Adrien Leroy (Chapter 5, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 5

Johann Wilfer, Jessica's adopted father, was German by birth, and the
son of an innkeeper in one of the tiny villages on the banks of the
Rhine. In his youth he had studied as an art-student at Munich; but,
finally, by his idle and dissolute behaviour, so angered the authorities
that he had been compelled to return home. Tiring of the rural life
there, he finally obtained from his parents sufficient money to come to
London to try his fortune.

Here he soon obtained some work from the smaller art dealers, which
enabled him to live in comparative comfort, and had it not been for his
unreliability and his love of drink he might have seen to be a good
artist.

Wilfer was a handsome young fellow in those days, and while on one of
his wandering tours in Kent he met and won the heart of a simple little
country girl, named Lucy Goodwin. Lucy believed her lover to be
everything that was good, and, trusted him even to the extent of her
betrayal; so that, under some pretence, young Wilfer was able to entice
the girl to Canterbury, where, a few weeks later, he deserted her.

She was the only daughter of a widower, a clerk in the employ of a
country bank, who, broken-hearted at his daughter's ruin, threw up his
situation, changed his name to that of George Harker, and fled to London
with his beloved child. Here he found it extremely difficult to obtain
work. His savings soon evaporated, and alas! further trouble was in
store for him; for one afternoon a smooth-faced gentleman appeared at
their quiet lodgings. This was none other than Jasper Vermont, who in a
long private interview with the unhappy Harker informed him that he had
heard of Lucy's escapade, and threatened to proclaim her shame, if Mr.
Harker failed to comply with a proposition he was about to make to him.
The business which he suggested was one entirely abhorrent to the
ex-bank clerk; but with money running short, and the thought of his
daughter's misery should her secret be revealed, what could the father
do but submit?

The result of this interview was that, a month or two later, a new
moneylending firm sprang up in a narrow street in the city, under the
title of Harker's Ltd., and none of the numerous clients who patronised
it ever recognised that the manager, Mr. Harker, was speaking the
literal truth when he repeatedly asserted his own impotence in the
business. Every one believed the story to be a fictitious one, invented
to assist him in his extortions.

Time passed on, and Lucy's pretty face and modest ways, perhaps her very
sadness, which clung to her in never-ending remorse, caught the heart of
a simple-minded man, one John Ashford. He was a flourishing grocer in a
village on the banks of the Thames, and was then staying in London on a
visit. After a hard struggle with herself the poor girl returned his
love, and ventured to become his wife.

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