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|True Riches||T.S. Arthur|
|Page 4 of 6||
"Ten dollars clear gain on that transaction," said he to himself, as he drew open the money-drawer in which he had deposited the cash paid to him by his late customer.
For some time his thoughts were busy, while his fingers toyed with the gold and bills in the drawer. Two five-dollar pieces were included in the payment just received.
"Jasper, surely, ought to be satisfied with one of these." Thus he began to argue with himself. "I drove the bargain; am I not entitled to a fair proportion of the profit? It strikes me so. What wrong will it be to him? Wrong? Humph! Wrong? The wrong has been done already; but it falls not on his head.
"If I am to do this kind of work for him,"--the feelings of Claire now commenced running in a more disturbed channel; there were deep contractions on his forehead, and his lips were shut firmly,--"this kind of work, I must have a share of the benefit. If I am to sell my soul, Leonard Jasper shall not have the whole price."
Deliberately, as he spoke this within himself, did Claire take from the drawer a five-dollar gold piece, and thrust it into his pocket.
"Mine, not his," were the words with which he approved the act. At the same instant Jasper entered. The young man's heart gave a sudden bound, and there was guilt in his face, but Jasper did not read its true expression.
"Well, Edward," said he, cheerfully, "what luck did you have with the old lady? Did she make a pretty fair bill?"
"So-so," returned Claire, with affected indifference; "about thirty dollars."
"Ah! so much?"
"Yes; and, what is better, I made her pay pretty strong. She was from the country."
"That'll do." And Jasper rubbed his hands together energetically. "How much over and above a fair percentage did you get?"
"About five dollars."
"Good, again! You're a trump, Edward."
If Edward Claire was relieved to find that no suspicion had been awakened in the thoughts of Jasper, he did not feel very strongly flattered by his approving words. The truth was, at the very moment he was relating what he had done, there came into his mind, with a most startling distinctness, the dream of his wife, and the painful feelings it had occasioned.
"What folly! What madness! Whither am I going?"
These were his thoughts now, born of a quick revulsion of feeling.
"It is your dinner-time, Edward. Get back as soon as possible. I want to be home a little earlier than usual to-day."
Thus spoke Mr. Jasper; and the young man, taking up his hat, left the store. He had never felt so strangely in his life. The first step in crime had been taken; he had fairly entered the downward road to ruin. Where was it all to end? Placing his fingers, almost without thought, in his pocket, they came in contact with the gold-piece obtained by a double crime--the robbery both of a customer and his employer. Quickly, as if he had touched a living coal, was the hand of Claire withdrawn, while a low chill crept along his nerves. It required some resolution for the young man to meet his pure-hearted, clear-minded wife, whose quick intuitions of good or evil in others he had over and over again been led to remark. Once, as he moved along, he thrust his hand into his pocket, with the suddenly-formed purpose of casting the piece of money from him, and thus cancelling his guilt. But, ere the act was accomplished, he remembered that in this there would be no restoration, and so refrained.
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