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The Guilty River

16. Bribery And Corruption
Twice, I looked into Toller's room during the remainder of the night, and found him
sleeping. When the sun rose, I could endure the delay no longer. I woke him.
"What is it?" he asked peevishly.
"You must be the last person who saw Cristel," I answered. "I want to know all that you
can tell me."
His anger completely mastered him; he burst out with a furious reply.
"It's you two--you my landlord, and him my lodger--who have driven Cristy away from
her home. She said she would go, and she has gone. Get out of my place, sir! You ought
to be ashamed to look at me."
It was useless to reason with him, and it was of vital importance to lose no time in
instituting a search. After the reception I had met with, I took care to restore the key of
the door leading into the new cottage, before I left him. It was his key; and the poor
distracted old man might charge me with taking away his property next.
As I set forth on my way home, I found the new man-servant on the look-out.
His first words showed that he was acting under orders. He asked if I had found the
young lady; and he next informed me that his master had revived some hours since, and
"bore no malice." This outrageous assertion suddenly fired me with suspicion. I believed
that the Cur had been acting a part when he threatened me with his pistol, and that he was
answerable for the disappearance of Cristel. My first impulse now was to get the help of a
lawyer.
The men at my stables were just stirring when I got home. In ten minutes more, I was
driving to our town.
The substance of the professional opinion which I received has been already stated in
these pages.
One among my answers to the many questions which my legal adviser put to me led him
to a conclusion that made my heart ache. He was of opinion that my brief absence, while
I was taking that fatal "breath of air" on the banks of the river, had offered to Cristel her
opportunity of getting away without discovery. "Her old father," the lawyer said, "was no
doubt in his bed, and you yourself found nobody watching, in the neighborhood of the
cottage."
"Employ me in some way!" I burst out. "I can't endure my life, if I'm not helping to trace
Cristel."
 
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