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|True Riches||T.S. Arthur|
|Page 5 of 7||
"Good evening, madam! My name is Claire. You remember me, of course?"
The lady bowed coldly, and with a frown on her brow.
"Is little Fanny Elder here?" was asked, and with even greater abruptness.
"Fanny Elder? No! Why do you ask that question?"
There was something so positive in the denial of Mrs. Jasper, that Claire felt her words as truth.
"Not here?" said he, catching his breath in a gasping manner. "Not here?"
"I said that she was not here," was the reply.
"Oh, where then is she, madam?" exclaimed the young man, evincing great distress.
"How should I know? Is she not in your possession? What is the meaning of this, Mr. Claire?"
The lady spoke sternly, and with the air of one both offended and irritated.
"Somebody enticed her away, on her return from school this afternoon," said Claire. "Mr. Jasper said that he would have her; and my first and natural conclusion was that he had executed his threat. Oh, ma'am, if this be so, tell me, that my anxiety for the child's safety may have rest. As it is, I am in the most painful uncertainty. If she is here, I will feel, at least"--
"Have I not told you that she is not here, and that I know nothing of her," said Mrs. Jasper, angrily, interrupting the young man. "This is insolent."
"How soon do you expect Mr. Jasper home?" inquired Claire.
"Not for several days," replied Mrs. Jasper.
"Days! Is he not in the city?"
"No, sir. He left town yesterday."
Claire struck his hands together in disappointment and grief. This confirmed to him the lady's assertion that she knew nothing of Fanny. In that assertion she had uttered the truth.
Sadly disappointed, and in far deeper distress of mind than when he entered the house, Edward Claire retired. If Mr. Jasper left the city on the day previous, and his wife had, as he could not help believing, no knowledge whatever of Fanny, then the more distressing inference was that she had been enticed away by some stranger.
On his way home, Claire called again at the store of Jasper. It occurred to him to ask there as to his absence from the city. The reply he received was in agreement with Mrs. Jasper's assertion. He had left town on the previous day.
"Where has he gone?" he inquired.
"To Reading, I believe," was the answer.
"Will he return soon?"
"Not for several days, I believe."
With a heavy heart, Claire bent his way homeward. He cherished a faint hope that Fanny might have returned. The hope was vain. Here he lingered but a short time. His next step was to give information to the police, and to furnish for all the morning papers an advertisement, detailing the circumstances attendant on the child's abduction. This done, he again returned home, to console, the best he could, his afflicted wife, and to wait the developments of the succeeding day.
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