“He’ll see you again,” Aynesworth said hurriedly. “Come along.”
The boy wrung his hand.
“You’re a brick!” he declared.
THE HIDDEN HAND
Wingrave glanced up as they entered. He motioned Nesbitt to a chair by his side, but the young man remained standing.
“My secretary tells me,” Wingrave said curtly, “that you cannot pay me what you owe.”
“It’s more than I possess in the world, sir,” Nesbitt answered.
“It is not a large amount,” Wingrave said. “I do not see how you can carry on business unless you can command such a sum as this.”
Nesbitt moistened his dry lips with his tongue.
“I have only been doing a very small business, sir,” he answered, “but quite enough to make a living. I don’t speculate as a rule. Hardwells seemed perfectly safe, or I wouldn’t have touched them. I sold at four. They are not worth one. I could have bought thousands last week for two dollars.”
“That is beside the question,” Wingrave answered. “If you do not pay this, you have cheated me out of my profits for I should have placed the commission with brokers who could. Why did you wish to see me again?”
“I thought that you might give me time,” Nesbitt answered, raising his head and looking Wingrave straight in the face. “It seems rather a low down thing to come begging. I’d rather cut my right hand off than do it for myself, but I’ve—someone else to think about, and if I’m hammered, I’m done for. Give me a chance, Mr. Wingrave! I’ll pay you in time.”
“What do you ask for?” Wingrave said.
“I thought that you might give me time,” Nesbitt said, “and I’ll pay you the rest off with the whole of my profits every year.”
“A most absurd proposal,” Wingrave said coolly. “I will instruct my brokers to take twenty thousand dollars down, and wait one week for the balance. That is the best offer I can make you. Good day!”
The young man stood as though he were stunned.
“I—I can’t find it,” he faltered. “I can’t indeed.”
“Your resources are not my affair,” Wingrave said. “I shall instruct my broker to do as I have said. If the money is not forthcoming, you know the alternative.”
“You mean to ruin me, then?” Nesbitt said slowly.
“I mean to exact the payment of what is due to me,” Wingrave said curtly. “If you cannot pay, it seems to me that I am the person to be pitied—not you. Show Mr. Nesbitt out, Aynesworth.”
Nesbitt turned towards the door. He was very pale, but he walked steadily. He did not speak another word to Wingrave.
“I’m beastly sorry,” Aynesworth said to him on the stairs. “I wish I could help you!”
“Thank you,” Nesbitt answered. “No one can help me. I’m through.”
Aynesworth returned to the sitting room. Wingrave had lit a cigarette and watched him as he arranged some papers.