“That doesn’t tell us what Cullen gives you to take the risk.”
“Mr. Cullen hasn’t given, or even hinted that he’ll give, anything.”
“And Mr. Gordon hasn’t asked, and, if I know him, wouldn’t take a cent for what he has done,” said Fred, rising from the floor.
“You mean to say you are doing it for nothing?” exclaimed Camp, incredulously.
“That’s about the truth of it,” I said; though I thought of Madge as I said it, and felt guilty in suggesting that she was nothing.
“Then what is your motive?” cried Baldwin.
If there had been any use, I should have replied, “The right;” but I knew that they would only think I was posing if I said it. Instead I replied: “Mr. Cullen’s party has the stock majority in their favor, and would have won a fair fight if you had played fair. Since you didn’t, I’m doing my best to put things to right.”
Camp cried, “All the more fool—” but Baldwin interrupted him by saying—
“That only shows what a mean cuss Cullen is. He ought to give you ten thousand, if he gives you a cent.”
“Yes,” cried Camp, “those letters are worth money, whether he’s offered it or not.”
“Mr. Cullen never so much as hinted paying me,” said I.
“Well, Mr. Gordon,” said Baldwin, suavely, “we’ll show you that we can be more liberal. Though the letters rightfully belong to Mr. Camp, if you’ll deliver them to us we’ll see that you don’t lose your place, and we’ll give you five thousand dollars.”
I glanced at Fred, whom I found looking at me anxiously, and asked him—
“Can’t you do better than that?”
“We could with any one but you,” said Fred.
I should have liked to shake hands over this compliment, but I only nodded, and turning to Mr. Camp, said—
“You see how mean they are.”
“You’ll find we are not built that way,” said Baldwin. “Five thousand isn’t a bad day’s work, eh?”
“No,” I said, laughing; “but you just told me I ought to get ten thousand if I got a cent.”
“It’s worth ten to Mr. Cullen, but—”
I interrupted by saying, “If it’s worth ten to him, it’s worth a hundred to me.”
That was too much for Camp. First he said something best omitted, and then went on, “I told you it was waste of time trying to win him over.”
The three stood apart for a moment whispering, and then Judge Wilson called the sheriff over, and they all went out together. The moment we were alone, Frederic held out his hand, and said—
“Gordon, it’s no use saying anything, but if we can ever do—”
I merely shook hands, but I wanted the worst way to say—
“Tell Madge what I’ve done, and the thing’s square.”
A LESSON IN POLITENESS
Within five minutes we had a big surprise, for the sheriff and Mr. Baldwin came back, and the former announced that Fred and Lord Ralles were free, having been released on bail. When we found that Baldwin had gone on the bond, I knew that there was a scheme of some sort in the move, and, taking Fred aside, I warned him against trying to recover the proxies.