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As deep as the sea
by [?]

“What can I do, Dan? I’m broke, too. My last dollar went to pay my last debt to-day. I’ve nothing but what I stand in. I’ve got prospects, but I can’t discount prospects at the banks.” The speaker laughed bitterly. “I’ve reaped and I’m sowing, the same as you, Dan.”

The other made a nervous motion of protest. “No; not the same as me, Flood–not the same. It’s sink or swim with me, and if you can’t help me–oh, I’d take my gruel without whining, if it wasn’t for Di! It’s that that knocks me over. It’s the shame to her. Oh, what a cursed ass and fool–and thief, I’ve been!”

“Thief?–thief?”

Flood Rawley dropped the flaming match with which he was about to light a cheroot, and stood staring, his dark-blue eyes growing wider, his worn, handsome face becoming drawn, as swift conviction mastered him. He felt that the black words which had fallen from his friend’s lips–from the lips of Diana Welldon’s brother–were the truth. He looked at the plump face, the full, amiable eyes, now misty with fright, at the characterless hand nervously feeling the golden mustache, at the well-fed, inert body; and he knew that, whatever the trouble or the peril, Dan Welldon could not surmount it alone.

“What is it?” Rawley asked, rather sharply, his fingers running through his slightly grizzled black hair, but not excitedly, for he wanted no scenes; and if this thing could hurt Di Welldon, and action was necessary, he must remain cool. What she was to do, Heaven and he only knew; what she had done for him, perhaps neither understood fully as yet. “What is it–quick?” he added, and his words were like a sharp grip upon Dan Welldon’s shoulder. “Racing?–cards?”

Dan nodded. “Yes, over at Askatoon; five hundred on Jibway, the favorite–he fell at the last fence; five hundred at poker with Nick Fison; and a thousand in land speculation at Edmonton, on margin. Everything went wrong.”

“And so you put your hand in the railway company’s money-chest?”

“It seemed such a dead certainty–Jibway; and the Edmonton corner-blocks, too. I’d had luck with Nick before; but–well, there it is, Flood.”

“They know–the railway people–Shaughnessy knows?”

“Yes, the president knows. He’s at Calgary now. They telegraphed him, and he wired to give me till midnight to pay up or go to jail. They’re watching me now. I can’t stir. There’s no escape, and there’s no one I can ask for help but you. That’s why I’ve come, Flood.”

“Lord, what a fool! Couldn’t you see what the end would be if your plunging didn’t come off? You–you oughtn’t to bet, or speculate, or play cards, you’re not clever enough. You’ve got blind rashness, and so you think you’re bold. And Di–oh, you idiot! And on a salary of a thousand dollars a year!”

“I suppose Di would help me; but I couldn’t explain.” The weak face puckered, a lifeless kind of tear gathered in the ox-like eyes.

“Yes, she probably would help you. She’d probably give you all she’s saved to go to Europe with and study, saved from her pictures sold at twenty per cent. of their value; and she’d mortgage the little income she’s got to keep her brother out of jail. Of course she would, and of course you ought to be ashamed of yourself for thinking of it.” Rawley lighted his cigar and smoked fiercely.

“It would be better for her than my going to jail,” stubbornly replied the other. “But I don’t want to tell her, or to ask her for money. That’s why I’ve come to you. You needn’t be so hard, Flood; you’ve not been a saint; and Di knows it.”

Rawley took the cheroot from his mouth, threw back his head, and laughed mirthlessly, ironically. Then suddenly he stopped and looked round the room till his eyes rested on a portrait-drawing which hung on the wall opposite the window, through which the sun poured. It was the face of a girl with beautiful bronzed hair, and full, fine, beautifully modelled face, with brown eyes deep and brooding, which seemed to have time and space behind them–not before them. The lips were delicate and full, and had the look suggesting a smile which the inward thought has stayed. It was like one of the Titian women–like a Titian that hangs on the wall of the Gallery at Munich. The head and neck, the whole personality, had an air of distinction and destiny. The drawing had been done by a wandering duchess who had seen the girl sketching in the foothills when on a visit to that “Wild West” which has such power to refine and inspire minds not superior to Nature. Its replica was carried to a castle in Scotland. It had been the gift of Diana Welldon on a certain day not long ago, when Flood Rawley had made a pledge to her, which was as vital to him and to his future as two thousand dollars were vital to Dan Welldon now.