MoboReader> Literature > 'As Gold in the Furnace'

   Chapter 16 No.16

'As Gold in the Furnace' By John E. Copus Characters: 15969

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Roy Makes a Move

ROY HENNING gave much anxious consideration to the ugly tangle in which he found himself involved. He sincerely, but unavailingly, regretted that he had allowed himself to become the treasurer. Perhaps, he thought, if he had followed the letter of his father's wishes this unfortunate business would never have happened.

The more he thought over what he remembered to have seen on the night of the play the more convinced he became of the guilt of one who would be the very last he could wish to be implicated.

At times he doubted and wavered in his convictions. Was he absolutely sure that it was his cousin whom he had seen that night? Could it not have been some one else? There was no one else in the yard who wore a blue sweater. He was sure he had seen this on the boy who had entered the window. Yet was he absolutely sure that it was Andrew? When he put this question to himself and demanded an answer, he always gave it unhesitatingly in the affirmative. Yet, strange to say, at other times he doubted the accuracy of his conclusions. Might he not be mistaken after all? There was a possibility. The figure was in the glare of the arc light so short a time, and in the shadow so much longer. Was it not possible that he was mistaken after all?

The size of the boy certainly corresponded with his cousin's build and height, but, after all, most boys of about the same age resemble each other in build. Oh, if it had not been for that soft hat pulled down over the face! Could he have obtained but one glance at the face in the strong electric light there would be no hesitating. But this the thief took precautions against. The leaf of the hat was drawn well over the nose, making it impossible to see the face.

There was no question about the blue sweater being there. The short black coat which Garrett usually wore over the sweater was there too. Was there a sufficient motive on the part of Andrew to commit such a crime? On this point the boy was much puzzled. Garrett, he knew, had plenty of money. There could be no pecuniary inducement to commit the crime. Ha, perhaps there was an inducement after all. Before Christmas had it not been an open secret that several boys had lost heavily-heavily for boys at school-on some foolish betting? Mr. Shalford had heard of this foolishness, found out a few of the bets, and forced the winners to return the money. He had broken up, apparently, the habit which periodically becomes a temporary mania with a certain class of boys. Perhaps Garrett had lost a bet and wanted money!

Henning could not believe that any personal pique against himself would be a sufficient inducement for his cousin to go to such lengths to gratify it. Felony is high payment for the gratification of spite. That threat of "getting even," which Garrett had used against him last summer, Roy believed to be the expression of a momentary vexation. It is certain he did not connect it with anything so serious as this robbery. Long ago he had forgotten it, and he supposed Andrew had done so too.

What then, supposing it were he who had committed the crime, could have been Garrett's motive? Roy could not fathom the difficulty. He had to leave it unsolved. He saw there was no proportion between Garrett's little pique and the enormity of this deed, which would forever brand the perpetrator as belonging to the criminal class. Surely Andrew had more sense than to do such a thing; and yet!

"Why, oh! why did I," said Roy to himself, "go mooning about and looking out of that window after the play that night! Why didn't I go to bed at once, like the rest? Then I would never have been haunted with this memory. I am going to get this thing settled, and that soon. I'll see Garrett privately if I can, publicly if I must. I will make him exonerate me from all suspicion. I can not imagine how any suspicion became attached to me. He would hardly dare to set it afloat. This thing has to come to an end, and that at once."

These tormenting thoughts came to his mind one Sunday afternoon in early spring. Everything out of doors spoke of joy and cheerfulness. The trees had burst their buds, and the winter bareness of landscape had been once more turned into a thing of beauty. No trees were as yet in full leaf, but there was a delicate pale-green tracery on bough and twig, a sign of life and luxurious beauty later on, and full of the beauty of promise now. Beneath the feet the young grass was rich and soft, while here and there were seen the first white flowers in the vocal hedgerows.

Full of thoughts by no means attuned to the happy season, or in keeping with the loveliness of the day, Roy started out to find his cousin. He was just in the mood to "have it out" with him. He had worked himself up to a pitch of resolution, in which was blended no little anger at the injustice of his position. He was determined to have the wretched affair settled at once and forever. He was morally certain that no one save himself knew of his cousin's supposed delinquency, because, he argued and probably correctly, if any one else had known it, it would have been divulged long ago.

Searching the yard, study-hall, and gymnasium, as well as the large reading-room and playroom, he could find no trace of Garrett.

"He is out walking, I suppose. Oh, well! I'll catch him before supper and see what he has to say for himself."

Henning did not care to have his friends, Jack and Ambrose, with him just now. He wanted to be alone to think over the situation. With this object in view he went toward the college walk, a beautiful winding path, overshadowed by fine old elms, beeches, and oaks. Here and there along this half-mile of graveled way rustic seats had been placed for the convenience of the students. The path was irregularly circular. In the center the ground was much lower and was thickly covered with fine trees, whose tops in many instances barely reached the level of the footpath. On the outer side of the walk the ground rose and the slope was covered with noble forest trees.

The softness of the spring verdure, the sweet caress of the warm air, the repose of this charming spot, and its complete sequestration from the perennial noise and bustle of the yards and ballfields, tended to soothe the irritated feelings of our friend. He went to the farthest limit of the walk without meeting a single friend. There he sat down on a bench to rest. In a few minutes he heard approaching footsteps on the gravel. Determined to let the intruder upon his thoughts pass on unnoticed, he did not raise his head from his hands as the walker approached.

"Good afternoon, Roy."

Henning looked up and saw-Garrett. He was surprised by the way his cousin addressed him, for, never since the first week of the school-year had the cousins used any other form of address than their surnames.

"Oh! Good afternoon."

"Fine weather for early spring."

"Yes."

Roy saw that, by his manner, Garrett had something to say, but he wanted just then to have the saying. At all events he was determined to say the first word of consequence.

"I wonder you are willing to talk with me-are not afraid of being seen talking with me."

"I don't see why you should--"

Henning interrupted. He was quite ill-tempered this afternoon, and this was quite unusual with him.

"No, you don't see why," he said. "You haven't been the cause of my being suspected of that wretched thieving, have you! You are not hand and glove with those fellows who would stop at nothing if they could injure me."

"I must admit," said the other, "I have heard a great deal some of them say."

"And of course believe it all, or pretend to."

"Pretend to! What do you mean?"

"I mean that before them you pretended to believe me guilty. Knowing what you know, it must have been all a pretence."

"Knowing what I know! What do you mean?"

"You know very well, indeed, what I mean."

"I do not."

"Yes, yo

u do; you are only pretending now. Your action now is of a piece with your whole conduct ever since December 28, when the money was taken."

"Roy Henning! what on earth do you mean? You are either crazy, or laboring under some great mistake."

Garrett saw with alarm the trend of Henning's remarks. Was his cousin going to charge him with the theft? He was very well aware that Roy's charge, if he should make one, would receive much more credence in the yard than would any counter-charge against Roy. He became quite alarmed, for he was quick enough to see some very unpleasant consequences. His look of alarm tended to confirm Roy in his suspicions.

"No wonder you look frightened, cousin-dear cousin-loving cousin," said Henning sarcastically. He had a long time suffered greatly from innuendo and unfriendliness, but we must do Roy the justice to say that such a manner of speech was uncommon with him. Just at this moment he was nervous and over-irritable and had not complete control of himself or of his words.

"No wonder you look frightened," he continued, "now that the tables are beginning to turn. I have borne suspicion and averted looks from the boys long enough. You have to bring about a change. You can do it."

"And how, pray?"Garrett was getting angry.

"You know how very well. One word from you would clear me. And-you-have-got-to say it,"

"It seems to me that you are taking leave of your senses. How on earth will one word of mine clear you? The only way that could be done, it seems to me, would be to incriminate myself, and as to that-no, I thank you."

"I care not one red cent whether you incriminate yourself or not. You must clear me-do you hear?"

"I would like to know how, and, moreover, I would like to see you make me."

"I can not-that is, I will not make you-but not for your own sake."

Henning remembered the promise he had made to himself of silence on the night he had spent in the infirmary. On the other hand Garrett was becoming very much afraid of his cousin. He had never seen him so excited or determined before. What did Roy know? What could he tell to harm him? He knew that his record with the faculty, and with the boys too, was not an enviable one. Whatever Roy would do he would undoubtedly be believed, and he realized that he would have hard work to disprove any allegations Roy might make.

"You speak correctly when you say you can not," Andrew retorted.

"I do not! I can make you if I will. For other reasons I do not wish it. You must do it without compulsion."

"Do what?"

"Clear me. Clear me of all suspicion."

"It seems to me that in the present state of the boys' minds that would be impossible. In saying what I have said about you, Roy, I have only followed the lead of others. Things have been hinted so often that at last I began to believe some of them-at least partly believe them."

"You coward," said Henning, now thoroughly angry. Both boys rose from the bench simultaneously and faced each other. By a singular chance each had his hands in his pockets. It appeared for an instant that they were coming to blows. So strained was the situation, that if either had at that moment taken his hand from his pocket it would have been a signal for a fight. Henning's face was white with anger. Garrett's was red with apprehension and vexation.

"You are a coward," repeated Henning; "you know a great deal about this affair."

Garrett thought best to deny all knowledge.

"I do not."

"Indeed! and I suppose you know nothing of the loosened bars of the window of the committee-room?"

"No."

"I thought not. And I suppose you know nothing of the boy who was seen to have gone through that window on the night of the play?"

"No."

"Oh, no! Of course not. I suppose, too, there are half a dozen boys who sport sky-blue sweaters to make themselves conspicuous."

Henning waited a moment and Garrett said:

"It is no one's concern but my own what I wear."

"Well, my dear, affectionate cousin, that blue sweater was seen-seen, mind-that night to go through that window and come out again."

Garrett started violently. Henning took the motion for an admission of guilt, but Garrett had no intention of making such acknowledgment. Indeed he became as angry as Henning was.

"Whether I am guilty or not, a question I absolutely decline to discuss, do you think, you jackanapes, that I would admit it to you? Not if I know myself. Do you think I am going to swallow whole a story like that? You must think I am dreadfully green, or dreadfully afraid of you. If you have evidence, bring it forward. That you can, and will not, is to me, permit me to say, all buncombe. Bah! You weary me! Do what you can and what you dare,"

Snapping his fingers with a show of righteous indignation, Garrett walked away. If the boy were guilty, if it were he who was seen to enter the room through that window on the night of the theft, he now acquitted himself of a splendid piece of acting. If he were innocent, then his indignation were natural. Henning would then have to acknowledge that he had done him a gross injustice. But Roy was firmly convinced that his cousin had brazened the thing out. He regretted that he had let him know that he would not compel him to make an acknowledgment of his guilt. Roy had never expected that he would do so. All he required from his cousin was that he would speak in his favor and make an effort to turn the tide of opinion, trusting in his friends for the rest.

When Andrew Garrett moved away Roy's first impulse was to follow him and compel a confession. Suddenly the thought came to him that perhaps he had blundered. Under the new and annoying impression he stood motionless until Garrett had disappeared along the winding walk. Once more, as his anger left him, he sat down and, head in hands, meditated on the ugly position in which he found himself, made worse than before if he had blundered.

He began now to have doubts regarding the identity of the thief. Was it not just possible that some other person possessed a blue sweater as well as his cousin? Could he have been mistaken, after all? The window from which he saw the thief was a hundred yards away. Could he, after all, positively identify a person at that distance at night? Was he not too much excited after the successful Richelieu performance to be in a condition to be certain? He had taken only a casual glance at the figure, and it was more than twenty-four hours afterward that he had remembered the boy wore the fatal blue sweater, which he now began to realize was the one and only means of identifying his cousin. Garrett must have some good grounds for his steady and persistent denials; yet that he should deny was not surprising to Roy for he knew his cousin fairly well.

The young man would have remained long in his unpleasant and disturbing meditations had he not heard some one approaching, and singing some ridiculous parody which had recently "caught" the yard, having been cleverly introduced into a recent debate on the relative importance of the Hibernians and the Anglo-Saxons in this country. It ran:

"There came to the beach a poor exile of Erin,

The dew on his thin robe was beany and chill-

Ere the ship that had brought him had passed out of hearin',

He was Alderman Mike, introducing a bill."

It was Jack Beecham's happy voice, and his merry laugh echoed through the trees. At that moment, as he turned a bend in the walk, he caught sight of Roy.

"Shame on the false Etruscan who lingers in his home," he shouted. "Come on, Roy; Tom Shealey and myself are going for a good long tramp in the woods. Why, man, you look as doleful as a November day. What's up? Come on; a good walk will drive the blues away."

The two friends took Henning for a good long tramp, which is the most satisfactory curative process for driving away depression of spirits, settling one's nerves, and banishing ill-temper.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares