the house, but Robert and the other domestics were of course set adrift. So it came about, through no unnatural chain of circumstances, that our hero got the place he coveted in Mr. Pennybacker’s service.

It was with a strange feeling that Price, alias Kemvorthy, entered the familiar grounds of the banker’s country seat. He feared a little that he might encounter an old acquaintance, but, to his relief, he found no one he had seen before, except the warden and his wife, who made up the family. Their only child had died in boyhood, and almost before he knew it Robert had slipped into the situation of confidential major - domo. Pennybacker was a martinet at the Plutonian, and, by a not unusual reaction, became all the more easy-going in his home. He was only too happy to have care and trouble saved him, and this generally led to those half-yearly changes of service which were, so to speak, the burning-out of chimneys choked with soot. Consequently, he was agreeably surprised to find that at the end of the first quarter of Robert’s prime ministry the expenses had been as much less as the comfort was greater. He soon found other merits in his butler, of which the story shall be briefly told.

The temporary incumbent of St. Faith’s was one of those semi-energetic men who are always setting on foot new projects, and leaving them in halfway fulfillment. The junior warden called him, on the sly, “ King Stork, the suecessor to King Log.” He started a mission in the neighboring hamlet of Shepard’s Hollow, and, after the first flourish of trumpets had died away, began to hint that it might be continued by lay reading. After a few Sundays he contrived to induce Pennybacker to drive over to the Hollow on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, and ere he knew it the warden found he was in for an indefinite series of services. The rector pro tem. had always an excuse for non-attendance, — a sick family to visit, a headache, or the like; so the warden took Robert with him to make the responses. Soon he discovered that Robert was more than an ally, and little by little they changed places, till Robert was fairly installed at, the head of the work, taught a Bible class, made brief informal addresses, and read with real spirit the sermons which the parochial head selected. Presently that parochial head disappeared from Bilhope altogether, and the warden was at a loss as to how he should fill the gap.

I suppose they will be offended if we don’t give them a regular sermon, though I believe in my heart one of your plain talks, such as you give your Bible class, would do them twice the good. I’ve a lot of Price’s old sermons ; he left them all when he — hem ! — when he disappeared, and I took charge of them. Read what you think best; that is, if you can make out his writing, which I can’t. Perhaps if you copy off the parts you want, you will read them more easily.”

Robert felt the risk of what he was doing when he stood up in the little schoolhouse to preach his own sermon. His first thought was to follow the dull and decorous fashion in which a lay reader reads off the printed sermon put into his hands. But he had come to feel a real interest in his little mission congregation, and, in copying out the discourse, he had broken up the long involved sentences, and put Saxon monosyllables in place of polysyllabic pulpit phrases. In doing this, he had unconsciously brought out the real thought, which in his timid earlier days he had buried under pious platitudes and weak generalities. Instead of the repression which, as the correct thing, he had before cultivated, he now gave himself up to the sense of having something to say, and the impulse of saying it. The warden listened, at first with the complacent feeling of having got rather well out of a dilemma, and then with a growing and eager attention. As they were driving homeward, he sat silent for a time, and then broke out as follows : —

“ Do you realty mean to say, Robert, that you preached the sermon I gave yon ? I remember the text and the general treatment of it; but though there was something in your voice which made me think of Price, it was altogether like a new sermon to me. I suppose, when I first heard it, I was n’t attending very closely, — was thinking, more shame to me, about bank matters. But that just shows what delivery will do; Price’s dropping-down-dead manner was awfully against him. I fancy you shortened some of his long sentences, did n’t you ? Well, that is all right. I used to tell him that if he would condense a bit there would be more snap to his preaching. I’ve half a mind, when Mr. Ludlow leaves, next month, to have you licensed to lay read for St. Faith’s.”

It was quite evident that the Shepard’s Hollow mission was becoming a great fad with the warden. He had the sense to see that he could aid it best by putting his hand in his pocket for the expenses, and handing over the other work to Robert. Finally, he made the proposition out and out that Kenworthy should apply for orders, and take a course of study. He was somewhat surprised when Robert made an evasive answer.

“ Well,” said the warden, “ I’ve no fault to find with you as a servant, and I dare say you are doing better for yourself now ; but I’ve a feeling that I am using for myself abilities which belong to the Church. No man who takes the interest you do can say he has n’t a call to the work. I suppose you feel shy. but I’m sure you could say it with a clearer conscience than half the young prigs the seminary sends us. Why, Price was better than they are, though I used to fret about him. He was n’t above finding out what he should do. He took advice, and tried to follow it, poor fellow ! Now, you, Robert, seem to know just what is what, till I’ve half a notion you must have had some training before. Never was a lay reader, you say? Well, well, we laymen sometimes see as clearly what should be as the clergy themselves.”

The ci-devant rector had a fit of the blues that night, between his fear of betraying himself and his dread of having to drop his work, or else to mar it so as to conform to the standard expected of the warden’s butler.

The next week after his perilous success at the Hollow mission, the situation became still more complicated. The warden appeared at his own front door an hour later than his usual train would bring him. He had taken a close carriage from the Bilhope station, a thing he never did in the stormiest weather; and there was some one in the carriage, whom he left just long enough to ring the doorbell hurriedly. Then he called from the side of the vehicle, “ Here, Robert, send for the gardener, and then come yourself and help. I’ve got my poor nephew in the carriage here, and it will take all of us to get him upstairs. I’ve been expecting him to die on my hands every step of the way. He has just returned from South America, and is half dead from some kind of sickness — fever — he caught there.”

A fainting figure was lifted out, with closed eyes and utterly relaxed limbs, and was laid upon a couch in the hall.

“ Sha’n’t I get him a glass of wine ? ” asked Robert.

“ Yes, yes, — well thought of ; or brandy would be better. Get it as quick as you can.”

Robert was supporting the sick man on the couch as he spoke. He felt the invalid give a little convulsive start, and noticed that the eyelids were feebly lifted for a moment. He would scarcely have recognized the banker’s nephew had he met him elsewhere, so changed and wasted ; but this strange start of the sick man at the sound of his voice gave Price a feeling of vague alarm. The brandy was brought, and it effected a temporary revival in young Pennybacker; but he seemed, as he regained a partial consciousness, to accept Robert, as he himself would have expressed it, “ at his face value.”

“ Got new man, uncle ? Where ’s Thaxter ? What’s this one’s name ? Robert ? Looks handy sort of a fellow. Guess he’s cheap at the price — any price — p-r-i-c-e” — he muttered, as he dozed off again.

They got him undressed and put to bed, and the coachman was dispatched for the family doctor. Robert offered to go, but the elder Pennybacker said, “ No, you must stay here and watch. I ’m in such a fluster that I can do no good.”

Again at Robert’s voice came the little flutter of nervous agitation ; but no words followed, and the banker did not note it.

In about an hour the doctor arrived. He diagnosed the symptoms, and shook his head rather seriously. He followed the uncle into the library, closed the door, and then said, “ He has a relapse of the Isthmus fever, and it has taken hold on a constitution pretty badly strained by reckless living. The worst feature is that there is something on his mind. Of course we look for flightiness in these cases. But when there is a recurrent string which keeps vibrating, it points to a hidden mental trouble. He must have a watcher to-night, a man strong enough to manage him if he goes wild. Tomorrow we can get a trained nurse from one of the hospitals. I ’ll send you the right sort of man. But meanwhile, if you’ve got a servant you can spare for a night or two, have him take charge. He ought to be one whom you can trust to hear any queer thing said, and to say nothing. The family skeleton must n’t be let out of the closet, you know. How about this waiter, butler, or whatever you call him, of yours — Kendig—Worth — the one who is called Robert? He seems handy in a sick-room.”

“ I think I can trust Robert; and if I give him a hint not to talk downstairs, he won t say a word except to you or me.”

“ All right; that relieves me greatly. I ’ll give him his instructions, and we ’ll do the best we can.”

So Robert was duly installed, and entered on his task with a mingled feeling of hope and fear.

The first part of the night fatigue and opiates kept the patient pretty quiet, and Robert took care to speak as little as possible. But about three in the morning, as Robert was seated by the bedside, keeping himself awake by the study of a passage in the New Testament which had been brought up in his Bible class, he was startled at seeing the sick man sitting up and staring intently at him with eyes unnaturally bright.

Before he thought, he spoke out: “ Lie down, sir, and try to rest. Is there anything you want ? ”

The reply was startling: “ I’ve got it. What are you doing here ? I ain’t so bad as to need a parson yet. No, you can’t be — parson — He drowned himself in the Creek, and then they sent him up to Sing-Sing for that check he forged. Hard lines, was n’t it, when I got the money ? Say, were you pardoned out ? Should n’t think uncle would have kept you on at St. Faith’s, though! ”

Robert mastered himself with a strong effort, and said in a quiet, low tone, “ You are not quite yourself, sir, and you mistake me for some one else. I’m your uncle s butler, and taking cave of you till a trained nurse can he got. Now you must lie down and rest, and sleep if you can ; in an hour you will need to take your medicine again.”

“ I ’m not myself, you ’re not yourself. Well, we ’re pretty well mixed up, ain’t we ? I say, there’s N. P. going up like anything, and B. & O. coming down ; and if you can only hold on just one week, we ’re all right, if it was n’t for that confounded note coming due. I say, parson, is n’t there a text something like ‘without money and without price ’ ? That’s what St. Faith’s has come to, eh ? What’s the use of asking me for money, Esperanza ? Esperanza ! Diablita ! Come now, Price, you’ve no business to lead trumps when my last lead was spades; b’sides, a dominie ought not to be playing cards, anyhow. You ’re a trump, though, — never gave me away. That’s why I ’ve come home. Got the whole squared up yesterday — yes — all hut that five hundred of yours. I ’ll give a thousand for it, but then you ’ll have to face the music, dominie. I put it so, you see, to Ford & Gleason. I was mixed up with the affair, but your name stood as principal. I said to them, I did, ‘ The dominie has been taking flyers in the market, and got me to hack him, of course, with the securities as collateral in my hands. Now he’s come to grief, and these securities, probably, being forged, ain’t worth the paper they are written on to me, and I could defend against you, if I was mean ; but I’m not mean,’ says I, — ‘never was a mean streak in J. Augustus, you bet. I’ll stand the racket, if you give me time. If you don’t, you get nothing except the scandal and the bother of sending a poor devil up to Sing-Sing. Suppose you don’t have even that ? He goes to a hotel, shuts the transom, and blows out the gas. Then where are you ? Now give me time, and for his sake, and because it is paper with my name on it, I ’ll see you paid, princip— and int— I’m going out to Bremen on business for my uncle, and I ’m cocksure to make enough out of that to clear you when I get back.’ Of course the mean skunks had a detective to arrest me at the German steamer, but they did n’t look for me at the West India boat. When they found I was gone where the woodbine twineth, they made the best of it, and did wait.”

Here the invalid broke down again, and went off into incoherent mutterings ; and for a couple of days his condition was one of alternate delirium and exhaustion. The trained nurse appeared on the second of these days, and Price was relieved from the night-watching, much to his own comfort. It was on the evening of the fourth day that the warden rang for Robert to come to his library. He had just left the sick-room.

“ Robert,” he said, as his butler answered the summons, “ here is a serious complication. My poor nephew is very weak, but apparently himself again except on one point. He has insisted to me that you are the late rector of St. Faith’s, the Rev. Cresswell Price, and says that you were the forger of that check for five hundred, and that he cashed it for you just before he sailed for South America. He declares that he is very penitent for some irregularities of his, which he has made good, and that he was led into them by your offering to sign my name to certain documents which he states he used as collateral to obtain credit for loans which he has since paid up, and has destroyed the papers. He says that you forced him to cash that check by threats of revealing the whole story to me, and that this was the price of your work. He winds up this absurd story by saying that you proposed to him to forge a will in his favor, and then intimated that the will would very shortly be able to be used, and that in your situation as butler you could insure the result. Of course this is all the raving of a disordered brain, but it is curiously well put together.”

“ I should think, Mr. Pennybacker, that your own judgment was enough. You knew Mr. Price, you know me.”

“ It ought to be, it ought to be, but somehow the obstinate persistence of that boy upstairs bothers me. He seems as sane as I am. and why should he tell such an improbable story in the face and eyes of us all ? It is n’t easy to see. It is like what you said to your Bible class last Sunday about miracles, in reply to that conceited fellow from the mills. People don’t tell things where there is manifest evidence to the contrary unless they are true. But why do you hesitate ? Just say out and out, ‘ I’m Robert Kenworthy, and never was Cresswell Price.’ You are the only person who can’t be mistaken in your knowledge of this fact. And as for taking your word, I ’d do that against fifty such men as my nephew. He has lied to me, and you never have.”

There was a pause. Price felt that he should have answered on the spot, categorically, and he had not done so ; every moment of hesitation was virtually an admission. The hour had come when he must burn his ships, cost what it might.

“ Mr. Pennybacker,” he said, “ I cannot answer you as you expect and wish, for the truth is that I was, and still am, Cresswell Price. So far your nephew is right.”

The warden stared as if the ghost of his grandfather had appeared. Then his face darkened. “ If that is so, why is not the rest true ? ”

“ I can only speak as to the last point, the proposal about the will. That never passed between us ; was never suggested by me to him, or by him to me. That is a clear hallucination of his illness. As to the rest, I am not free to speak.”

“ But — but — hang it, man, you can’t keep still under such an accusatiou, if you can clear yourself ! Don’t you see, it blocks your coming back to the ministry, and just as you seem to have got hold of that work as never before, and it ruins you for a servant ? The Good Book says we can’t serve God and Mammon, but you are out on both sides. I don’t see how I can keep you in my house with this hanging over you, or give you a reference for another place.

I must say, if I’m asked why you leave me, that I dismissed you when I found you came into my service under a false name, and that you could n’t explain very serious charges.”

“ If you wish,” returned Robert, in his thorough servant manner, “ I can leave to-night. I have time to catch the 11.20 train for the city.”

“ If I wish ! I don’t wish. I would n’t have had this happen for ten thousand dollars in government bonds. To-night!

I would n’t turn a dog out at night, much less a man who has served me as faithfully as you have. Besides, you would n’t leave me in the lurch till I can get another man, and that may not be under a fortnight; let alone sickness in the house, and all that. Then, too, if, as you say, you are not Robert Kenworthy, you are my rector and my guest, and how the dev— beg your pardon, dominie — how the mischief can I explain it to Mrs. Pennybacker ? See here, Robert Price, — Cresswell Kenworthy, I mean, — why can’t you clear this all up ? If you can, you have only to go to town with me tomorrow, leave me at the bank, go to the nearest hotel, and come back to Bilhope on the 5.20 p. M. as your former self, — disappeared last year, temporary alienation, sick among strangers, recover your memory of who you are, and come back. Only we must have a straight story about the check business.”

The look of pain and perplexity came back into the warden’s face as he gazed anxiously at the one opposite and saw no responsive look. Just then the nurse called from the head of the stairs, “ Mr. Pennybacker, will you please come up ? There’s a change.”

The warden hurried upstairs, saying as he left, “ Wait here, Robert ; on no account stir from the room till I bid you.” Presently he called from above, “ Robert, come up ! ”

As Robert entered the room, he saw that the invalid’s face was strangely drawn.

“ What is it, nurse ? ” he asked.

“ Paralysis,” said the nurse. “ He will not last long, I think, but he will never regain consciousness or the power of speech.”

“ Has the doctor been sent for ? ”

“Yes,” replied the nurse, “ I did that before I called ; but he told me yesterday that this might happen at any time.”

The rector sank into a chair, as if he too had been stricken. He had hoped to the last, and now fate shut the door in his face. He thought, “ The one man who could clear me, the one man who could release me from my obligation as a priest and allow me to explain, will never speak again.” Then the sense of his office came back to him. He stepped to the bedside, felt the scarce perceptible flutter of the pulse, and, to the warden’s astonishment, knelt and offered the commendatory prayers for the dying. A spasm passed over the sick man’s face, and then came the settling of that profound calm which cannot be mistaken. The nurse came forward, straightened the body, closed the eyes, and drew the sheet over the face. “ It is all over,” he said.

The uncle sat motionless, with bowed head. Robert Kenworthy, or Cresswell Price, — he hardly knew which to call himself, — left the room quietly, and went to his own chamber. He would pack up nothing ; he merely took his overcoat and hat, called one of the other servants to close the front door after him, and went out into the darkness.

He was halfway down the avenue, when he almost ran into a man hastening in the opposite direction.

“Is Pennybacker in?” inquired the stranger breathlessly.

“ Yes, I left him in the house. Mr. Pennybacker, Jr., has just died.”

“ Good gracious, Price ! ” exclaimed the other, “ did you drop from above ? Certainly Providence sends you here just now.”

“ What do you mean, Mr. Baldwin ?

“ Mean ? That you ’re the man I wanted most, and hoped least to see. You’ve turned up in the nick of time, just as I was coming over to tell Pennybacker that I’ve got to the bottom of the mystery, and to consult with him how best to discover you, if you were in the land of the living, as — I believe you are,” he added, grasping the rector by the arm. “ Yes, you materialize properly. But see here, I can’t stop to talk in the dark. Come on, come on. Were you with Augustus when he died ? Did he say anything ? Has he owned up ? Breaking it to his uncle will be a nasty business, if he has n’t; but your reappearance makes it inevitable, and I count on you to help me.”

“ To break what, Mr. Baldwin ? ”

“ Why, the whole rascality of that con— no, conscienceless scoundrel. I have it in black and white, though not much white about it except your part.”

By this time they had reached the front entrance, and as the door was opened the hall lamplight fell full upon the companion of Mr. Baldwin.

“ Eh ? what ? Bless my soul! ” exclaimed the junior warden. “ Why, are you the butler ? I was sure, when I heard your voice, it was Price come back. Here, you must forget every word I’ve been saying; at least hold your tongue forever. Or no ; on second thought, I must go through with it, and you will be witness. Here, come into the library, and somebody tell Pennybacker I must see him at once.” Then he sat down opposite Robert, and stared at him with all his might.

It seemed almost an age before the banker appeared ; and when he did, his face was far from reassuring. He had learnt from the servant who let Robert out that his butler had left the house, and was now come back with Baldwin, the lawyer, who was a perfect Don Quixote in the defense of a distressed and impecunious client. Visions of blackmail, threats of a suit for defamation, and the prospect of a general bother floated before his mind. The opening of the attack was not of a sort to restore composure.

Pennybacker,” began Baldwin, in his cross-examination tones, “ what became of that check which you said was, or might be, a forgery ? ”

“I have it in my safe upstairs.”

“ Very good ; keep it there ! Now, when was that five hundred paid, and to whom ? ”

“ I don’t know : that was the trouble.”

“ To whose account was it chargeable ? ”

“ To St. Faith’s, — the rector’s salary.”

“ Very good ! Was it an overdraft? ”

“ No ; close up to the mark, though, — not five dollars left.”

“ Good again! Now, if Price got that money, he got his own, did n’t he ? ”

“ Yes.”

“ If lie did n’t get it, it was his loss, not the bank’s ? ”

“ Yes, unless he disputed his indorsement. and could prove it not his.”

“ Once more, good. Now, whoever got that money, he did not.”

“ Who did get it, then ? ”

“ I ’ll show you. It was paid in gold. Gold is n’t easily traced, but this happened to be all in eagles, — the first of a new issue, fifty of them.”

“ How do you know ? ”

“ Because I have them in my safe at this moment, if the Safe Deposit Company has n’t skipped. I got them in exchange for the like amount, bating a small discount, in Bolivian doubloons. I had a lot of these paid in settlement of Sanchez v. Ruddiman, a salvage case, and I was holding on to them till I could pass them over to my client; and somebody knew it, and made me an offer. The exchange was about fifteen dollars against me, but as I might have to pay over at par, the United States gold was convenient. I did it, too, as a matter of accommodation to a friend who was going to the Isthmus, and did not care to have it known where he was going. He said he suspected he was shadowed, and if he went to any broker to buy South American gold, or get exchange on South America, he might be arrested by creditors.”

Pennybacker gave a little start and a muttered ejaculation.

Baldwin went on: “ You ought to know who would be the only man, except yourself, who could get that gold out of the Plutonian, and substitute a check for the same, without having it appear on the bank’s books.”

Pennybacker sat silent, with his eyes cast down.

“ Furthermore, I hand you the full story, written out, and sworn to before a notary, of all the transactions in which your notes were used as collateral. Those notes are all retired, and there is no more of that paper afloat, but this will show who profited by the business. These notes were all signed by the party benefited by them, and indorsed with your signature, and they were made on your private blanks with tlie special water-mark. You know how you got that paper made and printed — or engraved, rather — for your exclusive use, and whether you ever supplied any one with those blanks or not, don’t you ? ”

Pennybacker gave a groan. Price’s face flushed, and his eyes flashed eagerly.

“ Now, one question more. This time I ask it of Mr. Price, because if he is n’t Mr. Price lie cannot answer it. Did you ever, at the request of any member of this family, not the warden here, write signatures in imitation of his, the party requesting it, to be used as an autographic test ? ”

“ Yes,” said Price, before he had time to bethink himself ; “ that is, I ” —

“ That will do, sir. No fencing with the court, if you please. You betray no confidence. Confession is confession, but your previous knowledge is not affected by subsequent revelations. When you wrote that name on slips of paper, did you perceive anything peculiar about the paper? ”

“ Only that it was very slippery and smooth. All but one, I remember, were failures, and that led me to notice it. But they were destroyed ; that is, she — I mean to say ‘ it ’ tore them up and threw them into the fire.”

“ It did, did it ? If the court understand herself, and I think he do, ‘ it,’ as you very properly say, threw blank slips of common paper away, and kept the others. No, Mr. Price, I ’m not the gentleman whom you require all sponsors to renounce in baptism, but only a lawyer, and, in spite of calumny to the contrary, do not invoke him as my patron. I have followed up hints and blind clues, and what I guessed you have confirmed, till I know it as well as if I had been present. Somebody tried the autographic dodge on a professional penman, and it did n’t work ; but you, dear old guileless Israelite, walked straight into the trap.”

Baldwin paused. Pennybacker simply said, “ All this rather improbable story may be true, but I must look over these papers first.”

The others sat in silence while, frowning and evidently pausing to make little mental calculations, the warden ran his eyes quickly over the sworn statement. When he finished, he looked Baldwin full in the face, and said interrogatively, “ Well ? ”

“ Yes, well ? What is the matter with my case ? ”

“Would you like to go to a jury with it ? Do you suppose twelve men of the average intellectual capacity of such would give you a verdict on this evidence, if the judge, which I don’t believe, would let it in ? There is but one man who could furnish satisfactory proof to clear the accused, and he lies dead in the room above. As for the rest, my name has been forged and used. I have the document, and can produce the man whose name is on it. I can swear to the fact that paper of like character, to large amounts, has been in existence, taken up, and replaced over and over again, and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the signatures all came from the same hand. It is not necessary to show how much benefit the forger — the writer, I mean — got from the transaction. You know the ruling in Regina v. Culbertson, 3d of Barnwell and Adolphus.” (The president, like most moneyed men, had a fair knowledge of banking law, and thought he was a master of it.) “ There it was allowed sufficient to show that a writing-master was accustomed to furnish signatures at a sovereign apiece. The court held that it was not required to show the particular sum paid for the forgery in evidence ; it was enough that the signature was forged, and that the prisoner wrote it. It was also held that the defense offered, that the writing was to be used in preparing a lithographic facsimile, must not be inferred, but must be directly and affirmatively proved.”

“ But, Pennybacker, you don’t mean, you can’t mean, to prosecute the matter now ? If you do, all I can say is, that I will put twenty witnesses on the stand to swear that this is Robert Kenworthy, and not Cresswell Price; and if need be, that he was n’t within a hundred miles of Bilhope when this happened. Hang it, man, I thought I was doing you a favor by furnishing moral evidence of an innocent man’s innocence.”

“ Stop a moment, Baldwin,” said the warden quietly; and then, for the first time since he came into the room, he turned to the third person in the library. “ Robert Kenworthy.” said he, “ will you repeat the declaration you made here in this room, this very evening ? Don’t do it unless you are prepared to face all consequences, to appear as the forger of my name, the accomplice and tempter of that poor boy in the room above. If you choose to remain Robert Kenworthy, neither Baldwin nor I can prove you are not, nor shall we try to, but you ought to know the risk you run.”

Baldwin stared in blank astonishment. The challenged man did not hesitate. He stepped to the table in the centre of the room, laid his hand on the open Bible there, and said, “ I repeat what I told you. I am the Rev. Cresswell Price, and I have been living in your house as Robert Kenworthy, your servant.”

“ Knew I was right,” said Baldwin to himself. “ The voice in the dark was not to be mistaken, but the sight of him put me all out.”

“ I can swear to it, too,” said the warden, “ not on any legal grounds, like my brother warden here, but because you say it; and I want to add that I am comforted through the saddest experience of my life, and shall be as long as I live, in the thought that I have known one true Christian man, and that I can restore him to my fullest confidence and esteem. Baldwin, I thank you, I bless Heaven, for clearing up this. Reverend and dear Mr. Price, I can only say that these terrible papers exonerate you from all suspicion. We never have filled the rectorship of St. Faith’s, we never have made it vacant, and while I am vestryman and warden, and while you live, it never shall be filled by any other than the best clergyman in this or any diocese in the land, the one who fills it now.” Then, with a half smile, he added, “ I call you to witness, Baldwin, that I’m sincere in this, for I lose the best servant I ever had in my employ. If I could only keep Robert Kenworthy to wait on the rector at dinner, I should have nothing to ask ; but as I can’t, I suppose I shall have to take Robert to town to-morrow, and you will bring the rector up with you on the evening train. He comes to attend the funeral here, and steps back into his old duties. Don’t you see,” he explained, noting the puzzled looks of the others, “that puts it all straight? We are supposed to have known — I can say I did know — where the rector has been, and why we summon him in a family distress, which we would n’t do if he was n’t in perfectly good standing. Nobody can object, and I don’t think anybody will.”

Walter Mitchell.