Freeling made a motion to rise, but Mrs. Dinneford did not stir.
“Perhaps,” he said, “you decide at once to let things take their course. Understand me, I am ready for either alternative. The election is with yourself.”
Mrs. Dinneford was too much stunned by all this to be able to come to any conclusion. She seemed in the maze of a terrible dream, full of appalling reality. To wait for twenty-four hours in this state of uncertainty was more than her thoughts could endure. And yet she must have time to think, and to get command of her mental resources.
“Will you be disengaged at five o’clock?” she asked.
“I will be here at five.”
Mrs. Dinneford arose with a weary air.
“I shall want to hear from you very explicitly,” she said. “If your demand is anywhere in the range of reason and possibility, I may meet it. If outside of that range, I shall of course reject it. It is possible that you may not hold all the winning cards—in fact, I know that you do not.”
“I will be here at five,” said Freeling.
“Very well. I shall be on time.”
And they turned from each other, passing from the parlor by separate doors.
ONE morning, about two weeks later, Mr. Freeling did not make his appearance at his place of business as usual. At ten o’clock a clerk went to the hotel where he boarded to learn the cause of his absence. He had not been there since the night before. His trunks and clothing were all in their places, and nothing in the room indicated anything more than an ordinary absence.
Twelve o’clock, and still Mr. Freeling had not come to the store. Two or three notes were to be paid that day, and the managing-clerk began to feel uneasy. The bank and check books were in a private drawer in the fireproof of which Mr. Freeling had the key. So there was no means of ascertaining the balances in bank.
At one o’clock it was thought best to break open the private drawer and see how matters stood. Freeling kept three bank-accounts, and it was found that on the day before he had so nearly checked out all the balances that the aggregate on deposit was not over twenty dollars. In looking back over these bank-accounts, it was seen that within a week he had made deposits of over fifty thousand dollars, and that most of the checks drawn against these deposits were in sums of five thousand dollars each.