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Bexar Scrip No. 2692
by [?]

Sharp glanced furtively around. A young man, or rather a boy about eighteen years of age, stood a few feet away regarding him closely with keen black eyes. Sharp, a little confused, thrust the certificate into the file where it properly belonged and began gathering up the other papers.

The boy came up and leaned on the desk beside him.

“A right interesting office, sir!” he said. “I have never been in here before. All those papers, now, they are about lands, are they not? The titles and deeds, and such things?”

“Yes,” said Sharp. “They are supposed to contain all the title papers.”

“This one, now,” said the boy, taking up Bexar Scrip No. 2692, “what land does this represent the title of? Ah, I see ‘Six hundred and forty acres in B—- country? Absalom Harris, original grantee.’ Please tell me, I am so ignorant of these things, how can you tell a good survey from a bad one. I am told that there are a great many illegal and fraudulent surveys in this office. I suppose this one is all right?”

“No,” said Sharp. “The certificate is missing. It is invalid.”

“That paper I just saw you place in that file, I suppose is something else–field notes, or a transfer probably?”

“Yes,” said Sharp, hurriedly, “corrected field notes. Excuse me, I am a little pressed for time.”

The boy was watching him with bright, alert eyes.

It would never do to leave the certificate in the file; but he could not take it out with that inquisitive boy watching him.

He turned to the file room, with a dozen or more files in his hands, and accidentally dropped part of them on the floor. As he stooped to pick them up he swiftly thrust Bexar Scrip No. 2692 in the inside breast pocket of his coat.

This happened at just half-past four o’clock, and when the file clerk took the files he threw them in a pile in his room, came out and locked the door.

The clerks were moving out of the doors in long, straggling lines.

It was closing time.

Sharp did not desire to take the file from the Land Office.

The boy might have seen him place the file in his pocket, and the penalty of the law for such an act was very severe.

Some distance back from the file room was the draftsman’s room now entirely vacated by its occupants.

Sharp dropped behind the outgoing stream of men, and slipped slyly into this room.

The clerks trooped noisily down the iron stairway, singing, whistling, and talking.

Below, the night watchman awaited their exit, ready to close and bar the two great doors to the south and cast.

It is his duty to take careful note each day that no one remains in the building after the hour of closing.

Sharp waited until all sounds had ceased.

It was his intention to linger until everything was quiet, and then to remove the certificate from the file, and throw the latter carelessly on some draftsman’s desk as if it had been left there during the business of the day.

He knew also that he must remove the certificate from the office or destroy it, as the chance finding of it by a clerk would lead to its immediately being restored to its proper place, and the consequent discovery that his location over the old survey was absolutely worthless.

As he moved cautiously along the stone floor the loud barking of the little black dog, kept by the watchman, told that his sharp ears had heard the sounds of his steps. The great, hollow rooms echoed loudly, move as lightly as he could.

Sharp sat down at a desk and laid the file before him. In all his queer practices and cunning tricks he had not yet included any act that was downright criminal. He had always kept on the safe side of the law, but in the deed he was about to commit there was no compromise to be made with what little conscience he had left.