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Adrift in New York: Tom and Florence Braving the World, a novel by Horatio Alger

Chapter 10. The Arch Conspirator

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_ Chapter X. The Arch Conspirator

In the house on Madison Avenue, Curtis Waring was left in possession of the field. Through his machinations Florence had been driven from home and disinherited.

He was left sole heir to his uncle's large property with the prospect of soon succeeding, for though only fifty-four, John Linden looked at least ten years older, and was as feeble as many men past seventy.

Yet, as Curtis seated himself at the breakfast table an hour after Florence had left the house, he looked far from happy or triumphant.

One thing he had not succeeded in, the conquest of his cousin's heart. Though he loved himself best, he was really in love with Florence, so far as he was capable of being in love with any one.

She was only half his age--scarcely that--but he persuaded himself that the match was in every way suitable.

He liked to fancy her at the head of his table, after the death of his uncle, which he anticipated in a few months at latest.

The more she appeared to dislike him, the more he determined to marry her, even against her will.

She was the only one likely to inherit John Linden's wealth, and by marrying her he would make sure of it.

Yet she had been willing to leave the home of her youth, to renounce luxury for a life of poverty, rather than to marry him.

When he thought of this his face became set and its expression stern and determined.

"Florence shall yet be mine," he declared, resolutely. "I will yet be master of her fate, and bend her to my will. Foolish girl, how dare she match her puny strength against the resolute will of Curtis Waring?"

"Was there any one else whom she loved?" he asked himself, anxiously. No, he could think of none. On account of his uncle's chronic invalidism, they had neither gone into society, nor entertained visitors, and in the midst of a great city Florence and her uncle had practically led the lives of recluses.

There had been no opportunity to meet young men who might have proved claimants for her hand.

"When did Miss Florence leave the house, Jane?" he inquired, as he seated himself at the table.

"Most an hour since," the girl answered, coldly, for she disliked Curtis as much as she loved and admired Florence.

"It is sad, very sad that she should be so headstrong," said Curtis, with hypocritical sorrow.

"It is sad for her to go away from her own uncle's house," returned Jane.

"And very--very foolish."

"I don't know about that, sir. She had her reasons," said Jane, significantly.

Curtis coughed.

He had no doubt that Florence had talked over the matter with her hand-maiden.

"Did she say where she was going, Jane?" he asked.

"I don't think the poor child knew herself, sir."

"Did she go alone?"

"No, sir; the boy that was here last night called for her."

"That ragamuffin!" said Curtis, scornfully. "She certainly shows extraordinary taste for a young lady of family."

"The boy seems a very kind and respectable boy," said Jane, who had been quite won by Dodger's kindness to her young mistress.

"He may be respectable, though I am not so sure of that; but his position in life is very humble. He is probably a bootblack; a singular person to select for the friend of a girl like Florence."

"There's them that stands higher that isn't half so good," retorted Jane, with more zeal than good grammar.

"Did Miss Florence take a cab?"

"No; she just walked."

"But she took some clothing with her?"

"She took a handbag--that is all. She will send for her trunk."

"If you find out where she is living, just let me know, Jane."

"I will if she is willing to have me," answered Jane, independently.

"Look here, Jane," said Curtis, angrily, "don't forget that you are not her servant, but my uncle's. It is to him you look for wages, not to Miss Florence."

"I don't need to be told that, sir. I know that well enough."

"Then you know that it is to him that your faithful services are due, not to Florence?"

"I'm faithful to both, Mr. Waring."

"You are aware that my uncle is justly displeased with my cousin?"

"I know he's displeased, but I am sure he has no good reason to be."

Curtis Waring bit his lips. The girl, servant as she was, seemed to be openly defying him. His imperious temper could ill brook this.

"Take care!" he said, with a frown. "You seem to be lacking in respect to me. You don't appear to understand my position in this house."

"Oh, yes, I do. I know you have schemed to get my poor young mistress out of the house, and have succeeded."

"I have a great mind to discharge you, girl," said Curtis, with lowering brow.

"I am not your servant, sir. You have nothing to do with me."

"You will see whether I have or not. I will let you remain for a time, as it is your attachment to Miss Florence that has made you forget yourself. You will find that it is for your interest to treat me respectfully."

A feeble step was heard at the door, and John Linden entered the breakfast-room. His face was sad, and he heaved a sigh as he glanced mechanically at the head of the table, where Florence usually sat.

Curtis Waring sprang to his feet, and placing himself at his uncle's side, led him to his seat.

"How do you feel this morning, uncle?" he asked, with feigned solicitude.

"Ill, Curtis. I didn't sleep well last night."

"I don't wonder, sir. You had much to try you."

"Is--is Florence here?"

"No, sir," answered Jane, promptly. "She left the house an hour ago."

A look of pain appeared on John Linden's pale face.

"Did--did she leave a message for me?" he asked, slowly.

"She asked me to bid you good-by for her," answered Jane, quickly.

"Uncle, don't let yourself be disturbed now with painful thoughts. Eat your breakfast first, and then we will speak of Florence."

John Linden ate a very light breakfast. He seemed to have lost his appetite and merely toyed with his food.

When he arose from the table, Curtis supported him to the library.

"It is very painful to me--this conduct of Florence's, Curtis," he said, as he sank into his armchair.

"I understand it fully, uncle," said Curtis. "When I think of it, it makes me very angry with the misguided girl."

"Perhaps I have been too harsh--too stern!"

"You, uncle, too harsh! Why, you are the soul of gentleness. Florence has shown herself very ungrateful."

"Yet, Curtis, I love that girl. Her mother seemed to live again in her. Have I not acted cruelly in requiring her to obey me or leave the house?"

"You have acted only for good. You are seeking her happiness."

"You really think this, Curtis?"

"I am sure of it."

"But how will it all end?" asked Linden, bending an anxious look upon his wily nephew.

"By Florence yielding."

"You are sure of that?"

"Yes. Listen, uncle; Florence is only capricious, like most girls of her age. She foolishly desires to have her own way. It is nothing more serious, I can assure you."

"But she has left the house. That seems to show that she is in earnest."

"She thinks, uncle, that by doing so she can bend you to her wishes. She hasn't the slightest idea of any permanent separation. She is merely experimenting upon your weakness. She expects you will recall her in a week, at the latest. That is all of it."

Like most weak men, it made Mr. Linden angry to have his strength doubted.

"You think that?" he said.

"I have no doubt of it."

"She shall find that I am resolute," he said, irritably. "I will not recall her."

"Bravo, uncle! Only stick to that, and she will yield unconditionally within a fortnight. A little patience, and you will carry your point. Then all will be smooth sailing."

"I hope so, Curtis. Your words have cheered me. I will be patient. But I hope I shan't have to wait long. Where is the morning paper?"

"I shall have to humor and deceive him," thought Curtis. "I shall have a difficult part to play, but I am sure to succeed at last." _

Read next: Chapter 11. Florence Secures Employment

Read previous: Chapter 9. The New Home

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