"He went on: 'Captain Dodd brought home several thousand pounds?'
"Mamma said 'Yes.' And I think she was going to say how much, but he stopped her and made her write the amount in an envelope, while he took another and wrote in it with his pencil. He took both envelopes to me, and asked me to read them out in turn: I did, and mamma's said fourteen thousand pounds: and his said fourteen thousand pounds. Mamma looked such a look at me.
"Then he turned to me: 'Miss Dodd, do you remember that night you and I met at Richard Hardie's door? Well, scarce five minutes before that, your father was standing on our lawn and called to the man, who was my father, in a loud voice--it rings in my ears now--"Hardie, Villain! give me back my money, my fourteen thousand pounds! give me my children's money, or may your children die before your eyes." Ah, you wince to hear me whisper these dreadful words: what if you had been where I was and heard them spoken, and in a terrible voice; the voice of Despair; the voice of Truth! Soon a window opened cautiously, and a voice whispered, "Hush! I'll bring it you down." And _this_ voice was the voice of fear, of dishonesty, and of Richard Hardie.'
"He turned deadly white when he said this, and I cried to mamma, 'Oh, stop him! stop him!' And she said, 'Alfred, think what you are saying. Why do you tell us what we had better never know?' He answered directly.
"'Because it is the truth: and because I loathe injustice. Some time afterwards I taxed Mr. Richard Hardie with this fourteen thousand pounds: and his face betrayed him. I taxed his clerk, Skinner: and Skinner's face betrayed him: and he fled the town that very night.
"My mother looked much distressed and said, 'To what end do you raise this pitiable subject? Your father is a bankrupt, and we but suffer with the rest.'
"'No, no,' said he, 'I have looked through the bankrupt's books, and there is no mention of the sum. And then who brought Captain Dodd here? Skinner? and Skinner is his detected confederate. It is clear to me poor Captain Dodd trusted that sum to _us_ before he had the fit; beyond this all is conjecture.'
"Mamma looked at me again, and said, 'What am I to do; or say?'