The remainder of his supper was brought him by the same woman, but she was in haste, and he obtained no opportunity of exchanging another word with her.
Frank did not learn who it was that had arrived. Listening intently, he thought he heard some sounds in the next room. Opening the closet door, and applying his eye to the aperture, he saw two men seated in the room, one of whom was the man who had brought him there.
He applied his ear to the opening, and heard the following conversation:
“I hear you’ve brought a boy here, Nathan,” said the other, who was a stout, low-browed man, with an evil look.
“Yes,” said Graves, with a smile; “I am going to board him here a while.”
“What’s it all about? What are you going to gain by it?”
“I’ll tell you all I know. I’ve known something of the family for a long time. John Wade employed me long ago. The old millionaire had a son who went abroad and died there. His cousin, John Wade, brought home his son—a mere baby—the old man’s grandson, of course, and sole heir, or likely to be, to the old man’s wealth, if he had lived. In that case, John Wade would have been left out in the cold, or put off with a small bequest.”
“Yes. Did the boy live?”
“No; he died, very conveniently for John Wade, and thus removed the only obstacle from his path.”
“Very convenient. Do you think there was any foul play?”
“There may have been.”
“But I should think the old man would have suspected.”
“He was away at the time. When he returned to the city, he heard from his nephew that the boy was dead. It was a great blow to him, of course. Now, I’ll tell you what,” said Graves, sinking his voice so that Frank found it difficult to hear, “I’ll tell you what I’ve thought at times.”
“I think the grandson may have been spirited off somewhere. Nothing more easy, you know. Murder is a risky operation, and John Wade is respectable, and wouldn’t want to run the risk of a halter.”
“You may be right. You don’t connect this story of yours with the boy you’ve brought here, do you?”
“I do,” answered Graves, emphatically. “I shouldn’t be surprised if this was the very boy!”
“What makes you think so?”
“First, because there’s some resemblance between the boy and the old man’s son, as I remember him. Next, it would explain John Wade’s anxiety to get rid of him. It’s my belief that John Wade has recognized in this boy the baby he got rid of fourteen years ago, and is afraid his uncle will make the same discovery.”
Frank left the crevice through which he had received so much information in a whirl of new and bewildering thoughts.
“Was it possible,” he asked himself, “that he could be the grandson of Mr. Wharton, his kind benefactor?”