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CHAPTER XXIX.


BACK IN NEW YORK.


We soon reached the depot, and, leaving it, took an Elevated train down town.

"Now, Luke, for the last and only time, are you going to give up that money?"

My uncle asked me that question as we alighted from the train.

"There is no necessity for your asking that question, Mr. Stillwell," I replied. "I have said all I care to on that subject."

"Do you know what I am going to do with you?"

"Have me locked up, I suppose."

"More than that; I am going to have you sent to the State prison for a number of years. I hate to do it, but it's the only way to manage you."

"Perhaps it won't be an easy matter to send me to prison."

"I have proof enough, never fear."

"I don't think so; and let me say, if you disgrace me by an arrest, I will make it as hot for you as I can."

"You are an angel, I must say."

"I don't pretend to be an angel. I'm nothing but an everyday boy, and I've got a temper just as well as any one. I've always tried to do my duty, both to you and to others, and I can't see why you should suspect me any more than Gus or one of your partners, or—or yourself."

"What!"

"Yes, I mean just what I say. I am not guilty, and I am half inclined to believe you know it."

"You villain!"

"If you have me arrested, I'll make you prove that you put the money in the safe and that Gus didn't take it out."

"You scamp! Do you think that any one will doubt my word?"

"Perhaps they will."

"I have been a well-known citizen here for twelve years; I think not."

"Folks don't all know you as I do. When they hear of some of the things you have done they will think differently."

"What things?"

"Never mind; you'll know soon enough."

Mr. Stillwell was evidently much disturbed. He pursed up his lips savagely.

"You speak as if I had committed some great crime," he cried.

"Maybe you have."

He grew pale for an instant; but quickly recovered himself.

"Don't try to scare me, Luke; it won't work."

"I am not trying to scare you."

"Yes, you are."

"I am only trying to prepare you for what may come."

"I want no help from you."

"Very well; but remember, you will be sorry for what you do."

I said no more, and my uncle did not continue the conversation.

It was not long before we reached Nassau Street. As we passed along I could not help but think of the day I had so unceremoniously left Mr. Banker and my uncle. How much had occurred since that time! What an experience I had had, and how much I had learned!

I speculated upon the time it would take for Mr. Banker to receive my letter and reach New York, and if Mr. Mason had heard from Mr. Ranson and would be ready for my return.

I hoped from the bottom of my heart all would yet be right. I hated the thought of going to jail, even if only for a few hours. I knew the stain would cling.

"What did Mr. Banker do after I left?" I asked.

"None of your business," growled Mr. Stillwell.

"He did not think I was guilty," I went on.

"I don't care what he thought."

"And Mr. Mason; did he think I was guilty?"

"Mr. Mason is a fool—always was."

From this I inferred that my lawyer friend had thought as Mr. Banker did—that I was innocent. This gave me not a little satisfaction.

"How did you come to meet Ranson?" he asked after a pause.

"I might say that it was none of your business——" I began.

"You scamp!"

"But I will not. I saved Mr. Ranson's life."

"Saved his life! I want none of your jokes, please!"

"I am not joking. He says I saved his life, and I am willing to take his word for it."

"How was it?"

"I was on board a boat, and his boat was swamped, so I pulled him on board."

"And so you became friends?"

"Yes, sir."

"Humph! you might have made a better choice!"

"I think Mr. Ranson a very nice man. He certainly treated me extremely well."

"He's of small account."

"He said you and he were not on good terms."

"What did he do for you for saving him?"

"He offered to do a great deal."

"I suppose so. He's mighty free as far as words go."

It made Mr. Stillwell feel sore to think I had so many friends. He knitted his eyebrows and said no more until we reached the office.

When we arrived we found no one but my cousin Gus in charge. Mr. Grinder was still away, and Mr. Canning had not yet arrived.

"Hello! so you're back!" exclaimed Gus. "Thought you'd get sick of running away."

I offered no reply, and he continued:

"What did you mean by insinuating that I took the money from the safe?"

"If you didn't, what were you doing in the office that morning when you said you were going to Coney Island?"

"Who says I was at the office?"

"I do; and I can prove it."

Gus reddened.

"Well, I will own up that I was here, but I didn't go near the safe."

"So you say. But if you didn't, what were you doing here?"

"Don't answer him, Augustus," put in my uncle sternly. "What right have you to cross-question my son?" he demanded, turning to me.

"If he doesn't answer I may have him arrested," was my firm reply.

"What!"

"I mean every word I say."

"Have me arrested!" cried Gus, turning pale.

"Yes."

"I—I came to put the office in disorder so that you would catch it, " he faltered. "I tore up some paper and spilt the ink, but I didn't go near the safe."

"It was a mighty small revenge," was my reply.

"I—I know it. But you stole the money," he continued triumphantly.

"I did not; and you will have a job to prove it."

"We'll do it, never fear. Won't we, pop?"

"I think we will, Augustus. But I fear Luke is in a very unhappy frame of mind. He doesn't seem to realize the enormity of his crime."

"He will when he's behind the bars."

"I trust so."

"I will never realize what I am not guilty of. What are you going to do with me next?"

"Just sit down until I finish the morning mail and you will see. Augustus, watch him so that he does not escape again."

"Don't fear. I told you I would not run away; and I always keep my word."

I sat down on a chair, and Mr. Stillwell began to look over his letters. I wondered what would happen next, but I was not quite prepared for what did happen.

Suddenly the door opened, and Mr. Canning rushed in. He held a morning paper in his hand, and was highly excited.

"What does this mean?" he demanded of my uncle.

"What does what mean, Mr. Canning?" asked Mr. Stillwell, as sweetly as he could.

"This account of the burning of the Spitfire?"

"Dear! dear! the Spitfire burned!" cried my uncle, wringing his hands in assumed anguish. "And I had a cargo on board of her, and but partly insured!"

"Yes; and this paper states that the vessel was set on fire by the captain and his accomplices," went on Mr. Canning.

With a bound my uncle was on his feet.

"It can't be true," he cried, hoarsely.

"The officers of the law claim that it is true. But that is not the worst of it. They claim that the cargo was a bogus one, and that you are guilty of fraud. Foster, here——"

Mr. Canning did not continue. "With a deep groan my uncle had sunk back into his office chair like one dead!