“I suppose that Mr. Heigham will leave to-morrow on the understanding we mentioned?” she said carelessly, but in a significant tone.
The hand was withdrawn as carelessly as it had come, leaving the cheque, blushing in all its naked beauty, upon the table. Philip took it as deliberately as he could, and put it in his pocket. Then, rising, he said good-bye, adding, as he passed through the door:
“Remember, I have no responsibility in the matter. I wash my hands of it, and wish to hear nothing about it.”
“The thousand pounds has done it,” reflected Lady Bellamy. “I told George that he would rise greedily at money. I have not watched him for twenty years for nothing. Fancy selling an only daughter’s happiness in life for a thousand pounds, and such a daughter too! I wonder how much he would take to murder her, if he were certain that he would not be found out. Upon my word, my work grows quite interesting. That cur, Philip, is as good as a play,” and she laughed her own peculiar laugh.
Into Philip’s guilty thoughts, as he wended his homeward way, we will not inquire, and indeed, for all the warm glow that the thousand pound cheque in his pocket diffused through his system, they were not to be envied. Perhaps no scoundrel presents at heart such a miserable object to himself and all who know him, as the scoundrel who attempts to deceive himself and, whilst reaping its profits, tries to shoulder the responsibility of his iniquity on to the backs of others!
Unfortunately, in this prosaic world of bargains, one cannot receive cheques for one thousand pounds without, in some shape or form, giving a quid pro quo. Now Philip’s quid was to rid his house and the neighbourhood of Arthur Heigham, his guest and his daughter’s lover. It was not a task he liked, but the unearned cheque in his breeches-pocket continually reminded him of the obligation it entailed.
When Arthur came to smoke his pipe with his host that evening, the latter looked so gloomy and depressed, that he wondered to himself if he was going to be treated to a repetition of the shadow scene, little guessing that there was something much more personally unpleasant before him.
“Heigham,” Philip said, suddenly, and looking studiously in the other direction, “I want to speak to you. I have been thinking over our conversation of about a week ago on the subject of your engagement to Angela, and have now come to a final determination. I may say at once that I approve of you in every way” (here his hearer’s heart bounded with delight), “but, under all the circumstances, I don’t think that I should be right in sanctioning an immediate engagement. You are not sufficiently sure of each other for that. I may seem old-fashioned, but I am a great believer in the virtue of constancy, and I’m anxious,