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- Jane Cable - 30/52 -


breathing of the men. Graydon was staring wide-eyed at his father. He saw the cruel, sardonic smile spread over his face and shuddered.

"I've simply come to take you out of the clutches of these people. I've waited to see if that scheming woman, up there would tell you of her own accord. She hasn't told you; so I will. You cannot marry that girl, for your haughty Jane Cable is a child of shame, picked up on a doorstep, cast off by the woman who conceived her!"

The crash had come. The heartless accuser stood like a tragic player in the centre of his stage, pouring out his poison without a touch of pity for the stricken girl who, after the first thrill of indignation and horror, had shrunk back into her mother's arms, bewildered.

"Call the police, if you like," laughed Bansemer, at the end of his tirade. "It isn't a criminal offence to tell the truth. It will sound just as well in court, Mr. Rigby."

"Jane, Jane," Mrs Cable was murmuring, "I might have saved you all this, but I couldn't--oh, I couldn't pay the price."

"You snake!" groaned Cable, weak and hoarse with rage. "Jane, he has lied! There is not a word of truth in what he says. I swear it to you."

"Ho, ho! By Heaven, she hasn't told you, after all!" cried Bansemer. "You still think she is yours!"

"Father!" exclaimed Graydon, standing straight before the other. David Cable had dropped limply into a chair, his hand to his heart. "I won't stand by and hear you any longer. Take back what you've said about her, or, damn you, I'll forget that you are my father and---"

"Graydon!" exclaimed Bansemer, falling back, his expression changing like a flash. The smile of triumph left his face and his lip twitched. "You forget I--I am doing this for your sake. My God, boy, you don't understand. Don't turn from me to them. They have---"

"That's enough, father! Don't say another word! You've talked like a madman. See! Look what you've done! Oh, Jane!" he caught sight of the girl on the landing and rushed up to her.

"Is it true, Graydon--is it true?" she wailed, beating her hands upon his arm.

"No! It can't be true! He's gone mad, dearest."

"Is it true, mother? Tell me, tell me!"

Frances Cable's white lips moved stiffly, but no sound came forth. Her eyes spoke the truth, however. The girl sank limp and helpless in Graydon's arms and knew no more. At the foot of the steps Rigby was pointing his trembling finger at James Bansemer.

"You'll pay for this to-morrow!" he was saying. "Your day has come! You cutthroat! You blackmailer!"

"Graydon!" called the father. "Come, let us go home. Come, boy!"

"Not now--not now," answered the son hoarsely. "I'll--I'll try to come home to-night, father. I'm not sure that I can. My place is here--with her."

Without a word James Bansemer turned and rushed out into the street, tears of rage and disappointment in his eyes. He had not expected the gall. Until the break of day he sat in his chill room waiting for the rasp of his son's night key--but Graydon did not come home.

CHAPTER XX

FATHER AND SON

Graydon sat with his chin in his hands, dull, stricken, crushed. He had heard the story of his father's baseness from Frances Cable, and he had been told the true story of Jane; from Rigby he learned of the vile transactions in which his father had dealt. At first, he could scarcely believe his own ears, but in the end lie saw that but--half the truth could be told.

It was past midnight when he left David Cable's, not to go to his own home, but to that of Elias Droom. He knew now that the newspapers would devote columns to the "sensation in high life"; he knew that Jane would suffer agonies untold, but he would not blame his father for that; he knew that arrest and disgrace hung over the tall grey man who had shown his true and amazing side at last; he knew that shame and humiliation were to be his own share in the division. Down somewhere in his aching heart he nourished the hope that Elias Droom could ease the pain of these wretched disclosures.

As he traversed the dark streets across town he was vaguely wondering whether Jane's eyes would ever lose the pained, hopeless expression he had last seen in them. He wondered whether she would retract her avowal that she could not be his wife with the shame upon her; he rejoiced in her tearless, lifeless promise to hold him in no fault for what had happened.

Distressed and miserable, he spent the remainder of the night in Elias Droom's squalid rooms, sitting before the little stove which his host replenished from time to time during the weary hours.

Droom answered his questions with a direct tenderness that surprised even himself. He kept much to himself, however, and advised the young man to reserve judgment until after he had heard his father's side of the story.

"I've been loyal to James Bansemer, Graydon, and I'll still be loyal to him. He's not done right by other people, but he has tried to do right by you."

"If he wanted to do right by me, why did he not tell me of Jane's misfortune?" exclaimed the young man bitterly.

"Because he really wanted you to marry her. She was born wrong, but anybody can see she is without a flaw. That's the truth, Graydon. Your father was wrong in his desire to make capital of it in connection with Mrs. Cable. I told him so. I don't believe he knew just what he was doing. He was so used to success, you see. Can't you go to sleep, boy? You need to."

"God, no!"

"I'd advise you to go home and talk it over with your father."

"To-morrow will be time enough. After the newspapers are out. I can't bear to think of the disgrace, Harbert has been interviewed, they say. He's told everything."

"Talk to your father to-night, my boy. There may be--may be warrants to-morrow."

The young man dropped his head on his arm and burst into tears. Old Droom puffed vigorously at his. pipe, his eyes shifting and uncomfortable. Twice he attempted to speak, and could not. In both instances he arose and poked the fire. At last the young man's choking sobs grew less violent. Droom cleared his throat with raucous emphasis, took his snaky gaze from a print on the wall representing "Dawn," and spoke:

"You wouldn't think it to look at me now--or any other time, for that matter--but I loved a woman once. A long time ago. She never knew it. I didn't expect her to love me. How could I? Don't cry, Graydon. You're not like I was. The girl you love loves you. Cheer up. If I were you I'd go ahead and make her my wife. She's good enough, I'll swear."

"She says she can't marry me. Good Heaven, Elias. you don't know what a blow it was to her. It almost killed her. And my own father--oh, it was terrible!"

Elias Droom did not tell him--nor had he ever told anyone but himself--that the woman he loved was the boy's mother. He loved her before and after she married James Bansemer. He never had faltered in his love and reverence for her.

Graydon waited in his rooms until the old man returned with the morning papers. As Droom placed them on the table beside him, he grinned cheerfully.

"Big headlines, eh? But these are not a circumstance to what they will be. These articles deal only with the great mystery concerning the birth of one of the 'most beautiful and popular young women in Chicago.' Wait--wait until the Bansemer smash comes to reinforce the story! Fine reading, eh!"

"Don't, Elias, for Heaven's sake, don't!" cried the young man. "Have you no soft spot in your heart? God, I believe you enjoy all this. Look! Look what it says about her! The whole shameful story of that scene last night! There was a reporter there when it happened."

Together they read the papers. Their comments varied. The young man writhed and groaned under the revelations that were going to the public; the old clerk chuckled and philosophised.

Every one of these papers prophesied other and more sensational developments before the day was over. It promised to be war to the knife between David Cable, president of the Pacific, Lakes & Atlantic, and the man Bansemer. In each interview with Cable he was quoted as saying emphatically that the adoption of Jane had been made with his knowledge and consent. The supposed daughter was the only one to whom the startling revelations were a surprise. There also was mention of the fact that the young woman had immediately broken her engagement with James Bansemer's son. There were pictures of the leading characters in the drama.

"I can't stay in Chicago after all this," exclaimed Graydon, springing to his feet, his hands clenched in despair. "To be pointed out and talked about! To be pitied and scorned! To see the degradation of my own father! I'll go--anywhere, just so it is away from Chicago."


Jane Cable - 30/52

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