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A LITTLE RETROSPECT.
It will be remembered that a merchant in Albany, Mr. John Campbell, was the guardian of Miss Florence Douglas, whom our hero, Ben, had escorted from New York to San Francisco.
The disappearance of his ward was exceedingly annoying, since it interfered with plans which he had very much at heart. He had an only son, Orton Campbell, now a young man of twenty-eight. He was young in years only, being a stiff, grave, wooden-faced man, who in his starched manners was a close copy of his father. Both father and son were excessively fond of money, and the large amount of the fortune of the young lady, who stood to the father in the relation of ward, had excited the covetousness of both. It was almost immediately arranged between father and son that she should marry the latter, either of her own free will or upon compulsion.
In pursuance of this agreement, Mr. Orton Campbell took advantage of the ward's residence in his father's family to press upon her attentions which clearly indicated his ultimate object.
Florence Douglas felt at first rather constrained to receive her guardian's son with politeness, and this, being misinterpreted, led to an avowal of love.
Orton Campbell made his proposal in a confident, matter-of-fact manner, as if it were merely a matter of form, and the answer must necessarily be favorable.
The young lady drew back in dignified surprise, hastily withdrawing the hand which he had seized. "I cannot understand, Mr. Campbell," she said, "what can have induced you to address me in this manner."
"I don't know why you should be surprised, Miss Douglas," returned Orton Campbell, offended.
"I have never given you any reason to suppose that I regarded you with favor."
"You have always seemed glad to see me, but perhaps that was only coquetry," said Orton, in a disagreeable manner.
"I certainly have never treated you with more than ordinary politeness, except, indeed, as my residence in your father's house has necessarily brought us nearer together."
"I don't think, Miss Douglas, you would find me a bad match," said the young man, condescending to drop his sneering tone and plead his cause. "I am already worth a good sum of money. I am my father's partner, and I shall become richer every year."
"It is not a matter of money with me, Mr. Campbell. When I marry, that will be a minor consideration."
"Of course, because you have a fortune of your own."
"Yes," said Florence, regarding him significantly, for she suspected that it was rather her fortune than herself that he desired, being no stranger to his love of money.
Perhaps he understood her, for he continued: "Of course I don't care for that, you know. I should offer myself to you if you had nothing."
This Florence Douglas thoroughly disbelieved. She answered coldly, "I thank you for the compliment you pay me, but I beg you to drop the subject."
"I will wait."
"You will wait in vain. I will look upon you as a friend if you desire it, but there can be nothing more than friendship between us."
Orton Campbell was very much chagrined, and reported the result of his suit to his father.
"I will speak to her myself," said the father. "As her guardian I ought to have some influence with her."
He soon ascertained, however, that Florence Douglas had a will of her own.
After a time he dropped persuasion and had recourse to threats. "Miss Douglas," he said, "I shall have to remind you that I am your guardian."
"I am quite aware of that fact, sir."
"And I shall remain in that position till you have completed your twenty-fifth year."
"That is quite true, sir."
"If you take any imprudent steps I shall think it necessary to interfere."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"I shall not allow you to fall a prey to any designing fortune-hunter."
"You need not fear, sir: I am in no danger."
"I am of a different opinion. I am quite aware that Richard Dewey has been seeking to ingratiate himself with you."
"Then," said his ward with dignity, "I have no hesitation in informing you that he has succeeded."
"Ha! I thought so. That is why you rejected my son."
"Excuse me, sir: you are quite mistaken. I should refuse your son if there were no other man in the world likely to marry me."
"And what is the matter with my son, Miss Douglas?" demanded her guardian, stiffly.
Florence might have answered that he was too much like his father, but she did not care to anger her guardian unnecessarily, and she simply answered, "It would be quite impossible for me to regard him as I wish to regard the man whom I hope to marry."
"But you could regard Richard Dewey in that way," sneered Campbell. "Well, Miss Douglas, I may as well tell you that he asked my permission yesterday to address you, and I ordered him out of my presence. Moreover, I have charged the servants not to admit him into the house."
"So you have insulted him, Mr. Campbell?" said his ward, her eyes flashing with resentment.
"It was the treatment which he deserved as an unscrupulous fortune-hunter."
"That word will better apply to your son," said the young lady, coldly. "I shall not remain here to have Mr. Dewey insulted."
"You will repent this, Miss Douglas," said her guardian, with an ugly frown. "Mark my words: I will keep you and Dewey apart. I have the power, and I will exert it."
Two weeks later Richard Dewey sailed for California in search of fortune, and five months later Miss Douglas, fearing that her guardian might imprison her in a mad-house, escaped from his residence, and, aided by Ben, also managed to reach California. For a time Mr. Campbell was entirely ignorant of her place of refuge. The next chapter will show how he discovered it.
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