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Title: A Battle for Right - A Clash of Wits
Author: Carter, Nicholas (House name)
Language: English
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                   *       *       *       *       *



                          NICK CARTER STORIES

                          New Magnet Library

                         PRICE, FIFTEEN CENTS

                    _Not a Dull Book in This List_


Nick Carter stands for an interesting detective story. The fact that
the books in this line are so uniformly good is entirely due to the
work of a specialist. The man who wrote these stories produced no
other type of fiction. His mind was concentrated upon the creation of
new plots and situations in which his hero emerged triumphantly from
all sorts of trouble, and landed the criminal just where he should
be—behind the bars.

The author of these stories knew more about writing detective stories
than any other single person.

Following is a list of the best Nick Carter stories. They have been
selected with extreme care, and we unhesitatingly recommend each of
them as being fully as interesting as any detective story between cloth
covers which sells at ten times the price.

If you do not know Nick Carter, buy a copy of any of the New Magnet
Library books, and get acquainted. He will surprise and delight you.


                     _ALL TITLES ALWAYS IN PRINT_

  850—Wanted: A Clew                     By Nicholas Carter
  851—A Tangled Skein                    By Nicholas Carter
  852—The Bullion Mystery                By Nicholas Carter
  853—The Man of Riddles                 By Nicholas Carter
  854—A Miscarriage of Justice           By Nicholas Carter
  855—The Gloved Hand                    By Nicholas Carter
  856—Spoilers and the Spoils            By Nicholas Carter
  857—The Deeper Game                    By Nicholas Carter
  858—Bolts from Blue Skies              By Nicholas Carter
  859—Unseen Foes                        By Nicholas Carter
  860—Knaves in High Places              By Nicholas Carter
  861—The Microbe of Crime               By Nicholas Carter
  862—In the Toils of Fear               By Nicholas Carter
  863—A Heritage of Trouble              By Nicholas Carter
  864—Called to Account                  By Nicholas Carter
  865—The Just and the Unjust            By Nicholas Carter
  866—Instinct at Fault                  By Nicholas Carter
  867—A Rogue Worth Trapping             By Nicholas Carter
  868—A Rope of Slender Threads          By Nicholas Carter
  869—The Last Call                      By Nicholas Carter
  870—The Spoils of Chance               By Nicholas Carter
  871—A Struggle With Destiny            By Nicholas Carter
  872—The Slave of Crime                 By Nicholas Carter
  873—The Crook’s Blind                  By Nicholas Carter
  874—A Rascal of Quality                By Nicholas Carter
  875—With Shackles of Fire              By Nicholas Carter
  876—The Man Who Changed Faces          By Nicholas Carter
  877—The Fixed Alibi                    By Nicholas Carter
  878—Out With the Tide                  By Nicholas Carter
  879—The Soul Destroyers                By Nicholas Carter
  880—The Wages of Rascality             By Nicholas Carter
  881—Birds of Prey                      By Nicholas Carter
  882—When Destruction Threatens         By Nicholas Carter
  883—The Keeper of Black Hounds         By Nicholas Carter
  884—The Door of Doubt                  By Nicholas Carter
  885—The Wolf Within                    By Nicholas Carter
  886—A Perilous Parole                  By Nicholas Carter
  887—The Trail of the Fingerprints      By Nicholas Carter
  888—Dodging the Law                    By Nicholas Carter
  889—A Crime in Paradise                By Nicholas Carter
  890—On the Ragged Edge                 By Nicholas Carter
  891—The Red God of Tragedy             By Nicholas Carter
  892—The Man Who Paid                   By Nicholas Carter
  893—The Blind Man’s Daughter           By Nicholas Carter
  894—One Object in Life                 By Nicholas Carter
  895—As a Crook Sows                    By Nicholas Carter
  896—In Record Time                     By Nicholas Carter
  897—Held in Suspense                   By Nicholas Carter
  898—The $100,000 Kiss                  By Nicholas Carter
  899—Just One Slip                      By Nicholas Carter
  900—On a Million-dollar Trail          By Nicholas Carter
  901—A Weird Treasure                   By Nicholas Carter
  902—The Middle Link                    By Nicholas Carter
  903—To the Ends of the Earth           By Nicholas Carter
  904—When Honors Pall                   By Nicholas Carter
  905—The Yellow Brand                   By Nicholas Carter
  906—A New Serpent in Eden              By Nicholas Carter
  907—When Brave Men Tremble             By Nicholas Carter
  908—A Test of Courage                  By Nicholas Carter
  909—Where Peril Beckons                By Nicholas Carter
  910—The Gargoni Girdle                 By Nicholas Carter
  911—Rascals & Co.                      By Nicholas Carter
  912—Too Late to Talk                   By Nicholas Carter
  913—Satan’s Apt Pupil                  By Nicholas Carter
  914—The Girl Prisoner                  By Nicholas Carter
  915—The Danger of Folly                By Nicholas Carter
  916—One Shipwreck Too Many             By Nicholas Carter
  917—Scourged by Fear                   By Nicholas Carter



                          A Battle for Right

                                  OR,

                            A CLASH OF WITS


                                  BY

                            NICHOLAS CARTER

  Author of the celebrated stories of Nick Carter’s adventures, which
     are published exclusively in the NEW MAGNET LIBRARY, conceded
          to be among the best detective tales ever written.


                            [Illustration]


                      STREET & SMITH CORPORATION
                              PUBLISHERS
                    79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York



                            Copyright, 1916
                           By STREET & SMITH

                          A Battle for Right


               (Printed in the United States of America)

    All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
                languages, including the Scandinavian.



                          A BATTLE FOR RIGHT



                              CHAPTER I.

                          AT A GAME OF POKER.


Five men were playing cards in a room in the Old Pike Inn.

It was a road house, on a well-traveled highway—a great favorite with
automobiles—in one of the picturesque valleys that alternate with
towering heights within easy motoring distance of New York City.

The Old Pike Inn had its spacious verandas, its big restaurant, its
smaller dining rooms for private parties, and its great reception hall,
with polished floor, in which dances, formal and informal, were in
progress every evening during most of the year.

It was a place to which wealthy New Yorkers often brought their wives
and daughters for luncheon or dinner, and its “tone” was regarded
as above criticism. Everything suggested refinement, the lavish
expenditure of money for the comfort and entertainment of guests, and
an artistic atmosphere that was both subtle and unmistakable. Captain
Brown, who managed the Old Pike Inn, knew his business.

Only a privileged number of his patrons were aware that they could play
a quiet game of “draw” in secluded rooms, with the assurance that there
could be no interference, and where their occupation would never be
suspected by anybody not in the secret.

The five men playing were all young, and every one showed in the
flushed countenance that something more than the excitement of the game
had heated his blood and rendered his speech at times somewhat thick.

Other evidence along this line was the fact that a glass stood near
each man, on a separate stand, while bottles of liquor on a table
within arm’s length of the players were frequently brought into use
by the two soft-footed waiters, who were the only persons in the room
besides the gamblers.

There was very little talking. Men who play poker are not apt to say
much. Their attention must be concentrated on the game, if they expect
to hold their own.

An occasional remark on some general topic was uttered, but as a
rule each player, holding his cards well concealed in the hollow of
his hand, watched the play of the others, and sought, by strained
vigilance, to get the better of the struggle. Silence is a good thing
in a poker game.

Suddenly, just as one of the waiters leaned over to pour some liquor
into one of the glasses, the person for whom it was intended jumped to
his feet and sent the light stand to the floor with a crash—bottle,
glass and all. At the same time he pointed an accusing finger at the
man opposite him.

“Cheat!” he shouted.

At the ominous word, the other four men were also on their feet.

“What’s that, Howard?” demanded one of them.

“He heard what I said, Jack!” thundered the other. “Look at him! He
knows he brought up an ace of clubs from under the table. I saw him do
it. He was so clumsy that I actually was able to make out what the card
was.”

“You’re a liar!” cried the man accused.

It was useless for the others to try to keep the two apart after that.

With a mighty sweep, he who had cried “Cheat!” pushed the rather heavy
table, with its green baize top and its stacks of chips and scattered
cards, to one side, and leaped upon the man he had denounced.

The two waiters were big fellows, notwithstanding their ability to
move noiselessly about the room. They hurled themselves between the
combatants.

Their interference was only just in time to prevent a straight left
from landing on the chin of the player who had been charged with
cheating, and at that, one of them got the fist himself in the back of
his neck.

“Don’t, Mr. Milmarsh!” begged the other waiter, as he wound his arms
around the waist of the infuriated owner of the fist. “Don’t make a
noise! They’ll hear it downstairs. It’s a mistake! It must be!”

But Howard Milmarsh cared only for vengeance just then.

“Get away, will you?” was all he replied. “If you don’t, I’ll break
your skull with a bottle. I’m going to make that scoundrel over there
confess, and then I’ll thrash him till he won’t know that he ever had a
face. It never _will_ be the same face again,” he added grimly.

But the waiter hung on to the young fellow, while his comrade tried
to push the other man back toward the door of an anteroom where hung
the coats and hats of the players, and which was also fitted up as a
lavatory.

“Come back here, you white-livered cur!” shouted Milmarsh. “You, I
mean—Richard Jarvis! The fellow who calls himself a cousin of mine!
Come back and let us look at what you have inside your cuff!”

The man he had called Richard Jarvis, who had been slinking behind the
others, as if he had changed his mind about fighting, and desired only
to get away, made a quick move toward the door leading to the other
part of the house.

“Stop him!” shouted Milmarsh. “If once he gets out of that door he’ll
destroy the evidence.”

“What do you mean by evidence?” asked Jack Denby. “Do you think Jarvis
is hiding cards about him now?”

“I know he is,” was the hot reply.

“Bring him back, then!” cried Denby. “Let’s look!”

The two waiters and the three other players, including Jack Denby,
surrounded Jarvis, keeping a wary eye on Howard Milmarsh, to see that
he did not take the cowering wretch by the throat.

“His left cuff!” cried Milmarsh. “Look inside!”

“By Jove!” broke out Jack Denby.

He had thrust his fingers inside the stiff shirt cuff of the accused
man and brought out three cards. They were the ace of hearts, the king
of diamonds, and the king of clubs.

He threw them upon the table, faces upward, with a grunt of disgust.

“There you are, boys!” exclaimed Howard Milmarsh. “He brought out the
other ace, as I told you—and I saw him do it. His idea was to ‘sweeten’
his hand, of course. He meant to do the same thing with these other
cards you’ve just taken from him. He may have others about him—in his
pockets, down the back of his neck, or anywhere. He seems to have the
trick of hiding cards down fine.”

“I haven’t any other cards,” protested Richard Jarvis.

“You had those,” Jack Denby reminded him.

“I don’t know how they got caught in my cuff.”

A burst of laughter from Denby and the three other men rang through the
room.

“You don’t know how they got ‘caught,’ eh?” sneered Denby. “Cards don’t
often get ‘caught’ inside a man’s shirt cuff without some help. I guess
you’d better give up all the money you have won to-night, and we’ll
divide it among the rest of us. I don’t know which has lost the most,
but it is quite sure that all you have is not your own—as an honest
man. Eh, Milmarsh?”

“I don’t care what is done with the money he cheated us out of,”
returned Howard Milmarsh coldly. “That is not of any importance to me.”

“It is to me,” declared Denby, laughing. “I was about broke. I should
have had to drop out before the next hand.”

“All right, Jack! You can have my share, and welcome,” said Howard
indifferently. “You have earned it by holding that rascal back when
he was going to sneak away. What he has to answer to me for are two
things.”

“That so? What are they?”

“In the first place, he is a cheat—a blackleg—and he insulted me by
presuming to sit in a poker game with me.”

“Well, he insulted us all in that respect, old man,” observed Denby.

“In the next place, he applied a word to me that he must answer for,
and which can be done only in one way,” continued Howard Milmarsh.
“That way is to stand up and take his thrashing. Or, if he prefers, to
take it lying down. It is immaterial to me.”

Milmarsh threw off his coat and continued to walk toward Jarvis, who
was hiding behind the two big serving men.

“Come out of that, Jarvis! Stand aside there, you two!” commanded
Milmarsh, addressing the waiters.

The men shrugged their shoulders. They were supposed to keep order if
any persons unknown to the management of the Old Pike Inn happened
to intrude. But these five young men were all members of wealthy and
prominent families, and were not to be treated like mere brawlers, of
no social standing.

Howard pushed past them, and they stepped out of his way. They did not
care much for Richard Jarvis, anyhow.

When Jarvis saw that he could not avoid an encounter with his cousin,
he tried to pull himself together, and made a show of putting up his
hands.

Hardly had he done so, when Milmarsh sent a crashing swing into
his chest. The blow was intended for the chin, but Jarvis, by quick
defense, diverted it, thus saving the vulnerable part of his person.

Jarvis knew something about boxing, and he retaliated to Milmarsh’s
onslaught with a glancing blow on the forehead that made his cousin
mad. The consequence was a feint to the chest, which Jarvis blocked,
and then a tremendous jab at the chin that stretched the latter across
the floor, senseless.

“By George, Milmarsh! He’s dead!” cried one of the other players, in
startled tones, as he knelt by the side of the prostrate Jarvis. “You
gave him a tap that settled him.”

The speaker was Budworth Clarke, a young doctor, who had lately taken
his diploma and hung out his shingle, and he delivered himself with
authority.

“It can’t be, Bud,” protested Milmarsh. “I only landed an ordinary
knock-out.”

“You thought you did,” was the reply. “But he must have had a weak
heart. Now, the thing for you to do is to get a lawyer, quick. We may
show that it was an accident, but we can’t get over the fact that he
has passed out.”

Howard Milmarsh did not wait for the end of this oration. He walked
deliberately to the outer door of the room, unlocked it with the key
that had never been removed from the keyhole, and went down the two
flights of stairs which led to the great reception room.

The usual nightly “hop” was in progress. But Milmarsh was in evening
dress, and, though a close observer might have noted his flushed face
and guessed the cause to be drink, he was able to pass around the
throng without particular regard from anybody.

“I’ll go right home,” he muttered. “It’s the only thing I can do. Then
I will see.”

It was just as he reached the outer door—where half a dozen
automobiles were drawn up on the great asphalt space where visitors to
the Old Pike Inn could park their machines when they did not care to
have them run into the garage—that he exchanged a cheerful good evening
with a handsome man, in evening clothes, whose keen eyes followed him
as he passed out.

“Young Milmarsh!” observed this gentleman to himself. “He’s been
drinking again! Great pity! A fine young fellow! And owner of more
property than any one in this part of the country. That is, he _will_
own it when his father dies. Well, I suppose he feels that he must have
his fling. But I’m sorry.”

The maker of these observations was a person known the world over as a
great detective. His name was Nick Carter.

He watched Howard Milmarsh go to a handsome car, in which the chauffeur
was sitting half asleep, and get in. The young man himself took the
wheel. Then, after one quick glance in the detective’s direction, he
drove hurriedly away up the winding road that led to the great Milmarsh
mansion on the hill.



                              CHAPTER II.

                               REMORSE.


The great steel-manufacturing firm of Howard Milmarsh & Son, with its
immense plant in western Pennsylvania and its palatial offices in
New York, was not any better known in business circles than was the
palatial home of the head of the house among the Westchester hills.

It had been the custom of Howard Milmarsh, the elder, to entertain
lavishly for years, his brilliant wife being an acknowledged leader of
society. Then, one night, she took cold in her limousine, riding from
a ball in New York to their home, dressed only in the light ball gown,
with a flimsy lace scarf over her bare shoulders.

It is unnecessary to go into the details of her illness. Pneumonia is
a swift disease. In ten days she was dead, and a pall settled over the
spacious and luxurious mansion.

There was a large funeral, of course. That was the last large gathering
of the friends and acquaintances of the Milmarshes the house saw.
Her husband became a broken man, physically and mentally. He had
an efficient and honest manager at the head of his vast business
interests, so that there was no lack of money. But he seemed to lose
all care for the world after his wife passed away.

Howard Milmarsh, the younger—the personage who struck down his cheating
cousin, Richard Jarvis, in the poker game at the Old Pike Inn—lived
alone with his father, and was the only comfort the elder man had.

But young Howard was full of life and youth, and it was natural for him
to desire entertainment away from the great, gloomy house.

Thus it was that he often spent days and nights in the gay districts
of New York City, and often drank rather more than was good for him.
He was not a drunkard. In fact, most persons would have said that he
did not drink at all, measuring him by other young men of his social
position and wealth. Nevertheless, he did give way occasionally—as he
had done on this night in the Inn—and there was always danger that he
might plunge deeper into dissipation if he were left to himself.

“But never again!” he muttered, as he drove the high-powered car up the
winding hill, while the chauffeur nodded beside him. “I’ve played my
last card and I’ve taken my last drink. I wish I’d made that resolution
before I went into that cardroom to-night.”

“Beg pardon, sir!” interrupted the chauffeur drowsily. “Did you tell me
to take the wheel?”

“I didn’t speak.”

“Oh, didn’t you, sir? I beg your pardon.”

“But we are nearly up to the house. You can take hold now.”

They changed places. Then, when the machine was again making its way up
the road, Howard Milmarsh—who had been trying to collect his thoughts
in the cool night air, and who had so far succeeded that he had managed
to throw off the effects of the liquor he had consumed—directed
the chauffeur to keep the car in front of the entrance, under the
porte-cochère, while he went inside.

“I am going out again,” he added briefly, as the car drew up at the
doorway.

Howard hastened, first of all, to his own room, where he found his
valet, busy brushing some clothes.

“Fill two traveling bags with clothes and things for a week, Simpkins,”
he ordered briefly. “But first help me into a business suit, with a
soft hat. Give me my automatic revolver, and that heavy hickory stick I
use for walking in the country.”

“Very good, sir,” replied the imperturbable Simpkins.

In five minutes Howard Milmarsh had changed his clothes, with the help
of the valet, and, telling the latter to place the bags in the car at
the door, the young man went to his father’s private room adjoining his
bedroom, and knocked at the door.

“Why, Howard, what’s the matter?” demanded the millionaire, as his son
entered hastily, before his father could tell him to come in. “You look
excited. Haven’t been drinking, have you?”

“Not much. I’ve killed Richard Jarvis.”

The young man said this coolly, but it was the coolness of desperation.
His wild eyes and haggard cheeks told their own story. No further
confirmation of his startling confession was necessary.

Howard Milmarsh, the elder, was a slender man, with a pale face and
hollow cheeks. He arose from the cushioned chair with difficulty,
and, as he moved toward his son, he swayed, as if he had not complete
command of his limbs.

“How was it?” he gasped at last.

“He cheated at cards.”

“Ah! That has been charged against him before.”

“And we fought.”

“Yes?”

“I struck him a blow harder than I had intended. It killed him. He had
a weak heart, Budworth Clarke said. But—father, he called me a liar.”

“I see. And you struck him.”

“Yes. He had been caught with aces up his sleeve, inside his shirt
cuff. That was the beginning of the trouble. Then, when he was accused
of what there was actual proof of, he applied the word to me that I
could not take. I killed him!”

“Killed him!” echoed the older man vacantly, as he sank back into his
chair.

“So, now, father, I am going away. I cannot stay here and face a trial
for murder.”

“You would be acquitted,” his father put in quickly. “The provocation
was one you could not pass over. Then, again, his death was an
accident. If his heart was weak——”

“I know, father. We can make all the excuses we please, and, perhaps,
they might convince a jury. But the disgrace on our name would remain,
and I should still feel that I had become a murderer—even though I did
not mean it. So, good-bye, father! Good-bye! I will let you hear from
me when I can. I do not know where I am going, and, if I did, I would
not tell you, so that you would not have to say what was not true when
you said to people that you did not know.”

The manufacturer went to a safe that stood at one side of his room and
took out a package of bank notes. He handed them to his son.

“There are ten thousand dollars, Howard. When you need more, let me
know. And now, good-bye, my son. I may never see you again. I am not
well. But come back soon, if you can. You will know what the result of
the inquiry into the death of Dick Jarvis is if you watch the papers.”

“I may be where I cannot easily get New York papers, father. I intend
to go as far away from what we call civilization as I can. I don’t know
where. But it doesn’t matter. There is one thing I want to say in your
presence, father, before I go away—one vow I mean to make.”

“Yes?”

“I will not raise my hand in anger against anybody again. I don’t care
what the provocation, I will not fight.”

“I don’t see how you can make such a resolution as that, my son.
Sometimes an occasion will arise when you cannot avoid fighting.”

“I know that. But I will avoid it, even under such conditions as
those,” declared Howard resolutely. “Don’t you see, father, that that
will be my punishment for what I did to-night to Dick Jarvis?”

The millionaire shook his head. It seemed to him that his son was
making a vow that he would find it impossible to keep.

“I do not think you should hold yourself to such a pledge as that,” he
said. “Anyhow, I believe I shall be able to smooth matters over for you
so that you can soon return home. I only have you, now that your mother
is gone, and I want you with me for the little time I have to live.”

“Nonsense, father,” returned Howard affectionately. “You will be alive
twenty years from now. Long before that I hope I shall have found a
way to come home and be a decent citizen, but I confess I don’t see my
way clear now. Good-bye!”

With a hearty clasp of his father’s hand, Howard Milmarsh turned away
and fairly ran from the room.

The head of the great steel firm—whom so many thousands envied for his
wealth, and presumably his happiness—sank back in his deep chair, and
let the tears trickle slowly down his worn cheeks. The widower felt as
if his heart had been broken for the second time.

Meanwhile, the son dashed down the wide staircase and hurried into the
waiting machine.

The traveling bags were already stowed away in the back of the car, and
Simpkins stood at the side of it, overcoat and hat on, to go with his
employer.

“I shan’t want you, Simpkins,” said Howard calmly. “To-morrow morning
go in and see my father. He will make arrangements with you. I shall be
away for a week—perhaps much longer. I am going to New York. Drive on,
Gustave!” he added, to his chauffeur. “Take the road straight into New
York and stop at the Hotel Supremacy. You know where that is.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Gustave briefly, as he threw on the power.

The road Gustave took did not lead past the Old Pike Inn. Howard
Milmarsh had remembered that when he gave the direction. He did not
want to run right into the arms of the law, and he did not forget that
he had seen Nick Carter watching him from the porch of the popular
resort.

It was not the habit of Carter to take up any ordinary murder case,
even when it came immediately under his notice. But Howard Milmarsh had
a feeling that the great detective would surely concern himself in this
one, for he had long been a friend of Howard’s father.

While Howard Milmarsh skimmed along at thirty miles an hour and more
in the direction of New York, Nick was hurrying up to the Milmarsh
mansion in the large, gray car that he generally used for his country
excursions, and which had brought him to the Old Pike Inn that evening.

“Mr. Nick Carter would like to see you, sir,” announced a
wooden-visaged servant in livery to the millionaire, not more than
twenty minutes after the departure of his son. “He will not detain you
long, he told me to say.”

“Show him in, of course!” ordered Milmarsh, arousing himself and
preparing to receive his caller smilingly.

“Hello, Carter!” was his warm greeting. “I’m very glad to see you. Did
you just run up from New York?”

“No,” was the grave reply. “I’ve been at the Old Pike Inn most of the
evening. I came up to speak to you about your son Howard!”

The millionaire jumped forward and held up a hand close to the
detective’s face to silence him, while an expression of agonized terror
appeared on his haggard, aristocratic face.

“Hush!”



                             CHAPTER III.

                          WHO KILLED JARVIS?


“You know that Howard had a fight in the Inn to-night?” asked Nick, in
a low tone.

“Yes. He has told me. But—but it was an accident. He did not mean to do
it. You know my son too well to believe anything else.”

“I know he is hot-tempered, and that he had been drinking to-night,”
was the response. “But I want to tell you——”

“No, no! Don’t tell me! I know all about——”

“I don’t think you do.”

“Yes, I do. My boy told me. What is the use of repeating——”

The detective smiled protestingly, as he took the millionaire’s wrist
in his fist, to keep him quiet.

“Let me speak, Mr. Milmarsh. I came to tell you that your son did _not_
kill Richard Jarvis.”

“Not kill him? Are you sure of that? Is he alive?”

“He was alive for ten minutes after your son struck him. In fact,
he was as well as ever. The blow on the chin was only one of the
sleep-producing kind that are dealt at many boxing matches. What they
call a ‘knock-out.’ Jarvis had entirely recovered from that almost
before Howard was out of the Inn.”

“Then Dick Jarvis is alive?” asked Milmarsh eagerly.

“_No, he is dead!_”

Howard Milmarsh fell back, his mouth dropping open and a terrified
light gathering in his eyes.

“Dead?”

“Yes. But, as I have told you, your boy did not kill him. You need have
no fear about that. Where is your son? I should like to tell him. I
have no doubt he is nearly out of his mind over the belief that he has
committed murder.”

“He is. But he is not at home. He has gone away—to New York, I believe.
I hope he will be back in the morning. Tell me how it is that Richard
Jarvis is dead. I have had no communication with him or his father
since long before my wife died, but I am sorry Richard is dead.”

“He was not really a cousin of your son’s, was he?” asked Carter.

“No. His father was my wife’s half brother, so that I never considered
him a relative, in the true sense of the word. And yet, if I had no
son——”

“I know all about that,” interrupted the detective. “Don’t think of
it. You have a son, and a good one, take him altogether. As for Richard
Jarvis’ death, it is not easily explained. After your son left the Inn,
Thomas Jarvis, Richard’s father, appeared there, in a rage, asking for
his son.”

“They always quarrel a great deal, I believe,” remarked the
millionaire. “Richard’s drinking and gambling is the cause of it, I’ve
been told. They have not any too much money, and it makes Thomas Jarvis
angry when Richard wastes any in dissipation. But go on.”

“Thomas Jarvis forced his way upstairs, to the poker room, and there
was a hot dispute between father and son. One of the waiters was the
only other person in the room. He says that, in the midst of the fuss,
Richard made a lunge at his father with his fist, but, being stupid
with drink—for he had a lot more after the trouble with Howard—he
stumbled over the disordered rug and pitched headlong on an iron fender
in front of the open fireplace.”

“And it killed him?”

“Fractured the skull. I saw him. He was quite dead. But—there was a
peculiar little circumstance that I have not said anything about, and
shan’t, unless the coroner brings it up.”

“What was that?”

“Some small fragments of glass were in the wound, and a broken
champagne bottle lay at his side. It may have been that he fell upon
the bits of glass, if the bottle had been previously broken. But—if the
coroner is suspicious, he might make an exhaustive inquiry in the hope
of proving that the bottle had been used as a weapon and that Thomas
Jarvis had killed his son. That is all I came to tell you,” added the
detective. “I hope your son will be home in the morning. If not, he’ll
come as soon as he learns the truth, anyhow. I don’t know just what the
papers will publish about it to-morrow. I don’t think they will have
anything.”

The detective said this with a curious smile that caused the
millionaire to ask him why he thought so.

“There are ways of holding back news from even the livest papers—if
you know how to do it, and have a little influence,” he admitted
significantly.

“I wish you would stay and smoke a cigar with me, Carter,” said the
millionaire, as the detective got up to go. “There is something I
wanted to speak to you about.”

Carter nodded and took the seat proffered by his host. He accepted a
cigar from the humidor at his elbow. Then, as he lighted up and blew a
ring of smoke from his lips, he glanced inquiringly at the millionaire.

“It is only about my health, Carter,” explained Milmarsh. “I don’t
believe I shall live very long. When I die, of course Howard will
succeed me, and I have little doubt he will take an active part in
managing the business. He won’t have to change the title of the firm.
It will continue to be Howard Milmarsh & Son. That is my desire,
expressed in my will.”

“I know Howard wouldn’t want to change that,” declared the detective.
“Howard has considerable respect for the name you both bear. But I
don’t believe you are going to die for many years.”

“I know better,” returned the other. “I know the symptoms,
unfortunately, too well. That is why I am not smoking this evening. All
I want to ask of you is that you will see Howard gets his birthright.”

“You have made all proper, legal arrangements, have you not? Your will
is in a safe place, I suppose?”

“Yes. That is not it. One copy of my will is in my safe-deposit box in
my New York bank, and another is in the possession of my attorneys,
Johnson, Robertson & Judkins, of New York. What has always troubled me
is that Howard is a little wild, and that he might do something which
would give enemies an opportunity to rob him of his inheritance.”

“How could anybody do that?” queried Nick, smoking steadily. “Even
if you had not made a will, Howard is your only child, and he would
succeed as heir at law.”

“But, suppose he were not to claim his inheritance? Suppose, for some
reason, he could not be found?”

“What do you mean?” asked the detective. “Don’t you know where he
is now? If he went to New York, we could hear of him at the Hotel
Supremacy, I have no doubt. That is where he generally goes when he’s
in the city. Of course, he may have gone to one of his clubs. But, even
then, it would not be hard to find him.”

Nick Carter smoked in silence for a full minute before he spoke again.
Then he asked, more earnestly than he had spoken hitherto:

“Do you think Howard has gone farther than New York—that he has sailed
to some foreign country, for instance?”

“I don’t know where he is,” replied the millionaire. “What I do know,”
he continued slowly, and with his breath coming fast between his words,
“is that I am not well to-night, and that a presentiment hangs over me
that I should have taken better care of my boy.”

“Pshaw! You have nothing to reproach yourself with in that respect. I
can testify to that,” said Carter encouragingly. “You have been excited
over this unfortunate affair at the Old Pike Inn, and it has got on
your nerves. Howard deserves to be spanked for upsetting his father in
this way. Let me give you a little brandy.”

He went to the handsome mahogany cellaret at one side of the room, and
brought out a decanter of brandy.

The detective had visited Howard Milmarsh many times, and he knew just
where to find anything that might be wanted in this room. He poured out
a little of the liquor and gave it to the millionaire.

“Thanks!” gasped Milmarsh. “That will do me good. Now, Carter, will
you promise me that in case anything happens to me before Howard comes
back, you will see that he is not defrauded in any way?”

“Upon my word, I don’t see the necessity,” laughed the detective. “But,
of course, I will do it.”

“That is not all,” went on the millionaire, who seemed to be stronger
now than at any time since Carter had been with him. “I have already
taken legal measures to give you the authority you might require. The
papers are in the hands of Johnson, Robertson & Judkins, all properly
drawn up.”

“What papers?”

“Making you the legal guardian of my son until he is in full possession
of my estate. After that, he can take care of himself.”

“Rather a queer—or, at least, an unusual—proceeding,” remarked the
detective.

“Possibly. But it will make Howard safer. Now, I know you would do
anything for Howard or his father. We have been friends too long for me
to doubt that. But I like to do matters of business in a businesslike
way. Therefore I have provided that you shall receive five per cent of
the value of the whole estate when Howard takes legal possession. Will
that be satisfactory?”

“Satisfactory?” repeated Nick. “Why, you are rated at ten million
dollars—perhaps more. Five per cent of that would be——”

“Never mind about figuring it up,” interrupted Howard Milmarsh, smiling
wanly. “You will accept the trust?”

“Of course.”

“Thanks, old friend! I felt sure you would. I hope I shall hear
something about my boy by the morning.”

“You shall if I can do anything to bring it about,” said Nick, rising.
“I am going to New York now, and I think I know about all the places
in which Howard is likely to take refuge in the great city of light.”

He went over to Milmarsh and shook hands. It struck the detective that
the millionaire’s hands had never been quite so thin before, and that
he had never noted such a weary look in the hollow eyes. But he made no
comment, of course.

“Good night,” he called out from the door. “I’ll telephone the house as
soon as I find the boy. Good night!”

“Good night!” was the response. “I’ll have some of the servants take
the message. I’m going to bed. I feel that I need rest—a long rest!”

Nick Carter had not reached the bottom of the hill leading from the
Milmarsh mansion to the State road, when he saw the lights of a car
coming toward them, and he knew it must be the car in which young
Howard had gone to New York.

“Stop!”

As the detective gave this order to his chauffeur and his big car came
to a halt, the other car drew up alongside and also stopped as the
driver perceived they were waiting for him.

“Where is Mr. Milmarsh in New York?” asked Carter imperatively.

“I put him down at the Hotel Supremacy,” was the reply.

“Did he put up there?” asked Nick, as the other driver pushed his lever
forward, preparatory to going on. “Don’t be in a hurry, please. You
know me, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mr. Carter!”

“Then you know you’d better answer me without any quibbling. I asked
whether Mr. Howard Milmarsh went into the Hotel Supremacy, to stop
there for the night?”

“I don’t think he did, sir.”

“Why don’t you think so?”

“Because he stood just inside the lobby after getting out of the car,
and wouldn’t let any of the porters take his bags.”

“Well?”

“As I turned my car around, I had a view of the doorway, and I saw Mr.
Milmarsh come out and get into a taxi.”

“Where did the taxi go?”

“I don’t know, sir. I didn’t think of following it. That would not have
been any of my business. It vanished among all the other taxis and
motor cars in the avenue. I shouldn’t have thought anything of it at
all if you hadn’t asked me.”

“I suppose that’s true,” remarked Carter, half to himself. Then,
louder: “That will do. Good night!”

The detective called up every club, hotel, restaurant, and private home
in which it might be possible to hear of Howard Milmarsh. But the same
answer was returned from all. Nobody had seen him that day or evening.
Even the Hotel Supremacy could give him no information.

Nick Carter went to his comfortable home in New York, and settled
himself behind the great oaken table he used in his library, as
he lighted one of his own particular perfectos, to think over the
incidents of the evening.

He was only half through his cigar when the telephone bell rang. With
his customary deliberation, he picked up the instrument and responded,
in his grave, firm tones:

“Hello! This is Nick Carter speaking!”

“This is Mr. Howard Milmarsh’s residence, in Westchester. Mr. Milmarsh
died five minutes ago of heart failure!”

It was the voice of the millionaire steel man’s valet. The detective
knew it at once.

“I will come there as soon as my car can bring me,” he answered. “In
less than an hour.”

As he hung up the receiver, he pressed a button that brought into the
room his confidential assistant, Chick Carter.

“Chick, Howard Milmarsh, the steel manufacturer, is dead. While I am at
the house—which will be all night, and, perhaps longer, try to find the
son, Howard Milmarsh, junior. At least, he is not junior, now that his
father is gone. Young Milmarsh was in New York to-night, and he has not
gone home. Understand?”

“I understand,” replied Chick quietly.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                          THE WHITE FEATHER.


In one of the newer towns of the Canadian Northwest, far enough away
from the usual paths of travel to give it an atmosphere of mystery,
as well as romance, there is—or was, for things have changed in that
town in the last few years—a hotel which made a feature of its cabaret
performances, and in summer considered its gardens and the water
frontage on a really beautiful lake, its greatest attractions.

The place was known as the Savoy, and the hotel part of it was rather
better than is generally found in the northern lumber regions.

It was on a summer night, when it was comfortable to sit out of doors,
that a vaudeville entertainment was in progress on the lawn stage of
the Savoy.

A monologue had just been delivered by a middle-aged comedian, in
evening clothes, who had been a singer in bygone times, but, finding
his voice gone, had been wise enough to “frame up” a “talking turn.”

The audience liked him, calling him “good old Joe Stokes,” many of the
men inviting him to join them in a glass of beer at their tables, when
he came out from the sacred precincts “back stage.”

This is a custom in many of the free-and-easy places of amusement in
the West and Northwest, in small communities, and Joe Stokes accepted
the invitations in the good-natured spirit in which they were tendered.

There was a large gathering, including men from the mines, from the
lumber woods, and from the other industries existing for twenty miles
around, including a sprinkling of workers on the railroad, with some
tourists, who were there because they wanted to be.

It was this latter class that offered a round of encouraging handclaps
to a delicate-looking young girl, dressed simply in white, with a white
ribbon in her long, dark hair, who came slowly into view and faced the
footlights.

“What’s comin’ off?” growled a rough-looking man near the stage. “Where
did this kid blow in from?”

“Guess she belongs to a Sunday school, and got in here by mistake,”
guffawed another of the same type. “Why didn’t old Joe Stokes give us
an extra encore? This girl turn is goin’ to be punk, an’ I know it.”

The girl was evidently frightened, as if not accustomed to singing in
public. She may not have heard exactly what these men were saying. But
she had caught the note of unfriendliness, and she turned appealingly
to the quarter whence had come the applause of the tourists.

There were, perhaps, a dozen men and women, who belonged to the tourist
party, sitting apart from most of the other persons in the audience,
and they gave the young girl another round of handclapping, accompanied
by the rattling of glasses on the table.

The orchestra, consisting of two violins, a cornet, and piano, half
hidden in foliage disposed in front of the stage, seemed to be
uncertain what to play. The leader, his violin in his left hand,
reached over the footlights and took a few sheets of music from the
girl.

“What do you think o’ that?” chuckled old Joe Stokes. “She didn’t know
enough to give her music to the leader before she come on! She didn’t
have no rehearsal, neither. I should have seen her if she had, and I
never clapped my lamps on her before.”

There was a well-built young man, with a cap pulled over his eyes,
sitting by himself at a table near that at which the two tough-looking
citizens who had commented on the girl sprawled.

The young man had on the high-laced boots commonly worn in country
places—East, as well as West—and his sack coat looked as if he were not
at all careful of his clothes, for there were marks of clay, sand and
mud on them, as well as indications that he had come in contact with
the bark of trees, more or less roughly.

Men who knew the type would say he was a “lumberjack.”

He kept his eyes on the girl, but not obtrusively. It was evident that
he was interested in her, but was careful not to annoy her by letting
her see that he was looking in her direction.

During the time the musicians were arranging their music on the stands,
she stood there, a slim little slip of a thing, trembling visibly, but
determined to go bravely through what she had to do.

“What do you s’pose she’s goin’ to spiel?” grunted one of the roughs to
his companion.

“Search me! ‘Nearer my God, to Thee!’ maybe.”

Both laughed coarsely. For a flash of a second, the young fellow who
looked like a lumberman, and who had been regarding the girl on the
stage, turned his keen eyes on the two jeering men. Then he turned his
back on them, as if they were not worth steady consideration.

The opening bars of the plaintive old Scottish song, “Robin Adair,”
were played by the orchestra. The melody was familiar to them—as it is
to most professional musicians—and they played it well.

“Thunder!” growled one of the toughs. “Is she goin’ to give us a hymn?
If she is, it will be ‘good night’ for hers!”

There were noisy laughs from many in the audience, for liquor had been
flowing, and the men were not themselves. At least, it is to be hoped
so, for the honor of that part of the Dominion.

The singer flushed, but she took up the song when the prelude was
finished, rendering it with a delicacy and pathos that would have
stirred even that rough assemblage had it not been for the ridicule a
few of the hardest men saw fit to express.

Before she had finished the first verse there was a storm of hisses and
catcalls, and the girl’s voice was drowned. One could see that she was
still singing by watching her lips, but it was impossible for her to be
heard through the growing din.

Suddenly, a big man, dressed much as was the young man who had been
observing the girl in silence, got up and strode toward the stage. Here
he turned and faced the audience, six feet four inches of brawn and
muscle.

Many of those in the inclosure recognized him. He was a foreman up in
the lumber woods, and he could strike a blow that would knock an ox
senseless when he had a good swing. His name was Mackenzie Douglas.

“Stop that, will ye?” he roared.

As he spoke, he picked up one of the small tables by its twisted wire
leg and flourished it over his head.

“Anither bit o’ noise, an’ I’ll be amang ye, splittin’ heads wi’ this
wee bit o’ table! Ye all know me, an’ ye ken I’ll do what I say! This
young leddy is singin’ a bonny Scottish song, an’ I want to hear it.
Sing oot, my lassie! Sing oot! I’ll e’en keep order for ye.”

Mackenzie Douglas had a sour look, and no one was inclined at that
moment to fly in his face. The young man before mentioned smiled
quietly.

The singer began her song again. Her voice was nothing remarkable.
It was not powerful, but it had been trained, so that she sang true.
Besides, the melody was one that could not be listened to long without
being more or less affected by it.

This time she made an impression which assured her the sympathy of the
better element in her audience. The old ballad, with its haunting air,
went home to many a calloused heart, and it might have been seen that a
tear sprang out upon a bronzed cheek here and there.

But there was still a disturbing group near the front, with the two
ruffians who had started the fuss before, ready to drive the girl from
the stage if they could. They were angry at Douglas’ interference, and
they felt that they must “call his bluff,” as one expressed it, in a
low tone, to the other.

As the girl finished, a storm of applause broke out, but through the
handclapping, thumping, and cheering could be heard loud hisses. It has
often been noticed that even one sharp hiss in a large assemblage will
be heard through the most insistent applause.

The young man looked quickly in the direction of the two roughs. Even
as he did so, one of them picked up the stub of a cigar from the table
in front of him and hurled it at the singer. It struck her white dress,
leaving a black mark.

She shrank back, terrified and wondering. It looked as if she could not
understand such an outrage.

There were shouts of anger and protest from a dozen men. But it was
Mackenzie Douglas who took an active part in the row that broke out so
fiercely.

In a flash, he was again at the front of the stage, glaring about him.

“Who threw that?” he demanded, in a voice of thunder. “Point him out
to me! Whaur is the skulkin’ cur that would do a thing like that to
a young lassie who is too good to wipe her shoes on most of us? If I
don’t find the mon that done it, I’ll come forward an’ lick a dozen of
ye till I find the richt one!”

The bigger of the two men who had been making the demonstration against
the singer let out a loud, defiant laugh.

“I done it, if you want to know!” he bellowed. “Now, what are yer goin’
to do about it?”

“Oh, it’s you, Dan Mosely, is it?” replied the Scot, more angry than
ever. “I might ha’ known it was some one like you!”

That was all Mackenzie Douglas said just then. The young fellow who had
been watching took a hand. He pushed aside half a dozen men who were in
his way, chairs and all, knocked over a table, and was upon the fellow
Douglas had called Dan Mosely with both of his sinewy hands.

Taking Dan by the collar, he swung him out of his chair and hurled him
at full length upon the floor, with a couple of chairs on top of him.

The uproar was terrific. Many men, who had held back from the row at
first, were only too anxious to get into it, now that this quiet young
fellow had blazed the way.

But Dan Mosely wasn’t beaten yet. The knockdown had sobered him to some
degree, and he was blistering with rage. Shoving the tables and chairs
aside, he managed to reach his feet.

“Where is that dub?” he roared. “Show him to me!”

He aimed a tremendous blow at the young man’s face. But a clever duck
of the head prevented its doing any harm.

“Hello, Bob Gordon!” shouted Mackenzie Douglas to the young man.
“You’re there, are ye? Ye did a gude thing in layin’ out this galoot.”

He seized Dan Mosely behind as he spoke, for the fellow was trying to
strike Bob Gordon down from behind with a chair.

“No, ye don’t, Dan!” cried Douglas. “This is goin’ to be a fair
stand-up fight. We’ll hae it by the rules. Tak’ aff yer coats, both of
ye, an’ let’s see who’s best man. Ye hae twenty pounds the best of it,
Dan, but I’m thinkin’ Bob can lick ye in spite of it. Come on, Bob!”

But, to the intense astonishment of Mackenzie Douglas, as well as of
everybody else who had been watching the fracas, Bob Gordon turned away.

“I won’t fight him,” said Gordon, in a low voice.

“What?” howled Douglas. “Why not?”

“I don’t want to fight!”

“But what for? This Dan Mosely tried to hit ye, an’ you knocked him
down just now. There was the lassie, too. Ye’ll hae to fight for her
sake.”

“I won’t fight,” replied Bob Gordon steadily.

For a few moments it seemed as if Mackenzie Douglas could not
comprehend. His mouth fell open, and he stared at Bob Gordon as if he
were some strange animal, that he never had seen before.

Dan Mosely laughed raucously. His companion, who had helped him in
annoying the girl on the stage, joined in his coarse mirth.

“He knows better than to tackle me!” snarled Dan Mosely. “I’d break him
in two in the first round.”

“Bob Gordon, lad, what does it mean?”

The big Scot appealed to Gordon almost piteously. He could not make
out why Gordon was backing down. He had never come across a case of
this kind before, where a full-grown man, young and active, backed out
of a combat that it was his actual duty to enter. It was too much for
Douglas.

“I’ll tell yer what it means,” shouted Dan Mosely derisively. “He’s
afraid! That’s all there is to it. He’s a cur, an’ he don’t dare to put
up his hands agin’ me!”

Douglas looked searchingly at Gordon, and his great hands twitched, as
if he longed to get into battle himself.

“Is that so, Gordon? Do ye mean t’ tell me that ye’re afraid?”

“Yes, Douglas,” returned the young man, after a pause, during which it
could be seen he was fighting with himself. “I’m—_I’m afraid_!”

Mackenzie Douglas was silent for a second. Then, after raising his hand
on high, as if calling Heaven to witness the awful disgrace, he pointed
a long finger at Bob Gordon, saying, in a tone of denunciation and
scorn:

“Hoot awa’! You—you—coward!”



                              CHAPTER V.

                             A CONFESSION.


It is hardly necessary to relate that Douglas took the part Bob Gordon
should have played, and gave the burly Dan Mosely the trouncing of
his life. That followed, as a matter of course. The fellow had to be
punished for insulting the singer, and if Gordon would not do the work,
why, Mackenzie Douglas was only too pleased to take on the job.

But Bob Gordon did not wait to see the battle.

“Coward!”

The hateful, ignominious word seemed to pursue him, as, with bent head,
he forced his way through the crowd to escape from the garden. Once
clear of the lights and jeering faces, he strode rapidly to a remote
part of the extensive grounds that were all part of the Savoy premises.

What should he do? He could not stay up in the woods and work as a
lumberman any longer. The men would make life unbearable for him—unless
he were to fight a few of them.

“No, I cannot do that!” he moaned. “I cannot do that!”

It was as he uttered this lament in an incoherent wail that was somehow
like the cry of a wounded animal, that a white figure came bounding
toward him among the trees.

“Oh, Mr. Gordon!” she panted. “I had to come and thank you for taking
my part so nobly!”

“Nobly?” he echoed bitterly. “Don’t you know that there was more of it
after that, and that I was anything but noble then?”

“I know,” she answered. “And I think you were quite right. You’d done
enough.”

“They call me a coward!”

“What of that?” demanded the girl, her eyes sparkling in her anger as
she thought of the attack on Gordon. “You’re not a coward! You’ve given
too many proofs that you are just the reverse. Just because you would
not fight that big ruffian! Call you a coward! Why, I saw his head
towering far above yours. He is a giant!”

Bob Gordon flushed. He knew that the girl’s excuse for him was well
meant. But it hardly soothed him or helped to restore his self-respect.

“It wasn’t that,” he assured her hastily. “I was not afraid of him—not
of him! I wish you would believe that, Bessie, although I’m afraid no
one else ever will.”

“What was it, then?”

“Just this: I once—in a fight—killed a man!”

She recoiled a little. It was an involuntary movement, but Gordon saw
it, and it caused him to continue quickly:

“I never meant to do it, Heaven knows. But we’d quarreled, and it came
to a fight. I remember that. But I swear I do not recall striking a
blow hard enough to kill him. It was on the point of the jaw, and he
fell senseless. But he should have recovered in a few seconds. It was
not a deadly blow, ordinarily. We had both been drinking. That—that is
why I never touch liquor now, Bessie.”

“Perhaps you didn’t kill him,” she whispered. “Perhaps he was not
really dead.”

“Yes, he was. A doctor was in the room—a friend of mine. He examined
him, and pronounced him quite dead. Then I ran away.”

“And that is all you know about it?”

“I heard afterward that the coroner’s jury found a verdict of
‘Accidental death.’”

“Then you have nothing to fear.”

“My own conscience. And, if I were to go back home, there are persons
who know that I killed Richard Jarvis. My father is a wealthy,
influential man, and he may have hushed it up. But _I know_. So does
he.”

“Haven’t you had any letters from your father, or anybody at your home,
since you left?”

“No. It was two years ago that I left, and nobody knows where I am.
I have been up in the back country ever since, and I have changed my
name, too. I won’t tell you my real name. It would not do any good.
But you and I have been friends, and I don’t want you to think I’m a
coward. That’s why I’ve told you my story.”

“I understand.”

“I’m sure you do. When I knew that Richard Jarvis was dead, I made
a solemn vow never to fight again, no matter what might be the
circumstances. It has been a hard vow to keep, but I’ve done it
somehow. I never had to be called a coward on account of it until
to-night, however. That is why I’m going away.”

“I should advise you to go home,” she murmured. “You say your father
is wealthy. I always felt sure that you were not the sort of man you
have allowed yourself to be regarded out here. You are not an ordinary
laborer. Your manners are those of a gentleman. That shows in so many
little ways.”

“I’m a murderer!”

“No, no. Don’t use such a word as that. It was not murder—if it
happened in a fair fight. Any of the men about here would say you had a
right to do it.”

“That may be. But it would not be looked at in that way in my home near
New York. I am convinced that if I were to go back I should be arrested
and have to go through all the horrors of a trial for murder. The end
would be, very likely, the electric chair in Sing Sing. My blood turns
to water and my heart to ice when I think of such a possibility. I am a
coward about that. I am not afraid of death, I believe—of death itself.
But to die in that way! The shame of it!”

He shuddered and covered his face with his hands. She touched him
gently on the arm.

“Don’t, Mr. Gordon! You torment yourself needlessly. Take my advice
and go back home. I must leave you now. My father is going on to play
his violin solo. He does a trick act, you know—plays the violin in
all sorts of curious ways. Uses only one string, imitates cries of
animals and birds, and so on. He doesn’t like to do it, for he is an
accomplished musician, and he feels that he is degrading his art. But
the audience demands it, and he is such a master of his instrument that
he can do anything.”

“Good-bye, Bessie. I am going away from this place. I hope I shall see
you again. You and your father travel about, and you’re quite likely to
come to some camp where I am. Good-bye! Remember me to your father, Mr.
Silvius.”

Before the girl could reply, Bob Gordon—or Howard Milmarsh, which, of
course, was his real name—had dashed away into the darkness.

Bessie Silvius made her way slowly to the back of the stage.

It was not until the girl and Bob Gordon had both gone that a man came
out from behind a large bush where he had been crouching, listening
to the conversation. He was in evening dress, but his shirt front was
crumpled and bore stains from the bush, while his whole suit looked as
if it needed pressing.

The man was none other than the monologuist who had been hailed by his
noisy admirers as “old Joe Stokes.”

He had taken himself off when the row started, because he did not care
to be in a battle if it could be helped. Moreover, he had seen the girl
following Bob Gordon into the darkness, and he had curiosity to see
what there might be between them—if anything. Joe Stokes had a sort of
liking for Bessie Silvius himself.

“Well, if this isn’t luck!” was Joe Stokes’ self-addressed remark, as
he found himself alone, and ventured to stand up and stretch. “I’ve
always had my suspicions about that Bob Gordon. He never seemed to me
to be like the other lumbermen. I’ve lived in cities too long, and
mixed too much with classy people, not to know a man who has been a
gentleman, no matter what kind of clothes he wears. And now this turns
out to be—I’ll get into the hotel. I’ll have to work quickly if I’m
going to make anything of all this.”

It was easy for him to get to the hotel without being seen by the
audience in the garden. They were some distance away from the house,
and were at the back of it, besides.

Joe Stokes went around to the front of the long, rambling frame
structure, and soon was in his own small bedroom on the third-story.

Opening a shabby but strong trunk—it was the sort of iron-bound thing,
built to stand rough usage, which is known as a “theatrical trunk”—he
took out a newspaper.

The paper was folded small, so that one particular paragraph was
turned outward. The paper was old and dirty, bearing marks of much
handling. It was not easy to make out the print, but Stokes had read it
before, and he managed to read it without trouble:

“If this should meet the eye of H.M., late of Westchester and New York,
he is urgently requested to return home. His father is dead, and he is
the heir to the estate.”

Joe Stokes sat on the side of his bed and considered: “‘H.M.’ means
‘Howard Milmarsh,’ of course. It must, for see how the description
fits him. And there is five thousand dollars reward for anybody
who finds the young man, or gives satisfactory proof of his death.
‘Communications should be sent to Johnson, Robertson & Judkins,
attorneys at law, Pine Street, New York,’” he read, from the
advertisement. “Good!”

He considered for some minutes. Then he muttered slowly:

“The worst of it is that I’m afraid to go to New York. If the police
were to know I was there, it would be the Tombs for mine, and a trip up
the river for a few years afterward. I’ll have to think this out.”

He lighted an old pipe, with strong tobacco, and composed himself to
study out the problem of getting hold of the five thousand dollars
without giving the police a chance to get hold of himself.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                           DOOR AND WINDOW.


While Joe Stokes sat in his room and studied, two other persons were in
conference in the room immediately below his own.

They also wanted to find H.M., although their main purpose in coming
to this small lumber village and summer resort was to look for a man
wanted for a series of crimes in and about New York City. His name was
said to be Andrew Lampton, although, considering the number of aliases
he used, there was a strong possibility that it was not his real name.

“Harold Milmarsh is here, Chick,” said one of the two persons, after
making sure the door of the double-bedded room was locked. “I did not
see him to-night about the hotel. But the landlord says he is probably
over at the garden looking at the show.”

“Shall I go over and get him?”

Nick Carter—for it was the celebrated detective who was sitting in the
room with his principal assistant—smiled at the impetuosity of Chick.

“Not till I tell you, Chick. We must go cautiously about this thing, or
we may lose our man.”

“I don’t see why. We are only taking him back to be a multimillionaire.
He doesn’t know his father’s dead, I guess, or he’d have been back
before without anybody coming after him.”

“What is the name of this village—or town, or whatever it is?” asked
Nick, abruptly changing the subject.

“Maple. There are forty or fifty places named ‘Maple’ in Canada. You
can safely bet on running into one every few hundred miles. It’s like
‘Newark’ in the United States. Did you ever think how many Newarks
there are about the country?”

“Never mind about that, Chick,” was the rather impatient rejoinder.
“This place is called Maple. That is enough for me. My information
was that Lampton told somebody in Chicago that he might go to Maple.
It seems he heard that some girl he wanted was coming here. She is a
singer, and her father plays the violin.”

“Didn’t you get their names?”

Nick glanced at his assistant with a tired smile.

“Their name is Silvius. The father is Roscoe Silvius, and his daughter
is known as Bessie. I suppose her full name is Elizabeth. But ‘Bessie’
will do for our purpose. We’ll go down to the restaurant and see if
they will give us a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Then we can stroll
over to the garden, where the vaudeville show is. That was a long,
tiresome ride on the stage, and I dare say you are as hungry as I am.”

“I don’t know just how hungry you are,” returned Chick. “But I know I
am about starved. I could eat the china handle off a door.”

The two detectives had, in fact, been in the Savoy Hotel only half an
hour. They had arrived on the stage from the terminus of the little
railroad that ran out of Edmonton, in Alberta, in company with a
party of three tourists, and had passed as such themselves. There was
nothing distinctive about their appearance to tell the world what their
profession was.

They had come direct to the room to which they had been assigned, and,
having had a wash and brush up, were ready for the meal that was always
furnished for the stage passengers in the evening.

Nick Carter opened the door to go downstairs, but quickly stepped back.
He left the door open wide enough to enable him to peer through the
crack, and held up his hand to Chick to keep silent.

For about two minutes Carter stood still looking out. The room behind
him was dark, and so was the hall. But there was light in the hallways
below, and it chanced to shine feebly on the face of a man who was
fumbling at a door lock about a dozen yards from where the detective
watched.

“It’s our man, Chick,” whispered the chief. “He’s getting into that
room with a picklock. We are sure of him now, and I guess we’ll see
what he’s after in that room. We can take him back to New York to
answer to that counterfeiting charge, and the other things against
him. But I should like to know what game he has here.”

“It was lucky that both Milmarsh and Lampton came to this place. We can
kill two birds with one stone. It isn’t often things break as well as
that.”

“They didn’t ‘break’ particularly,” whispered back Nick. “I knew
Lampton would be likely to be here, and I had definite information
before we left New York that Howard Milmarsh was working as a lumberman
near Maple, in Alberta. It is all perfectly simple.”

“It is a wonder you didn’t trust somebody else to gather these men in,”
remarked Chick. “You might have saved all this time for yourself if
you’d just let me come. I could have handled the case, I know.”

Nick Carter did not answer this grumbling tirade. He did not seem even
to hear it. Now he darted out of the doorway into the dark hall, with
Chick close behind him, and tried the door, the lock of which Lampton
had been working on with his bit of strong wire.

“We’ll have to break it open, Chick. Too bad! I was waiting for him to
get the door open. Then I intended to nail him before he could shut it
again. He was too quick for me. Lampton always was a slick individual.
He slipped through and banged it shut all in an instant. It has a
spring lock, you see, like our own—only with a different kind of key,
of course.”

The detective was annoyed that he had allowed this rascal to keep him
back, even for an instant. He pushed with all his strength at the door,
resolved to break it in at all hazards. He could easily explain to the
landlord who he was afterward, and a dollar or two would repair the
damage.

“Mighty strong door!” exclaimed Chick, as he hurled himself against it
by the side of his chief. “It ain’t going to give way in a hurry. But
we’ll have to smash it open if it takes all——”

He broke off suddenly, for inside the room there arose the sound of two
men engaged in a fierce struggle.

They could hear furniture falling over, and the scuffling of feet,
mingled with pantings, as if the contestants were in fierce grips, and
putting forth all their strength.

“Listen,” said Chick. “That sounds like Lampton’s voice. I haven’t
heard it for three years, but I’d swear it’s he that’s growling to the
other fellow to stand back.”

“Push the door!” returned Nick. “Never mind about talking. We can do
that afterward. I want to get into this room.”

For a minute or two longer the racket continued. Then they heard the
sound of a window sash being wished up violently, followed by more
banging and scuffling.

“Ah!” cried somebody inside.

“That’s Milmarsh!” exclaimed Carter involuntarily. “It means that the
other fellow has got away. Down with this door!”

The detective had considered, for a moment, the wisdom of rushing down
the stairs and out to the lawn, to pursue the person who had just
jumped through the window. But he decided that it would be hard to find
anybody in the darkness who had had so long a start, and he redoubled
his efforts to get the door open.

“Shove, Chick!”

“I am shoving!”

“Harder!”

“Gosh! I’m doing all I can!” protested Chick.

The two moved back a few inches from the door, and flung themselves
back against it with all their weight.

This time it yielded. With a smash, it fell into the room.
Unfortunately, the two detectives went with it, and it took them a
little time to get up and find out just where they were.

Just as they fell into the room they heard a loud noise at the window,
and then the sash, which had been held up by one of the primitive
catches often employed in country places, broke loose and came down
with a slam, locking itself as it did so.

Nick Carter, notwithstanding that he was in such a mix-up, realized
what had happened at the window. A man had just slipped through and
dropped to the lawn after the first one, and, in doing so, he had
disengaged the sash from the contrivance which held it up.

What worried the detective more than anything else was that he realized
he had lost both the men he was after—the crook, as well as the heir to
the Milmarsh millions and the big steel-manufacturing plant.

The catch of the window which held the sash down was out of order. That
is a common complaint with window locks of all kinds. It had become
jammed so that it was impossible to open it in the ordinary way.

Nick took from his pocket the jackknife he always carried—an implement
which had a number of useful little tools in the handle. With this he
pried the window open and looked out.

“See anything?” asked Chick.

“No. I did not expect to do so, either. But we won’t give up the chase
just yet. They can’t get out of Maple easily. We’ll have them both
before morning.”

“This is Howard Milmarsh’s room, isn’t it, do you think?” asked Chick.

“No doubt about that,” was the chief’s quiet reply, as he lighted the
lamp he had found on a side table—luckily not upset in the struggle
which had taken place. “By Jove! That fellow was going through
Howard’s trunk. Look! See how everything is tumbled over!”

“And a lot of letters scattered about. What are they?”

Nick glanced through three of the letters hurriedly, one after another.

“From lumbermen and miners, addressed to different places. Howard
has traveled about considerably in the past two years, poor fellow!
The significance of these letters is not in the letters themselves,
for they are not important. But the way they are tossed about shows
that Andrew Lampton knew there were some papers in this trunk worth
taking—or he believed there were. I don’t like Lampton being mixed up
in Milmarsh’s affairs at all—that is, unless we capture the blackguard.
Then it won’t matter.”

“Well, we will capture him,” declared Chick, with sublime confidence in
the infallibility of his chief. “We’ll have them both long before we
are ready to go to bed.”

But he was mistaken. They searched every part of the grounds of the
Savoy Hotel, and hunted all over Maple. But not a vestige could they
find either of Andrew Lampton or Howard Milmarsh! They had got clean
away!

In the end, the chief and Chick had to leave Maple without their men.

It was a mystery, but Nick only smiled when his assistant said that to
him.

Solving mysteries of this kind—and even much harder ones—was the life
amusement of Nick Carter.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                             TRACED BACK.


It was six weeks after the disappearance of Andrew Lampton and Howard
Milmarsh from Maple, following their jumping through the window, and
Nick Carter was again in his own home in New York.

He sat in his usual place, at the back of the heavy table in his
library, looking through some papers. Facing him were Chick, with Patsy
Garvan, the latter in a rough and ragged disguise.

Patsy had the ability to “make-up” for any age, from fifteen to seventy
or eighty. He had a youthful face, with a roguish, turned-up nose, and
bright eyes, so that it was easy for him to be a young boy.

That was the character he had now, and he smiled cheerfully as his
chief gave him some instructions.

“This man. Andrew Lampton—who is passing by the name of Joe Stokes,
according to my information—is the main worker in this counterfeiting
affair. Is that what you have heard, Patsy?”

“I’ve heard somebody called ‘Joe’ in that house,” replied young Garvan.
“But I never saw the man himself.”

“Well, that does not make any difference. After all, I don’t want
you to do anything more than be in the house, to let Chick in when
he comes. You are sure nobody followed you when you came away this
afternoon?”

“I’ll bet on that,” replied Patsy. “I know Jersey City like a book, and
if there’s any one can shadow me in that burg without my finding it
out, I’d like to see him. I know twenty ways of gettin’ out of Jersey
City without no one knowing which way I went.”

“The street is a quiet one, and it is rather away from Montgomery and
the other thoroughfares where a newsboy might be expected to be trying
to do business.”

“A newsboy who wants to sell papers doesn’t stay on any particular
street,” replied Patsy. “He follows up his business, no matter where
it may lead him. That’s the kind of newsboy I am,” he added, with
a cheerful grin. “This Salisbury Street is long enough—and ugly
enough—for any kind of business.”

“It is No. 25 Salisbury Street. That’s the address,” remarked Nick,
referring to a memorandum on his blotter. “All right! That will do. Get
over there and lie low. When Chick comes, be ready. And, above all, be
sure you’re not seen going in.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll go in like a shadow under a door. I’ve been hiding
there for five days without anybody getting on. I am not going to fall
down now, just before the blow-off. Not much!”

With this earnest assurance, Patsy nodded to Chick, waved his hand to
the chief, and slipped away.

“It’s a good thing we have Patsy to help,” remarked Nick, when the door
had closed. “This man Lampton is a keen rascal, and if he had the least
suspicion we had traced him from Maple to New York, we should not get
him this time, I’m afraid.”

“Perhaps we should not get him at all,” ventured Chick.

“Yes, we should get him some time. You ought to know that. When we go
after a man as determinedly as we have for Andrew Lampton, his capture
is never more than a question of time—and perseverance.”

“I hope that will be true about Howard Milmarsh.”

“It will. Strange that we should have so much trouble to find a man
just to hand a fortune to him. But this is a world of strange things.
Anyhow, I promised his father to see that he got his rights, and I will
go through with that, just as steadily as I will keep after Andrew
Lampton till I have him.”

“The secret-service men will help. That’s one thing.”

“Yes, and I wish they weren’t in it. I’d rather do without the aid of
the secret-service and the police, too, if I could. But it can’t be
avoided. There’s one thing—the police over in Jersey City are a pretty
bright lot of men. But they’ve been looking for Lampton some time, and
they’ve never dropped on this crib of his yet.”

“Which shows the smartness of Lampton and his gang.”

“Well, criminals must be smart to some degree, or they never could pull
off any job. Lampton is a clever fellow, because he can do so many
widely different things. He is quite a good vaudeville performer, even
though his singing voice is gone.”

“Ah, yes!” laughed Chick. “Joe Stokes! They seemed to think a great
deal of him at Maple. I won’t go till it gets dark to-night. I suppose
I may as well get ready, however. I’ve got to look like a decent kind
of hobo, haven’t I? The sort of man who is willing to work if he can
get a job?”

“That’s right. You put it very neatly. But you need not do it just yet.
You are quite sure Lampton is still in that house?”

“Quite. That is, unless he’s got out while Patsy was here to-day. Patsy
has been keeping as sharp an eye on the crib as any one could, and he
knew, before he came away to-day, that Lampton had gone to bed for a
few hours. You only want this one man, don’t you?”

“Well, he is the most important. But I want to see the whole
gang caught. I have no mercy for a counterfeiter. It is a dirty,
contemptible business, because it generally makes people suffer who
cannot afford to lose money. The secret-service men will look after
them, however—when they learn where they are.”

“Which will be thanks to Nick Carter.”

“Not to me alone,” was Nick’s modest correction. “I have two able
assistants, and they have done as much of this work as I have.”

“Strange the secret-service men did not find them,” remarked Chick.

The detective laughed quietly, as he took a perfecto from his drawer
and clipped off the end.

“It was,” he admitted. “They would have found it soon, no doubt. But
Lieutenant Brockton certainly opened his official eyes when I told him
you and Patsy had discovered the den. It’s a feather in the caps of
both of you.”

“I should like to have seen him.”

“Brockton wanted to make a raid right away. But I persuaded him to
wait,” went on Nick. “I know what these raids are. There’s a forcible
entry, generally with the breaking down of an iron-lined door, which
attracts the attention of the whole neighborhood. Then there’s a rush,
and, as likely as not, the very man you want most of all gets away. No
raid for mine.”

The detective had his cigar alight by this time, and as he pulled at it
steadily, to make sure it would draw properly, he gathered up some of
his memoranda and stowed it away carefully in a secret recess under the
table.

“It’s true enough that raids don’t always work out well,” agreed Chick
thoughtfully. “We lost Bill the Bum just that way. And he got away with
about twenty thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry, too.”

“He was drowned in that wreck off Sandy Hook, though,” remarked Nick.
“So it didn’t do him much good. You remember that tramp steamer, the
_Lovely Maud_? It was in a collision with a tank steamer. The _Lovely
Maud_ went down like a stone, and Bill the Bum, with all his loot, went
down with her. Talking about raids, however, we may have to make one,
if our own plan doesn’t work out.”

“It will work out!” was Chick’s positive assertion.

“I hope so. Lieutenant Brockton and the chief of police in Jersey City
are willing to let me try, at all events.”

“And the scheme is to decoy them out one by one, and pinch them in
detail? Isn’t that it?”

“No. That would be too long and doubtful a process. I have promised
Brockton that you will let us quietly into the house.”

Chick started. He had not worked out the matter along those lines. At
least, he had not put it into those words, and he was not sure that he
could do what was required. But he did not raise any objection. He knew
better than to do that when his chief laid out a program.

“How am I to do it?” he asked calmly.

“I don’t know. That’s your business,” was the cool reply. “I shouldn’t
wonder if you will find it rather difficult. But it’s your business, as
I have said—not mine. I’ve promised in your name that you will do it,
so, of course, you have to manage it somehow or other.”

“Somehow or other?” murmured Chick inaudibly. “I wish I knew just how
it’s to be done.”

“We shall be ready a little before midnight,” continued his chief. “I
shall expect a sign from you that everything is clear for us.” He took
out his watch and looked at it thoughtfully. “I guess you’d better get
into your hobo outfit. By that time it will be nearly dark, and you can
get over to Jersey. By the time you are walking off the ferry on the
other side of the river, it will be as black a night as you can want.
Get busy as soon as you are over there.”

“I will.”

“And keep it in mind that, when once things begin to move, they have
to keep on rapidly till we have nabbed our man.”

Chick felt that he was being loaded with a heavy job. But it was
not his disposition to back down on anything. He had the fighting
disposition, and, besides, it pleased him that his chief had so much
confidence in him.

“I’ll make it or bust!” he declared.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                           IN THE OLD HOUSE.


Ten minutes’ skillful work in front of the mirror in his bedroom was
enough for Chick in which to transform himself into the character he
desired to assume.

He put on a shabby sack coat, a pair of overalls, with holes in them
here and there, showing old trousers underneath, a cap that came far
over his eyes. Also, he wore shoes which were patched, but which had no
holes in them, and were more comfortable than they looked. Chick was
always particular to wear shoes in which he could move easily.

He did not put anything on his face to change its appearance. It was
not necessary. The cap covered so much of his visage that it would not
be easy for anybody to recognize him at a casual glance. Around his
neck a dark-colored silk handkerchief did away with the need for a
collar and necktie.

He took the subway to Jersey City. Then he walked swiftly toward his
destination, on the outskirts of the city.

Salisbury Street is one of the darkest and most unfrequented
thoroughfares within sound of the trains on the Erie. There are
boarding houses and rooming houses in Salisbury Street, as on most
of the streets and avenues in that neighborhood. Tall, gloomy,
narrow-fronted houses abound—houses built long before the present
generation, when ornamentation was not so generally demanded in
residential architecture.

Each of these edifices has a deep basement, far underground, a
vaultlike yard, reached by iron steps, and the whole surrounded by a
rusty iron fence, giving the place a general resemblance to a wild
beast’s den.

Besides boarding and rooming, there are other businesses carried on
in Salisbury Street. A Chinese laundry occupies one basement, and a
cobbler another. Also, there are tinsmiths, plumbers, a delicatessen
store of uninviting aspect, and other commercial callings of a more or
less poverty-stricken look.

At one time this part of Jersey City was a favorite residence quarter
for families who sought to be exclusive, and, therefore, fashionable.
But the street has fallen from its high estate, as so many like it have
done in New York.

The house in which Chick was interested had a sign on the doorpost,
to the effect that it was an “Artistic Agency,” whatever that might
mean. There was nothing to explain it, except the sign, for most of
the windows, from top to bottom, were concealed by green-slatted
sun blinds. One or two, where the slats were broken away in places,
revealed dingy, yellowed window shades, pulled to the bottom of the
sash.

It was a double house, with an alleyway down one side. The building
jammed against it on the other side looked as if it had not been
tenanted for years.

Chick slipped down the steep, iron steps into the basement yard of the
empty house. It was not his first visit. That had been made several
days previously.

Under the high flight of steps leading to the front door was a door,
hidden in gloom even in the daytime. Now, at night, it was absolutely
black.

Through the keyhole of this door Chick blew two peculiar notes,
suggesting a cat courtship, only not so loud as one generally hears
during such meetings.

Hardly had the last of the second note ceased when a bolt was
noiselessly drawn back on the other side, and the door opened a little
way.

“How is it, Patsy?” whispered Chick.

“That you, Chick?”

“Of course. Still there?”

“You mean the guy who——”

“Hush!” interrupted Chick. “Never mind about details. We know who we
mean without mentioning names.”

“I wasn’t goin’ to mention names, Chick. Jumping Christopher! Don’t
you think I know my biz? He’s here, all right. I made sure of that as
soon as I got back, and he couldn’t have got away unless he went up
a chimney or by aëroplane. You can bet he’s still stowed away in the
crib, like a worm in last year’s hickory nut.”

“Well, you can take a walk around the block now, Patsy. There is no
reason why you should stay in this moldy hole while I’m investigating.
Go and get a breath of fog down by the river. There’s lots of it
to-night. But be back in half an hour, in case I hit on something
that I can’t handle altogether by myself. Besides, I may want you to
telephone the chief or something. Get me?”

“Sure I get you, but I don’t like it,” protested Patsy Garvan. “Why
can’t I stay here and lend a hand?”

“Because this part of the work can better be done by one than two. You
needn’t be afraid you won’t get your share of the fun. We are going to
have a hot time to-night, or I miss my guess.”

“I’ll be here in less than half an hour—a great deal less,” were
Patsy’s last words, as he went soundlessly up the steps, in obedience
to the orders of his superior officer. “Guess I’ll do a little picket
work on my own account,” he added to himself, when he reached the
foggy gloom of the street.

As soon as Chick was alone, he stood perfectly still for a few moments,
to get his bearings.

First, he closed and bolted the door. Then he reached about in the
darkness of the narrow hall until he fumbled against the banister of a
flight of stairs leading to the upper part of the house.

“I should like to have a light,” he muttered. “But it wouldn’t be safe.
I could snap on my pocket flash easily enough if I dared to do it. Ah!
Here’s a door open. This is the back parlor, looking over the yard.
Let’s see what chance there would be for the gang to get away if we
should decide to have a raid.”

He found the window so grimed that he could not make anything through
it, although the light of a street electric lamp shone across several
of the yards, including that of the empty house into which he had made
his way.

He rubbed one of the panes with the cuff of his coat, until he was able
to see through it in a fashion.

The view he obtained—such as it was, through the foggy darkness, with
the pale illumination of the high arc light—comprised that of four or
five small back yards, each divided from the other by a fairly high
board fence. At the back was a higher fence, extending the whole length
of the street, so far as he could discern. On the other side of this
rear fence could be made out the black stems and branches of some
jagged old elms, whose vitality had been destroyed by the sulphurous
fumes from the railroad and adjacent factories long ago.

“Hello!” he exclaimed in a low, threatening tone, as he took a small
blackjack from his coat pocket. “Who’s that? What are you snooping
about here for? Want to bring the cops down on us?”

To his astonishment, the response of the person he knew was in the room
came in the shape of a chuckle of decided amusement. This was followed
by the well-known tones of Patsy Garvan, in a whisper:

“It’s all right, Chick. This is Patsy!”

“It is?” exclaimed Chick, angry, but careful not to speak aloud. “And
what the blazes are you doing here? I told you to take a walk.”

“I know you did, and I’ve taken it. You didn’t say how far I was to
walk, and I don’t care for that kind of exercise, anyway. Why, Chick,”
he added, in more serious accents, “I _couldn’t_ stay out there while
you were nosin’ about in here, liable to get a crack on your bean at
any moment. I just _couldn’t_. I s’pose you’re mad, but I had to do it.”

“Come here!”

Patsy shuffled over to the other side of the room, where Chick’s voice
sounded. He did not know what he was going to get, but he expected it
would be a harsh rebuke. Instead, Chick felt for his hand and gave it a
hearty squeeze, as he whispered:

“Patsy, you’re the limit. But, as you’re here, keep quiet, and do what
I tell you.”

“I’ll do anything you tell me, unless you say I’m to get out,” replied
Patsy. “That’s where I’m liable to disobey orders, if it gets me a
licking.”

“Stay here on guard,” returned Chick quickly. “I’m going to see whether
those fellows in there suspect we are around.”

“I’d bet a pumpkin to a peanut they don’t,” rejoined Patsy confidently.

Without replying Chick opened a closet in a corner of the room, near
the window, and through which shone enough of the glow of the street
lamp to show him where it was.

Going inside, after a final warning to Patsy to keep his eyes open,
he closed the door, to exclude even the faint, murky glimmer from the
window, and felt against the wall at the back.

He had been told so clearly what he would find there, that he had his
fingers on a certain wad of paper on the wall almost at once.

This wad of paper was stuffed into a very small hole in the wall—which,
between the two houses, was only lath and plaster on the outside, with
the thickness of a single brick between, before it again became lath
and plaster in the other house.

To make the peephole properly, Patsy had selected a spot where the
bricks joined, with rotting mortar between them. The house was very
old, and mortar wears out in the course of years. He had used a long
file, as well as a knife, and had cut a hole between the brick and
the plastering on the other side, which, while small, was still large
enough to suit the purpose of Chick.

“By Jupiter!” was Chick’s breathless ejaculation, as he obtained a good
focus on the interior of the other room. “Here’s evidence—all we want!”

It was an interesting scene at which he gazed now. A workmen’s bench
was before him, with a powerful lamp, shaded, so that it threw a very
strong light upon the workbench.

Two men were seated at it, working on polished plates of copper that
Chick recognized at a glance as intended for the printing of bank
notes. The workmen were so absorbed in their work, that even if he had
made a slight noise—which he didn’t—when he pulled out the plug of
crumpled paper, they would not have heard it.

These two busy engravers were not the only persons in the room. There
were other men in plain view of Chick.

One was sorting and examining a large pile of bank
notes—counterfeits—holding each one against the light, and scrutinizing
it narrowly, before he would pronounce it “safe.”

The fourth man—a burly fellow, who must have weighed more than two
hundred pounds—was working a roller press at the farther side of the
room. Chick could not see the denomination of the bills, of course, but
he heard the big man growl that “these centuries don’t look as good as
some we’ve done.”

“Hundred-dollar bills, eh?” muttered Chick. “The scoundrels!”

These four were all industriously working. If their occupation had
been legitimate, he might have admired them for the way they kept
everlastingly at it.

But there was another person, making the fifth, in the place, who did
not show even the doubtful virtue of exerting himself like the others.
He was the personification of laziness and worthlessness, for he was
lolling in a rickety rocking-chair, and yawning as if he were too tired
to live.

Chick found himself wondering why some of the others did not lift him
out of the rocker and bestow a good, swift kick where it would do the
most good.

He was not at all a bad-looking fellow. His features were clean cut
and rather aristocratic, and he seemed to be intelligent, so far as
Chick could judge. His clothes were of a fashionable cut, and he wore
them as if used to expensive raiment. Certainly, there was nothing of
the laborer. It would have been difficult to imagine him laboring at
anything—except, perhaps, scheming.

“There you are, Mr. T. Burton Potter,” remarked Chick, apostrophizing
the elegant idler. “I guess you’re not likely to do it, either, now
that we have got thus far on the case.”

He pushed the wad of paper back into the peephole, and let himself out
of the closet to the room where Patsy was still on guard.

“Seen anybody, Patsy?”

“Not a soul. Have you?”

Chick chuckled softly, as he laid a hand on Patsy to keep him quiet.

“I’ve seen several persons, Patsy. Among them is the man the chief is
so anxious to take, T. Burton Potter.”

“I wonder why the chief is so bent on getting him,” remarked Patsy as,
with Chick, they tiptoed to the door of the parlor, and stood for a
moment in the dark hall.

“He has a good reason, you may be sure of that.”

“I don’t doubt it, but it puzzles me, all the same. This Potter is only
the ‘shover’ for the gang. He can put over phony money easier than any
of the others, because he has the front. But that doesn’t explain why
the chief should think he is of so much more importance than any of the
others. It looks as if there must be something behind it that we don’t
know.”

“What do you mean?”

Patsy snorted defiantly.

“The chief wants T. Burton Potter for other reasons than because he is
passing fake bills. That’s what I think. And I believe down in your
heart you think so, too.”

“Well, if I do, I have sense enough to keep quiet about it,” was
Chick’s rejoinder. “And you’d better do the same. When Nick Carter is
working out a case on his own plan and in accordance with theories of
his own, it isn’t for us, his assistants, to interfere with him. When
he is ready to spring his trap, we shall know what his real purpose is.
One thing we do know, and that is that we are to make sure the trap
holds T. Burton Potter when it is sprung.”

“Well, we’ll do that, all right,” returned Patsy confidently.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                         THROUGH THE CELLARS.


“We’ll go to the basement, Patsy. There are some points I want to clear
up before going any further with this case. Keep close behind me, now
that you insist on being here, and don’t do anything unless I tell you.”

“All right!”

“I mean what I say,” whispered Chick, more sternly. “I don’t quite like
the way you said ‘all right.’ It seemed to me you were treating my
orders rather lightly.”

“No, I wasn’t,” denied Patsy in a hurt tone. “I always do as I’m told,
don’t I? And when you’re in charge of a case, I regard you as the
chief’s representative, and I take as much notice of what you say as if
you were Nick Carter himself.”

“These two houses are exactly alike, from what I can see,” mused Chick
aloud, as they slowly descended to the basement again. “What do you
know about it, Patsy?”

“I’d bet on it,” was the curt response.

“That’s what I think. We’ll go lower this time.”

“In the cellar?”

“Yes. The cellar stairs are under these, and the door is not locked. Be
careful you don’t stumble.”

“I’ll look out,” returned Patsy. “I don’t want to break my neck by
going down headfirst.”

“It isn’t that. But you might make a noise that would attract
attention—that’s all.”

Patsy shrugged his shoulders at this remark. But it was too dark for
Chick to see the gesture. Nor did he hear the whispered observation of
his companion.

“What does my neck matter, so long as we don’t spoil the case? That is
a businesslike way to look at it, anyhow.”

Once in the spacious cellar, with the door above closed, Chick
announced that it would be safe to use a light.

“Bring out your electric flash, Patsy, and I’ll use mine. That’s right.
We’ll take a general observation down here. There are three or four
cellars opening out of each other. We’ll go over into that one next to
the other house.”

Many empty bottles and some wooden boxes that had held bottles of beer
were scattered about.

“Help me pile some boxes over in this corner against the wall, Patsy. I
want to stand on them.”

The work was soon done. Then Chick told Patsy to turn out his light and
stand still, keeping his ears open the while.

The roof of the cellar was formed by the floor above, and the heavy
joists, crossing from side to side, rested upon its walls. This left
spaces between each pair of joists at the top of the wall.

“If I’m not entirely mistaken,” thought Chick, “I’ll be able to see
something through those spaces.”

Standing on top of the piled-up wooden cases, he peered through the
opening. All was blackness on the other side, and he decided that it
would be safe to use his electric flash.

The white glow of his flash showed him that there was another cellar on
the opposite side of the wall, very much like the one which Patsy and
he were in.

“I’ve got to get through there, Patsy,” he announced, as he came down
to the floor. “But it’s going to be tough. I couldn’t squeeze through
that hole, nor come anywhere near it.”

“What are you goin’ to do, then?”

“Make it larger. I came prepared for something of this kind. I have a
few tools belonging to ‘Fisher the Engineer,’ who is rusticating at
Sing Sing or Auburn at the present time. He was an expert burglar, and
he had the neatest outfit of tools I ever saw. The police gave them to
the chief, at his request, and I have some of them in my pocket.”

Chick produced a three-jointed crowbar of fine steel, and then brought
out a shorter one, in two pieces, which he fitted together and handed
to Patsy.

“Pull out those bricks at the top, Patsy. We’ll tackle one at a time
simultaneously, and our combined strength, with the leverage we shall
get with these ‘jimmies,’ ought to make it easy.”

Chick’s prediction was sound. It took ten minutes of hard, rather dirty
work. But the young men had tackled hard work before in the course of
their profession, and it did not trouble them.

When, at last, they had bricks enough out to make room for Chick to get
through, they chuckled softly in unison.

“I’ll go first, Patsy. If I can make it, there is sure to be room
enough for you. Here goes!”

From the top of the boxes Chick crawled through, feet first. He had to
go that way, or he would have tumbled in on his head, which would have
been uncomfortable, and, perhaps, dangerous.

“All right, Patsy!” he called softly, when he had disappeared through
the hole. “Now you come. Don’t be afraid. I’ll catch you as you come
in. It will be easier for you than it was for me.”

“Ah! What are you givin’ us, Chick?” rejoined Patsy disgustedly. “Am I
ever scared at anything?”

Patsy Garvan had a right to say this, for a more fearless young
American it would be hard to find in a day’s march. He did not realize,
at the moment, that Chick was only “kidding” him.

Chick eased him to the floor and chuckled.

“What are you laughing about, Chick?”

“At you.”

“Why, what have I done that’s funny?” demanded Patsy.

“Getting mad because I told you not to be afraid.”

“Well, how would you like to have anybody hand a thing like that to
you? If a strange guy passed me such a crack, I’d push in his face,”
grunted the disgusted Patsy.

“I don’t blame you,” laughed Chick. “And I know that is just what you
would do. But I was only joking. You ought to have known that. Give me
your hand.”

Patsy Garvan laughed softly, and, turning on his electric flash, so
that he could see what they were doing, he gave his hand to Chick, and
they shook with the heartiness of comrades who knew they always could
depend on each other, no matter what happened.

“What’s the move now, Chick?”

“We have to get a little closer to the gang. This is going to be the
_real_ part of the work.”

“A scrap?” whispered Patsy hopefully.

“Shouldn’t wonder.”

“Good! Fists—or guns?”

“No guns!” replied Chick quickly. “We don’t want noise. Use your fists
if it comes to a show-down. Or any weapon you can get hold of that
doesn’t make a racket? Get me?”

Patsy only chuckled. It was not necessary for him to say in words that
he understood.



                              CHAPTER X.

                            INVESTIGATION.


Hastening up a flight of steps that were a replica of the steps in the
cellar of the empty house, Chick found that the door at the top was
securely fastened.

“Just what I expected,” he muttered. “But I guess I can get it open.
There’s only a wooden button on the other side. I might break the door
right through, but it would make too much noise. My knife will fix it.”

One of the blades of his jackknife was long and thin. He thrust this
between the door and the jamb, and pushed the button out of the way.

“Ridiculously easy!” he said to himself. Then, to Patsy: “We have to
get at the outer doors, you know—the one into the kitchen regions, as
well as the other on the main floor. The worst of it is that they are
on the other side of the house. We’ll have to make our way there. Or,
rather, I shall.”

“What about me?” asked Patsy.

“Stay where you are, in the dark. It will be better to have you ready
in case I need help, than to let you get into the muss with me. Don’t
you see that?”

“I s’pose you’re right,” grumbled Patsy. “But I don’t like this waitin’
game. Maybe I won’t get into it at all. Things are always breakin’
wrong for me. Just when I’m all primed up for a rough-house, I’m put on
guard duty, like a boy at a henroost. Holy Perkins! It’s tough!”

Chick did not stop to argue with his companion. It was clear that if
Nick Carter and three or four policemen were to get into the house,
they could not take the time to dribble through the opening in the
cellar wall by which Chick and Patsy had made their way from one cellar
to the other.

When they came up the steps from the cellar, they were on the basement
floor, level with the bottom of the courtyard in front of the house,
and below what was known as the parlor floor, with its main hall
leading to the principal door to the street, at the top of the stone
steps outside.

Passing along the stone-floored hallway, after making sure that Patsy
was out of sight at the door by which they had come up from the cellar,
Chick found a door closed, but under which could be seen a line of
dusky red light.

He realized that he was coming near to the heart of the mystery he and
Nick had set out to solve.

Feeling for the latch, he discovered, with a thrill of satisfaction,
that it was not fastened. He lifted it without difficulty and also
absolutely without sound. Then he took a peep through the crack he had
made when he pushed the door a little way open.

At first, he hesitated to open the door even wide enough to permit him
to peep in. He remembered the five men he had seen in the other room on
the floor above, and it would not have surprised him to find as many
working down here in the cellar.

But the room was empty, although evidence that somebody was close at
hand was not wanting.

It was a large apartment, that looked in a general way like a kitchen.
Only, there was no kitchen range, nor pots, pans, or dishes—at least,
no utensils such as are generally employed in an ordinary dwelling
house in the culinary quarters.

A large pine table was the only piece of furniture. There was not even
a chair to be seen.

On the table was an electric battery, an iron ladle, a few tools, and
some slabs of white plaster of oblong form.

Over the table glimmered a gas jet turned too low to yield any light.
The red glow that Chick had seen under the door came from a large,
square stove of peculiar make, which stood out a little way from the
wall opposite the door by which he had entered.

“That stove was never made for honest use,” thought Chick. “You could
not even cook an egg on that thing. And I’m betting with myself that
I know just what that stove is doing in this place. It’s cooking new
money, or I’m a long way off in my guess.”

There were two other doors in the room. One of them, he judged, led
into the house, while the other probably connected with the stone
hallway ending at the outer door to the front yard.

“I hear boiling metal hissing on that stove,” he muttered. “The work is
going on, all right. Why, yes! I see the crucible sunk into the stove.
I _knew_ that stove was built for only one kind of use.”

He went over to the door he believed led to the other part of the
house, and found it locked, but the key in the door.

“That’s lucky! I didn’t want to have to stop to break it open. Besides,
it would have made a big noise, and I don’t know how many men may be
close by.”

Once outside the door, which he closed softly as soon as he was
through, he switched on his electric light. What he found was what he
had expected. In one direction were the stairs leading upward to the
“parlor floor,” and in the other was the outer door to the front yard.
Farther along the wall he saw the door into the room he had just left,
so that it was possible to get to the yard by both exits.

“Now for the yard door,” he said to himself inaudibly. “It’s locked, no
doubt.”

He was right about this. The door—a very heavy one, evidently built to
resist possible attack—was locked, and there was a heavy, rusty bolt
pushed into a massive socket.

Chick could have picked the lock and withdrawn the bolt. That would not
have been a long or difficult operation. But he had had experiences of
this kind before. Therefore, he took another course.

“That rusty bolt would screech like a jackass in agony,” he murmured.
“I could never get it out of the socket without proclaiming to the
whole street what I was doing. I’ll take the liberty of using some
others of the ‘Engineer’s’ tools. I’m glad he is in the den, or he
might be doing something with them, instead of my making honest use of
them.”

Chick grinned at his own conceit, as he took out a mechanical,
automatic screw driver from the canvas bag in which he kept the
implements, each in its own little pocket. With this screw driver he
rapidly took out the screws that held the massive socket of the bolt.
Then he removed the ponderous box of the lock in the same way.

Chick was a good mechanic. He would not have suited Nick Carter
otherwise. So he did his work not only swiftly, but noiselessly, and in
a workmanlike manner. A regular locksmith could not have done it better.

“I’ll have to get back to Patsy, and send him out to telephone,” he
said to himself, when he was satisfied that the outer door to the yard
was not held by anything save the swelling wood, which kept it jammed
against the doorpost, but not too firmly to be dislodged with one good
push. “Let’s see! The chief told me just as I was coming out that he
would be at police headquarters in Jersey City. I wonder whether I’d
better telephone, or whether it wouldn’t be safer to let Patsy go
there.”

He might have asked this of Patsy, only that he preferred to make up
his mind from circumstances, rather than on the advice of anybody—even
so shrewd a young fellow as Patsy Garvan.

When he had made his way back across the room where the metal still
simmered on the funny-looking stove, and was at the door where he had
left Patsy, he had determined on what should be done.

“Patsy!”

“That’s me!”

“Anything happened?”

“Not a thing. As peaceful as West Point on a summer afternoon.”

“Well, get out and see the chief.”

“_See_ him? I thought I was to telephone.”

“I thought so, too, until I had time to think it over.”

“New York?”

“_No!_” growled Chick irritably. “And don’t pretend to be a bonehead,
Patsy, because I know better. I’m talking about the Jersey City
headquarters. Get to the chief, and tell him he can come right in by
the door in the yard at the front of the house. Understand?”

“When you say ‘chief,’ you don’t mean the chief of police of Jersey
City, do you?”

Patsy did not wait for a reply. He just flung this question at Chick
to make him mad. Then he hustled away to deliver his message to Nick
Carter, who was always _the_ chief to himself and Chick.

Patsy had to squeeze through the hole in the cellar wall, but that was
easy.

“When I get time, I’ll take Patsy to Central Park and dump him
headfirst into the lake at a Hundred and Tenth Street,” muttered Chick.
“He’s aching for excitement, and he needs cooling off.”

Chick decided that it might take twenty minutes for Patsy to reach
headquarters and bring Nick and the police back. In the meantime, he
might as well rest a little.

First he went into the back parlor and took another look through the
peephole in the closet at the workmen in the other room. There was no
change in the scene. The engravers and others were still busy, while T.
Burton Potter continued to loll in the rocker, as if he had not a care
in the world.

“A change will come o’er the spirit of his dream before he goes to
bed,” was Chick’s inward remark, with a slow smile. “He may as well be
as comfortable as he can while the wind blows his way. Lord! He is a
lazy-looking loafer! Well, I’ll get to the other house, through that
infernal cellar hole.”

In spite of the fact that there would be an exciting time for Chick
in the course of half an hour or so—or, perhaps, because of it—he
was quite able to compose himself for a nap without allowing future
business to worry him.

He went up the stairs to a back room, where Patsy Garvan had rigged
up a sort of couch for himself while on watch in the house the night
before. It was composed of an empty box and some burlap. Anybody who
happened to be fastidious might have found it unsatisfactory. But it
suited Chick. He was glad to have anything big enough for him to lie
down on.

“There’s one thing about this profession of ours,” he soliloquized,
“that you don’t find in every kind of work. That is, its variety, as
well as its excitement. A fellow never gets dull or lonesome. If he
did, I don’t think he would be any good as a detective.”

Chick looked at the dirty windows, through which glimmered the faintest
reflection from the street arc light already referred to, and was
wondering, in a dreamy sort of way, how many feet it would be from the
window to the ground, in case it should become advisable or necessary
for him to jump out, when he sprang to his feet abruptly, and relieved
himself of the two words, “Blithering idiot!”

As no one was in the room but himself, it might have been a matter of
speculation as to whom he referred, if he had not proceeded rapidly to
make it clear.

“I am an ass—with long ears! I left that door open—the one leading from
the kitchen to the stone hall and front yard door. I know I did. It
was shut and locked, with the key in the door. Why in thunder didn’t I
lock it when I came through? I guess I must have been in too much of a
hurry. If any one goes into that room and sees the door, the beans will
all be spilled, that’s sure.”

The detective knew it would not be long before somebody would be in
the kitchen, to look at the crucible. The door would be found open—and
then—— Well, he did not stop to think about what would probably happen
in that case. He hustled out of the room and down the stairs.

It was quite a trip back to the kitchen. He had to go to the
sub-basement, to the cellar, and squeeze through the hole where the
bricks had been taken out. Then he would have to climb stairs and make
his way through doors, and at every step he might meet from one to six
men, who would kill him with as little compunction as they would smash
a mosquito.

“Fine prospect!” muttered Chick. “But—it’s all in the game!”

He gained the kitchen without interference. The molten metal still
simmered on the stove. Everything was just as he had seen it on his
previous visit. Best of all, nobody was in the place. The person,
whoever he might be in charge of the metal, was still attending to
matters elsewhere.

“The confounded door over there is still open,” continued Chick to
himself. “Just as I left it. Well, I’ll soon fix that.”

He hastened across the room, closed and locked the door, leaving the
key in the door, as before.

“Don’t know how I came to do that! It isn’t like me to forget a door
when I’m in a place full of crooks. I shouldn’t like the chief to know
I’d done it. He’d think I’m going dippy. Well, it’s all right now.
That’s a great comfort.”

He was halfway across the room to the door by which he had entered,
when the latch clicked, and he saw it jump up, indicating that somebody
was pressing it down on the other side.

“Trapped!” muttered Chick. “Cut off, by Jupiter! Now what am I to do?”



                              CHAPTER XI.

                               THE RAID.


Chick was thinking at electric speed as he hesitated for a second in
the middle of the floor.

He was in a bad fix, and he knew it. Only, it was not his habit to cry
over spilled milk. What he wanted to do was to hit on some method of
meeting the crisis.

If he could have got down to the front yard of the house he was in, he
would have done that. But there was no time for him to unlock and open
the door he had just secured. He would be caught before he could pass
through.

Even if there were any possibility of his escaping from the room in
that way, the stranger, who was already opening the other door, would
see that it was still open, for Chick certainly would not have time to
close it.

This may seem a great deal for Chick to think in the instant required
for a person to open a door after pushing down the latch. But a whole
lifetime has been reviewed in a fraction of a minute, and Chick’s brain
was working like a dynamo in this moment of deadly danger.

He must do something, and quickly. He did.

At the very moment that the door opened, he sprang to the stove and
crouched down between it and the wall. He had noticed, from the first,
that a space of a few feet had been left there, so that the heat of the
stove would not set fire to the wall.

This was the one possible place of concealment in the gaunt, bare room,
and it was not much of a one, at that. And it was hot—cruelly hot!

Squeezing himself into as small a space as he could, he peeped
cautiously around the edge of the stove from the deep shadow that
helped to conceal him.

“Holy mackerel!” he muttered. “This is a bright prospect. That man
looks as if he were here for all night!”

It was the gigantic fellow he had seen working at the roller press in
the room overhead. He seemed to have no fear of anybody being present
besides himself, as he crossed the room to the table, and turned up the
gas.

“What’s he going to do?” thought Chick. “Just as I supposed. He’s
settling down for a long stay. And I’m roasting at the back of this
stove. Great Scott! I feel as if I were done to a turn already. He’ll
get the smell of me cooking before long. I can smell myself.”

The big man had taken up one of the plaster molds and was trimming it
off with a knife. He worked as composedly as anybody might who was
following a perfectly legitimate trade.

“Whew!” burst from Chick’s lips.

It was only an expression of pain and discomfort, and it was not loud;
this was fortunate, for the big man started as if he believed he heard
something, but was not quite sure.

He stared about the room for a moment, during which period Chick
huddled back into the heat of the recess behind the stove and prepared
himself for a fight, but seemed satisfied that he had not heard
anything except in his fancy.

“All kinds of funny noises can be heard in the night in an old house
like this,” he remarked aloud, as he resumed his work. “I’ll be glad
when this night’s work is over, all the same. I’m pretty nearly all in.”

“So am I,” thought Chick. “I don’t believe I can stand this another
half minute. I’m almost touching the hot stove, and the heat is
something fierce. I hope the chief will understand that I’ve had a
tough time of it. A fellow likes to get credit for an experience like
this.”

His clothing began to scorch, the flesh of his face and hands felt
seared, in spite of all his efforts to protect them, and in addition
to this torture, was the sickening effect of the poisonous fumes which
were given off at every crevice of the stove.

“I’m about all in,” murmured Chick, as he tried to find a position a
little farther away from the stove, without betraying himself. “I can
begin to understand how people have felt who were burned at the stake.
Hello! Here comes that big lummox to put on more heat.”

Indeed, the big man was approaching, but it was apparent that he had no
suspicion of anybody else being in the room. He whistled softly as he
came forward.

After tending the fire—for which Chick inwardly cursed him—he stirred
the pot of metal with a steel rod. By this time Chick was compelled to
crouch closer to the awful stove, to keep out of view of the big man.

“Good thing there is a black shadow back here,” thought Chick. “But for
that he must have seen me.”

The fellow went back to his table and resumed work there. His manner
was that of one who had a long night’s work ahead of him, and Chick had
difficulty in repressing a loud groan.

“If the chief and the police would come!” he prayed. “That’s about my
only hope!”

He listened eagerly to catch the slightest sound from the hall leading
to the stairs to the cellar. If he could have heard anything, he would
have felt pretty sure that the raiding party had arrived.

Suddenly he believed he could make out the shuffling of feet in the
hall. He was not sure, but he thought the sound of feet, as well as of
men whispering, came to him.

“If this big man at the table hears it, too, then there will be a
circus. I’ll take a wallop at him myself, so long as I know I have
friends to see that I get a square deal.”

Chick did not want any more than an equal chance. In fact, he was
willing to give some odds. But he did not think he was called upon to
give cards and spades, big and little casino, and everything else, to
the enemy.

But it seemed now as if he must take a big, sporting chance.

Just as he was gathering the little strength he had left, to make a
desperate attempt to overcome the giant at the table, he was sure he
had heard a noise in the hall. There was no mistake about it now. Not
only in the hall, but upstairs!

The man at the table glanced upward, with a quick start of alarm. From
his throat came a low, angry oath.

“The cops!” he added savagely.

Clutching the long knife he had been using for trimming the plaster
molds, he dashed to the door by which he had entered and hurled himself
out of the room.

“Well, I’m glad they’ve come!” gasped Chick. “It may be too late to do
me any good, but they’ll get even for me if I have to pass it up. By
Grimshaw, I believe I’m dying!”

Things were reeling around him, and it was only by coming in contact
for an instant with a corner of the hot stove that he was saved from
swooning. He did not realize it at the time, but doubtless that was the
way the sudden sting acted.

Crawling out from behind the furnace, he staggered to the door. He
wanted to be in the mix-up, if only he could contrive to keep on his
feet.

“I won’t follow that fellow,” was his half-conscious, inward resolve.
“But I’ll take it the other way—if only I can get the door open before
I drop. This room is full of sulphur, and it seems to be getting
thicker.”

This was not really the case, but Chick had inhaled so much of the
deadly vapor that he felt as if he could not stand any more, and each
moment it had a worse effect upon him.

Fortunately, he contrived to unlock the door, and lurched into the
hallway beyond.

The stairs to the cellar were before him. Avoiding them, he made his
way toward where fresh air was streaming in at the open yard door.

“Air!” he panted.

As he reached the doorway, he uttered an ejaculation of relief—and
found himself in the grip of a pair of powerful arms. He had been
seized by one of the policemen.

“All right, Bob!” shouted the officer, giving Chick a shake as
involuntarily he attempted to pull away. “I have one of them!”

“Let go, you dub!” gasped Chick. “Don’t you know who I am?”

“Sure I do. But I don’t want the story of your life. Tell that to the
captain when I get you to the station.”

He felt a row of knuckles grinding into the back of his neck. Under
ordinary conditions, when he was himself, Chick could have made some
sort of fight. Probably he would have done so, even though he knew it
was useless to oppose a good policeman in the performance of his duty.

As it was, however, being sick and faint, and having hardly any
strength, he suddenly collapsed, like an empty sack, in the hands of
the blue-coated captor.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                       NICK SPRINGS A SURPRISE.


During all this excitement, Patsy was trying to find out where Chick
was.

Patsy had found Nick and Lieutenant Brockton, in charge of the squad
that was to take part in the raid, sitting in the captain’s room,
smoking and wondering how long it would be before Chick would give them
the signal.

They had expected it by telephone—that having been the orders to
Chick—and the lieutenant hardly ever took his eyes off the instrument
on the desk before him.

When Patsy came bounding in, after a brief explanation to the sergeant
behind the desk, Nick was glad his young assistant had taken this
course. It enabled Nick, as well as the lieutenant, to get a better
idea of the situation than if they had had it over a wire. Besides,
this way made it certain there could not be any “leak.”

Lieutenant Brockton did not quite like putting himself and the
policemen told off to him under the orders of Nick Carter. But
the detective would not consent to any other arrangement, and the
lieutenant was obliged to comply. He could not afford to antagonize
Carter, who seemed to have a knowledge of everything in the underworld,
although he never boasted of it.

As they hurried to the house on foot—for Nick would not allow the use
of a patrol wagon, which would have attracted general attention—Patsy
gave the detective a very good idea of the general plan of the house.

“It’s just a few little things that ought to make it easier to put one
over on the gang,” he explained. “You can’t know too much about a house
when you are going to get in suddenlike,” he added, with his usual
good-humored grin.

“You’re quite right, Patsy,” agreed Nick. “And, as you say, the point
we have to look out for particularly is at the back. They might go
scooting over the back fence and get away by the other street.”

Lieutenant Brockton stationed a couple of his youngest and most agile
men in the back yard. They were down the alley at the side, and climbed
over the side fence.

A third man was placed in the alley, to remain there, and two more went
into the front yard, below the level of the street. It was one of these
two who afterward distinguished himself by capturing Chick.

The remaining three men, with the lieutenant and Nick Carter, went into
the house, going in by the front yard door, which Chick had carefully
left unfastened, as has been described.

Carter was in the lead. He pushed open the door in the yard without
difficulty, and swiftly mounted to the floor above, where the artists
in rascality were at work.

They found the room at once. It was the only one which showed a light
under the door. Listening intently, they made out voices and the click
of tools inside.

“Now,” whispered Nick to the men behind him. “Follow close when I open
the door. Don’t give them time to rally from their first surprise! Get
all that?”

“We have it,” grunted the lieutenant. “Drive on, Carter!”

The detective turned the handle without any sound, and flung the door
wide open.

“Drop everything!” he commanded, in sharp, metallic tones.

He had stepped into the room as coolly as if he lived there. The
lieutenant and his men were on his heels, and they were prepared to
subdue any of the operators who might show signs of resistance.

For a moment there was nothing of the kind. The surprise was complete.
The advent of the detective and his men had been like a thunderbolt
dropped into this hive of misdirected industry.

The two men still at work on the polished plates at the bench leaped up
as if their chairs had suddenly become red-hot. The fellow who had been
examining and passing upon the spurious bills sprang into the middle
of the room. With the movement, he scattered thousands of dollars’
worth of phony money, like leaves in a wintry gale. At the same time he
grunted a fierce but futile oath.

“Don’t make any fuss, gentlemen!” begged Nick blandly. “You are all
prisoners! Lieutenant, you and your men attend to these parties. I have
something else to look after.”

“All right, Carter.” Then, to the prisoners, the lieutenant went on:
“The house is covered, back and front. Don’t try to make a get-away. If
you do, some of you will get hurt, as sure as you’re here!”

“Here! Quit that!” shouted Nick. “Look out, lieutenant!”

The detective had seen one of the raided counterfeiters reaching for
an iron bar under the bench, and he gave instant warning. None of the
others had noticed the movement, but the detective had sharp eyes and
sharp wits. He was not to be fooled by any such attempt as this.

Without waiting for the lieutenant or his men to take action, Nick
sprang upon the rascal even as he shouted. By the time Brockton and his
men had hurled themselves into the fracas, Nick had taken away the bar
of iron, and the man who had wielded it was lying on his back.

But Nick did not give much time to this little incident. He disposed
of it as a matter of course, and, having seen that the man was in the
hands of two of the policemen, he turned to the rocker in which the
elegant T. Burton Potter still slumbered as sweetly as if he had been
in a comfortable bed in a silent room. He seemed to have heard nothing
of the noise of the raid.

“This will end a puzzling case,” muttered the detective, as he pushed
his way through the struggling men—for all of the bench workers were at
grips with the police by this time. “Who would have expected this? If I
can only get to him before he wakes, why I can——”

But Nick was not to have so much luck. The man who called himself T.
Burton Potter was a very wide-awake young man, indeed, when once he
_was_ awake. At a glance he saw what had occurred. He knew there was a
police raid, and he did not want to stay and see how it would come out.
He preferred to find his way out himself.

“Deuce take him!” muttered Nick. “He always was as quick as a cat!
If he’d only stand still for a second, he’d save me a great deal of
trouble—and himself, too.”

But T. Burton Potter did not see it that way. Leaping from his chair,
he swung it around, so that it would be right in the detective’s way,
and pushed in between the bench and press.

Nick was not foiled by the chair, however. Agile as a panther,
he placed one hand lightly on the back of the chair, and vaulted
completely over it, at the same moment stretching forth a hand to seize
Potter.

But Potter had vaulted over the table and was through the doorway
before the detective could get him, notwithstanding that he leaped over
the table just the splinter of a second behind the man he wanted to
capture.

But the rascal’s luck was with him. He reached the top of a long flight
of stairs to the basement, and went down them in a huddled heap, part
of the time on his feet, and the rest of it rolling down like a ball.

Again Carter was so close to him that he almost had him, when a big
man, with a knife in his hand, rushed up from the bottom, and came
right between them.

It was the man Chick had seen trimming off the plaster molds in the old
kitchen, while the metal boiled on the stove that had so nearly been
the death of Carter’s principal assistant.

“Look out, Davis! The cops!” bellowed T. Burton Potter. “It’s a raid!
Hand him one! Croak him!”

The big man, whose name, it seemed, was Davis, made a lunge at Nick
with his long, dirty knife.

The detective was too quick for him, however. Dodging the knife stroke,
he feinted with his right fist, and then sent his left straight into
Davis’ face, between the eyes.

The blow was a magnificent one from a boxer’s point of view. Not only
did it send Davis down the few stairs up which he had come, but it
drove him six or eight feet along the hall.

It was not altogether satisfactory to Nick, however. He had to dispose
of the big man, of course. But, in the meantime, T. Burton Potter was
getting away.

Flying up the stairs, three at a time, the elegant-appearing crook ran
into the first room he came to, which looked over the back yard.

Skipping to the window, he unlatched the sash and threw it wide open.
He intended to drop out to the back yard. But just as he was ready to
do so, he saw two officers waiting to receive him, and he ran back into
the room.

“Euchred that way!” he muttered. “But I don’t know. There are others.
They haven’t landed me yet.”

By this time Nick was at the doorway. He was just in time to see
Potter’s head and shoulders in outline against the dim light of the
window, and made a spring to make him prisoner.

There was a derisive chuckle, and Potter slithered around the dark
walls of the room. The next moment, as Nick advanced to the center of
the chamber, Potter had slipped out of the door.

“Confound the fellow! I almost had him!” exclaimed Nick, in a low tone,
and half inclined to laugh at the slipperiness of the fellow. “He’s
gone! Well, I’ll have to begin all over again. If he knew what I wanted
him for, perhaps it would be different. But I can’t tell him till I’ve
had a chance to talk to him and make a few notes for comparison.”



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                       NICK CARTER’S QUIET HAND.


What Nick meant by the last words he had uttered, no doubt he could
have told. As no one heard them, and he was talking to himself, anyhow,
presumably it was nobody else’s business what he meant.

That there was something behind the detective’s willingness to take
part in such a raid as this, both Chick and Patsy were sure, but
neither knew just what it was. There were some things that the chief
did not tell even to his most trusted employees.

That there had been a development in the room raided which had
disturbed for the moment even the steady poise of the great detective,
none knew but himself.

In T. Burton Potter he had recognized one of the men he most wanted to
get hold of just now. The other was Andrew Lampton, but he felt that
he could let the hunt for Lampton go for the present, until he had his
hands on the elegant Potter.

What was Potter doing while Nick laughed at the cleverness of his
escape from the room? Well, he was trying to achieve a get-away under
extremely difficult circumstances.

Once clear of the room where he had managed to give the detective the
slip, he made a half turn toward the downward flight of stairs. But
another officer showed himself at the bottom. So he swung around and
dashed up the stairs to the floor above.

In the darkness, Nick was not sure whether his man had gone up or down.
This involved another loss of a few moments. But his keen ear soon told
him where Potter was, and up the stairs he went after his man.

T. Burton Potter heard his pursuer, and he did not dodge into any more
rooms. Instead, he continued up the stairs, flight after flight, with
one last, desperate hope in his heart—just one! That was that he might
escape by way of the roof.

He had one advantage over Nick, in that he knew the house well, while
this was the first visit of the detective.

Aided by this fact, and by the darkness, with many twists and turns
at landings and on the stairs themselves, T. Burton Potter was in the
garret at about thirty seconds ahead of Nick.

He lost half that gain in unbolting a trapdoor and forcing it open, so
that he could crawl through to the roof. It was a serious loss to him,
for the detective almost had him by the legs as he clambered through.
Before he could slam down the trap door, Nick was out on the roof after
him.

It is not an uncommon thing for detectives and uniformed police
officers to chase crooks over roofs. Some thrilling experiences of this
kind could be related by a great many policemen, but each story of the
pursuit of some desperado over the roofs of skyscrapers has features of
its own that make it stand out from all others.

It was so in this case.

The detective took a hasty survey, and saw that, while the roofs ran
along over the two houses, that was as far as they did go. Every two
houses were separated from the next two by the width of a narrow alley
like that in which policemen were waiting below to catch any of the
fugitives from the raid.

“Come back! Don’t be a fool!” shouted Nick.

The man he was after had dashed along the roof, and now was standing
on the low parapet which protected the roof on the side where it was
divided from the next house by the alley.

T. Burton Potter glanced back for an instant. He could make out the
form of the detective dimly in the darkness. Then, without reply, he
put all his strength into a tremendous leap, and went off the parapet!

“Great heavens!” exclaimed Nick. “He couldn’t jump that. At least, I
don’t see how he could. It is not less than nine feet, and he hadn’t
any run to help him.”

So sure was the detective that Potter could not have jumped the gap
that he hurried down the stairs to the parlor floor, where he met
Brockton.

“Got them all, Brockton?”

“All except Lampton and that fellow you were after. I mean, the dude
who was sleeping in the chair. Where is he?”

“Jumped off the roof. He’s in the alley at the side of the house. Send
some of your men to look. He tried to leap from one roof to the next.
That was craziness. He couldn’t do it, of course. And he took such a
risk for the sake of avoiding a term in prison. Why, it’s sixty feet.
There can’t be anything left of him.”

But not a vestige of Potter could they find, and Nick could believe
only that he had really made the seeming impossible leap.

When the prisoners had been safely conveyed to the police station,
to be dealt with in due course by the government officers, Nick went
around there himself, to make his report of what had taken place under
his supervision.

That was merely a dry, official proceeding, and Nick, wearied of
the whole business, and more disgusted than he would have cared to
acknowledge over the way T. Burton Potter had escaped him, was about
to go out of the station to the taxi he had ordered, when Brockton
remarked casually:

“We have one prisoner who has a queer story to tell. He says he is your
assistant?”

“What?” shouted Nick.

“He’s a young fellow. We didn’t see him in the room with the others.
But he’s one of the gang. He was trying to slip out of the door into
the front when one of my men grabbed him.”

“Where is he?”

Nick interrupted the narration curtly, and a black frown gathered over
his keen eyes and brought his heavy brows together.

“In a cell, of course.”

“Did he tell you his name?”

“Why, yes. That was more of it. He had the nerve to say his name was
Chick Carter, your assistant!”

“Good heavens! And you’ve arrested a man against whom you have no case,
even when he told you he was my assistant, and that his name was Chick
Carter. Didn’t you think it worth while to make any inquiries?”

“No. We——”

“Didn’t it occur to anybody in this police station that he might be
telling the truth?”

“Why, no, Mr. Carter,” answered the lieutenant at the desk. “We put the
name he gave us on the blotter. We always do that, even when we know it
isn’t the real name. We have so many arrests where men say their name
is something entirely different from the one they give. We have no
time to make inquiries into that sort of thing.”

“Let me see this prisoner—this man Chick Carter!” demanded Nick.

The lieutenant called out to the doorman to bring Chick up from below.

There was silence until the door opened. Nick was frowning, and every
officer in the big station looked worried. They began to feel that
there had been a mistake somewhere.

“Here he is, lieutenant!”

It was the uniformed officer in charge of the cells who spoke, and he
held by the elbow no less a person than Chick.

“Hello, chief!” he cried, as he saw his employer. “Can’t you get me out
of this?”

But he was already free. No sooner had the officer holding him seen the
look of recognition on the detective’s face than he released his hold
of the prisoner’s elbow.

“What’s this mean, Chick?” asked his chief.

“Search me!” laughed Chick. “One of the men grabbed me because he found
me in the house, just coming out of the yard door, to take a hand in
the raid with you.”

“The officer said he was drunk!” growled Lieutenant Brockton rather
defiantly. “I suppose there must have been some reason for his making
that statement.”

“I reckon there was,” conceded Chick. “I had been baked behind a stove
where they were making silver dollars and halves, and what with the
heat and the fumes of charcoal and hot metal, I was nearly a goner.
Then I had a scrap with the officer, and——”

“If you’d been in such a place as that, behind a stove, it probably
made you dizzy, didn’t it, Chick?”

It was Nick who asked the question, and, as he did so, he looked
scornfully at Lieutenant Brockton.

“Well, what do you think, chief?” was Chick’s response. “I don’t mind
saying that if I seemed a drunk, I don’t blame the officer. I dare say,
if I had been in his place, I should have made the same mistake.”

“I’m sure you would,” threw in the lieutenant. “When you came in, you
looked as if you had one of the worst souses that ever came into this
station. But I am very sorry the mistake occurred.”

“So am I,” declared Chick, grinning, but with tremendous earnestness at
the same time.

“I’ll scratch your name off the blotter,” went on the lieutenant.

“Thanks!” returned Chick dryly. “What was the charge against me?
‘Drunk, resisting an officer, and suspicious character,’ I suppose?”

“You’ve hit it exactly,” was the reply of the lieutenant. “But it will
all be obliterated. I hope there are no hard feelings.”

“None on my part, now that I am out,” declared Chick.

To prove it, he shook hands all around, including Lieutenant Brockton
and the desk lieutenant and doorkeeper. Then he went out to the taxi
with his chief.

“I’m sorry all this happened, chief,” said Chick contritely, as the cab
got under way. “But the officers wouldn’t listen to a word from me.
They threatened to dust me with their clubs if I didn’t shut up. So, of
course, I had to shut up.”

“The wisest thing to do under the circumstances,” answered Nick in an
absent tone. “We will stay in the taxi even on the ferryboat, unless
you feel that you must get out for the fresh air of the river.”

“I’ll do what you do, chief,” returned Chick. “How did the raid come
out? You look worried. Was anything wrong about it?”

“Yes. Very much wrong.”

“How?”

“We did not capture Andrew Lampton, for one thing, and we missed T.
Burton Potter, for another.”

“Who’s T. Burton Potter?” asked Chick, puzzled. “He’s a new one on me.”

“He is not a new one to me, although to-night was the first time I’ve
seen him—by that name.”

“You’ve got me going, chief,” confessed Chick. “I’m blessed if I know
what you are talking about.”

“I’m talking about T. Burton Potter. He is dressed in a way that I
never saw Howard Milmarsh. But if Potter is not Howard, then I’m afraid
I shall find it hard to believe my own eyes hereafter.”



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                            WITH THE TIDE.


The look of amazement on the face of Chick, as he heard this
extraordinary statement, as he considered it, compelled Nick to laugh
aloud, bothered as he was just then.

There was no light in the cab, but they happened to be passing a
lighted restaurant at that moment, and Nick had a good view of his
companion’s face.

“What’s that, chief?” gasped Chick. “Won’t you say it again?”

“I will if you like. I say, that T. Burton Potter is so much like the
heir to the Milmarsh millions, that I cannot think they are not the
same person.”

“But—but—this Potter is a crook!” protested Chick.

“That is what makes the case so difficult to handle,” replied Nick. “If
Potter were an honest, reputable member of society, I should not have
to proceed so carefully. As it is——”

He did not finish the sentence. He felt that it was not necessary. He
leaned back in the taxi, and not another word was spoken by either
until the cab had been run upon the ferryboat. Then the chief remarked
that the smell of horses was rather strong, and that they might as
well go to the front of the boat to get the night air on the wide river.

They got out of the cab, Nick telling the taxi driver they would get in
again before the ferryboat tied up in her slip, and walked to the front
of the deck on the men’s side, where Nick could continue to smoke his
cigar without breaking rules.

Having looked about him, to make sure there were no eavesdroppers, he
explained to his assistant how it was this case interested him so much.

“You know, Chick, that when we left Maple, and after we had pretty well
combed out all the camps in that part of the country, to make sure
neither Andrew Lampton nor Howard Milmarsh were in any of them, we came
to the conclusion that they must have made their way East.”

“It was you came to the conclusion—not I,” corrected Chick. “I did not
decide anything.”

“Well, that’s of no consequence. Anyhow, it turned out that I was
right, for Andrew Lampton was traced by the police to New York, where
he then disappeared, and I believe I saw Howard Milmarsh to-night in
the person of T. Burton Potter.”

“That’s a hard thing to get through my head,” confessed Chick.

“I don’t wonder. But I had a good view of Potter, and every lineament
was that of Howard Milmarsh. His hair was the same color, the
expression of the eyes was the same, and there was a certain poise
to his head that I had never seen except in Howard. I did not hear
his voice, but no doubt that would only have confirmed my belief that
he was the son of my old friend, Howard Milmarsh the elder, whose
business, estate, and millions of dollars are seeking their rightful
heir.”

“There is somebody else after the estate, isn’t there?”

“Yes. That is why I do not feel at liberty to waste time over this
case,” replied the chief gravely. “If we do not find Howard Milmarsh,
then Thomas Jarvis, the father of Richard Jarvis—the man Howard
believes he killed—will probably claim everything. He is the heir at
law if Howard cannot be found.”

“Isn’t there anybody else besides that fellow?”

“No. He is the only member of the family known to be living. I
understand he will put in a claim—although he is related to the
Milmarshes only by marriage, and has no blood connection. I have never
seen this Thomas Jarvis. But I _know_ something about him.”

“Well, we don’t have to think about him, chief, do we, if you are sure
this man Potter is Howard Milmarsh? And even if he were not the man, we
saw Howard in Maple—or at least, you did—and he is still on earth in
some shape or other.”

The ferryboat had been skimming across the North River in the darkness,
and was rapidly approaching the Manhattan line of shore, with the
masses of twinkling lights in the many skyscrapers, and the occasional
sound of bells, whistles, and other signals warning craft to be careful
as they approached the wharves.

“There’s the green and red lights of our slip not far ahead,” remarked
Chick. “But we don’t have to get back to the taxi till we are right in.
Are we going right home?”

“Yes. I want to refer to some memoranda I have there, and I can
telephone more conveniently from my own library than anywhere else.
We’ll go home and——”

Nick broke off suddenly and ran to the middle of the wagonway on the
boat.

For an instant he seemed inclined to leap over the gates, so that he
could see better whatever it was that had caught his eye, and which had
made him oblivious of all else?

“What is it?”

Chick was by the detective’s side, and both were staring at the dark
river in front of them, but somewhat to starboard.

What they saw was startling enough to warrant the interest of Nick
Carter—a man who seldom allowed himself to become excited, or he would
have been so now.

A rowboat—a yawl—was moving swiftly toward the Manhattan shore,
propelled by two men, and helped along considerably by the outgoing
tide.

The tide caught them in such a way that, while it forced them
downstream to some degree, also took them across the river, and soon
would put the boat among the tangle of piles supporting some of the big
wharves below the ferry slip.

The two men were T. Burton Potter and—Patsy Garvan.

“Thunder and lightning!” burst out from Chick. “How did Patsy get him?
Say, chief, he’s beaten both of us!”

“All the better!” responded Nick. “I don’t care who gets Potter so long
as we have him at last.”

“What are we to do now?”

“Trust to Patsy,” was the chief’s reply. “What else can we do?”

Chick nodded. As the chief had said, what else could they do?

“We couldn’t jump off this boat, Chick. And if we did, it would not
help us at all. Patsy is sure to have some plan in his mind. It isn’t
likely Potter knows who is in the boat with him, and I think we can
depend on the shrewdness of Patsy.”

“I believe that, too,” mumbled Chick. “But I envy him his luck. I wish
I were in that boat, instead of him.”

“Don’t be jealous,” laughed the detective. “You should be above that.
Patsy deserves all he has, for he must have exercised judgment to
have brought about what we see—the fellow we want so badly. T. Burton
Potter, sitting there and rowing himself straight into the arms of the
police.”

“I hope that will happen,” responded Chick. “The boat is out of sight
now, for we are in the slip. We may as well get into our taxi. But I
certainly have had beastly luck this night.”

“You’ve had plenty of experience, at least, Chick,” laughed his
employer.

It did not take long for the taxi to run up to the detective’s home. In
less than half an hour from the time they saw Patsy in the yawl with
Potter, Carter was in his usual seat behind his big table, reading a
short telephone message which had come about an hour before, and which
the butler, who knew a great deal of the detective’s business, had
taken and left for him, in the shape of a written note, on his table.

The note read, in the words that had come over the wire:

“This is Patsy. Have man. More later. Just coming over from Jersey City
to New York.”

Nick read the memorandum two or three times, considering as he did so.
Then a slight smile broke over his thoughtful countenance, as he looked
at Chick and murmured:

“Patsy must have got to a telephone just before he entered the boat
with Potter.”

“But how the dickens did he get into a boat with Potter?” asked Chick,
in a puzzled tone.

“My theory is that Patsy traced Potter down to the river in some way,
saw that he wanted a boat to get across without having to take the
ferry, and quickly took advantage of the situation.”

“Patsy is smart enough to do that,” admitted Chick.

“Of course he is. He knows everybody along the river front. It wouldn’t
be much of a feat for him to get possession of a yawl and pretend to
Potter that he was the owner.”

“By George! That’s what it looks like!”

“It does. But we don’t know till we hear from Patsy.”

“There doesn’t seem to be any way to get hold of Patsy. I suppose we
shall have to wait,” remarked Chick. “We ought to be doing something
in the meantime, I should think. What do you intend to do until Patsy
comes or lets us know?”

“Well, I think our best proceeding would be to have the butler bring us
up a sandwich or two and some good coffee. If you’re not hungry, I am,”
replied the chief, with a smile.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                               TRACKED!


It may be interesting to know just how T. Burton Potter did escape from
the roof when he made that desperate leap in the darkness across the
width of the alley.

Almost any athlete would not think much of clearing nine or ten feet
between marks on the ground, with everything favorable for the feat.
Such performances are done at most athletic meets without causing
surprise or any other particular emotion.

But, sixty feet up in the air, with the certainty that any slip would
mean crashing down on hard stones, a heap of mangled nothingness, it
was a different thing.

If T. Burton Potter had stopped to think for a second, he might have
hesitated. It would have been no reflection on his courage if he had.
But he had no time to think, and over he went.

For a few seconds after landing safely on the other roof, he lay down
behind the parapet. He had two reasons for this. One was to recover
his breath, and the other was to keep out of sight of his pursuers.

“Unless he jumps after me, I’ve got him buffaloed,” whispered Potter
to himself, with a dry chuckle. “I wouldn’t do it again for a million.
What would be the use of fifty millions, even, to a dead man? Now, how
am I to get out of this?”

Keeping under cover of the parapet, he crawled around to the rear of
the roof. There was no parapet here—only an iron gutter. The gutter ran
along to the end of the roof and emptied into an iron pipe which went
straight down to the ground. At least, Potter supposed it did. He could
not see in the darkness.

“I’ve got to take another chance,” he muttered. “And it looks worse
than the other, when I jumped. I don’t like it, but what can I do? I
don’t intend to be caught. I believe even a week in a prison would kill
me, unless it drove me insane.”

Lying flat upon the roof, he gripped the pipe firmly. Then, gingerly,
he lowered himself over the edge of the roof and pinched the pipe
between his knees.

With a double hold on it, hands and knees, he began to inch downward!

“If this pipe should fetch loose, I’m a goner! I hope it will hold. But
it seems awfully shaky.”

The pipe creaked from time to time, and more than once he heard the
rusty spikes which held it to the wall in the rotting mortar grating,
as if they were about to pull out.

But the thing held somehow, and in about ten minutes he was safely on
the ground, uttering a prayer of thankfulness for his luck—for he was
not what could be called a pious man.

He had made up his mind which way he would go if he reached the ground,
and that was over the back fence. Blessed with uncommon agility, as
well as hardened muscles, he swarmed over the high fence without much
difficulty. Then, after sitting astride for a moment or two, he dropped
on the other side.

It was fortunate for him that all the police had withdrawn. They had
concluded, when the raid was over, that there would not be any men
trying to get away in the rear. If they thought anything about T.
Burton Potter, they had decided that he was clear away.

The other side of the high fence only brought him into another back
yard, and he saw that the houses were as high as those on Salisbury
Street.

“If there’s a side alley and gate, I can make it easily,” he murmured.
“Durn my luck, there isn’t!” he added a moment later, after a hasty
survey. “The house is the full width of the yard.”

There were high, wooden fences on both sides. But he did not see that
climbing over them, one after another, was likely to help him. Sooner
or later he would run into somebody in one of the yards. Then he would
have to explain why he was there, and he _might_ have to tell his story
to the chief of police.

“I won’t take any risk of meeting that gentleman, or any of his men, if
it can be helped.”

T. Burton Potter came to this decision very quickly, and with much
earnestness. For reasons of his own, he did not care to be brought into
contact with blue coats and brass buttons on that night of all others.

“It will be daylight in course of time,” he reflected. “Then I should
_have_ to find my way out. I wonder if I can’t get through this house.
It’s the only chance I have!”

He stole up to the back door. It was locked and bolted, of course.

“Didn’t suppose there would be any chance that way,” he muttered. “But
there’s a little window, belonging to a pantry, I guess. By Jove! It’s
open, I see. That’s to let air into the place, for the benefit of the
milk or butter or something.”

The window was too high for Mr. Potter to reach, but, as has been
remarked several times, he was an athlete, and as active as a monkey.
With a short, swift run, he managed to leap up and catch the sill with
his fingers.

It was not easy to pull himself up, and, if he had not been in good
physical training, he never could have accomplished the feat. As it
was, he was up and peering through the open window in a few seconds.

To lower himself inside was the work of another ten or fifteen moments.
The door of the pantry—for a pantry it was—had not been fastened, and
he was in the lower hall, making for the stairs, while a slower man
might have been trying to work his way through the window opening.

Up the kitchen stairs and into the main hall he rushed. There were some
complicated bolts and locks on the front door, and it took him some
time to overcome them. What was worse, he could not do it without noise.

Potter had a vision of a man in pajamas suddenly appearing at the top
of the stairs on the second flight, with a lamp in one hand and a
pistol in the other.

“Who’s that?” squeaked the man, evidently frightened out of his senses.
“Hands up, or I’ll fire!”

But T. Burton Potter had the door open by this time.

“Fire and be blowed!”

He yelled this back defiantly as he rushed out and slammed the door
behind him.

“I’m glad the fool didn’t fire, all the same,” muttered Potter. “It
would have made racket enough to bring the policeman on post, anyhow,
and I don’t want to see any of those gentry until I’ve had time to
compose myself. Whew! I wish I were in good old New York.”

He walked leisurely along when he had turned the corner, for he knew
that a running man, or even one walking swiftly, might be questioned
by the first policeman he met.

“I don’t see anybody about. Just as well. I’ll get down to the
ferryhouse and slip across. I hope there won’t be any one around there
who knows me. You never know where the police will put a man.”

T. Burton Potter was a slick individual, and he had the faculty of
seeing all around him without appearing to stare. But, smart as he was,
he did not perceive a man who had seen him come out of the house where
the person in pajamas had threatened to shoot, and who was following
him as closely as possible without being discovered.

“Gee! What luck! I knew he’d try to get through some of these houses if
he made a get-away,” muttered this individual.

It may be hardly necessary to remark that the individual was none other
than Patsy Garvan. It was, indeed, Nick Carter’s assistant.

He called it “luck” that he was on the trail of Potter when no one else
was. But it was really shrewdness, reënforced by patience.

Patsy had figured out that when the raid came, the men would scatter
in all directions if they could. The police would try to prevent this,
of course. But some of the gang were liable to slip through their net,
and it was Patsy’s opinion that, if any of them escaped, the slick T.
Burton Potter would be one of them.

While the chief and Chick were in the Northwest, Patsy had been on
another case, and had brought it to a successful issue. What this case
was does not matter. But it is interesting to know that, as he followed
it up, he got, just before the return of his chief and Chick, a side
glance at T. Burton Potter. He had had his own suspicions that the
rascal was mixed up in this counterfeiting affair.

Potter walked swiftly toward the river, but before he reached the
ferryhouse he resolved that it would be too risky for him to cross the
water that way, and he plunged into a district with which he was fairly
well familiar, down among the wharves, to see if he could hire a boat
without making anybody suspicious.

Nick had been quite right in his belief that Patsy had managed to
pass himself off as the owner of the yawl in which he and Potter were
rowing. That was exactly what he had done.

As they neared the place on the Manhattan side where Patsy had decided
to land, Potter paid him the dollar he demanded for rowing him across,
and darted out of sight while Patsy was putting the money in his pocket.

Patsy grinned, as he leaped upon the wharf right on the heels of his
late passenger, and, after hiding behind some freight till Potter
walked away, followed him until he had reached the street.

Then followed a chase through the tortuous streets of lower New York,
until T. Burton Potter rushed up a stairway to the elevated road at
South Ferry. Patsy was not far behind him—so near, in fact, that he
contrived to be on the same Sixth Avenue train that carried Potter
uptown to Eighth Street.

At this station Potter got off, and Patsy, who had been in the next
car, also dropped off and hid himself in the shadows until Potter went
down the stairs.

In less than half an hour Patsy rapped at the door of Nick Carter’s
library and walked in, cool and collected, to find his chief busy with
some papers at his big table, and alone.

Nick looked up calmly.

“I was expecting you, Patsy,” he said.

“I came as soon as I could,” was Patsy’s response.

“Where’s your man?”

“My man?”

“T. Burton Potter.”

Patsy could not help showing surprise in his look and tone, and Nick
regarded him imperturbably.

“How did you know, chief?”

“That doesn’t matter. Where is he?”

“I’ll take you to him if you like. But you’ll have to break into a
house.”

“Very well. We’ll break in,” answered Nick, as if the act of burglary
were a matter of everyday experience. “Tell Chick. I’ve sent him to his
room to lie down for a while. He’ll have a very short rest, from the
look of things.”



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                            A SECRET OFFER.


The house to which Patsy tracked T. Burton Potter was one of those
old-fashioned residences of the kind in which the wealthy and exclusive
members of New York’s society lived half a century ago, and which
are plentiful in some of those quiet streets in the neighborhood of
Washington Square.

There are gardens in front of some of them, just as there were fifty
years ago, and at the back there are still other gardens, with flower
beds and trees, in which people who have their homes in these pleasant
localities stroll about on summer evenings.

Many of the houses are now devoted to boarders and lodgers, but a few
are, to this day, occupied by private families who can afford the
luxury of a whole house.

It was into a private house that T. Burton Potter injected himself by
way of the kitchen door under the high stone steps leading to the main
entrance above. He had a key to this door.

“Hello!” he whispered to himself. “Things look different. By Jove!
Suppose I don’t find Lampton here! He is the only one of the crowd that
would know me. Well, I can explain. But what have they changed things
for? It is only three weeks since I was here before.”

Cautiously, he went out of the kitchen in which he had first found
himself, and up the stairs to the main hall.

At every step he realized that there had been changes since his last
visit. The carpet was not the same, and when he got to the hall, where
a dim gas jet burned, he saw that the hall rack was one he never had
seen before, and that there were pictures on the walls which were
strange to him.

He turned into a room which had been used as a sort of sitting room by
the assemblage of shady characters who had made this house a sort of
private clubhouse when he had known it before, although it passed to
outsiders as the home of two wealthy families.

“Why, this room is altogether different,” muttered Potter. “There is
a handsome sideboard over there, and I see silver enough to tempt
anybody. I’ll bet the gang has moved out, and that somebody else has
moved in. Now, what is this all about?”

Puzzled, he went into the front room, which was separated only by
portières, and found that it was a luxuriously furnished apartment,
with a piano and many pictures on the walls, which he was connoisseur
enough to know were valuable.

He went out to the hall in a state of bewilderment and somewhat
frightened, too—for he knew he was in a house in which the police might
say he had no right to be. Why hadn’t they changed the lock on the
lower door? Then he couldn’t have let himself in, and he might have
been saved all this.

He would get out as quickly as he could. This was the only safe move
for him!

He stole along the hall, intending to make his exit by the door which
had admitted him, when, suddenly he perceived his own shadow on the
wall.

You can’t have a shadow without a light, and involuntarily Potter
looked up the stairs.

What he saw was a great deal like what had scared him in the house
in Jersey City. A man, with a lamp in one hand and a revolver in the
other, was coming down the stairs!

There were points of difference between this man and the one in Jersey
City, however. This man was dressed in a well-fitting business suit,
and he did not look at all frightened. The hand that held the revolver
was ominously steady.

“Ha!” growled the man with the revolver.

T. Burton Potter did not say anything. It seemed to him that there was
nothing to be said.

The man who had said “Ha!” had a hard face, as well as hard voice. The
eyes that were transfixing T. Burton Potter were fierce and sparkling.
Potter thought they looked like the heads of polished steel rivets.
Under the heavy, iron-gray brows, they were enough to take the nerve
out of even as daring a man as Potter really was.

“Don’t reach for a gun,” continued the man on the stairs. “This one in
my hand has a mighty easy trigger, and I may remind you that I have you
covered.”

“I haven’t got a gun!” grumbled Potter. “If I had, I’m sensible enough
to know when I’m beaten. What I want to say——”

“Don’t say it,” ordered the other. “And don’t try to get away down
those kitchen stairs. Throw up your hands and step into that room at
the side—the dining room. Then I’ll telephone for the police.”

“What for? I haven’t done anything. If you’ll let me explain——”

But again the man with the gun shut him off, as he came down to the
hall, making Potter precede him into the dining room.

“Go through this room into that other room at the back. I use it for a
library.”

Potter obeyed. He knew the room well enough. It had been used for
card playing when the house was occupied by its former tenants. It
overlooked the back garden, and had always been a favorite lounge of
his when he had had time to loaf a little.

With his hands up in the air, and looking very much like a cornered
desperado in the moving pictures, Potter took his stand against the
opposite wall, as his captor commanded, and waited for what might come.

The man took up a telephone from the heavy table in the middle of
the room, at the same time switching on a bunch of electric lights
depending from the ceiling, and which illuminated the room brilliantly.
As he did so, he looked into Potter’s face and started violently.

“Good heavens! Howard Milmarsh!” he blurted out, putting the telephone
down, but keeping the revolver in a firm grip. “What does this mean?
Why have you come here? You know me, don’t you? I was head waiter at
the Old Pike Inn, and I was there the night you—you——”

“What are you handing me?” demanded T. Burton Potter, his surprise
getting the better of his fear. “I don’t know anybody named Howard
Milmarsh. My name is Potter, and I used to live here.”

“Live here? Why did you live here? Why did you hide yourself when you
could have a fortune by asking for it—by just showing yourself?”

“I know all about these fortunes!” returned Potter. “I seem to remember
you as a waiter at the Old Pike Inn, however.”

“Head waiter!” corrected the other. “I was studying law all the time I
was there, and now I have a pretty fair business in New York, although
I don’t have to depend on fees for my living. I have other means.”

T. Burton Potter, still with his hands up, stared at this man
thoughtfully. What passed in his mind was Potter’s own secret. He may
have had no deeper purpose than to get out of the house—or he may have
had other ideas.

“Stand still there for a minute. If you are willing to listen to a
proposition, I think I can show you how you can make some money—more
than you’ve ever had in your life, and without having to work for it.”

“That would suit me,” declared Potter earnestly.

“No doubt. It would suit most men of your stripe. Let me find out for
myself whether you have any weapons about you. Turn your face to the
wall.”

In a minute or two the man of the house had been through Potter’s
pockets and found that he had told the truth. Potter knew that there
was a law making it a criminal offense to carry deadly weapons, and he
was too cautious to take a chance of being caught with anything of the
kind. Besides, he did not believe in murder.

“Put your hands down, and have a drink,” said the stern man, when he
was satisfied that Potter was not armed. “You will notice that my gun
is ready for action, at my finger ends. There’s a bottle on that table
at your side, and glasses. Drink! I don’t care for any myself.”

T. Burton Potter had had a hard night, and he was willing to refresh
himself with a little liquor.

“Now listen to me,” said the strange host. “I have something to say.”

For an hour the two men were in close confab. What they were talking
about may be revealed later. For the present, it is enough to say that
the man told his unexpected guest to call him Louden Powers, and that
henceforth T. Burton Potter must remember his own name was—something
else.

It would have surprised both the gentlemen in that back room if they
had known that they had for all that time been under the eye of one who
never did a thing, no matter how strange it might appear, save with a
set purpose—Nick Carter, the world-renowned detective.

Yet it was true. Nick had “broken in,” as he had told Patsy Garvan he
might. He had not had much trouble, for T. Burton Potter had forgotten
to lock the door after letting himself in.

The detective had come in that way, about the time Louden Powers was
absorbed in the business of keeping Potter under his pistol while he
parleyed with him in the library.

If Powers had not been so much taken up with his prisoner, he might
have been more careful. In that case, he might have looked into the
dining room, to make sure neither of his two servants—who slept at the
top of the house—were spying on him. That would have meant that Nick
must have dodged.

As it was, there was nothing of the kind, and he merely stood behind a
big chair and looked over the top of it until the conference between
the two persons in the back room came to an end.

“You will sleep in this house till we get things going,” were the
closing words of Louden Powers. “I live here entirely alone, except for
my two maidservants and a man who drives my car and does heavy work
about the house. The maids and the man are all Scandinavians, and they
can’t speak English. They say they can’t, at least, but I watch them,
anyhow. Now, let’s go up to bed. I’ll show you your room.”

Nick stayed in the dining room until the house was quite quiet, and he
figured Louden Powers and his man were both asleep.

Then he went down to the back door to let himself out, with a satisfied
smile on his face.

As he reached the front gate of the little garden in front of the
house, Patsy came rushing up to him out of the darkness, panting from a
hard run.

“Chief!” he gasped.

“Well?”

“He’s beat it!”

“Beat it? Who?”

“I don’t know. He got out of a third-story window, on that old iron
balcony. He let himself down to the other, and then got to the ground.
Chick and I were waiting for him. But he got over a side fence and was
gone before we were on to his game.”

“And you let him get away?”

The sternness in Nick’s voice made Patsy wilt.

“Chick is after him. But it’s awfully dark, and I don’t figure that he
will ever catch up. I feel mighty bad over it. But it was all done so
quickly that we didn’t have a chance. I thought I’d better be here in
case you came out.”

“Louden Powers locked him in his room, and, of course, he got away by
the window,” said the chief, more to himself than to Patsy. “I should
have been out here sooner, I suppose. Come on, Patsy! We’ll go home.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                        WHAT NICK CARTER KNEW.


For two days Nick Carter and his assistants tried to find T. Burton
Potter, but without result.

Chick had not been able to follow the man who escaped from the
third-story window of Louden Powers’ house. In the darkness and
among the crooked streets that run west from Sixth Avenue, in
the neighborhood of Jefferson Market, it was not difficult for a
quick-moving fellow like Potter to elude even such a keen pursuer as
Chick.

Nick did not reproach Chick for his ill success. After his first
disappointment, the famous detective took his usual philosophical view
of the set-back. He never mourned over what could not be helped.

It was on the evening of the second day, while Chick and Garvan both
were out, trying to get some clew to the whereabouts of the much-wanted
Potter, that Nick strolled over to the East Side, and dropped into a
rather pretentious saloon—one of the kind that calls itself a “café”—in
Third Avenue.

The detective had not disguised himself in the ordinary sense. But he
wore a cap, instead of his usual well-brushed hat of latest style, and
he had on a long raincoat, which concealed the rest of his attire. It
had been raining a little, which gave him an excuse for the raincoat.

There were a number of men in the large, overdecorated barroom, and
it was easy for him to step up to the bar and order a Scotch highball
without being observed particularly.

He sipped his highball slowly, while his keen eyes gazed over the rim
of his glass, taking in the whole assemblage, one by one.

At last he picked out a rather burly man, who was sitting at a table by
himself, with an evening paper held up so that only occasional glimpses
of his face could be obtained. One of those glimpses had told him who
the man was.

“Andrew Lampton!” he breathed softly. “And, in the same person, my
old friend, Joe Stokes! I thought I might catch him here. That is the
advantage of having friends in the underworld.”

He strode over to the table, and looked over the top of the paper, and
said, in low, distinct tones:

“Lampton, I want you!”

The man made a quick movement toward his side pocket. As he did so, the
muzzle of an automatic pistol broke its way through the paper, and he
kept his hand still.

“All right! I cave!” he growled. “Who are you?”

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know me,” was the detective’s reply.
“But I believe you do. Wait a moment!”

Dexterously, Nick dipped into the coat pocket from which Lampton had
meant to take something, and from it lifted a businesslike automatic.

“Any more besides this, Andrew?”

“A knife in my inside waistcoat pocket,” he replied briefly. “It’s in a
sheath. Take it out if you like, but I don’t mean to use it.”

“It would be foolish if you did,” returned Nick. “Anyhow, I’m not here
to arrest you. I want to talk business.”

“Why didn’t you say so at first?”

“I haven’t had time to say anything, first or last,” rejoined the
detective. “Have you anything on for to-night?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, you may as well pick up that bundle of money you’ve just dropped
under the table. We can burn it later.”

Andrew Lampton grinned and picked up a roll of counterfeit bills which
had been noticed by the sharp eyes of the detective as soon as they
were put on the floor.

“Can’t fool you, Mr. Carter!”

“Not on some things, I hope. We are going to my house. Any of your pals
in this house?”

“Not that I know of. Some of them were taken in the raid in Jersey City
the other night, and the others are lying low for the present. I wasn’t
in that thing, but I heard about it.”

“I supposed you would,” said Nick, with a smile. “Where’s T. Burton
Potter?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell the truth, Lampton.”

“I am telling it. Potter has vanished, and there isn’t any of the gang
know where he is exactly.”

“Well, come on. We’ll walk across. You don’t mind the exercise, do you?”

Nick asked this question as politely as if he had been addressing some
intimate friend. Lampton grinned, as he answered, with equal courtesy:

“Not at all, I assure you. It will give me pleasure, especially with an
agreeable companion.”

They strolled out of the café together, and any person who observed
them might have said they were on the best of terms. Nobody would have
suspected that Carter was keeping a sharp eye on the smiling man at his
side, and that he would have used his pistol if that had been necessary
to prevent his running away.

But nothing of the kind happened. Andrew Lampton chatted on the topics
of the day—the theaters, politics, literature, and so forth. He did not
mention criminal matters, nor speak of anything that might have the
slightest bearing on his own favorite occupation, “shoving the queer.”
And yet the roll of phony notes was still in his pocket, waiting to be
burned as soon as they should be in Nick’s home.

Once seated in the library, in an easy-chair, Lampton handed the
bills to the detective. The latter placed them in a small brazier,
and, with the aid of a certain chemical, reduced them to ashes in an
infinitesimal space of time—much quicker than he could have done it
with simple fire.

“Rather a pity to see such good stuff burned up,” remarked Andrew
Lampton, with a wry smile, as he began to puff on the perfecto Nick had
passed to him. “I don’t think better hundreds and fifties were ever
turned out, even in Washington.”

“It would have been more of a pity if they had been left in your
pocket,” answered the detective. “They might have meant a five years’
stretch for you in a Federal prison.”

“That’s immaterial,” laughed Lampton. “I expect to be taken in sooner
or later, if I stay in the game. It’s only a question of time. Now,
what do you want me for?”

“I want those papers you took out of Howard Milmarsh’s trunk in Maple,
for the first thing.”

“Go on,” said Lampton, smoking comfortably. “What next?”

“You are to go on with that trick you have arranged with Louden Powers,
to beat Howard Milmarsh out of his fortune. You got the idea while you
were in the Northwest, the night we chased you through the window.”

“I didn’t know it was you who did it,” snarled Lampton, frowning for
the first time. “What do you know about Louden Powers and me?”

“Everything!” was the quick reply. “You were to see him to-night, at
eleven o’clock. You’ll keep that appointment, and, if you are wise, you
won’t tell him that you saw me this evening. Now, where is Potter?”

“I don’t know! Curse him!”

There could be no doubt of the sincerity with which Andrew Lampton
uttered this malediction. Carter was sure the fellow did not know what
had become of the man who seemed to be as slippery as a greased pig.

“Give me those papers belonging to Howard Milmarsh. They are of no use
to you now.”

“How do you know?” grinned Lampton, recovering his equanimity a little.
“A man with those letters and other documents would have no difficulty
in proving himself the real Howard Milmarsh, especially when nature
had made them so much alike that it is difficult to tell one from the
other.”

“Give me the papers!” repeated Nick, apparently undisturbed by what the
other had said. “I shall produce the real Howard Milmarsh when the time
comes, never fear.”

“I don’t know now what you’ve brought me up here for,” complained
Lampton wearily. “I’ve had a pleasant smoke—this cigar is excellent—but
I would rather have been left alone, to spend my evening in my own
way. What is the game?”

“I’ll tell you,” replied Nick, leaning easily back in his chair and
placing the end of his cigar in an ash tray. “It’s a pretty story, and
some people would call it a romance.”

“Drive on!”

“Howard Milmarsh disappeared a few years ago, just after his father
died. Howard did not know of his father’s death, but he knows of it
now. He hesitates to come back and claim his estate for reasons I need
not repeat.”

“No, you need not repeat them,” broke out Lampton. “I know them well
enough. Keep on talking.”

“So you and your rascally friend, Louden Powers, decided to produce a
Howard Milmarsh, who might claim the property, giving you and Powers
each a fair share—or what you would consider a fair share—of the
estate.”

“That’s nonsense, Mr. Carter. Who’d believe such a wild tale as that?”

“I would, when I have proof—and I have that,” rejoined the detective.
“The real Howard Milmarsh has changed considerably in experience in the
years he has been away. You know that, because you saw him at Maple,
and you’ve seen him elsewhere. It struck you that you knew a man who
looked so much like him that he might pass for the missing heir if he
were carefully coached.”

“Who is the man?”

“T. Burton Potter,” was the swift reply of the detective.

“Pooh!”

“That is the man,” went on Nick, disregarding the contemptuous
ejaculation. “I don’t care how you may try to pretend otherwise. I
_know_. He is so much like Howard Milmarsh, that, in the first few
moments that I saw him, I was actually not sure myself. But soon I saw
him doing things that I knew would be impossible to the man you want
him to impersonate, and, besides, there are minute points of difference
which anybody who knew Howard Milmarsh as well as I would distinguish
immediately.”

“T. Burton Potter is a gentleman of leisure, I’ve been told,” grinned
Andrew Lampton. “But as for his being like Howard Milmarsh, I don’t
know anything about that.”

“I don’t mind your being a liar, Lampton,” retorted Nick quietly. “But
I wish you would not pretend to be a stupid one. Did I not tell you
that I _know_?”

“Why do you want me to go and see Louden Powers to-night?”

The question came abruptly. Andrew Lampton had seen that it would be
useless to continue his bluffing tactics with the detective.

“Go and see him and find out, if you can, where T. Burton Potter is.
I want him. And, before you go, give me those letters and papers. You
can’t use them now, and Louden Powers might try to take them from you
if he knew they were in your pocket.”

“Looks to me as if this game were about up,” commented Lampton, as he
handed over the bundle of papers. “There they are! Just as I got them
from the trunk. I’ll have to depend on your good nature now.”

“If you help me with this case, I’ll wipe everything off the slate to
date,” replied Nick. “Of course, what you may do afterward is at your
own risk.”

“I’ll go and see Powers,” promised Lampton, rising from his chair. “But
I don’t believe he knows where Potter is. By the way, what earthly use
is T. Burton Potter to you, if he is not the real Howard Milmarsh?”

“I think Potter knows where Howard is,” answered Flint. “He is a pretty
slick scoundrel, and can keep a secret. But I think I can swing some
influence with him, considering what I have found out about him.”

“Ah! I tumble,” laughed Lampton. “Another thing I wanted to ask you.
When you were chasing him so hard on the night of the raid, didn’t you,
honest, believe he was the real Howard Milmarsh?”

“I did at first. I’ve already told you that.”

“And when did you find out that he wasn’t?”

“That’s my own private business,” rejoined the detective. “Report to me
here to-morrow night. That’s all.”

He pointed to the door as a sign of dismissal.

“You’re not afraid that I’ll work up some scheme against you, or beat
it for parts unknown?” asked Lampton, smiling. “You seem to feel sure
I’ll obey your orders.”

“I think you have too much regard for your own good to do otherwise,”
answered the detective, without looking up from the letter he was
reading.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                            A LOVELY SCRAP.


For half an hour after the departure of Andrew Lampton, the detective
sat at his table, reading letters and other papers, and occasionally
making notes for answers to be returned or business to be done. He was
a very busy man, and he was essentially methodical. Efficiency was his
watchword, as it is that of most successful men.

“If I can get hold of this Potter, it won’t be long before I shall
be able to trace Howard Milmarsh. It is absurd for a young man to
remain out of his home and birthright for a mere idea. That Howard
is somewhere in New York I am convinced. I am inclined to think this
fellow Lampton knows also. If I were sure of it, he never would have
left my house to-night. As it is, I must have patience.”

He lighted a cigar and smoked reflectively for ten minutes. Then,
suddenly, there was a sharp tap at his door, and Chick came in,
followed by Patsy Garvan. The faces of both indicated that they had
news.

“I guess we’ve found T. Burton Potter!” cried Chick. “Although I never
expected to see him settle down seriously to work.”

“What’s he working at?”

“He’s doing some kind of clerical work in Partrom’s steel works, in
Harlem.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite. I saw him in the yard, moving about among the men. He was in a
business suit, but he didn’t seem afraid to get his hands dirty. I saw
him lifting some black timbers out of the way when he wanted to get to
another part of the yard, and he helped some men to shove a truck along
the rails when it got stalled.”

“Well, Potter is a well-built, powerful fellow,” observed Nick. “And we
know he can jump. The way he went across that alley on the roofs would
have stamped him an athlete without anything else.”

“He’ll need to be an athlete up there at Partrom’s,” put in Patsy. “I
heard that a lot of the men are down on a certain foreman up there, and
that Potter is taking his side against the others. That generally means
a fight with a rough set of men like those at Partrom’s.”

“I suppose Potter works only in the daytime?” asked Nick.

“No. He’s on the night shift. You could get at him right now if you
wanted to go up there.”

“I do want to go up there, and now,” interrupted the chief. “We’ll use
the big car. Telephone the chauffeur to bring it around right away.”

While Patsy telephoned the chauffeur to come around with the big
racing car that Nick used when he was in a great hurry to get anywhere,
the detective put away his papers and got up, ready to go.

He wore the cap he had on when he went to the café after Andrew
Lampton, but not the raincoat. He had given Lampton back his pistol,
but he had his own in his pocket, although he did not expect to have
to use it. But, then, he never did expect to use a weapon when he went
out. If there were a fight, it was pretty sure to start up all in a
hurry, without preliminaries.

The big car took them up to within four blocks of Partrom’s big
steel mill and then Nick told his assistants to get out and walk the
remainder of the distance with him.

“Stay here till we come back,” he directed his chauffeur.

It did not take the three long to get to the front gates of the mill.
When they reached there, they found a lively scene, that none of them
had anticipated. The yard was full of fighting men.

“What’s it all about?” asked Chick of the nearest man, who seemed to be
trying to break into the row without knowing just whom to hit. “Who’s
fighting?”

“Everybody!” howled the man. “It’s that guy, Gordon, who’s got the
thing going. He and Douglas.”

Nick remembered that Milmarsh had assumed the name of Robert Gordon
when working in the lumber woods at Maple, and he recalled also
that there had been a foreman named Douglas out there. He wondered
whether this was merely a coincidence, or whether it had some special
significance.

There was no time for speculation on anything, however. The detective
could see that about a dozen men were aiming at one young fellow, who,
broad-shouldered and active as he was, found it difficult to stand off
all his assailants at once.

The young man backed away from the crowd—not in haste or with any show
of fear, however. As he came nearer to Carter and his two assistants,
they were able to see his face in the red glow of the mill.

“T. Burton Potter!” cried Chick.

“That’s who it is!” agreed Patsy.

“Howard Milmarsh or his wraith!” breathed Nick.

Until now he had been a little doubtful as to the identity of T. Burton
Potter, although his mind was pretty nearly made up. But he felt sure
that this clean-limbed young man, who used his fists so scientifically,
could not be any one but the heir to the Milmarsh fortune.

“Come on, boys!” cried Nick to his two assistants. “We’ll have to take
a hand in this.”

Bob Gordon, as he chose to call himself, was holding back his foes with
considerable skill and pluck, but one pair of fists, no matter how well
they are employed, cannot do much good against twenty pairs.

The men opposing him did not care much about fair play. All they wanted
was to beat down this bold young man, who set at defiance the whole
crowd, and defended the name of the absent foreman, Douglas, with a
courage worthy of one with eight generations of American blood in his
veins.

Some of the men were trying to pin down Gordon’s arms so that he would
have no driving room, while some of the others, reaching over, struck
viciously at his head with their fists, knowing he could not reach them
when hemmed in so thoroughly.

“They’ll be taking iron bars to him after a while, I guess, chief!”
remarked Patsy. “Let’s get into this!”

Nick was already into it. A finished boxer, the detective bestowed a
scientific tap here and there on the faces and necks of those who were
crowding Gordon, thus compelling them to give him breathing room.

At this moment, Chick caught a mean-looking fellow trying to sneak in
an uppercut on Gordon’s undefended face, while he was busy with half a
dozen others.

“I reckon I’ll just hand you this!” observed Chick.

As he spoke, he sent a good, hard crack to the sneak’s chin, doubling
him up like a jackknife, and sending him backward at full length.
Chick’s jab had been a “rock me to sleep,” as Patsy expressed it.

“Keep back, some of you!” shouted Nick in a tone of thunder. “Twenty
against one! Aren’t you men? You can’t be Americans, or you wouldn’t
act like cowards!”

His taunt may have shamed one or two of the better sort. But, as a
matter of fact, there were very few Americans in the mob. The effect of
this speech was to bring half a dozen of the big fellows—ironworkers,
and, therefore, powerful—against the detective.

These men had a rough idea of how to use their fists, and they pressed
hard against Nick, who had to bring all his skill into play to defend
himself. It was a lively battle, and the shouts of boys, girls, and men
and women outside, together with the squeal of a police whistle, helped
to make it more so.

Bob Gordon might have backed out now and got away if he had chosen to
do so. He had a sprained wrist, and his wind had been mostly knocked
out of him. But he came up to the side of Nick, anyhow.

Chick and Patsy were both fighting like heroes. But the weight of
numbers was beginning to tell. There were too many for these four,
especially with one of them practically disabled. It began to look
dubious for Nick’s side.

It was at this moment that a tall, rawboned man of about thirty, in a
blue sweater, who had been driving past the gateway on a truck, saw
what was going on inside the yard, and decided that it was the place
for him to break in.

He swung off his truck and hurled himself through the gateway as if he
had been sent for. He was a big, two-fisted truckman, with a natural
love of fighting, which had had plenty of encouragement in many a
combat with other truckmen, and with rough-and-tumble battlers among
longshoremen on the various water fronts.

“Come on, you dubs!” he bellowed. “Catch ’em as I hand ’em out. Take
’em anywhere you like—on your chin, in your eye, on the nose, or
anywhere. They’re all free, and every one is warranted full weight and
hundred per cent the real thing!”

Evidently overjoyed at the prospect of a scrap that might last for an
hour, the big truckman, whose arms were long and his fists like wooden
mallets, ranged himself alongside Nick and his forces, and soon turned
the tide of battle.

Five minutes later it looked like a regular rout for the enemy.

But, just as the big truckman was beginning really to enjoy himself,
the police arrived in force, and Nick whispered to Chick to “Get Patsy
and come along. I don’t want to have to explain to the police now.
Where’s that man Gordon?”

“I’m afraid he’s gone,” replied Chick. “I didn’t see him get away, but
that’s what he’s done.”

“Too bad!” exclaimed the chief, allowing his chagrin to have voice for
once. “We had him right here, and now he’s gone.”

“Well, anyhow, it was a lovely scrap!” chuckled Patsy, tenderly feeling
a bump over his left eye. “Did you see who that truckman was? It was
Bonesy Billings, who used to be a butcher in Fourth Avenue, and who
always brought your meat. I guess he recognized you, and that’s what
brought him into the fight.”

“It was not only that,” added Chick. “I heard him say that Gordon
roomed at his house, and that he’d lick anybody who touched a roomer of
his.”

“Do you know where Bonesy Billings lives?” asked Nick.

“No. But I’ll bet I can find out,” replied Patsy. “Bonesy has driven
away now, or I’d ask him.”

“Well, if he lives in this neighborhood—as I suppose he does—we ought
to get track of him. Look him up to-morrow, Patsy, and we’ll call on
him in the evening. He may hold the key to the mystery we are trying to
probe.”

“You mean the finding of Howard Milmarsh?” asked Chick.

“That’s it exactly,” replied the chief. “I am tired of this fooling. I
want the case off my hands. Come along! Let’s get home.”



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                            A WELL OF FIRE.


“So you are living in this brick house, and running the delicatessen
store as well?” said Nick the next evening, as he and his two
assistants stood outside Bonesy Billings’ home. “This is better than
being in a flat house downtown.”

“You bet it is,” assented Bonesy. “Besides, my work is up here in this
section, and I’ve no reason to go downtown to live. There’s plenty of
these old brick houses up here that can be rented for about what you’d
pay for a flat around Ninety-seventh Street, and it’s much more airy
and nice here. Then we have some roomers, that help out.”

“Who are they? Anybody I know, I wonder?” ventured Nick.

“Not likely. There’s a musician and his daughter—a nice young girl,
and I have another one—that fellow the gang was trying to do up at
Partrom’s last night. His name’s Gordon.”

“All!” remarked Carter, trying to be calm. “I’d like to see him again.”

“Well, I guess you can. I think he’s up in his room now. He isn’t
working to-night. The superintendent of the mill has laid him off until
inquiries are made into that fuss where you took a hand. It’s a rotten
shame! Gordon wasn’t to blame for that. The others jumped on him, and
he had to hold ’em off. He’s told me often that nothing can make him
fight—and he ain’t no coward, either.”

“Look, chief. What’s that?” shouted Patsy Garvan excitedly, running
toward the house. “Fire!”

“Heaven save us!” ejaculated Billings wildly. “It’s my house!”

He dashed into the store, and through to the back room, where he saw at
once what had happened. His wife had put kerosene on the kitchen range,
and there had been an explosion which meant destruction for the house.

Billings lifted his unconscious wife from the floor and ran out to the
street. Then he went back to save what few pieces of furniture he might
hope to get back before the fire took everything its own way.

The only hope lay in the fact that it was a brick structure, and not a
frame one. The house had been built after the fire laws had forbidden
the putting up of wooden buildings in that area. But there had been
many brick houses put up before the era of iron-frame skyscrapers, and
this was one of them.

An alarm had been turned in, and already members of the fire department
were dashing up with their machines. It looked as if the fire would
soon be overcome, when somebody shouted:

“Look! There’s somebody up top!”

The firemen, with their ladders, had already rescued a woman and two
children from another window. But these people who were shouting for
help from an attic were in the next house, which also had caught fire.

The firemen—efficient and cool-nerved, as all New York firemen are—put
their ladders up. But owing to the formation of the house, it was
impossible to get at the attic quickly.

Nick Carter had seen that it was a young girl at the window, and his
wonderful memory carried him back to that night at Maple, where he
had seen the girl they called Bessie Silvius, with her father, Roscoe
Silvius, who had played and sung in the garden of the Savoy.

“That only confirms my belief that Howard Milmarsh is here,” he told
himself. “It would be likely for them to live in the same house in New
York if they could, after being friends in the wilds of Canada.”

This passed his mind like a flash as he looked to see how they might be
rescued. He had seen that the firemen could not do it from the outside,
and he made up his mind to a desperate undertaking.

Fortunately, Nick was known to all the battalion chiefs of the fire
department, and to most of the other men. They all recognized him as
a wonderful detective, and he was allowed privileges that ordinary
citizens do not possess, even though they may have influence and great
wealth.

It is not an easy thing to get inside the fire lines and be permitted
to move about freely—unless you happen to be a newspaper man.

“Keep back, Patsy!” shouted Nick, as he dashed into the house, amid a
shower of sparks and through a flood of water pouring from two or three
lines of hose. “I’m going alone!”

“Come back!” bellowed a battalion chief. “You can’t get through there!”

Patsy and Chick would both have followed their chief, but firemen held
them back, and they were obliged to yield.

As they looked up, they saw a man lean from the attic window of
Billings’ house and Patsy yelled that it was Potter.

“It’s either Potter or Howard Milmarsh,” called out Chick. “I don’t
know one from the other these days.”

“He’s going to try and save that girl!” said Patsy.

“Sure enough!” assented Chick. “But where’s the chief?” he added, in a
tone of agony. “That’s what he went into that house for. I wish we’d
never heard of this Milmarsh case!”

“Come down out of that attic!” roared a chief through his megaphone at
Potter or Milmarsh, whichever it was. “You can’t reach the girl. Hurry
down, and you may save yourself. Another moment will be too late!”

But the man at the attic window paid no heed. His eyes were on the
girl, who still leaned from the other window, and who was uttering
scream after scream of despairing terror.

The roar of the fire, the hissing of the water, and the thud of the
fire engines all made up a deafening confusion of sounds. But, through
it all, Chick heard the man at the other window call out cheerfully:

“Don’t give way, Bessie! I’m coming to save you by the roof!”

“Oh, Howard! Howard!” responded the girl, shrill with horror. “My
father is here, and he’s helpless!”

“Keep up your heart!” responded the man. “I’m coming!”

“Say, Patsy, she called him ‘Howard.’ Did you hear it?”

“Sure!”

“Then that looks as if he is the real thing, doesn’t it?”

But Patsy did not reply. He was wondering whether the man would
reappear. He had vanished from the window, and he might have fallen
back, exhausted, into the awful caldron of flame and smoke behind him.

“We’ll have to get a ladder up there!” cried a fire chief. “Up with
her, boys! The third house is on fire now. We must get this fellow out
somehow. There’s a better chance with the ladder at this house than
either of the others.”

It was Bonesy Billings’ house in which the young man called “Howard” by
the girl had just disappeared from the attic window. It was not burning
so fiercely as the other two.

Whether the firemen succeeded in getting the ladder to the window where
the young man was believed to be, neither Chick nor Patsy could see for
the smoke. Besides, their attention was distracted from it in their
anxiety for their beloved chief.

Meanwhile, Nick was bounding, head down, up the flaming stairs. As
he reached—barely reached—the landing of the second floor, the whole
staircase collapsed behind him. As it did so, it sent a great gush
of flame and burning embers far upward and out of the front door.
Several firemen, who had been trying to follow him, tumbled out, half
suffocated, into the arms of their comrades outside!

Nick glanced over his shoulder as he heard the crash. He saw the well
of fire where the stairs had been, and he knew that death in its most
appalling form had missed him by only a few inches!

He pressed on still upward, with smoke and sparks around him, and
death—almost certain, as it seemed—ahead!



                              CHAPTER XX.

                       FIVE SECONDS FROM DEATH.


Somehow—he never knew how—Nick found his way to the top of the house.
Here he was obliged to pause for a moment. His heart was pounding and
his breath came short. Some little rest he _must_ have!

“Hello! There’s something thudding overhead!” he gasped. “By Heaven! It
is somebody trying to break through that trapdoor in the roof! It may
be some of the firemen!” he added hopefully. “That means that we shall
get the girl and the others yet. Hurrah for the firemen of New York!”

A door was burst open on his right and a girl rushed forth, wild with
excitement.

“Oh, Howard!” she cried. “I’m so thankful you are here! Quick! Quick!
My father!”

Then, in the gloom and lurid glare of the fire, she found she was
talking to a stranger, and she hesitated to say more.

But Nick Carter quickly reassured her, and his cheery tones acted like
a stimulant, as he called out:

“Don’t be afraid, and be ready! Leave your father to me! We must get
out by the roof. There is no other way. The firemen are up there.
They’ll soon break through with their axes. Don’t you hear them
hammering on the trapdoor?”

“No,” she cried. “It isn’t the firemen. It’s Howard—Mr. Milmarsh! He
can’t open that trap! Oh, can’t we help? Can’t we do something?”

The name Milmarsh was spoken by this girl as if he were a close friend!
It struck the detective with peculiar force, and he resolved more than
ever that the young man, as well as the girl, must be saved. Here was
the end of his strange case, if only he could get every one clear of
the fire!

But other things soon crowded these thoughts out of his mind—which,
indeed, they had held only for a second or two. He rushed into the
attic and seized a small pine table. This made a platform for him under
the trapdoor, and enabled him to reach up and shoot back the bolt.

“It’s open!” he shouted.

Then he pushed his head through and found himself looking into the face
of—either T. Burton Potter or Howard Milmarsh, he did not know which,
for certain.

The grime on the detective’s face had changed it so completely that he
was not surprised that there was no recognition in the eyes of the man
looking down at him. Indeed, the man did not see him. He only peered
past him into the gloom, where the girl stood.

“Where is your father, Bessie?” he asked. “I’m coming down.”

“No, stay where you are!” interposed Nick. “You can be more helpful up
there. I’ll bring her father.”

Old Roscoe Silvius, haggard from illness, sat up on a bed in the
adjoining room. Nick wrapped him in a blanket and had him out before
the old man knew what was happening.

It was not an easy task to lift the helpless old man through the trap.
But Howard Milmarsh helped from above, and it was accomplished in less
time than might have been expected.

“Now, you!” cried the detective to the girl. “I’ll lift you.”

Bessie Silvius helped herself a great deal, and in a moment was on
the roof, by the side of her father and Howard Milmarsh—as, for
convenience, we will continue to call the young man.

Nick followed the girl with one active spring, and, standing upright on
the roof, looked around. One glance was enough to show him that their
only hope of escape lay in crossing the roof of the next house, and so
reaching a place where they might descend to the street.

The next house was the one which had suffered most by the fire, and the
roof looked as if it might fall in at any moment. Therein lay most of
their peril.

“Go ahead with the young lady,” directed the detective, as Howard
looked at him inquiringly. “I will bring her father. Push on!”

Howard drew the girl away, and Nick lifted the old man, carrying him
on a stalwart shoulder along the shaky roof. Fortunately, the roof was
flat, and there was only a low parapet dividing it from the next house,
one that it was easy to step over.

It was here that the real peril began, however. The house was a mere
blazing shell. In many places the roof had burned through, revealing
fire and blazing rafters below in the awful hell-like pit.

At every step there was danger of a plunge into the abyss of death
below. But, with the luck that often attends daring and desperation,
they reached the third house in safety.

“We shall have to climb down the front,” said Nick. “The firemen ought
to have a ladder there by this time. But there’s a sloping roof to be
negotiated. We must be very careful, or it will send us headlong to the
street, after all.”

“I’ll go first,” offered Howard.

Before Nick could object—if he had intended to do so—Howard Milmarsh
had crawled up the steep and slippery slate roof, and was holding to
the ridgepole.

Reaching down, he took Bessie Silvius’ hand and pulled her up to the
ridge, so that she could slide down the other side of the flat part of
the roof.

“Wait a moment!” called Howard to the detective. “I’ll come back and
help you!”

“No! You and the young lady get to the ground as soon as you can. I do
not need any help. But this roof is getting worse every minute. There
is no time for argument.”

This was obvious. The slates were splitting off in the growing heat,
and the rafters below were burning fiercely. It would be only a
question of seconds when everything would tumble in at once.

Having seen that Howard and the girl had obeyed him, Nick then attacked
the fearsome task of climbing the roof with the weight of the old
musician, and getting down the other side.

He accomplished the feat, and then saw that Howard Milmarsh was on the
ladder at the top, ready to help him. The girl had already been carried
or had climbed herself to the ground and safety.

“No, no!” cried Carter to Howard. “Go down! I can manage. The ladder
won’t bear three of us.”

It called for all the iron nerve possessed by the detective to crawl
across the remainder of the roof, carrying the dead weight of Roscoe
Silvius, and it was a ticklish thing to work his way over the edge
of the building to the ladder. One false step would have hurled both
headlong down.

But that false step was never taken. The detective seldom made anything
of the kind at any time. There was no fireman at the top of the ladder
to assist him by relieving him of his burden.

He knew that was because Milmarsh had not yet reached the bottom, but
he could not afford to wait. The entire roof was likely to collapse at
any instant.

Slowly he began to descend. As he placed his foot on the third rung
from the top, he heard the ladder crack loudly about halfway down.

“Quick!” came the shout from below. “The ladder’s sprung! Slide down!
It’s your only chance!”

But that was just what Nick, having only one hand free, could not do.
He kept on moving downward as fast as he could, step by step. There was
nothing else to be done.

It was a period of breathless suspense. There were no more cries from
below. The great crowd was watching this one man fighting death to save
another, and they felt instinctively that any unnecessary noise might
disturb him.

Suddenly one broad-shouldered young man rushed out from the throng held
back by a cordon of police. It was Chick!

Dodging the police and firemen who tried to stop him, he gained the
foot of the ladder and went swarming up like a monkey.

Almost immediately he was standing just below Carter, and speaking
to him with the coolness that was characteristic of both of them in
moments of fierce peril.

Just as Chick got there the ladder began to sag in the middle!

“Drop him on my shoulder, chief!”

“All right! Glad you’re here!”

Carefully, but not too fast, the weight of the old man was transferred
to Chick’s arm and shoulder.

“I have him!” announced Chick. “I’ll have to walk down with him. But
you slide! Just wait till I’m nearly down. Then come!”

Chick had already begun to move while he spoke, and he was at the
bottom in such a short time that his feat would have done credit to any
old sailor of the ancient windjammer days.

Nick was not far behind him. He walked down the rungs till a shout told
him his assistant was off the ladder. Then, gripping the sides, he slid
down like a streak.

He had not a fraction of a second to spare! The ladder cracked in the
middle just as he passed the weak place. He had to drop a few feet, as
it was.

“Get back there!” roared the fire chief, through his megaphone.

The warning was none too soon. As the crowd sprang away, the roof and
upper walls of the middle house fell with a crash, and a great volcano
of smoke, sparks, and dust flew up into the air.

Some of the débris fell among the crowd. It could not be otherwise.
Cries of fright and pain arose here and there, and there was danger of
a panic.

But the police were efficient—as New York police always are—and soon
there was comparative order, as those who were injured were carried
away in the ambulances which had been waiting on the chance that they
might be needed.

Neither Nick Carter, Chick, nor Patsy Garvan were hurt. The girl and
her father had disappeared, but the detective felt sure they were being
cared for by somebody, and it did not worry him. What he wanted was to
find the man he had been hunting so long, Howard Milmarsh.

Chick and Patsy both knew what was passing in the mind of their chief,
and they, too, were looking about for Milmarsh.

“There he is!” shouted Patsy. “I wonder if he’s hurt!”

Nick Carter wondered this, too, as he saw Howard Milmarsh leaning on
the iron fence of a house a little distance away, across the street,
with his head resting on his hand.

“It didn’t get you, did it?” asked Nick, hurrying over to him.

“No. I’m all right! A little shaken, that’s all. But we saved Bessie!
That’s the main point!”

“Hum!” grunted Patsy significantly. “When a fellow’s stuck on a girl,
he don’t care for much else—eh, Chick?”

“I don’t know anything about it,” grinned Chick, who felt happy over
the way everything had turned out. “What do I know about girls?”

Nick slipped an arm around Howard Milmarsh’s shoulder, and there was
sympathy in his strong, smoke-begrimed face, which drew forth response
from the other at once.

“A brick struck me on the head,” he said, with an involuntary groan.
“It hurt my head. But it’s nothing serious.”

“You need rest and quiet for a while, and I’ll see that you get it.
Come with me.”

Howard Milmarsh was willing to accept anybody’s kindly ministrations
now. The reaction had come, and he felt as weak as a little child.
Without answering, he suffered himself to be led away, Carter on one
side of him, and Chick on the other, while Patsy ran ahead to see that
the chauffeur was there with the big motor car.

When they had lifted the now half-fainting young man into the car and
disposed him comfortably with the rugs that were always in the car,
Chick and Patsy got in with him.

Nick took his place by the side of the chauffeur. As the car started,
on its way to the detective’s home, Nick tried to compose his mind and
comprehend the strange happenings that had brought to him the heir to
the Milmarsh millions.

“‘There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we
will,’” he quoted softly to himself.



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                             ANOTHER KINK.


Although Howard Milmarsh had declared that he was not much hurt, and
soon would be well again, it was found that his injuries were more
serious than either he or Nick Carter had believed at first.

The patient was kept at Nick’s home that night, and the detective’s own
physician, the famous Doctor Grant, came in. He gave the sick man a
long examination. Then, after prescribing a sedative, he beckoned Nick
one side, for a private report.

“The truth is, Carter, his mind has gone.”

The detective started and a look of genuine horror appeared in his face.

“Do you mean that he is permanently insane?”

“No. I wouldn’t say that. But the blow on the head, with the excitement
and mental strain, have been too much for his brain. It has produced
a condition of aphasia, or loss of memory, which makes him unable to
talk in a coherent manner, simply because he can’t think.”

“I understand. But I hope he will soon recover.”

Doctor Grant shrugged his shoulders. As a physician, he was more
interested in the case from a scientific point of view than anything
else. At the same time, he was not wanting in sympathy.

“My advice is to have him removed to a hospital, where he will be under
constant supervision and will have proper care. You can put him in a
private room—that is, if you do not mind the expense——”

“The expense is nothing,” interrupted the detective impatiently.

“Very well. Then that is what you’d better do. In time, with quiet and
careful nursing, together with medical attention, he will come around,
I have no doubt. I will see him every day. I’m on the staff of the
Universal Hospital—where I should advise you to send him—and I will put
him on my regular list.”

An ambulance conveyed the patient to the Universal Hospital, and he
was put to bed in one of the best private rooms. Special nurses were
engaged for him—one day nurse and one for the night—and orders given
that he be not left alone for an instant.

Having done this, the detective could only wait, although it worried
him to think that, now that he had found the missing heir, it was only
to see him physically unable to take possession of his rights.

“I suppose you are sure this is the real, genuine Howard Milmarsh, eh?”
suggested Chick, the evening that they had had the sick, and still
partly unconscious, young man taken to the hospital.

“I am not sure of anything,” returned his chief, lighting a perfecto.
“But if he isn’t, then I am worse fooled than I am generally in a
matter of identity.”

A tap at the door, and the butler entered, to announce “Mr. Andrew
Lampton!”

“Show him in.”

Lampton came in with rather a jaunty step, bowed to Carter and glanced
questioningly in the direction of his companion.

“You can say what you have to say, Lampton,” was Nick’s reply to
this silent query. “This is Chick Carter, and he is my confidential
assistant. Take a chair.”

Andrew Lampton seated himself slowly, at the same time keeping his eyes
fixed on the detective, while a cynical smile played about his lips.

“Where is T. Burton Potter?” asked Nick, handing a cigar box to his
visitor. “You have not brought him with you?”

Andrew Lampton took a perfecto from the box, and accepted a light
before he answered. Then he said calmly:

“I have not brought him with me, because he is in the Universal
Hospital. He was badly hurt at a fire last night, I have been told,
and has been removed to the hospital, where it is expected he will not
recover.”

It was with difficulty that Nick maintained his usual calm exterior.
Here was an assertion that he could not disprove while the patient at
the Universal Hospital was unable to speak for himself. True, the girl,
Bessie Silvius, had called him Howard Milmarsh. But if T. Burton Potter
were slick enough to deceive others, why should he not have fooled the
girl also?

These thoughts ran like lightning through the detective’s brain, as
he and Andrew Lampton both smoked steadily. The former was staring at
a picture on the opposite side of the room, as if his mind were quite
occupied with it, to the exclusion of everything else.

“What makes you think the man in the hospital is T. Burton Potter?” he
inquired, at last.

“Well, I was told by Louden Powers that he lived in that house, and
that he had been accepted by some of Milmarsh’s intimate friends as
Milmarsh, and that he had been injured at last night’s fire.”

“You know I was at that fire?” asked Nick quietly.

“Naturally. Everybody knows that.”

“How does everybody know it?”

“Haven’t you seen the evening papers?”

“No. I saw the morning papers, and my name did not appear in them. I
requested that it should not. Also, I asked that Howard Milmarsh’s name
be kept out of the account of the fire.”

“Well, here is an evening paper,” returned Lampton, handing him one.
“It is evident that the news leaked. I don’t mind saying, however, that
Louden Powers and I were both at that fire, and that we saw you come
down the ladder with that old man. Somebody else—the gentleman over
there, whom you tell me is your assistant—carried him down the lower
part of the ladder. Then you slid down by yourself.”

Nick glanced down the column of print detailing the incidents of
the fire, and saw that his own name and Howard Milmarsh’s were both
mentioned. He had little doubt that the “leak” had been contrived by
Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton. But he did not say so. It was his
custom to let the other party play his hand out before he showed his
own, if it could be done.

“How long had T. Burton Potter been living in that house where the fire
was?” he asked, at last.

“Only a few days, I understand. That’s what the man who rents the house
tells me. He is a truckman, and his name is said to be Billings. They
call him Bonesy Billings, but I should think the ‘Bonesy’ is only a
nickname. At all events, that is the only first name I heard for him.
He calls his roomer Howard Milmarsh. But that only shows how much
alike Potter and this Milmarsh must be; when nobody can tell which is
which. You haven’t heard anything of the real Milmarsh, have you?”

“I think I have,” was Nick’s curt reply.

He had to admit to himself that Andrew Lampton and Louden Powers
were playing a cunning game. They had taken instant advantage of the
sickness of the man hurt at the fire to declare that he was T. Burton
Potter, and not Howard Milmarsh. And the worst of it was that it could
not be disproved unless the poor fellow whose memory was gone could be
brought to his senses.

“Where is Louden Powers?”

This question came suddenly, but it did not disturb Lampton. He puffed
contentedly at the good cigar between his lips, and answered briefly:

“I don’t know.”

“You saw him last night?”

“Yes. But that is the last time I saw him. Louden said he had a little
business to attend to, which would keep him out of New York for a
few days. Then he hopped on a street car and was gone. Mighty slick
citizen, Louden!”

“What is to prevent my putting you in the Tombs while I look into this
matter?” suddenly demanded Nick.

Chick, who had been sitting at his desk in a corner of the room, jumped
to his feet as his chief abruptly flung the question at Lampton. Chick
was as much surprised as anybody—more so than Lampton appeared to be,
for that worthy did not move in his chair, and took the time to inhale
a few more puffs of his cigar, before he answered coolly:

“Your word, my dear boy! You promised me you would not do anything of
that kind so long as I did what you requested. Well, I’ve done it.
You wanted me to bring T. Burton Potter to you, and you have him in
your own care. He is in the hospital, it is true. But he’s under your
own eye, and you might not have had him if I had chosen to get him
away before the fire broke out. I could have done it easily, but I was
pledged to you, and, of course, I could not go back on you. I know you
will keep faith with me.”

“That is true,” admitted the detective. “It would be better if I had
you securely in a cell. But I won’t do it at present.”

“Thanks!”

“I do not concede that you had anything to do with putting T. Burton
Potter into my hands—if the young man in the hospital really is
Potter—but I will allow you to have your own way about that.”

“It is the truth. That’s why. You know it, too, Mr. Carter. Well, if
there is nothing else, I reckon I’ll be going. If you want me again,
you can hear of me at the café in Third Avenue, where you found me
before. So long!”

With the remnant of the perfecto sticking up from the corner of his
mouth, Andrew Lampton strolled to the door, opened it, and disappeared.
As the door closed, Chick remarked casually:

“Patsy will see where he goes. I’ve given him a standing order not to
lose sight of Andrew Lampton when once he has been here.”

“Quite right!” commended the chief. “Now we have a lot of our work to
do all over again! I believed I really had Howard Milmarsh and could
close up the case. But these rascals have started a new game, and we
shall have to see it through.”

“You don’t believe it is really T. Burton Potter who is in the
hospital, do you?” asked Chick.

“I shall have to prove it isn’t. That’s the task they have set for me,
and it will not be an easy one.”



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                            ANOTHER SCHEME.


The weeks went slowly by, and the patient in the private room at the
Universal Hospital remained in the bewildered condition in which he had
been since the night of the fire. He improved physically, but his mind
was still a blank.

“Have you seen this, chief?” asked Chick one morning, as, after
breakfast, he opened the morning paper, which Carter had been too busy
to look at yet. “Another scheme to open up a beautiful section in
Muddyford or Eden-in-the-Swamp. It’s an advertisement, and it reads
like a romance. Listen!”

He read the principal display lines in a full-page advertisement, as
follows:

“‘The new Paradise City! Artistic Homes for Everybody, which are paid
for the same as rent. A bower in the midst of nature’s loveliness.’
And so on. Get on to that old gag, chief, ‘Paid for the same as rent?’
That’s a lulu.”

“Advertisements of that kind are always in the papers,” remarked Nick
carelessly. “Some of those real-estate developments are all right, too.
Others are not, of course.”

“I don’t know anything about this one,” went on his assistant. “But
I couldn’t help noticing it, because it’s the same one we’ve been
getting booklets about. Here’s one that was in the mail box yesterday.
It was just shoved through the slit by hand. That’s what makes it look
fishy. As if they were afraid to use the mails, in case of government
inquiries.”

“You may be wrong about that, Chick,” answered his employer absently,
as he lighted his after-breakfast cigar. “What’s the booklet about?”

“Well, the heading looks as if it might possibly interest us. It
reads: ‘The Lost Heir Found! The Story of a Great Estate to be Given to
the Use and Benefit of Everybody.’”

“What’s that?” demanded Nick, suddenly interested.

“Well, there’s a lot in it about a long-lost heir having suddenly
returned and claimed his own. He has traveled far during his years of
absence, and, while away, he has made a deep study of country homes for
the masses at a low cost. It is a hobby with him.”

“Go on. Are you reading from the book?”

“I am picking out the important parts,” returned Chick. “Do you want to
see it? Here it is.”

He handed the gaudy-covered pamphlet to his chief, who rapidly absorbed
the salient points of its contents. He had the faculty of skimming
pages and getting their purport in a few hasty glances.

One paragraph that particularly interested him explained things in
these rather bombastic terms:

“The long-lost heir of this estate—which is within a few miles of New
York City—has resolved that some of the broad acres which have now
become his shall be surrendered to the people. Upon these acres he will
build a model settlement, a city of beautiful homes, each set in a
fair garden of its own. To these he invites those who have heretofore
been cooped up in city flats to come and live, really, in the lap of
bounteous nature. Come to the new Paradise City and see for yourselves.”

The exact situation of the new Paradise City was not given. Those
who were interested could call at room No. 2006 in one of the great
skyscraping office buildings downtown, and there learn all they might
wish to know. It was also stated that a small sum down would be
required. After that the property could be paid for in monthly payments.

“There is nothing remarkable about this,” remarked Nick, “except about
the long-lost heir. That gives me a feeling that it may be the Milmarsh
estate somebody is playing with. I don’t see how it is, exactly,
unless some one has seen the attorneys, Johnson, Robertson & Judkins,
and persuaded them that Howard Milmarsh has turned up.”

“How can that be?” asked Chick.

“Do you know for certain whether it is T. Burton Potter or Howard
Milmarsh lying in that room at the Universal Hospital?”

Nick put this query significantly, and Chick immediately screwed up one
eye.

“We might call up the lawyers on the telephone and find out something
about it,” he suggested.

“We might. But I prefer to look into it myself. The lawyers will take
what evidence is presented, and act upon it. They may have done so
already. It looks to me as if they have. If I were to call them up
there would be a lot of bustle immediately, and the scoundrels, if they
really have tried to steal a march on me, would be on their guard.”

“It’s Lampton, I suppose.”

“And Louden Powers,” added Nick. “I have not much doubt about that.
We’ll go up to room No. 2006 in that building and see what we can find
out.”

“What are we to look like?” asked the young man, quite as a matter of
course.

“I’ll be an old man, in shabby clothes. You can be my son, with
spectacles and a cap pulled down low. That will be disguise enough.
They would spot us at once if we didn’t do something to change our
appearance. I hate to do that kind of thing, but it can’t be helped in
this case.”

Half an hour later a feeble old man, in a long, thin overcoat and
wearing a soft, black hat with a wide brim, was helped upon a Broadway
car by a young man with dark spectacles and wearing a cap. The rest of
the young fellow’s apparel was a shabby sack suit and a blue necktie
under a frayed collar. His shoes were of tan leather and badly scuffed.

The look of the two suggested that they had a little money saved,
but were the kind of people who were obliged to watch their nickels
carefully.

They found that there were three offices belonging to the Paradise
Improvement Company, although only one was open to the public. It was a
sort of anteroom, and there were a number of people waiting to see the
big man in the inner office when Nick Carter and his assistant forced
their way in through the throng.

“Say, chief!” whispered Chick. “There’s Billings!”

Sure enough, Bonesy Billings was there to purchase a lot at Paradise
City. He did not care who heard him talk about his business. He was
telling a chance acquaintance that his house had caught fire, but that
his furniture was all insured, and he had enough money now to go and
live in the country, to raise chickens and garden truck and keep a cow.
He figured he could make a fair living that way and wouldn’t have to
work as he had in New York.

“I’d like to warn him to be careful,” remarked Chick, in a low tone, to
his chief. “He’s just the kind of simple fellow to swallow all that is
told him, and I don’t like the general look of these offices. They are
too gorgeous to be entirely honest, I’m afraid.”

Bonesy Billings went into the inner sanctum, and after about fifteen
minutes came out with a quantity of “literature” in his hands. This
consisted of booklets, circulars, statements of what had been done to
improve the plots to be sold, and plenty of gay-colored pictures.

“Well, I’m going to look it over,” announced Bonesy, to anybody who
would listen. “It’s out in the country, all right, and it’s been a
private estate for a hundred years. But it’s such a big place that the
present owners can afford to have this Paradise City built in one part
of it without its ever being seen from the windows of the big house.
The folks in that mansion will be neighbors of them that buys in
Paradise. I guess I’ll go up there of evenings and hear the daughter of
the family—if there is one—play the pianner. Good old ragtime, I hope.”

“Where is the place?” ventured Chick.

“Why, it’s a family by the name of Milmarsh,” replied Bonesy. “Howard
Milmarsh, who has been away for three years or so, is home again, and
it’s him that’s laying out this new place. He’s all right, Howard is.”

“Is he inside the offices now?”

“No, I guess not. It’s the manager who does the business. He’s a
lawyer, I was told.”

“I’d like to see him,” put in Nick, in a quavering voice. “I hope I
shan’t have to wait long.”

There was a note of appeal in this from the seemingly old man that
touched the hearts of most of the people waiting to see the manager.

“Let him go in first. I’m willing,” declared a man who evidently was
one who worked hard with his hands, and who was the next in line. “If
everybody else is agreeable, let the old gentleman go right in.”

There was no dissent, and Chick, taking his chief by the elbow,
propelled him into the inner office.

Three persons were in the room, but none of them were known to the
detective or Chick.

“Too slick to give themselves away,” whispered the latter, as they
entered. “I half expected to see Louden Powers or Lampton.”

“They are in the background, I guess,” was the hasty reply.

They advanced into the large room, and Nick bowed humbly to a portly,
dignified man behind the large table. On either side of him were
younger men, who appeared to be assistants. There was a typewriter in
front of one of them.

It would be tedious to describe the interview in detail. Suffice it
that when Nick and his assistant came out of the offices, they had
a bundle of circulars and booklets, and had learned positively that
somebody who called himself Howard Milmarsh had taken possession of the
estate.

One thing rather relieved Nick, and that was the admission from the big
man behind the desk that Mr. Milmarsh had not formally taken possession
of his property yet. There were some legal matters to be adjusted, he
said, which might take a month or more. But Mr. Milmarsh was selling
plots now, with the understanding that buildings would begin after the
settlement of his estate.

“It’s a swindle, of course. But it is in the hands of good lawyers, and
they know just how to smooth over the rough places for their clients,”
remarked Nick. “I should like to see Lampton.”

Little more was said until the two were again at home. They had not
used the street cars this time. Chick caught a passing taxi, and they
rode quickly home.

“Let Patsy run over to that café and find out something about Andrew
Lampton. I understand he has lost sight of him in the last three weeks.”

“Well, you did not want him to spend any more time watching the
fellow,” Chick reminded him.

“I know that. We traced him to a hotel uptown, and he was living there
till three weeks ago. Then he vanished, and I did not think it worth
while to trouble Patsy about it any longer.”

Chick looked at his chief in a peculiar way. He felt convinced that
there was something passing in the detective’s mind that he had not
chosen to divulge. He was right, as his next words showed.

“I had information that he was in the neighborhood of the Milmarsh
home. Captain Brown is an old friend of mine. I telephoned him, and he
said a man who did not give his name, but who, he since has learned,
calls himself Powers, stayed at the Old Pike Inn one night. After that
he went up to the Milmarsh home, and is believed to be the guest of
Howard Milmarsh. If Louden Powers is there, the chances are that Andrew
Lampton is not far away.”

Patsy hastened out on his errand, and in about half an hour returned
with the information that Andrew Lampton had gone to the country, but
that no one knew what was his destination.

“That will do, Patsy. You will have to remain on watch here for a few
days. Chick and I are going out to the Old Pike Inn on the midnight
train.”

“There’s a train two hours earlier than the ‘Owl,’” suggested Patsy.

“I know that,” was Nick’s reply. “But I do not care to reach there
while many people are about.”

“I see,” said Patsy with a grin. “You want to sneak in on rubbers.”



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                           WHICH WAS WHICH?


At eight o’clock the next morning the chief and Chick faced each other
across a well-served breakfast in a private dining room in the Old Pike
Inn, while Captain Brown, the proprietor, smiled on them from a chair
at the window.

“Well, of course, Carter,” went on Brown, who had been speaking, “we
can’t tell much about this Howard Milmarsh. I used to see him down
here at the Inn pretty often, and I thought I knew him. He has changed
a little in the few years he has been away. But the features are the
same, of course, and his size and shape have not much altered. In fact,
I thought he would have grown heavier than he has.”

“Does he come down to the Inn now?”

“Never seen him since the night he arrived, with that man Andrew
Lampton. That was before Louden Powers came. Powers stayed here one
night, but the other two went straight up to the Milmarsh residence.
I happened to be down at the railroad station when they arrived, or I
wouldn’t have seen them at all.”

“Did you speak to them?”

“Oh, yes. Milmarsh shook hands with me, and said I had not changed
since he saw me last, and I handed him back a similar line of talk. You
know how men do when they haven’t seen each other for a long time.”

Carter nodded and poured out another cup of coffee for Chick.

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Captain Brown jovially. “What humbugs men are! I
could see a lot of changes in him, but I did not think he would want me
to say so, and, of course, I didn’t.”

“Well, we came up here to learn what really was going on,” observed
Nick, after a pause. “What are they doing at Paradise City?”

“Nothing.”

“No building going on?”

“Why, no. They couldn’t build there. It’s that swampy place over to the
northeast. Mr. Milmarsh—I mean this Howard Milmarsh’s father—never did
anything with it. He talked about having it filled in some time. But he
never did it. If he had, he would have made it an extension to his golf
links.”

“They are selling plots, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“Do the people who buy the plots think the swamp won’t hurt?” threw in
Chick, as he finished his breakfast.

“They don’t see the swamp,” replied Captain Brown.

“How do they buy, then?”

“From a map. Ha, ha, ha! Swamps don’t show on maps—unless you want them
to. You ought to know that.”

“I do know it,” replied Chick. “But I didn’t suppose they could put
over such a bluff as that. It isn’t Howard Milmarsh who does it, is it?”

Nick listened with some show of interest for Captain Brown’s reply to
this.

“I don’t know who is at the back of the Paradise City project,” he
answered more seriously. “I suppose Howard Milmarsh must sanction it,
or it wouldn’t be going on. But the fellows engineering the game are
Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton.”

It was apparent to Nick Carter that Captain Brown could have told more
about the business if he had chosen to do so. But he was manager of the
Old Pike Inn, and it was his policy not to say anything about anybody
which might rebound and hurt his trade. He was an innkeeper first of
all, and he never forgot his own interests.

“Well, captain, you will be careful not to let anybody know who we
are, of course?” adjured the detective. “We shall go and see the swamp
during the day, and to-night there will be something else we shall have
to attend to. Secrecy is important, but I was sure we could depend on
you.”

“You can bank on me to the last cent,” replied Captain Brown
impressively. “You say you want to look at that swamp?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t want to walk through it, I suppose?”

“Hardly,” said Nick, with a smile. “It must be pretty wet about this
time.”

“Almost a lake! What I was about to suggest is that I can take you
along the east road in my car, and you can see the swamp over the
fence. If that is all you want of it.”

“That will be just what we do want,” replied Nick. “I should like to
assure myself that nothing has been done to alter the appearance of the
place. How soon do we start?”

“In ten minutes, if you like. I’ll go down and telephone the garage at
once, and have the machine at the door by the time you are ready. It
will be an open car—unless you would rather ride in a limousine. You
would not be so exposed to view then.”

“It’s a lonely road, and if we do see anybody staring, we can pull our
hats down over our eyes, and be looking for something that we may have
dropped in the car,” said the chief. “We’ll take the open car.”

Neither Carter nor Chick made any attempt to disguise themselves for
this trip. They appeared merely to be two visitors to Old Pike Inn
looking at the country as the guests of Captain Brown. He often took
guests out in his car.

Nick knew something about the section of the Milmarsh estate generally
spoken of by those who lived in the neighborhood as “the swamp.” But he
wanted to look it over, to make sure that it had not been changed.

He kept in mind the instructions of the elder Howard Milmarsh, to see
that his son was not deprived of any of his rights.

If this was the real Howard Milmarsh who had seated himself in the
mansion, with these two shady characters, Louden Powers and Andrew
Lampton, as his chief advisers, then it was the detective’s clear duty
to go there and tell the new head of the Milmarsh family what his
father’s wishes were.

“I shall know more about it after to-night,” was the way he finally
settled it with himself.

The swamp looked about the same as he always had seen it, and he ground
his teeth in indignation as he thought of the poor people who were
giving up their money for worse than nothing at all.

It was just as they had passed the swamp, and were turning into another
road, away from the Milmarsh estate, that Nick caught sight of a man
walking in a narrow path not far from the big house, apparently in deep
thought.

His head was bent and his hands were clasped behind him, as he
strolled, looking neither to the right nor left.

“Who is that?” asked Nick, who had not had a look at the man’s face.

But at that instant the musing one looked up, and the morning sun fell
right across his countenance, bringing up plainly every feature.

It was only a momentary glimpse that the chief and Chick had of the
man’s face. But it was enough for both of them to see it so clearly
that both knew it was the man who called himself Howard Milmarsh.

“Either that man is Howard Milmarsh, or I can’t tell the rightful owner
of this place from a rascal who ought to be in jail. I wonder whether I
shall find out which is which?”

Carter had said this loudly enough for his assistant to hear, and it
was in a tone of conviction that the latter replied:

“You’ll find out, chief, and, by ginger, I believe I know already what
the verdict will be.”

“You are more sure than I am, Chick. I thought I _knew_ that the man
who is in the Universal Hospital is Howard Milmarsh. But that man we
have just passed looks as much like the real one as the other. It’s a
puzzle. But I must untangle it somehow.”

“We are going to do it to-night, aren’t we?”

“Yes. At least, we’ll try. You have the long dusters and big caps in
that suit case, haven’t you, Chick?”

“All right, chief. We won’t look like ourselves when we are rigged
up for our little visit to the big house on the hill. You can bet on
that.”



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                            BY UNDERGROUND.


It was soon after darkness had set in—a darkness helped by a drizzling
rain which had begun in the afternoon—when two men in long dusters and
with large caps pulled over their eyes crept through the shrubbery at
the back of the Milmarsh mansion and moved along the stone foundation
wall, as if looking for something.

“Here it is, Chick. Howard Milmarsh, the father, showed it to me once
when we were walking through the grounds. It’s the hole through which
they used to take the colored people so that they could keep them
in safety till they could be sent up State and over the border into
Canada.”

“It was part of the ‘underground railroad’ in slavery days, I suppose?”

“Yes. The Milmarsh who lived here seventy years ago was an
abolitionist, and his wife was particularly enthusiastic in trying to
help negroes to escape from the South. It’s a good thing for us now.
Come along!”

The hole that Nick had discovered in the stone foundation wall was
about four feet square, and was covered by a wooden board on which
composition had been placed, so that it looked like the stones all
about it. Only one who knew where to look would be likely to discover
that there was any break at all in the wall.

The disguised board was easily removed by pressing a secret spring.

“Get in, Chick. Enter feet first. Sit down and let yourself go.”

“I may get a hard bump,” protested the young man.

“No, you won’t. I promise you that,” replied his chief.

Chick gingerly stepped into the hole, with his back to the outer world
and his feet straight out before him.

Hardly had he assumed his position when he began to slide, and in a
second he was scooting down a long, smooth chute in black darkness.
Suddenly he stopped in the midst of what felt like a gigantic feather
bed.

He heard his chief chuckling at the hole, and he realized that when
slaves were brought into this house, every care was taken that they
should not be hurt in the process.

He got to his feet, and found himself standing on a smooth floor, while
Nick softly warned him to keep out of the way.

There was a slight scuffle in the distance, then a whisking sound, and
his employer shot into the midst of the feather bed, just as he had
done.

The glow of an electric flash light showed him that his chief was by
his side, smiling, as he cast the light about.

“You see, Chick, this room is cut off from all the inhabited part of
the house—except in a roundabout way that I will show you later. It is
solidly built, and no one could get at the people housed here except by
that one opening in the outer wall. The one by which we came in.”

Nick also pointed out marks on the wall where bunks had been, and told
his assistant that it had been possible for nearly two hundred persons
to sleep in the room at one time.

“I have been told that more than two hundred refugees have stayed here
all night on occasion. But I doubt whether they slept much. Now come
with me. I’m going to find out to-night, if I can, where the real
Howard Milmarsh is.”

Chick did not reply. He had implicit confidence in the great detective
by whom he was proud to be employed, and he only wondered how the
object was to be accomplished—not whether it would be.

In one corner the detective fumbled for a few moments, and a panel in
the wooden wall swung open on a pivot in the center, top, and bottom.
There was space enough for an ordinary-sized person to go through, and
even a stout one could have squeezed in.

Nick went ahead, and from the darkness beyond told his assistant to
follow.

No sooner were they both in, than Nick directed the glow of his flash
light up a flight of narrow, winding stairs. They seemed as if they
might go to the top of the house, for Chick felt as if he never would
be at the end of turning around.

But the chief stopped after a while, and, opening another concealed
door, went through, followed by Chick. They were in a narrow hall
now—one with half a dozen twists and turns.

“Hush!”

It was the chief’s voice in a low tone of warning, for Chick had just
made an exclamation of annoyance as he stumbled over a low stool.

Chick was silent. Then he started, for there were voices close to him,
although he could not see anybody but his employer.

“That sounds like Andrew Lampton,” whispered Chick.

“It is Lampton.”

“And there’s Louden Powers.”

“Right!”

“Where are we, chief?”

“I’ll show you. Sit on that stool—the one you just now fell over.”

Nick turned the light on the stool, and also revealed that a similar
stool was by its side.

The chief sat on one stool and Chick sank upon the other. This brought
their faces close against the wall.

“Move that little, round piece of wood in front of you, Chick. It works
on a pivot. I have another one here.”

“Gosh!” ejaculated Chick. “It’s a peephole!”

“Yes. It’s in the carved frame of a big picture. That prevents the hole
being observed from the other side. We are now looking into the dining
room. I suppose this narrow place we are in was used when negroes were
being helped to freedom. Anyhow, it’s mighty useful to us now. I’m glad
Howard Milmarsh’s father showed it to me.”

“Why did he do it?”

“Only because I was curious about this wonderful old house. He was
proud of its mysteries and unexpected twists and turns. He and I were
good friends, and he knew he could depend on my keeping a silent tongue
about anything he might show me. Take that lesson to yourself.”

“Of course,” returned Chick, in rather a hurt tone. “You never knew me
to talk about anything you told me, did you?”

The chief reached over and took his assistant’s hand. He had not meant
to injure his feelings.

“Look through the hole and take note of everything you see. There are
chinks all about the big picture in front of us—in the frame, that
is—and we ought to hear easily.”

Nick was right in this. They could see and hear to perfection.

The dining room of the Milmarsh mansion was an immense, lofty room—more
a hall than a room indeed. It was hung with pictures of dead-and-gone
Milmarshes, in the manner of a baronial hall in Europe, and was richly
lined with tapestries, while frescoes and other ornamentation seemed
never-ending.

From the center of the ceiling hung a gorgeous chandelier, which had
been fitted with electric lights when that style of illumination came
in. But there were old-fashioned sconces for wax candles still on
the gilt arms, with the curious crystal pendants which went with the
candles, as well as pipes and tips for gas.

At a table in the middle of the room, on which remained the white cloth
for dinner, sat three men. They were Louden Powers, Andrew Lampton, and
the young man whom Lampton had declared to be Howard Milmarsh.

The last-named was speaking, in a thick voice that made Nick think of
that night, years ago, when Howard Milmarsh had rushed from the Old
Pike Inn, believing himself the murderer of his distant cousin, Richard
Jarvis. The voice seemed to be absolutely the same.

“I don’t like this Paradise City business, Lampton,” he was saying, in
an angry tone.

“You have nothing to say about it,” snapped Louden.

“It’s my property, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s your property,” assented Lampton. “But you never would have
proved your right to it without our help.”

“Oh, I think I could,” snarled Milmarsh. “Carter would have helped me
if I’d asked him.”

The other two men laughed derisively.

“Why, you idiot!” broke out Powers. “He would not admit that you are
Howard Milmarsh.”

“His Howard Milmarsh is in a hospital in New York.”

“He doesn’t believe that man is Howard Milmarsh,” declared the man whom
we will call that for convenience, as has been done before in this
narrative.

“He doesn’t know who he is,” said Powers. “He took him there as
Milmarsh, and, of course, he doesn’t like to have to confess that he
has turned out to be T. Burton Potter, after all.”

“If that fellow ever should recover his mind and memory——”

The young man said this musingly, as he poured himself out another
glass of champagne.

“If he did, all the fat would be in the fire again,” finished Andrew
Lampton, also taking some more champagne.

“Well, now, the point is what are we going to do about the Paradise
City affair?” said Louden Powers. “There is a row brewing, and the
people who have put their money into it want to know when they will get
their plots. Can’t you get those lawyers in New York to settle matters
for you, Howard?”

“How am I to do that? They have let me take possession, but they are
slow to believe things—like all lawyers. They pretend to have some
doubts still whether I am the right man.”

“What do they want?”

“They insist that until Carter concedes in writing that the estate is
in the hands of the real Howard Milmarsh, they can allow me to remain
here only on sufferance.”

“Well, then, the people can’t have their Paradise City plots. That’s
all there is to it. When you get a good hold on the bank account, as
well as just this property, we shall be able to pay those who make a
fuss, and we shan’t care what the others do.”

Louden Powers said this in harsh, grating tones, as he grinned over his
wineglass at the other two.

“How much money is there in the Paradise City treasury?” asked Andrew
Lampton.

“After paying the manager and assistants, and the rent for the offices,
I have three thousand dollars and a few odd hundreds,” announced
Powers, consulting a small notebook.

“Well, I’ll take a thousand of it. I’m tired of having no money. It’s
all very well to live in a fine house, but I want some cash.”

“You have everything you want here,” snapped Louden Powers. “Plenty of
the best kind of food, wines, motor cars, servants, and everything else
a man could want. What are you bothering about money for?”

“None of your business, Louden, what I want it for. Are you going to
hand over that thousand?”

“You may as well,” put in Andrew Lampton. “If you have three thousand
clear, each of us is entitled to a thousand. The odd hundreds you can
throw back into the treasury. We may want another dividend before
this matter is all straightened out. I begin to doubt whether Howard
Milmarsh ever will come into his own.”

“I don’t doubt it,” whispered Carter significantly to Chick.



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                                DOUBTS.


There was more squabbling over the division of the booty, and much more
champagne was disposed of before an agreement was reached. But at last,
with a grudging look, Louden Powers brought out a leather wallet and
slowly counted out ten hundred-dollar bills to each of his companions.

“There you are!” he grunted. “But it is a foolish thing to draw all
the capital out of a business before the time comes to wind it up. I’m
going to bed. It’s early—not much after eleven. But I’m tired. I have
to go down to New York to-morrow, to see how things are at the office.”

“Hear that, chief?” whispered Chick.

“Of course I do.”

“Well, he may be going to make a get-away.”

“He won’t succeed.”

“How do you know?”

“Patsy Garvan will be with you,” was the chief’s short reply. “Now,
keep still and watch.”

Louden Powers staggered to his feet, and Carter realized, for the first
time, how drunk he was.

“I’ll have to get some help to find my way to the elevator,” he
mumbled. “What kind of wine is that, anyhow, Howard?”

“You’ll have to ask my father—if you know where he is,” laughed Howard
Milmarsh. “He bought it.”

“Good for the old man!” squealed Andrew Lampton. “I say it’s durned
good booze! I wish I never had to drink anything worse! Whee! Come on,
old top! We’ll find the elevator!”

He lurched over to Louden Powers, and the two worthies reeled out of
the room, and across the hall to the elevator, which was operated by an
electric button by the passenger.

“I doubt whether they will be able to get upstairs in that,” muttered
Chick. “I wish we could sail in and knock their heads together!”

“Why?”

“We’d make such a racket that somebody might tell the actual truth in
the confusion. I can’t believe that fellow sitting at the table is the
real Howard Milmarsh.”

“Neither can I, Chick. But he has possession, and he could not have
got that if he had not convinced the lawyers. And Johnson, Robertson &
Judkins are not easily convinced.”

“That guy down there at the table is a blackguard. The real Howard
Milmarsh never behaved that way, did he?”

Nick was thoughtful for a few moments, and he did not answer until he
saw the man in the dining room reach down into the pail on the floor at
his side, in which was still an unopened bottle of champagne, and take
out a large piece of ice, which he pressed to his forehead.

“I have seen the real Howard Milmarsh do just what this fellow is doing
now. Of course, that does not prove that they are the same person, but
it is an indication. I have not _quite_ made up my mind yet.”

For another fifteen minutes the young man at the table sat there
holding ice to his forehead. Occasionally he drank some water from the
carafe on the table.

At last he got up and walked the length of the room and back, as if to
test his ability to do it without staggering.

He was fairly successful, and he uttered a mirthless laugh as he
dropped again into his seat.

“The blackguards!” he burst out suddenly. “The infernal, low-bred
rascals! They can’t even be decent crooks! This game they’ve played
on the poor devils who are paying for that swamp land is worse than
stealing the pennies from a blind man’s dog!”

He took from a pocket the ten hundred-dollar notes and gazed at them
thoughtfully.

“For two cents I’d put a match to these. I may not be a saint, but, by
the big bull of Bashan, I never was a robber of widows and orphans. At
least, not when I knew it!”

He reached over to the silver match box on the table, and savagely
struck a light. He held the lighted match till it burned up brightly,
and then, with the notes in his left hand and the match in his right,
laughed again in the hollow way he had before.

“Look!” whispered Chick excitedly. “The dub is going to burn up a
thousand dollars!”

But he didn’t do it. Just as he was about to touch the flame to the
money, he shook his head, and, with another dry chuckle, blew out the
match and dropped it in an ash tray.

“No, I won’t!” he mumbled. “What would be the use of that? The people
who paid it in wouldn’t get it. Besides, if those two scoundrels have
a thousand apiece, why shouldn’t I? And I need cash. This business of
having a big house, with servants and everything else, but no money,
isn’t the kind of thing I like. I suppose there’ll be hail Columbia
when it comes time to pay these servants, to say nothing of the butcher
and groceryman and all the rest of the tradesmen.”

He was about to pour himself out another glass of champagne, but
changed his mind and took some water from the carafe instead. It looked
as if he were trying to sober up.

“Well, I’ll go to bed,” he exclaimed, after another pause, during which
he seemed to be trying to collect his thoughts in some sort of orderly
array. “And, in the morning, I’ll begin to have this affair brought to
a focus. I’m tired of going on this way for nothing at all, just to
please other people.”

He got up from his chair, and made his way out of the room with much
better grace than had the other two men.

In a moment or two a man in livery, who seemed to have been waiting
somewhere close by until the convivial trio should disappear, came into
the room and began to clear away the remnants of the feast, as well as
the glasses and other paraphernalia that spoke of a carouse.

He had not proceeded far in his work when another man, dressed just
like him, also stole into the room and silently assisted the first.

When they had taken everything out of sight, including the tablecloth,
leaving the handsome mahogany table, with its highly polished surface,
glittering in the light of the chandelier, one of the men solemnly
addressed the other:

“What do you think of it, Dobbs?”

“Don’t know! How does it strike you, Kelly?”

“I’ll tell you better at the end of the month.”

“Ah! I could tell you now—if I wanted to,” blurted out Dobbs.

“Better not. Don’t give yourself away,” interrupted Kelly.

“Well, I say that if I don’t get my wages the day they’re due, it will
be a lawyer for mine.”

“That’s different. The same here.”

“Then you think it is——”

“I’m not saying.”

“Punk?”

“Nothing doing!”

“Hum! Let’s get out! There’s some good bottled beer downstairs.”

“I’m with you,” responded Kelly, with alacrity.

When they’d both gone out of the room, Chick again turned to his chief,
with a grin:

“Isn’t this the queerest joint you ever struck, chief?”

“It seems so. At the same time, I have more serious work here than to
speculate on the intentions of footmen, or even of the men who have
the privilege of drinking champagne ordered by my old friend, the late
Howard Milmarsh. I made him a promise the last time I saw him alive,
and I’m going to keep my word. Follow me, and I’ll show you something
more about this house that you may regard as curious.”



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                          GHOSTLY VISITANTS.


Wonderingly, Chick followed his employer along the dark corridor,
lighted at intervals by the electric flash, until they came to some
more winding stairs leading upward.

“There seems to be a secret house within a house here, chief,” muttered
Chick. “A great place for ghosts, I should say.”

Carter permitted himself a low laugh, and turned to place a hand on
Chick’s shoulder, as he replied:

“Do you know, Chick, you have just about struck the nail on the head
without meaning it?”

“I don’t get you.”

“You will in a few minutes. Here we are!”

They had gone up so many stairs that Chick had no clear idea of how
high they were in the house, when Carter pressed on the wall to his
right and opened a panel door like that which had admitted them to the
mysterious region they had been in for so long.

This panel led into a large, lofty room, with the moonlight streaming
through a skylight.

“What’s this, chief?”

“This used to be Howard Milmarsh’s laboratory and studio,” was the
quiet answer. “It is at the top of the house, as you see, and there is
only one other way of reaching it besides that we came in by. That is
through the bedroom he used in his lifetime. It is on the floor below
this.”

“Wonder whether the present Howard Milmarsh is in the same bedroom?”

“I don’t know,” replied Nick. “But if he isn’t, he is sure to be in one
very near it, for the best bedchambers are all on the floor below this.”

“Where do the servants sleep?”

“In the west wing, some distance away from this part of the building.
But come over here. I may want some help.”

There was a table and mirror against a wall across from the panel door,
with two electric lights each side of the glass.

Chick turned on these lights without hesitation. He knew that the room
was so arranged that the light would not show outside, even if anybody
should happen to be watching, which was not at all likely.

“Howard Milmarsh was deeply interested in theatricals,” explained
Nick. “He often had private performances in this house while his
wife was alive, and he always took part in them himself. This was his
dressing room. He used to ‘make-up’ here, and I suppose he had as fine
a collection of grease paint and other articles needed in a theatrical
dressing room as you could find anywhere in America to-day.”

“But what are you going to do?” asked Chick.

“I’m going to make myself look as much like the late Howard Milmarsh as
I can,” was the reply. “He always wore a mustache and pointed beard as
long as I knew him, and they were iron-gray toward the end of his life.
Here are the very things in this drawer.”

Carter took some false beards and mustaches, and began to examine them,
occasionally twisting one to bring it to the desired shape.

“Am I to take a hand in this?” asked Chick.

“You certainly are, and you must not waste time, either. We’ve both to
be ready before midnight. You make-up like Howard Milmarsh, the present
one. There is a full wardrobe in those closets along the wall. You can
find anything you want. Just a plain sack suit is all you will need.
But there’s a black-and-white check that Howard used to wear a great
deal. Put that on. It’s distinctive.”

It was five minutes to twelve when Nick Carter surveyed himself
critically in the mirror and decided he was enough like the father of
the present Howard Milmarsh to pass for him. Then he looked at his
assistant. He was much pleased, and he gave him the praise he felt he
deserved.

“Excellent, Chick! Grease paint is a wonderful transformer—if you know
how to use it. You have changed all your features. When that fellow
downstairs sees you, he’ll think it’s himself.”

“Or his ghost!” said Chick, with a smile.

“Ghost!” repeated the chief. “That’s it exactly. Haven’t you wondered
what we are doing all this for?”

“I supposed you had your reasons,” replied Chick humbly.

“I have. I’m going to scare that fellow into telling the truth, if I
can. If he isn’t the real Howard Milmarsh, I’m in hopes I’ll make him
confess the fraud.”

“But suppose he _is_ the real one, how will you work it then?”

“That’s a question,” answered the detective soberly. “But I do not
expect to be called on to answer that. Now, put a little talcum powder
on your cheeks, so that you will look a little more ghostly.”

“How about a smudge of phosphorus? Here’s some in this box. The old
gentleman certainly did not overlook anything.”

“It might add still more ghostliness to the general effect,” assented
Nick. “Rub some on your cheeks and hands, and I will do the same.”

Nick Carter had not exaggerated when he said that anybody seeing Chick
might think him the real Howard Milmarsh of the present day.

He might have remarked that his own make-up was also perfect. If the
elder Milmarsh had been alive, anybody meeting the detective would have
declared him to be the multimillionaire steel manufacturer.

A distant clock somewhere in the house, with deep, cathedral tones,
boomed out twelve strokes.

“Midnight!” observed Nick. “Just the time for a ghostly visit.”

He went to a door, which was fastened, like the others, by a secret
spring, and opened it wide. A narrow, winding staircase, of the
kind with which they had become familiar that night, led to a hall,
and along this a short walk brought them to a large door with heavy
portières in front.

Howard Milmarsh, the elder, had been so intimate with the great
detective that he had told him more about the ways of his mansion than
he ever had confided to any one else.

So Nick soon opened the door, and then another one beyond.

“Stand still, Chick!” he whispered. “I must see whether he is in bed.”

A moment later he returned to his assistant and whispered:

“He is in bed and fast asleep. Do not speak a word unless I give you a
signal. Walk softly, and keep out of sight for the present.”

Chick followed his chief into a large room which looked more like a
bedchamber of a hundred years ago than of to-day.

Instead of the light furniture to which people are accustomed now, with
brass or mahogany bedstead and other articles to correspond, there was
an immense four-poster, with mahogany cornices, from which depended
thick hangings of purple velvet with lace lambrequins draped over them.

A small electric light in a ground-glass globe hung over a table where
it would not shine in the face of an occupant of the bed, but which
relieved the gloom of the great, shadowy apartment.

The man who might or might not be Howard Milmarsh lay asleep in
the bed. His potations had stupefied him to such an extent that he
slumbered heavily, his breath coming in long, stertorous snores, and he
did not move.

Nick took from his pocket his electric flash, and, turning the light
full into the face of the sleeper, shook him gently and continuously.

It required several seconds to bring the man to his waking senses,
and even then he was only half-conscious. Lazily opening his eyes, he
closed them quickly, for he had been blinded by the glaring eye of the
flash light. When, after a pause, he opened them again, the light was
gone.

“Hello! What’s this?” he mumbled. “I must have been dreaming!”

Satisfied that this was the explanation of the strange light he thought
he had seen, Howard Milmarsh composed himself to drop asleep again,
when a deep voice commanded him to “Awake!”

He started up in bed and rubbed his eyes.

“Heavens, I heard somebody speak!” he muttered. “Lampton or——”

It was at this instant that he made out a shadowy form standing near
the bed, and as he stared the light of the flash was turned full upon
the figure of the ghostly visitor, and, traveling slowly upward, at
last came to the face of the elder Howard Milmarsh. Then the light was
blotted out, and the man in the bed, shaking with superstitious fear,
fell back upon his pillow.

“Who are you?” asked the strange voice out of the gloom.

Hardly knowing what he said, the man in the bed replied:

“I am Howard Milmarsh. Who the deuce are you?”

There was a touch of defiance in the last sentence that did more to
make Nick believe in the genuineness of this Howard Milmarsh than
anything else he might have said. But he remembered that a man who
would have the nerve to impersonate another to the extent of taking
possession of a large estate, with an eye to an immense fortune in
money later, would hardly be lacking in self-assurance.

“I am your father, Howard Milmarsh, who desires to see his son come
into his rights. That is why I am here.”

“Ah!”

Nick realized that it would be impossible to frighten this rather cool
individual very long. At first, when he had been awakened from his
sleep in such a curious fashion, he had shown terror. But that was
passing away, and the detective expected that soon he would be called
on to deal with this young man in a material way, if at all.

“This looks as if he might be the real Howard,” was his inward
comment. “Howard was never afraid of anything, and certainly he had no
superstition in his nature. He would be quite likely to send a bullet
through a ghost. Perhaps it is well this gentleman has no gun handy.”

“If you are my son, you will be able to answer certain questions that I
shall put to you,” went on Nick.

There was a pause. Then, in an incredulous tone, the young man in the
bed said:

“I’ll answer any questions. But be honest about it, and don’t say you
said things you didn’t.”

He had been edging away to the other side of the bed, and after the
first startled moment it struck the detective that the young man
was remarkably self-possessed, considering that he was talking to a
supposed ghost.

“What did I say to you just before you went down to the Old Pike Inn
that night you killed Richard Jarvis?”

The detective watched narrowly to see what effect his recalling Jarvis’
death would have on the man who had killed him.

He saw a decided start, and then the man in the bed fell upon his face
on the farther side of the bed, his face buried in the pillow.

“What did I say?” repeated Nick, in hollow tones.

He waited for a full quarter of a minute, during which the supposed
Howard Milmarsh writhed about the bed, with his face in the pillow.

“Will you answer me?”

“I can’t,” moaned the other.

“Why not?”

“Can’t you understand?”

There was such agony in the voice that asked this that Nick was
puzzled. Surely it must be remorse that caused the alleged slayer to
groan in such utter despair.

“You really are Howard Milmarsh?” asked Nick, after a pause.

“Of course I am,” came the answer in muffled tones from the depths of
the pillow. “Why do you ask that?”

“Look up—and see!”

Before Nick said this he beckoned to Chick. When Howard Milmarsh slowly
lifted his face from the pillow and turned it toward the other side of
the bed his eyes rested upon what might have been the reflection of
himself in the clothing he had worn on the night of the fatal poker
party at the Old Pike Inn.

For an instant he gazed at the figure of Howard Milmarsh, with its
creeping flames on the cheeks—for Chick had not been sparing of his
phosphorus—and a muffled shriek sprang from his lips.

Then, as Carter opened his mouth to speak, there was a loud noise
outside the room, and a door at the farther end crashed open!



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                         A FIGHT IN THE DARK.


Two men came surging into the room just as Nick and his assistant
backed away into the shadows behind the bed curtains.

“The light, Chick!” whispered Carter.

Chick understood, and instantly snapped out the electric light in the
ground-glass globe on the table, putting the room in black darkness.

They could hear somebody padding about without shoes not far away, and
they knew that Howard Milmarsh had jumped from the bed and was ready to
fight.

It was no part of the detective’s plan to have an open battle with this
young man, however. Whether he were the real Howard Milmarsh or not,
the detective did not desire to let him know who was on his track. He
might guess, but he shouldn’t _know_, if it could be helped.

Nick Carter had been in this bedchamber before, in the lifetime of the
elder Milmarsh, and he remembered where the switch was that controlled
the whole lighting of the room.

Taking out his jackknife and feeling his way to a certain part of the
wall behind him, he put the electrical connection out of business with
a skillful twist. He knew there could be no light in the bedchamber now
unless one were brought in from outside.

As he jumped back from the disabled switch, he heard the padding feet
moving toward it, followed, an instant later, by a muffled oath in the
tones of the young man from the bed.

“Fooled him!” muttered Nick.

Suddenly there arose a terrific racket across the room, and he knew
that Chick had come into collision with one of the two men who had come
in, at least.

“Get out, you monkey!” growled Chick in a disguised tone. “Here’s one
for you!”

A crash told the detective that Chick had floored his assailant, but
a quick renewal of the battle was indicated by more noise, with the
panting of two men in desperate contest.

It was at this moment that a sinewy arm was thrown around the
detective’s neck from behind, while a knee was thrust into his back.
The assailant evidently understood the gentle art of garroting, for he
pulled hard while he pressed his knee harder against the detective’s
back.

There could be only one result to an attack like this, made suddenly
and unexpectedly—Nick Carter had to let himself go to the floor.

As he did so his adversary was on top of him, trying to hold him down
and obtain a grip on his throat.

This was something different, however. Nick had no intention of
allowing such a liberty to be taken with him. He had yielded to the
garrote, because it was the only thing to be done. Now, however, when
he had a fair chance, things wore another aspect.

He rolled over like a panther, and in a second had his assailant by the
collar of his pajamas. It was not the detective’s desire to hurt the
young man. The thing was to escape from the bedchamber without being
recognized.

It was hardly likely that his identity was suspected. His disguise was
so good that nothing of his real personality could show through it, and
no one in the house had any reason to suppose he and Chick were near
Milmarsh.

The two men who had crashed into the room—and who had been summoned by
an electric bell sounded by a push button from the bed—were the two
liveried men—Kelly and Dobbs—who had cleared away the cloth and glasses
from the dining table, but who were without their coats when they broke
in.

It was these two men with whom Chick was engaged in the darkness while
his chief dealt with the occupant of the bed.

“You’ll spring ghosts on me, will you?” mumbled Nick’s adversary,
trying to break loose. “I’ll give you something that will make you wish
you were a ghost.”

Nick was obliged to admire the pluck and determination of the man. It
seemed to him just what the real Howard Milmarsh would do, and it made
the affair more complicated than ever to his mind.

There was a second crash at the other end of the room, followed by a
grunt of satisfaction which Nick knew was in the tone of his assistant
and which indicated that he was the victor.

But he could not say anything, for fear of betraying himself. He had
resolved that, at all odds, he must hide from this man who was fighting
so hard to get away from him that he had been followed into his very
bedroom by one who was resolved that the actual Howard Milmarsh should
have his rights.

“Somebody coming outside!” Chick squealed, hiding his real voice most
effectively. “Which way?”

“The same!” thundered his chief, in a husky bass entirely unlike his
own voice. “Hurry!”

He had been obliged to speak at last, but he did not think his tones
had revealed who he was.

There was no time for consideration. The disturbance in the
room—particularly the falling to the floor of the two servants under
the impact of Chick’s hard and skillfully used fists—had awakened the
two rascals who had been carousing in the dining room, and they were
coming to see what the fuss was about.

Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton were both seasoned drinkers. When they
staggered out of the dining room and into the elevator, both were well
steeped in wine. Many men in such a condition would have slept through
any disturbance.

But these were not of that kind. Powers awoke first, and, getting
into some of his clothing, went to the next room to get Lampton out.
Then the two went along the hall to see what was going on in Howard
Milmarsh’s bedroom.

It would not have mattered so much to Carter about these men coming if
they had been in the dark. But each one had lighted a candle—placed in
their room so that they could have a light for cigars—and these candles
gave light enough for them to see where they were going.

As soon as Nick knew that others were coming to the room, and that
they bore lights with them, he felt that he must act quickly to escape
recognition.

“Now we’ll have you, and find out what the game is!” chuckled the
supposed Howard Milmarsh, as he pushed Nick a little backward. “I’ll
tell you a ghost story of my own before I’m through.”

This boasting assertion was the last he had the opportunity of making.
Stooping and catching the young man around the waist, the stalwart
detective lifted him from the floor and hurled him clear across the bed
to the floor beyond.

As he fell, his head struck the wall, and he doubled up, unconscious.

Nick did not trouble himself to find out whether the man was hurt badly
or not. There was no time. Instead, he felt in the bed for pillows, and
grabbed up two of them.

“The door! Get!” he shouted, but carefully disguising his voice in a
sort of squeak. “You know where it is. I’ll attend to these others!”

Chick had seen the two men coming along the hall, and had recognized
them. Before he could obey his chief and retreat, they had seen him,
and Louden Powers cried out hastily:

“What’s the game, Howard? Why aren’t you undressed? Is it the jimjams
you have? Say, young fellow, you ought to let the wine alone after
this. It’s too much for that bean of yours. You’re not used to it. Get
into bed and sleep. That will give the rest of us a chance. Holy blue!
Have you been knocking the butlers down, too? Say, this is going to
make trouble. None of ’em will stay with us, and they’ll be wanting
their pay before they will get out, too!”

Louden Powders was advancing, with Lampton, as he said all this, and
both men were in the bedroom, candles and all.

Nick did not give them time to say anything more, and he stopped their
further progress into the room in a most effective fashion.

He hurled the two pillows, one after the other, at each candle, sending
them both flying out of the hands of their holders and plunging the
room again into black darkness.

Before he had thrown the pillows he saw that Chick had reached the part
of the wall where the secret panel door was situated, and he knew that
a simple pressure in the right spot would provide them both with an
exit.

His aim was true with the pillows. Notwithstanding that he was hidden
from the two rascals by the bed hangings, and that he had to hurl the
pillows nearly the whole length of the room, he sent each straight to
its mark, and neither Louden Powers nor Andrew Lampton saw where they
came from.

No sooner was the apartment in darkness than Carter rushed over to
where Chick stood and seized him by the arm.

“Do we beat it now?” whispered Chick.

“Yes! Quick!”

The secret panel swung open, and the chief shoved his assistant ahead
of him through the opening. Ere he could follow, he heard Louden
Powers’ voice remarking, with a shiver:

“What’s that? A window open? Hurry, Lampton! He’s getting out that way!
Come on! We’ll fool him yet!”

Nick slipped through the narrow doorway made by the opening of the
panel, and, as he closed it softly, he whispered to his assistant, with
a low laugh:

“Looks to me as if they are the persons who are fooled!”



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                           THE ELDER JARVIS.


Although the adventure had not turned out as satisfactorily as he could
have wished, Nick felt that he had made some gain toward getting at the
truth with regard to the identity of Howard Milmarsh.

The conspirators knew that they were watched, and whether this young
man whom they seemed to be leading by the nose was the real heir or
not, they had been made aware that they would not have it all their own
way without investigation by other parties.

It was while they were removing the make-up and costumes they had worn
in the characters of the two Howard Milmarshes that Carter and his
assistant discussed the probability of this being the actual young
Howard, after all.

“The preponderance of evidence is on his side, I must confess,”
declared Nick, as he finished dressing in his own clothes, after
removing all the grease paint and false hair from his face, as well as
the iron-gray wig he had worn as the elder Milmarsh. “He looks like
Howard, has the same voice, and certainly fights like him.”

“And yet you can’t quite believe in him?”

“Not quite. If only the Howard Milmarsh who is sick in the Universal
Hospital would get well, there would be little trouble in deciding
positively whether he or this one who has possession of the place is
the true one. It is a curious case—and as puzzling a one as I ever
attacked.”

“What are we going to do now?” asked Chick.

“You are right, Chick,” smiled his chief. “That is getting right down
to business. Well, I think we’ll go back to the Old Pike Inn and get
some sleep. There will be a busy day for us to-morrow.”

“All days are busy—especially since we took up this Howard Milmarsh
case,” observed Chick, smiling.

“That’s true. Well, come on, and don’t make a noise as you move along.
There are listening ears on the other side of the wall, remember.”

They made their way out of the Milmarsh mansion without discovery, and
in due time reached the Old Pike Inn, where they went to bed and slept
till the morning was fairly well advanced.

Indeed, they were still at breakfast in the private dining room into
which Captain Brown had led them, so that none of the other guests
should see them, when the captain came in and told them that Thomas
Jarvis was in the office and wanted to see Mr. Carter.

“Thomas Jarvis! Do you mean Richard Jarvis’ father?”

“Yes. He has been living here in the inn for a month past. He must have
seen you come in or go out, and recognized you. Those raincoats and
caps are pretty good, but a man who knows you and could get a good look
at your face would know you in spite of them.”

“Well, you may as well show him in here,” answered Nick. “I believe I
know what he is after.”

In ten minutes Thomas Jarvis had visited the detective, told his
story, and been dismissed. He had come to say that, as Howard Milmarsh
had not appeared to claim the property of his late father, it came
automatically to the Jarvis branch, and as he, Thomas, was the only
living Jarvis, of course it was his.

“You know that Howard Milmarsh _has_ appeared, and that he is living in
the Milmarsh residence at this very time?” asked Carter.

“I know that a man calling himself Howard Milmarsh is there,” was the
reply.

“You don’t believe he is the real man, then?”

“I didn’t say so.”

“Your tone said it,” was the detective’s rejoinder.

“Do you believe he is the real Howard Milmarsh?” asked Thomas Jarvis.

“Unless another one should turn up with a better claim, I have no right
to doubt it.”

“Well, I more than doubt it,” declared Jarvis roughly. “I am the heir
at law of this property, and I’m going to have it.”

“I wish you luck,” returned Nick.

With the exception of formal “Good mornings!” that was all of the
interview, and Thomas Jarvis retired.

“This puts a new twist into the case,” laughed Nick, when the door
closed. “Is it not strange that, with a great fortune like the Milmarsh
estate, to say nothing of the wonderful steel-manufacturing business
that goes with it, there should be at least one claimant outside of
these two Howard Milmarshes. But I wouldn’t give much for Thomas
Jarvis’ chance.”

“He’s the fellow who killed his son accidentally, isn’t he?” asked
Chick.

“Not so bad as that, although Richard Jarvis was killed while
quarreling with his father. He stumbled over something as he was about
to strike his father, and fell, with his head against an iron fender.
If he were still alive, I suppose he would be claiming to be Howard
Milmarsh’s heir.”

“Are we going back to New York to-day?” asked Chick.

“Yes. There is nothing to be done here. Until we can bring the poor
fellow in the Universal to his senses, I don’t see much hope of coming
to a decision. And that may never be, according to one of the nurses
who has been watching the patient.”

“Doctor Grayson doesn’t say so, does he?”

“The doctor is away from the city, unfortunately. He has been called
to attend a wealthy and influential patient of his in Chicago. But
he’ll be in New York to-morrow, I’m told, and then I may obtain some
dependable information.”

But the detective and Chick did not go to New York that day.
Circumstances arose to prevent them of a nature that neither had
anticipated.

They were still in the room in which they had breakfasted and had their
interview with Thomas Jarvis, when Captain Brown, after a hasty knock,
burst into the room with excitement flaming out all over him.

“Carter! What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What is it?”

“They’re here!” spluttered the captain.

“Who? What’s the trouble?”

“The Paradise City people!”

“Upon my word, I don’t know what you’re driving at, Captain Brown,”
returned Nick, somewhat impatiently. “Who are the Paradise City people?”

Captain Brown had cooled down a little by this time, and he took a seat
and fanned himself with his hat for a few moments, as he pointed to the
window.

Chick stepped over and looked out.

“Well, what’s broken loose?”

Before he could answer, there was another knock at the door. In
quick response to the detective’s “Come in!” a young man, also in
considerable excitement, surged into the apartment.

The young man was Patsy Garvan!

“Say, chief, I been wanting to get to you, but I thought I’d better
wait till I knew you’d want me.”

“Well?”

“There’s going to be merry hilltop to pay at Milmarsh’s to-day, and we
ought to get busy, or there won’t be any house for Howard Milmarsh to
take when he does prove his rights.”

“What do you know about it, Patsy?” put in Chick. “I see a big mob of
people going up the road—men and women—and they look ugly.”

“They are ugly. See that big fellow at the head of the procession in a
blue sweater? Know who he is?”

Chick peered harder at the disorderly gathering making its way up the
winding road toward the gates of the Milmarsh estate. But the big man
had gone too far for sure recognition.

“Looks as if it might be Bonesy Billings!” said Chick. “It’s about his
build, and I know he has bought property in the Paradise City place.”

“You’ve hit it, Chick,” nodded Patsy. “It is Bonesy, and he’s hotter’n
the inside of a coke oven. He’s got on to the fact that this isn’t any
more than a swamp, and he’s come up here to have it out with the guys
that sold him the plot.”

“How about the manager and his men at the office in New York, Patsy?”
asked Nick.

“The office is busted up and the men are gone. I’m told they only hired
the furniture there, so they didn’t have to move it. They paid up
everything in the way of rent and for the furniture two days ago, and
beat it for—for—Paradise, I guess,” laughed Patsy.

“They paid up everything, you say?”

“Everything about the office. You can bet they were slick enough to do
that. They didn’t want to have any more publicity than they could help.
If they’d tried to beat the office rent or the furniture hire, they’d
have been followed up here to Milmarsh, and that would have meant a
fuss for the other guys who are living high in that big house on the
hill.”

“You mean the Milmarsh residence?” asked Captain Brown.

“Sure, that’s what I mean,” replied Patsy. “It’s the only big house on
a hill around here that I know anything about. Gee! Look at that bunch
going up the road. There’s nearly a hundred of them.”

“And women among them,” remarked Captain Brown.

“Sure! That’s what’s going to make it so hard on the other side.
The women have helped to save the money that’s gone into that phony
real-estate, and they’re going to get back their coin or bust somebody.
You can bet your bottom dollar on that!”

“Who is at the back of all this swindle?” asked Captain Brown. “Do you
know, Carter?”

“I know only what is apparent to everybody,” was the detective’s
answer. “The property is on the Milmarsh estate, and there is a Howard
Milmarsh living on it at present. The advertisements of Paradise City
say that the long-lost heir is back to his own, and that he means
to give people of limited means an opportunity to find homes in the
country. You’ve seen the booklets, haven’t you, captain?”

“Yes, but I thought you might know something more than they made
public. Advertisements are splendid things in their way, and as a rule
they are truthful. But exaggeration will creep into them occasionally,
and often there are details which the writer of the advertisement
forgot to put in.”

“That’s what Bonesy Billings says,” remarked Patsy. “He told me that
coming up on the train.”

“Oh, you came up from New York with this crowd, then?” asked Nick.

“Yes—those that came from New York. Some of ’em live at places along
the railroad. There’s a bunch from Yonkers, for instance, and others
from the Bronx. But they are all here.”

“How was it worked up?” asked Chick, smiling, for he knew Patsy had the
whole matter in his head.

“They’ve been having meetings for more than a week,” explained Patsy.
“I heard about them two days ago, and I’ve been to two of the meetings.
They were hot stuff, I’m telling you. Some of the speakers were in
favor of coming up here with dynamite bombs and blowing everything to
blazes.”

“You mean the Milmarsh house?” queried Captain Brown.

“I mean everything up here. The Old Pike Inn was to go, too, because
some of them say it harbors men who are mixed up in this swindle to rob
poor people of their savings.”

“Is that so?” exclaimed Captain Brown, more interested than ever. “Look
here, Carter! We can’t let this go on! We’ll have to take a hand in it.
You will go up to the house with me, won’t you?”

“I intended to go up there,” was the quiet reply. “Can we use your big
motor car?”

“Of course. I’ll have it got ready at once. Then we can take a
roundabout way and get to the house before the mob.”

“That was what I calculated on,” returned the detective.

Captain Brown hustled out of the room to order his car, while Nick
gazed out of the window at the excited mob of both sexes on their way
to the Milmarsh mansion.

“We shall have to save the property at all events, Chick,” he remarked,
without turning around. “The rightful heir must not have his place
destroyed before he has time to settle down.”

“Have you found the rightful heir, chief?” asked Patsy Garvan eagerly.

“I believe I have,” was the detective’s calm reply.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                            THE INSURGENTS.


While Nick Carter and his two assistants were waiting for the motor car
that was to take them up to the Milmarsh home ahead of the crowd of
angry purchasers of Paradise City property there was increasing wrath
among the men and women following Bonesy Billings.

“We’ll burn the place down over his head!” yelled one frantic woman,
who had given up every cent her late husband had left her to make a
payment on Paradise City. “Any man who would rob a poor widow ain’t fit
to live.”

“Kill him first and burn down the house with his carcass in it!”
screamed another feminine voice.

“Louden Powers! He’s the one!” roared a big man.

“He ain’t no worse than Andrew Lampton!” declared another.

“Kill Howard Milmarsh! He’s the worst!” shrieked the woman who had
spoken first—the widow. “If he had any of the goodness of his father in
him, he couldn’t have done it.”

“What are we waitin’ for, Bonesy?” demanded a man nearly as big as
himself, who acted as a sort of lieutenant. “Ain’t we goin’ right up
there?”

“Yes, but we want to know what we’re goin’ to do when we’re there,”
returned Billings. “Things has to be did reg’lar an’ up to the handle.
These mugs we’re goin’ to see is mighty slick. Don’t forget that.”

“Ain’t slick enough to rob us!” shouted the widow.

“They’ve did it already,” cried the other woman.

“Yes, but we’re goin’ to get our money back, an’ take it out of ’em by
lickin’ ’em, too,” growled a man who had not spoken heretofore.

“If you guys will keep still a minute, I’d like to address the
meeting,” announced Bonesy Billings, somewhat pompously.

“Good ol’ Bonesy!” enthusiastically shouted a young fellow in the
background. “Let him spiel!”

“Shut up!” ordered Bonesy ungraciously. “This here ain’t your put-in
nohow.”

“Scuse me!” rejoined the other, with a sarcastic inflection that
he would not have dared to employ if he’d been nearer the powerful
Billings. “It was in my nut that I had the floor. Scuse me!”

Bonesy Billings cast a look of disgust in the direction of the rather
“fresh” young man in the rear. Then he cleared his throat for a speech,
with a loud and impressive “Hem!”

“Feller citizens—an’ ladies!” he began. “It has been decided that we
has all been soaked good an’ hard by the mugs what is up in that house
on the hill—the same as is knowed by all on us as the Milmarsh mansion.”

“Good stuff!” interrupted the irrepressible man at the back of the
gathering.

“I’ll come over an’ paste you in the jaw if you don’t shut up!” menaced
Billings. Then, resuming his oratorical tone, he continued: “We have
tried to get satisfaction at the office in N’ York, an’ we’ve been told
ev’rything will come out all right, though we can see it won’t. The
fellers at the office has beat it for parts unknown, an’ what have we?”

“Swamp!” cried the regular interrupter at the back.

“That’s right,” agreed Billings. “It is jest swamp, an’ sech swamp you
couldn’t dry it out in a million years, nor fill it in, nuther. As for
buildin’ houses there, it couldn’t be did. Yet we’ve paid out our good
money for this here swamp land, an’ now the guys that beat us out of
our coin is laughin’ at us. What are we goin’ to do about it?”

“Kill ’em!” shouted the widow.

“With hatpins,” added the other woman.

“We ain’t goin’ to take chances on the ’lectric chair—unless they make
us,” returned Billings. “But we are goin’ right into the house an’
demand our money back. If we don’t git it, then we will——”

Bonesy Billings flourished a long, powerful arm, and there was a
bludgeon in his grip.

There could be no doubt as to what he intended. His hard face was set,
and he meant business.

He did not continue his harangue. He looked over the stern faces of his
followers, and he knew that they would stand by him to the end. They
felt that they had suffered the worst kind of injustice and that no
punishment would be too great for the men guilty of it.

It was only about a week before that suspicion began to ripen into
conviction. There had been mumblings among those who could not get to
see the places they had bought. They wanted to know what they had to
show for their money besides the gaudy “certificates” that had been
issued by the Paradise City Improvement Company.

There were no real signatures on the certificates. Such names as were
there had not been written. They were facsimiles of signatures that no
one recognized. Neither “Powers,” “Lampton,” or “Howard Milmarsh” were
among them. This omission had been pointed out in the meetings that had
been held. Bonesy Billings laid particular stress on this. He also had
his eye on other details which did not appeal to him as sound.

For example, he had known the young man who lay in Universal Hospital
very well, and had liked him. To Billings he was known as Bob Gordon.
But Billings knew that Bessie Silvius and her father, old Roscoe
Silvius, declared that he was really Howard Milmarsh. If this Bob
Gordon could only tell what he knew, it might straighten out the
Paradise City affair. Billings could not see how anybody else had a
right to the name of Howard Milmarsh and to sell land belonging to the
estate.

He turned to look again at his followers. He had taken his place on a
large stump at the side of the road when he made his speech, and he was
still there when he decided to send forth a last word of direction and
warning.

“It’s near two mile up to the front door of the Milmarsh house,” he
told them in his stentorian tones. “You’d better walk in reg’lar double
formation—that is, two by two. Me an’ Kid Plang,” indicating his
stalwart lieutenant, “will lead. Keep yer lamps on us, an’ be ready to
take orders as I give ’em. We’ve got to have discerpline if we’re goin’
to git anywhere. Don’t fail to remember that there. Forward! March!”

Steadily the double column moved on. The road was smooth, and, though
it was uphill, no one seemed to mind it. All were keyed up for action,
and thought only of obtaining recompense for what they paid out and
suffered as the result of what, they were now convinced, was nothing
but a heartless fraud.

Up the winding carriage drive they marched, and soon were gathered on
the wide porch in front of the tall, forbidding-looking house.

Every window was closed and protected by sun blinds. The outer door,
which usually stood open, was also closed. There were no signs of life
to be seen.

Yet Bonesy Billings was convinced that there were eyes behind those sun
blinds which had taken careful note of their approach. He knocked at
the door with his knuckles at the same time that his lieutenant, Kid
Plang, rang the electric bell again and again.

For several minutes there was no response. Then suddenly a voice hailed
them from above, and they saw that Andrew Lampton was at an open window
at the third-story.

“What do you want, gentlemen?” he asked suavely.

“Ah, can that ‘gentlemen’ stuff!” shouted the lieutenant. “We want to
come in for a conference.”

“What about?”

“You know what about well enough,” roared Bonesy Billings. “Where’s
Howard Milmarsh?”

“He’s here. But he is not saying anything. I’ll do the talking—if there
is to be any.”

“Well, you can bet there’s going to be talking! We want our money back
that’s been paid for those plots in Paradise City.”

“You do? Why?”

“Because the whole thing is a swindle!” replied Billings. “That’s why!”

“You’re mistaken. Paradise City is there, and as soon as Howard
Milmarsh has settled certain details connected with the estate,
buildings will go up and you will all have the homes, as agreed.”

“We’re coming in,” declared Billings doggedly. “We can’t talk business
standin’ out here.”

“You can’t come in. Mr. Milmarsh would not care to have so many people
walking over his carpets and rugs. I’ve told you all there is to tell.
Now I’ll say good morning!”

A clod of earth was hurled by somebody in the crowd. It smashed itself
against the wall, by the side of the window, not more than a foot from
Andrew Lampton’s head. He drew it in quickly, closing the window.

“Give him another!” screamed the widow. “Send a stone up there and
smash the glass. He’s only tryin’ to put us off.”

“Shet up!” ordered Billings. “I’m runnin’ this thing. Don’t nobody
chuck anything at the house unless I tell you to.”

Billings was so big, and his habit of having his own way gave him such
command, that several men who had taken stones from their pockets they
had picked up on the way put them back.

“What are we goin’ to do, Bonesy?” asked Kid Plang, in a low tone.

“We’ll rush that front door if somebody don’t come out and give us
satisfaction,” replied Bonesy. “Look! There’s somebody else at the
window. Wait a moment, and let’s see what he’s goin’ to do.”

It was Louden Powers this time. He opened the window at which Lampton
had appeared, and called out sharply:

“Look here, you people! There’s nothing to be made by your coming up
here making a disturbance.”

“We’re not making a disturbance,” interrupted Billings. “We want to see
Mr. Milmarsh.”

“You can’t see him. Is that all?”

“No; it isn’t all by a jugful!” snapped back Bonesy Billings, trying to
hold back his wrath. “We’ve been beaten on this Paradise City deal, and
we are goin’ to find out what Howard Milmarsh means to do about it.”

“I can tell you that,” replied Powers. “He is going to see that every
one gets what is right. There is no reason for you to say you have been
beaten. You have not. Paradise City is all right—that is, it will be.”

“We want to see Howard Milmarsh,” repeated Billings resolutely.

“You can’t see him. And if you don’t get away from here and go back
to where you came from, there’s going to be a lot of arrests and some
clubbing, most likely. We’ve telephoned the police, and they’ll soon be
here.”

With this threat, Louden Powers suddenly pulled the outside sun blinds
shut, and directly afterward Billings and his followers heard the
window come down with a slam.

“Well, boys! There’s only one thing to be done now. The front door,
and—altogether!”



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                          NICK CARTER’S WORD.


While the threat about the police caused some of the more timid spirits
in the crowd to hang back and even talk of going home, the majority
were determined to fight their way into the house at all hazards.

“We’ll git there, if everybody joins in!” proclaimed Billings. “As many
men as can squeeze in help me to push down this door.”

But the door was heavy and solidly bolted in place, and the combined
strength of half a dozen powerful men was insufficient to force it from
its hinges on one side or its fastenings on the other.

“We’ll keep on till we do it,” was Billings’ decision, and the attack
was renewed.

Meanwhile, there was a decided feeling of apprehension inside the
house. Andrew Lampton, Louden Powers, and the man whom they called
Howard Milmarsh were all in the bedroom which had been occupied by
Louden, which was at the front of the house, and at whose window had
taken place the parley with Bonesy Billings.

“I’ve got the outside blinds bolted,” announced Louden Powers, “and the
window is closed. Of course, if ever they got through the sunblinds,
they could easily smash the window. My idea is to fight them off as
they come in. We can’t hope that the house is strong enough in itself
to keep them out. It is not a castle.”

“Can’t we make some terms with them?” suggested the alleged Howard.

Louden Powers turned on him with a snarl.

“What for? And how are you going to do it? Do you want to give up your
thousand dollars?”

“I might not have to do that.”

“Yes, you would. And they would expect Lampton and me to do the same.
Well, I won’t do it. Neither will Lampton. All we can do is to keep
these people out till the police get here.”

“You haven’t telephoned the police, have you?” asked Lampton, with a
look of alarm.

Louden Powers contrived to wink at Lampton, while, in a loud tone, he
replied:

“Of course I have. We may not be able to hold off this crowd ourselves,
and we’ve got to have the police. You can see that, Howard.”

“I don’t see anything, except that you have got me into an infernal
scrape with your Paradise City idea. What is the use of it, just for a
little ready money now, when we shall have plenty of it as soon as the
estate is settled. I was a fool to give in to you.”

“I don’t know that,” put in Lampton. “Things are getting mighty hot in
this house, and I’m inclined to get away from it while the going is
good. What was the meaning of all that fuss last night? Who were those
two men who looked so much like the two Howard Milmarshes?”

“I don’t know who the old man was. But it’s my belief the other was the
fellow who got hurt in that fire and who says he is the real Howard
Milmarsh. It couldn’t have been anybody else.”

“Well, how do you suppose he got into your bedroom?”

“There’s only one way to account for it, and that is that Nick Carter
had a hand in it. He has been trying to beat me out of this property
with that fellow who is in the hospital, and it may be that his man has
recovered enough to come here.”

“Got his memory back, eh?”

“I don’t know about that. He could be brought here to scare me without
that. He didn’t speak last night—only looked at me.”

“He was quite a scrapper,” observed Lampton.

“Well, he could be that and still not have all his senses about him,”
maintained the other.

“I’ll tell you one thing, fellows,” suddenly broke in the possessor
of the Milmarsh mansion. “I’m just about sick of this whole thing. It
looks to me as if I’m the scapegoat, while you get all the profit. I’m
going to give up. There’s too much trouble in trying to prove that I am
the rightful heir. I’d rather be poor, and worry along as I have done
for years than take all this that I’ve gone through with since I’ve
been up in this devilish house.”

“What’s the matter with you? Are you——”

“Yes,” broke in the young man violently. “I’m going to give the whole
game away. I don’t care what you say. I’m not going to take the chance
of five years in the pen just to——”

“Oh, shut up!” broke in Louden in his usual masterful way. “You have to
do what you’re told. You are the heir to the Milmarsh fortune. We’ve
proved that for you. Now you talk about backing out, just because you
have not nerve to hold on to what is your own. You make me sick!”

“Here! Quit fighting over that!” broke in Andrew Lampton, running into
the room from the landing, where he had been listening to the noise
outside. “Those fellows have broken down the outer door, and they are
coming in. They won’t have much trouble forcing the inner door, for
that’s half glass.”

There was a crash of glass below, which told that the mob had made its
way into the house.

“Where is he?” roared the voice of Bonesy Billings. “Bring him down! We
want him!”

Already they could hear the rumbling of many feet upon the lower floor,
when a clear, ringing voice rose far above the din.

“Stop!”

It was the voice of Nick Carter.

It seemed as if his voice had some power far above that wielded by the
order of authority. The men on the third-story heard the mob actually
falling back and stumbling down the stairs.

“How did _he_ get in here?” growled Louden Powers.

“Didn’t come in with the mob, did he?” suggested Lampton.

“I told you,” gasped the man they called Howard Milmarsh. “I knew this
man, Carter, was in it. He brought those two people into my bedroom
last night when I had been drinking so much that my nerve was nearly
gone. I was sure of it! He told me some time ago he’d get me if I
didn’t act square. Now I know I haven’t been square with him, and here
he is.”

“Well, he’s taking our side, you idiot!” grumbled Powers. “He’s holding
them back.”

“He has his own purposes to serve if he is. Look here, Louden, I’m
going to tell him just what is the truth.”

“Howard Milmarsh,” broke in Andrew Lampton. “You’re crazy. All this
bother over your estate has turned your brain. Isn’t that so, Louden?”

“Of course. But, listen!”

“We want Howard Milmarsh!” they heard Bonesy Billings shout. “He’s
robbed us, and we want him.”

Nick Carter had come out of one of the rooms on the second floor and
now stood at the head of the lower flight of stairs, with Chick and
Patsy Garvan on either side of him. All three were looking down at the
mob with a coolness that caused even the excited men and women below
them to wonder.

“You can’t have Howard Milmarsh,” said Carter. “Bonesy Billings, you
know me, don’t you?”

Billings came a step nearer, so that he could look into the face of the
detective. Then he uttered an ejaculation of astonishment.

“Mr. Carter!”

“Yes. And this is Chick by my side. You know him, and Patsy Garvan!”

“Sure I do!”

“Say, Bonesy,” put in Kid Plang behind impatiently, “what’s all this
guff you’re giving us? Who are these guys? None of ’em is Howard
Milmarsh. I know that. And they ain’t Louden Powers nor Andrew Lampton,
either, I’m willing to bet. Lead us up them stairs if you’re goin’ to.
If not, I’ll do it!”

Kid Plang tried to push past Billings. One sweep of Bonesy’s powerful
arm sent him down among the others in a disgruntled heap.

There was a hubbub of shouting and grumbling, and Bonesy turned to
shake his fist at them as he bellowed:

“Shut up down there, or I’ll come an’ lick some of you! Can’t you see
I’m talking to a gentleman for the benefit of all of us?”

“It don’t look like it,” growled Plang, as, he got to his feet, but
carefully kept out of reach of Bonesy’s arm and fist.

“Now, Mr. Carter,” went on Billings, addressing the detective, “I know
you are square, and so are them two with you. But we’ve come here to
get back the money what’s been stole from widders an’ orphans an’
workin’ men who have had to work hard for everything they have. The
money was stole on the pretense that there was a fine tract of land on
this estate what was to be sold on easy terms for homes.”

“I know that’s true,” remarked Nick quietly.

“What do you suppose he’s getting at?” muttered Lampton to Powers on
the upper landing.

“Listen, and we’ll find out. Then we’ll know what to do.”

Louden Powers spoke calmly. He was much the bolder rascal of the two.
His iron nerve it was that had brought the plot to its present point.
He did not despair yet of putting it through to entire success.

“We’ve looked into this thing, and we find the land is nothing but
swamp, and it wouldn’t be possible to build houses on it—at least, not
till thousands of dollars had been spent on draining it and filling it
in. There ain’t no sign as these ducks what have our money mean to do
any such thing.”

“Well?”

“Then we’re going to see this Howard Milmarsh and make him give back
our money first of all. After that we’ll sue him for damages. There’s
good lawyers in New York what will take our cases and not ask no fee
unless they win for us. An’ we’d be sure to win, so we’re goin’ up here
to find this Howard Milmarsh—if you’ll step out of our way, Mr. Carter.”

“That’s the talk!” called out somebody in the heart of the crowd. “Take
us to Howard Milmarsh!”

“Howard Milmarsh is not here,” said the detective in loud, clear tones.

“What?” blurted out Billings. “Not here? We have had positive word that
he is in this house.”

“Look here, Bonesy,” returned Nick, still in a quiet, distinct voice,
“did you ever know me to say a thing that was not absolutely true?”

“Never,” was the unhesitating testimony.

“Then, I tell you, Howard Milmarsh is not in this house. Do you believe
me?”

There was a moment of silence. The crowd below and the three men on the
third floor, at the top of the stairs, were waiting for what Bonesy
Billings would say. At last came the response:

“_I believe you, Mr. Carter._”

The man who stood between Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton, and whom
they had persistently addressed as Howard Milmarsh, made a movement as
if he would go down the stairs.

The other two dragged him back savagely.



                             CHAPTER XXXI.

                         NICK CALLS A COUNCIL.


The trouble was not over yet, however. The emphatic manner in which
Bonesy Billings had said he believed the detective made a great
impression upon the majority of his followers.

But there were some who were not prepared to accept the dictum in the
face of what they had been told. It was common report that Howard
Milmarsh was living in the house he had inherited from his father, and
that he was there now. For some reason it seemed that the detective was
trying to shield him.

Few of those in the mob had not heard of the famous detective, and all
knew his reputation for straightforwardness. They were fully aware that
a falsehood would be simply impossible for him. Still, how could they
reconcile what he had just said with what they believed to be their
actual knowledge?

“Look here, Bonesy!” ventured Plang while discreetly remaining out of
arm’s reach. “If Howard Milmarsh isn’t in the house, we can’t do any
harm by going up to talk to those other two men. We know they are here.”

“That’s a good idea!” agreed three or four voices at the back.

“What about it, Bonesy?”

Billings looked inquiringly at Carter.

“It would do no good,” said the detective. “The men you refer to would
not give you any satisfaction, and they would probably mislead you. If
you will go away now, I will give you my personal pledge that you shall
not lose anything over this Paradise City affair. You shall have back
the money you have laid out, and with it enough to compensate for any
loss or trouble you have suffered.”

“I don’t see how you can guarantee that,” grumbled Kid Plang.

“I promise it _in the name of Howard Milmarsh_!”

“You seem to think you have a right to speak for him,” persisted Plang.
“How did you work that, if you haven’t seen him? You didn’t know we
were coming here to-day. Nobody did for certain, because we kept it a
secret. Bonesy can tell you that.”

“Shut up!” ordered Billings. “Leave me out while you’re takin’ it on
yourself to conduct these here negotiations. I’ll ’tend to you later,”
he added, with menacing significance.

“Well, I’m speakin’ for most of the crowd when I say we’re goin’ up
them stairs,” rejoined Kid Plang. “We want to see Louden Powers an’
Andrew Lampton. This bunch hasn’t come all the way from New York
without wantin’ a run for its money. An’ I’ll help ’em to get it.”

“Hey! Look there!” suddenly screamed the widow who had been prominent
from the first. “There he is! See! Look at him!”

“Who?” roared half a dozen voices.

“Howard Milmarsh! There he is. I’ve seen his picters, an’ I know it’s
him. He’s hidin’ behind them other two men! No, they’re shovin’ him
back! I don’t care for nobody. I’m goin’ up!”

The woman tried to force herself to the front, but the mob was too
solidly packed in, and she could not move.

Kid Plang tried to take advantage of the disturbance caused by the
shrieking woman to edge his way past Bonesy Billings.

A straight left, delivered by Billings with splendid precision, sent
Kid Plang back for the second time since he had been on the stairs.
Only this time he was knocked senseless. The point of the chin had
received the blow. He fell in a heap in a corner of the stairs.

This encounter was the signal for a general rush forward on the part of
the men and women below.

The widow had caught a glimpse of the white face of the man who was
known to them, from his pictures, as Howard Milmarsh, and, while most
of the crowd did not believe she had seen the man she said she had, a
few held that Carter had been mistaken when he said Howard Milmarsh was
not in the house.

“Chick!” whispered the detective.

“Yes.”

“Tell Patsy!”

“All right.”

Patsy Garvan was on the other side of Chick, and Carter did not care to
give orders that would be heard by the others.

But it was easily understood by his two assistants that they were to
hold the stairs at all hazards, even before Nick called down to Bonesy
that the crowd must not come up.

“I’m with you, Mr. Carter!” was Billings’ reply. “I wouldn’t care if
Howard Milmarsh came and stood at the top of them stairs now; I would
take your word, even agin’ my own eyesight.”

The detective smiled. The loyalty of this burly truckman—who had seen
how he was willing to risk his life to save a girl and her father
from a fire, and who therefore respected him from the bottom of his
heart—touched him.

“I will explain to you later, Billings,” he said, as he thrust one man
back by sheer strength, and then lifted another to throw him on top of
the now frantic mob which was storming the staircase.

For five minutes Billings, Carter, Chick, and Patsy kept the crowd
back. Some blows were struck, but not many, considering how many
persons were in the fray. The truth was that Nick abstained from
hitting anybody unless he were forced into it, while his assistants,
taking their cue from him, also used their strength instead of
fighting the frenzied invaders.

Bonesy Billings was as unwilling to strike as were the detectives.
These men whom he was now striving to push out of the house were his
friends. But a short time before he had been helping them to batter
down the doors to the house. It would have been hard indeed if he had
felt obliged to employ his tremendous fists against them now.

His faith in Nick Carter was so great that he had resolved to end
the siege, but he did not feel any the better disposed toward Howard
Milmarsh or the two men who had been with him at the back of the
Paradise City enterprise.

When he had kept his tacit pledge to the great detective and cleared
the house, then he would return to know what it all meant.

That was exactly what he did. In due time, by alternate threats and
persuasions, plus considerable physical force, he put the last of the
mob on the porch outside, and saw them headed for the railroad station,
three miles away.

“Wait there for me,” were his parting words. “I’ll be your delegate,
and you shall hear all that I find out here. Mr. Carter is on our side,
and he is going to see that we have justice.”

“Three cheers for Carter!” shouted an enthusiastic man in the mob.

“Hurrah!” yelled Bonesy. “That’s the right thing! Give ’em with a will,
boys—and girls, too!” he added, as a fortunate afterthought.

The women joined with the men, their shrill tones being plainly audible
through the gruff voices of the men as they cheered the great detective
again and again while marching down the road.

“There you are, Mr. Carter!” cried Bonesy, with a grin, as he returned
to the house. “Now, what is the next thing to be done.”

“Louden, come down here!” called out Nick, as he looked up the stairs.
“And bring with you Andrew Lampton and that man who looks like Howard
Milmarsh.”

“He _is_ Howard Milmarsh!” grunted Louden. “How did you get into this
house?”

“That ought not to matter much to you,” said Nick. “It is a good thing
for you I got in somehow. Patsy, run around and tell Captain Brown he
can come in by the front entrance now. He is still sitting in his car,
I guess.”

Louden Powers raised his eyebrows as he heard Carter give these
instructions. He began to wonder how many persons were to be brought
into the house by this detective who had taken charge of matters so
completely.

“Come down, Louden!” repeated Nick. “It will be better for you.”

There was a threat in these quiet words that Louden Powers well
understood. Although he had not been caught in the raid in Jersey
City a few nights before, he did not know how much evidence there was
against him in connection with the counterfeiting proceedings. He came
downstairs.

“Is Lampton and the other man with you?” asked Nick.

“We are coming,” replied Lampton for himself.

“And the other man?”

“He’s here.”

Nick Carter had appeared to trust to the rascals to bring down the man
who had been called Howard Milmarsh. As a matter of fact, he did not
depend entirely on them. He had given a private signal to Chick, and
that exceedingly efficient assistant was ready to compel obedience by
Louden and Lampton if there had been too much hesitation on their part.

“We’ll go into the dining room,” said Carter. “Get some of your
servants to come and open the sun blinds. We may as well have light
from the outside.”

The two men—Dobbs and Kelly—who had been keeping discreetly in the
background while the row lasted, now stepped forward and let the
sunshine into the great dining room.

“Now, chairs for everybody!” ordered Nick. “I will sit here, near the
door. Is Captain Brown coming?”

“Here I am, Carter,” answered Captain Brown for himself, as he came in
with Patsy. “I saw that mob going down the road. I hope they won’t stay
at the Old Pike Inn and make a fuss.”

“You have plenty of employees and special police to deal with them,
haven’t you?” asked Nick carelessly.

“Oh, yes. Only I shouldn’t like my guests to be disturbed. It would
hurt the reputation of my house.”

“They have taken another road and gone straight down to the railroad
station,” announced Patsy. “There’s another party wants to come in,
chief. I told him I’d ask you.”

“Who is he?”

“Mr. Thomas Jarvis.”

“Jarvis?” cried Nick. “Let him come in, by all means! This is going to
be a most interesting gathering. Mr. Billings, you will kindly move
over to that other chair. I should like Mr. Jarvis to sit next to me.”

“Anything you say, Mr. Carter,” said Billings, with a grin. “I wasn’t
never in sech a swell place as this before—not to set down with the
people who belonged to it, anyhow.”



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                           MURDER WILL OUT.


When Thomas Jarvis, with a grim expression on his tightly closed lips,
came into the room, there was a look of curiosity on the faces of both
Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton.

The man who had been called Howard Milmarsh was the only person in the
large circle about the massive mahogany table who seemed not to be
interested. He was sitting opposite Nick Carter, his head bent forward,
so that his chin almost rested on his chest, and his eyes fixed
vacantly upon the table.

“Now that we are all here, you may go,” said the detective, dismissing
the two menservants.

“Don’t we have anything to drink?” asked Louden Powers. “Or is this to
be a dry session?”

“We won’t drink,” replied Nick. “But I don’t think it will be so very
dry. We shall see.”

He did not say anything more until Dobbs and Kelly had withdrawn. Then
he made a motion to his assistant, Chick, who locked the door and
handed the key to his chief.

“Now, Mr. Jarvis, we’ll hear you first,” announced Carter. “What are
you here for?”

“I’m here to take possession of my property,” replied Jarvis. “I have
had my attorney go through all the necessary legal forms, and I demand
that you all leave this house forthwith.”

Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton laughed aloud, and even Chick and
Patsy indulged in a quiet smile.

“I don’t think there is anything to be said about that, Mr. Jarvis,
except to inform you that Howard Milmarsh is here, and that therefore
your claim is nothing at all. Your attorney should have known that.”

“I’m my own attorney!” snapped Jarvis. “I have been a lawyer long
enough to know my rights.”

“Your knowledge of law may be fairly good—very good,” returned the
detective. “But the action of law must be based on sound facts, and it
seems as if you have overlooked them. I tell you that Howard Milmarsh
is here to claim his inheritance.”

“You mean that man at the table?” barked Jarvis. “_He_ is not Howard
Milmarsh.”

“You’re wrong,” interposed Louden Powers. “That’s just who he is.”

Billings had been gazing curiously at the man Powers pointed to, and
who still sat with bent head, taking no part in the proceedings, and
seeming hardly to know that he was there.

Nick Carter understood what was passing in the big truckman’s mind.

“There are things that seem to you contradictory, Billings,” said Nick,
as their eyes met for a moment. “I will explain to you later. You will
find that I told you the truth.”

Bonesy Billings shook his head in an embarrassed way, as he answered
hastily:

“I hadn’t no thought of nothing else, Mr. Carter. But I saw that
gentleman over there, and I didn’t know what it meant.”

“Now, that is all I have to say,” interrupted Jarvis. “This is my
house, and I should like to have it to myself. In the absence of any
other legal heir, I am the owner. The property passes all to me, as
next of kin. My son would have inherited it had he lived. But he died.”

“He was killed!” suddenly thundered Nick. “He was struck down by a
champagne bottle. There are witnesses to prove it. I have one of them
in this room——”

“Now, Carter!” interrupted Captain Brown, jumping to his feet. “You
have kept that quiet all these years. Why should——”

“I’ll tell you why, Captain Brown,” broke in the detective. “There
is an effort on the part of Thomas Jarvis to rob the owner of this
property of his rights, and I am obliged to say what I do, in the
interests of justice.”

“Justice?”

It was Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton who uttered this word in unison
in an apprehensive tone. There seemed to be something about it that
grated on their sensibilities.

Thomas Jarvis was sitting stiff in his chair, his eyes fixed upon Nick
Carter’s face, while he tried to mumble some protest.

“I intended to keep this a secret to the end, because I have always
felt that the slayer of Richard Jarvis had great provocation, and
doubtless was carried away by the excitement of the moment to do a deed
that he has been remorseful for ever since.”

“Didn’t it come out at the time?” asked Bonesy Billings. “Murders don’t
often get away from the police in these days.”

“You’re right, Billings. I don’t suppose this would have been hushed up
if a person who—who has some influence had not prevented all the facts
becoming known.”

“I’d let it go at that, if I were you, Carter,” pleaded Captain Brown,
his usually bronzed face a grayish white. “There’s no sense in raking
up such a thing as this.”

“Yes, there is,” rejoined Nick. “Jarvis here has challenged me, and I
will take it up. He claims this property is——”

“It is mine,” put in Jarvis doggedly.

“Because your son is dead?”

“Yes.”

“And when you knew that Howard Milmarsh had run away from this part of
the country, you figured that he never would dare return, and that your
son Richard would be the heir.”

“You can say what you like. The property is mine,” growled Jarvis, as
if determined to stick to one idea.

“If your son Richard were to die, it would leave you the next of kin,
so far as legal forms go. Therefore, it might be to your interest if
Richard were to be put out of the world. He was not really your son,
you know, but your stepson.”

“How did you know that?” demanded Jarvis, half rising. “It isn’t true,
anyhow.”

“Oh, yes, it is. I can prove it, if necessary,” was the detective’s
answer. “You knew that Howard Milmarsh the elder was in poor health.
You had learned that his doctor gave him only a few more months of
life, and predicted that he would die suddenly. All that was part of
your knowledge.”

“I don’t care to stay here any longer,” abruptly declared Thomas
Jarvis, rising to his feet. “I will go. But there will be proper
officers here during the day to eject the rascals who are trying to
steal my estate. Good morning!”

But the door was locked and the key in Nick Carter’s pocket.

“Better sit down till I have finished speaking,” he advised coolly. “I
do not intend to let you leave this room until I am ready.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell the rest of my story, and then you can answer your own
question. You will know what I mean.”

“Rot!”

Thomas Jarvis resumed his seat and stared at the detective. Those about
the table observed that he seemed to have grown very much older in the
last minute or two. His eyes had become dull, his jaw sagged, and he
did not appear to be as truculent as he had been when he came into the
room.

“The truth is,” went on Nick, “that you killed your son Richard in a
quarrel, in the Old Pike Inn——”

“Carter!” protested Captain Brown. “This will ruin my house!”

“You knocked him down with a champagne bottle, as he came toward you to
strike you. He fell flat, with his head against the corner of the iron
fender. But the blow against the fender was a trifle. It glanced and
hardly cut the skin. The stroke that killed him was delivered by the
champagne bottle in your hand!”

Bonesy Billings, Captain Brown, Louden Powers, and Lampton were all
on their feet, in their excitement. The man who was supposed to be
Howard Milmarsh and Thomas Jarvis were the only persons who remained
in their chairs. Chick and Patsy had both arisen, as if to prevent any
demonstration by Powers or Lampton.

“Sit down!” commanded the detective. “There is nothing to be done. The
man who killed Richard Jarvis cannot escape.”

The others dropped into their seats again. The two crooks showed more
terror than had been in their faces since first they knew Carter was in
the house. If this shrewd, deep-seeing detective could wind the toils
so easily about Thomas Jarvis for a crime committed years ago, why
would he not put them in cells for offenses of yesterday, as it were?

Both Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton were uneasy. It is true that the
latter had practically a promise of safety if he delivered T. Burton
Potter into the hands of the detective. But he was not prepared to
produce Potter except as a last resort to keep himself out of prison.

As for Louden Powers, he was a bold scoundrel, and he intended to make
a desperate fight to get away if he found Carter and his men closing in
on him. Only, he wished he were not locked in a room like this, with
the odds in numbers against him.

“There’s Carter and his two men,” he mused. “Captain Brown, I guess,
and that big Billings. That would be five against one—for I don’t
suppose I could count on that weak-kneed Lampton. He has some sort of
pull on the detective. I wouldn’t mind betting he’s a ‘squealer.’”

“Now, Mr. Jarvis,” continued Nick. “You have forced me to take this
action. If you had not attempted to cash in your crime, I should have
been inclined to let it rest in the oblivion to which you thought it
consigned. The fact that you have compelled me to remind you of it, in
the presence of these witnesses, emphasizes the world-old truth that
‘murder will out.’ What have you to say?”

There was no answer. Thomas Jarvis’ gaze was fixed on the opposite
wall, and he had slumped curiously down in his large armchair.

“Look here, Carter,” broke in Captain Brown again. “You don’t have to
drag me into this.”

“You were a witness,” replied Nick coldly. “As a good citizen, your
duty is to tell the truth—if you are asked.”

It has been remarked already that Captain Brown was a business man. He
thought more of the Old Pike Inn and its reputation than anything else
on earth probably. He groaned at this suggestion.

“Chief!” suddenly shouted Chick.

He and Patsy rushed to Thomas Jarvis simultaneously. But they were not
in time to prevent his slipping to the floor.

Half a minute later, Nick, on one knee by the side of the prostrate
man, with a finger on the stilled pulse, looked up and said solemnly:

“You need not worry about being called on to testify, Captain Brown.
The matter will never come up.”

“Is he dead?”

The response of the detective was to reverently cover the face of
Thomas Jarvis with his own handkerchief.



                            CHAPTER XXXIII.

                            STILL HUNTING.


“Of course, Thomas Jarvis never was a real factor in this matter,”
remarked Nick, fifteen minutes later, when all that was mortal of
Jarvis had been removed to another room. “But we will go into the
claims of that young man who has been sitting silently at the other
side of the table from the beginning of the conference, and who——”

The detective broke off. The chair occupied by the man who had been
declared by Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton to be Howard Milmarsh was
empty, and he was not in the room!

Patsy and Chick had both helped remove the body of Thomas Jarvis, and
no one had taken any notice of the young man. He had been sitting there
when everybody else went out, watching the disposal of the still form
on a large sofa in the library.

They were just returning, with Nick Carter in the lead, and speaking as
he came, when he saw that the alleged Howard Milmarsh had disappeared.

There was a search all about the house and grounds which lasted for an
hour or more. At the end of that time, when not a trace of the missing
man could be found, Carter decided that there was nothing more to be
done there, and he told Chick and Patsy privately that he was going
back to New York.

Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton had both taken an active part in the
hunt. They were loud in their protestations that he was the real heir,
and that somebody must have spirited him away in the interests of
enemies.

“What do you mean by enemies?” asked the detective quietly, when the
whole party were again assembled in the dining room. “Do you mean that
persons who believe him to be actually Howard Milmarsh have hidden him
so that they can bring a spurious one in to take possession?”

“You guess well,” grinned Louden Powers.

“Mind I don’t guess a little too well for your peace of mind, Powers,”
was Nick’s rejoinder. “This estate has not been settled yet. Besides,
those people waiting at the station for Billings might come up here
again and hold you personally responsible for the fraud of Paradise
City. They count you partly in the swindle, as you know.”

Powers sniffed scornfully, and lighted a cigarette, to show how much at
his ease he was. Andrew Lampton was discreetly silent. He had not the
bravado of his companion.

“The crowd has gone back,” announced Patsy, who had been at the
telephone. “They got tired of waiting for Bonesy, and they took that
train which went out an hour ago. It’s lucky for these two guys that
they didn’t come back. The station agent tells me they was as hot as
fresh tamales. If it hadn’t been a three-mile walk, some of ’em was
coming back to lick the pair of ’em, just for luck.”

“It is just as well,” put in Nick. “Come over here, Billings. I want to
talk to you.”

The result of a minute or two of private converse between the detective
and Billings was that the big truckman smiled grimly and stood by the
door of the dining room, to indicate that he was ready to obey orders
at once.

“You see, Chick,” explained Carter to his principal assistant, “I want
you to come back with me to New York, and it would be asking too much
of Patsy to guard those two men alone.”

“He could do it, all right,” returned Chick. “I don’t think they would
get away if Patsy wanted to hold them. Besides, there are menservants
in the house.”

“I don’t depend on servants, Chick—especially when they are new and
have no personal interest in the place in which they are employed. You
remember we heard two of them talking about their situation when they
did not suspect that they were overheard?”

“When we were behind that big picture?”

“Yes. So I’ve engaged Billings to stay here and act as a sort of
sergeant at arms while we are away. He and Patsy together will insure
Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton being here when we return.”

“What are we going to do about Howard Milmarsh?” broke in Louden
Powers, who had been wondering what the detective was talking about,
but could not very well inquire. “I think I’d better go down to New
York and look around.”

“Where would you look?”

“In places where he generally hangs out. There’s a lot of joints where
you could find him ’most any time, and I——”

“I never knew Howard Milmarsh to hang about in New York,” interrupted
Carter. “I think you have somebody else in mind.”

“Who?” demanded Powers defiantly.

“T. Burton Potter, for instance.”

“I’m talking about Howard Milmarsh.”

“Well, we will let you remain in the house here, while I look for
Howard Milmarsh. I’m quite as anxious as you are to find him,” was the
detective’s reply. “Come on, Chick!”

“You want Andrew Lampton and me to stay here?” asked Powers, with a
suspicious inflection. “That’s something different from what you’ve
been giving us. You were handing it to us that we had no business in
this house.”

“You have business in it now, Louden, because I believe you may help to
solve the problem of the missing heir. Captain Brown, you will take us
down to the station, won’t you? My car has gone back to New York.”

“I’ll take you down with pleasure,” was the prompt response of the
manager of the Old Pike Inn.

Captain Brown was so relieved to know that he would not be called on
as a witness to prove that Thomas Jarvis killed his son, that he was
willing to do anything for anybody.

“I’ll go with you if you like,” volunteered Lampton. “Even if I can’t
find Howard Milmarsh, I might get my hands on T. Burton Potter. You
remember you wanted me to find him.”

“I did want you to do that,” admitted Nick. “But not now. Even if I
don’t, it won’t make much difference as things have turned out. You
remain here with Louden Powers. Billings, you know what to do. You too,
Patsy!”

Nick Carter and Chick swung out of the dining room, with Captain Brown.
No sooner were they outside than the door closed, and they heard a key
click in the lock.

“Patsy and Billings are not taking any chances,” observed Chick,
smiling.

“That is the only way to deal with men of that stripe, Chick. Captain,
if we hurry, we can make that two train for New York.”

They just made the train, and, as Nick and his assistant sat silently
side by side, while the train rushed toward the metropolis, each was
occupied with his own thoughts.

“Where shall we go first?” asked Chick, as they left the train at the
Grand Central and walked through the lofty concourse to Forty-second
Street. “Home, I suppose?”

“Yes. We’ll go there and see what mail there is, and if anything
special calls for attention. Then we’ll visit the Universal Hospital.”

“What do you suppose has become of that fellow who vanished from the
house up there this morning—the man who called himself Howard Milmarsh?”

“That I don’t know. And I don’t much care, at present. But I should
like to correct you in one little particular, Chick. It is Louden
Powers and Andrew Lampton who have been calling him Howard Milmarsh.
You did not hear him say much about it.”

“That’s true,” assented Chick reflectively. “Here’s a taxi. I called
him up just now.”

“There’s an old man and a young lady waiting for you in the library,
sir,” said the butler, as they went into Nick’s quiet house. “I told
them I didn’t know when you would be back, but they said they would
wait half an hour, anyhow. Perhaps by that time you might be home.
They’ve been in the library an hour already. I was up there ten minutes
ago.”

“They must want to see me rather badly,” was the chief’s comment, as he
ran lightly up the stairs. “Did they give you their names?”

“No, sir. They said they would tell you when they saw you?”

“Very well!”

Nick opened the door of his library. As he stepped inside, he knew who
his visitors were.

“Why, it’s the young lady who was in the fire that night,” he
exclaimed, in a tone of warm welcome. “Miss Silvius, isn’t it?”

“Yes. And this is my father. If it hadn’t been for you, we couldn’t be
here now. We wanted to see you so much, Mr. Carter. I didn’t know till
to-day who it was that got us out of that fearful fire. I have not
seen Mr. Gordon—I mean Mr. Milmarsh since.”

The detective shook hands with Bessie Silvius and her father, and then
introduced Chick, who thought the girl wonderfully pretty, and showed
it in his face.

“I—I—wanted to thank you for what you did, Mr. Carter,” faltered the
girl. “And also—to ask if you knew where Mr. Milmarsh is.”

“I _know_ where he is,” replied Nick gravely.



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                         THE GIRL IN THE CASE.


“Will you take me to him?” asked the girl, with a blush. Then she went
on in a more resolute tone, and as if she knew she had nothing of which
to be ashamed: “He has asked me to marry him, Mr. Carter.”

“Ah!”

“Yes, that’s what I told him,” she continued innocently. “I said it
could never be.”

“I didn’t say anything,” smiled the detective.

“I know you didn’t. At least, you only said ‘Ah!’ But I know what you
meant, and I agree with you.”

“I wish you would explain, Miss Silvius.”

“You mean that he is a multimillionaire, if he chooses to claim his
own. If I were to marry him, people might say he was throwing himself
away on a poor girl.”

“I don’t think it would matter what people might say.”

“It would matter a great deal to me,” she interrupted, with decision.
“I am getting a living by teaching music. My father teaches the violin.
We both play when we get a chance. And—and—sometimes the places we play
at are not at all—at all nice.”

“Poor girl!” murmured Nick, below his breath. Then, aloud: “We all
have to do things we don’t like sometimes, Miss Silvius. I can assure
you, knowing Howard Milmarsh as well as I do, that if he asked you to
marry him, he will insist on your doing it—providing, of course, that
you care for him.”

“I do,” burst out the girl involuntarily. Then she blushed again. “I
did not mean to say that. I’ve told him I shall never marry, and I
intend to keep my word.”

“No doubt. Girls always intend to keep their word when they make a rash
assertion of that kind,” said Nick, with a laugh. “You say you haven’t
seen him since the night of the fire?”

“No. We were all so much excited, and my poor father, who had
rheumatism, was in such a dangerous state, that I was only too glad
that some of the neighbors took us in and cared for us. When I came to
myself, and could make inquiries about Mr. Gordon, no one knew where he
was. I couldn’t find any one who remembered seeing him after he came
down the ladder, except that a policeman said he was hurt.”

“I took him away in my motor car,” said the detective quietly.

“You did? And is he well? Can you take me to him? Is he here, in your
house?”

“Not at present. But what made you think of coming here to-day? Why did
you connect me with the disappearance of this—er—Mr. Gordon?”

“The same policeman who told me he was taken away in a motor car saw me
on the street this morning. We have always been on speaking terms since
the fire. He said to-day he had heard that the motor car in which Mr.
Gordon—as everybody called him where he lived—was taken away belonged
to the detective, Nick Carter.”

“Yes?”

“It was not difficult to find your address. So my father and I came
down to try to see you. I was so disappointed when your man said you
were away. We had come a long way, and I was determined to see you if I
could. So we said we would wait.”

“You have been here more than an hour?”

“Yes, but we didn’t mind waiting, so long as you are here at last. We
should have waited another hour, and more than that. And if we had not
seen you to-day, we should have been here again to-morrow.”

“That’s true, sir,” added Roscoe Silvius, who had hardly spoken.
“I can’t say all I should like, but I don’t think I need speak my
gratitude. You surely must _know_. Why, Mr. Carter, you plucked me out
of the very jaws of a horrible death!”

“I’m very glad I happened to be there,” returned Carter earnestly. “At
such a time as that any man would have done what I did. Mr.—er—Gordon,
was as active as I was.”

“Yes, but he couldn’t have done it alone, although I saw that he would
have given his life to save us. Then there is the young man over there
at the other side of the room—Mr. Chick. I remember how he helped to
get my father down the ladder when it was breaking in the middle. I
wish I could say something to him that would seem only partly adequate.”

“Don’t say anything, Miss Silvius,” put in Chick, blushing like a girl
himself. “It was the chief who did it. I only helped him a little.
And—and—it was all in my day’s work. Nothing to talk about!”

“Well, now, Mr. Carter, will you take me to him?” asked the girl, going
back to her former request.

“I should hardly like to do that without first seeing him,” answered
the detective kindly. “You see——”

“He is still ill? Isn’t that it, Mr. Carter?”

There was an agony of anxiety in her voice that caused it to tremble as
she looked eagerly into his face.

“Yes, he is ill,” admitted Nick. “I am going to see him at the
hospital.”

“Is—is he very bad?”

“I don’t know. I do not think so. The last time I saw him, some days
ago, he was up and dressed. The trouble is with his mind. The shock
of the injuries he suffered at the fire still affects him. I hope—and
expect—it will soon pass away.”

“I wish I could see him.”

“I intend that you shall—but not just now.”

“When?”

“Let me see. It is now four o’clock. I will go to the hospital. You may
have an opportunity this evening. I cannot promise, but it may be so.
Will you remain here until I get back. You have spent over an hour in
this room,” he added, smiling. “You won’t mind another half hour or so,
I’m sure.”

“How kind you are!” she murmured.

“Not at all. As Chick says, it is all in my day’s work.”

Chick brought a bundle of magazines to her, and placed a chair for her
at the big table, with another for her father.

Carter smiled inwardly as he noted the assiduous attentions of his
assistant. Bessie Silvius was a pretty girl.

With a cheerful nod of farewell to Bessie and her father, and another
for Chick, the detective went out, picked up a taxi at the next corner,
and sped away to the Universal Hospital.

He knew his way about the big building, and did not require anybody
to show him how to reach the private room he had engaged for Howard
Milmarsh. It was on the fourth floor, and there was good elevator
service. In fact, there were two passenger elevators, besides others
for taking patients, on cots, from one floor to another, and for other
hospital uses.

Most of the doctors and nurses knew him, and he had to stop and speak
to several of them before he was allowed to enter the elevator and tell
the attendant to put him off on “the fourth.”

As he walked down the long corridor on his way to the room, he met the
nurse who was in charge of Howard Milmarsh at night.

“How is he, Miss Jordan?” he asked.

“He had a good night, Mr. Carter. But I haven’t seen him since seven
this morning.”

“His mind?”

“I fancy it is better. He seems to remember things a little. I feel
sure he will recover in time.”

This nurse had had long experience, comparatively. She was nearly
thirty years of age, and was considered one of the most competent of
her profession in the hospital. When she said a patient was better,
there was reason to believe she was right.

“I’m glad to hear it, Miss Jordan. Were you going to see him now?”

“Yes. I don’t go on till seven. But as I am in the hospital, I’ll go
in, of course, to see my patient. I am deeply interested in the case.
It is a sad one, it seems to me, for I hear that he is a very wealthy
man.”

Miss Jordan looked inquiringly at Nick. But if she expected to receive
any information from him as to Howard Milmarsh’s private affairs, she
was disappointed. The detective was not given to idle gossip.

The young man was known in the hospital as Robert Gordon. If he had
been entered in the name of Howard Milmarsh, there would have been
altogether too much curiosity about him, in Nick’s opinion.

The two reached the door of the private room, and Miss Jordan tapped at
the door.

It was opened quickly, and Nick saw that there were three doctors and
as many nurses standing between him and the bed, and all were talking
with more excitement than is usual in a sick chamber.

“Is anything the matter?” demanded the detective.

“He’s gone!” replied one of the doctors, with a jerk. “The patient has
left the hospital, and we are questioning Miss Sawyer, the day nurse,
to find out how it happened.”

“Gone?” echoed Nick sharply. “Do you mean he ran away without anybody
knowing he had done so?”

“No, no, Mr. Carter. Not so bad as that. Such a thing could not happen
in a well-managed institution like the Universal Hospital. But he went
for a stroll about the building, and on the lawn, and slipped out of
the front door without anybody in the office on the main floor noticing
him. That is the report.”

“Oh, that’s the report, is it?” observed Nick dryly.



                             CHAPTER XXXV.

                           GETTING A FOCUS.


“Do you mean that he was allowed to go walking about the hospital by
himself, so that he could slip away unnoticed?”

It was Nick Carter asking the question, and he was seated in the room
from which Howard Milmarsh had vanished, talking to the day nurse, Miss
Sawyer, while the night nurse, Miss Jordan, listened.

“I did not say that,” replied Miss Sawyer. “His brother was here.”

“His brother?”

“Yes. He was the very picture of Mr. Gordon—except that he was not
pale, from staying indoors, like the patient. In everything else they
were so much alike that you knew they were twins.”

“Oh, you knew it.”

“Yes. You could tell it from their remarkable resemblance to each
other. Besides, the other Mr. Gordon said they were twins.”

“Had you ever seen the visiting brother before?”

“No.”

“He had never paid a visit to the patient till to-day? Did he explain
why that was?”

“Yes. He said he had been away from New York for a long time—in the
West. He had heard of his brother being sick, and had come to the
hospital as soon as he arrived in the city.”

“And then—what?”

“He talked to Mr. Gordon for a little while, trying to make him
understand. He spoke of being in the West, and mentioned a place he
called Maple.”

“Well?”

“Mr. Gordon appeared to recognize that name, for he smiled and said
something that sounded like a girl’s name.”

“What name?”

“Bessie or Letty or Nelly. I could not be sure what it was, for he does
not talk plainly, you know. He never has had complete control of his
tongue since he came here.”

“Was that all you noticed when they were talking? Was there any other
word that seemed to penetrate to his brain?”

“Not that I saw. They talked for about fifteen minutes. Then Mr.
Gordon, as he said his name was—the visitor—proposed that he should
walk his brother about the hospital and out to the garden at the back.”

“And you let him do it?”

“Yes. It seemed reasonable that they should like to be together, after
so long a parting. Reasonable for the visitor, that is. The patient did
not make any sign one way or the other. Beyond a half smile, as if he
were pleased when the name of the girl was on his tongue, he was just
as he always is.”

“It might have been better if you’d gone along, too, Miss Sawyer,”
remarked the detective. “You would then have seen them when they went
out of the front door. The patient had his hat, I suppose?”

“Yes. He wore his usual clothing, hat and all. There was nothing in
his appearance different from hundreds of men you may see on Broadway
or Fifth Avenue at any time. I wish I had gone with them. But I argued
that he would be quite safe with his twin brother, and his absence gave
me an opportunity to look after little things about the room which are
difficult to attend to when he is there.”

Nick saw the nurse’s point of view, and resolved not to make a
complaint at the office, as he might easily have done. Instead, he
walked out, stepped into his waiting taxicab, and hastened home.

He told exactly what he had found at the hospital, leaving it to Chick
to make any comments that occurred to him.

The girl and her father simply looked bewildered. They did not feel
that any harm had been done by the patient leaving the hospital with
his twin brother. Indeed, Bessie smiled, as if pleased that he was well
enough to go out.

“You know who the twin brother is, of course, chief?” observed Chick.

“It is not hard to guess.”

“What is the game?”

“That we must find out.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“Where are you going to do it?”

“The Milmarsh residence, it appears to me,” replied Nick.

“Milmarsh, did you say?” asked the girl. “Do you suppose he has gone
there?”

“It seems probable.”

“So it does,” assented Bessie Silvius. “Oh, Mr. Carter! Perhaps he is
quite well—recovered his memory and everything! Well, if he has, that
is all I want to know. It is all I have a _right_ to know. We’ll go
now, my father and I. You won’t mind my coming again—to-morrow, or the
next day—to hear how he is, will you?”

The pitiful appeal in her tones would have touched a much harder heart
than the detective’s. He walked close to her and took one of her hands
in his.

“Miss Silvius, I hope you will not have to wait until to-morrow to hear
how Mr.—Mr. Gordon is. I was about to ask if you would go with us to
Milmarsh.”

“Milmarsh?”

“That is the name of the little place where the residence of the
Milmarshes is up on the hill. There is not much else there besides the
Old Pike Inn and a cluster of small stores to supply the country homes
around. We shall take a train in three-quarters of an hour.”

“It will get us up there in less than an hour,” added Chick. “It’s an
express. The chief has that train schedule down fine. He never has to
look at a timetable.”

“Meanwhile, I will have the housekeeper give us a meal of some kind.
She is a wonder at preparing a tasty luncheon or supper at short
notice.”

“I don’t think I’m hungry,” protested the girl.

“I know better,” contradicted Carter, smiling as he saw that Chick was
already at the house telephone, giving directions to the housekeeper.
“And your father needs something, too. You wouldn’t deprive him of the
refreshment he needs, I am sure, even if you were to refuse it for
yourself.”

Thus chatting, to prevent Bessie Silvius objecting further, Nick led
the way into the dining room, where, in a wonderfully short space of
time, there were tea, coffee, cold meat, cake, pie, and other articles
of food, set forth in appetizing array.

Roscoe Silvius evidently was hungry. The old gentleman attacked
everything set before him, and praised each dish as it reached him.
Bessie also was hungry, although she was not so ravenous as her father,
while the chief and Chick disposed of their food in the businesslike
manner of sensible men, who did not know when they would get a meal
again, and were determined to make the most of the one they had.

The taxi that was to take them to the Grand Central was at the door
when they went downstairs, and they were comfortably seated in a parlor
car two minutes before the time for the train to pull out.

“It all seems so wonderful,” declared Bessie, smiling, as she settled
down in the comfortable, roomy chair, and looked along the car. “This
morning I had no thought of finding him again in this world. Now, in
the evening, I am on my way to see him.”

“You are almost too optimistic, I’m afraid,” said Nick, with a smile.
“We may not find him at Milmarsh. Only, I think that he may be there.
I have reasons of my own for believing so, but they may all turn out
fallacious. There goes the train.”

In less than half an hour they were in a motor car, hired at the
station, and on their way up to the Milmarsh mansion.

“Hello! What’s all the fuss on the porch?” exclaimed Chick. “Look,
chief! It isn’t the poor people that were fooled on Paradise City there
again, is it?”

“I see Billings moving about very actively,” said the chief. “Hurry,
driver! Let’s get there!”

The chauffeur put on more power and sent his machine along at a
headlong pace, which brought it up in front of the porch at the main
door with a rush.

“What is it?” shouted Nick, at Patsy Garvan, who was by the side of the
big truckman.

“The guy they called Howard Milmarsh is back again,” was the reply
hurled back by Patsy.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

                         WHERE THEY FOUND HIM.


Nick Carter jumped out of the car, leaving to Chick the congenial task
of helping out Bessie Silvius, and bolted into the house.

“Where is he?”

“In the dining room, locked in with the others,” reported Billings
coolly. “As soon as he came snooping up, I shoved him in with Louden
Powers and Lampton, and let them have it out between them. Then I came
out, to see who it was coming up the road in an automobile. It was you.
The other guy came only just a little while ago.”

“You mean the man you have in the dining room?”

“Yes. He said he walked up from the station, talking to another fellow
who was with him, when suddenly he missed him.”

“Who?”

“The other guy he was talking to.”

“Do you mean to say that he allowed a man to get away from him while
they were actually talking, and didn’t see where he’d gone?”

“That’s what he told us.”

“I don’t believe it, for one,” put in Chick.

“Unless this mug in the dining room is daffy. Then it might have
happened,” suggested Patsy. “Who is he, anyhow?”

Nick did not stop to answer, although he could have done it. He went
over to Bessie Silvius, and asked her to wait in the drawing-room with
her father, for a little time, while he straightened out a little
misunderstanding that had occurred.

“But, Mr. Carter, is that Mr. Gordon in the dining room? I mean, the
man they say came walking up the road with somebody else? Or was it he
who suddenly left the other?”

“I shall have to go into the dining room to see the man before I can
answer that question.”

He directed Chick to stay in the drawing-room with Bessie and her
father. It was a mission that Chick undertook with cheerfulness. Carter
saw him leading Bessie and Roscoe Silvius to the drawing-room with
Chesterfieldian politeness, and did not trouble any further about him.

Billings opened the door of the dining room with the key he had in his
pocket, and Nick went in.

He saw just about what he expected. Louden Powers and Andrew Lampton
each had a cigar going, and between them, still slumped down in his
chair, as if he never had moved, was the individual who had been put
forward as the real heir of the stupendous Milmarsh estate.

Nick went to this man and shook him until he looked up vacantly.

“Where is he?” demanded Nick.

“I don’t know. I was bringing him here, because you wanted him. But he
wouldn’t come the whole distance, and it was no fault of mine. I guess
he is somewhere about the grounds.”

“Why didn’t you search for him, instead of coming up to the house?”

“Because I believed he’d come here. It is what anybody would have
believed. But as soon as I came up to the porch, some of these fellows
of yours saw me and dragged me into this room.”

The speaker was not exactly stupid. He seemed to be rather dazed by
a rapid surge of events. That was the way Nick regarded him, and
doubtless he was right. He bent over and whispered in the man’s ear.

The result was a brightening up, and a much firmer tone of voice, as he
said aloud:

“Of course, I’ll go with you, and I reckon I can find him, too. But
you will have to keep these two men off me,” pointing to Powers and
Lampton. “They feel that things are slipping away from them, and they
will kill me if they have a chance.”

“That is quite probable,” muttered the detective inaudibly.

He led the cowed man out of the room, and saw that Patsy followed. He
turned to his young assistant and told him not to let anybody out of
the house till they returned.

Once in the open air, Nick’s companion seemed to become a different
man. His step was springy, and when they came to a fence separating
them from a part of the ground that was full of high grass and tangled
shrubbery, he vaulted over it as lightly and cleanly as Nick himself.
His voice was almost firm, as he said:

“I saw him looking over here as we came up the road, and once I heard
him mutter something about the west meadow. He seemed to know that part
of the estate, although I did not hear him say anything else.”

“The west meadow,” repeated Nick. “Yes, I think I know where that is.”

They walked for some little distance through the bushes and grass,
until the detective stopped and pointed to what was evidently a recent
trail.

“See! Somebody has walked through this high grass and made a deep, wide
furrow. We shan’t have much trouble in finding him now, I think.”

Perhaps Nick was surprised to find that the trail ended at the stone
foundation wall of the house, at the back, where the cover of the
tunnel that used to be part of the “underground railway” was made to
look like the surrounding stones. The tunnel has already been described.

“Get in there!” commanded Carter.

The man was not inclined to obey. He seemed to fear it meant getting
him at a disadvantage—perhaps locking him up in some dungeon from
which he might never emerge save to go into a regular prison.

But Nick was not in a mood to be held back by anybody—least of all by
one whom he felt had no right to consideration.

So the man went down the chute, just as Chick had, not so long before,
and the detective followed him.

There is no necessity to tell bit by bit how they went along the secret
corridor which finally brought them to the back of the large picture
in the dining room, where Nick and his assistant had listened to the
conversation of the conspirators—one of whom was now actually in the
corridor himself.

Suddenly a man sprang out of the blackness and seized Nick by the
throat, forcing him backward and almost to his knees.

It was only for an instant that the detective was held at a
disadvantage. He hurled his assailant away, and, bringing out his
pocket flash, saw the man who had come with him lying on the floor in
the narrow space, while facing him, with wild, vengeful eyes, was the
sick man from the Universal Hospital!

It was evident that the escaped patient did not recognize either Nick
or the other man, and equally certain that he regarded them both as
enemies.

Even as the detective watched, he could see the long fingers, lean and
clawlike from long illness, twitching to get at his throat, while the
madman’s feet shuffled slightly, as if preparing for a sudden spring.

Nick took the initiative. Telling the man on the floor to get up and
lend a hand, he threw one arm around the strange creature who had found
his way in some mysterious way to this secret corridor, and seized his
wrist from behind. By this wrestling trick, the detective had both the
hands of his captive firmly held.

“Hold him for a moment!” he commanded the other man, who had arisen by
this time. “Poor fellow! He is too weak to resist much. Had you any
notion where he was?”

“How could I have?” was the rejoinder, in an injured tone. “I never was
in this hole before. Where are we, anyhow?”

“I’ll show you,” replied Nick.

He felt along the wall until his linger touched a small knob.

The next moment a panel turned open silently, and they were looking
through a doorway some four feet wide, down into the dining room, where
sat the men they had left there half an hour before.

A shriek of horror burst from Andrew Lampton. But Louden Powers only
smiled derisively. He had an iron nerve, and nothing could surprise him
very much. He had always known there were secret passages about this
strange old house, although he never had found them for himself.

The appearance of the two ghostly personages in the bedchamber on that
night had confirmed what he had heard about the hidden places in the
house. So it did not seem so very extraordinary that Nick Carter should
suddenly show himself in the wall, by two of the large pictures.

At first only Nick was visible to the people in the dining room. But,
as he stepped forth upon a chair, and thus to the door, he led the
escaped sick man from the hospital, while following him was the person
the two conspirators had declared to be Howard Milmarsh.

“What, chief?” shouted Patsy Garvan, in delight. “Did you get him?”

“By hooky,” roared Bonesy Billings. “There’s two of ’em! They look just
alike! Now I know how you told the truth, Mr. Carter, while it looked
like—like the other thing.”

The detective only nodded, as he put a large chair for the pale-faced
invalid, and forced him into it gently.

The belligerence had gone from the face of the newcomer. He seemed to
be wondering—that was all.

The most peculiar thing in the whole affair was that the man who had
been set forth as the real owner of the Milmarsh estate, and who had
appeared so dazed and in such terror of Powers and Lampton, now held up
his head and actually smiled, as if a great weight had been lifted from
his shoulders.

Louden Powers scowled at him, but he replied only by a stare of
defiance.

“That mug is going to give the whole snap away,” muttered Andrew
Lampton, in the ear of his fellow conspirator.

“I’ll kill him if he does,” whispered back Louden Powers.



                            CHAPTER XXXVII.

                          THE RIGHTFUL HEIR.


“Bring in that young lady and her father, with Chick,” ordered the
detective, as he swung the secret panel shut and nodded to Patsy.

“Gi’ me the key, Bonesy.”

Billings unlocked the door, and, while Patsy was absent, he stood
guard. Not that it was needed, for nobody made an attempt to get out.

“Here they are, chief!” cried Patsy, as he came in with the three
persons he had been sent for.

The girl would have run to the sick man as soon as she saw him, and it
could be seen that a cry of recognition was ready to spring from her
lips.

“Not yet!” warned Nick. “Patience for just a moment!”

She nodded obediently and sank into the chair Chick set for her. Her
father, bewildered, was already seated.

“Now, gentlemen,” went on the detective, “in the first place. I will
ask this man, who has been posing as Howard Milmarsh, what his name
really is.”

“What is the use of my saying?” grumbled the man he addressed. “You
know it, and, of course, these other fellows do.” He pointed to Louden
Powers and Andrew Lampton. “They thought it was a slick game, and that
we could get away with the bluff. I knew we couldn’t.”

“You could, if you’d had any nerve,” snarled Louden Powers. “But you
never could see a thing through. You are all right at the beginning.
But you haven’t the pluck to stay with a thing to the end. You’re like
a wet firecracker. There’s a whiz and a puff, and you’re done! You make
me sick, T. Burton Potter!”

Potter smiled. He did not care what was said, now that the truth had
come out.

“Then, if this guy’s name is Potter, the other one must be——” began
Bonesy Billings.

Nick held up a hand to silence him. Then he whispered to Bessie Silvius.

“Yes, Mr. Carter,” she answered aloud. “I believe he’ll know me. I’ll
try him.”

She stepped over to the man who had spent so long a time in the
Universal Hospital, and laid a hand on his arm. He started and looked
at her.

“Bob!” she whispered. “Don’t you know me?”

It was very difficult for him to draw his senses together, but it could
be seen that her voice had touched a responsive chord in his being. He
held out his hand to her.

As she took it, he murmured brokenly:

“Bob Gordon? Yes, that is what they call me. But—but—it isn’t quite
right. How is it—Bessie?”

She laughed half hysterically.

“Did you hear that, Mr. Carter? He knows me! He called me by my name!
He is coming to himself!”

The detective shook his head doubtfully. He was willing to admit that
remembering the girl’s name was a good sign, but it was not enough.

“Let me try,” he said.

Touching the young man on the shoulder, he bent over and whispered
sharply in his ear:

“Howard Milmarsh!”

There was a slight movement. But it could not be said that the name had
brought him to his senses. He slumped down in his chair again, and in a
weary voice murmured: “Bessie!”

“The only thing he can think of,” remarked Chick. “He’s a lucky man.”

“I don’t see where the luck comes in, if he’s off his nut,” rejoined
Patsy.

Bonesy Billings, Chick and Patsy were all gathered about him, each one
watching for some other indications of returning intelligence besides
that contained in the single word, “Bessie!”

It was this moment of which Louden Powers took advantage. With a sign
to Lampton, Louden crept toward the door.

But Nick was on the alert, even though so deeply engaged.

“Not yet, Louden!” he shouted, as he rushed forward to cut off the
rascal’s escape.

“Get back!” roared Powers. “You’d better, if you don’t want to get
this.”

He had picked up a heavy, cut-glass water bottle from the table, and
was swinging it around his head.

Nick dashed at him, and Louden let the bottle go with all his force.

The detective ducked, and the bottle went past.

A shriek from Bessie Silvius made him turn quickly.

Howard Milmarsh—the real one—was lying back in his chair, and a thin,
red stream trickled over his forehead.

“Get that fellow!” shouted Nick, over his shoulder, as he rushed to the
wounded man crumpled up in the big armchair.

“I’ve got him, all right,” replied Bonesy Billings.

Billings had backheeled Louden Powers just as he got to the door, and
now was kneeling on the chest of the discomfited scoundrel.

Lampton, scared, was in his chair. He had jumped up when Louden tried
to get away. Then, seeing that the attempt would fail, he prudently
resumed his seat in a hurry.

Nick was examining the wound, putting his handkerchief to it and noting
at the same time that the sufferer was talking rapidly.

“It just caught him with a glancing stroke,” announced the detective.
“It jarred him, but that is all. It is not serious. Just enough of a
concussion to——”

He stopped and looked around him, with a hopeful look in his keen, dark
eyes.

“What’s this?” the wounded man was saying, in a natural, though weak,
voice. “Are we off the roof? Is the fire still burning? We didn’t go
through, did we? Where’s Bessie?”

“Here I am! Here I am!” she answered eagerly.

He took her hand and stared into her face. Then he smiled. This time it
was with as much intelligence as her own.

“Mr. Carter! Mr. Carter!” she screamed.

“Yes?”

“He has got back his senses! Look at him!”

“Do you know who you are?” asked Nick, close to him.

“Howard Milmarsh to you, Mr. Carter. Howard Milmarsh! What is the use
of my saying my name if anything else? You know me. I don’t care who
knows it now, anyhow. I had determined to give myself up. I killed
Richard Jarvis.”

“No, you didn’t. You’re mistaken. You did not kill him,” declared the
detective emphatically. “You will take my word, won’t you?”

“Take your word, Mr. Carter? Of course I will—I must! But are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. I can prove it.”

“Then is Richard Jarvis alive?”

“No. But he died by an accident—after he had quite recovered from
the blow you gave him. It was only a knock-out. He came to in a few
minutes. You were scared unnecessarily. Now you will come into your
own.”

“But—my father? Ah, yes! I know! My poor father!”

Tears—real, comforting, natural tears—flowed from his eyes. They would
have proved, if there had been nothing else, that Howard Milmarsh was
again himself, and that he was prepared to face whatever might be his
fate.

Nick Carter turned away, to see what Bonesy was doing to the prostrate,
cursing Louden Powers.

“Take him away, Billings. Lock him up in a cellar, till the police
come.”

As Bonesy Billings promptly obeyed, by yanking Louden Powers to his
feet as if he had been a sack of oats, Andrew Lampton exclaimed, in a
terrified tone:

“Police? Have you sent for the police?”

Nick waited till Louden Powers was out of the room. Then he went close
to Lampton, and spoke to him quietly:

“Look here, Lampton. I promised that if you brought T. Burton Potter to
me, I would do something for you. I will keep my word by giving you
half an hour’s start of the police. Get out! I’d advise you to get over
the Canadian border as soon as you can do it. Don’t ever show up in New
York again. If you do. I won’t answer for the consequences. Understand?”

Andrew Lampton did understand. He was out of the house almost before
the detective had finished speaking.

“Are you going to bring any charge against me?” whimpered T. Burton
Potter. “Or may I go?”

“I know you are a crook, Potter. But in this case I recognize that you
were led into mischief by stronger wills than your own. Your attempt to
defraud Howard Milmarsh of his rights would mean, perhaps, ten years in
Sing Sing if the charge were pressed. But you helped me find the right
man at last, and I believe you are really sorry for what you have done.”

“Yes. And——”

“Get out of this house,” interrupted Nick. “The same advice I gave to
Andrew Lampton applies to you. Lose no time in jumping over the line
into Canada. You may escape that way. It is your own lookout. Go, and
may you lead a better life in future.”

“I will!” returned T. Burton Potter earnestly. “I have had such a scare
this time that I’m through with crookedness for all time.”

“I hope that’s true.”

“You bet it’s true,” insisted Potter, as he hurried from the room.

“It seems to me that you’re letting all the crooks get away, chief,”
protested Chick mildly. “I think both Potter and Lampton ought to have
been handed over to the police, with Powers.”

“Strictly speaking, according to the law, I suppose they should,”
conceded the chief. “But I have to consider Howard Milmarsh. He has
recovered his senses, it is true—thanks to that bottle over there—but
it will be some time before it will be safe to put him through another
mental strain.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Of course he’s right,” put in Patsy. “He’s always right. It seems to
me that you had a lot of nerve to tell him he wasn’t.”

“That will do,” interposed Nick, smiling. “I can’t afford to have
my two men—both of them the most loyal lieutenants a man could
have—arguing over me.”

“But he said——” blurted out Patsy.

“I know what he said, and he was right, in a way. But there are
circumstances that make it desirable that Howard Milmarsh should take
possession of his estate with as little fuss as possible. I promised
his father that I would see he was allowed to do so, and that’s what I
have to do.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

It was three months after that exciting night at the great Milmarsh
mansion on the hill. Another night of an exciting nature may be
mentioned. The excitement this time was of a much more pleasant kind,
however. The wedding of Howard Milmarsh and Bessie Silvius had just
taken place.

Nick Carter, Chick, and Patsy were all there, together with
Billings—who wore evening clothes, for the first and only time in his
life. Chick had been the best man at the ceremony, and a niece of
Captain Brown’s was the bridesmaid.

Among the guests were all the people who had been swindled over the
Paradise City land project. They had got back their money, with a large
bonus to each person in addition, and now were there to cheer the
finest man who ever had lived in that part of the country, in their
opinion, Howard Milmarsh.

“That’s all right, so far as it goes,” remarked Patsy Garvan to Chick,
sotto voce, “but where would Howard Milmarsh have been to-day if it
were not for the chief?”

“That’s so,” agreed Chick. “Howard is like all of us. He has to take
off his hat to Nick Carter.”


                               THE END.


No. 1002 of the NEW MAGNET LIBRARY, entitled “A Game of Craft,” is a
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