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Corporal Cameron

The senior member of the legal firm of Rae & Macpherson was perplexed and annoyed, indeed angry, and angry chiefly because he was perplexed.  He resented such a condition of mind as reflecting upon his legal and other acumen.  Angry, too, he was because he had been forced to accept, the previous day, a favour from a firm--Mr. Rae would not condescend to say a rival firm--with which he for thirty years had maintained only the most distant and formal relations, to wit, the firm of Thomlinson & Shields.  Messrs. Rae & Macpherson were family solicitors and for three generations had been such; hence there gathered about the firm a fine flavour of assured respectability which only the combination of solid integrity and undoubted antiquity can give.  Messrs. Rae & Macpherson had not yielded in the slightest degree to that commercialising spirit which would transform a respectable and self-respecting firm of family solicitors into a mere financial agency; a transformation which Mr. Rae would consider a degradation of an ancient and honourable profession.  This uncompromising attitude toward the commercialising spirit of the age had doubtless something to do with their losing the solicitorship for the Bank of Scotland, which went to the firm of Thomlinson & Shields, to Mr. Rae's keen, though unacknowledged, disappointment; a disappointment that arose not so much from the loss of the very honourable and lucrative appointment, and more from the fact that the appointment should go to such a firm as that of Thomlinson & Shields.  For the firm of Thomlinson & Shields were of recent origin, without ancestry, boasting an existence of only some thirty-five years, and, as one might expect of a firm of such recent origin, characterised by the commercialising modern spirit in its most pronounced and objectionable form.  Mr. Rae, of course, would never condescend to hostile criticism, dismissing Messrs. Thomlinson & Shields from the conversation with the single remark, "Pushing, Sir, very pushing, indeed."

It was, then, no small humiliation for Mr. Rae to be forced to accept a favour from Mr. Thomlinson.  "Had it been any other than Cameron," he said to himself, as he sat in his somewhat dingy and dusty office, "I would let him swither.  But Cameron!  I must see to it and at once."  Behind the name there rose before Mr. Rae's imagination a long line of brave men and fair women for whose name and fame and for whose good estate it had been his duty and the duty of those who had preceded him in office to assume responsibility.

"Young fool!  Much he cares for the honour of his family!  I wonder what's at the bottom of this business!  Looks ugly!  Decidedly ugly!  The first thing is to find him."  A messenger had failed to discover young Cameron at his lodgings, and had brought back the word that for a week he had not been seen there.  "He must be found.  They have given me till to-morrow.  I cannot ask a further stay of proceedings; I cannot and I will not."  It made Mr. Rae more deeply angry that he knew quite well if necessity arose he would do just that very thing.  "Then there's his father coming in this evening.  We simply must find him.  But how and where?"

Mr. Rae was not unskilled in such a matter.  "Find a man, find his friends," he muttered.  "Let's see.  What does the young fool do? What are his games?  Ah!  Football!  I have it!  Young Dunn is my man."  Hence to young Dunn forthwith Mr. Rae betook himself.

It was still early in the day when Mr. Rae's mild, round, jolly, clean-shaven face beamed in upon Mr. Dunn, who sat with dictionaries, texts, and class notebooks piled high about him, burrowing in that mound of hidden treasure which it behooves all prudent aspirants for university honours to diligently mine as the fateful day approaches.  With Mr. Dunn time had now come to be measured by moments, and every moment golden.  But the wrathful impatience that had gathered in his face at the approach of an intruder was overwhelmed in astonishment at recognising so distinguished a visitor as Mr. Rae the Writer.

"Ah, Mr. Dunn," said Mr. Rae briskly, "a moment only, one moment, I assure you.  Well do I know the rage which boils behind that genial smile of yours.  Don't deny it, Sir.  Have I not suffered all the pangs, with just a week before the final ordeal?  This is your final, I believe?"

"I hope so," said Mr. Dunn somewhat ruefully.

"Yes, yes, and a very fine career, a career befitting your father's son.  And I sincerely trust, Sir, that as your career has been marked by honour, your exit shall be with distinction; and all the more that I am not unaware of your achievements in another department of--ah--shall I say endeavour.  I have seen your name, Sir, mentioned more than once, to the honour of our university, in athletic events."  At this point Mr. Rae's face broke into a smile.

An amazing smile was Mr. Rae's; amazing both in the suddenness of its appearing and in the suddenness of its vanishing.  Upon a face of supernatural gravity, without warning, without beginning, the smile, broad, full and effulgent, was instantaneously present. Then equally without warning and without fading the smile ceased to be.  Under its effulgence the observer unfamiliar with Mr. Rae's smile was moved, to a responsive geniality of expression, but in the full tide of this emotion he found himself suddenly regarding a face of such preternatural gravity as rebuked the very possibility or suggestion of geniality.  Before the smile Mr. Rae's face was like a house, with the shutters up and the family plunged in gloom. When the smile broke forth every shutter was flung wide to the pouring sunlight, and every window full of flowers and laughing children.  Then instantly and without warning the house was blank, lifeless, and shuttered once more, leaving you helplessly apologetic that you had ever been guilty of the fatuity of associating anything but death and gloom with its appearance.

To young Mr. Dunn it was extremely disconcerting to discover himself smiling genially into a face of the severest gravity, and eyes that rebuked him for his untimely levity.  "Oh, I beg pardon," exclaimed Mr. Dunn hastily, "I thought--"

"Not at all, Sir," replied Mr. Rae.  "As I was saying, I have observed from time to time the distinctions you have achieved in the realm of athletics.  And that reminds me of my business with you to-day,--a sad business, a serious business, I fear."  The solemn impressiveness of Mr. Rae's manner awakened in Mr. Dunn an awe amounting to dread.  "It is young Cameron, a friend of yours, I believe, Sir."

"Cameron, Sir!" echoed Dunn.

"Yes, Cameron.  Does he, or did he not have a place on your team?"

Dunn sat upright and alert.  "Yes, Sir.  What's the matter, Sir?"

"First of all, do you know where he is?  I have tried his lodgings. He is not there.  It is important that I find him to-day, extremely important; in fact, it is necessary; in short, Mr. Dunn,--I believe I can confide in your discretion,--if I do not find him to-day, the police will to-morrow."

"The police, Sir!"  Dunn's face expressed an awful fear.  In the heart of the respectable Briton the very mention of the police in connection with the private life of any of his friends awakens a feeling of gravest apprehension.  No wonder Mr. Dunn's face went pale!  "The police!" he said a second time.  "What for?"

Mr. Rae remained silent.

"If it is a case of debts, Sir," suggested Mr. Dunn, "why, I would gladly--"

Mr. Rae waved him aside.  "It is sufficient to say, Mr. Dunn, that we are the family solicitors, as we have been for his father, his grandfather and great-grandfather before him."

"Oh, certainly, Sir.  I beg pardon," said Mr. Dunn hastily.

"Not at all; quite proper; does you credit.  But it is not a case of debts, though it is a case of money; in fact, Sir,--I feel sure I may venture to confide in you,--he is in trouble with his bank, the Bank of Scotland.  The young man, or someone using his name, has been guilty of--ah--well, an irregularity, a decided irregularity, an irregularity which the bank seems inclined to-- to--follow up; indeed, I may say, instructions have been issued through their solicitors to that effect.  Mr. Thomlinson was good enough to bring this to my attention, and to offer a stay of proceedings for a day."

"Can I do anything, Sir?" said Dunn.  "I'm afraid I've neglected him.  The truth is, I've been in an awful funk about my exams, and I haven't kept in touch as I should."

"Find him, Mr. Dunn, find him.  His father is coming to town this evening, which makes it doubly imperative.  Find him; that is, if you can spare the time."

"Of course I can.  I'm awfully sorry I've lost touch with him. He's been rather down all this winter; in fact, ever since the International he seems to have lost his grip of himself."

"Ah, indeed!" said Mr. Rae.  "I remember that occasion; in fact, I was present myself," he admitted.  "I occasionally seek to renew my youth."  Mr. Rae's smile broke forth, but anxiety for his friend saved Mr. Dunn from being caught again in any responsive smile. "Bring him to my office, if you can, any time to-day.  Good-bye, Sir.  Your spirit does you credit.  But it is the spirit which I should expect in a man who plays the forward line as you play it."

Mr. Dunn blushed crimson.  "Is there anything else I could do? Anyone I could see?  I mean, for instance, could my father serve in any way?"

"Ah, a good suggestion!"  Mr. Rae seized his right ear,--a characteristic action of his when in deep thought,--twisted it into a horn, and pulled it quite severely as if to assure himself that that important feature of his face was firmly fixed in its place. "A very good suggestion!  Your father knows Mr. Sheratt, the manager of the bank, I believe."

"Very well, Sir, I think," answered Mr. Dunn.  "I am sure he would see him.  Shall I call him in, Sir?"

"Nothing of the sort, nothing of the sort; don't think of it!  I mean, let there be nothing formal in this matter.  If Mr. Dunn should chance to meet Mr. Sheratt, that is, casually, so to speak, and if young Cameron's name should come up, and if Mr. Dunn should use his influence, his very great influence, with Mr. Sheratt, the bank might be induced to take a more lenient view of the case.  I think I can trust you with this."  Mr. Rae shook the young man warmly by the hand, beamed on him for one brief moment with his amazing smile, presented to his answering smile a face of unspeakable gravity, and left him extremely uncertain as to the proper appearance for his face, under the circumstances.

Before Mr. Rae had gained the street Dunn was planning his campaign; for no matter what business he had in hand, Dunn always worked by plan.  By the time he himself had reached the street his plan was formed.  "No use trying his digs.  Shouldn't be surprised if that beast Potts has got him.  Rotten bounder, Potts, and worse! Better go round his way."  And oscillating in his emotions between disgust and rage at Cameron for his weakness and his folly, and disgust and rage at himself for his neglect of his friend, Dunn took his way to the office of the Insurance Company which was honoured by the services of Mr. Potts.

The Insurance Company knew nothing of the whereabouts of Mr. Potts. Indeed, the young man who assumed responsibility for the information appeared to treat the very existence of Mr. Potts as a matter of slight importance to his company; so slight, indeed, that the company had not found it necessary either to the stability of its business or to the protection of its policy holders--a prime consideration with Insurance Companies--to keep in touch with Mr. Potts.  That gentleman had left for the East coast a week ago, and that was the end of the matter as far as the clerk of the Insurance Company was concerned.

At his lodgings Mr. Dunn discovered an even more callous indifference to Mr. Potts and his interests.  The landlady, under the impression that in Mr. Dunn she beheld a prospective lodger, at first received him with that deferential reserve which is the characteristic of respectable lodging-house keepers in that city of respectable lodgers and respectable lodging-house keepers.  When, however, she learned the real nature of Mr. Dunn's errand, she became immediately transformed.  In a voice shrill with indignation she repudiated Mr. Potts and his affairs, and seemed chiefly concerned to re-establish her own reputation for respectability, which she seemed to consider as being somewhat shattered by that of her lodger.  Mr. Dunn was embarrassed both by her volubility and by her obvious determination to fasten upon him a certain amount of responsibility for the character and conduct of Mr. Potts.

"Do you know where Mr. Potts is now, and have you any idea when he may return?" inquired Mr. Dunn, seizing a fortunate pause.

"Am I no' juist tellin' ye," cried the landlady, in her excitement reverting to her native South Country dialect, "that I keep nae coont o' Mr. Potts' stravagins?  An' as to his return, I ken naething aboot that an' care less.  He's paid what he's been owing me these three months an' that's all I care aboot him."

"I am glad to hear that," said Mr. Dunn heartily.

"An' glad I am tae, for it's feared I was for my pay a month back."

"When did he pay up?" inquired Mr. Dunn, scenting a clue.

"A week come Saturday,--or was it Friday?--the day he came in with a young man, a friend of his.  And a night they made of it, I remember," replied the landlady, recovering command of herself and of her speech under the influence of Mr. Dunn's quiet courtesy.

"Did you know the young man that was with him?"

"Yes, it was young Cameron.  He had been coming about a good deal."

"Oh, indeed!  And have you seen Mr. Cameron since?"

"No; he never came except in company with Mr. Potts."

And with this faint clue Mr. Dunn was forced to content himself, and to begin a systematic search of Cameron's haunts in the various parts of the town.  It was Martin, his little quarter-back, that finally put him on the right track.  He had heard Cameron's pipes not more than an hour ago at his lodgings in Morningside Road.

"But what do you want of Cameron these days?" inquired the young Canadian.  "There's nothing on just now, is there, except this infernal grind?"

Dunn hesitated.  "Oh, I just want him.  In fact, he has got into some trouble."

"There you are!" exclaimed Martin in disgust.  "Why in thunder should you waste time on him?  You've taken enough trouble with him this winter already.  It's his own funeral, ain't it?"

Dunn looked at him a half moment in surprise.  "Well, you can't go back on a fellow when he's down, can you?"

"Look here, Dunn, I've often thought I'd give you a little wise advice.  This sounds bad, I know, but there's a lot of blamed rot going around this old town just on this point.  When a fellow gets on the bum and gets into a hole he knows well that there'll be a lot of people tumbling over each other to get him out, hence he deliberately and cheerfully slides in.  If he knew he'd have to scramble out himself he wouldn't be so blamed keen to get in.  If he's in a hole let him frog it for awhile, by Jingo!  He's hitting the pace, let him take his bumps!  He's got to take 'em sooner or later, and better sooner than later, for the sooner he takes 'em the quicker he'll learn.  Bye-bye!  I know you think I'm a semi- civilised Colonial.  I ain't; I'm giving you some wisdom gained from experience.  You can't swim by hanging on to a root, you bet!"

Dunn listened in silence, then replied slowly, "I say, old chap, there's something in that.  My governor said something like that some time ago:  'A trainer's business is to train his men to do without him.'"

"There you are!" cried Martin.  "That's philosophy!  Mine's just horse sense."

"Still," said Dunn thoughtfully, "when a chap's in you've got to lend a hand; you simply can't stand and look on."  Dunn's words, tone, and manner revealed the great, honest heart of human sympathy which he carried in his big frame.

"Oh, hang it," cried Martin, "I suppose so!  Guess I'll go along with you.  I can't forget you pulled me out, too."

"Thanks, old chap," cried Dunn, brightening up, "but you're busy, and--"

"Busy!  By Jingo, you'd think so if you'd watch me over night and hear my brain sizzle.  But come along, I'm going to stay with you!"

But Dunn's business was private, and could be shared with no one. It was difficult to check his friend's newly-aroused ardour.  "I say, old chap," he said, "you really don't need to come along.  I can do--"

"Oh, go to blazes!  I know you too well!  Don't you worry about me! You've got me going, and I'm in on this thing; so come along!"

Then Dunn grew firm.  "Thanks, awfully, old man," he said, "but it's a thing I'd rather do alone, if you don't mind."

"Oh!" said Martin.  "All right!  But say, if you need me I'm on. You're a great old brick, though!  Tra-la!"

As Martin had surmised, Dunn found Cameron in his rooms.  He was lying upon his bed enjoying the luxury of a cigarette.  "Hello! Come right in, old chap!" he cried, in gay welcome.  "Have a--no, you won't have a cigarette--have a pipe?"

Dunn gazed at him, conscious of a rising tide of mingled emotions, relief, wrath, pity, disgust.  "Well, I'll be hanged!" at last he said slowly.  "But you've given us a chase!  Where in the world have you been?"

"Been?  Oh, here and there, enjoying my emancipation from the thralldom in which doubtless you are still sweating."

"And what does that mean exactly?"

"Mean?  It means that I've cut the thing,--notebooks, lectures, professors, exams, 'the hale hypothick,' as our Nannie would say at home."

"Oh rot, Cameron!  You don't mean it?"

"Circumspice.  Do you behold any suggestion of knotted towels and the midnight oil?"

Dunn gazed about the room.  It was in a whirl of confusion.  Pipes and pouches, a large box of cigarettes, a glass and a half-empty decanter, were upon the table; boots, caps, golf-clubs, coats, lay piled in various corners.  "Pardon the confusion, dear sir," cried Cameron cheerfully, "and lay it not to the charge of my landlady. That estimable woman was determined to make entry this afternoon, but was denied."  Cameron's manner one of gay and nervous bravado.

"Come, Cameron," said Dunn sadly, "what does this mean?  You're not serious; you're not chucking your year?"

"Just that, dear fellow, and nothing less.  Might as well as be ploughed."

"And what then are you going to do?"  Dunn's voice was full of a great pity.  "What about your people?  What about your father? And, by Jove, that reminds me, he's coming to town this evening. You know they've been trying to find you everywhere this last day or two."

"And who are 'they,' pray?"

"Who?  The police," said Dunn bluntly, determined to shock his friend into seriousness.

Cameron sat up quickly.  "The police?  What do you mean, Dunn?"

"What it means I do not know, Cameron, I assure you.  Don't you?"

"The police!" said Cameron again.  "It's a joke, Dunn."

"I wish to Heaven it were, Cameron, old man!  But I have it straight from Mr. Rae, your family solicitor.  They want you."

"Old Rae?" exclaimed Cameron.  "Now what the deuce does this all mean?"

"Don't you really know, old chap?" said Dunn kindly, anxiety and relief struggling in his face.

"No more than you.  What did the old chap say, anyway?"

"Something about a Bank; an irregularity, he called it, a serious irregularity.  He's had it staved off for a day."

"The Bank?  What in Heaven's name have I got to do with the Bank? Let's see; I was there a week or ten days ago with--" he paused. "Hang it, I can't remember!"  He ran his hands through his long black locks, and began to pace the room.

Dunn sat watching him, hope and fear, doubt and faith filling his heart in succession.

Cameron sat down with his face in his hands.  "What is it, old man? Can't I help you?" said Dunn, putting his hand on his shoulder.

"I can't remember," muttered Cameron.  "I've been going it some, you know.  I had been falling behind and getting money off Potts. Two weeks ago I got my monthly five-pound cheque, and about ten days ago the usual fifty-pound cheque to square things up for the year, fees, etc.  Seems to me I cashed those.  Or did Potts? Anyway I paid Potts.  The deuce take it, I can't remember!  You know I can carry a lot of Scotch and never show it, but it plays the devil with my memory."  Cameron was growing more and more excited.

"Well, old chap, we must go right along to Mr. Rae's office.  You don't mind?"

"Mind?  Not a bit.  Old Rae has no love for me,--I get him into too much trouble,--but he's a straight old boy.  Just wait till I brush up a bit."  He poured out from a decanter half a glass of whiskey.

"I'd cut that out if I were you," said Dunn.

"Later, perhaps," replied Cameron, "but not to-day."

Within twenty minutes they were ushered into Mr. Rae's private office.  That gentleman received them with a gravity that was portentous in its solemnity.  "Well, Sir, you have succeeded in your task," he said to Mr. Dunn.  "I wish to thank you for this service, a most valuable service to me, to this young gentleman, and to his family; though whether much may come of it remains to be seen."

"Oh, thanks," said Dunn hurriedly.  "I hope everything will be all right."  He rose to go.  Cameron looked at him quickly.  There was no mistaking the entreaty in his face.

Mr. Rae spoke somewhat more hurriedly than his wont.  "If it is not asking too much, and if you can still spare time, your presence might be helpful, Mr. Dunn."

"Stay if you can, old chap," said Cameron.  "I don't know what this thing is, but I'll do better if you're in the game, too."  It was an appeal to his captain, and after that nothing on earth could have driven Dunn from his side.

At this point the door opened and the clerk announced, "Captain Cameron, Sir."

Mr. Rae rose hastily.  "Tell him," he said quickly, "to wait--"

He was too late.  The Captain had followed close upon the heels of the clerk, and came in with a rush.  "Now, what does all this mean?" he cried, hardly waiting to shake hands with his solicitor. "What mischief--?"

"I beg your pardon, Captain," said Mr. Rae calmly, "let me present Mr. Dunn, Captain Dunn, I might say, of International fame."  The solicitor's smile broke forth with its accustomed unexpectedness, but had vanished long before Mr. Dunn in his embarrassment had finished shaking hands with Captain Cameron.

The Captain then turned to his son.  "Well, Sir, and what is this affair of yours that calls me to town at a most inconvenient time?" His tone was cold, fretful, and suspicious.

Young Cameron's face, which had lighted up with a certain eagerness and appeal as he had turned toward his father, as if in expectation of sympathy and help, froze at this greeting into sullen reserve. "I don't know any more than yourself, Sir," he answered.  "I have just come into this office this minute."

"Well, then, what is it, Mr. Rae?"  The Captain's voice and manner were distinctly imperious, if not overbearing.

Mr. Rae, however, was king of his own castle.  "Will you not be seated, Sir?" he said, pointing to a chair.  "Sit down, young gentlemen."

His quiet dignity, his perfect courtesy, recalled the Captain to himself.  "I beg your pardon, Mr. Rae, but I am really much disturbed.  Can we begin at once?"  He glanced as he spoke at Mr. Dunn, who immediately rose.

"Sit down, Mr. Dunn," said Mr. Rae quietly.  "I have asked this young gentleman," he continued, turning to the Captain, "to remain. He has already given me valuable assistance.  I fancy he may be able to serve us still further, if he will be so good."

Mr. Dunn bowed in silence.

"Now let us proceed with what must be an exceedingly painful matter for us all, and out of which nothing but extreme candour on the part of Mr. Allan here, and great wisdom on the part of us all, can possibly extract us."  Mr. Rae's glance rested upon the Captain, who bowed, and upon his son, who made no sign whatever, but remained with his face set in the same sullen gloom with which he had greeted his father.

Mr. Rae opened a drawer and brought forth a slip of paper.  "Mr. Allan," he said, with a certain sharpness in his tone, "please look at this."

Cameron came to the desk, picked up the paper, glanced at it.  "It is my father's cheque," he said, "which I received about a week ago."

"Look at the endorsement, please," said Mr. Rae.

Cameron turned it over.  A slight flush came to his pale face.  "It is mine to--" he hesitated, "Mr. Potts."

"Mr. Potts cashed it then?"

"I suppose so.  I believe so.  I owed him money, and he gave me back some."

"How much did you owe him?"

"A considerable amount.  I had been borrowing of him for some time."

"As much as fifty pounds?"

"I cannot tell.  I did not keep count, particularly; Potts did that."

The Captain snorted contemptuously.  "Do you mean to say--?" he began.

"Pardon me, Captain Cameron.  Allow me," said Mr. Rae.

"Now, Mr. Allan, do you think you owed him as much as the amount of that cheque?"

"I do not know, but I think so."

"Had you any other money?"

"No," said Allan shortly; "at least I may have had a little remaining from the five pounds I had received from my father a few days before."

"You are quite sure you had no other money?"

"Quite certain," replied Allan.

Again Mr. Rae opened his desk and drew forth a slip and handed it to young Cameron.  "What is that?" he said.

Cameron glanced at it hurriedly, and turned it over.  "That is my father's cheque for five pounds, which I cashed."

Mr. Rae stretched out his hand and took the cheque.  "Mr. Allan," he said, "I want you to consider most carefully your answer."  He leaned across the desk and for some moments--they seemed like minutes to Dunn--his eyes searched young Cameron's face.  "Mr. Allan," he said, with a swift change of tone, his voice trembling slightly, "will you look at the amount of that cheque again?"

Cameron once more took the cheque, glanced at it.  "Good Lord!" he cried.  "It is fifty!"  His face showed blank amazement.

Quick, low, and stern came Mr. Rae's voice.  "Yes," he said, "it is for fifty pounds.  Do you know that that is a forgery, the punishment for which is penal servitude, and that the order for your arrest is already given?"

The Captain sprang to his feet.  Young Cameron's face became ghastly pale.  His hand clutched the top of Mr. Rae's desk.  Twice or thrice he moistened his lips preparing to speak, but uttered not a word.  "Good God, my boy!" said the Captain hoarsely.  "Don't stand like that.  Tell him you are innocent."

"One moment, Sir," said Mr. Rae to the Captain.  "Permit me."  Mr. Rae's voice, while perfectly courteous, was calmly authoritative.

"Mr. Allan," he continued, turning to the wretched young man, "what money have you at present in your pockets?"

With shaking hands young Cameron emptied upon the desk the contents of his pocketbook, from which the lawyer counted out ten one-pound notes, a half-sovereign and some silver.  "Where did you get this money, Mr. Allan?"

The young man, still silent, drew his handkerchief from his pocket, touched his lips, and wiped the sweat from his white face.

"Mr. Allan," continued the lawyer, dropping again into a kindly voice, "a frank explanation will help us all."

"Mr. Rae," said Cameron, his words coming with painful indistinctness, "I don't understand this.  I can't think clearly. I can't remember.  That money I got from Potts; at least I must have--I have had money from no one else."

"My God!" cried the Captain again.  "To think that a son of mine should--!"

"Pardon me, Captain Cameron," interrupted Mr. Rae quickly and somewhat sharply.  "We must not prejudge this case.  We must first understand it."

At this point Dunn stepped swiftly to Cameron's side.  "Brace up, old chap," he said in a low tone.  Then turning towards the Captain he said, "I beg your pardon, Sir, but I do think it's only fair to give a man a chance to explain."

"Allow me, gentlemen," said Mr. Rae in a firm, quiet voice, as the Captain was about to break forth.  "Allow me to conduct this examination."

Cameron turned his face toward Dunn.  "Thank you, old man," he said, his white lips quivering.  "I will do my best, but before God, I don't understand this."

"Now, Mr. Allan," continued the lawyer, tapping the desk sharply, "here are two cheques for fifty pounds, both drawn by your father, both endorsed by you, one apparently cashed by Mr. Potts, one by yourself.  What do you know about this?"

"Mr. Rae," replied the young man, his voice trembling and husky, "I tell you I can't understand this.  I ought to say that for the last two weeks I haven't been quite myself, and whiskey always makes me forget.  I can walk around steadily enough, but I don't always know what I am doing--"

"That's so, Sir," said Dunn quickly, "I've seen him."

"--And just what happened with these cheques I do not know.  This cheque," picking up the one endorsed to Potts, "I remember giving to Potts.  The only other cheque I remember is a five-pound one."

"Do you remember cashing that five-pound cheque?" inquired Mr. Rae.

"I carried it about for some days.  I remember that, because I once offered it to Potts in part payment, and he said--" the white face suddenly flushed a deep red.

"Well, Mr. Allan, what did he say?"

"It doesn't matter," said Cameron.

"It may and it may not," said Mr. Rae sharply.  "It is your duty to tell us."

"Out with it," said his father angrily.  "You surely owe it to me, to us all, to let us have every assistance."

Cameron paid no attention to his father's words.  "It has really no bearing, Sir, but I remember saying as I offered a five-pound cheque, 'I wish it was fifty.'"

"And what reply did Mr. Potts make?" said Mr. Rae, with quiet indifference, as if he had lost interest in this particular feature of the case.

Again Cameron hesitated.

"Come, out with it!" said his father impatiently.

His son closed his lips as if in a firm resolve.  "It really has nothing whatever to do with the case."

"Play the game, old man," said Dunn quietly.

"Oh, all right!" said Cameron.  "It makes no difference anyway.  He said in a joke, 'You could easily make this fifty; it is such mighty poor writing.'"

Still Mr. Rae showed no sign of interest.  "He suggested in a joke, I understand, that the five-pound cheque could easily be changed into fifty pounds.  That was a mere pleasantry of Mr. Potts', doubtless.  How did the suggestion strike you, Mr. Allan?"

Allan looked at him in silence.

"I mean, did the suggestion strike you unpleasantly, or how?"

"I don't think it made any impression, Sir.  I knew it was a joke."

"A joke!" groaned his father.  "Good Heavens!  What do you think--?"

"Once more permit me," said Mr. Rae quietly, with a wave of his hand toward the Captain.  "This cheque of five pounds has evidently been altered to fifty pounds.  The question is, by whom, Mr. Allan? Can you answer that?"  Again Mr. Rae's eyes were searching the young man's face.

"I have told you I remember nothing about this cheque."

"Is it possible, Mr. Allan, that you could have raised this cheque yourself without your knowing--?"

"Oh, nonsense!" said his father hotly, "why make the boy lie?"

His son started as if his father had struck him.  "I tell you once more, Mr. Rae, and I tell you all, I know nothing about this cheque, and that is my last word."  And from that position nothing could move him.

"Well," said Mr. Rae, closing the interview, "we have done our best.  The law must take its course."

"Great Heavens!" cried the Captain, springing to his feet.  "Do you mean to tell me, Allan, that you persist in this cursed folly and will give us no further light?  Have you no regard for my name, if not for your own?"  He grasped his son fiercely by the arm.

But his son angrily shook off his grasp.  "You," he said, looking his father full in the face, "you condemned me before you heard a word from me, and now for my name or for yours I care not a tinker's curse."  And with this he flung himself from the room.

"Follow him," said Mr. Rae to Dunn, quietly; "he will need you. And keep him in sight; it is important."

"All right, Sir!" said Dunn.  "I'll stay with him."  And he did.

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