Jelland’s Voyage

“Jelland scribbled a cheque and threw it on the black. The card was the king of hearts, and the croupier raked in the little bit of paper. Jelland grew angry, and McEvoy white. Another and a heavier cheque was written and thrown on the table. The card was the nine of diamonds. McEvoy leaned his head upon his hands and looked as if he would faint. ‘By God!’ growled Jelland, ‘I won’t be beat,’ and he threw on a cheque that covered the other two. The card was the deuce of hearts. A few minutes later they were walking down the Bund, with the cool night-air playing upon their fevered faces.

“‘Of course you know what this means,’ said Jelland, lighting a cheroot; ‘we’ll have to transfer some of the office money to our current account. There’s no occasion to make a fuss over it. Old Moore won’t look over the books before Easter. If we have any luck, we can easily replace it before then.’

“‘But if we have no luck?’ faltered McEvoy.

“‘Tut, man, we must take things as they come. You stick to me, and I’ll stick to you, and we’ll pull through together. You shall sign the cheques to-morrow night, and we shall see if your luck is better than mine.’

“But if anything it was worse. When the pair rose from the table on the following evening, they had spent over £5,000 of their employer’s money. But the resolute Jelland was as sanguine as ever.

“‘We have a good nine weeks before us before the books will be examined,’ said he. ‘We must play the game out, and it will all come straight.’

“McEvoy returned to his rooms that night in an agony of shame and remorse. When he was with Jelland he borrowed strength from him; but alone he recognised the full danger of his position, and the vision of his old white-capped mother in England, who had been so proud when he had received his appointment, rose up before him to fill him with loathing and madness. He was still tossing upon his sleepless couch when his Japanese servant entered the bedroom. For an instant McEvoy thought that the long-expected outbreak had come, and plunged for his revolver. Then, with his heart in his mouth, he listened to the message which the servant had brought.

“Jelland was downstairs, and wanted to see him.

“What on earth could he want at that hour of night? McEvoy dressed hurriedly and rushed downstairs. His companion, with a set smile upon his lips, which was belied by the ghastly pallor of his face, was sitting in the dim light of a solitary candle, with a slip of paper in his hands.

“‘Sorry to knock you up, Willy,’ said he. ‘No eavesdroppers, I suppose?’

“McEvoy shook his head. He could not trust himself to speak.

“‘Well, then, our little game is played out. This note was waiting for me at home. It is from Moore, and says that he will be down on Monday morning for an examination of the books. It leaves us in a tight place.’

“‘Monday!’ gasped McEvoy; ‘to-day is Friday.’

“‘Saturday, my son, and 3 A.M. We have not much time to turn round in.’

“‘We are lost!’ screamed McEvoy.

“‘We soon will be, if you make such an infernal row,’ said Jelland harshly. ‘Now do what I tell you, Willy, and we’ll pull through yet.’

“‘I will do anything—anything.’

“‘That’s better. Where’s your whisky? It’s a beastly time of the day to have to get your back stiff, but there must be no softness with us, or we are gone. First of all, I think there is something due to our relations, don’t you?’

“McEvoy stared.

“‘We must stand or fall together, you know. Now I, for one, don’t intend to set my foot inside a felon’s dock under any circumstances. D’ye see? I’m ready to swear to that. Are you?’

“‘What d’you mean?’ asked McEvoy, shrinking back.

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