< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >


[-233-] 

CHAPTER LXXVI.

 COUNT ALTERONI'S FIFTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS.

ON the Saturday morning following the Thursday on which the above-mentioned conversation took place, the count and his family were seated at breakfast.
    The morning paper was late; and his lordship was one of those persons who cannot enjoy their repast without the intellectual association of a journal.
    At length the wished-for print arrived; and the count was soon burled in the preceding night's debate in the House of Commons - for he felt deeply interested in all political affairs, no matter to which country they referred.
    "Really this Greenwood is a very clever man," he observed, after a long interval of silence. "He acquitted himself well last evening, notwithstanding the erroneous course he is pursuing in the political sphere. The Tories of this country have obtained a powerful auxiliary in him. It in a pity he is so unprincipled a villain - for, I repeat, he is really very clever."
    "It is astonishing how men of his stamp contrive to push themselves forward in the world," said the countess, "while those of honest principles and upright minds are either misunderstood, or vilely persecuted."
    "And yet vice only prospers for a time," observed Isabella; "and virtue becomes triumphant at last. Those who are misunderstood today will be comprehended and honoured to-morrow."
    [-234-] She thought of Markham as she uttered these words: indeed, the image of her lover was ever uppermost in the mind of the charming and affectionate girl.
    "I am afraid," said the count, after a pause, "that the moral you have just advanced, Bella, is rather that of the stage and the romancist than of real life. And yet," he added fervently, "to entertain such an idea as mine is to question the goodness and the justice of Providence. Yes - I must believe in earthly rewards and punishments. You are right, my child - you are right: the wicked man will not ever triumph in his turpitude; nor may the virtuous, one be oppressed until the end."
    "No - or else were there small hope for us," said the countess solemnly. "The great men of Castelcicala must some day perceive who is their real friend."
    "Alas!" exclaimed Isabella, "it is hard to be mistaken and suspected by those whose good opinions we would fain secure."
    The count resumed the perusal of the newspaper; but his eyes had not dwelt many minutes upon the page ere he uttered a loud exclamation of mingled astonishment and alarm.
    The ladies looked towards him in a state of the most painful suspense: and this feeling was not immediately removed, for the count, with an ashy pale face, continued to read the article that had caught his eyes, for some moments, ore he explained the cause of his emotion.
    "Heavens!" exclaimed the countess, "are there any bad tidings from Italy?"
    "No - the hand which strikes the blow which ruins us, is not so far distant," answered the nobleman; throwing the paper upon the table. "Ah ! we were premature," he continued bitterly, "in founding our hopes upon the justice with which virtue is rewarded and vice punished!"
    "The blow which ruins us?" said the countess, a prey to the most acute anxiety.
    "Yes - Tomhinson has stopped payment," cried the Italian exile; "and - and we are ruined!"
    "My dear father," said Isabella, hastening to fling her arms around the neck of her much-loved sire, "all may not be so bad as you imagine!"
    "Ruined!" repeated the countess; and, taking up the newspaper, the following article instantly met her eyes:- 

"ROBBERY AND STOPPAGE OP TOMLINSON'S BANK.

The City was yesterday morning thrown into a state of the greatest fermentation by a rumour which prevailed at about eleven o'clock, that the, above-mentioned old-established and well-known banking establishment had been plundered to an enormous amount, and had suspended its payments. Unfortunately the rumour was but too true; and our reporter, upon repairing to Lombard Street, found an immense crowd collected in front of the bank. The doors were closed; and the following notice was posted up :- 'JAMES TOMLINSON is under the     painful necessity of suspending the affairs of the bank, at least for the present. The flight of the cashier, with money and securities to an amount bordering upon a hundred thousand pounds, is the cause of this unfortunate step. Further particulars will be made known as speedily as possible.' It is impossible to describe the dismay which was depleted upon the countenances of those amongst the crowd who are sufferers by this calamity; and many very painful scenes took place. One widow lady who had placed her little all in the concern, and who arrived upon the spot, to draw her half-yearly interest, only a few moments after the doors were closed, was taken away in a state of madness. We have since learnt that the unfortunate lady has entirely lost her reason.
    "Our reporter upon prosecuting his inquiries, gleaned the following particulars of the occurrence which led to the stoppage of the bank; and we have every reason it, believe that the narrative which they furnish may be relied upon.
    "It appears that the cashier, whose name was Michael Martin, is a very old man, and has been for many years in the service of the present and late proprietors of the bank. His presumed integrity, his known experience, and his general conduct, had led to his elevation to the post of head cashier - a situation which he has filled for upwards of ten years, without exciting a suspicion relative to his proceedings. It is, however, supposed that he must have been pursuing a most nefarious course for a considerable length of time, for reasons which we shall state presently. On Thursday evening, Mr. Tomlinson, who, it appears, is the sole proprietor of the establishment, although the business has been all along carried on under its original denomination of Tomlinson & Co., quitted the bank at five o'clock, as usual, leaving the cashier to see all safe, and close the establishment for the day, according to custom. When Mr. Sanderson, one of the clerks, arrived at the bank at nine o'clock yesterday morning, he was surprised to find that the doors were not yet opened. The other clerks arrived shortly afterwards, and their surprise at length turned into alarm. Still the integrity of the cashier was not for a moment suspected; it was, however, imagined that something must have happened to him - an idea that was strengthened by the fact that the cashier occupied a room in the establishment. and there was consequently no reason to account for the doors remaining closed. The char-woman, who waited upon the cashier and swept out the bank, &c., came up to the door while the clerks were thus deliberating, and stated that she had not been able to obtain admission that morning as usual. It was now determined by Mr. Sanderson to obtain the assistance of a policemen, and force an entrance. This was done; and egress was obtained by breaking through the windows and shutters (which close inside) of the bank parlour. Mr. Sanderson and the constable immediately proceeded to the cashier's private room, which is on the ground-floor, and in which the iron safe was kept. The bed had not been slept in during the night Attention was then directed to the safe, when its found that it was open, and its contents had been abstracted. The front door of the bank was opened, and the clerks admitted. Mr. Tomlinson was then immediately sent for. That gentleman arrived by ten o'clock; and a farther investigation took place under his directions. The result of this search was a discovery that not only had the specie, notes, and securities disappeared, but even the cash-books, and all the papers that could throw any light upon the financial affairs of the establishment. It is this circumstance which induces a belief that the cashier must have carried on a system of plunder for a considerable length of time.
    We regret to state that the shock was so great that Mr. Tomlinson was conveyed to his residence in a state bordering upon distraction."

"FURTHER PARTICULARS

    "A reward of £3000 has been offered for the apprehension of the cashier; and a description of his person has been forwarded to all the, principal seaports. [For Description see our advertising columns.] Our reporter learnt last evening that Mr. Tomlinson was more composed, and had even exerted himself to consult with some friends upon the· best course to pursue. It, however, appears that so entirely did he confide in his cashier, that he is only able to give a vague and meagre account of the nature of the securities abstracted. They were, however, the bills and bonds of several great foreign and colonial mercantile houses. We regret to hear that Mr. G. M. Greenwood, M.P., had paid a considerable sum of money into the bank, on Thursday morning. it appears that upwards of fifty thousand pounds in specie and notes (the numbers of which are now unknown, they having been entered in one of the books taken away) and forty-four, thousand in securities have disappeared.
    "There is every reason to suppose that the delinquent will be speedily coloured, as it is impossible for him to travel with a large amount of specie without exciting suspicion."

"LATEST PARTICULARS.

    "In order to institute the fullest and most complete investigation into the affairs of the bank, it was resolved, at a late hour last evening, at a meeting of the principal creditors, Mr. Greenwood in the chair, that a docket should he struck against Mr. Tomlinson. At the same time, it is our duty to observe that this is done with no ill-feeling towards that gentleman, who is deserving only of universal sympathy, and, in no way, of blame."
    [-235-] "The name of that man Greenwood, in connexion with this affair," said the count, "impresses me with the idea that all is not right. Moreover, how could the cashier have removed a large quantity of specie without attracting attention in a thoroughfare so frequented at all hours as Lombard Street? There is something wrong at the foundation of this history of the robbery."
    "Alas! little does it matter now to us, whether Mr. Tomlinson be a false or an unfortunate man," said the countess; "there is one thing certain - we are ruined!"
    "Yes - my dearest wife, my beloved daughter," exclaimed the count, "we are in a pitiable situation - in a foreign land! It is true that I have friends: the Earl of Warrington - Lord Tremordyn, both of whom know our secret, and have faithfully kept it - would gladly assist me; but I would not - could not apply to them - even though it be to settle the few debts which I owe!"
    "Still there remains one course," said the countess, hesitating, and regarding her husband with anxious timidity.
    "One course!" ejaculated the count. "Ah! I know full well to what you allude; but never, never will I sell my rights for gold! No, my dear wife - my beloved daughter - we must prepare ourselves to meet our misfortunes in a becoming manner."
    "Dear father," murmured Isabella, "your goodness has conferred upon me an excellent education: surely I might turn to advantage some of three accomplishments —"
    "You, my sweetest girl!" cried the nobleman, surveying with feelings of ineffable pride the angelic countenance of the lovely being that was leaning upon his shoulder: "you - my own darling girl - a lady of your high rank become a governess! no - never, never!"
    "Isabella, you are worthy of your noble sire," said the countess enthusiastically.
    And, even in the hour of their misfortune, that exiled - ruined family found inexpressible solace in the sweet balm of each other's love!

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >