“Good gracious! I hope no one will suspect me,” said Jasper in pretended alarm.
“It seems I am suspected. I hope no other innocent person will have a like misfortune.”
Presently they reached Rodney’s lodgings. Mrs. McCarty was coming up the basement stairs as they entered.
“La, Mr. Ropes!” she said, “what brings you here in the middle of the day?”
“I hear there is a parcel in my room.”
“Yes; it contains such a lovely cloak. The gentleman from your store who called a little while ago thought you might have meant it as a present for me.”
“I am afraid it will be some time before I can afford to make such present. Do you know if any one called and left the cloak here?”
“No; I didn’t let in no one at the door.”
“Was the parcel there when you made the bed?”
“Well, no, it wasn’t. That is curious.”
“It shows that the parcel has been left here since. Now I certainly couldn’t have left it, for I have been at work all the morning. Come up stairs, Jasper.”
The two boys went up the stairs, and, entering Rodney’s room, found the parcel, still on the bed.
Rodney opened it and identified the cloak as exactly like those which they carried in stock.
He examined the paper in which it was inclosed, but it seemed to differ from the wrapping paper used at the store. He called Jasper’s attention to this.
“I have nothing to say,” remarked Jasper, shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t understand the matter at all. I suppose you are expected to carry the cloak back to the store.”
“Yes, that is the only thing to do.”
“I say, Ropes, it looks pretty bad for you.”
Jasper said this, but Rodney observed that his words were not accompanied by any expressions of sympathy, or any words that indicated his disbelief of Rodney’s guilt.
“Do you think I took this cloak from the store?” he demanded, facing round upon Jasper.
“Really, I don’t know. It looks bad, finding it in your room.”
“I needn’t ask any further. I can see what you think.”
“You wouldn’t have me tell a lie, would you, Ropes? Of course such things have been done before, and your salary is small.”
“You insult me by your words,” said Rodney, flaming up.
“Then I had better not speak, but you asked me, you know.”
“Yes, I did. Things may look against me, but I am absolutely innocent.”
“If you can make Mr. Goodnow think so,” said Jasper with provoking coolness, “it will be all right. Perhaps he will forgive you.”
“I don’t want his forgiveness. I want him to think me honest.”
“Well, I hope you are, I am sure, but it won’t do any good our discussing it, and it doesn’t make any difference what I think any way.”
By this time they had reached the store.