“Yes, sir, I have heard you say that.”
“I don’t think I am easily taken in, and that boy impressed me as thoroughly honest. But of course I don’t pretend to be infallible and it appears that I have been mistaken in him.”
The merchant looked troubled, for he had come to feel a sincere regard for Rodney. He confessed to himself that he would rather have found any of the other clerks dishonest.
“You may send Ropes to me,” he said, “Mr. Redwood, and you will please come with him. We will investigate this matter at once.”
“Very well, sir.”
CHARGED WITH THEFT.
Rodney entered Mr. Goodnow’s office without a suspicion of the serious accusation which had been made against him. The first hint that there was anything wrong came to him when he saw the stern look in the merchants eyes.
“Perhaps,” said Mr. Goodnow, as he leaned back in his chair and fixed his gaze on the young clerk, “you may have an idea why I have sent for you.”
“No, sir,” answered Rodney, looking puzzled.
“You can’t think of any reason I may have for wishing to see you?”
“No, sir,” and Rodney returned Mr. Goodnow’s gaze with honest unfaltering eyes.
“Possibly you are not aware that within a few weeks some articles have been missed from our stock.”
“I have not heard of it. What kind of articles?”
“The boy is more artful than I thought!” soliloquized the merchant.
“All the articles missed,” he proceeded, “have been from the room in charge of Mr. Redwood, the room in which you, among others, are employed.”
Something in Mr. Goodnow’s tone gave Rodney the hint of the truth. If he had been guilty he would have flushed and showed signs of confusion. As it was, he only wished to learn the truth and he in turn became the questioner.
“Is it supposed,” he asked, “that any one in your employ is responsible for these thefts?”
“Is any one in particular suspected?”
“Will you tell me who, that is if you think I ought to know?”
“Certainly you ought to know, for it is you who are suspected.”
Then Rodney became indignant.
“I can only deny the charge in the most emphatic terms,” he said. “If any one has brought such a charge against me, it is a lie.”
“You can say that to Mr. Redwood, for it is he who accuses you.”
“What does this mean, Mr. Redwood?” demanded Rodney quickly. “What have you seen in me that leads you to accuse me of theft.”
“To tell the truth, Ropes, you are about the last clerk in my room whom I would have suspected. But early this morning this letter was received,” and he placed in Rodney’s hands the letter given in a preceding chapter.
Rodney read it through and handed it back scornfully.