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An hour after the depart of the colonel there was an unexpected arrival.
A well-dressed gentleman descended the stairs gingerly, looked about him with fastidious disdain, and walked up to the bar.
Tim Bolton was filling an order, and did not immediately observe him.
When at length he turned around he exclaimed, in some surprise:
“Yes, Bolton, I have found my way here.”
“I have been expecting you.”
“I came to you for some information.”
“Well, ask your questions: I don’t know whether I can answer them.”
“First, where is my Cousin Florence?”
“How should I know? She wasn’t likely to place herself under my protection.”
“She’s with that boy of yours—Dodger, I believe you call him. Where is he?”
“Run away,” answered Bolton, briefly.
“Do you mean that you don’t know where he is?”
“Yes, I do mean that. I haven’t set my eyes on him since that night.”
“What do you mean by such negligence? Do you remember who he is?”
“Certainly I do.”
“Then why do you let him get of your reach?”
“How could I help it? Here I am tied down to this bar day and night! I’m nearly dead for want of sleep.”
“It would be better to close up your place for a week and look after him.”
“Couldn’t do it. I should lose all my trade. People would say I was closed up.”
“And have you done nothing toward his recovery?”
“Yes, I have sent out two men in search of him.”
“Have you any idea where he is, or what he is doing?”
“Yes, he has been seen in front of the Astor House, selling papers. I have authorized my agent, if he sees him again, to follow him home, and find out where he lives.”
“That is good! Astor House? I may see him myself.”
“But why do you want to see him? Do you want to restore him to his rights?”
“Hush!” said Curtis, glancing around him apprehensively. “What we say may be overheard and excite suspicion. One thing may be secured by finding him—the knowledge of Florence’s whereabouts.”
“What makes you think she and the boy are together?”
“He came for her trunk. I was away from home, or I would not have let it go——”
“It is strange that they two are together, considering their relationship.”
“That is what I am afraid they will find out. She may tell him of the mysterious disappearance of her cousin, and he——”
“That reminds me,” interrupted Bolton. “He told Hooker—Hooker was the man that saw him in front of the Astor House—that he didn’t believe I was his father. He said he thought I must have stolen him when he was a young kid.”
“Did he say that?” asked Curtis, in evident alarm.
“Yes, so Hooker says.”
“If he has that idea in his head, he may put two and two together, and guess that he is the long-lost cousin of Florence. Tim, the boy must be got rid of.”
“If you mean what I think you do, Mr. Waring, I’m not with you. I won’t consent to harm the boy.”
“You said that before. I don’t mean anything that will shock your tender heart, Bolton,” said Curtis, with a sneer. “I mean carried to a distance—Europe or Australia, for instance. All I want is to keep him out of New York till my uncle is dead. After that I don’t care what becomes of him.”
“That’s better. I’ve no objection to that. How is the old gentleman?”
“He grieved so much at first over the girl’s loss, that I feared he would insist on her being recalled at once. I soothed him by telling him that he had only to remain firm, and she would come around, and yield to his wishes.”
“Do you think she will?” asked Tim, doubtfully.
“I intend she shall!” said Curtis, significantly. “Bolton, I love the girl all the more for her obstinate refusal to wed me. I have made up my mind to marry her with her consent, or without it.”
“I thought it was only the estate you were after?”
“I want the estate and her with it. Mark my words, Bolton, I will have both!”
“You will have the estate, no doubt; Mr. Linden has made his will in your favor, has he not?” and Bolton looked intently in the face of his visitor.
“Hark you, Bolton, there is a mystery I cannot fathom. My uncle made two wills. In the earlier, he left the estate to Florence and myself, if we married; otherwise, to me alone.”
“That is satisfactory.”
“Yes, but there was another, in which the estate goes to the son, if living. That will has disappeared.”
“Is it possible?” asked Bolton, in astonishment. “When was it missed?”
“On the night of the burglary.”
“Then you think——”
“That the boy, Dodger, has it. Good Heavens! if he only knew that by this will the estate goes to him!” and Waring wiped the perspiration from his brow.
“You are sure he did not give you the will?” he demanded, eying Bolton sharply.
“I have not seen him since the night of the robbery.”
“If he has read the will, it may lead to dangerous suspicions.”
“He would give it to your cousin, Florence, would he not?”
“Perhaps so. Bolton, you must get the boy back, and take the will from him, if you can.”
“I will do my best; but you must remember that Dodger is no longer a small kid. He is a boy of eighteen, strong and well grown. He wouldn’t be easy to manage. Besides, as long as he doesn’t know that he has any interest in the will, his holding it won’t do any harm. Is the old gentleman likely to live long?”
“I don’t know. I sometimes hope—— Pshaw! why should I play the hypocrite when speaking to you? Surely it is no sin to wish him better off, since he can’t enjoy life!”
“He might if Florence and his son were restored to him.”
“What do you mean, Bolton?” asked Curtis, suspiciously.
“What could I mean? It merely occurred to me,” said Bolton, innocently. “You say he is quiet, thinkin’ the girl will come around?”
“Suppose time passes, and she doesn’t? Won’t he try to find her? As she is in the city, that won’t be hard.”
“I shall represent that she has left the city.”
“For any particular point?”
“No, that is not necessary.”
“If he worries himself into the grave, so much the better for me.”
“There is no halfway about you, Mr. Curtis Waring.”
“Why should there be? Listen, Bolton; I have set my all on this cast. I am now thirty-six, and still I am dependent upon my uncle’s bounty. I am in debt, and some of my creditors are disposed to trouble me. My uncle is worth—I don’t know how much, but I think half a million. What does he get out of it? Food and clothes, but not happiness. If it were mine, all the avenues of enjoyment would be open to me. That estate I must have.”
“Suppose you get it, what is there for me?” asked Bolton.
“I will see that you are recompensed if you help me to it.”
“Will you put that in writing?”
“Do you take me for a fool? To put it in writing would be to place me in your power! You can trust me.”
“Well, perhaps so,” said Tim Bolton, slowly.
“At any rate you will have to. Well, good-night. I will see you again. In the meantime try to find the boy.”
Tim Bolton followed him with his eyes, as he left the saloon.
“What would he say,” said Bolton to himself, “if he knew that the will he so much wishes to find is in my hands, and that I hold him in my power already?”
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