I hope it will not be deemed inconceivable that Clarence, only a few moments before crushed with bitter disappointment and the hopeless revelation of his abandonment by his relatives, now felt himself lifted up suddenly into an imaginary height of independence and manhood. He was leaving the bank, in which he stood a minute before a friendless boy, not as a successful beggar, for this important man had disclaimed the idea, but absolutely as a customer! a depositor! a business man like the grown-up clients who were thronging the outer office, and before the eyes of the clerk who had pitied him! And he, Clarence, had been spoken to by this man, whose name he now recognized as the one that was on the door of the building—a man of whom his fellow-passengers had spoken with admiring envy—a banker famous in all California! Will it be deemed incredible that this imaginative and hopeful boy, forgetting all else, the object of his visit, and even the fact that he considered this money was not his own, actually put his hat a little on one side as he strolled out on his way to the streets and prospective fortune?
Two hours later the banker had another visitor. It chanced to be the farmer-looking man who had been Clarence’s fellow-passenger. Evidently a privileged person, he was at once ushered as “Captain Stevens” into the presence of the banker. At the end of a familiar business interview the captain asked carelessly—
“Any letters for me?”
The busy banker pointed with his pen to the letter “S” in a row of alphabetically labeled pigeon-holes against the wall. The captain, having selected his correspondence, paused with a letter in his hand.
“Look here, Carden, there are letters here for some chap called ’John Silsbee.’ They were here when I called, ten weeks ago.”
“That’s the name of that Pike County man who was killed by Injins in the plains. The ’Frisco papers had all the particulars last night; may be it’s for that fellow. It hasn’t got a postmark. Who left it here?”
Mr. Carden summoned a clerk. It appeared that the letter had been left by a certain Brant Fauquier, to be called for.
Captain Stevens smiled. “Brant’s been too busy dealin’ faro to think of ‘em agin, and since that shootin’ affair at Angels’ I hear he’s skipped to the southern coast somewhere. Cal Johnson, his old chum, was in the up stage from Stockton this afternoon.”
“Did you come by the up stage from Stockton this afternoon?” said Carden, looking up.
“Yes, as far as Ten-mile Station—rode the rest of the way here.”
“Did you notice a queer little old-fashioned kid—about so high—like a runaway school-boy?”
“Did I? By G—d, sir, he treated me to drinks.”
Carden jumped from his chair. “Then he wasn’t lying!”
“No! We let him do it; but we made it good for the little chap afterwards. Hello! What’s up?”