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Maruja Bret Harte

Chapter VII

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"I have no desire to evade any responsibility in this matter, legal or otherwise," said Carroll, coldly, rising to his feet.

"Look here," said Prince, suddenly, with a return of his brusque frankness; "you might have ASKED me for those letters, you know."

"And you wouldn't have given them to me," said Carroll.

Prince laughed. "That's so! I say, Captain. Did they teach you this sort of strategy at West Point?"

"They taught me that I could neither receive nor give an insult under a white flag," said Carroll, pleasantly. "And they allowed me to make exchanges under the same rule. I picked up this pocketbook on the spot where the accident occurred to Dr. West. It is evidently his. I leave it with you, who are his executor."

The instinct of reticence before a man with whom he could never be confidential kept him from alluding to his other discovery.

Prince took the pocket-book, and opened it mechanically. After a moment's scrutiny of the memoranda it contained, his face assumed something of the same concentrated attention it wore at the beginning of the interview. Raising his eyes suddenly to Carroll, he said, quickly,--

"You have examined it?"

"Only so far as to see that it contained nothing of importance to the person I represent," returned Carroll, simply.

The capitalist looked at the young officer's clear eyes. Something of embarrassment came into his own as he turned them away.

"Certainly. Only memoranda of the Doctor's business. Quite important to us, you know. But nothing referring to YOUR principal." He laughed. "Thank you for the exchange. I say--take a drink!"

"Thank you--no!" returned Carroll, going to the door.

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"Well, good-by."

He held out his hand. Carroll, with his clear eyes still regarding him, passed quietly by the outstretched hand, opened the door, bowed, and made his exit.

A slight flush came into Prince's cheek. Then, as the door closed, he burst into a half-laugh. Had he been a dramatic villain, he would have added to it several lines of soliloquy, in which he would have rehearsed the fact that the opportunity for revenge had "come at last"; that the "haughty victor who had just left with his ill-gotten spoil had put into his hands the weapon of his friend's destruction"; that the "hour had come"; and, possibly he might have said, "Ha! ha!" But, being a practical, good-natured, selfish rascal, not much better or worse than his neighbors, he sat himself down at his desk and began to carefully consider how HE could best make use of the memoranda jotted down by Dr. West of the proofs of the existence of his son, and the consequent discovery of a legal heir to his property.

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