Chapter 5 | A Stubborn Disposition | The Adventures of Don Lavington

Chapter Five.


Don had taken his hat, and, seeing his uncle apparently immersed in a letter, was about to yield to his curiosity and follow the constable, when, as he reached the door, his uncle’s word thundered out and made him turn and go on with his writing in response to a severe look and a pointing finger.

From time to time the boy looked up furtively as he sat, and wondered why his uncle did not say anything more about the money.

But the time glided on, and the struggle between his desire to speak out frankly and his indignant wounded pride continued.

A dozen times over he was on the point of crossing to the stern-looking old man, and begging him to listen and believe, but Uncle Josiah sat there with the most uncompromising of expressions on his face, and Don dared not speak. He dared not trust himself for very shame, as the incident had so upset him, that he felt sure that he must break down and cry like a child if he attempted to explain.

After a time there was the sound of voices talking and laughing, and the click of the heavy latch of the gate. Then through the open windows came the deep burr burr of Jem’s bass, and the shrill inquiring tones of Sally Wimble, as she eagerly questioned her lord.

Then there were steps, some of which passed the office door; and Don, as he sat with his head bent over a ledger, knew exactly whose steps those were, and where the makers of those steps were going to the different warehouses in the great yard.

Directly after Jem’s foot was heard, and he tapped at the door, pushed it a little way, and waited.

“Come in,” said Uncle Josiah, sharply.

Jem entered, doffing his cocked hat, and casting a sympathising look at Don, who raised his head. Then seeing that his employer was deeply immersed in the letter he was writing, Jem made a series of gesticulations with his hat, supplemented by some exceedingly queer grimaces, all meant as a kind of silent language, which was very expressive, but quite incomprehensible to Don.

“Well?” said Uncle Josiah, sharply.

“Beg pardon, sir! Thought you’d like to hear how we got on?”


“Went pretty quiet, sir, till we got about half-way there, and then he begun kicking like mad—leastways he didn’t kick, because his legs was tied, but he let go all he could, and it was hard work to hold the ladder.”

“And he is now safely locked up?”

“Yes, sir, and I’ve been thinking, sir, as he must have took that money when Master Don here was up in the warehouse along o’ me.”

“I daresay we shall find all out by-and-by, Wimble,” said the old merchant, coldly. “That will do, now.”

Jem looked uneasily at Don, as he turned his hat round to make sure which was the right way on, and moved slowly toward the door.

“Which, begging your pardon, sir, you don’t think now as—”

“Well?” said the old merchant, sharply, for Jem had stopped.

“Think as Mrs Wimble picked up any of the money, sir?”

“No, no, my man, of course not.”

“Thankye, sir, I’m glad of that; and if I might make so bold, sir, about Master Don—”

“What do you wish to say, man?”

“Oh, nothing, sir, only I’m quite sure, sir, as it was all Mike Bannock’s doing, and—”

“I think you had better go on with your work, Wimble, which you do understand, and not meddle with things that are beyond you.”

“Certainly, sir, certainly,” said Jem, quickly. “Just going, sir;” and giving Don a sympathetic look, he hurried out, but had hardly closed the door before he opened it again.

“Beg pardon, sir, Mrs Lavington, sir, and Miss Kitty.”

Don started from his stool, crimson with mortification. His mother! What would Uncle Josiah say?

Jem Wimble gave Don another look full of condolence before he closed the door, leaving Mrs Lavington and her niece in the office.

Mrs Lavington’s face was full of anxiety and care, as she glanced from her son to her brother and back again, while Kitty’s was as full of indignant reproof as she darted an angry look at Don, and then frowned and looked straight down at the floor.

“Well?” said the old merchant, coldly, “why have you come? You know I do not like you to bring Kitty here to the business place.”

“I—I heard—” faltered Mrs Lavington, who stood in great awe of her brother when he was in one of his stern moods.

“Heard? Well, what did you hear?”

“Such terrible news, Josiah.”

“Well, well, what?”

“Oh, my brother!” she exclaimed, wildly, as she stepped forward and caught his hand, “tell me it is not true.”

“How can I tell you what is not true when I don’t know what you are talking about,” cried the old man, impatiently. “My dear Laura, do you think I have not worries enough without your coming here?”

“Yes, yes; I know, dear.”

“And you ought to know that I shall do what is just and right.”

“I am sure of that, Josiah, but I felt obliged to come. Kitty and I were out shopping, and we met a crowd.”

“Then you should have turned down a side street.”

“But they were your men in the midst, and directly after I saw little Sally Wimble following.”

“Oh, she was, was she?” cried the old man, glad of some one on whom to vent his spleen. “That woman goes. How dare she leave the gates when her husband is out? I shall be having the place robbed again.”

“Yes, that is what she said, Josiah—that you had been robbed, and that Don—my boy—oh, no, no, no; say it is not true.”

Mrs Lavington looked wildly from one to the other, but there was a dead silence, and in a few minutes the poor woman’s manner had entirely changed. When she first spoke it was as the timid, shrinking, affectionate woman; now it was as the mother speaking in defence of her child.

“I say it is not true,” she cried. “You undertook to be a father to my poor boy, and now you charge him with having robbed you.”

“Laura, be calm,” said the old merchant, quietly; “and you had better take Kitty back home and wait.”

“You have always been too stern and harsh with the poor boy,” continued Mrs Lavington, without heeding him. “I was foolish ever to come and trust to you. How dare you charge him with such a crime?”

“I did not charge him with any crime, my dear Laura,” said the old merchant, gravely.

“Then it is not true?”

“It is true that I have been robbed, and that the man whom Lindon has persisted in making his companion, in spite of all I have said to the contrary, has charged him with the base, contemptible crime of robbing the master who trusted him.”

“But it is not true, Josiah; and that is what you always do, treat my poor boy as if he were your servant instead of your nephew—your sister’s boy.”

“I treat Lindon as if he were my son when we are at home,” said the old man, quietly. “When we are here at the office I treat him as my clerk, and I trust him to look after my interests, and to defend me from dishonest people.”

Don looked up, and it was on his lips to say, “Indeed, uncle, I always have done so,” when the old man’s next words seemed to chill and harden him.

“But instead of doing his duty by me, I have constantly had to reprove him for making a companion of a man whom I weakly, and against my better judgment, allowed in the yard; and the result is I have been robbed, and this man accuses Lindon of committing the robbery, and bribing him to silence.”

“But it is not true, Josiah. My son could not be guilty of such a crime.”

“He will have every opportunity of disproving it before the magistrates,” said Uncle Josiah, coldly.

“Magistrates!—my boy?” exclaimed Mrs Lavington, wildly. “Oh, no, no, no, brother; you will not proceed to such extremities as these. My boy before the magistrates. Impossible!”

“The matter is out of my hands, now,” said the old merchant, gravely. “I was bound to charge that scoundrel labourer with the theft. I could not tell that he would accuse your son of being the principal in the crime.”

“But you will stop it now for my sake, dear. Don, my boy, why do you not speak, and beg your uncle’s forgiveness?”

Don remained silent, with his brow wrinkled, his chin upon his breast, and a stubborn look of anger in his eyes, as he stood with his hands in his pockets, leaning back against his desk.

“Do you hear me, Don? Tell your uncle it is not true, and beg him to help you clear yourself from this disgrace.”

The lad made no reply, merely crossing his legs, and made his shoe-buckles rasp together as he slowly moved his feet.


He looked up strangely, met his mother’s earnest appealing gaze, and for the moment his better nature prevailed; but as he looked from her to his uncle, and saw the old man’s grey eyes fixed upon him searchingly, a feeling of obstinate anger swept over him again, and made him set his teeth, as something seemed to whisper to him, “No; you told the truth, and he would not believe you. Let him prove you guilty if he can!”

It was not the first time in history that a boy had stubbornly fought against his better self, and allowed the worst part of his nature to prevail.

“Do you not hear me, Don?” cried his mother. “Why do you not speak?”

Don remained silent, and Kitty, as she looked at him, angrily uttered an impatient ejaculation.

“Don, my son, for my sake speak to your uncle. Do you not hear me?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Then appeal to him to help you. Ask him to forgive you if you have done wrong.”

“And she believes me guilty, too,” thought Don, as he scowled at his feet.

“But you have not done wrong, my boy. I, your mother, will not believe it of you.”

Don’s better self began to force down that side of his mental scale.

“You may have been weak and foolish, Don, but nothing worse.”

The evil scale went down now in turn, and with it the foolish, ignorant boy’s heart sank low.

“Come, Don.”

“I’ve nothing more to say, mother.”

“Nothing more to say!” cried Mrs Lavington, wildly. “Oh, yes, yes, you have much to say, my boy. Come, throw away this wilful pride and obstinacy.”

“I wish I could,” thought Don one moment. “It is as cruel as it is unjust,” he thought the next; and he felt more obstinately full of pride than ever.

“Don, I command you to speak,” said Mrs Lavington, whose manner now began to change; but unfortunately the stern tone she adopted had the wrong effect, and the wrinkles in the boy’s face grew deeper, and the position more strained.

If Uncle Josiah, who had never had boys of his own, had come down from the lofty perch he had assumed, taken the boy’s hand, and said in kindly and frank tones, “Come, Don, my boy, there are troubles enough in life, clouds sufficient to obscure too much sunshine; speak out, let’s have all this over, and clear the storm away,”—if he had said something like that, Don would have melted, and all would have been well; but accustomed to manage men with an iron rule, Uncle Josiah had somehow, in spite of his straightforward, manly, and just character, seemed to repel the boy whose charge he had taken, and instead now of making the slightest advance, he said to himself, “It is not my duty to eat humble pie before the obstinate young cub. It will be a severe lesson for him, and will do him good.”

So the breach widened. Don seemed to grow sulky and sullen, when he was longing to cast himself upon his mother’s neck. The poor woman felt indignant at her son’s conduct, and the last straw which broke the camel’s back was laid on the top of the load by Kitty, who, moved by a desire to do good, made matters far worse by running across to Don, and in an impetuous way catching his hands and kissing him.

“Don, dear!” she cried.

The boy’s face lit up. Here was some one who would believe him after all, and he responded to her advances by grasping her hands tightly in his.

“Do, do speak, Don dear, and beg father to forgive you,” she cried. “Tell him it was a mistake, and that you will never do so again.”

Don let fall her hands, the deep scowl came over his brow again, and he half turned away.

“No, no, Don, dear,” she whispered; “pray don’t be obstinate. Confess that you did it, and promise father to do better in the future. He will forgive you; I know he will.”

Don turned his back with an impatient gesture, and Kitty burst into tears, and went slowly to her aunt, to whose hands she clung.

“Laura, dear,” said Uncle Josiah, gravely, “I think we had better bring this painful interview to an end. You may rest assured that I shall do what is just and right by Don. He shall have every opportunity for clearing himself.”

“I am not guilty,” cried Don, fiercely throwing back his head.

“I thought so this morning, my boy,” said the old merchant, gravely. “Your conduct now is making me think very differently. Laura, I will walk home with you, if you please.”

“Josiah! Don, my boy, pray, pray speak,” cried Mrs Lavington, piteously.

Don heard her appeal, and it thrilled him, but his uncle’s words had raised up an obstinacy that was stronger than ever, and while longing to throw himself in his mother’s arms—passionately longing so to do—his indignant pride held him back, and he stood with his head bent, as in obedience to her brother Mrs Lavington took his arm, and allowed him to lead her out of the office, weeping bitterly the while.

Don did not look up to meet his mother’s yearning gaze, but for months and years after he seemed to see that look when far away in the midst of peril, and too late he bitterly upbraided himself for his want of frankness and power to subdue his obstinate pride.

“He thinks me guilty!” he said to himself, as he stood with his head bent, listening, and unaware of the fact that some one was still in the room, till a light step came towards him, his hand was caught, and his cheek rapidly kissed.


“Coming, father.”

Then there was a rapid step, the door closed, and Don stood in the same attitude, listening to the steps on the gravel, and then to the bang of the wicket-gate.

Alone with his thoughts, and they were many and strange.

What should he do? Go right away, and—and—

“Mas’ Don.”

He looked up, and Jem stood at the door.