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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 22. A Compromise
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Mary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 22. A Compromise Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :L. Frank Baum Date :May 2012 Read :2525

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Mary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 22. A Compromise

CHAPTER XXII. A COMPROMISE

"If I had any money of my own," Alora said to Janet Orme on the morning of the twelfth day of imprisonment, "I would gladly pay it to free."

Janet flashed a quick glance at her. "Do you mean that?" she asked with ill-suppressed eagerness.

"I do, indeed," declared the girl, moaning dismally; "but I never have a cent to call my own."

Janet sat still, for some time, thinking.

"I, too, wish you were free," she admitted, resuming the conversation, "for my position as jailer obliges me to share your confinement, and it's wearing on me, as it is on you. But you have unconsciously given me a thought--an idea that seems likely to lead to a compromise between us. I'm going to consider it seriously, and if it still looks good to me I'll make you a proposition."

Saying this, she retired to her bedroom and closed the door after her, leaving Alora in a fit of nervous trembling through half-formed hopes that she might gain her release.

It was nearly an hour before Janet returned. When she came from her room she stood before the girl for a time and seemed to study her face. Alora was anxious and did not endeavor to conceal the fact. In her hand the woman held a paper, which she presently laid upon the center-table.

"I have decided to make you a proposition," she said, turning to seat herself near the table. "If it interests you, all right; if it doesn't, you may of course reject it. My offer is this: If you will tell me where to find your father and will promise not to mention me to him or to warn him of my intentions, and if you will sign this paper which I have prepared, I will allow you to return to your friends to-day. You are not especially fond of Jason Jones, I believe?"

"Not especially, although he is my father," returned Alora, eyeing the woman expectantly.

"Then you can have no objection to my forcing him to disgorge my share of his income, which you would not get in any event. I don't know how much of an allowance he makes you, but----"

"I don't get any allowance," said Alora, "In fact, he gives me nothing."

"Then my demands on your father will not affect your interests. Are you willing to give me his address, and promise not to warn him?"

"Under the circumstances, yes."

"Very well. I accept your plighted word--your word of honor. Now sign this paper and you may go."

She took the paper from the table and handed it to Alora, who read as follows:

"For value received, in services faithfully rendered and which I hereby freely and without coercion acknowledge, I hereby promise and agree to pay to Janet Orme Jones on the day that I attain my majority the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars, which sum is to be paid from my estate without recourse, equivocation or attempt to repudiate the said obligation, inasmuch as I willingly admit the said sum to be justly due the said Janet Orme Jones. "(Signed:)................."

Alora read the paper twice, with, growing indignation. Then she glanced up at her jailer and muttered questioningly: "Jones? Janet Orme _Jones?"_

"A family name, my dear. The Joneses are so thick and so unimportant that generally I do not use the name, but this is a legal document. I hope you won't try to claim relationship," she added with a light laugh.

"I'm not going to promise you so enormous a sum as fifty thousand dollars, even to secure my liberty," said Alora. "It's out of all reason--it's--it's--outrageous!"

"Very well," returned Janet, coolly; "that's your own affair. This is merely a compromise proposition, suggested by yourself, as I told you. Let us say no more about it."

Alora was greatly disheartened. After allowing her hopes to run so high the disappointment was now doubly keen. Her defiance melted away with the thought of all the weary days of imprisonment she must endure until Janet was ready to act.

"I--I might agree to give you _five thousand dollars," she ventured.

"Nonsense. I'm not gunning for small game, Alora. Did you but realize it, I am quite considerate in exacting only fifty thousand. Your estate is worth two millions. Your income is something like eighty thousand a year, and this payment would leave you thirty thousand to use the first year after you come into your fortune. I don't believe you could spend thirty thousand in a year, when you are eighteen years of age."

Alora turned away and going to the front window, looked through its stained and unwashed panes into the gloomy street below. The sight emphasized her isolation from the world. Her imprisonment was becoming unbearable. After all, she reflected, in reckless mood, what did so small a share of her prospective fortune weigh against her present comfort--and health--and happiness?

Janet was stealthily watching her.

"Should you decide to sign the paper," said the nurse, "you must make up your mind not to raise a row when pay-day comes. The money will come out of your income, and instead of investing it in more bonds, you will have invested it in your liberty. You won't be inconvenienced in the slightest degree. On the other hand, this money will mean everything to _me_--a modest competence for my old age and relief from the drudgery of working. I've had a hard life, my girl, for nursing is mere slavery to the whims of sick people. Consider, also, that for six years Jason Jones squandered all my savings in trying to paint pictures that were not worth the canvas he ruined. If I had that money now I wouldn't need to descend to this disgraceful mode of recouping my bank account; but, under the circumstances, don't you think I am justly entitled to some of the Jones money?"

"You're going to get a lot from my father."

"True; but that is for his indebtedness, while this amount is for your freedom. A scrape of the pen and you secure liberty, fresh air and the privilege of rejoining your friends, who are probably getting anxious about you. If you are the sensible girl I take you to be, you won't hesitate."

Alora knew the woman was pleading her own case, but the arguments appealed to her. She was weak and nervous and her longing for liberty outweighed her natural judgment.

"I suppose I'm a fool, but----"

Slowly she approached the table where the written promissory note still lay. Janet had placed a pen and inkstand beside it.

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CHAPTER XXI. THE PRICE OF LIBERTYAlora, being in the main a sensible girl, strove to make the best of her unpleasant predicament. She longed to notify Mary Louise that she was safe and well and in answer to her pleadings Janet agreed she might write a letter to that effect, with no hint that she was imprisoned or where she could be found, and the nurse would mail it for her. So Alora wrote the letter and showed it to Janet, who could find no fault with its wording and promised to mail it when she went out to market, which
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