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True Riches T.S. Arthur

Chapter XX

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How changed, in a few brief years, had become the relation of these two men. The poor, humble, despised, but honest clerk, now stood erect, while the merchant cowered before him in humiliation and fear.

"Edward," said Jasper, as soon as he had sufficient composure of mind to think somewhat clearly and speak calmly, "What do you purpose doing in this matter?"

"What is right, Mr. Jasper," answered Claire, firmly. "That is my duty."

"Ruin! ruin! ruin!" exclaimed Jasper, in a low voice, again losing command of himself, and wringing his hands hopelessly. "Oh! that it should have come to this!"

Astonished as Claire was by what he now heard and saw, he felt the necessity of preserving the most entire self-possession. When Jasper again put the question--

"What do you purpose doing, Edward?" he replied.

"I shall be better able to answer that question when I have all the particulars upon which to make up a decision. At present, I only know that a large amount of property has been withheld from Miss Elder; and that I have only to bring this man Martin into a court of justice to have every thing made clear."

"And this you purpose doing?"

"I shall do so, undoubtedly; unless the object to be gained by such a course is secured in another way."

"Quite as much, believe me, Edward, can be gained through private arrangement as by legal investigation," returned Jasper, his manner greatly subdued. "You and I can settle every thing, I am sure, between ourselves; and, as far as my ability will carry me, it shall be to your entire satisfaction. I have greatly mistaken your character, or you will take no pleasure in destroying me."

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"Pleasure in destroying you?" Claire was still further affected with surprise. "In no man's destruction could I take pleasure."

"I believe you Edward. And now let me give you a history of this matter from the beginning. You will know better what course to pursue when you comprehend it fully."

And then, to the astonished ears of Claire, Jasper related how, through the man Martin, he became possessed of the fact that the supposed almost valueless piece of land in Pennsylvania which Mr. Elder had taken to secure a debt of five hundred dollars, contained a rich coal deposite--and how, as executor to his estate, and the guardian of his child, he had by presenting the child in person before commissioners appointed by the court, obtained an order for the sale of the land, with the declared purpose of investing the proceeds in some productive property. It was for this that he had been so anxious to get Fanny, and for this that he carried her off forcibly, although his agency in the matter did not appear. He then related how, in the sale, he became the real purchaser; and how, afterward, the tract, as coal land, was sold to a company for nearly a hundred thousand dollars.

"But Edward," said Jasper, as he concluded his humiliating narrative, "I am worse off to-day than if I had never made this transaction. It gave me a large amount of capital for trade and speculation, but it also involved me in connections, and led me into schemes for money-making, that have wellnigh proved my ruin. In all truth, I am not, this day, worth one-half of what I received for that property."

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True Riches
T.S. Arthur

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