Once Aboard the Lugger Part 55

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"You promise that?"

"Of course; of course."

"I say it now, then. No."

"But you haven't heard me."

"Unnecessary."

The tortured young man raised his voice.

"It is necessary! You shall! You must!"

"Barley water!" Mr. Marrapit gasped. "Barley water! I am going to be murdered."

"Oh, this is insupportable!" George cried.

"I endorse that. A double death threatens me. I shudder between a stroke and a blow. I shall be battered to death on my own lawn."

"If you would only listen to me," George implored. "Why can we never be natural when we meet?"

"Search your heart for the answer," Mr. Marrapit told him. "It is because your demands are unnatural."

"You haven't heard them. Listen. I am on the threshold of my career. I am sure you will not ruin it. The real price of this practice is 650 pounds--the value of a year and a half's income; that is the usual custom. I am offered it for four hundred. Then I want to marry and to have a little balance with which to start--say 100 pounds for that.

That makes 500 pounds altogether. I implore you to lend--lend, not give--that sum. I will pay you back 50 pounds at the end of the first year and a hundred a year afterwards. Interest too. I don't know much about these things. Any interest you like. We would get a solicitor to draw up an agreement. Say you will lend the money. I feel sure you will."

"You delude yourself by that a.s.surance."

"Oh, wait before you refuse. My prospects are so bright if only you will help me. I have no one else to whom I can turn. It is only a loan I ask."

"It is refused."

George stamped away, hands to head. The poor boy was in agony. Then returned:

"I won't believe you. You will not be so heartless. Think over what I have said. Tell me to-night--to-morrow."

"My answer would be the same."

"You absolutely refuse to lend me the money?"

"I refuse. It is against my principles."

My frantic George clutched at a s.h.i.+mmering hope. "Against your principles to lend? Do you mean that you will give--give me 500 pounds?"

"Barley water!" Mr. Marrapit gasped. He drank; gasped: "Give 500 pounds! You are light-headed!"

"Then lend it!" George supplicated on a last appeal. "Make any conditions you please, and I will accept them. Uncle, think of when you were a young man. Remember the time when you were on the threshold of your career. Think of when you were engaged as I am now engaged.

Imagine your feelings if you had been prevented marrying. You won't stand in my way? The happiest life is before me if you will only give your aid. Otherwise--otherwise--oh, I say, you won't refuse?"

"I implore you to close this distressing scene."

"Will you lend me the money?"

"My principles prevent me."

"Then d.a.m.n your principles!" George shouted. "d.a.m.n your principles!"

While he had been battering his head against this brick wall he had been saved pain by the hope that a last chance would carry him through. Now that he realised the futility of the endeavour, the stability of the wall, he had time to feel the bruising he had suffered--the bitterness of failure and of all that failure meant. The hurts combined to make him roar with pain, and he shouted furiously again: "d.a.m.n your principles!"

"Barley water!" throated Mr. Marrapit on a note of terror. He reached for the gla.s.s. It was empty.

He struggled to his feet; got the chair between George and himself; cried across it: "Beware how you touch me."

"Oh, I'm not going to touch you. You needn't be afraid."

"I have every need. I am afraid. Keep your distance. You are not responsible for your actions."

"You needn't be afraid, I tell you. It is too ridiculous."

"I repeat I have need. Keep your distance. My limbs tremble as one in a palsy." Mr. Marrapit gripped the chair-back; his shudders advertised his distress.

"I only want to say this," George declaimed, "that if you refuse what I ask, you are refusing what is lawfully mine. My mother left you 4000 pounds for my education. At the outside you have spent three. The 500 pounds is mine. I have a right to it."

"Keep your distance, sir."

My furious George took three steps forward.

"Can you answer what I say?" he shouted.

Mr. Marrapit gave a thin cry: turned, and with surprising bounds made across the lawn. A slipper shot from his foot. He alighted upon a stone; bounded heavenwards with a shrill scream; and hopping, leaping, shuffling, made the corner of the house.

George swung on his heel. It occurred to him to visit Bill Wyvern.

CHAPTER IV.

The Rape Of The Rose.

I.

Bill was away from home, the maid who answered the door told George; Mrs. Wyvern was out; the Professor was in his study.

George found the great biologist warming his chilly old bones in a vast armchair before a fire.

With a twinkling of his sky-blue eyes that spoke to pleasant temper, the Professor greeted George; nodded him into an opposite seat.

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 55

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 55 summary

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