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Stephen Laverick's Conscience
Stephen Laverick was a bachelor - his friends called him an incorrigible one. He had a
small but pleasantly situated suite of rooms in Whitehall Court, looking out upon the
river. His habits were almost monotonous in their regularity, and the morning following
his late night in the city was no exception to the general rule. At eight o'clock, the valet
attached to the suite knocked at his door and informed him that his bath was ready. He
awoke at once from a sound sleep, sat up in bed, and remembered the events of the
preceding evening.
At first he was inclined to doubt that slowly stirring effort of memory. He was a man of
unromantic temperament, unimaginative, and by no means of an adventurous turn of
mind. He sought naturally for the most reasonable explanation of this strange picture,
which no effort of his will could dismiss from his memory. It was a dream, of course. But
the dream did not fade. Slowly it spread itself out so that he could no longer doubt. He
knew very well as he sat there on the edge of his bed that the thing was truth. He, Stephen
Laverick, a man hitherto of upright character, with a reputation of which unconsciously
he was proud, had robbed a dead man, had looked into the burning eyes of his murderer,
had stolen away with twenty thousand pounds of someone else's money. Morally, at any
rate, - probably legally as well, - he was a thief. A glimpse inside his safe on the part of
an astute detective might very easily bring him under the grave suspicion of being a
criminal of altogether deeper dye.
Stephen Laverick was, in his way, something of a philosopher. In the cold daylight, with
the sound of the water running into his bath, this deed which he had done seemed to him
foolish and reprehensible. Nevertheless, he realized the absolute finality of his action.
The thing was done; he must make the best of it. Behaving in every way like a sensible
man, he did not send for the newspapers and search hysterically for their account of last
night's tragedy, but took his bath as usual, dressed with more than ordinary care, and sat
down to his breakfast before he even unfolded the paper. The item for which he searched
occupied by no means so prominent a position as he had expected. It appeared under one
of the leading headlines, but it consisted of only a few words. He read them with interest
but without emotion. Afterwards he turned to the Stock Exchange quotations and made
notes of a few prices in which he was interested.
He completed in leisurely fashion an excellent breakfast and followed his usual custom of
walking along the Embankment as far as the Royal Hotel, where he called a taxicab and
drove to his offices. A little crowd had gathered around the end of the passage which led
from Crooked Friars, and Laverick himself leaned forward and looked curiously at the
spot where the body of the murdered man had lain. It seemed hard to him to reconstruct
last night's scene in his mind now that the narrow street was filled with hurrying men and
a stream of vehicles blocked every inch of the roadway. In his early morning mood the
thing was impossible. In a moment or two he paid his driver and dismissed him.
He fancied that a certain relief was visible among his clerks when he opened the door at
precisely his usual time and with a cheerful "Good-morning!" made his way into the
private office. He lit his customary cigarette and dealt rapidly with the correspondence