Hard Cash, by Charles Reade

Chapter 18

WHILE Dodd stood lowering in the doorway, he was nevertheless making a great effort to control his agitation.

At last he said in a stern but low voice, in which, however, a quick ear might detect a tremor of agitation: “I have changed my mind, sir: I want my money back.”

At this, though David’s face had prepared him, Mr. Hardie’s heart sank: but there was no help for it. He said faintly, “Certainly. May I ask ——?” and there he stopped; for it was hardly prudent to ask anything.

“No matter,” replied Dodd, his agitation rising even at this slight delay. “Come! my money! I must and will have it.”

Hardie drew himself up majestically. “Captain Dodd, this is a strange way of demanding what nobody here disputes.”

“Well, I beg your pardon,” said Dodd, a little awed by his dignity and fairness, “but I can’t help it.”

The quick, supple banker saw the slight advantage he had gained, and his mind went into a whirl. What should he do? It was death to part with this money and gain nothing by it. Sooner tell Dodd of the love affair, and open a treaty on this basis: he clung to this money like limpet to its rock; and so intense and rapid were his thoughts and schemes how to retain it a little longer, that David’s apologies buzzed in his ear like the drone of a beetle.

The latter went on to say, ‘You see, sir, it’s my children’s fortune, my boy Edward’s, and my little Julia’s: and so many have been trying to get it from me, that my blood boils up in a moment about it now. — My poor head! — You don’t seem to understand what I am saying! There then, I am a sailor; I can’t go beating and tacking like you landsmen, with the wind dead astern. The long and the short is, I don’t feel It safe here: don’t feel It safe anywhere, except in my wife’s lap. So no more words: here’s your receipt; give me my money.”

“Certainly, Captain Dodd. Call tomorrow morning at the bank, and it will be paid on demand in the regular way: the bank opens at ten o’clock.”

“No, no; I can’t wait. I should be dead of anxiety before then. Why not pay it me here and now? You took it here.”

“We receive deposits till four o’clock, but we do not disburse after three. This is the system of all banks.”

“That is all nonsense: if you are open to receive money, you are open to pay it.”

“My dear sir, if you were not entirely ignorant of business, you would be aware that these things are not done in this way. Money received is passed to account, and the cashier is the only person who can honour your draft on it. But, stop; if the cashier is in the bank, we may manage it for you yet. Skinner, run and see whether he has left: and if not, send him to me directly.” The cashier took his cue and ran out

David was silent.

The cashier speedily returned, saying, with a disappointed air, “The cashier has been gone this quarter of an hour.”

David maintained an ominous silence.

“That is unfortunate,” remarked Hardie. “But, after all, it is only till tomorrow morning. Still I regret this circumstance, sir; and I feel that all these precautions we are obliged to take must seem unreasonable to you. But experience dictates this severe routine, and, were we to deviate from it, our friends’ money would not be so safe in our hands as it always has been at present.”

David eyed him sternly, but let him run on. When he had concluded his flowing periods, David said quietly, “So you can’t give me my own because your cashier has carried it away?”

Hardie smiled. “No, no; but because he has locked it up and carried away the key.”

“It is not in this room, then?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“What, not in that safe of yours, there?”

“Certainly not,” said Hardie stoutly.

“Open the safe: the keys are in it.”

“Open the safe? What for?”

“To show me It is not in the right-hand partition of that safe; there: there.” And David pointed at the very place where it was.

The dignified Mr. Hardie felt ready to sink with shame: a kind of shudder passed through him, and he was about to comply, heart-sick; but then wounded pride and the rage of disappointment stung him, and he turned in defiance. “You are impertinent, sir, and I shall not reward your curiosity and your insolence by showing you the contents of my safe.”

“My money! my money!” cried David fiercely: “no more words, for I shan’t listen to them: I know you now for what you are — a thief! I saw you put It into that safe: a liar is always a thief. You want to steal my children’s money: I’ll have your life first My money! ye pirate! or I’ll strangle you. And he advanced upon him purple with rage, and shot out his long threatening arm and brown fingers working in the air. “D’ye know what I did to a French land-shark that tried to rob me of It? I throttled him with these fingers till his eyes and his tongue started out of him. He came for my children’s money, and I killed him so — so — so — as I’ll kill you, you thief! you liar! you scoundrel!”

His face black and convulsed with rage, and his outstretched fingers working convulsively, and hungering for a rogue’s throat, made the resolute Hardie quake. He whipped out of the furious man’s way, and got to the safe, pale and trembling. “Hush! no violence!” he gasped: “I’ll give you your money this moment you ruffian.”

While he unlocked the safe with trembling hands, Dodd stood like a man petrified, his arm and fingers stretched out and threatening; and Skinner saw him pull at his necktie furiously, like one choking.

Hardie got the notes and bills all in a hurry, and held them out to Dodd.

In which act, to his consternation and surprise and indignation, he received a back-handed blow on the eye that dazzled him for an instant; and there was David with his arms struggling wildly and his fists clenched, his face purple, and his eyes distorted so that little was seen but the whites the next moment his teeth gnashed loudly together, and he fell headlong on the floor with a concussion so momentous that the windows rattled and the room shook violently; the dust rose in a cloud.

A loud ejaculation burst from Hardie and Skinner,

And then there was an awful silence.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33