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True Riches T.S. Arthur

Chapter XX

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Jasper ceased speaking; but astonishment kept Claire silent.

"And now, Edward," resumed the former, "I am ready to make restitution as far as in my power lies. You can drag me into court, and thus blast my reputation; or, you can obtain for Miss Elder as much, or even more, than you would probably get by law--for, if driven into the courts, I will contend to the last moment--through an amicable arrangement. Which course are you disposed to take?"

"I have no desire to harm you, Mr. Jasper--none in the world. If the terms of settlement which you may offer are such as, under all the circumstances, I feel justified in accepting, I will meet your wishes. But you must bear in mind that, in this matter, I am not acting for myself."

"I know--but your judgment of the case must determine."

"True--and in that judgment I will endeavour to hold an equal balance."

The two men now retired from the lawyer's office; and, ere parting, arranged a meeting for that evening at the store of Jasper, where they could be entirely alone. For two or three successive evenings these conferences were continued, until Claire was entirely satisfied that the merchant's final offer to transfer to the possession of Fanny Elder four houses, valued at five thousand dollars each, in full settlement of her father's estate, was the very best he could do; and far more than he would probably obtain if an appeal were made to the law.

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As quickly as this transfer could be made, it was done. Not until the long-desired documents, vouching for the equitable settlement of the estate, were in Jasper's hands, did he breathe freely. Oh! through what an ordeal he had passed. How his own pride, self-consequence, and self-sufficiency had been crushed out of him! And not only in spirit was he humbled and broken. In his anxiety to settle up the estate of Mr. Elder, and thus get the sword that seemed suspended over his head by a single hair, removed, he had overstepped his ability. The houses referred to were burdened with a mortgage of nearly ten thousand dollars; this had, of course, to be released; and, in procuring the money therefor, he strained to the utmost his credit, thus cutting off important facilities needed in his large, and now seriously embarrassed business.

It is the last pound that breaks the camel's back. This abstraction of money and property took away from Jasper just what he needed to carry him safely through a period of heavy payments, at a time when there was some derangement in financial circles. In less than a month from the time he settled the estate of Reuben Elder, the news of his failure startled the business community. He went down with a heavy plunge, and never again rose to the surface. His ruin was complete. He had trusted in riches. Gold was his god; and the idol had mocked him.

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True Riches
T.S. Arthur

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