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

Chapter 37. The Diplomacy Of Mrs. O'keefe

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_ Chapter XXXVII. The Diplomacy Of Mrs. O'Keefe

Mrs. O'Keefe was a warm-hearted woman, and the sad, drawn face of Mr. Linden appealed to her pity.

"Why should I let the poor man suffer when I can relieve him?" she asked herself.

So the next morning, after Curtis had, according to his custom, gone downtown, being in the invalid's sick chamber, she began to act in a mysterious manner. She tiptoed to the door, closed it and approached Mr. Linden's bedside with the air of one about to unfold a strange story.

"Whist now," she said, with her finger on her lips.

"What is the matter?" asked the invalid, rather alarmed.

"Can you bear a surprise, sir?"

"Have you any bad news for me?"

"No; it's good news, but you must promise not to tell Curtis."

"Is it about Florence? Your messenger can hardly have reached Chicago."

"He isn't going there, sir."

"But you promised that he should," said Mr. Linden, disturbed.

"I'll tell you why, sir. Florence is not in Chicago."

"I--I don't understand. You said she was there."

"Begging your pardon, sir, it was Curtis that said so, though he knew she was in New York."

"But what motive could he have had for thus misrepresenting matters?"

"He doesn't want you to take her back."

"I can't believe you, Mrs. Barnes. He loves her, and wants to marry her."

"He couldn't marry her if she consented to take him."

"Why not? Mrs. Barnes, you confuse me."

"I won't deceive you as he has done. There's rason in plinty. He's married already."

"Is this true?" demanded Mr. Linden, in excitement.

"It's true enough; more by token, to-morrow, whin he's out, his wife will come here and tell you so herself."

"But who are you who seem to know so much about my family?"

"I'm a friend of the pore girl you've driven from the house, because she would not marry a rascally spalpeen that's been schemin' to get your property into his hands."

"You're a friend of Florence? Where is she?"

"She's in my house, and has been there ever since she left her home."

"Is she--well?"

"As well as she can be whin she's been workin' her fingers to the bone wid sewin' to keep from starvin'."

"My God! what have I done?"

"You've let Curtis Waring wind you around his little finger--that's what you've done, Mr. Linden."

"How soon can I see Florence?"

"How soon can you bear it?"

"The sooner the better."

"Then it'll be to-morrow, I'm thinkin', that is if you won't tell Curtis."

"No, no; I promise."

"I'll manage everything, sir. Don't worry now."

Mr. Linden's face lost its anxious look--so that when, later in the day, Curtis looked into the room he was surprised.

"My uncle looks better," he said.

"Yes, sir," answered the nurse. "I've soothed him like."

"Indeed! You seem to be a very accomplished nurse."

"Faith, that I am, sir, though it isn't I that should say it."

"May I ask how you soothed him?" inquired Curtis, anxiously.

"I told him that Miss Florence would soon be home."

"I do not think it right to hold out hopes that may prove ill-founded."

"I know what I am about, Mr. Curtis."

"I dare say you understand your business, Mrs. Barnes, but if my uncle should be disappointed, I am afraid the consequences will be lamentable."

"Do you think he'll live long, sir?"

Curtis shrugged his shoulders.

"It is very hard to tell. My uncle is a very feeble man."

"And if he dies, I suppose the property goes to you?"

"I suppose so."

"But where does Florence come in?"

"It seems to me, Mrs. Barnes, that you take a good deal of interest in our family affairs," said Curtis, suspiciously.

"That's true, sir. Why shouldn't I take an interest in a nice gentleman like you?"

Curtis smiled.

"I am doing my best to find Florence. Then our marriage will take place, and it matters little to whom the property is left."

"But I thought Miss Florence didn't care to marry you?"

"It is only because she thinks cousins ought not to marry. It's a foolish fancy, and she'll get over it."

"Thrue for you, sir. My first husband was my cousin, and we always agreed, barrin' an occasional fight----"

"I don't think Florence and I will ever fight, Mrs. Barnes."

"What surprises me, Mr. Curtis, is that a nice-lookin' gentleman like you hasn't been married before."

Curtis eyed her keenly, but her face told him nothing.

"I never saw one I wanted to marry till my cousin grew up," he said.

"I belave in marryin', meself. I was first married at sivinteen."

"How long ago was that, Mrs. Barnes?"

"It's long ago, Mr. Curtis. I'm an old woman now. I was thirty-five last birthday."

Curtis came near laughing outright, for he suspected--what was true-- that the nurse would never see her fiftieth birthday again.

"Then you are just my age," he said.

"If I make him laugh he won't suspect nothing," soliloquized the wily nurse. "That's a pretty big lie, even for me."

"Shure I look older, Mr. Curtis," she said, aloud. "What wid the worry of losin' two fond husbands, I look much older than you."

"Oh, your are very well preserved, Mrs. Barnes."

Curtis went into his uncle's chamber.

"How are you feeling, uncle?" he asked.

"I think I am better," answered Mr. Linden, coldly, for he had not forgotten Mrs. Barnes' revelations.

"That is right. Only make an effort, and you will soon be strong again."

"I think I may. I may live ten years to annoy you."

"I fervently hope so," said Curtis, but there was a false ring in his voice that his uncle detected. "How do you like the new nurse?"

"She is helping me wonderfully. You made a good selection."

"I will see that she is soon discharged," Curtis inwardly resolved. "If her being here is to prolong my uncle's life, and keep me still waiting for the estate, I must clear the house of her."

"You must not allow her to buoy you up with unfounded hopes. She has been telling you that Florence will soon return."

"Yes; she seems convinced of it."

"Of course she knows nothing of it. She may return, but I doubt whether she is in Chicago now. I think the family she was with has gone to Europe."

"Where did you hear that, Curtis?" asked Mr. Linden, with unwonted sharpness.

"I have sources of information which at present I do not care to impart. Rest assured that I am doing all I can to get her back."

"You still want to marry her, Curtis?"

"I do, most certainly."

"I shall not insist upon it. I should not have done so before."

"Have you changed your mind, uncle?"

"Yes; I have made a mistake, and I have decided to correct it."

"What has come over him?" Curtis asked himself. "Some influence hostile to me has been brought to bear. It must be that nurse. I will quietly dismiss her to-morrow, paying her a week's wages, in lieu of warning. She's evidently a meddler." _

Read next: Chapter 38. The Closing Scene

Read previous: Chapter 36. Mrs. O'keefe In A New Role

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