He walked forward and handed the paper to Keith, who saw at a glance that it was what Plume had declared it to be: a marriage certificate, dirty and worn, but still with signatures that appeared to be genuine. Keith’s eyes flashed with satisfaction as he read the name of the Rev. William H. Rimmon and Plume’s name, evidently written with the same ink at the same time.
“Now,” said Keith, looking up from the paper, “I will see that Mrs. Wickersham’s family is put in possession of this paper.”
“Couldn’t you lend me a small sum, Mr. Keith,” asked Plume, wheedlingly, “just for old times’ sake? I know I have done you wrong and given you good cause to hate me, but it wasn’t my fault, an’ I’ve done you a favor to-day, anyhow.”
Keith looked at him for a second, and put his hand in his pocket.
“I’ll pay you back, as sure as I live—” began Plume, cajolingly.
“No, you will not,” said Keith, sharply. “You could not if you would, and would not if you could, and I would not lend you a cent or have a business transaction with you for all the money in New York. I will give you this—for the person you have most injured in life. Now, don’t thank me for it, but go.”
Plume took, with glistening eyes and profuse thanks, the bills that were handed out to him, and shambled out of the room.
That night Keith, having shown the signatures to a good expert, who pronounced them genuine, telegraphed Dr. Balsam to notify Squire Rawson that he had the proof of Phrony’s marriage. The Doctor went over to see the old squire. He mentioned the matter casually, for he knew his man. But as well as he knew him, he found himself mistaken in him.
“I know that,” he said quietly, “but what I want is to find Phrony.” His deep eyes glowed for a while and suddenly flamed. “I’m a rich man,” he broke out, “but I’d give every dollar I ever owned to get her back, and to get my hand once on that man.”
The deep fire glowed for a while and then grew dull again, and the old man sank back into his former grim silence.
The Doctor looked at him commiseratingly. Keith had written him fully of Phrony and her condition, and he had decided to say nothing to the old grandfather.
Wickersham began to renew his visits to Mrs. Wentworth, which he had discontinued for a time when he had found himself repulsed. The repulse had stimulated his desire to win her; but he had a further motive. Among other things, she might ask for an accounting of the money he had had of her, and he wanted more money. He must keep up appearances, or others might pounce upon him.
When he began again, it was on a new line. He appealed to her sympathy. If he had forgotten himself so far as to ask for more than friendship, she would, he hoped, forgive him. She could not find a truer friend. He would never offend her so again; but he must have her friendship, or he might do something desperate.