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Leaving Luke on his way to the Black Hills, we will go back to
Groveton, to see how matters are moving on there.
Tony Denton had now the excuse he sought for calling upon Prince Duncan. Ostensibly, his errand related to the debt which Randolph had incurred at his saloon, but really he had something more important to speak of. It may be remarked that Squire Duncan, who had a high idea of his own personal importance, looked upon Denton as a low and insignificant person, and never noticed him when they met casually in the street. It is difficult to play the part of an aristocrat in a country village, but that is the role which Prince Duncan assumed. Had he been a prince in reality, as he was by name, he could not have borne himself more loftily when he came face to face with those whom he considered his inferiors.
When, in answer to the bell, the servant at Squire Duncan's found Tony Denton standing on the doorstep, she looked at him in surprise.
"Is the squire at home?" asked the saloon keeper.
"I believe so," said the girl, doubtfully.
"I would like to see him. Say Mr. Denton wishes to see him on important business."
The message was delivered.
"Mr. Denton!" repeated the squire, in surprise. "Is it Tony Denton?"
"What can he wish to see me about?"
"He says it's business of importance, sir."
"Well, bring him in."
Prince Duncan assumed his most important attitude and bearing when his visitor entered his presence.
"Mr.—ahem!—Denton, I believe?" he said, as if he found difficulty in recognizing Tony.
"I am—ahem!—surprised to hear that you have any business with me."
"Yet so it is, Squire Duncan," said Tony, not perceptibly overawed by the squire's grand manner.
"Elucidate it!" said Prince Duncan, stiffly.
"You may not be aware, Squire Duncan, that your son Randolph has for some time frequented my billiard saloon and has run up a sum of twenty-seven dollars."
"I was certainly not aware of it. Had I been, I should have forbidden his going there. It is no proper place for my son to frequent."
"Well, I don't know about that. It's respectable enough, I guess. At any rate, he seemed to like it, and at his request, for he was not always provided with money, I trusted him till his bill comes to twenty-seven dollars—"
"You surely don't expect me to pay it!" said the squire, coldly. "He is a minor, as you very well know, and when you trusted him you knew you couldn't legally collect your claim."
"Well, squire, I thought I'd take my chances," said Tony, carelessly. "I didn't think you'd be willing to have him owing bills around the village. You're a gentleman, and I was sure you'd settle the debt."
"Then, sir, you made a very great mistake. Such bills as that I do not feel called upon to pay. Was it all incurred for billiards?"
"No; a part of it was for drinks."
"Worse and worse! How can you have the face to come here, Mr.
Denton, and tell me that?"
"I don't think it needs any face, squire. It's an honest debt."
"You deliberately entrapped my son, and lured him into your saloon, where he met low companions, and squandered his money and time in drinking and low amusements."
"Come, squire, you're a little too fast. Billiards ain't low. Did you ever see Schaefer and Vignaux play?"
"No, sir; I take no interest in the game. In coming here you have simply wasted your time. You will get no money from me."
"Then you won't pay your son's debt?" asked Tony Denton.
Instead of rising to go, Tony Denton kept his seat. He regarded
Squire Duncan attentively.
"I am sorry, sir," said Prince Duncan, impatiently. "I shall have to cut short this interview."
"I will detain you only five minutes, sir. Have you ascertained who robbed the bank?"
"I have no time for gossip. No, sir."
"I suppose you would welcome any information on the subject?"
Duncan looked at his visitor now with sharp attention.
"Do you know anything about it?" he asked.
"Well, perhaps I do."
"Were you implicated in it?" was the next question.
Tony Denton smiled a peculiar smile.
"No, I wasn't," he answered. "If I had been, I don't think I should have called upon you about the matter. But—I think I know who robbed the bank."
"Who, then?" demanded the squire, with an uneasy look.
Tony Denton rose from his chair, advanced to the door, which was a little ajar, and closed it. Then he resumed.
"One night late—it was after midnight—I was taking a walk, having just closed my saloon, when it happened that my steps led by the bank. It was dark—not a soul probably in the village was awake save myself, when I saw the door of the bank open and a muffled figure came out with a tin box under his arm. I came closer, yet unobserved, and peered at the person. I recognized him."
"You recognized him?" repeated the squire, mechanically, his face pale and drawn.
"Yes; do you want to know who it was?"
Prince Duncan stared at him, but did not utter a word.
"It was you, the president of the bank!" continued Denton.
"Nonsense, man!" said Duncan, trying to regain his self-control.
"It is not nonsense. I can swear to it."
"I mean that it is nonsense about the robbery. I visited the bank to withdraw a box of my own."
"Of course you can make that statement before the court?" said Tony
"But—but—you won't think of mentioning this circumstance?" muttered the squire.
"Will you pay Randolph's bill?"
"Yes—yes; I'll draw a check at once."
"So far, so good; but it isn't far enough. I want more."
"You want more?" ejaculated the squire.
"Yes; I want a thousand-dollar government bond. It's cheap enough for such a secret."
"But I haven't any bonds."
"You can find me one," said Tony, emphatically, "or I'll tell what I know to the directors. You see, I know more than that."
"What do you know?" asked Duncan, terrified.
"I know that you disposed of a part of the bonds on Wall Street, to
Sharp & Ketchum. I stood outside when you were up in their office."
Great beads of perspiration gathered upon the banker's brow. This blow was wholly unexpected, and he was wholly unprepared for it. He made a feeble resistance, but in the end, when Tony Denton left the house he had a thousand-dollar bond carefully stowed away in an inside pocket, and Squire Duncan was in such a state of mental collapse that he left his supper untasted.
Randolph was very much surprised when he learned that his father had paid his bill at the billiard saloon, and still more surprised that the squire made very little fuss about it.
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