speak after, at the best of times. I
told him I did not believe him. And
I did not. Still, â if any thing were
to happen, and I had bottled up the
rumor, not giving you a hint of it, I
should never cease to blame myself."
" That is the origin of it, you may
depend, â the loss of the deed," â ob-
served the rector. " I know the clerks
were questioned about that yesterday,
and some of them must have got talk-
ing out-of-doors. Good-day, Brierly."
Mr. Hastings paid the rest of his
visits and drove home. In spite of
himself, he could not keep his mind
from reverting â and somewhat un-
pleasantly â to what he had heard.
He believed the bank to be perfectly I
solvent, â to be more than solvent.
Until the previous evening, when
Isaac had made that communication
to him, he had been ready to answer
for its flourishing state on his own
responsibility, if required. He fully
believed the rumor, spoken of by llutt
the lawyer, to arise from some dis-
torted hints of the missing deeds which
had oozed out, and to have no other
foundation whatever : and yet, he
could not keep his mind from revert-
ing to it uneasily.
The ting-tang (it deserved no bet-
ter name, and Prior's Ash gave it no
other) of All Souls' Church was send-
ing forth its last notes as the rector
drove in. Handing over the horse
and gig to the waiting-servant of the
friend from whom it was borrowed, â
a gig always at the disposal of the
rector, â he made his way to the ves-
try, and had the pleasure of presiding
at a stormy meeting. There were
divided parties in the parish at that
time, touching a rate to be made, or
a non-rate ; and opposing eloquence
ran high. Personally, the rector was
not an interested party; but he had a
somewhat difficult course to steer be-
tween the two and offend neither. It
was half-past nine when the meeting
" Any news of that missing deed,
Isaac ?" he took an opportunity of
asking his son.
"I think not," replied Isaac. "We
have heard nothing about it to-day."
" I suppose things have gone on,
then, as usual ?"
" Quite so. We shall hear no more
of it, I dare say, in the bank. If it
can't be found, the firm will have to
make it good, and there'll be an end
" A very unsatisfactory ending, I
should think, if I had to make it
good," observed the rector. " I don't
like things disappearing, nobody knows
how or why."
He said no more. He gave no
hint to Isaac of the hint that had
been whispered to him, nor ques-
tioned him upon its probable founda-
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
tion. It was the best proof that Mr.
Hastings assigned to it no foundation.
In his sober reason he did not.
But things â troubles, cares, annoy-
ances wear different aspects in the
day and in the night. More than all,
suspense wears a different one. An
undefined dread, whatever may be its
nature, can be drowned by the daily
bustle, â business, pleasure, occupa-
tions. These fill up the mind, and
the bugbear is lost sight of. But at
night, when the head lies upon the
sleepless pillow, and there's nothing
to distract the thoughts, â when all
around is silent darkness, â then, if
there is an inner, secret dread, it
shines out in colors unnaturally vivid,
and presents itself in guise worse than
Mr. Hastings was not an imagina-
tive man. Quite the contrary. He
was more given to deal with things,
whether pleasant or painful, in a prac-
tical maimer by daylight, than to rack
his brains with them at night. There-
fore, the way in which the new doubt
troubled him, when he lay in bed that
night, was something wonderful. Had
he been a fanciful woman, he could
not have experienced worse treatment
from his imagination. It was running
riot within him. Could it lie that the
money intrusted to him was gone ? â
lost ? â Had he put it into that bank
for safety, only to find that the bank
would never refund it again ? How
was he to make it good ? He could
not make it good, and the little Chis-
holms, the children of his dead friend,
must be beggars ! He thought not
of his own money, lodged in the care
of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin ;
that seemed as nothing in compari-
son with this. Mr. Hastings had had
rather an expensive family ; he had
given money away in his parish, â a
conscientious clergyman is obliged to
give, more or less, â and his savings,
all told, did not amount to more than
two thousand pounds. It was not of
that, equally at stake, that he thought,
but of this other and larger sum, of
which he was but the steward.
Try as he would, he could not get
to sleep ; try as he would, he could
not put these half-insane visions from
him. His mind became wrought to
the very highest pitch; he could have
found in his heart to get up, make
his way to the bank, knock up George
Godolphin, and demand his money
back again. He registered a silent
resolve that he would go there with
the first glimmer of morning light.
Yesterday he was a free man, a man
at his ease, it may be said a pros-
perous man : to-morrow, should that
money be beyond his reach, he would
be ruined forever, â broken down un-
der his weight of care. What if he
were too late ! If he went to the
bank, and was told, " The bank is in
embarrassment, and we cannot re-
fund ?" Oh, how supinely careless
had he been, to suffer a whole day
to slip on since Isaac's warning !
Any hour in that past day he might
have gone and withdrawn the money,
â might have had it securely now
in the chest by his bedside. When
another dawned, it might be too late.
Torments such as these, â and they
were all the more intolerable from
the fact of his being unused to them, â
haunted him through the night. They
have haunted us ; they, or similar
ones. Towards morning, he dropped
into a heavy sleep, awaking later than
his customary hour. Those dark vis-
ions were gone then ; but enough of
their effect remained to keep the rector
to his resolve of drawing out the
money. " I'll go the first thing after
breakfast," said he, as he dressed him-
But, when breakfast was over, and
the business of the day fairly entered
upon, Mr. Hastings felt half ashamed
of his resolution. The visions of the
night appeared to him to be simply
fantastic follies, diseased creations of
the brain : should there be really no
cause for his withdrawal of the money,
how worse than foolish he should
look ! â nay, how unjustifiable would
such a procedure be !
What ought he to do ? He leaned
over the gate while he took counsel
with himself. He had put on his hat
THE SHADOW OF ASIILYDYAT
and taken his stick in his hand, and
gone forth ? and there he stopped,
hesitating. A strange frame of mind
for Mr. Hastings, who was not a
vacillating nature. Suddenly he flung
the gate open and went through with
a decisive step ; his determination
was taken. He would steer a mid-
way course, present himself to his
son-in-law, George Godolphin, and ask
him frankly, as a friend and relative,
whether the money was safe.
Many a one would have decided
that it was a safe and proper course to
pursue. Mr. Hastings deemed it to
be such, and he proceeded to the
bank. The fresh air, the bright sun,
the pleasant bustle of daily life, had
well-nigh dissipated any remaining
fears before he got there.
" Can I see Mr. George Godolphin?"
" Mr. George is engaged at present,
sir," replied the clerk to whom he had
addressed himself. "He will be at
liberty soon. Would you like to take
a seat ?"
Mr. Hastings sat down on the chair
handed him, and waited ; watching at
his leisure the business of the bank.
Several people were there. Some
were paving money in, some drawing
it out. There appeared to be no hesi-
tation, either in paying or receiving ;
all seemed as usual. One man brought
a cheque for nine hundred and odd
pounds, and it was counted out to him.
" I feel sure it is all right," was the
conclusion come to by Sir. Hastings.
About ten minutes and George
Godolphin came forward. " Ah ! is it
you ?" said he, with his sunny smile.
" You are here early this morning."
" I want to say just a word to you
in private, Mr. George."
George led the way to his room,
talking gayly. He pushed a chair to
Mr. Hastings, and took his own.
Xever a face more free from care than
his ; never a less troubled eye. He
asked after Mrs. Hastings, he asked
after Reginald, who was daily expected
home from a voyage, â whether he
had arrived. " Maria dreamt last
night that he had come home," said
he, laughing, " and told her he was
never going to sea again."
Mr. Hastings remembered his
dreams, â if dreams they could be
called. He was beginning to think
that he must have had the night-
" Mr. George, I have come to you
upon a strange errand," he began.
" Will you for a few moments regard
me as a confidential friend, and treat
me as such ?"
"I hope it is what I always do,
sir," was the reply of George Godol-
"Ay ; but I want a proof of your
friendship this morning. But for my
being connected with you by close
ties, I should not have so come. Tell
me, honestly and confidentially, as be-
tween man and man, â Is that trust-
money safe ?"
George looked at Mr. Hastings, his
countenance slightly changing. Mr.
Hastings thought he was vexed.
"I do not understand you," he said.
" I have heard a rumor â I have
heard, in fact, two rumors, â that
The long and the short of it is this,"
more rapidly continued Mr. Hastings,
" I have heard that there's something
doubtful arising with the bank."
" What on earth do you mean ?"
uttered George Godolphin.
" Is there any thing the matter ? Or
is the bank as solvent as it ought to
" I should be sorry to think it other-
wise," replied George. "I don't un-
derstand you. What have you heard ?"
"Just what I tell you. A friend
spoke to me in private yesterdav,
when I was at Binham, saying that
he had heard a suspicion of something
being wrong with the bank here. You
will not be surprised, Mr. George,
that I thought of the nine thousand
pounds I had just paid in."
" Who said it ?" asked George. "I'll
prosecute him if I can find out."
" I dare say you would. But I have
not come here to make mischief. I
stopped his repeating it, and I, you
know, am safe, so there's no harm
done. I have passed an uneasy night,
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
and I have come to ask you to tell me
the truth in all good faith."
"The bank is all right," said George.
" I cannot imagine how such a report
could by any possibility have arisen,"
lie continued, quitting the one point
for the other. " There is no foundation
George Godolphin spoke in all good
faith when he said he could not tell
how the report could have arisen. He
really could not. Nothing had trans-
pired at Prior's Ash to give rise to
it. Possibly he deemed, in his san-
guine temperament, that he spoke in
equally good faith, when assuring Mr.
Hastings that the bank was all right :
he may have believed that it would so
" The money is safe, then ?"
"Otherwise, you must let me have
it out now. Were it to be lost, it
would be ruin to me, ruin to the little
" But it is safe," returned George,
all the more emphatically, because
that it would have been remarkably
inconvenient, for special reasons, to
refund it then to Mr. Hastings. I re-
peat, that he may have thought it was
safe : safe in so far as that the bank
would get along somehow, and could
repay it sometime. Meanwhile, the
use of it was convenient, â how con-
venient none knew, save George.
"A packet of deeds has been mis-
laid ; or is missing in some way," re-
sumed George. " They belong to
Lord Averil. It must be some ver-
sion of that which has got abroad, â
if anything has got abroad."
"Ay," nodded Mr. Hastings. The
opinion coincided precisely with what
he had expressed to the agent.
"I know of nothing else wrong
with the bank," spoke George. " Some
wiseacre has got hold of the wrong
pig by the tail. Were you to ask my
brother, I am sure he would tell you
that business was never more flourish-
ing. I wish to goodness people could
be compelled to concern themselves
with their own affairs instead of in-
venting falsehoods of their friends !"
Mr. Hastings rose. " Your assur-
ance is sufficient, Mr. George ; I do
not require your brother's word to
confirm it. I have asked it of you,
in all dependence, Maria being the
link between us."
"To be sure," replied George ; and
he shook Mr. Hastings's hand as he
George remained alone, biting the
end of his quill-pen. To hear that
an^y such rumor was abroad vexed
and annoyed him beyond measure.
He only hoped that it would not
spread. Some wiseacre â as he called
it â must have picked up an inkling
about the deed, and converted it into
a slur upon the bank's solvency. " I
wish I could hang the fools !" mut-
His wish was interrupted. Some-
body came in and said that Mr. Bar-
naby desired to see him.
"Let him come in," said George.
Mr. Barnaby came in. A simple-
looking man of quiet manners, a corn
and barley-dealer, who kept an ac-
count at the bank. He had a canvas
bag in his hand. George asked him
to a seat.
" I was going to pay in two thou-
sand pounds, sir," said he, slightly
lifting the bag to indicate that the
money was there. "But I'd like, first
of all, to be assured that it's all right."
George sat and stared at him. Was
Prior's Ash all going mad together ?
George honestly believed that nothing
yet had transpired, or could have
transpired, to set these doubts afloat.
" Really, Mr. Barnaby, 1 do not un-
derstand you," he said, with some
hauteur : just like he had answered
" I called in at Butt's, sir, as I
came along, to know what had been
done in that business where I was
chiseled out of that load of barley, and
I happened to mention that I was
coming on here to pay in two thou-
sand pounds. ' Take care that it's
all right,' said Butt. 'I heard the
bank talked about yesterday.' Is it
all right, sir ?"
" It is as right as the Bank of EnÂ£-
THE S n A D W OF ASIILYDYAT
land," impulsively answered George.
" Rutt shall be brought to account for
" Well, T thought it was odd if
there was any thing up. Then I may
leave it with safety ?"
" Yes, you may," replied George. '
" Have you uot always found it safe
" That's just it : I couldn't fancy
that any thing wrong had come to it
all on a sudden. I'll go and pay it
in then, sir. It won't be for long,
though. I shall be wanting it out, I
expect, by the end of next week."
" Whenever you please, Mr. Barna-
by," replied George.
The corn-dealer retired to leave his
money, and George Godolphin sat on
alone, biting his pen as before.
Where could these pernicious rumors
have had their rise ? Harmless
enough they might have fallen, had
nothing been rotten at the core of
affairs : George alone knew how aw-
fully pernicious they might prove now,
did they get wind.
MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP."
If this mysterious loss of the
packet of deeds disturbed Thomas
Godolphin, it was also disturbing, in
no light degree, the faithful old clerk,
Mr. Hurde. IVever, since he had
entered the house of Godolphin,
Crosse, and Godolphin â so many
years ago now, that he had almost lost
count of them â had any similar un-
satisfactory incident occurred. Mr.
Hurde thought and thought and
thought it over : he turned it about
in his mind, he looked at it in all its
bearings. He came to the conclusion
that it must be one of two things :
either that George Godolphin had in-
advertently misplaced it, or that it
had been stolen out and out. George
Godolphin said that he had not mis-
placed it ; indeed, George did not
acknowledge to any recollection of
having visited at all the box of Lord
Averil, except when he went to make
the search : and Mr. Godolphin had
now looked in every box that the
safe contained, and could not find
it. Therefore, after much vacillating
between opinions, the clerk came to
the final conclusion that the deeds
had been taken.
" Who could have done it ?" he
asked himself over and over again.
Somebody about them, doubtless.
He believed all the clerks were safe ;
that is, honest ; save Layton. Until
this happened, he would have said
Layton was safe ; and it was only in
the utter absence of any other quarter
for suspicion that he cast a doubt on
Layton. Of the clerks, he felt least
sure of Layton : but that was the
utmost that could be said : he would
not have thought to doubt the man,
but that he was seeking for somebody
to lay it on. The deeds could not
have gone without hands, and Mr.
Hurde, in his perplexity, could only
think that Layton's hands were less
unlikely hands than others.
On the previous evening, he had
gone home thinking of it. And there
he pondered the affair over, while he
digested his dry toast and his milkless
tea. He was a man of very spare
habits ; partly that his health com-
pelled him to be so ; partly from a
parsimonious nature. While seated
at it, composedly enjoying the un-
generous fare near the open window,
who should he see go by, but the
very man on whom his thoughts were
fixed, â Layton. This Layton was a
young, good-looking man, an inveter-
ate dandy, with curls and a mous-
tache. That moustache, sober, clean-
shaved Mr. Hurde had always looked
askance upon. That Layton had
been given to spend more than was
expedient, Prior's Ash knew : but for
that fact, he would not now have
been a banker's clerk. His family
were respectable â wealthy in a mod-
erate way ; but he had run through
too much of their money and tired
them out. For the last two or three
THE SHADOW OF ASHLIDYAT.
years he had settled down to sobriety.
Thomas Godolphin had admitted him
to a clerkship in his house, and Lay-
ton had married, and appeared con-
tent to live in a small way.
A small way for him ; as compared
to what he had been accustomed to ;
too large a way in the opinion of Mr.
Hurde. Mrs. Layton had a piano,
and played and sang very much, for
the benefit of the passers-by ; and
Layton hired gigs on a Sunday and
drove her out. Great food for Mr.
Hurde's censure, and he was thinking
of all this when Layton passed.
Starting up with a bound to look after
him, he nearly upset his teaboard.
He, Layton, was walking arm-in-
arm with a Mr. Jolly, â a great sport-
ing character. Mr. Hurde gave a
grunt of dissatisfaction. " Much good
it will bring him if he gets intimate
with him /"
In the dark of the evening, when it
had grown quite late, and Mr. Hurde
had taken his frugal supper, he went
out, and bent his steps towards the
residence of Layton. In his present
uncertain frame of mind, touching
Layton, it seemed expedient to Mr.
Hurde to take a walk past his place
of abode, lest haply he might come
upon something or other confirmatory
of his suspicions.
And he did. At least, it appeared
to Hurde that he did. Never a shade
of doubt rested upon him that night
that the thief was Ned Layton.
On the high road, going to Ashly-
dyat, â not the obscure and less fre-
quented way down Crosse Street, but
the open turnpike road taken by car-
riages, â there had been a good deal of
building of late years. Houses and
terraces had grown up, almost as by
magic, not only along the line of road,
but branching off on either side of it.
Down one of these turnings, a row of
dwellings of that class called in the
local phraseology " genteel," had been
erected by a fancy architect. He had
certainly not displayed any great
amount of judicious skill. They con-
tained eight rooms, bad glittering-
white fronts and grass-green porticos
of trellis-work. White houses are
very nice, and there's nothing objec-
tionable in green porticos : but they
need not be made to abut right upon
the public pathway. Walking in front
of the terrace, the porticos looked like
so many green watch-boxes, and the
bow-windows appeared to be con-
stituted on purpose that you should
see what was inside them. In the
last house of this row dwelt the clerk,
Layton. He and his wife had lodg-
ings in it : that bow-windowed parlor
and the bedroom over it.
Mr. Hurde strolled past, in the de-
liberate manner that he might have
done had he been out for only an
evening airing, and he obtained full
view of the interior of the sitting-room.
He obtained the pleasure of a very
full view indeed. In fact, there ap-
peared to be so much to look at, that
his vision at first could but take it in
The Laytons had got a party. Two
or three ladies, and two or three gen-
tlemen. A supper-tray was at one
end of the table, and at this end, next
the window, were two decanters of
wine, some fruit and biscuits. There
was a great deal of talking and laugh-
ing and there was plenty of light.
Four candles Mr. Hurde counted as
he stood there : two on the table, two
on the mantelpiece. Four candles !
and they were not staid respectable
"moulds," like he burnt, but those
flaring dropping composites, tenpence
a pound, if they were a penny ! He,
the old clerk, stood there, unseen and
unsuspected, and took it all in. The
display of glass looked something pro-
fuse, and he nearly gave vent to a
groan when he caught sight of the
silver forks : silver or imitation, he
did not know which, but it appeared
all one to Mr. Hurde. He had never
overstepped the respectable customs
of his forefathers,. â had never ad-
vanced beyond the good old-fashioned
two-pronged steel fork. They were
sitting with the window open ; no
houses were as yet built opposite, and
the road was not invaded, save by
persons coming to these houses, from
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
one hour's end to another. Mr. Hurcle
could stand there, and enjoy the sight
at leisure. If ever a man felt con-
viction rush to his heart, he did then.
Wine, and composite candles, and sil-
ver forks, and supper, and visitors ! â
who but Layton could have taken the
He stood thei'e a little too long.
Falling into a reverie, he did not no-
tice a movement within, and suffered
himself to be all but dropped upon.
He could have made an excuse, it is
true ; for Layton was a civil fellow,
and had several times asked him to
go up there ; but he preferred not to
make it, and not to be seen. The
street-door opened, and Mr. Hurde
had just time to dart past the portico
and take shelter behind it, round the
corner. From his position he was
within hearing of any thing that might
The sporting character with whom
he had seen Layton walking early in
the evening, and who made one of the
guests, had come forth to depart.
Layton had attended him to the door ;
and they stood inside the portico,
talking. In Mr. Hurde's fluster, he
did not at first catch the sense of the
words ; but he soon found it related to
" You back Cannonbar," said the
sporting man. "You can't be far out
then. He's a first-rate horse ; he'll
beat the whole field into next week.
You were in luck to draw him."
" I have backed him," replied Lay-
" Back him again : he's a little gold
mine. I'd spend a fifty-pound note
on him, I would."
Layton answered by a laugh. They
shook hands, and the sporting friend,
who appeared to be in a hurry, set off
with a run in the direction of Prior's
Ash. Mr. Layton went in again, and
shut the door.
Then Mr. Hurde came out of his
corner. All his suspicions strength-
ened. Strengthened ? nay ; changed
into certainties. Plate, glass, com-
posites, wines, supper, and friends at
it, had been doubtful enough ; but
they were as trifles compared to this
new danger, â this betting on the turf.
Had he seen Layton take Lord A vcril's
deeds with his own eyes, he could not
have been more certain of his guilt
than he felt now.
Enjoying another quiet survey of
the room, during which he had the
gratification of hearing Mrs. Layton,
who had now seated herself at the
piano, plunge into a song, which be-
gan something about a " bird on the
wing," the old clerk, grievously dis-
comfited, retraced his steps past the
terrace, picked his way over some
clay and loose land in front of another
terrace in process of erection, and
turned into the high road, leading to
Prior's Ash. He was going along
lost in thought, when he nearly ran
against a gentleman turning an angle
of the road. It was Mr. Godolphin.
" Oh, â I beg your pardon, sir. I