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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

It occurred to Whitford that Clarendon


"We've

got to protect you, no matter how little you deserve it. I can't have Bee's name dragged into all the papers of the country. The case against Durand will have to be dropped. He's lost his power anyhow and he'll never get it back."

"Then it doesn't matter much whether he's tried or not."

That phase of the subject Whitford did not pursue. He began to feel in his vest pocket for something.

"Of course you understand that we're through with you, Bromfield. Neither Beatrice nor I care to have anything more to do with you."

"I don't see why," protested Bromfield. "As a man of the world--"

"If you don't see the reason I'm not able to explain it to you." Whitford's fingers found what they were looking for. He fished a ring from his pocket and put it on the desk. "Beatrice asked me to give you this."

"I don't think that's fair. If she wants to throw me over she ought to tell me her reasons herself."

"She's telling them through me. I don't want to be more explicit unless you force me."

"Of course I'm not good enough. I know that. No man's good enough for a good woman. But I'm as good as other fellows. We don't claim to be angels. New York doesn't sprout wings."

"I'm

not going to argue this with you. And I'm not going to tell you what I think of you beyond saying that we're through with you. The less said about it the better. Man, don't you see I don't want to have any more talk about it? The engagement was a mistake in the first place. Bee never loved you. Even if you'd been what we thought you, it wouldn't have done. She's lucky to have found out in time."

"Is this a business rupture, too, Mr. Whitford?"

"Just as you say about that, Bromfield. As an investor in the Bird Cage you're entitled to the same consideration that any other stockholder is. Since you're the second largest owner you've a right to recognition on the board of directors. I'm not mixing my private affairs with business."

"Good of you, Mr. Whitford." The younger man spoke with a hint of gentle sarcasm. He flicked a speck of dirt from his coat-sleeve and returned to the order of the day. "I understand then that you'll drop the case against Durand on condition that he'll surrender anything he may have against me and agree to keep quiet."

"Yes. I think I can speak for Lindsay. So far most of the evidence is in our hands. It is not yet enough to convict him. We can probably arrange it with the district attorney to have the thing dropped. You can make your own terms with Durand. I'd rather not have anything to do with it myself."

Bromfield rose, pulled on the glove he had removed, nodded good-bye without offering to shake hands, and sauntered out of the office. There was a look on his face the mining man did not like. It occurred to Whitford that Clarendon, now stripped of self-respect by the knowledge of the regard in which they held him, was in a position to strike back hard if he cared to do so. The right to vote the proxies of the small stockholders of the Bird Cage Company had been made out in his name at the request of the president of the corporation.


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