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Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907 [1874], Prudence Palfrey: a novel. (James R. Osgood and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf450T].
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XVII. How Mr. Dillingham Looked Out of a Window.

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It was a blustery, frosty morning; the sensitive
twigs of trees snapped with the cold;
the brass knockers on old-fashioned doors here
and there had a sullen, vindictive look, daring
you to take hold of them; the sky was slatecolor.
There was no snow on the ground, but
the wind, sweeping up the street, now and then
blew the white dust into blinding clouds, which,
bursting in the air and sifting lazily downward,
seemed to Mr. Dillingham, as he leaned against
the casement of a window in the Old Bell Tavern,
quite like falling snow.

The window at which the young minister
stood was directly over the front door, and commanded
a prospect of the entire length of the
street that ran at right angles with the main
thoroughfare and terminated at the steps of the
hotel. At the other end of this street was the

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long bridge—hidden from time to time that
morning by the swirls of dust — leading to

Mr. Dillingham had his eyes fixed upon a distant
object approaching from that direction. It
was a mere speck when he first descried it on
the bridge, tossed and blown hither and thither
by the gale; but as it struggled onward he was
not slow to detect in this atom the person of
Mr. Dent's coachman, Wingate.

Not an especially interesting atom, Wingate,
as a general thing, to the rest of the human
family; but he interested Mr. Dillingham very
deeply this morning.

As the coachman drew nearer, the young minister
saw that he held something white clutched
in his hand, which the marauding winds, now
and then swooping down on him from around
the corners, attempted to wrest from his grasp.
That it was a note from. Miss Palfrey, that it
was for him, Mr. Dillingham, and that it contained
the death-warrant of his hopes, were the
conclusions at which he arrived before Wingate
gained the stone-crossing opposite the hotel.

As Wingate reached this point, and was

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backing up against the wind which just then swept
furiously around the paint-shop on the corner, a
hack stopped suddenly on the crossway. A man
leaned from the window, and called to Wingate,
who stared at him stupidly for a moment, then
rushed to the side of the carriage and grasped
the hand of the occupant; then the two entered
into an animated dialogue, if one might judge
by the energetic pantomime that ensued.

Mr. Dillingham watched this encounter—
evidently unexpected by both parties—with a
feverish restlessness not characteristic of him.
His breath came and went quickly, and his impatience
seemed to take shape and become crystallized
in eccentric zigzag lines on the pane of
glass nearest his lips. It was rapidly growing
bitter cold without, and the frost was stretching
its silvery antennæ over all the windows.

Finally the carriage drove off, and Wingate,
as if possessed to prolong the tantalizing suspense
of the young clergyman, stood motionless
on the curbstone several minutes looking after
the retreating vehicle. Then it appeared to
occur to Wingate that he was freezing to death,
and he crossed over briskly to the Old Bell

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Mr. Dillingham hurried into the hall and
snatched the note from the benumbed fingers
of the astonished coachman, who was accustomed
to much suavity and frequent fifty-cent
pieces from the parson.

“All right,—Wingate,—thank you!” and
the door was closed unceremoniously upon the

Mr. Dillingham broke the seal of the envelope,
and read the note at a glance, for it was very
brief. Directly after reading it he tore the paper
into minute fragments, which he threw into the
grate. The gesture with which he accompanied
the action, rather than his face, betrayed strong
emotion; for his face was composed now, and
something almost like a smile played about his lips.

He stood for a few seconds irresolute in the
middle of the apartment; then he went into
the adjoining room, his sleeping-chamber, and
took down his overcoat from a shelf in the
black-walnut wardrobe.

This was the morning after Prue's musical
failure. She had despatched the note to Mr.

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Dillingham as soon as breakfast was over, but
it had been written long before. She had written
it in the early gray of the morning,—sitting
in a ghostly way at her desk, wrapped in a
white cashmere shawl, with her feet thrust into
a pair of satin slippers of the Cinderella family,
while the house slept. It was one of four
letters. The first was six pages, this was sixteen
lines—a lesson for scribblers.

While Wingate was on his way to town with
the missive, Prudence was in her room summoning
up the resolution to tell Mr. Dent what
she had done. It was not a cheerful task to
contemplate, remembering how unreasonable and
angry he had been when she opposed his wishes
before. She had an unclouded perception of
the disappointment she was going to give him
this time. It was pretty clear to her that he
had set his heart on the marriage.

Mr. Dent was trying to read the morning
paper, when the library door opened gently; he
did not look up at once, supposing it was Bodge,
the house-boy, bringing in the coals, or Prudence
coming to tell him what he dreaded to
know positively.

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When he did look up he saw John Dent
standing on the threshold and smiling upon
him apologetically.

“Good God, Jack! is that you?” cried Mr.
Dent, letting the paper slip in a heap to his

“Yes, I—I have come back.”

Mr. Dent was not a superstitious person, but
he felt for maybe ten seconds that that was an
apparition standing over there in the doorway.
And there was much in John Dent's aspect
calculated to strengthen the impression.

He was worn and pale, as if he had just
recovered from a long illness, or died of it; his
cheeks were sunken, his eyes brilliant, and his
unkempt black hair was blacker than midnight
against his pallor. A shabby overcoat was
thrown across one shoulder, concealing the left
arm which he carried stiffly at his side. There
was a squalor and a misery about him, heightened
by his smile, that would have touched the
compassion of a stranger. Mr. Dent was in a
depressed mood that morning, and this woful
figure of his nephew, standing there and smiling
upon him like a thing out of the churchyard,
nearly brought the tears to his eyes.

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“Why, Jack, boy, how ill you are!”

“I am only tired,” said John Dent, dropping
into a chair; “that and the slight hurt I've

“Yes, I heard about that.”

“You heard about it?”

“To be sure I did.”

“How could you have heard of it?”

“Colonel Todhunter brought the news. Gad!
I've done the Colonel something of an injustice.”

“Colonel Todhunter?”

“I did n't believe a word he said; but then
he declared you were dead.”

“Colonel Todhunter did?”


“I do not want to contradict Colonel Todhunter,
for that would n't be polite,” said John
Dent, with one of his old smiles, “but I regret
to state that I am not dead. Who is Colonel
Todhunter, any way?”

Mr. Dent stared at him.

“What! you don't know the Colonel? the
Colonel knows you very well. He told us all
about it; the skirmish, you know, in which you

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were wounded, and taken prisoner, and—” Here
Mr. Dent paused, seeing by the vacuous expression
of his nephew's face that the words were
meaningless to him. “Dear me,” he thought,
“how very much broken up he is; his memory
is wholly gone.”

“Uncle Ralph,” said John Dent, “I never
heard of Colonel Todhunter until this moment;
I have not been in the army; I have not been
in any skirmish; and I have not been taken

This was too calm and categorical a statement
not to shake Mr. Dent a little in his
suspicion that the speaker was laboring under
some mental derangement.

“I have been wounded, to be sure,” continued
John Dent. “I was shot in Western Virginia,
in the woods, on my way to join the army,—
shot by George Nevins,” he added between his
teeth. “I imagine he got tired of me at last,
and concluded to kill me. He failed this time;
but he will do it, if that is his purpose.”

In reading John Dent's letter to Joseph
Twombly, Mr. Dent had smiled at what he considered
Jack's hallucination touching the watch

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which he supposed Nevins was keeping over him
night and day; but this attempt on Jack's life,
if there had really been one, at a spot so remote
from the scene of the robbery three years
before, gave a hue of probability to the idea.

Mr. Dent looked out of the corner of his
eye at his nephew. Perhaps Jack was insane.
Mr. Dent's faith in the general correctness of
the Colonel's statements was coming back to
him. Sitting with his arms hanging at his side
and his head resting on his chest broodingly,
Jack seemed like a person not quite right in
his mind.

“Where is this Colonel Todhunter?” he
exclaimed, starting to his feet.

“Good heavens! don't be so violent!”

“Where is he, I say?”

“How can I tell? The man's gone.”

“How long since?”

“A fortnight ago.”

“Was he here,—in this house?”

“He came here one afternoon, representing
himself as your friend; he stayed in the town
four or five days after that, I believe.”

“It is three weeks since I was shot,” said

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John Dent, reflecting. “Did Twombly see

“I really can't say whether the deacon saw
him or not.”

“I don't mean the deacon, I mean Joe.”

“Joseph was in Chicago; been there these
six months.”

“Uncle, what kind of person was this Colonel
Todhunter? Describe him to me.”

“He was something of a character, I should
say; a cool customer; he made himself very
much at home—with my sherry.”

“Very gentlemanly, and rather pale?”

“Well, the sherry was pale,” returned Mr.
Dent laughing, “but the Colonel was rather
florid and not at all gentlemanly; that is to
say, he carried it with a high hand in the
town, though he behaved decently enough when
he called on me.”

“What was he like?”

“A tall man, taller than you, for instance;
strongly built, with blue eyes and long sandy

“George Nevins!”

“Nonsense!” said Mr. Dent.

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“It was George Nevins, I tell you!”

“Pooh! you're mad. What would bring
him here, of all the places in the world?”

“I don't know; there are many things I
cannot fathom; but this I do know, you have
stood face to face with the most daring and
accomplished scoundrel that lives. There is n't
his match in California or Nevada.”

“Good heavens!” ejaculated Mr. Dent, uneasily,
with a sensation of having two or three
bullet-holes in the small of his back. “You
don't really believe that that man was the fellow

“I do, assuredly. He thought he had disposed
of me, and he came here prospecting. It
was like his impudence. He told you I was dead?
Well, he had good reason to suppose so.”

“I can't believe it. Gad, I don't believe it!
If it had been he, I think I should have turned
desperado instinctively, and brought him down
with the old shot-gun”; and Mr. Dent was
making a motion to that nearly harmless
weapon, which had hung for years unloaded
over the library mantel-piece, when Prudence
walked into the room.

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“Drop Colonel Todhunter,” whispered Mr.
Dent hastily.

In romances and on the stage, the meeting
between two people who, happily or unhappily,
have been long separated, is made the occasion
of much sensational business; but I have observed
that people in real life, who have loved
or hated each other, are not apt, when they
meet after a lapse of years, either to swoon or
scowl or do anything strikingly dramatic.

Prudence neither started nor fainted when
she found John Dent with her uncle; she had
seen John Dent descend from the hack at the
gate ten or fifteen minutes previously,—perhaps
it gave her a turn at the instant,—and
she had now come to welcome him home.
Nothing could have been more simple or natural
than the meeting between them. If Prudence's
hand was a trifle cold, her hands were
habitually cold; if John Dent's hand was hot,
he had a gunshot-wound, and was feverish.

“I am glad to see you, Cousin John,” said
Prudence, simply, as if she had parted with him
yesterday, and had not eaten three thousand
two hundred and eighty-five meals since that
day when he failed to come back to dinner.

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This is shockingly commonplace and realistic,
I know, and will cost me a great many
sentimental readers; but I must stand or fall
by the facts.

Prudence was unaffectedly glad to see John
Dent; and the sincere friendliness of her greeting
placed him at his ease. He had much to
tell of his wanderings, and much to be told
of Rivermouth affairs; and very soon the conversation
flowed on between these three with
only the slightest undercurrent of constraint.
Indeed, it seemed to Prudence like that first
day, long ago, when John Dent came to Rivermouth
and surprised her by being a frank,
light-hearted young fellow, instead of the mousing
Dryasdust she expected. As in that time
also, he had come to remain only a brief period;
there were dragons still at large and giants
yet unslain. As soon as his arm was well, he
would bid good by again to Rivermouth. The
gold he was going in quest of now was that
small quantity of bullion which is to be found
in a lieutenant's shoulder-straps.

The parallel between his two visits occurred
to John Dent himself, as he sat there chatting;

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and so far as his impecuniosity went, the parallel
was too close to be agreeable. Before, he
had had only a slender outfit and a few hundred
dollars; and now he was the possessor of
a navy revolver, and a suit of clothes which
his uncle eyed thoughtfully from time to time,
and resolved to have buried in the back-garden
at no remote period.

But in spite of this, a blissful serenity, born
of the home-like atmosphere he was breathing,
took possession of John Dent. His misfortunes
were visions and chimeras; he was as a man
who, awaking from a nightmare, finds himself
in a comfortable warm room with the daylight
pouring through the windows, and strives in
vain to recollect the dream that a moment ago
appalled him.

He looked so shabby, and uncared-for, and
happy, that Prudence was touched. In speaking
of Parson Wibird, she was obliged to exert
all her self-control not to tell John Dent
of the legacy. Whatever he did, he should not
go away until he was informed of that. She
lingered on the subject of the parson's death,
and came back to it at intervals, with the

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hope that her guardian would be tempted to
break through the now slightly binding condition
of the will. But the old parson recalled
to Mr. Dent's mind the new parson, and he
broke out, with that fine tact which characterized
him, “By the way, Jack, you must know
Dillingham; he's a capital fellow.”

John Dent had learned from Wingate, in
their hurried conference at the street corner,
that Prudence was still unmarried; and for the
moment he had forgotten everything save the
delicious fact that he and Prue were sitting
and talking together as of old. But now his
countenance fell.

“I shall be glad to know him,” he contrived
to say, with more or less enthusiasm.

With this, Mr. Dillingham passed out of the
conversation, and did not drift into it again.
No other unfortunate word or allusion ruffled
the tranquillity of that morning, which made
way with itself so quickly that Fanny caused a
sensation when she announced dinner.

The afternoon showed a similar suicidal tendency;
and shortly after tea, John Dent, who
began to feel the reaction of the excitement

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he had undergone, went to bed in the same
room where he had slept three years before.

Apparently not a piece of the ancient mahogany
furniture, which resolved itself, wherever
it was practicable, into carven claws grasping
tarnished gilt balls, had been moved since he
was last there. It struck him, while undressing,
that it would be only the proper thing
for him to go around the chamber and shake
hands with all the friendly old-fashioned paws,—
they stretched themselves out from tables
and chairs and wardrobes with such a faithful,
brute-like air of welcome.

The castellated four-post bedstead, with its
snowy dimity battlements, seemed an incredible
thing to John Dent as he stood and looked at
it in the weird winter moonlight. It was many
a month since he had lain in such a sumptuous

A sensuous calm stole over his limbs when
he stretched himself on the pliant springs of
the mattress; then the impossible blue canaries,
pecking at the green roses on the wallpaper,
lulled him to sleep, and would have hopped
down from the twigs and covered him with

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leaves, as the robins covered the babes in the
wood, if he had not been amply protected by
a great silk patch-quilt, deftly done into variegated
squares and triangles by Prue's own fingers.

He slept the sleep of the just that night; he
was a failure, but he slept the sleep of success;
and his uncle, in the next room, dropped
off with the soothing reflection that events had
proved his wisdom in not telling Prue anything
about Colonel Peyton Todhunter; but
Prudence scarcely slept at all.

John Dent's wound was of the slightest, and
the stiffness had nearly gone out of his shoulder
when he awoke the next morning. He
awoke in the same state of beatitude in which
he had fallen asleep.

“I know I don't amount to much when I'm
added up,” he said, smiling at himself in the
glass as if he enjoyed representing a very
small vulgar fraction in the sum of human
happiness; “but I am not going to trouble myself
about it any more. I'll go down to Virginia,
and come back presently with one leg
and a pension, and spend the rest of my days

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telling stories to Prue's little ones.” And John
Dent sighed cheerfully as he pictured himself
a gray-haired, dilapidated captain, or maybe
colonel, with two or three small Dillinghams
clinging to his coat-skirts.

It was a singular coincidence that both uncle
and nephew should have reached that philosophical
stage when they could look calmly on
the prospect of playing grandfather and godfather
respectively to Prue's children.

John Dent descended, and found Prudence
and his uncle in the library, making a pretty
domestic picture, with the wood-fire blazing
cheerily on the hearth, lighting up the red
damask curtains, and the snow outside dashing
itself silently in great feathery flakes against
the windows. It was like an interior by Boughton,
with that glimpse of bleak winter at the

“Good morning,” said John Dent, enveloping
the pair in one voluminous smile.

“Good morning, Jack,” returned Mr. Dent,
and “Good morning, Cousin John,” said Prudence,
who hurried off to see to breakfast, for
the Prodigal was to have a plate of those

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sublimated waffles of which only Prudence knew
the secret. The art of their composition was
guarded at Willowbrook as the monks in the
Old-World convents guard the distillation of
their famous cordials.

The young man saw that he had interrupted
a conversation between his uncle and Prudence,
and experienced that uncomfortable glow about
the ears which comes over one when the dialogue
stops instantly at one's appearance.

However, as Prudence departed to superintend
the serving up of the fatted waffle, John
Dent drew a chair towards the fireplace and
was about to seat himself, when his eyes fell
upon a small cabinet photograph which rested
against a vase at one end of the mantel-piece.

The back of the chair slipped from John
Dent's fingers, and he stood, transfixed for a
moment, looking at the picture; then he approached
the mantel-shelf and took the photograph
in his hand.

“Who is this?” he asked quickly; and he
pointed a quivering finger at the face.

“That? why, that's my friend Dillingham,
a cap—”

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“Dillingham be ——!” cried John Dent.
“That is George Nevins!”

Mr. Dent leaned back in his chair and suppressed

“Quiet yourself,” he said, soothingly. “You
have n't slept well, you—”

“Do you suppose I don't know that face!”

“That is just precisely what I suppose,” cried
Mr. Dent, giving way to his irritation, “and I
could n't have expressed it better.”

“Not know it! Have n't I thought of it
every day for two years, fallen asleep thinking
of it every night, dreamed of it a thousand
times? He has cut his mustache and beard,”
said John Dent slowly and to himself, “and
wears no collar to his coat. What—what is
this doing here?” he cried, with sudden fury.

“Why, Jack, my boy, I tell you that that is
the Rev. James Dillingham, the pastor of the
Old Brick Church, Prue's friend and mine.”

“You can't mean it!”

“Don't be an idiot. If you discover any resemblance
to Colonel Todhunter in that picture,
you've a fine eye for resemblance.”

“Todhunter was not the man,” cried John
Dent. “This is the man!”

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It was patent now to Mr. Dent that his
nephew was a monomaniac on the subject of
George Nevins. First it had been Colonel Todhunter,
now it was Dillingham, and by and by
it would be somebody else, Prue or himself
possibly. Mr. Dent coughed, and restrained the
impatient words that rose to his lips. The boy's
mind was turned by his misfortunes, and yet
he seemed rational enough on other topics.

“You think I am crazy?” said the young
man, reading his uncle's open countenance as
if it were a book. “Well, I am not. I am as
sane as you are, and as clear in the head as a
bell. How long has your friend Mr. Dillingham
been settled over the Brick Church?”
And John Dent seated himself, crossing his
legs comfortably, with the aspect of a man
who is going to take things philosophically and
not fret himself about trifles.

“Since last June,” returned Mr. Dent, relieved
to see his nephew calm again. “Dillingham
came here in the latter part of May,
and it is now December. Consequently he has
been here a little over six months.”

“While I was at Shasta,” muttered the

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young man. “But who fired on me in Virginia,
if it was n't Nevins?” Then in a negligent
way to his uncle, “Where does your
friend Dillingham live?”

“In Rivermouth, of course.”


“At the Old Bell Tavern.”

John Dent went out of the room like a flash.

After an instant of panic, Mr. Dent dashed
after him. The hall door was locked and
bolted; there was a complicated bolt with a
chain, and the young man was tugging at the
chain when his uncle seized him by the arm.

“What are you trying to do?”

“I must see this man Dillingham, Uncle

“Certainly, so you shall see Dillingham.
Ten to one he will ride out here before the
morning is over, in spite of the storm; and
then you will discover how absurd you are.”

“Granting I am wrong,” said John Dent as
composedly as he could, “I cannot wait to have
proof of it. If he is the man I think he is, he
knows where I am by this time, and will not
show his face here. I must go to him.”

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“Before breakfast?”

“This instant!”

Mr. Dent reflected that perhaps the only cure
for his nephew's delusion was to bring him face
to face with the young minister, whom, by the
way, Mr. Dent himself was anxious to see; he
was still ignorant of what had passed in the
drawing-room two nights previously, for Prudence
had found no fitting moment since John
Dent's arrival to inform her guardian of her
decision and the letter she had written to Mr.

So one of the carriage horses was ordered to
be harnessed to the buggy and driven around to
the side door. Meanwhile John Dent paced the
hall chafing; and Prudence, with her eyebrows
raised into interrogation-points, stood behind
the coffee-urn in the breakfast-room, wondering
what it all meant.

When the buggy was ready, Mr. Dent proposed
to go to town alone and bring the young
minister back with him; but John Dent would
not listen to the suggestion, and the two drove
off together in the storm.

The snow beat so persistently in their faces

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all the way, that there was no chance for conversation,
if either had been disposed to talk.
Mr. Dent stole a glance now and then at the
young man, whose eyes glowed wickedly over
a huge white mustache which he had got riding
in the teeth of the wind. “I've half a mind
to tip the pair of us over the next bank,” muttered
Mr. Dent; “he's as crazy as a loon!”

On driving up to the door of the Old Bell
Tavern, Mr. Dent begged his nephew to control
himself and do nothing rash. John Dent promised
this, but with set teeth and in a manner
not reassuring.

“You are making a dreadful mistake; and
if you involve me in any absurdity I'll never
forgive you. Dillingham is my friend, and one
of the noblest fellows in the world. It is rather
early for a call, I'll go up first, Jack.”

“And I'll go with you,” said John Dent
with disgusting promptness.

Mr. Dillingham's suite of rooms was on the
second floor, and the door of his parlor or study
gave upon the main staircase. Mr. Dent, inwardly
consigning his nephew to the shades
below, knocked two or three times without

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awakening the well-known voice which always
said “come in” to his recognized knock; then
he turned the handle of the door which was
not fastened.

“He's in bed at this hour, of course,” he
remarked. The town clock was striking eight.
“We'll step into his parlor and wait for him.”

The room was in the greatest disorder; the
drawers of a large escritoire between the windows
were standing wide open, the grate was
full of dead ashes, and over the carpet everywhere
were scattered half-torn letters and
papers. John Dent cast one glance around the
apartment, and then rushed into the small bedchamber
adjoining. The bed was unrumpled.

“Gone!” moaned John Dent, dropping into
a chair.

“Gone? nonsense. Gone to breakfast,” said
Mr. Dent.

“It's no use,” said the young man, settling
himself gloomily in the chair; “he is hundreds
of miles away by this time. While we
were sitting in the chimney-corner over younger,
fire and steam and all infernal powers were
whisking him off beyond my reach.”

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Mr. Dent pulled at the bell-cord as if he had
suddenly had a bite, and jerked in Larkin the
waiter. Where was Mr. Dillingham? Larkin
did not know where Mr. Dillingham was. He
would inquire at the office.

He returned shortly with the information
that Mr. Dillingham had gone out quite early
the day before, and had not been in since.
The young minister was in the habit of absenting
himself for several days together without
notifying the office-clerk, who supposed in
this instance, as in the others, that Mr. Dillingham
was visiting his friend Mr. Dent at

“That'll do, Larkin,” said Mr. Dent. “Northing
particular. We'll look in again.”

Exit Larkin, lined with profanity.

Mr. Dent, with a feeble smile on his lips,
stood looking at his nephew.

“It is too late,” said the young man, “but
I would like to send a telegram to Boston and
one to New York.”

“To whom?”

“To the chief of police.”

Mr. Dent started. “Don't you do it! I

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know you are wrong, though I acknowledge
that the thing has a strange look. You would
feel rather flat if, after you had sent off a
couple of libellous messages, Dillingham should
turn up and explain it all in a dozen words,
as I am positive he will. I could never look
him in the face again.”

“You won't, any way,” said John Dent.
“However, I don't want to use the name of
Dillingham in the matter. I shall simply give
a description of the person of George Nevins.
That will not inconvenience any one, I'm afraid.
See how he slips through my fingers! I should
call the man an eel, if he was n't a devil.”

Mr. Dent made no further objection; the
two descended to the street and drove to the

In the midst of writing a despatch, young
Dent paused and nibbled the top of the penholder.
“I wonder I did n't think of that before,”
he said to himself; and then in a low
voice to his uncle, “Ask the operator if Dillingham
has sent or received anything over the
wires lately.”

Mr. Dillingham had sent two telegrams the
day before.

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“Will you allow me to look at them a moment?”

Knowing Mr. Dent to be the intimate friend
of the young pastor, the clerk obligingly took
the copies of the two despatches from a clip on
his desk and handed them to the elderly gentleman.

Dropping the date, the telegrams read as

To Rawlings & Son, Bankers,
Chicago, Illinois:

Place the balance due me on account, and the six
U. S. bonds you hold for me, to the credit and subject
to the order of Colonel Peyton Todhunter.

James Dillingham.

To Colonel Peyton Todhunter,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Go to Chicago instantly. Draw funds from Rawlings.
Will join you at 6666. You have failed.
He is here.

J. D.

“Are you convinced now?” whispered John
Dent, having with breathless interest read these
documents over his uncle's shoulder. “It

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[figure description] Page 297.[end figure description]

appears, though I don't understand the last telegram
at all, that your friend Colonel Peyton
Todhunter is the friend of your worthy friend
the Rev. James Dillingham; and a precious
pair they are, if I may say so without hurting
your feelings. `He is here' means me of
course; but what is meant by `You have
failed'? `6666' evidently designates some
point of rendezvous.”

“Jack,” whispered Mr. Dent thickly, “I
can't believe my eyes!”

“I would n't,” said Jack. “I'd stand it
out. In the mean time I will send off this description,
and then we'll go back to the hotel.
He decamped in haste, and may have left behind
him something in the way of letters or
papers that will be useful to me.”

The young man seated himself at a desk,
and, after a moment's reflection, wrote the
following message, which he handed to his

Messrs. Rawlings & Son,
Chicago, Ill.:

Has Colonel Todhunter drawn the funds described
in the despatch of yesterday? If not, stop payment
until further advices.

J. D.

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[figure description] Page 298.[end figure description]

“That's a clever idea,” said Mr. Dent,
awaking from the stupor that had fallen upon
him. “We will have an injunction on them,
if it is not too late; but is n't it a sort of
forgery to use Dillingham's name this way?”

“I have n't used his name,” answered Jack,
laughing; “I have put my own initials to the
document, like a man. Are you working
through?” he asked, turning to the clerk.
“Then send this along.”

He resumed his seat at the desk, and fell
to work on a personal description of George Nevins.
This was a task of some difficulty, requiring
a conciseness and clearness of diction which
cost him considerable trouble. More than half
an hour elapsed before John Dent had completed
the portrait to his satisfaction. He was
in the midst of his second despatch, when the
operator received from Rawlings & Son a telegram
that seemed to puzzle him somewhat.

“This appears to be an answer to your
despatch, sir, but it is addressed to Mr. Dillingham.”

“A mistake at the other end,” said Mr. Dent,

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[figure description] Page 299.[end figure description]

“What do they say?” asked John Dent,
reaching forward to take the long narrow strip
of paper from the clerk's hand.

Colonel Todhunter had drawn out the funds
in full. The Messrs. Rawlings & Son trusted
there was nothing wrong in the matter; they
had acted strictly according to instructions.

“Just as I expected,” said Jack, tossing the
paper to his uncle, “luck is dead against me.”
Then he went on with his writing: “Five feet
eight or nine inches; blue eyes; light hair,
probably cut close; no beard or mustache,”
etc., etc.

“This is simply horrible,” murmured Mr.
Dent; and as he walked nervously up and
down the office, he recalled the afternoon when
he introduced Dillingham to Colonel Todhunter,
and how they had saluted each other as strangers,
and seemed to dislike each other, being
such different men; then he reflected that it
was chiefly through his own means that this
scandal had been brought upon Rivermouth;
then he thought of Prue, and he turned cold
and hot, and pale and flushed, by turns; and
the rapid scratching of John Dent's pen over

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[figure description] Page 300.[end figure description]

the paper, and the monotonous clicking of the
satanic little telegraph instrument behind the
wire screen, drove him nearly distracted.

“And now, if you please, we will inspect
the sanctum sanctorum of the late incumbent,”
said John Dent gayly.

It was only human that he should relish the
consternation of his uncle. But as they were
passing out into the street, John Dent's face
underwent a change; he halted on the last of
the three steps leading to the sidewalk, and,
grasping the iron railing, seemed unable to
move further.

“What is it now?” asked Mr. Dent, nervously.

“Uncle Ralph, was Prue engaged to that
man?—did she love him?”

“No!” cried Mr. Dent; “I believe she
hated him instinctively,—thank God!”

“Amen!” said John Dent, drawing a long
breath. “He has got my money, he has blighted
two years of my life, but if he has n't got at the
pure gold of Prue's heart, I forgive him!”

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Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907 [1874], Prudence Palfrey: a novel. (James R. Osgood and Company, Boston) [word count] [eaf450T].
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