Hard Cash, by Charles Reade

Chapter 19

WHEN David fell senseless on the floor, Mr. Hardie was somewhat confused by the back-handed blow from his convulsed and whirling arm. But Skinner ran to him, held up his head, and whipped off his neckcloth.

Then Hardie turned to seize the bell and ring for assistance; but Skinner shook his head and said it was useless: this was no faint: old Betty could not help him.

“It is a bad day’s work, sir,” said he, trembling: “he is a dead man.”

“Dead? Heaven forbid!”

“Apoplexy!” whispered Skinner.

“Run for a doctor then: lose no time: don’t let us have his blood on our hands! Dead?”

And he repeated the word this time in a very different tone, a. tone too strange and significant to escape Skinner’s quick ear. However, he laid David’s head gently down and rose from his knees to obey.

What did he see now, but Mr. Hardie, with his back turned, putting the notes and bills softly into the safe again out of sight. He saw, comprehended, and took his own course with equal rapidity.

“Come, run!” cried Mr. Hardie; “I’ll take care of him; every moment is precious.”

(“Wants to get rid of me!” thought Skinner.) “No, sir,” said he, “be ruled by me: let us take him to his friends: he won’t live; and we shall get all the blame if we doctor him.”

Already egotism had whispered Hardie, “How lucky if he should die!” and now a still guiltier thought flashed through him: he did not try to conquer it; he only trembled at himself for entertaining it.

“At least: give him air!” said he in a quavering voice, consenting to a crime, yet compromising with his conscience, feebly.

He threw the window, open with great zeal — with prodigious zeal; for, he wanted to deceive himself as well as Skinner. With equal parade he helped carry Dodd to the window; it opened, on the ground: this done, the self-deceivers put their heads together, and soon managed matters so that two porters, known to Skinner, were introduced into the garden, and informed that a gentleman had fallen down in a fit, and they were to take him home to his friends, and not talk about it: there might be an inquest, and that was so disagreeable to a gentleman like Mr. Hardie. The men agreed at once for a sovereign apiece. It was all done in a great hurry and agitation, and while Skinner accompanied the men to see that they did not blab, Mr. Hardie went into the garden to breathe and think. But he could do neither.

He must have a look at It.

He stole back, opened the safe, and examined the notes and bills.

He fingered them.

They seemed to grow to his finger.

He lusted after them.

He said to himself, “The matter has gone too far to stop; I must go on borrowing this money of the Dodds, and make it the basis of a large fortune: it will be best for all parties in the end.”

He put It into his pocket-book; that pocket-book into his breast-pocket; and passed by his private door into the house, and to his dressing-room.

Ten minutes later he left the house with a little black bag in his band.

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