Chapter XVIII: More Business
When Leonard tendered the eight hundred pounds in payment of his debt
of five hundred, Mr. Cavendish at first refused to take it. But when
Leonard calmly but firmly refused to pay a single penny beyond the
obligations already incurred, including interest on the full sum for
one day, he acquiesced. He knew the type of man fully; and knew also
that in all probability it would not be long before he would come to
the Firm again on a borrowing errand. When such time should come, he
would put an extra clause into his Memorandum of Agreement which
would allow the Firm full power to make whatever extra charge they
might choose in case of the slightest default in making payment.
Leonard's visits to town had not of late been many, and such as he
had had were not accompanied with a plethora of cash. He now felt
that he had earned a holiday; and it was not till the third morning
that he returned to Brindehow. His father made no comment on his
absence; his only allusion to the subject was:
'Back all right! Any news in town?' There was, however, an unwonted
suavity in his manner which made Leonard a little anxious. He busied
himself for the balance of the morning in getting together all his
unpaid accounts and making a schedule of them. The total at first
amazed almost as much as it frightened him. He feared what Stephen
would say. She had already commented unfavourably on the one amount
she had seen. When she was face to face with this she might refuse
to pay altogether. It would therefore be wise to propitiate her.
What could he do in this direction? His thoughts naturally turned to
the missing letter. If he could get possession of it, it would
either serve as a sop or a threat. In the one case she would be so
glad to have it back that she would not stick at a few pounds; in the
other it would 'bring her to her senses' as he put in his own mind
his intention of blackmail.
He was getting so tightened up in situation that as yet he could only
do as he was told, and keep his temper as well as he could.
Altogether it was in a chastened mood that he made his appearance at
Normanstand later in the afternoon. He was evidently expected, for
he was shown into the study without a word. Here Miss Rowly and
Stephen joined him. Both were very kind in manner. After the usual
greetings and commonplaces Stephen said in a brisk, businesslike way:
'Have you the papers with you?' He took the bundle of accounts from
his pocket and handed them to her. After his previous experience he
would have suggested, had he dared, that he should see Stephen alone;
but he feared the old lady. He therefore merely said:
'I am afraid you will find the amount very large. But I have put
So he had; and more than everything. At the last an idea struck him
that as he was getting so much he might as well have a little more.
He therefore added several good-sized amounts which he called 'debts
of honour.' This would, he thought, appeal to the feminine mind.
Stephen did not look at the papers at once. She stood up, holding
them, and said to Miss Rowly:
'Now, if you will talk to Mr. Everard I will go over these documents
quietly by myself. When I have been through them and understand them
all I shall come back; and we will see what can be done.' She moved
gracefully out of the room, closing the door behind her. As is usual
with women, she had more than one motive for her action in going
away. In the first place, she wished to be alone whilst she went
over the schedule of the debts. She feared she might get angry; and
in the present state of her mind towards Leonard the expression of
any feeling, even contempt, would not be wise. Her best protection
from him would be a manifest kindly negation of any special interest.
In the second place, she believed that he would have her letter with
the other papers, and she did not wish her aunt to see it, lest she
should recognise the writing. In her boudoir, with a beating heart,
she untied the string and looked through the papers.
Her letter was not among them.
For a few seconds she stood stock still, thinking. Then, with a
sigh, she sat down and began to read the list of debts, turning to
the originals now and again for details. As she went on, her wonder
and disgust grew; and even a sense of fear came into her thoughts. A
man who could be so wildly reckless and so selfishly unscrupulous was
to be feared. She knew his father was a comparatively poor man, who
could not possibly meet such a burden. If he were thus to his
father, what might he be to her if he got a chance.
The thought of what he might have been to her, had he taken the
chance she had given him, never occurred to her. This possibility
had already reached the historical stage in her mind.
She made a few pencil notes on the list; and went back to the study.
Her mind was made up.
She was quite businesslike and calm, did not manifest the slightest
disapproval, but seemed to simply accept everything as facts. She
asked Leonard a few questions on subjects regarding which she had
made notes, such as discounts. Then she held the paper out to him
and without any preliminary remark said:
'Will you please put the names to these?'
'How do you mean?' he asked, flushing.
'The names of the persons to whom these sums marked "debt of honour"
are due.' His reply came quickly, and was a little aggressive; he
thought this might be a good time to make a bluff:
'I do not see that that is necessary. I can settle them when I have
the money.' Slowly and without either pause or flurry Stephen
replied, looking him straight in the eyes as she handed him the
'Of course it is not necessary! Few things in the world really are!
I only wanted to help you out of your troubles; but if you do not
wish me to ... !' Leonard interrupted in alarm:
'No! no! I only spoke of these items. You see, being "debts of
honour" I ought not to give the names.' Looking with a keen glance
at her set face he saw she was obdurate; and, recognising his defeat,
said as calmly as he could, for he felt raging:
'All right! Give me the paper!' Bending over the table he wrote.
When she took the paper, a look half surprised, half indignant,
passed over her face. Her watchful aunt saw it, and bending over
looked also at the paper. Then she too smiled bitterly.
Leonard had printed in the names! The feminine keenness of both
women had made his intention manifest. He did not wish for the
possibility of his handwriting being recognised. His punishment came
quickly. With a dazzling smile Stephen said to him:
'But, Leonard, you have forgotten to put the addresses!'
'Is that necessary?'
'Of course it is! Why, you silly, how is the money to be paid if
there are no addresses?'
Leonard felt like a rat in a trap; but he had no alternative. So
irritated was he, and so anxious to hide his irritation that,
forgetting his own caution, he wrote, not in printing characters but
in his own handwriting, addresses evolved from his own imagination.
Stephen's eyes twinkled as he handed her the paper: he had given
himself away all round.
Leonard having done all that as yet had been required of him, felt
that he might now ask a further favour, so he said:
'There is one of those bills which I have promised to pay by Monday.'
'Promised?' said Stephen with wide-opened eyes. She had no idea of
sparing him, she remembered the printed names. 'Why, Leonard, I
thought you said you were unable to pay any of those debts?'
Again he had put himself in a false position. He could not say that
it was to his father he had made the promise; for he had already told
Stephen that he had been afraid to tell him of his debts. In his
desperation, for Miss Rowly's remorseless glasses were full on him,
'I thought I was justified in making the promise after what you said
about the pleasure it would be to help me. You remember, that day on
If he had wished to disconcert her he was mistaken; she had already
thought over and over again of every form of embarrassment her
unhappy action might bring on her at his hands. She now said sweetly
and calmly, so sweetly and so calmly that he, with knowledge of her
secret, was alarmed:
'But that was not a promise to pay. If you will remember it was only
an offer, which is a very different thing. You did not accept it
then!' She was herself somewhat desperate, or she would not have
sailed so close to the wind.
'Ah, but I accepted later!' he said quickly, feeling in his
satisfaction in an epigrammatic answer a certain measure of victory.
He felt his mistake when she went on calmly:
'Offers like that are not repeated. They are but phantoms, after
all. They come at their own choice, when they do come; and they stay
but the measure of a breath or two. You cannot summon them!'
Leonard fell into the current of the metaphor and answered:
'I don't know that even that is impossible. There are spells which
call, and recall, even phantoms!'
'Indeed!' Stephen was anxious to find his purpose.
Leonard felt that he was getting on, that he was again acquiring the
upper hand; so he pushed on the metaphor, more and more satisfied
'And it is wonderful how simple some spells, and these the most
powerful, can be. A remembered phrase, the recollection of a
pleasant meeting, the smell of a forgotten flower, or the sight of a
forgotten letter; any or all of these can, through memory, bring back
the past. And it is often in the past that the secret of the future
Miss Rowly felt that something was going on before her which she
could not understand. Anything of this man's saying which she could
not fathom must be at least dangerous; so she determined to spoil his
purpose, whatever it might be.
'Dear me! That is charmingly poetic! Past and future; memory and
the smell of flowers; meetings and letters! It is quite philosophy.
Do explain it all, Mr. Everard!' Leonard was not prepared to go on
under the circumstances. His own mention of 'letter,' although he
had deliberately used it with the intention of frightening Stephen,
had frightened himself. It reminded him that he had not brought, had
not got, the letter; and that as yet he was not certain of getting
the money. Stephen also had noted the word, and determined not to
pass the matter by. She said gaily:
'If a letter is a spell, I think you have a spell of mine, which is a
spell of my own weaving. You were to show me the letter in which I
asked you to come to see me. It was in that, I think you said, that
I mentioned your debts; but I don't remember doing so. Show it to
'I have not got it with me!' This was said with mulish sullenness.
'That is a pity! It is always a pity to forget things in a business
transaction; as this is. I think, Auntie, we must wait till we have
all the documents, before we can complete this transaction!'
Leonard was seriously alarmed. If the matter of the loan were not
gone on with at once the jeweller's bill could not be paid by Monday,
and the result would be another scene with his father. He turned to
Stephen and said as charmingly as he could, and he was all in earnest
'I'm awfully sorry! But these debts have been so worrying me that
they put lots of things out of my head. That bill to be paid on
Monday, when I haven't a feather to fly with, is enough to drive a
fellow off his chump. The moment I lay my hands on the letter I
shall keep it with me so that I can't forget it again. Won't you
forgive me for this time?'
'Forgive!' she answered, with a laugh. 'Why it's not worth
forgiveness! It is not worth a second thought! All right! Leonard,
make your mind easy; the bill will be paid on Monday!' Miss Rowly
'I have to be in London on Monday afternoon; I can pay it for you.'
This was a shock to Leonard; he said impulsively:
'Oh, I say! Can't I ... ' His words faded away as the old lady
again raised her lorgnon and gazed at him calmly. She went on:
'You know, my dear, it won't be even out of my way, as I have to call
at Mr. Malpas's office, and I can go there from the hotel in Regent
Street.' This was all news to Stephen. She did not know that her
aunt had intended going to London; and indeed she did not know of any
business with Mr. Malpas, whose firm had been London solicitor to the
Rowlys for several generations. She had no doubt, however, as to the
old lady's intention. It was plain to her that she wanted to help.
So she thanked her sweetly. Leonard could say nothing. He seemed to
he left completely out of it. When Stephen rose, as a hint to him
that it was time for him to go, he said humbly, as he left:
'Would it be possible that I should have the receipt before Monday
evening? I want to show it to my father.'
'Certainly!' said the old lady, answering him. 'I shall be back by
the two o'clock train; and if you happen to be at the railway station
at Norcester when I arrive I can give it to you!'
He went away relieved, but vindictive; determined in his own mind
that when he had received the money for the rest of the debts he
would see Stephen, when the old lady was not present, and have it out