Brandt sprang up and paced the room for a few moments, his brow contracted in deep thought. Then, apparently coming to a decision, he sat down by his companion and took her cold, unresisting hand.
“My poor little girl,” he said, kindly, “you don’t half understand me yet. I love you all the more because you are heart-broken and pale with grief. That is the reason I have spoken so earnestly to-night. You will grieve yourself to death if left alone; and what good would your death do any one? It would spoil my life. Believe me, I would welcome you to my home with all your sorrow—all the more because of your sorrow; and I’d be so kind and patient that you’d begin to smile again some day. That’s what your father would wish if he could speak to you, and not that you should grieve away your life for what can’t be helped now. But I have a plan. It’s right in my line to capture such scoundrels as the man who murdered your father; and what’s more, I know the man, or rather I used to in old times. I’ve played many a game of euchre with him in which he cheated me out of money that I’d be glad to have now; and I’m satisfied that he does not know of any change in me. I was away on distant detective duty, you know, when your father was killed. I won’t ask you to go over the painful circumstances; I can learn them at the prison. I shall try to get permission to search out Bute, desperate and dangerous as he is—”
“Oh, Ralph, Ralph,” cried the girl, springing up, her eyes flashing through her tears, “if you will bring my father’s murderer to justice, if you will prevent him from destroying other lives, as he surely will, you will find that I can refuse you nothing.”
Then she paused, shook her head sadly, and withdrew the hand she had given him. “No,” she resumed, “I shouldn’t ask this; I don’t ask it. As you say, he is desperate and dangerous; and he would take your life the moment he dreamed of your purpose. I should only have another cause for sorrow.”
Brandt now smiled as if he were master of the situation. “Why, Clara,” he exclaimed, “don’t you know that running down and capturing desperadoes is now part of my business?”
“Yes; but you can get plenty of work that isn’t so dangerous.”
“I should be a nice fellow to ask you to be my wife and yet show I was afraid to arrest your father’s murderer. You needn’t ask me to do this; you are not going to be responsible for my course in the least. I shall begin operations this very night, and have no doubt that I can get a chance to work on the case. Now don’t burden your heart with any thoughts about my danger. I myself owe Bute as big a grudge as I can have against any human being. He cheated me and led me into deviltry years ago, and then I lost sight of him until he was brought to the prison of which your father was one of the keepers. I’ve been absent for the last three months, you know; but I didn’t forget you or your father a day, and you remember I wrote you as soon as I heard of your trouble. I think your father sort of believed in me; he never made me feel I wasn’t fit to see you or to be with you, and I’d do more for him living or dead than for any other man.”