A little stir, and a loud rough voice speaking in the outer office, was followed by the entrance of a clerk.
“Here is Clarkson, sir. Says he must see you.”
A shaggy head appeared over the clerk’s shoulder, and the same rough voice called out, “Just a minute, Mr. Bellairs; it’s only a small matter of business.”
Mr. Bellairs went out, drawing the door together after him, and after a few minutes dismissed the man, and came back.
“That fellow may give you some trouble,” he said as he sat down again.
“Me? How?” asked the Doctor, surprised.
“Some years ago, Mr. Latour bought a hundred acres of wild land on Beaver Creek. He took no trouble about it, except what he was actually obliged; never even saw it, I believe; and about a year before his death, this Clarkson squatted on it, built a house, married, and took his wife to live there. Mr. Latour heard of all this by chance, and went to see if it were true. There, he found the fellow comfortably settled, and expecting nothing less than to be turned out. The end of the matter, for that time, was, that Clarkson promised to pay some few dollars rent, and was left in possession. The rent, however, never was paid. Mr. Latour died, and when his affairs came into my hands I tried again to get it; threatened to turn Clarkson out, and pull down his house if he did not pay, and certainly would have done it, but for Bella, to whom I should tell you the land belongs. Mrs. Clarkson came into town, and went to her with such a pitiful story that she persuaded me to wait. The consequence is that nothing has been done yet, though I believe it is altogether misplaced kindness to listen to their excuses.”
“I have no doubt it is.”
“Clarkson is a great scamp, but I hear his wife is a very decent woman, and naturally Bella was humbugged.”
“Naturally, yes. But I hope it is not too late to get rid of such tenants, or make them pay?”
“I would rather you undertook the task than I, except, of course, in the way of business. Professionally, a lawyer has no tenderness for people who can’t pay.”
“And in what condition is the rest of the land?”
“Much as it always was. The Indians are the only people who profit by it at present; they hunt over it, and dry the fish they catch in the creek, along the bank.”
“Yet, if it were cleared, it ought not to be a bad position. Where is it on the creek?”
Mr. Bellairs reached a map, and the two became absorbed in discussing the probable advantages of turning out Clarkson and the Indians, and clearing the farm on Beaver Creek.
Mr. Bellairs left his office earlier than usual that day, and found his wife sitting alone in her little morning room. He took up a magazine which lay on the table, and seated himself comfortably in an easy-chair opposite to her.
“Where’s Bella?” he asked presently.