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r 0 [ALL Rights Ejesektto.]…

J. [Aia Bights RESEBVTO.J.…




I[All Rights Rkservkd.] Christmas…

r 0 [ALL Rights Ejesektto.]…


relationship had been long and friendly, I had blasted his last hope. The bank could not i.toiid further credit, and the heavy bills payable on the 27th would be dishonoured. After that—bankruptcy. io a modern business many things may happen in the course of three years. The history of Marlow and Lockyer over that period would mean a long story. Enough to say that Lockyer, handicapped by his initial borrowing, had found the first two years so profitless that he had dropped his principles and entered des- perately into big risks. But a certain genius is required for successful specula- tion, and that genius seemed to have quitted the business along with Marlow. The hazards of Lockyer resulted iu nothing but disaster He was alone in his private room—alone on the premises. The clerks—their number reduced since Marlow's time—had gone an hour ago, the youngsters in holiday mood, the elders vaguely uneasy. Lockyer trusted no one with his secrets, but such things leak out, and his manner on his return from the bank had been very strange. He sat at his desk, motionless, his head in his hands. There was nothing to detain him there. He was simply afraid to go home. He had kept his wife in the I h e youl.,?ger dark regarding his affairs. The younger members of his family—the oldest, a girl. was not yet sixteen—were hav-ing a party that evening. How could he face them all? He felt that the mere sight of him would blight their happiness. "My Cud?' iH whispered, "what a! iis thing to happen on Christmas [<Jve!N I'Ll is tired mind wont-baok to its feverish, futile search-the search that bad occupied it throughout those recent, torturing weeks -II- I i(- search for a way of escape, for the name of some fellow being who might, posr- sibly be induced to lend a helping hand. Hut it was only another spasm of vaiu beating against the bars. There waR no way out; there was no fellow being who would aid save, per- haps, one, Marlow. Surely Marlow would do it—if only because it was Christmas Eve. But Marlow was still wandering abroad, Lockyer know not where. His senses dulled by h; mental misery. Lockyer scarcely heard the. opening of the outer door. When footsteps drew nckr the private room he did not stir. A clerk returned for some article forgotten —the char-woman—it mattered not. But when a knock fell on the door, he eat up, groped for a pencil, and feigned to be bu?y. lie moistened his lips and got out the words, Come in." A stranger entered; a man, ?HIl young, well-dret?cd. but apparently ill at ease. I beg vour pardon, ho said, halting awkwardly just within the threshold, but I saw the light in ,thc window, and I was anxious to have a word with Mr. Marlow." He paused, paling a little as  be met the curious dull stare of Lockyer's eyes. Has Mr. Marlow gone home? I should like very much to find him to- night." lxickyer cleared his throat. "Mr. Mar- low is abroad. I do not know his ad- | dress." AbroadThe word was charged with dismay. c. Can you tell me when he will return?" The question came after another pause." "I cannot." The stranger gighed. M I had hoped," lie said softly, lT to offer-to do Mr. Mar- low a little service. I arrived from Buenos Aires but an hour ago. The; steamer was delayed at the laft." May I ask w ho you are?" Lockyer had been asking himself who the stranger, faintly familiar, might be, but his over- wrought memory had offered no answer. The stranger sighed again. "Don't you remember Dennison, Mr. Lockyer?" l Dennison?" Tie thief on whop you hqjd such great mercy, eleven years ago this very night?" Mcrcy?—I?" You, Mr. Lockyer. Ah, Mr. Marlow told me how you sacrificed your principles to be lenient and how you joined with him in giving me that hundred pounds Stop!" Tor a moment Lockyer's pallid countenance -as seavie-t. "1 see you don't wish me to refer to it," said Dcniusoti. "Well, my thanks, would never give you any idea of my gratitude." You owe me no gratitude." Dennison smiled faintly. Nothing you can ever say;" lie said gently, will convince me of that. But now I can say i. to you what I wished to say to Mr. Mar- j low. I had Mr. Marlow first in my mind be- j cause he was senior; and also, perhaps, because he—shook hands with me that night. I can't tell you what that meant, ■■ Mr. Lockyer." I There was a silence. The ruined man; i made as if to rise. What was he now that he should refuse his hand? Had he been! so very honest in the risking of other peopled moneyF Legitimate business, no doubt—but could it be called absolutely, straight? He sank back in his chair. At least he need not act the hypocrite. 1 must repeat," he said. stiffly, that you owe me no gratitude—quite the re- verse. Once more Dennison smiled faintly and shook his head. As you will, sir. But I I know what Mr. imarilow, told me. And 1 now-" "I ought to have informed you that Mr. Marlow is no longer a meni bP, i- of this! firm. He retired more than three years I ago. Retired! Then he is not involved-I beg your pardon, Mr. Lockyer. It may seem impertinent, but i#s everything well and prosperous with him?" I have no reason to doubt it, Mr. Dennison. TIc left the firm at the height lof its prosperity," Lockyer was writing [erratically on the blotting-paper. "At the height of its prosj)erity, he muttered. Height of its prosperity." He had become ghastly. Height of I 99 Mr. Lockyer, you're ill ■" cried Dennison. I'm perfectly w-ell-perfeetly well- perfectJy-" Dennison took a step forward. You are in great trouble. On board the I steamer I heard—no, never mind that. But if you <Sin tell me a little, perhaps Lockyer pulled himself together. U What did vou hear on the steamer." Then he collapsed again. Oh, what does it matter? it:il be in the papers in a few days. We suspend payment on Friday." Dennison's lips quivered slightly as he looked down on the bowed head of the man whom he counted a benefactor. He took an envelope from his pocket. I Mr. Lockyer," he Raid shyly, this is a draft on the Bank of England for eight thousand pounds. I will endorse it to the firm. If it should prove suffi- cient to save your credit, 111 find happi- ness in the thought till the end of my life. 1 beg you to accept it." A long minute passed ero Lockyer raised his head. Emotion had wrought new lines on his face. The money you have offered me, Mr. Dennison," he said very slowly, would save me but I cannot take it." It was honestly come by," returned Dennison quietly. "I have had some fortunate deals in land out there." For Heaven's sake don't misunderstand me! I can't take it—because—eleven years ago I-I would have sent you to jail." But you thought better—more kindly —of it," said Dennison almost cheerfully. He came up to the desk. May I use one of your pens ? Dennison, I can't let you do it. I'm humbled to the dust." -No, sir. You are lii'tim? me from that. I'u go back to the Argent in- iw "You go back soon?" Lockyer spoke absently. To-night. Sail from the Clyde to- morrow." Lockyer appeared to wake up. H But you have just arrived." The younger man reddened. Found a cable recalling me." He stooped and wrote across the back of the draft and passed it over to Lockyer. What man, worried almost to death, could reject the salvation expressed in that oblong of green paper ? "As a loan, Dennison, as a loan," he said huskily, weakly. Very well, Mr. Lockyer, I'll send you my Buenos Aires address when I get there. I'm making a change." Dennison spoke hurriedly, looking uncomfortable. "Didn't expect to return tlcre so soon, you know. Now, sir, if you will do me the honour to shake hands Oh, man, why, should I take this money ? cried Lockyer. Why should you give it? Denni son's faint smile came again. It's Christmas Eve," he replied. "T", t's what Mr. Marlow said to me, eleven years ago.