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|A Waif of the Plains||Bret Harte|
|Page 8 of 8||
Two hours later the banker had another visitor. It chanced to be the farmer-looking man who had been Clarence's fellow-passenger. Evidently a privileged person, he was at once ushered as "Captain Stevens" into the presence of the banker. At the end of a familiar business interview the captain asked carelessly--
"Any letters for me?"
The busy banker pointed with his pen to the letter "S" in a row of alphabetically labeled pigeon-holes against the wall. The captain, having selected his correspondence, paused with a letter in his hand.
"Look here, Carden, there are letters here for some chap called 'John Silsbee.' They were here when I called, ten weeks ago."
"That's the name of that Pike County man who was killed by Injins in the plains. The 'Frisco papers had all the particulars last night; may be it's for that fellow. It hasn't got a postmark. Who left it here?"
Mr. Carden summoned a clerk. It appeared that the letter had been left by a certain Brant Fauquier, to be called for.
Captain Stevens smiled. "Brant's been too busy dealin' faro to think of 'em agin, and since that shootin' affair at Angels' I hear he's skipped to the southern coast somewhere. Cal Johnson, his old chum, was in the up stage from Stockton this afternoon."
"Did you come by the up stage from Stockton this afternoon?" said Carden, looking up.
"Yes, as far as Ten-mile Station--rode the rest of the way here."
"Did you notice a queer little old-fashioned kid--about so high-- like a runaway school-boy?"
"Did I? By G--d, sir, he treated me to drinks."
Carden jumped from his chair. "Then he wasn't lying!"
"No! We let him do it; but we made it good for the little chap afterwards. Hello! What's up?"
But Mr. Carden was already in the outer office beside the clerk who had admitted Clarence.
"You remember that boy Brant who was here?"
"Where did he go?"
"Don't know, sir."
"Go and find him somewhere and somehow. Go to all the hotels, restaurants, and gin-mills near here, and hunt him up. Take some one with you, if you can't do it alone. Bring him back here, quick!"
It was nearly midnight when the clerk fruitlessly returned. It was the fierce high noon of "steamer nights"; light flashed brilliantly from shops, counting-houses, drinking-saloons, and gambling-hells. The streets were yet full of eager, hurrying feet--swift of fortune, ambition, pleasure, or crime. But from among these deeper harsher footfalls the echo of the homeless boy's light, innocent tread seemed to have died out forever.
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