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True Riches; Or, Wealth Without Wings By T. S. Arthur Characters: 14988

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Edward," said Mr. Jasper, on the next morning, soon after he came to the store, "Was any time fixed for the funeral yesterday?"

"I believe not."

"That was an oversight. It might as well take place to-day as to-morrow, or a week hence, if there are no intimate friends or relatives to be thought of or consulted. I wish you would take the forenoon to see about this troublesome matter. The undertaker will, of course, do every thing according to your directions. Let there be as little expense as possible."

While they were yet speaking, the undertaker came in to make inquiry as to the funeral arrangements to be observed.

"Is the coffin ready?" asked Jasper, in a cold, business manner.

"It is," was the reply.

"What of the ground? Did you see to her husband's funeral?"

"Yes. I have attended to all these matters. Nothing remains but to fix the time, and notify the clergyman."

"Were you at the house this morning?" asked Jasper.

"I was."

"Who did you find there?"

"One or two of the neighbours were in."

"No near relatives of the deceased?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Was any thing said about the time for burying Mrs. Elder?"

"No. That matter, I suppose, will rest with you."

"In that case, I see no reason for delay," said Jasper. "What end is served?"

"The sooner it is over the better."

"So I think. Suppose we say this afternoon?"

"Very well. The time might be fixed at five. The graveyard is not very distant. How many carriages shall I order?"

"Not many. Two, I should think, would be enough," replied Jasper. "There will not be much left, I presume; therefore, the lighter the funeral expenses the better. By the way, did you see the child, when you were there this morning?"

"No, sir."

"Some neighbour has, in all probability, taken it."

"Very likely. It is a beautiful child."

"Yes-rather pretty," was Jasper's cold response.

"So young to be left alone in the world. Ah, me! But these things will happen. So, you decide to have the funeral at five this afternoon?"

"Yes; unless something that we do not now know of, interferes to prevent. The quicker a matter like this is over the better."

"True. Very well."

"You will see to every thing?"

"Certainly; that is my business. Will you be at the house this afternoon?"

"At the time of the funeral?"


"I think not. I can't do any good."

"No,-only for the looks of the thing."

The undertaker was already beginning to feel the heartless indifference of Jasper, and his last remark was half in irony, half in smothered contempt.

"Looks! Oh! I never do any thing for looks. If I can be of any service, I will be there-but, if not, not. I'm a right up-and-down, straight-forward man of the world, you see."

The undertaker bowed, saying that all should be as he wished.

"You can step around there, after a while, Edward," said Jasper, as soon as the undertaker had retired. "When you go, I wish you would ascertain, particularly, what has been done with the child. If a neighbour has taken her home, make inquiry as to whether she will be retained in the family; or, better still, adopted. You can hint, in a casual way, you know, that her parents have left property, which may, some time or other, be valuable. This may be a temptation, and turn the scale in favour of adoption; which may save me a world of trouble and responsibility."

"There is some property left?" remarked Claire.

"A small house or two, and a bit of worthless land in the mountains. All, no doubt, mortgaged within a trifle of their value. Still, it's property you know; and the word 'property' has a very attractive sound in some people's ears."

A strong feeling of disgust toward Jasper swelled in the young man's heart, but he guarded against its expression in look or words.

A customer entering at the moment, Claire left his principal and moved down behind the counter. He was not very agreeably affected, as the lady approached him, to see in her the person from whom he had taken ten dollars on the previous day, in excess of a reasonable profit. Her serious face warned him that she had discovered the cheat.

"Are you the owner of this store?" she asked, as she leaned upon the counter, and fixed her mild, yet steady eyes, upon the young man's face.

"I am not, ma'am," replied Claire, forcing a smile as he spoke.

"Didn't I sell you a lot of goods yesterday?"

"You did, sir."

"I thought I recognised you. Well, ma'am, there was an error in your bill-an overcharge."

"So I should think."

"A overcharge of five dollars."

Claire, while he affected an indifferent manner, leaned over toward the woman and spoke in a low tone of voice. Inwardly, he was trembling lest Jasper should became cognizant of what was passing.

"Will you take goods for what is due you; or shall I hand you back the money?" said he.

"As I have a few more purchases to make, I may as well take goods," was replied, greatly to the young man's relief.

"What shall I show you, ma'am?" he asked, in a voice that now reached the attentive ears of Jasper, who had been wondering to himself as to what was passing between the clerk and customer.

A few articles were mentioned, and, in a little while, another bill of seven dollars was made.

"I am to pay you two dollars, I believe?" said the lady, after Claire had told her how much the articles came to. As she said this, Jasper was close by and heard the remark.

"Right, ma'am," answered the clerk.

The customer laid a ten-dollar bill on the counter. Claire saw that the eyes of Jasper were on him. He took it up, placed it in the money-drawer, and stood some time fingering over the change and small bills. Then, with his back turned toward Jasper, he slipped a five dollar gold piece from his pocket. This, with a three dollar bill from the drawer, he gave to the lady, who received her change and departed.

Other customers coming in at the moment, both Jasper and his clerk were kept busy for the next hour. When they were alone again, the former said-

"How large a bill did you sell the old lady from the country, who was in this morning?"

"The amount was seven dollars, I believe."

"I thought she said two dollars?"

"She gave me a ten-dollar bill, and I only took three from the drawer," said the young man.

"I thought you gave her a piece of gold?"

"There was no gold in the drawer," was replied, evasively.

Much to the relief of Claire, another customer entered, thus putting an end to the conference between him and Jasper.

The mind of the latter, ever suspicious, was not altogether satisfied. He was almost sure that two dollars was the price named for the goods, and that he had seen a gold coin offered in change. And he took occasion to refer to it at the next opportunity, when his clerk's positive manner, backed by the entry of seven dollars on the sales' book, silenced him.

As for Claire, this act of restitution, so far as it was in his power to make it, took from his mind a heavy burden. He had, still, three dollars in his possession that were not rightfully his own. It was by no means probable that a similar opportunity to the one just embraced would occur. What then was it best for him to do? This question was soon after decided, by his throwing the money into the cash-drawer of Jasper.

On his way home to dinner that day, Claire called into the store of a Mr. Melleville, referred to in the conversation with hi

s wife on the previous evening. This gentleman, who was somewhat advanced in years, was in the same business with Jasper. He was known as a strictly upright dealer-"Too honest to get along in this world," as some said. "Old Stick-in-the-mud," others called him. "A man behind the times," as the new-comers in the trade were pleased to say. Claire had lived with him for some years, and left him on the offer of Jasper to give him a hundred dollars more per annum than he was getting.

"Ah, Edward! How do you do to-day?" said Mr. Melleville, kindly, as the young man came in.

"Very well in body, but not so well in mind," was the frank reply, as he took the proffered hand of his old employer.

"Not well in mind, ah! That's about the worst kind of sickness I know of, Edward. What's the matter?"

"As I have dropped in to talk with you a little about my own affairs,

I will come at once to the point."

"That is right. Speak out plainly, Edward, and you will find in me, at least, a sincere friend, and an honest adviser. What is the matter now?"

"I don't like my present situation, Mr. Melleville!"

"Ah! Well? What's the trouble? Have you and Jasper had a misunderstanding?"

"Oh no! Nothing of that. We get on well enough together. But I don't think its a good place for a young man to be in, sir!"

"Why not?"

"I can be plain with you. In a word, Mr. Jasper is not an honest dealer; and he expects his clerks to do pretty much as he does."

Mr. Melleville shook his head and looked grave.

"To tell the truth," continued Edward, "I have suffered myself to fall, almost insensibly, into his way of doing business, until I have become an absolute cheat-taking, sometimes, double and treble profit from a customer who happened to be ignorant about prices."

"Edward!" exclaimed the old man, an expression of painful surprise settling on his countenance.

"It is all too true, Mr. Melleville-all too true. And I don't think it good for me to remain with Mr. Jasper."

"What does he give you now?"

"The same as at first. Five hundred dollars."

The old man bent his head and thought for a few moments.

"His system of unfair dealing toward his customers is your principal objection to Mr. Jasper?"

"That is one objection, and a very serious one, too: particularly as I am required to be as unjust to customers as himself. But there is still another reason why I wish to get away from this situation. Mr. Jasper seems to think and care for nothing but money-getting. In his mind, gold is the highest good. To a far greater extent than I was, until very recently, aware, have I fallen, by slow degrees, into his way of thinking and feeling; until I have grown dissatisfied with my position. Temptation has come, as a natural result; and, before I dreamed that my feet were wandering from the path of safety, I have found myself on the brink of a fearful precipice."

"My dear young friend!" said Mr. Melleville, visibly moved, "this is dreadful!"

"It is dreadful. I can scarcely realize that it is so," replied

Claire, also exhibiting emotion.

"You ought not to remain in the employment of Leonard Jasper. That, at least, is plain. Better, far better, to subsist on bread and water, than to live sumptuously on the ill-gotten gold of such a man."

"Yes, yes, Mr. Melleville, I feel all the truth of what you affirm, and am resolved to seek for another place. Did you not say, when we parted two years ago, that if ever I wished to return, you would endeavour to make an opening for me?"

"I did, Edward; and can readily bring you in now, as one of my young men is going to leave me for a higher salary than I can afford to pay. There is one drawback, however."

"What is that, Mr. Melleville?"

"The salary will be only four hundred dollars a year."

"I shall expect no more from you."

"But can you live on that sum now? Remember, that you have been receiving five hundred dollars, and that your wants have been graduated by your rate of income. Let me ask-have you saved any thing since you were married?"


"So much the worse. You will find it difficult to fall back upon a reduced salary. How far can you rely on your wife's co-operation?"

"To the fullest extent. I have already suggested to her the change, and she desires, above all things, that I make it."

"Does she understand the ground of this proposed change?" asked Mr.



"And is willing to meet privation-to step down into even a humbler sphere, so that her husband be removed from the tempting influence of the god of this world?"

"She is, Mr. Melleville. Ah! I only wish that I could look upon life as she does. That I could see as clearly-that I could gather, as she is gathering them in her daily walk, the riches that have no wings."

"Thank God for such a treasure, Edward! She is worth more than the wealth of the Indies. With such an angel to walk by your side, you need feel no evil."

"You will give me a situation, then, Mr. Melleville?"

"Yes, Edward," replied the old man.

"Then I will notify Mr. Jasper this afternoon, and enter your service on the first of the coming month. My heart is lighter already. Good day."

And Edward hurried off home.

During the afternoon he found no opportunity to speak to Mr. Jasper on the subject first in his thoughts, as that individual wished him to attend Mrs. Elder's funeral, and gather for him all possible information about the child. It was late when he came back from the burial-ground-so late that he concluded not to return, on that evening, to the store. In the carriage in which he rode, was the clergyman who officiated, and the orphan child who, though but half comprehending her loss, was yet overwhelmed with sorrow. On their way back, the clergyman asked to be left at his own dwelling; and this was done. Claire was then alone with the child, who shrank close to him in the carriage. He did not speak to her; nor did she do more than lift, now and then, her large, soft, tear-suffused eyes to his face.

Arrived, at length, at the dwelling from which they had just borne forth the dead, Claire gently lifted out the child, and entered the house with her. Two persons only were within, the domestic and the woman who, on the day previous, had spoken of taking to her own home the little orphaned one. The former had on her shawl and bonnet, and said that she was about going away.

"You will not leave this child here alone," said Edward.

"I will take her for the present," spoke up the other. "Would you like to go home with me, Fanny?" addressing the child. "Come,"-and she held out her hands.

But the child shrank closer to the side of Edward, and looked up into his face with a silent appeal that his heart could not resist.

"Thank you, ma'am," he returned politely. "But we won't trouble you to do that. I will take her to my own home for the present. Would you like to go with me, dear?"

Fanny answered with a grateful look, as she lifted her beautiful eyes again to his face.

And so, after the woman and the domestic had departed, Edward Claire locked up the house, and taking the willing child by the hand, led her away to his own humble dwelling.

Having turned himself resolutely away from evil, already were the better impulses of his nature quickened into active life. A beautiful humanity was rising up to fill the place so recently about to be consecrated to the worship of a hideous selfishness.

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