“If you wish to be convinced, proof is at hand. Wait a moment.”
Ralph Pendleton rose from his seat and left the counting-room. Two minutes had not passed when he returned with an elderly man, thin of face and wasted in figure, looking twenty years older than Mr. Stanton, though really of about the same age.
“This is David Marston,” said Ralph—“the living proof that I have told you the truth.”
Mr. Stanton gazed at him wildly, for to him it was as the face of one risen from the dead.
“How do you do, Mr. Stanton?” said David Marston, humbly. “It is many, many years since we met, sir.”
“Are you really David Marston?” demanded Mr. Stanton, never taking his eyes off the shrunken figure of his old clerk.
“I am, sir; greatly changed indeed, but still the David Marston who was formerly in your employ. Time hasn’t treated me as well as it has you, sir. I’ve been unlucky, and aged fast.”
“I am afraid your mind is also affected. You have been telling strange stories to Mr. Pendleton here.”
“True stories, sir,” said David, firmly.
“Come, come, how much is he going to give you for this evidence of yours?”
“Stop, Mr. Stanton! You insult us both,” said Ralph Pendleton, sternly. “I am not the man to buy false evidence, nor is David Marston the man to perjure himself for pay. David, I want you, in Mr. Stanton’s presence, to make a clear statement of his connection with the mining company by which I lost my fortune.”
David Marston obeyed, and in a few words as possible unfolded the story. It is not necessary to repeat it here. Enough that it fully substantiated the charge which Ralph had brought against his early guardian,
When he had finished, Ralph said, “You can judge what weight Marston’s testimony would have before a court of justice, and whether it would help your commercial standing to have his story made public.”
“What is it you want of me?” said Mr. Stanton, sullenly.
“I want restitution, dollar for dollar, of my lost money. I will waive interest, though I might justly claim it. But, were it all paid, interest and principal, the wrong would not be redressed. You cannot restore the bride who would have been mine but for your villainy.”
How much time will you give me to pay this money?” asked the merchant, moodily.
“It is a short time.”
“It must suffice. Do you agree?”
“Bind yourself to that, and for ten days I leave you free.”
Satisfactory security was given that the engagement would be met, and Ralph Pendleton left the counting-room. But his countenance was scarcely more cheerful than that of the man he had conquered.
“I am rich,” he said to himself; “but of what avail is it? Whom can I benefit with my wealth?”
This thought had scarcely crossed his mind when he came face to face with Herbert, walking with a sad and downcast face in the opposite direction.