’"It is too late, Leah,” she kept saying; “we cannot hide it from Giles now, and I must have the money, and you must help me to get it.” And then she whispered that I should have some of it for Bob.
’"It is a nasty bit of business, Miss Etta,” I replied, for I did not want to spare her; “it is forgery, that is what they would call it in a court of law”; but she would not let me finish, but flung herself upon me with a suppressed scream, and I could not shake her off. She kept saying that she would destroy herself if I would not help her: so I turned it over in my mind. I wanted money for Bob, and—well, sir, the devil had a deal to do with that night’s business. I had settled it all before an hour was over. Bob would go up to London with the cheque, and cash it at the bank: he was tall and fair, and a suit of Mr. Eric’s old clothes would make him quite the gentleman, and no one would notice the scar; when he was safely off and you missed the cheque there would be little trouble in casting the blame on Mr. Eric. I had taken care to place the letter in the desk, and I had plenty of circumstantial evidence to offer.
’Well, you know the rest, sir,—how you called Miss Etta into your study, and how she begged you to send for me. I had my story all ready,—my fear of thieves, and how I saw Mr. Eric standing with his hand in your desk. Of course the cheque could not be found: no one believed the poor young gentleman’s ravings, especially after his talk with Miss Gladys. We took care that the telegram should not be sent too soon. Bob was on his way back by then, and before evening Dryden had his money, and Bob was safe in Clerkenwell. What is the good of my repeating it all? I shielded Miss Etta at Mr. Eric’s expense; and, though I was sorry enough to drive him away from his home, we had to look to our own safety, and Miss Etta was nearly out of her mind with remorse and terror.’ But here Mr. Hamilton’s voice interrupted her harshly.
’Wait a moment, woman: have you ever since that day heard anything of that unfortunate boy?’
To my surprise Leah hesitated. ’Miss Etta believes that he is dead, sir; but I can’t help differing from her, though I never told her the reason; but I have fancied more than once,—indeed I am speaking the truth now, sir,’ as he darted a meaning look at her, ’I have no motive to do otherwise.—I have fancied that I have seen some one very like Mr. Eric lurking about the road on a dark night. Once I was nearly sure it was Mr. Eric, though he wore a workman’s dress as a disguise. He was looking at the windows; the blind was up in the study, and Miss Gladys was there with Mr. Cunliffe; he had made her laugh about something. It was a warm night, and rather wet, and the window was open; I was just shutting it when I caught sight of him, and nearly called out; but he turned away quickly, and hid himself in the shrubbery, and though I went out to look for him I was too late, for I could see him walking down the road.’