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JAMES GREY'S RESIDENCE.
About a mile from the bank of the Mississippi River, in the small town of Clayton, stood a handsome house. It was on a commanding site, and could be seen by the travelers bound up the river, from the decks of the large river-boats. It stood in lonely grandeur, with no other houses very near, and those that were within a respectful distance from it were far inferior. The occupant might be judged to be, in his neighborhood, a person of some consideration.
This was the mansion of James Grey, already introduced to our readers.
What motives had led him to pitch his tent in such a spot, can only be conjectured. He came thither directly from the city of Cincinnati, having lived in a hotel near by while he hurried the erection of this house. He came thither with his son, (his wife was dead), and had lived there ever since, though, from time to time, he absented himself on a trip to St. Louis, or, in rarer instances, Cincinnati. It is not unlikely that, knowing himself to be guilty of a fraudulent appropriation of his nephew's property, he had chosen to withdraw from the busy world, and plant himself in this comparatively obscure place, where he was not likely to be visited by any one cognizant of the manner in which he obtained his money.
Indeed, until his visit to New York, three years before, he had not supposed there was any one living so cognizant. He had seen a rumor that the vessel in which Jacob and his young charge went out to Australia was wrecked, and he imagined, or rather hoped, and so persuaded himself, that his dangerous nephew and his guilty accomplice were dead. But his recognition of the boy who blacked his boots on the steps of the Astor House undeceived him as to this point. Still, it seemed altogether unlikely that the boy would ever become aware of his identity.
"If he does," thought James Grey, "he is not likely to find me here on the banks of the Mississippi, fifteen hundred miles away."
According to the doctrine of probabilities, he was doubtless correct. It was not likely, but then events often bid defiance to the probabilities, and such was the case now.
At the time we introduce Mr. Grey at home, he was sitting at breakfast in a handsome breakfast-room, from the windows of which the river was visible. He held in his hand a copy of a St. Louis morning paper of the morning previous, and was reading its columns, while sipping a cup of coffee at his side.
A boy of seventeen entered the room.
"You are very late, Jasper," said his father, consulting his watch. "Can't you get to breakfast earlier than ten o'clock, sir?"
Jasper was dark and effeminate in appearance, not strong and sturdy, nor had he the look of self-reliance and calm power which characterized our hero, who was his cousin. He was smooth, deceitful, and vain, running to dissipation, as far as he had opportunity.
"I was tired, sir," he answered.
"What made you tired?"
"I didn't get home till late last evening."
"Where had you been?"
"I was at Alton."
"Without my permission," said his father, frowning.
"I am seventeen, sir. I am old enough to go off by myself."
"By heavens, you are not!" said his father, angrily. "It seems to me, sir, you are getting mighty independent."
"There is nothing to do here in this hole," said Jasper, disdainfully. "I get tired of moping here."
"I manage to content myself here," said Mr. Grey.
"I don't see how you do it," said Jasper, shrugging his shoulders.
"Well, what did you do at Alton?"
"Not much. I just went up there in the morning, and came back at night. I didn't have long to stay."
"I missed you at dinner, but thought you were out riding."
"I am going out to ride after breakfast. By the way, father, can you give me a little money?"
"Money! I gave you twenty-five dollars three days since."
"I haven't got a dime left."
"What did you do with it, you young spendthrift? Gambled on the boat, I dare say."
"Well, I had a little game," answered Jasper, coolly.
"Yes, I lost."
"Of course. You are too green to cope with the sharpers that infest those boats. Haven't I forbidden you to play?"
"There was nothing else to do."
"You appear to pay very slight regard to my commands. In return I shall allow you to know what it is to be penniless for a time."
"Won't you give me any money, father?"
"No, I won't."
Jasper looked dark and sullen. He was an utterly spoiled boy, if one can be called spoiled, who had so few good qualities which admitted of being spoiled. He inherited his father's bad traits, his selfishness and unscrupulousness, in addition to a spirit of deceitfulness and hypocrisy from his mother's nature. He was not as censurable as he would have been had he not possessed these bad tendencies.
He finished his breakfast and went out.
"That's a model son to have—a son to be proud of," soliloquized his father. "He is already a gambler, a liar, and cares for me only as I have it in my power to promote his selfish ends. I have let him grow up like an evil weed, and I am afraid he will some day disgrace me."
Though himself unscrupulous and bad, Mr. Grey would have been glad to have his son better than himself. In his secret heart he felt the superiority of Gilbert to his cousin. Yet Jasper, with all his faults, was his son, and the wily father schemed to secure to him the property which belonged to his nephew.
He was interrupted by the entrance of a colored servant.
Pompey had originally been a slave, as he showed by his language at times.
"Well, Pompey, have you been to the post-office?"
"I suppose you found a paper for me, didn't you?"
"No, massa, didn't see nothing of no paper," said Pompey; "but I found this letter," and he displayed a letter in a yellow envelope.
"Give it to me."
Mr. Grey took it in his hand, and saw that it was post-marked "Cincinnati." The handwriting he did not recognize. His curiosity was aroused.
"You can go, Pompey," he said, waving his hand.
"I'm gone, massa."
James Grey tore open the letter hastily, and turned at once to the signature.
"Maurice Walton!" he repeated. "Why that's my young spy. It must be about my nephew."
He read with eager interest:
"Dear Sir:—(so it commenced) You asked me to write you if anything happened. I think you will like to know that your nephew, Gilbert Grey, if he is your nephew, which I doubt, has just left here for St. Louis. I suppose, from what I can learn, that he is in search of you. I don't think he has any idea where you really live. He has not learned from me, for I hate him, and I won't tell him anything he wants to know. I didn't know but you might happen to be in St. Louis, so I write to put you on your guard. I hope you will write to me, so that I may know this letter went straight.
"He wants me to write to him, inclosing ten dollars," thought James Grey. "Well, he shall not be disappointed. His information is worth that. So my young nephew is on the trail is he? He really thinks he is a match for me. Well, well, we shall see. He mustn't push his inquiries too far, or he may find me dangerous," and Mr. Grey's face assumed a dark and threatening look. "However, he is not likely to find me in this out-of-the-way place."
Mr. Grey went into his library, and penned a short letter to Maurice Walton, commending him for his watchfulness, and inclosing a ten-dollar greenback.
He had scarcely finished the letter when Pompey entered, and said:
"Scuse me, massa, but there's a young gemman below that axes to see you."
"A young gentleman!" repeated Mr. Grey. "Can it be my nephew?" flashed through his mind with sudden suspicion.
"Bring him up, Pompey," he said, aloud.
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