“I’m prepared to make sacrifices myself to help right some of this wrong—”
“I had to make many for you, my boy, before you were old enough to understand it—before my own position was assured. Ay, and since too. I would have flung it all up years ago but for you. I wanted you to be set firmly on your feet before the crash came. It has been killing work. I’m glad it’s over—whatever the end may be. If you can’t see your way to help me, the end is obvious and close at hand. I have, I think, something under two pounds in my pocket. If I’d waited to get more I should not be here. The end came unexpectedly. Old Coxley called for some securities which I had—which I couldn’t give him at the moment, and I had to go at once or not at all.”
Charles stood up. He would have liked to tell him all he felt about the matter. How the tampering with securities hit him more hardly than almost anything could have done, since straight dealing in such matters is the very first of Stock Exchange tenets. How, if he had come to him, he would have strained himself to the utmost to set things right.
But, facile talker as he was on matters that were of no account, he found himself strangely tongue-tied here.
“Well?” he asked. “Will you let me help you?”
“As you will, my boy ... If you do, it offers me a chance—my only chance. If you don’t——” he shrugged his heavy shoulders meaningly.
“Do what I ask,” urged Charles. “It is the only possible amends you can make.”
Mr. Pixley shook his head. “It is out of the question. I could do nothing with three hundred a year——”
“You could live quietly on that in many places.”
“I don’t want simply to live. I want to work and redeem myself.”
“You have worked hard enough and long enough,” said Charles; and he might have added, as was in his mind, “And it has all ended in this.”
“I would like to help you,” he said, as he moved slowly towards the door, striving hard to keep the stiff upper lip Graeme had enjoined on him. “But I don’t think you should expect me to do what I know to be wrong. I’ll do what I said——”
Mr. Pixley shook his head. His face was gray, his lips pinched in. Charles went out and closed the door behind him.
But he could not leave him so. He had known from the first that he would have to help him, right or wrong.
He opened the door again quietly and went in. His father was sitting at the table with his head in his hands. Charles laid down the money he had, with Graeme’s assistance, prepared, laid his hand on his shoulder for a moment, and went quietly out again, and out of the house.
It was a miserable business altogether. He never forgot that last sight of him sitting at the mean little table in the mean little room with his head in his hands.