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- Jane Cable - 50/52 -
startling was his announcement that every other sound in the room escaped the ears of his two listeners.
"There was a new hundred dollar bill found in the basket with you. Your grandfather's signature was on that bill. He was the president of the bank which issued it. Your mother was--" Here he leaned forward and whispered a name that fairly stunned his hearers. Graydon caught his breath and a new light appeared in his eyes. He was beginning to believe that the old man's brain was affected. Jane leaned forward in her chair, an incredulous smile on her lips.
"Don't jest, Elias," began Graydon, somewhat roughly.
"I am not jesting. It is the truth, I swear it," snapped Elias.
"But, great Heaven, man, consider what you've said. It's one of the best families in this country-it's preposterous to say--"
"Of course, her family is one of the best. She was a blue stocking. That's where Miss Cable gets most of her good blood."
"My God, Elias, I can't believe it!" cried Graydon.
Jane was staring blankly at the old man's face.
"Your father will tell you the same. For more than twenty years I have known the secret. There is no documentary proof, but this much I do know: James Bansemer received fifty thousand dollars for keeping his mouth closed. He found out the truth and he profited by it as usual. Oh, he knew that hundred dollar bills are not left with pauper babes. I don't know how he unearthed the truth about Miss--"
"Sh! Don't mention the name aloud!"
"But he did unearth it, beyond all possible chance of mistake. Your father, Miss Cable, is sitting at that table. Don't look up just yet. He is staring at you. He doesn't know you, but he does know you are a pretty woman. The gentleman with the grey hair, Graydon. See? That man is her father."
Graydon half started up in his chair, his lips apart, his eyes riveted on the man designated. Every drop of blood seemed to have frozen in his veins.
"Good God, Elias!" he whispered. "Why, that is--" The name stuck in his throat.
"The son of the man who signed the banknote. He is Jane's father. There's blue blood in him--there has been since King Henry's day--but he is a villain for all that. Now, Miss Cable, I've done my duty. I've told you the absolute truth. You could not have expected more--you could not have asked a greater climax. The name of Vanderbilt or Astor is no better known than that man's name, and no ancestry is better than that of your mother. I will now give to you one of the articles of proof that connects you with their history." He handed to her a small package. "It is the letter written to James Bansemer by your paternal grandfather, agreeing to an appointment to discuss a question of grave moment. I found the letter that same day, and I've kept it all these years. It bears your grandfather's signature. That is all. I heard part of that interview, and I stake my soul that what I've told you is true."
Jane sat looking at him as if paralysed. Her mind was quite incapable of grasping the full import of his words--the words she had craved for so many months, and yet dreaded.
"I knew he was coming here to-night. He gives a theatre party. To-morrow he goes abroad. That is all."
"He's living in Paris," muttered Graydon mechanically. Jane spoke for the first time, as in a daze.
"I--I have seen him many times in Paris. My father? Oh, oh, it can't be true."
"Jane, let me take you away from here--" began Graydon, observing her pallor.
"No. Let me stay. It can't matter, Graydon. I want to look at him again and again," she said, shrinking back as if the whole world were staring at her. By the most prodigious effort she regained control of her fleeing composure. It was a trying moment.
"He's worth millions," said Droom. "It will be worth while for YOU to--"
"No!" she exclaimed passionately. "Do you think I will present myself to him after he has cast me off! No! a thousand times, no!"
At that instant the party of six hurriedly arose to leave the place. The tall man with the grey hair--the handsomest man of all--was staring boldly at Jane's averted face, now red with consciousness. As he passed her in going out of the room, his look grew more insistent. She glanced up and a faint smile crossed his face.
"Devilish handsome girl," he remarked to the man behind him and then he passed out of her sight, perhaps forever.
"The woman with him?" cried Jane, her eyes following the beautiful creature at his side, "is she my mother?"
"No," said Graydon, averting his eyes to avoid her expression; "she is his wife."
Droom waited until the party was out of the restaurant before uttering a word.
"Inside of two years I have pointed out two fathers to their children--yours and his, Jane. Your mothers are dead. There isn't much choice as to fathers. If I were you, I'd say I had the better of the bargain. Take an old man's advice, both of you, and let bygones be bygones. Start life now, just as if nothing had happened before, and get every atom of happiness out of it that you can. Don't you two pay for the sins of your fathers."
"I couldn't live in New York if he were living here," murmured Jane.
"Hey, waiter, your bill," said Droom, with sudden harshness.
It was snowing and the wind was blowing a gale when they emerged from the place. Jane hung heavily upon Graydon's arm; he could feel that she was sobbing. He did not dare to look into her face, but he felt something cruelly triumphant surging in his heart. Elias Droom waited until their cab came up. Then he offered his hand to both, hesitatingly, even timidly.
"Good-night. Be happy. There is nothing else left for you but that. Graydon, when you jrrite to your father, give him my love."
DROOM TRIUMPHS OVER DEATH
Droom stood for a few moments in the hurtling snowstorm, abstractedly gazing toward Longacre Square. The chill in his marrow was not from the blizzard that swept down upon him; the gaunt grey look in his face was not that of hunger or want. There was fever in his brain and chill in his heart. He had forgotten Jane's trivial tragedy; his one overwhelming thought was of James Bansemer.
The heavy ulster was unbuttoned and the snowflakes pelted in against his neglected shirt front. A doorman called his attention to the oversight. He came to himself, drew the coat close about his long frame, and hurried off down Fifth Avenue. The storm was so vicious that he boarded a crosstown car at Forty-second Street. A man elbowed him in the narrow vestibule. He looked up and gasped aloud in sudden terror. An instant later he laughed at his fears; the man was not James Bansemer. A cold perspiration started out over his body, however. Through his brain there went racing the ever-revolving cry:
"He'll come straight to me-straight to me!"
The hour was not late, but the blizzard had driven the crowds from the streets. Eighth avenue sidewalks were deserted except for the people who were obliged to brave the storm. As Droom hurried south to his lodgings he became possessed of a racking belief that someone was following close upon his heels--someone who was rushing up to deal him a murderous blow in the back. The old man actually broke into a frantic run in covering the last half block.
It was not until he was in his rooms, with the door bolted that he could rid himself of the dread. The fire had gone out and the light was low. His teeth chattered and his hand shook as he raised the wick in the lamp. The palsy of inexplicable fear was upon him. Kneeling before the stove he began to rebuild the fire. His back was toward the door and he turned an anxious face in that direction from time to time. Footsteps on the stairway sent a new chill through his gaunt frame. They passed on up the next flight, but he waited breathlessly until he heard the door of the apartment above slam noisily.
For half an hour he sat huddled in front of the stove without removing his hat and ulster.
"Curse the luck," he was saying over and over again to himself, sometimes aloud. "Why should he have a pardon? What are the laws for? Curse that meddling old fool Clegg! They'll set him free, and he'll hunt me out, I know he will. He won't forgive me for that day's work. He may be free now-it may have been he who followed me. But no! That's a silly thing to think. It takes weeks and months to get a pardon. Maybe--maybe they won't get it, after all."
He tried to throw off his desperate feeling of apprehension, chattering all sorts of comforting reasons and excuses to himself as he scurried about the rooms with aimless haste. Try as he would, however, when the time came, he could not read--not even of his courage-inspiring Napoleon. The howl of the wind annoyed and appalled him; he caught himself listening intently for sounds above and not
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