On a sudden he jumped into a cab, and was driven back to his office. A thought had come upon him. He would throw himself upon the kindness of a friend there. Hitherto he had contrived to hold his head high above the clerks below him, so high before the Commissioners who were above him, that none there suspected him to be a man in difficulty. It not seldom happens that a man’s character stands too high for his interest—so high that it cannot be maintained, and so high that any fall will be dangerous. And so it was with Crosbie and his character at the General Committed Office. The man to whom he was now thinking of applying as his friend was a certain Mr Butterwell, who had been his predecessor in the secretary’s chair, and who now filled the less onerous but more dignified position of a Commissioner. Mr Crosbie had somewhat despised Mr Butterwell, and had of late years not been averse to showing that he did so. He had snubbed Mr Butterwell, and Mr Butterwell, driven to his wits’ ends, had tried a fall or two with him. In all these struggles Crosbie had had the best of it, and Butterwell had gone to the wall. Nevertheless, for the sake of official decency, and from certain wise remembrances of the sources of official comfort and official discomfort, Mr Butterwall had always maintained a show of outward friendship with the secretary. They smiled and were gracious, called each other Butterwell and Crosbie, and abstained from all cat-and-dog absurdities. Nevertheless, it was the frequently expressed opinion of every clerk in the office that Mr Butterwell hated Mr Crosbie like poison. This was the man to whom Crosbie suddenly made up his mind that he would have recourse.
As he was driven back to the office he resolved that he would make a plunge at once at the difficulty. He knew that Butterwell was fairly rich, and he knew also that he was good-natured—with that sort of sleepy good-nature which is not active for philanthropic purposes, but which dislikes to incur the pain of refusing. And then Mr Butterwell was nervous, and if the thing was managed well, he might be cheated out of an assent, before time had been given him in which to pluck up courage for refusing. But Crosbie doubted his own courage also—fearing that if he gave himself time for hesitation he would hesitate, and that, hesitating, he would feel the terrible disgrace of the thing and not do it. So, without going to his own desk, or ridding himself of his hat, he went at once to Butterwell’s room. When he opened the door, he found Mr Butterwell alone, reading The Times. ‘Butterwell,’ said he, beginning to speak before he had even closed the door, ’I have come to you in great distress. I wonder whether you can help me; I want you to lend me five hundred pounds? It must be for not less than three months.’
Mr Butterwell dropped the paper from his hands, and stared at the secretary over his spectacles.