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It was eight o'clock the next morning before Frank's breakfast was brought to him.
"I am sorry you have had to wait," the housekeeper said, as she appeared at the door with a cup of coffee and a plate of beefsteak and toast, "I couldn't come up before."
"Have the men gone away?" said Frank.
"Then I have something to tell you. I learned something about myself last night. I was in the closet, and heard the man who brought me here talking to another person. May I tell you the story?"
"If you think it will do any good," said the housekeeper, but I can't help you if that is what you want."
He told the whole story. As he proceeded, the housekeeper betrayed increased, almost eager interest, and from time to time asked him questions in particular as to the personal appearance of John Wade. When Frank had described him as well as he could, she said, in an excited manner:
"Yes, it is--it must be the same man."
"The same man!" repeated our hero, in surprise.
"Do you know anything about him?"
"I know that he is a wicked man. I am afraid that I have helped him carry out his wicked plan, but I did not know it at the time, or I never would have given my consent."
"I don't understand you," said our hero, puzzled.
"Will you tell me what you mean?"
"Fourteen years ago I was very poor--poor and sick besides. My husband had died, leaving me nothing but the care of a young infant, whom it was necessary for me to support besides myself. Enfeebled by sickness, I was able to earn but little, but we lived in a wretched room in a crowded tenement house. My infant boy was taken sick and died. As I sat sorrowfully beside the bed on which he lay dead, I heard a knock at the door. I opened it, and admitted a man whom I afterward learned to be John Wade. He very soon explained his errand. He agreed to take my poor boy, and pay all the expenses of his burial in Greenwood Cemetery, provided I would not object to any of his arrangements. He was willing besides to pay me two hundred dollars for the relief of my necessities. Though I was almost beside myself with grief for my child's loss, and though this was a very favorable proposal, I hesitated. I could not understand why a stranger should make me such an offer. I asked him the reason."
" `You ask too much,' he answered, appearing annoyed. `I have made you a fair offer. Will you accept it, or will you leave your child to have a pauper's funeral?'
"That consideration decided me. For my child's sake I agreed to his proposal, and forebore to question him further. He provided a handsome rosewood casket for my dear child, but upon the silver plate was inscribed a name that was strange to me --the name of Francis Wharton."
"Francis Wharton!" exclaimed Frank.
"I was too weak and sorrowful to make opposition, and my baby was buried as Francis Wharton. Not only this, but a monument is erected over him at Greenwood, which bears this name."
She proceeded after a pause:
"I did not then understand his object. Your story makes it clear. I think that you are that Francis Wharton, under whose name my boy was buried."
"How strange!" said Frank, thoughtfully. "I cannot realize it. But how did you know the name of the man who called upon you?"
"A card slipped from his pocket, which I secured without his knowledge."
"How fortunate that I met you," said Frank. "I mean to let Mr. Wharton know all that I have learned, and then he shall decide whether he will recognize me or not as his grandson."
"I have been the means of helping to deprive you of your just rights, though unconsciously. Now that I know the wicked conspiracy in which I assisted, I will help undo the work."
"Thank you," said Frank. "The first thing is to get out of this place."
"I cannot open the door of your room. They do not trust me with the key."
"The windows are not very high from the ground. I can get down from the outside."
"I will bring you a clothesline and a hatchet."
Frank received them with exultation.
"Before I attempt to escape," he said, "tell me where I can meet you in New York. I want you to go with me to Mr. Wharton's. I shall need you to confirm my story."
"I will meet you to-morrow at No. 15 B--Street."
"Then we shall meet to-morrow. What shall I call your name?"
"Thank you. I will get away as quickly as possible, and when we are in the city we will talk over our future plans."
With the help of the hatchet, Frank soon demolished the lower part of the window. Fastening the rope to the bedstead, he got out of the window and safely descended to the ground.
A long and fatiguing walk lay before him. But at last he reached the cars, and half an hour later the ferry at Jersey City.
Frank thought himself out of danger for the time being, but he was mistaken.
Standing on the deck of the ferryboat, and looking back to the pier from which he had just started, he met the glance of a man who had intended to take the same boat, but had reached the pier just too late. His heart beat quicker when he recognized in the belated passenger his late jailer, Nathan Graves.
Carried away by his rage and disappointment, Nathan Graves clenched his fist and shook it at his receding victim.
Our hero walked into the cabin. He wanted a chance to deliberate. He knew that Nathan Graves would follow him by the next boat, and it was important that he should not find him. Where was he to go?
Fifteen minutes after Frank set foot on the pier, his enemy also landed. But now the difficult part of the pursuit began. He had absolutely no clew as to the direction which Frank had taken.
For an hour and a half he walked the streets in the immediate neighborhood of the square, but his labor was without reward. Not a glimpse could he catch of his late prisoner.
"I suppose I must go to see Mr. Wade," he at last reluctantly decided. "He may be angry, but he can't blame me. I did my best. I couldn't stand guard over the young rascal all day."
The address which the housekeeper had given Frank was that of a policeman's family in which she was at one time a boarder. On giving his reference, he was hospitably received, and succeeded in making arrangements for a temporary residence.
About seven o'clock Mrs. Parker made her appearance. She wag fatigued by her journey and glad to rest.
"I was afraid you might be prevented from coming," said Frank.
"I feared it also. I was about to start at twelve o'clock, when, to my dismay, one of the men came home. He said he had the headache. I was obliged to make him some tea and toast. He remained about till four o'clock, when, to my relief, he went upstairs to lie down. I was afraid some inquiry might be made about you, and your absence discovered, especially as the rope was still hanging out of the window, and I was unable to do anything more than cut off the lower end of it. When the sick man retired to his bed I instantly left the house, fearing that the return of some other of the band might prevent my escaping altogether."
"Suppose you had met one of them, Mrs. Parker?"
"I did. It was about half a mile from the house."
"Did he recognize you?"
"Yes. He asked in some surprise where I was going. I was obliged to make up a story about our being out of sugar. He accepted it without suspicion, and I kept on. I hope I shall be forgiven for the lie. I was forced to it."
"You met no further trouble?"
"I must tell you of my adventure," said Frank.
"I came across the very man whom I most dreaded-- the man who made me a prisoner."
"Since he knows that you have escaped, he is probably on your track," said Mrs. Parker. "It will be hardly safe for you to go to Mr. Wharton's."
"He will probably think you likely to go there, and be lying in wait somewhere about."
"But I must go to Mr. Wharton," said Frank. "I must tell him this story."
"It will be safer to write."
"The housekeeper, Mrs. Bradley, or John Wade, will get hold of the letter and suppress it. I don't want to put them on their guard."
"You are right. It is necessary to be cautious."
"You see I am obliged to call on my grandfather, that is, on Mr. Wharton."
"I can think of a better plan."
"What is it?"
"Go to a respectable lawyer. Tell him your story, and place your case in his hands. He will write to your grandfather, inviting him to call at his office on business of importance, without letting him know what is the nature of it. You and I can be there to meet him, and tell our story. In this way John Wade will know nothing, and learn nothing, of your movements."
"That is good advice, Mrs. Parker, but there is one thing you have not thought of," said our hero.
"What is that?"
"Lawyers charge a great deal for their services, and I have no money."
"You have what is as good a recommendation--a good case. The lawyer will see at once that if not at present rich, you stand a good chance of obtaining a position which will make you so. Besides, your grandfather will be willing, if he admits your claim, to recompense the lawyer handsomely."
"I did not think of that. I will do as you advise to-morrow."
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