JONES CHECKMATES ORTON CAMPBELL.
"Who are you?" inquired Richard Dewey, not favorably impressed by the appearance of the man who addressed him.
"You wouldn't know if I should tell you," said Jones; "so I may as well say that I came out to San Francisco with Orton Campbell."
"Orton Campbell in the city?" exclaimed Dewey, apprehensively. "Had he anything to do with the disappearance of Miss Douglas?"
"Everything, sir; but I can't tell you about it in the street. I will go with you to your hotel."
"Tell me on the way," said Richard Dewey. "First, has any harm befallen Florence--Miss Douglas?"
"None as yet."
"Is any threatened?"
"The loss of her liberty; but I will help you to thwart Orton Campbell."
Jones told the story, which need not be repeated here, as it is already known to the reader. He had difficulty in restraining Mr. Dewey from starting out instantly to the rescue of the young lady, but on his representing that she was safe, and that it would be soon enough to go out in the morning, Richard Dewey yielded.
A little before eight o'clock, Jones, driving the same carriage in which he had conveyed Florence to her place of captivity, halted in front of Mrs. Bradshaw's dwelling.
"Remain in the carriage, Mr. Dewey," he said, "and I will see if I can't secure the young lady without any fuss."
"Won't it be better for me to accompany you?"
"I think not, sir. Mrs. Bradshaw knows I am the one who brought Miss Douglas here, and she will think it is all right. Stay!" he continued, with a sudden thought. "I have an idea. Mr. Campbell told Mrs. Bradshaw that the young lady was insane. I will make her think that you are the doctor from the asylum come to take Miss Douglas back with you."
"Did Orton Campbell really intend such an outrage?" asked Richard Dewey, in a tone of horror.
"Yes, if Miss Douglas wouldn't consent to marry him."
"Go, then, and lose no time."
Jones knocked at the door, which was opened by Mrs. Bradshaw in person. She naturally regarded Jones with surprise, not anticipating so early a call.
"How is Miss Douglas?" he asked.
"Very contrary," answered the landlady. "I can't get her to eat. It's my belief she means to starve herself."
"It's a crazy freak," said Jones, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, I've come to take her away."
"To take her away--so soon?" asked Mrs. Bradshaw, in surprise.
"Yes, Mr. Orton thought it best."
"Is he with you?"
"I think I see some one in the carriage."
"To be sure. It's the mad doctor from the asylum. Don't let Miss Douglas know it," continued Jones, lowering his voice, "or she wouldn't consent to go with us."
"I see," answered the landlady, nodding. "Do you want to go up now?"
"Yes; let me see her alone, so that I can tell her a story which will quiet her suspicions."
"Mr. Campbell hasn't paid me all he promised yet," said Mrs. Bradshaw, rather uneasily.
"Oh, that's all right," said Jones. "He never forgets his promise--and seldom keeps it," he said to himself.
Florence was sitting on the lounge in her room in rather a despondent state of mind when the door opened, and she looked up, expecting to see Orton Campbell.
Jones closed the door behind him, and then, putting his hand over his lips, said, "Miss Douglas, I bring you good news."
"Are you not the man who brought me out here yesterday?"
"The same one."
"Then how have you the face to show yourself in my presence?"
"Because I am come to free you from your imprisonment."
Florence started to her feet in some excitement. "If this were true!" she exclaimed. "But no; you are an agent of Orton Campbell, and this is some new trick of his."
"I was an agent of Orton Campbell, but he deceived me, and I am his enemy."
"Is he with you?" asked Florence, suspiciously.
"No; but in the carriage outside is one whom you will be glad to meet."
"Who is it?"
"You brought me a note from him which he never wrote. How do you expect me to believe you now?"
"If he is not there, don't get into the carriage. Not a word to Mrs. Bradshaw. She is in the employ of Mr. Campbell, who represented you as insane, and I told her that Mr. Dewey, whom I did not dare to bring in, was a doctor from the insane asylum."
"Are you sure you are not deceiving me?" said Florence, earnestly.
"I am on the square, miss, but you can easily convince yourself by coming down stairs. If you prefer to remain here till nine o'clock, when Orton Campbell will be here, you can do so."
"No, no! anything better than that!"
Mrs. Bradshaw watched the exit of her guest with a peculiar look. "She little knows where she's going," thought the woman. "Well, if she's crazy, it's the best place for her."
As may easily be imagined, there was scant leave-taking. Florence was eager to leave this shabby cabin, where she had passed a night of anxious solicitude.
She approached the carriage, and Jones opened the door. She looked in, and saw Dewey, who said in a low voice, "Get in at once, Florence, but keep silent till we are on our way."
An expression of joy came over her face as she saw this most convincing proof of her driver's good faith. He mounted the box and drove rapidly off.
On their way back to San Francisco the two who had been so long separated had ample time to compare notes and form plans for the future.
"Florence," said Richard Dewey, "after this treachery of Orton Campbell there is but one way of safety for you."
"And what is that?"
"Let me become your legal protector, and at once. When we are married your guardian will be powerless. He will have me to deal with then, not a defenceless girl."
"But, Richard, this seems so sudden!"
"It ought not to, Florence. Have we not waited for each other long enough? Have we not been separated long enough? I am not much richer than when I left you--not so rich," he added, smiling, "as your other suitor, Orton Campbell."
"I will marry you if only to get rid of him, Richard," said Florence, impetuously.
"I won't quarrel with your motives, since you consent."
So it happened that on their arrival in San Francisco they directed Jones to drive to the house of a clergyman, and were speedily united in marriage, the clergyman's wife and daughter being witnesses. Circumstances compelled them to dispense with the usual "cards and cake."
At nine o'clock, Orton Campbell, secure of his prey, drove up to Mrs. Bradshaw's door and leisurely descended.
"Well, and how is Miss Douglas this morning?" he asked of the astonished landlady.
"How is she? She's gone."
"What!" ejaculated Orton, furiously; "you have dared to let her escape?"
"You sent for her yourself. She went away with the mad doctor."
"'The mad doctor'? I don't know anything about any mad doctor. Woman, you are deceiving me."
"Don't call me woman!" said Mrs. Bradshaw, offensively, putting her arms akimbo. "I'm no more a woman than you are."
"Then you'd better dress differently," sneered Campbell. "Tell me what all this means."
"The man that drove the lady out here yesterday came here more than an hour ago and said you had sent for her. He said there was a doctor in the carriage who would take her to the asylum. That corresponded with what you told me, and I let her go."
"That scoundrel Jones!" exclaimed Orton Campbell. "So this is his revenge? I must go back to the city at once and circumvent him if I can."
He was about to go when Mrs. Bradshaw said, "Before you go you'd better pay me what you promised."
"I won't pay you a cent," said Campbell, angrily.
The word spoken by the woman brought a rough-looking man to the carriage-door.
"This man says he won't pay me a cent, Jack," said Mrs. Bradshaw.
"You'd better reconsider that, stranger," said Jack, pulling out a revolver and fingering it significantly.
"I owe her nothing," said Orton Campbell, surveying the revolver uneasily. "If she had kept the young lady here, it would have been different."
"If there's a trick been played on you, my wife ain't goin' to suffer by it. She's earned the money, stranger, and I'll give you just two minutes to pay it over."
Orton Campbell read something in the man's face that convinced him he was not to be trifled with. With many an inward groan he drew out one hundred dollars from his purse and handed it over.
"That's all right, stranger," said Jack, coolly. "I thought you'd be reasonable. Short reckonings make long friends."
With a muttered imprecation Orton Campbell sharply ordered his driver to turn the horses' heads toward San Francisco and make his way there as quickly as possible. His thoughts were by no means pleasant company. He had just been forced to pay out a considerable sum without value received, and was beginning to think the sum paid to Jones also money thrown away.
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