Before the day closed, the scene at the bank door was heart-rending: respectable persons, reduced to pauperism in that day, kept arriving and telling their fellow-sufferers their little all was with Hardie, and nothing before them but the workhouse or the almshouse: ruined mothers came and held up their ruined children for the banker to see; and the doors were hammered at, and the house as well as the bank was beleaguered by a weeping, wailing, despairing crowd.
But like an idle wave beating on a rock, all this human misery dashed itself in vain against the banker's brick walls and shutters, hard to them as his very heart
The next day they mobbed Alfred and hissed him at the back-door. Jane was too ashamed and too frightened to stir out. Mr. Hardie sat calmly putting the finishing strokes to his fabricated balance-sheet.
Some innocent and excited victims went to the mayor for redress; to the aldermen, the magistrates--in vain.
Towards afternoon the banker's cool contempt for his benefactors, whose lives he had darkened, received a temporary check. A heavy stone was flung at the bank shutters: this ferocious blow made him start and the place rattle: it was the signal for a shower; and presently tink, tink, went the windows of the house, and in came the stones, starring the mirrors, upsetting the chairs, denting the papered walls, chipping the mantelpieces, shivering the bell glasses and statuettes, and strewing the room with dirty pebbles, and painted fragments, and glittering ruin.
Hardie winced: this was the sort of appeal to touch him. But soon he recovered his _sang froid._ "Thank you," said he, "I'm much obliged to you; now I'm in the right and you are in the wrong." And he put himself under protection of the police; and fee'd them so royally that they were zealous on his behalf and rough and dictatorial even with those who thronged the place only to moan and lament and hold up their ruined children. "You _must_ move on, you Misery," said the police. And they were right: Misery gains nothing by stopping the way; nothing by bemoaning itself.
But if the banker, naturally egotistical, and now entirely wrapped in his own plans, and fears, and well-earned torments, was deaf to the anguish of his clients, there were others in his house who felt it keenly and deeply. Alfred and Jane were heart-broken: they sat hand in hand in a little room, drawn closer by misfortune, and heard the groans at their door; and the tears of pity ran down their own cheeks hot with shame; and Alfred wrote on the fly-leaf of his "Ethics" a vow to pay every shilling his father owed these poor people--before he died. It was like him, and like his happy age, at which the just and the generous can command, in imagination, the means to do kindred deeds.
Soon he found, to his horror, that he had seen but a small percentage of the distress his father had caused; the greater griefs, as usual, stayed at home. Behind the gadding woes lay a terrible number of silent, decent ruined homes and broken hearts, and mixed sorrows so unmerited, so complicated, so piteous, and so cruel, that he was ready to tear his hair, to know them and not be able to relieve them instantly.