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UNCLE AND NEPHEW.
Our hero stopped short, and, being directly in the path of his uncle, the latter was compelled to stop, too.
"Mr. Grey," said Gilbert.
"That's my name," said the other, who had not yet taken particular notice of the youth who addressed him. But, as he spoke, he looked at him, and instantly recognized him. Gilbert could see that he did by his sudden start, and expression of surprise and annoyance. He couldn't understand how the New York bootblack had been metamorphosed into the well-dressed and gentlemanly-looking young clerk. He regretted so soon acknowledging his name, and marveled how Gilbert could have learned it.
"What business have you with me, young man?" he continued, formally.
"I have wanted to meet you for a long time," said Gilbert.
"Indeed!" said his uncle, with a sneer. "I am rather surprised to hear this, not having, to my knowledge, ever had the honor of seeing you before."
"I am your nephew," said Gilbert, bluntly.
"Then he knows," said Mr. Grey to himself, rather disturbed.
"I confess," he said, in the same sarcastic tone, "I am slightly disturbed at being claimed as a near relative by a stranger whom I happen to encounter in the street. May I ask how you happen to be my nephew?"
"I am the son of your older brother, John," said Gilbert.
"That can hardly be, young man. My brother had but one son, and he died."
"Disappeared, you mean," said Gilbert, significantly.
"There is no doubt that he died," said Mr. Grey, positively.
"Then he has come to life again, for I am he."
"You are an impudent impostor," said Mr. Grey, hotly; "but you have missed your mark. I am not so easily humbugged. I denounce you and your pretensions as alike false. Let me pass."
As he said this he attempted to pass Gilbert, but our hero had no intention of losing sight of his uncle.
"Of course you can pass," he said; "but I shall follow you."
"You will?" demanded his uncle, shaking his cane angrily. "Then I will put you in the hands of the police."
"I don't think you will," said Gilbert, with perfect composure.
"Why not? What is to hinder me, I should like to know?"
"It wouldn't be good policy for you to do it."
"Why not, you impudent young rascal?"
"Because I should let the relationship be known."
"And why is it that you deny it?"
"Well," said Mr. Grey, his attention caught, "why do I deny it?"
"Because you are in possession of my father's property, which, of right, belongs to me!" said Gilbert, firmly, looking his uncle in the eyes. "It is your interest to deny the relationship."
James Grey saw that his long injustice had come home to him at last. How could this stripling have learned what he had taken such pains to conceal? What was he to do? Was he to admit the boy's claims, and surrender the estate? He could not make up his mind to do it. He must stave off the attack, if he could.
"This is a ridiculous story," he said. "Somebody has been making a fool of you."
"Didn't you have an older brother, named John?"
"Yes," Mr. Grey admitted, unwillingly.
"Did he not have a son?"
"Yes; but, as I told you, he died."
"He only disappeared. He was carried away, for what object, you can tell."
"You are dealing in mysteries. I don't know what you are talking about." Mr. Grey said this, but his troubled look showed that he did not feel as unconcerned as he pretended.
"The man who carried me off was a clerk in your employ. His name was Jacob Morton."
"So he took you to Australia, did he? That's a likely story."
"Yes. He was supplied with money by you for the purpose. But he did not like Australia. After awhile he returned to New York, and there I was brought up in the streets, suffering every privation, while you were enjoying the property my father left."
"Well, have you got anything more to say? The tale does great credit to your invention."
"Three years ago—a little more, perhaps—I saw you in New York. I brushed your boots on the steps of the Astor House."
"Better and better. I am expected to recognize a New York bootblack as my nephew!"
"It was your fault that I was reduced to be a bootblack."
"How happens it that you are not in the same line of business now? Perhaps you are."
"Jacob died and left me a few dollars, with which I came out West. Before he died he gave me a written paper, in which he revealed all the plot into which he entered with you."
"He gave you a paper, did he?"
"Yes. From it I learned that I was born in Cincinnati, and I expected to find you here. But I looked in vain. After awhile I found my father's place of business. I introduced myself to Mr. Ferguson, and he gave me a place in his employ."
"On the strength of your ridiculous story, I suppose?"
"Because he believed me to be the son of his old employer, John Grey."
"I thought Ferguson had more sense than to be duped by such a designing young rascal."
"He tells me that I bear a strong resemblance to my father. Look in my face, Uncle James, and tell me whether it is not true."
Almost involuntarily James Grey fixed his eyes on the frank, handsome face of his nephew, as he stood intrepidly before him, and he was forced, however reluctantly, to admit to himself that the resemblance was indeed very striking.
The case was getting more serious than he had expected. Gilbert had already been recognized as the missing son of John Grey, and that by a man whose testimony would carry great weight. Old Jacob had testified not only to his identity, but to the wrongful compact by which Gilbert had been spirited away to suit his uncle's rapacity. Were this publicly known, his reputation would be destroyed, and he would be deprived of the wealth which he had labored so dishonestly to acquire. Evidently the claim was not to be disposed of so easily as he had at first supposed.
"What do you call yourself?" he asked.
"Of course you would take the name of the boy you pretend to be."
"Then you don't believe I am Gilbert Grey?"
"No, I do not. I believe that Gilbert Grey is dead."
"Are you willing to come with me to Mr. Ferguson's, and speak to him about it?"
"No, I am not. I have not time. I must leave Cincinnati at once."
"Then will you tell me where you live?"
"Because I see that you intend to follow me up and persecute me about this preposterous claim. I don't choose to be troubled."
"If I am an impostor, you can prove me to be so."
"I don't choose to waste my time in doing it."
"Mr. Grey," said Gilbert, "I might as well tell you that I am determined in this matter. I know that you have an object in keeping me out of my rights; but I am bound to have them. I shall place the matter in the hands of a lawyer, and he can soon find out, by advertising, where you live, even if you try to keep it secret from me."
James Grey realized the truth of this, and he changed his tack.
"You say that you have a paper, signed by Jacob Morton, attesting your identity."
"Not only signed, but written by him."
"I should like to see that paper. Have you got it with you?"
"No, but I can lay my hands upon it immediately."
"Then bring it to me at the Burnet House this afternoon, at three o'clock. I will be in the reading-room of the hotel."
"I will bring it."
The two then separated.
Gilbert went immediately, returned to his place of business, resolved to inform Mr. Ferguson, whom he looked upon as a good friend, that his uncle was found.
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