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Maruja Bret Harte

Chapter X

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"But how can this be prevented? If, as you say, there are actual proofs, why have they not been acted upon before? What can keep them from being acted upon now?"

"The proofs have been collected by one man, have been in possession of one man, and will only pass out of his possession when it is for the benefit of the legal heir--who does not yet even know of their existence."

"And who is this one man?"


"You?--You?" said Carroll, advancing towards him. "Then this is YOUR work!"

"Captain Carroll," said Prince, without moving, but drawing his lips tightly together and putting his head on one side, "I don't propose to have another scene like the one we had at our last meeting. If you try on anything of that kind, I shall put the whole matter into a lawyer's hands. I don't say that you won't regret it; I don't say that I sha'nt be disappointed, too, for I have been managing this thing purely as a matter of business, with a view to profiting by it. It so happens that we can both work to the same end, even if our motives are not the same. I don't call myself an officer and a gentleman, but I reckon I've run this affair about as delicately as the best of them, and with a d----d sight more horse sense. I want this thing hushed up and compromised, to get some control of the property again, and to prevent it depreciating, as it would, in litigation; you want it hushed up for the sake of the girl and your future mother-in-law. I don't know anything about your laws of honor, but I've laid my cards on the table for you to see, without asking what you've got in your hand. You can play the game or leave the board, as you choose." He turned and walked to the window--not without leaving on Carroll's mind a certain sense of firmness, truthfulness, and sincerity which commanded his respect.

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"I withdraw any remark that might have seemed to reflect on your business integrity, Mr. Prince," said Carroll, quietly. "I am willing to admit that you have managed this thing better than I could, and, if I join you in an act to suppress these revelations, I have no right to judge of your intentions. What do you propose to have me do?"

"To state the whole case to Mrs. Saltonstall, and to ask her to acknowledge the young man's legal claim without litigation."

"But how do you know that she would not do this without--excuse me-- without intimidation?"

"I only reckon that a woman clever enough to get hold of a million, would be clever enough to keep it--against others."

"I hope to show you are mistaken. But where is this heir?"



"Yes. For the last six months he has been my private secretary. I know what you are thinking of, Captain Carroll. You would consider it indelicate--eh? Well, that's just where we differ. By this means I have kept everything in my own hands--prevented him from getting into the hands of outsiders--and I intend to dispose of just as much of the facts to him as may be necessary for him to prove his title. What bargain I make with HIM--is my affair."

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