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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Millionaire Baby - Chapter 24. "Shall I Give Him My Word, Harry?"
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The Millionaire Baby - Chapter 24. 'Shall I Give Him My Word, Harry?' Post by :joker Category :Long Stories Author :Anna Katharine Green Date :May 2012 Read :2691

Click below to download : The Millionaire Baby - Chapter 24. "Shall I Give Him My Word, Harry?" (Format : PDF)

The Millionaire Baby - Chapter 24. "Shall I Give Him My Word, Harry?"

CHAPTER XXIV. "SHALL I GIVE HIM MY WORD, HARRY?"

I did not go all the way to New York on the train which Mrs. Carew and the child had taken. I went only as far as Yonkers.

When I reached Doctor Pool's house, I thought it entirely empty. Even the office seemed closed. But appearances here could not always be trusted, and I rang the bell with a vigor which must have awakened echoes in the uninhabited upper stories. I know that it brought the doctor to the door, and in a state of doubtful amiability. But when he saw who awaited him, his appearance changed and he welcomed me in with a smile or what was as nearly like one as his austere nature would permit.

"How now! Want your money? Seems to me you have earned it with unexpected ease."

"Not such great ease," I replied, as he carefully closed the door and locked it "I know that I feel as tired as I ever did in my life. The child is in New York under the guardianship of a woman who is really fond of her. You can dismiss all care concerning her."

"I see--and who is the woman? Name her."

"You do not trust me, I see."

"I trust no one in business matters."

"This is not a business matter--yet."

"What do you mean?"

"I have not asked for money. I am not going to till I can perfectly satisfy you that all deception is at an end so far as Mr. Ocumpaugh at least is concerned."

"Oh, you would play fair, I see."

I was too interested in noting how each of his hands involuntarily closed on itself, in his relief at not being called upon to part with some of his hoardings, to answer with aught but a nod.

"You have your reasons for keeping close, of course," he growled as he led the way toward the basement stairs. "You're not out of the woods, is that it? Or has the great lady bargained with you?--Um? Um?"

He threw the latter ejaculations back over his shoulder as he descended to the office. They displeased me, and I made no attempt to reply. In fact, I had no reply ready. Had I bargained with Mrs. Ocumpaugh? Hardly. Yet--

"She is handsome enough," the old man broke in sharply, cutting in two my self-communings. "You're a fellow of some stamina, if you have got at her secret without making her a promise. So the child is well! That's good! There's one long black mark eliminated from my account. But I have not closed the book, and I am not going to, till my conscience has nothing more to regret. It is not enough that the child is handed over to a different life; the fortunes that have been bequeathed her must be given to him who would have inherited them had this child not been taken for a veritable Ocumpaugh."

"That raises a nice point," I said.

"But one that will drag all false things to light."

"Your action in the matter along with the rest," I suggested.

"True! but do you think I shall stop because of that?"

He did not look as if he would stop because of anything.

"Do you not think Mrs. Ocumpaugh worthy some pity? Her future is a ghastly one, whichever way you look at it."

"She sinned," was his uncompromising reply. "The wages of sin is death."

"But such death!" I protested; "death of the heart, which is the worst death of all."

He shrugged his shoulders, leading the way into the office.

"Let her beware!" he went on surlily. "Last month I saw my duty no further than the exaction of this child's dismissal from the home whose benefits she enjoyed under a false name. To-day I am led further by the inexorable guide which prompts the anxious soul. All that was wrong must be made good. Mr. Ocumpaugh must know on whom his affections have been lavished. I will not yield. The woman has done wrong; and she shall suffer for it till she rises, a redeemed soul, into a state of mind that prefers humiliation to a continuance in a life of deception. You may tell her what I say--that is, if you enjoy the right of conversation with her."

The look he shot me at this was keen as hate and spite could make it. I was glad that we were by this time in the office, and that I could avoid his eye by a quick look about the well-remembered place. This proof of the vindictive pursuit he had marked out for himself was no surprise to me. I expected no less, yet it opened up difficulties which made my way, as well as hers, look dreary in the prospect. He perceived my despondency and smiled; then suddenly changed his tone.

"You do not ask after the little patient I have here. Come, Harry, come; here is some one I will let you see."

The door of my old room swung open and I do not know which surprised me most, the kindness in the rugged old voice I had never before heard lifted in tenderness, or the look of confidence and joy on the face of the little boy who now came running in. So inexorable to a remorseful and suffering woman, and so full of consideration for a stranger's child!

"Almost well," pronounced the doctor, and lifted him on his knee. "Do you know this child's parentage and condition?" he sharply inquired, with a quick look toward me.

I saw no reason for not telling the truth.

"He is an orphan, and was destined for an institution."

"You know this?"

"Positively."

"Then I shall keep the child. Harry, will you stay with me?"

To my amazement the little arms crept round his neck. A smile grim enough, in my estimation, but not at all frightful to the child, responded to this appeal.

"I did not like the old man and woman," he said.

Doctor Pool's whole manner showed triumph. "I shall treat him better than I did you," he remarked. "I am a regenerate man now."

I bowed; I was very uneasy; there was a question I wanted to ask and could not in the presence of this child.

"He is hardly of an age to take my place," I observed, still under the spell of my surprise, for the child was handling the old man's long beard, and seeming almost as happy as Gwendolen did in Mrs. Carew's arms.

"He will have one of his own," was the doctor's unexpected reply.

I rose. I saw that he did not intend to dismiss the child.

"I should like your word, in return for the relief I have undoubtedly brought you, that you will not molest certain parties till the three days are up which I have mentioned as the limit of my own silence."

"Shall I give him my word, Harry?"

The child, startled by the abrupt address, drew his fingers from the long beard he was playfully stroking and, eyeing me with elfish gravity, seemed to ponder the question as if some comprehension of its importance had found entrance into his small brain. Annoyed at the doctor's whim, yet trusting to the child's intuition, I waited with inner anxiety for what those small lips would say, and felt an infinite relief, even if I did not show it, when he finally uttered a faint "Yes," and hid his face again on the doctor's breast.

My last remembrance of them both was the picture they made as the doctor closed the door upon me, with the sweet, confiding child still clasped in his arms.

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