The arms were stretched out across the table; the head rested on it; the man was utterly crushed.
Whilst he was so, the little office door opened softly, and a pale, worn, haggard face looked in. It was the father of the poor man’s child in mortal danger from privation and hereditary consumption. That haggard face was come to ask the favor of employment, and bread for his girl, from the rich man whose child was clay.
The two fathers.
Hope looked wistfully at that crushed figure, and hesitated; it seemed neither kind nor politic to intrude business upon grief.
But if the child was Bartley’s idol, money was his god, and soon in his strange mind defeated avarice began to vie with nobler sorrow. His child dead! his poor little flower withered, and her death robbed him of L20,000, and indeed of ten times that sum, for he had now bought experience in trade and speculation, and had learned to make money out of money, a heap out of a handful. Stung by this vulgar torment in its turn, he started suddenly up, and dashed his wife’s will down upon the floor in a fury, and paced the room excitedly. Hope still stood aghast, and hesitated to risk his application.
But presently Bartley caught sight of him, and stared at him, but said nothing.
Then the poor fellow saw it was no use waiting for a better opportunity, so he came forward and carried out Bolton’s instructions; he put on a tolerably jaunty air, and said, cheerfully, “I beg your pardon, sir; can I claim your attention for a moment?”
“What do you want?” asked Bartley, but like a man whose mind was elsewhere.
“Only employment for my talent, sir. I hear you have a vacancy for a manager.”
“Nothing of the sort. I am manager.”
Hope drew back despondent, and his haggard countenance fell at such prompt repulse. But he summoned courage, and, once more acting genial confidence, returned to the attack.
“But you don’t know, sir, in how many ways I can be useful to you. A grand and complicated business like yours needs various acquirements in those who have the honor to serve you. For instance, I saw a small engine at work in your yard; now I am a mechanic, and I can double the power of that engine by merely introducing an extra band and a couple of cogs.”
“It will do as it is,” said Bartley, languidly, “and I can do without a manager.”
Bartley’s manner was not irritated but absorbed. He seemed in all his replies to Hope to be brushing away a fly mechanically and languidly. The poor fly felt sick at heart, and crept away disconsolate. But at the very door he turned, and for his child’s sake made another attempt.
“Have you an opening for a clerk? I can write business letters in French, German, and Dutch; and keep books by double entry.”