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- Jane Cable - 52/52 -
"Don't refuse! It's no use, dearest. We've lost a year or two. I don't intend to lose another day. What do I care about your father and mother? What did they care about you? You owe all the rest of your life to yourself and to me. Come! will you consent willingly or--" He paused. She was very still in his arms for a long time.
"I do so want to be happy," she said at last, reflectively. "No, no! don't say anything yet. I am only wondering how it will be after we've been married for a few years. When I'm growing old and plain, and you begin to tire of me as most men grow weary of their wives--what then? Ah, Graydon, I--I have thought about all that, too. You'll never reproach me openly--you couldn't do that, I know. But you may secretly nourish the scorn which--"
"Jane," he said, dropping the tone of confident authority and speaking very tenderly, "you forget that my father is a convict. You forget that he has done things which will forever keep me a beggar at your feet. I am asking YOU to forget and overlook inuch more than you could ever ask of me. Old Elias, wretch that he is, has pointed out our ways for us; they run together in spite of what may conspire to divide them. Jane, I love my soul, but I love you ten thousand times better than my soul."
"I did not believe I could ever be so happy again," she murmured, putting her hands to his face.
Graydon, rejoicing in his final victory, hurried to his rooms later in the evening. As he was about to enter the elevator he noticed a grey-suited boy in brass buttons, who stood near by, an inquiring look in his face.
"This is Mr. Bansemer," observed the laconic youth who ran the single elevator in the apartment building.
"Something for me?" demanded Graydon, turning to the boy in grey.
"Special delivery letter, sir. Sign here."
Graydon took the thick envelope from the boy's hand. With a start, he recognised his father's handwriting. Curiously he turned the letter over in his fingers as he ascended in the car, wonder growing in his brain. He did not wait to remove his overcoat on entering his rooms, but strode to the light and nervously tore open the envelope. Dread, hope, anxiety, conspired tu make his fingers tremble. There were many closely written pages. How well he remembered his father's writing!
As he read, his eyes grew wide with wonder and unbelief. They raced through the pages, wonder giving way to joy and exultation as he neared the end of the astounding message from the far-away prisoner.
A shout forged to his lips; he hugged the letter to his heart; tears came into his eyes, a sob broke in, his throat.
"Thank God!" he cried, throwing himself into a chair to eagerly read and reread the contents of the letter. Suddenly he sprang to his feet and dashed across the room to the telephone.
"She will die of joy!" he half sobbed, in the transports of exhilaration. Five minutes later he was on his way to her hotel, clutching the priceless letter in his bare fingers, deep down in his overcoat pocket. He had shouted over the 'phone that the good news would not keep till morning, and she was waiting up for him with Mr. and Mrs. Cable, consumed by curiosity.
"This letter"--he gasped, as he entered the room--"from father. He's written, Jane--everything. I knew he would. Elias didn't know it all. He knew half of the truth, that's all. Good Lord, I--I can't read it, Mr. Cable. You--please."
David Cable, white-faced and trembling, read aloud the letter from James Bansemer. It was to "My beloved son." The first appealing sentences were given to explanation and apology for the determined silence he had maintained for so many months. He spoke casually of his utter indifference to the success of certain friends who were working for his pardon. "If they secure my release," he wrote, "I shall find happiness if you clasp my hand but once before I leave America forever." Farther on he said: "I will not accept parole. It is a poor premium on virtue, and, as you know, my stock of that commodity has been miserably low."
"I may be required to serve my full term," read David Cable. "In that case, we should not see one another for years, my son. You have much to forgive and I have much more to forget. We can best see our ways to the end if we seek them apart. The dark places won't seem so black.... My sole purpose in writing this letter to you, my son, is to give back to you as much happiness as I can possibly extract from this pile of misery. I am not pleading for anything; I am simply surrendering to the good impulses that are once more coming into their own, after all these years of subjection.... I am not apologising to the Cables. I am doing this for your sake and for the girl who has wronged no one and to whom I have acted with a baseness which amazes me as I reflect upon it inside these narrow walls.
"You will recall that I would have permitted you to marry her--I mean, in the beginning. Perhaps it was spite which interposed later on. At least, be charitable enough to call it that. Clegg has been here to see me. He says you are bound to make Jane Cable your wife. I knew you would. For a long time I have held out, unreasonably, I admit, against having her as my daughter. I could not endure the thought of giving you up altogether. Don't you comprehend my thought? I cannot bring myself to look again into her eyes after what she saw in this accursed prison.... She was born in wedlock.... The story is not a long one. Elias Droom knows the names of her father and mother, but I am confident that he does not know all of the circumstances. For once, I was too shrewd for him. The story of my dealings in connection with Jane Cable is a shameful one, and I cannot hope for pardon, either from you or from her."
Here he related, as concisely as possible, the incidents attending Mrs. Cable's first visit to his office and the subsequent adoption of the babe.
"I knew that there was wealth and power behind the mystery. There was a profitable scandal in the background. Unknown to Mrs. Cable, I began investigations of my own. She had made little or no effort to discover the parents of the child. She could have had no purpose in doing so, I'll admit.... [Here he gave in detail the progress of his investigations at the Foundlings' Home, at the health office, at certain unsavory hospitals and in other channels of possibility.] ...At last, I found the doctor, and then the nurse. After that, it was easy to unearth the records of a child's birth and of a mother's death--all in New York City.... Droom can tell you the names of Jane's parents, substantiating the names I have just given to you. He did not know that they had been married nearly two years prior to the birth of the child. It was a clandestine marriage.... I went straight to the father of the foundling. He was then but little more than twenty-one years of age--a wild, ruthless, overbearing, heartless scoundrel, who had more money but a much smaller conscience than I.... To-day he is a great and, I believe, respected gentleman, for he comes of good stock.... I had him trembling on his knees before me. He told me the truth. Egad, my son, I am rather proud of that hour with him.
"It seems that this young scion of a wealthy house had lost his insecure heart to the daughter of a real aristocrat. I say real, because her father was a pure Knickerbocker of the old school. He was, naturally, as poor as poverty itself. With his beautiful daughter he was living in lower New York--barely subsisting, I may say, on the meagre income that found its way to him through the upstairs lodgers in the old home. Here lived Jane's mother, cherishing the traditions of her blood, while her father, sick and feeble, brooded over the days when he was a king in Babylon. The handsome, wayward lover came into her life when she was nineteen. They were married secretly in the city of Boston.
"The young husband imposed silence until after he had attained his majority. There was a vast fortune at stake. In plain words, his father had forbidden the marriage. He had selected another one to be the wife of his son.... Jane was born in the second year of their wedded life. It was, of course, important that the fact should be kept secret. I am inclosing a slip of paper containing the names of the minister, the doctor and the nurse who afterwards attended her, together with the record of death. It is more convenient to handle than this bulky letter--which I trust you will destroy. You will also find the name of the hospital in which Jane was born and where her mother died, ten days later. I may say, in this connection, that not one of the persons mentioned knew the true name of the young mother, nor were they sure of the fact that she was a wife. Her gravestone in the old cemetery bears the name of the maiden, not the wife. Her father never knew the truth....
"What I did in the premises need not be told. That is a part of my past. I learned how the cowardly young father, glad to be out of the affair so easily, hired the nurse to leave the baby on the doorstep. Then I went to the banker whose son he was. I had absolute proof of the marriage. He paid me well to keep the true story from reaching the public. The son was whisked abroad and he afterwards married the girl of his father's choice. I do not believe that he has ever given a thought to the whereabouts or welfare of his child. It was her heritage of caste!
"If Jane cares to claim her rights as this man's lawful daughter, proof is ample and undeniable. I fancy, however, she will find greater joy as the daughter of David Cable. Her own father has less of a heart than yours, for, after all, my son, I love you because you are mine. Love me, if you can; I have nothing else left that I care for. Remember that I am always
Your loving father,
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