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[-239-] 

CHAPTER LXXIX.

THE BILL. - A FATHER. 

NOTHING could be more business-like than the study of Mr Greenwood. The sofa was heaped up with papers tied round with red tape, and endorsed, some "Corn-Laws," others "New Poor Law," a third batch "Rottenborough Union," a fourth "Select Committee on Bribery at Elections;" and so on.
    Piles of letters lay upon one table; piles of newspapers upon another; and a number of Reports of various Committees of the House of Commons, easily recognised by their unwieldly shapes and blue covers, was heaped up on the chiffonier between the windows.
    The writing-table was also arranged, with a view to effect, in the manner described upon a former occasion; and in his arm-chair lounged Mr. Greenwood, pleasantly engaged in perusing the daily newspaper which contained the oration that he had delivered in the House on the preceding evening.
    [-240-] It was about three o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Greenwood had risen late, for the House had not separated until half-past two in the morning, and the member for Rottenborough was a man of too decidedly business habits to leave his post in the middle of a debate.
    Lafleur entered, and announced Sir Rupert Harborough.
    "I have called about that bill again," said the baronet. "When it came due at the end of March, we renewed it for four months. It will be due again to-morrow."
    "I am aware of it," said Greenwood. "What do you propose to do ?"
    "I am in no condition to pay it," answered the baronet.
    "You must provide a portion, and renew for the remainder," said Greenwood.
    "It is impossible, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Sir Rupert. "I am completely at low water-mark again, upon my honour!"
    "And yet I have heard that you and Chichester have not been altogether unsuccessful in the play-world during the last few months," observed Greenwood.
    "Not so prosperous as you may fancy," returned the baronet. "Come, what shall we say about this bill?'
    "I have told you. The bill was originally given for fifteen hundred pounds —"
    "For which I only had a thousand."
    "I don't recollect now. At all events, it fell due; and fortunately I had not passed it away."
    "Of course not. You promised to retain it in your portfolio."
    "I don't recollect. You could not pay it; and I agreed to renew it —"
    "On condition of making it sixteen hundred," said the baronet.
    "I don't recollect," observed Greenwood again. "Now you come to me, and tell me that you can do nothing towards it. Things cannot go on so."
    "But you knew very well, Greenwood, when you took it, that the day of payment might be rather distant."
    "I don't recollect. You must bring me the six hundred, and I will renew for the thousand - without interest. There !"
    "And where the devil am I to find six hundred pounds on a sudden like this ?" exclaimed Sir Rupert.
    "I am sure I am not aware of your private resources, my good sir," answered Greenwood, coolly. "You must be well aware that I cannot afford to remain without my money in this manner; and since it would appear you do not wish Lord Tremordyn to know that you have not paid the acceptance which he so kindly lent you —"
    "Lent me!" ejaculated Sir Rupert, now really alarmed.
    "Of course. He could not possibly have owed you the amount."
    "Greenwood, what do you mean by this?" cried the baronet. "Upon my honour, one would almost suppose that you had forgotten the real nature of the transaction."
    "Possibly I may not recall to mind some of the minor details. One thing is, however, certain: I have in my possession a bill bearing your endorsement and accepted by Lord Tremordyn, for sixteen hundred pounds; and I offer you the most easy term. I can think of for its payment."
    "Greenwood, you cannot have forgotten —"
    "Forgotten what?"
    "Forgotten that the acceptance —"
    "Well?"
    "Is not Lord Tremordyn's."
    "The acceptance not Lord Tremordyn's!" cried Mr. Greenwood, affecting to be quite confounded by this statement.
    "Certainly not," answered the baronet. "You yourself suggested to me —"
    "I suggested!" cried Greenwood, now pretending indignation. "Sir Rupert Harborough, what are you aiming at? to what point would you arrive?"
    "Oh! if I were not in the power of this man!" thought the baronet, actually grinding his teeth with rage; but suppressing his feelings, he said, "My dear Greenwood, pray renew this bill for four months more, and it shall ho paid at maturity."
    "No, Sir Rupert Harborough," replied the capitajlst, who had not failed to notice the emotions of concentrated rage which filled the mind of the baronet. "I am decided: give me six hundred pounds, and I renew for the thousand; otherwise —"
    "Otherwise," repeated Sir Rupert mechanically.
    "I shall pay the bill into my banker's this afternoon, and it will be presented for payment at Lord Tremordyn's agent's to-morrow morning."
    "You would not wish to ruin me, Greenwood !" 
    "Such a course will not ruin you: Lord Tremordyn will of course honour his acceptance."
    "Greenwood, you drive me mad !"
    "I am really very sorry to hear it; but if every one who could not meet his bills were driven mad by being asked for payment of them, every third house in the street would become a lunatic-asylum."
    "You can spare your raillery, Mr. Greenwood," said the baronet. "Do you wish to have me transported?"
    "Certainly not. I want a proper settlement in this respect."
    "And how can I settle the bill? Where am I to procure six hundred pounds at a moment's warning?"
    "A moment's warning! you have had four clear months."
    "But I fancied - I hoped you would renew the bill from time to time until I could pay it. You said as much when you lent me the money upon it."
    "I don't recollect."
    "You did indeed; and upon the faith of that promise, I —"
    "I don't recollect."
    "My God! what am I to do?" cried Sir Rupert, despairingly. "I have no means of raising half the sum you require."
    "Then why did you take my money seven months ago?"
    "Why did 1 take the money? why did I take it? Because you yourself proposed the transaction. You said, 'Bring me the acceptance of Lord Tremordyn for fifteen hundred pounds, and I will lend you a thousand upon if immediately.'"
    "I don't recollect."
    "And you said emphatically and distinctly that you should not call upon Lord Tremordyn to inquire if it were his acceptance."
    "Of course not. Amongst gentlemen such a proceeding would be unpardonable."
    "Oh! Greenwood, you affect ignorance in all this! and yet it was you who put the infernal idea into my head —"
    "Sir Rupert Harborough," said the capitalist, rising from his chair; "enough of this! I put no [-241-] 

infernal ideas into any one's head. Settle the bill in the way I propose; or it shall take its course."
    "But - my God! you will send me to the Old Bailey!" cried the baronet, whose countenance was actually livid with rage and alarm.
    "And did you not send Richard Markham thither?" said Greenwood, fixing his piercing dark eyes upon Sir Rupert Harborough in so strange a manner that the unhappy man shrunk from that fearful glance.
    "But what matters that to you?" cried the baronet. "In one word, will you ruin me? or will you give me time to pay this accursed bill?"
    "I have stated my conditions: I will not depart from them," replied Greenwood in a determined manner. "You have plenty of time before you. I will keep the bill back until to-morrow morning at twelve o'clock."
    "Very good, sir," said the baronet, scarcely able to repress his rage.
    Sir Rupert Harborough then withdrew, a prey to feelings more easily imagined than described.
    "Why should I allow this gambler to retain my money without even paying me the interest?" said Greenwood to himself, when he was again alone. "I can keep him In my power as well with a forged bill for a thousand, as for sixteen hundred pounds. As for his wife, the beautiful Cecilia - I am now wearied of that intrigue, which, moreover, becomes too expensive! Lady Cecilia's extravagance is unbounded. I must put an end to that connexion without delay!"
    Lafleur entered the room at this moment, and said, "A female, sir, desires to see you upon particular business."
   "Is it anybody whom you know?"
    Lafleur replied in the negative.
    "Never mind! I will see her," said Greenwood;  and, unaware who she might be, he seated himself at his writing-table, where he appeared to be profoundly occupied with some deeds that were lying before him.
    In a few moments Marian entered the room. 
    "Well, my good woman, what is the object of your call?" demanded Greenwood.
    "I am the bearer of a letter, sir, from Miss Monroe," was the reply.
    "From Miss Monroe!" ejaculated Greenwood, and he hastened to peruse the letter which the servant placed in his hand.
    Its contents ran thus:-

"You are the father of a boy. The excellent woman who bears this will explain every thing to you. I should not recall myself to your memory - if you have forgotten the mother of your child - did not a sacred duty towards the female whom I have above alluded to, and towards the helpless infant who perhaps will never know a parent's care, compel me thus to address you. The kind woman who will give you this, expended forty pounds - all her little savings - to save me from disgrace. The surgeon to whose care the child is entrusted, must receive a small allowance for its support. If you ever entertained one generous feeling towards me, relieve my mind on these two subjects.
                "ELLEN MONROE."

    For some minutes Mr. Greenwood appeared to be absorbed in thought.
    He then questioned Marian relative to the particulars of Ellen's accouchement; and she detailed to him every particular with which the reader is already acquainted.
    "You managed the matter admirably," said Greenwood. "There are two points to which Miss Monroe directs my attention in this note. In the first place, she speaks of your moat disinterested services. Accept this as a trifling mark of my gratitude:"- and he placed six Bank-notes for ten pounds each in Marian's hand.
    "I do not desire any remuneration, sir," said the kind-hearted woman. "I will take my forty pounds; but the other two notes I must beg to return."
    "No - keep them," exclaimed Greenwood.
    "I thank you, sir, most sincerely," said the servant firmly; "but I would rather not. I rendered Miss Monroe that service which one female should afford another in such a case and I cannot think of accepting any recompense."
    With these words she laid two of the motes upon the table.
    "You are really a most extraordinary woman," cried Greenwood, who was perfectly astonished at the idea of any one in her class of life refusing money. "Will you not permit me to offer you a ring - a watch - or some trinket —"
    "No, sir," replied Marian, with severe firmness of tone and manner. "Miss Monroe is so kind - so good - so gentle, I would go to the end of the world to serve her."
    "Well - you must have your own way," said Mr. Greenwood. "The next point in Miss Monroe's letter is a provision for her child. What sum do you suppose would content the surgeon and his wife who have taken care of it?"
    "They are poor people, sir - struggling against difficulties - and having their way to make in the world —"
    "Suppose we say forty pounds a year for the present,2 interrupted Greenwood.
    "Oh! sir - that will be ample!" exclaimed Marian: "and Miss Monroe will be so rejoiced! Ah! sir - what consolation to the poor young lady."
    "What is the address of the surgeon?" demanded Greenwood.
    "Mr. Wentworth, Lower Holloway," was the reply.
    "My servant shall call upon that gentleman this very evening, and carry him the first quarter's payment," continued Greenwood. "You can say to Miss Monroe - but stay: I will write her a few lines."
    "Oh! do sir. Who knows but it may console her?" ejaculated the kind-hearted Marian.
    Mr. Greenwood wrote as follows:-

    "Your wishes are attended to to every point. The existence of the child need never be known to either Mr. Monroe or Mr. Richard Markham. Keep faithfully all the secrets which are treasured in your bosom; and I will never desert the child. I will watch over its welfare from a distance : trust to me. You were wrong to hesitate to apply to me. My purse is at all times at your disposal - so long as those secrets remain undivulged.
                            "G.M.G."

    Marian, prompted by that inherently kind feeling which had influenced her entire conduct towards Ellen, hesitated for a few moments, after receiving this letter, and seemed anxious to speak. She would have pleaded in behalf of the young mother: she would have implored Greenwood to make her his own in the sight of heaven, and acknowledge their child. But her tongue clave to the roof of her month; - and she at length retired, unable to give utterance to a single word in favour of poor Ellen.
    As soon as she was gone, Greenwood rang for his faithful French valet.
    "Lafleur," said he, "you will take these ten pounds, and proceed without delay to the house of Mr. Wentworth, a surgeon residing in Lower Holloway. You will say to him, 'The father of the child which was entrusted to you last night its so mysterious a manner, will allow you forty pounds a year for its support. As it grows older, and the expense it incurs augment, this allowance will be proportionately increased. But should you endeavour to find out who are the parents of that child, it will instantly be removed to the care of others who may possess less curious dispositions.' - You will pay him those ten pounds: you will tell him that every three months you will call with a similar sum; and you will see the child. Remember, you will see the child. If it have any peculiar mark about it, notice that mark: at all events, study it well, that you may know it again. You will moreover direct that its Christian name be Richard: its surname is immaterial. In a word, you will neither say nor do a whit more nor less than I have told you."
    "I understand, sir," answered Lafleur. "Any further commands?"
    "No - not at present. Be cautious how you conduct this business. It is delicate."
    "You may depend upon me, sir."
    And Lafleur retired.
    "Thus far it is well," said Greenwood to himself, when he was again alone. "I am relieved of a subject of frequent annoying reflection and suspense. Ellen's shame is unknown to those from whom I was most anxious it should be concealed. It can never transpire now!"
    The clock struck six; and Mr. Greenwood repaired to his dressing-room to arrange his toilet for dinner.

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