Ralph proceeded without noticing this remark. “What made matters worse for me was that I had fallen in love with a young American lady who, with her parents, was then traveling in Europe. My circumstances, as I supposed them to be, justified me in proposing marriage. I was accepted by the young lady, and my choice was approved by the parents. When, however, I learned of my loss of fortune, I at once made it known, and that approval was withdrawn. The father told me that, under the altered circumstances, the engagement must be considered broken. Still, he held out the prospect that, should I ever again obtain a property as large as that I had lost, I might marry his daughter. She, on her part, promised to wait for me.”
“I came to New York, received from you the remnant of my lost fortune, and sailed the next week for California, then just open to American enterprise. The most glowing stories were told of fortunes won in an incredibly short time, Having no regular occupation, and having a strong motive for acquiring money, it is not surprising that I should have been dazzled with the rest, and persuaded to make the journey to the land of gold.”
“A Quixotic scheme, as I thought at the time,” said Mr. Stanton, coldly. “For one that succeeded, there were fifty who failed. You had better have taken the clerkship I offered you.”
“You are wrong,” said Ralph, composedly. “There were many who were disappointed, but I was not among the number.”
“Did you succeed?” asked Mr. Stanton, surprised.
“So well,” answered the other, “that at the end of two years’ residence, I found myself as rich as I had ever been.”
“Had you made fifty thousand dollars?” demanded the merchant, in amazement.
“What did you do? Why did you not let me know of your success?”
“When I once more found myself possessed of a fortune, I took the next vessel home with my money. I had but one thought, and that was to claim the hand of my promised bride, who had promised to wait for me ten years, if necessary.”
“I found her married,” said Ralph, bitterly. “She had forgotten her promise, or had been over-persuaded by her parents—I do not know which —and had proved false to me.”
“That was unfortunate. But do you still possess the money?”
“Indeed! I congratulate you,” said Mr. Stanton, with suavity, and he held out his hand, which Ralph did not appear to see. Ralph Pendleton rich was a very different person from Ralph Pendleton poor, and it occurred to him that he might so far ingratiate himself into the favor of his former ward as to obtain the charge of his second fortune. He saw that it would be safe, as well as politic, to exchange his coldness for a warm and cordial welcome.
“Proceed with your story,” he said; “I am quite interested in it.”