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Title: A Stolen Name - The Man Who Defied Nick Carter
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                   *       *       *       *       *



                          NICK CARTER STORIES

                          New Magnet Library

                    _Not a Dull Book in This List_

                        ALL BY NICHOLAS CARTER


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 troubles 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_

   901—A Weird Treasure
   902—The Middle Link
   903—To the Ends of the Earth
   904—When Honors Pall
   905—The Yellow Brand
   906—A New Serpent in Eden
   907—When Brave Men Tremble
   908—A Test of Courage
   909—Where Peril Beckons
   910—The Gargoni Girdle
   911—Rascals & Co.
   912—Too Late to Talk
   913—Satan’s Apt Pupil
   914—The Girl Prisoner
   915—The Danger of Folly
   916—One Shipwreck Too Many
   917—Scourged by Fear
   918—The Red Plague
   919—Scoundrels Rampant
   920—From Clew to Clew
   921—When Rogues Conspire
   922—Twelve in a Grave
   923—The Great Opium Case
   924—A Conspiracy of Rumors
   925—A Klondike Claim
   926—The Evil Formula
   927—The Man of Many Faces
   928—The Great Enigma
   929—The Burden of Proof
   930—The Stolen Brain
   931—A Titled Counterfeiter
   932—The Magic Necklace
   933—’Round the World for a Quarter
   934—Over the Edge of the World
   935—In the Grip of Fate
   936—The Case of Many Clews
   937—The Sealed Door
   938—Nick Carter and the Green Goods Men
   939—The Man Without a Will
   940—Tracked Across the Atlantic
   941—A Clew from the Unknown
   942—The Crime of a Countess
   943—A Mixed-up Mess
   944—The Great Money-order Swindle
   945—The Adder’s Brood
   946—A Wall Street Haul
   947—For a Pawned Crown
   948—Sealed Orders
   949—The Hate that Kills
   950—The American Marquis
   951—The Needy Nine
   952—Fighting Against Millions
   953—Outlaws of the Blue
   954—The Old Detective’s Pupil
   955—Found in the Jungle
   956—The Mysterious Mail Robbery
   957—Broken Bars
   958—A Fair Criminal
   959—Won by Magic
   960—The Piano Box Mystery
   961—The Man They Held Back
   962—A Millionaire Partner
   963—A Pressing Peril
   964—An Australian Klondike
   965—The Sultan’s Pearls
   966—The Double Shuffle Club
   967—Paying the Price
   968—A Woman’s Hand
   969—A Network of Crime
   970—At Thompson’s Ranch
   971—The Crossed Needles
   972—The Diamond Mine Case
   973—Blood Will Tell
   974—An Accidental Password
   975—The Crook’s Double
   976—Two Plus Two
   977—The Yellow Label
   978—The Clever Celestial
   979—The Amphitheater Plot
   980—Gideon Drexel’s Millions
   981—Death in Life
   982—A Stolen Identity
   983—Evidence by Telephone
   984—The Twelve Tin Boxes
   985—Clew Against Clew
   986—Lady Velvet
   987—Playing a Bold Game
   988—A Dead Man’s Grip
   989—Snarled Identities
   990—A Deposit Vault Puzzle
   991—The Crescent Brotherhood
   992—The Stolen Pay Train
   993—The Sea Fox
   994—Wanted by Two Clients
   995—The Van Alstine Case
   996—Check No. 777
   997—Partners in Peril
   998—Nick Carter’s Clever Protégé
   999—The Sign of the Crossed Knives
  1000—The Man Who Vanished
  1001—A Battle for the Right
  1002—A Game of Craft
  1003—Nick Carter’s Retainer
  1004—Caught in the Toils
  1005—A Broken Bond
  1006—The Crime of the French Café
  1007—The Man Who Stole Millions
  1008—The Twelve Wise Men
  1009—Hidden Foes
  1010—A Gamblers’ Syndicate
  1011—A Chance Discovery
  1012—Among the Counterfeiters
  1013—A Threefold Disappearance
  1014—At Odds with Scotland Yard
  1015—A Princess of Crime
  1016—Found on the Beach
  1017—A Spinner of Death
  1018—The Detective’s Pretty Neighbor
  1019—A Bogus Clew
  1020—The Puzzle of Five Pistols
  1021—The Secret of the Marble Mantel
  1022—A Bite of an Apple
  1023—A Triple Crime
  1024—The Stolen Race Horse
  1025—Wildfire
  1026—A _Herald_ Personal
  1027—The Finger of Suspicion
  1028—The Crimson Clew
  1029—Nick Carter Down East
  1030—The Chain of Clews
  1031—A Victim of Circumstances
  1032—Brought to Bay
  1033—The Dynamite Trap
  1034—A Scrap of Black Lace
  1035—The Woman of Evil
  1036—A Legacy of Hate
  1037—A Trusted Rogue
  1038—Man Against Man
  1039—The Demons of the Night
  1040—The Brotherhood of Death
  1041—At the Knife’s Point
  1042—A Cry for Help
  1043—A Stroke of Policy
  1044—Hounded to Death
  1045—A Bargain in Crime
  1046—The Fatal Prescription
  1047—The Man of Iron
  1048—An Amazing Scoundrel
  1049—The Chain of Evidence
  1050—Paid with Death
  1051—A Fight for a Throne
  1052—The Woman of Steel
  1053—The Seal of Death
  1054—The Human Fiend
  1055—A Desperate Chance
  1056—A Chase in the Dark
  1057—The Snare and the Game
  1058—The Murray Hill Mystery
  1059—Nick Carter’s Close Call
  1060—The Missing Cotton King
  1061—A Game of Plots
  1062—The Prince of Liars
  1063—The Man at the Window
  1064—The Red League
  1065—The Price of a Secret
  1066—The Worst Case on Record
  1067—From Peril to Peril
  1068—The Seal of Silence
  1069—Nick Carter’s Chinese Puzzle
  1070—A Blackmailer’s Bluff
  1071—Heard in the Dark
  1072—A Checkmated Scoundrel
  1073—The Cashier’s Secret
  1074—Behind a Mask



                             A STOLEN NAME

                                  OR

                    The Man Who Defied Nick Carter


                          By NICHOLAS CARTER
      Author of “The Taxicab Riddle,” “Nick Carter’s Last Card,”
                      “Bandits of the Air,” etc.


                            [Illustration]


                      STREET & SMITH PUBLICATIONS
                             INCORPORATED
                    79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York



                            Copyright, 1910
                           By STREET & SMITH

                             A Stolen Name


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

                         Printed in the U.S.A.



                            A STOLEN NAME.



                              CHAPTER I.

                       THE BEGINNING OF A PLOT.


Bare-Faced Jimmy, so-called gentleman crook, expert cracksman, and
a master criminal in any department of the underworld to which he
cared to devote his attention, leaned backward in his chair until it
tilted against the wall behind him, blew a cloud of Perfecto smoke
ceilingward, and remarked:

“It will be the easiest thing in the world, Juno. If the objective
point were a fortune—even a moderate one; if the thing contemplated
included the theft of a single dollar, in cash or in estate, it would
be different; but it doesn’t. No, it does not. Really, Juno, if one
pauses to think seriously about it, from that point of view, it is
almost laughable.”

“That is why I have been smiling at the idea ever since you mentioned
it,” returned the woman, applying a lighted match to a cigarette with
all the grace and abandon of one who had been long accustomed to the
practice.

“As a matter of fact,” Jimmy continued, as if he had not heard her
remark, “if I do decide to undertake it, the only things that I steal
will be a lot of debts; and who ever heard of stealing debts? Eh?”

“There certainly is novelty in the thought,” was the quick reply. “If
some gracious person had done you the honor to steal yours, long ago——”

“Oh, yes, my dear; that is quite true; only we won’t go into the ‘long
ago’ matters, just now, if you please.”

The woman shrugged her shoulders and picked up from her lap a book
that she had been reading. For a time she devoted her attention to the
pages, and then her companion broke the silence again.

“I think I’ll do it,” he said decidedly. “I see great possibilities in
the adventure. Juno, will you be good enough to lay that book aside for
a few moments, and to give me your undivided attention?”

“Gladly,” she replied, “if you will condescend to speak out plainly,
instead of confining yourself to generalities.”

“All right, my dear; here goes. In the State of Virginia, bordering on
the Potomac River, and washed by the waters of two other streams—which
by courtesy are also called rivers—lies an estate which consists of
something more than eight hundred acres. The title to that estate is in
the name of James Ledger Dinwiddie, who——”

“Who, at the present moment lies dead in the adjoining room in this
house,” she interrupted him; but he only chuckled as he responded:

“On the contrary, he is seated here before you, now; he is talking
with you; he is referring to that dear old plantation in dearer old
Virginia which, ever since the days of Bushrod Washington, has been
called by the name of Kingsgift—the Lord only knows why, unless
some dead and forgotten king gave it as a present to the original
Dinwiddie. Henceforth, my dear, I am Ledger Dinwiddie, owner of an
estate in Virginia that is mortgaged for more than it was ever worth;
for much more than it would ever bring at a forced sale. I am also the
undisputed owner of a choice collection of debts, of an old colonial
house that is now falling into ruins, of numerous other buildings that
are in various stages of dilapidation, and of numerous other things of
the same sort, all of which are not only entirely worthless, but are
really much worse than worthless; and there you are.”

“Will you tell me, Jimmy, just what you expect to gain, then, by this
remarkable adventure, as you call it?” the woman asked quizzically.

“Decidedly I will tell you. I gain the one thing I need most, just
now—a name. My own—but I have never told you what my own really was,
have I? No; and there is no use going into that, now—but my own
name has been so long abandoned that I have forgotten the use of it;
especially the application of it. The name that has been given me by
the police of various localities, isn’t sufficiently high-sounding;
and——”

“No. Bare-Faced Jimmy is hardly a name to have engraved upon one’s
cards,” she interrupted him.

“——and, as I was saying, James Duryea, who has been called Bare-Faced
Jimmy, is popularly supposed to lie buried on an island in the Sound,
just off South Norwalk, Connecticut. I would much rather that the
police should not be undeceived about that, and so we will let Jimmy
Duryea, cracksman, lie there and rot; eh?”

“If you please. I don’t mind. A rose by any other name, you know.”

“Yes; I know. And that reminds me. In the future I will thank you to
address me as Ledger. Eh? By Jove! Juno, that chap in there was the
most unbalanced ledger I ever saw in my life. If he hadn’t sort of come
to, during the last hours of his life, and told all he ever knew about
himself and his people, this idea would never have occurred to me.”

“It looks to me like a fool idea, anyhow,” she commented, with a toss
of her beautiful and shapely head, crowned as it was with a wealth of
raven-black hair. Juno was undeniably a beautiful woman—a fact of which
she was perfectly well aware.

“Fool idea?” he retorted. “Not much. It’s a splendid one. It is the
idea of my life, and it is worth about three or four times as much as
it would have been had the chap in there left a million in money and
unencumbered estates behind him when he died. I would rather have his
debts than a fortune that he might have left. Really, I don’t think
that I would have undertaken the thing if he had left property that was
worth anything.”

“Why?”

“Why, to what, Juno?”

“Why is the name and the identity of that poor fellow worth more to
you, so, than if he had left a fortune behind him?”

“Why? Can you, my dear, ask such a question as that?”

“I do ask it.”

“Then know this: Nobody will want what Dinwiddie has left behind him.
No one will be desirous of shouldering his debts; and consequently
nobody will step forward to dispute the rights that I shall assert
belong to me. Word will travel around the neighborhood, and throughout
the county, that Ledger Dinwiddie has come back; then there will be
a few convulsive shrugs of a few shoulders, a score or so of knowing
winks—and that will be about all. On the other hand, if there was
property, there would be a hundred disinterested persons, neighbors
and otherwise, who would find a chance to doubt if I were the real
Dinwiddie returned to what had once been his own.”

“But what do you get out of it, Jimmy?”

“I get a name, my dear; an old, old name; an older lineage, than
which there is none better in the Old Dominion; an ancestry that is
unimpeachable; a reputation which stands for gentility, and which has
stood for gentility for generations; a career, all made in a moment,
but which is, nevertheless, three centuries old; an established place
in the world which none can deny me—Heaven knows that I need one just
now; and a safe refuge in which I can hide myself for the rest of my
natural life, without the trouble of attempting to disguise my face, or
my mannerisms.”

“All the same, Jimmy, there are plenty of people in the world, honest
men and crooks, policemen and judges on the bench, lawyers and
ex-convicts, who will quickly recognize the features of Jimmy Duryea,
if those features happen to be seen.”

“Juno, that is just the point; they won’t. Ledger Dinwiddie will bear a
strong resemblance to the late lamented Bare-Faced Jimmy, to be sure,
but nobody will ever think of associating the two; never. Besides,
if the necessity should arise, Ledger Dinwiddie could establish his
identity beyond question. People could be found who knew him when he
was a boy.”

“And you might even claim, if you choose, that the defunct Jimmy was a
distant relation who went to the bad in his early youth, and who had
been cast off by ‘the family,’” said Juno.

“Precisely. Not at all a bad idea.”

“Well, what then?”

“Everything then, Juno. Like Monte Cristo, the world will be mine.
I will only have to reach out my two hands and take it. And with my
accomplishments I do not anticipate that it will be a difficult task to
do so.”

“Probably not—with your accomplishments.”

“It will never occur to any of those Virginians, up there, that a man
would be ass enough to lay claim to a worthless estate, encumbered by
unnumbered debts; to a broken fortune—and all that. They will accept me
on the spot, and without asking a question.”

“Yet, Jimmy, you do not in the least resemble that dead man in there.”

“I know it. What of it?”

“There may be a few persons left alive, at or near Kingsgift, who will
remember the young man who left his home in Virginia, so long ago.”

“Bah! Nonsense, my dear. They will look at me and exclaim. ‘How you
have changed!’ or, ‘You’re right smart altered since you went away,
Ledger.’ But to offset that, there will be dozens who do not remember
at all how Dinwiddie really looked, who will declare, ‘Why, boy, I’d
have known you anywhere. You ain’t a mite changed since you was a
leetle chap, so high.’ That is the way of the world, Juno.”

“But what will you do with the name, and with the mortgaged estates,
when you get them?” Juno asked lightly. “Considering that part of it
as settled, for you generally accomplish whatever you undertake to do,
what will you do with it all?”

“I’ll make your fortune and mine. I’ll square Dinwiddie with the people
around there, and tell them all what a great man I intend to make of
myself. I’ll pay off a year’s interest on the mortgages and other
debts, and make out new papers, just to give them confidence in me.
When that is done, I’ll be ready for the real work of—succeeding.”

“Succeeding at what?”

“At making a fortune.”

“And you really think that you can do it?”

“With such a name, such a lineage, such a reputation for gentility? Of
course I can do it.”

“It doesn’t strike me that people will be any more eager to lend you
money——”

“Lend me money? I don’t want them to do that.”

“Then how——”

“I shall take it. If they accept me, they must take the consequences.”

“Do you mean that you will do it in the old way?”

“Sure. What other way do I know?”

“What if you should get caught at it, Jimmy?”

“Caught at it? Ledger Dinwiddie caught at burglary? At thievery? What
an absurd idea! Oh, no, I won’t get caught at it. Not at all. And
the world will open itself wide, inviting me to take it. I’ll have a
winter home for you, in Washington; I’ll get those fools to send me to
Congress, and—— You’ll see!”

Such was the beginning of the “Great Coup” undertaken by James Duryea,
alias Bare-Faced Jimmy, the gentleman crook, alias Howard Drummond,
one-time gentleman, graduate of Rugby and Cambridge, ex-officer in
the dragoons, and ex- a lot of other things which had come to him by
inheritance.

But Jimmy had run the gamut of his short, but varied career.

Nothing had been too swift for him to overtake it, to distance it, and
finally to wear out its usefulness, and finally his own, too.

Once, according to Nick Carter’s records, the man had really tried
to reform; “had made a stab at it,” as he expressed it; but the old
temptations had been too strong for him; the “call of the contest”
had proved too alluring. The desire to pit his own wit against the
representatives of law and order had overcome the better self that
reposed somewhere within the strange complexity of this man, and he had
gone again, deliberately, into the life of the underworld.

The woman who was seated upon the chair opposite, and to whom his
conversation was addressed, had proved herself to be the only person of
whom Jimmy had ever stood in the least in awe.

The name by which Jimmy addressed her, was one that he had bestowed
upon her himself.

She had never been known by that name to any other person than this
man who had just determined to steal a birthright, although there were
half a dozen aliases by which she had been known to the authorities of
Paris, Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and London; and under each one
of those half dozen aliases she had earned reputations which filled
pages of private but official records of the secret police of five
different nations.

Her dossier had been written down in five languages—and more; and now,
as Juno, she had started out to carve a new career for herself, with
the aid of Jimmy, whom she respected for his wit, his daring, for his
past achievements and the promise he gave of attempting new and greater
ones.

These two represented the masculine and the feminine of all that is
masterful in the life of rogues; they were the perfection of the
imperfect, if the expression may be used.

Jimmy was a handsome man, and one who would be noticeable in any
company. He was distinguished in appearance, Chesterfieldian in his
manners, graceful in his motions—a somebody in everything that he did,
educated, refined by instinct and by early training; he was a graduated
crook in every part and branch of the “profession.”

And Juno? Draw her picture for yourself. It cannot be too strongly, too
perfectly outlined.

She was of that type of beauty which only the Latin races achieve,
and it had been vouchsafed to her in the superlative degree. Her hair
was black, beautiful, and there were masses of it. Her complexion
was almost fair, but there was just enough of the olive tint to give
to the red blood in her cheeks an added warmth. Her eyes were large,
luminous, dreamy, or ablaze with eagerness or passion as the case might
be. Her figure was perfect, her hands and her feet were “dreams for
the contemplation of an artist,” her every motion was lithe, lissome,
sinuous, catlike in the sense that she could not have been lacking in
grace had she made the effort. Indeed, there was something about Juno’s
every act which suggested the black leopard—and that was one of the
aliases by which she had one time been known in Paris. Reduced to five
words, Juno’s description was entirely comprehended by the expression:
She was a beautiful woman.

Juno’s antecedents were no less aristocratic than Jimmy’s.

She, too, had been born and bred within the exclusiveness of the
blue-blooded. Her father and her mother had worn titles of distinction;
she had been given all the “advantages” when she was a child, and a
young woman—she was that, still. She spoke many languages, and spoke
each one so perfectly that it was a matter of indifference to her which
one she made use of.

In the long-ago, when both had been respectable children, she and Jimmy
had played together. Many years after that, when Jimmy had gone to the
bad, and Juno had achieved an international reputation in her various
lines, they met again—to drift apart as they had done in those early
days.

After that there was another lapse of years during which Jimmy had
visited South Africa, had married, had drifted to New York with
his wife, had been sent to Sing Sing, had been divorced, and then,
according to official reports concerning him, had died and was buried
on an island in Long Island Sound. During these years Juno had served
the Nihilists of Russia, the Socialists of Germany, the secret
societies of other nations—during which she had been a spy, also, for
these several governments, and had won an international reputation, and
become almost everything that a beautiful woman should not be.

But the continent of Europe, and the British Isles, had grown too
hot for her. She came to America—and almost the first person she
encountered after leaving the steamer that brought her here, was
Bare-Faced Jimmy. And this happened within the year that followed upon
his supposed death.

“Two souls with but a single thought,” although by no means a
sentimental one, might well have applied to them; the single thought
being their desire to victimize the rest of mankind.

“Let’s strike up a partnership, Juno,” Jimmy had said to her.
“Together, with your craftiness and my skill, nothing can stop us.
Let’s strike up a partnership;” and she had replied:

“Very good, Jimmy; but a minister, not a lawyer, shall draw the
contract.”

And so they were married—strangely enough, under their right names, too.

Jimmy had more than twenty thousand dollars cached away in a secret
hiding place; Juno possessed half as much more. The marriage occurred
in the late fall, and they went South, to one of the Florida beaches,
where they secured a villa, and where they passed what was really a
honeymoon.

When issuing from their cottage door one morning, they had found the
insensible form of a man upon their doorstep.

One may be a crook, a burglar, and all that, and still possess much
kindness of heart; two may be so, and these two were.

Together they carried their unconscious burden inside the cottage,
summoned the one servant who waited upon their wants, and attended to
the stricken man.

They did not ask where he came from, nor how it happened that he had
fallen upon their doorstep in his present condition; and he could not
have informed them, then, if the questions had been asked.

But they ministered to him; they kept him there and cared for him,
making no inquiries concerning him, since by doing so they would have
attracted attention to themselves, which was the one great thing they
desired to avoid.

But the stricken man had arrived at the end of his journey. He had
fallen upon their doorstep to die, and die he did, after three weeks,
easily, painlessly, composedly, and tenderly cared for until the last,
by these two bits of flotsam.

And there had been some hours of clearness of vision, of return to
memory, before death claimed its prize. He had told them his name, and
all about himself—and also that nowhere in the world did there remain
one person who was nearly enough related to him to care whether he
lived or died; that he was the last of his race, in the direct line,
and that he bore an old and honored name upon which there had never
been a blemish, save that one which poverty imposes.

Ledger Dinwiddie died in the spare bedroom of that cottage inhabited by
these two products of the underworld, cared for during his last hours
by two as uncompromising crooks and rogues as ever lived to prey upon
mankind.

And so, Ledger Dinwiddie did not die, but lived on again in the
person of Bare-Faced Jimmy, who adopted the name and the lineage of
his uninvited guest, and who went forth, presently, to assume all the
prerogatives which the possession of that name could bestow upon him.



                              CHAPTER II.

                          BACK FROM THE DEAD.


“It was four years ago, wasn’t it, Chick, when Bare-Faced Jimmy kept us
guessing? You remember Jimmy Duryea, don’t you?” asked Nick Carter of
his first assistant, as he lighted a cigar immediately after breakfast,
one Monday morning.

“Remember him? I should say I do!” replied Chick, as he selected a
cigar from the box on the table. “Bare-Faced Jimmy! The mere mention of
that name, Nick, calls up a great many recollections. And that reminds
me; I wonder what has become of Nan Nightingale. I have not seen a line
about her in any of the papers lately. Has she left the stage?”

“I saw her last evening, at church or, rather, just as we were coming
out of church,” replied the detective. “That was why I asked the
question.”

“You saw Nan?”

“Yes; and talked with her.”

“And her husband—Smathers was his name, wasn’t it—did you see him, too?”

“No. Smathers—The Man of Many Faces, as he called himself on the
vaudeville stage—is dead. He died about a year and a half ago, Nan told
me. Jimmy Duryea was her first husband, you know. She got a divorce
from him when he was sent to prison, and afterward married Smathers.
Smathers has been dead more than a year, and Nan thinks that Jimmy is
still alive.”

“Jimmy Duryea alive? Impossible.”

“That is what I told her; but she insists that she saw him—or his
ghost.”

“Then it must have been his ghost, Nick. Jimmy has been dead four
years. He died soon after you took him off that island in the Sound,
near South Norwalk, didn’t he?”

“That was the supposition. That has always been my belief. Do you
remember that last stunt of his, Chick?”

“The time he passed himself off as Paran Maxwell, do you mean?”

“Yes.”

“I think we all have cause to remember that incident. Bare-Faced Jimmy
was a remarkable chap, Nick, take it all in all.”

“He certainly was. There was a great deal of good in Jimmy. You
remember there was a time when I thought he had entirely reformed. Then
he made that disappearing act of his from the steamship, and bobbed up,
long afterward, on that island. It would be strange if he should appear
again, after four years, wouldn’t it?”

“It certainly would; but stranger things than that have happened in our
experiences, Nick.”

“Yes. But, somehow, I can’t believe that Jimmy Duryea is alive, now;
although Nan is positive about it.”

“Tell me what she said. Tell me about your talk with her. I always
liked Nan; and it is a cinch that she _could_ sing. You gave her the
right name when you called her Nightingale.”

“Yes. Even Pettis said that.”

“Why did she give up the stage?”

“She didn’t tell me that. I was coming out of the church when some one
touched me on the arm, and turning about I saw that it was Nan. Of
course I was glad to see her, and I said so.”

“Naturally. She is a sort of protégée of yours, you know. It was
through you, Nick, that she quit being a crook and became an honest
woman.”

“Softly, Chick. Nan was never really a crook, you know. When she was
Jimmy Duryea’s wife he did force her into assisting him in some of his
crooked work; but she never had any heart in it. She hasn’t left the
stage permanently—only temporarily. She said she desired a rest for a
season, and that she had saved up enough money to take it. I guess that
is her only reason for not being on the boards at present.”

“But what about Jimmy?”

“It is rather an odd sort of story, but I will tell it to you just as
she told it to me and see what you think about it, Chick.”

“All right.”

“During her career on the stage these last four years, Nan has made
some splendid acquaintances. I am not referring to people in the
‘profession’ so much as to society people. Nan has become a welcome
guest at many an exclusive house, and among the members of the most
conservative set.”

“I’m not surprised at that. She is a beautiful woman—there is not
another one on the stage who can hold a candle to her, if it comes down
to that.”

“You’re right. She is a lady, through and through—to the manner born,
so to speak.”

“Sure. And by the way, isn’t that what Jimmy used to say to
himself—that he was ‘born, bred, and raised a gentleman’?”

“Yes. And it was true, too.”

“Go ahead about Nan, Nick.”

“Well, it was at the solicitation of some of her society friends that
she decided to take a rest for one season. She has saved up a lot of
money, as nearly as I can make out, and was invited on a yachting
cruise with some of her friends. After that she became the guest of
Mrs. Theodore Remsen—and that is where she is staying now.”

“She did get into the ‘upper ten,’ didn’t she?”

“Sure. There isn’t a more exclusive house in the city, or at Newport or
Lenox, than the Theodore Remsen’s.”

“I know. Well?”

“Perhaps you know that the Remsens also own a fine residence that
fronts on the Hudson River, eh? Not far from Fishkill?”

“I didn’t know it; but that makes no difference. What about it?”

“That is where they are staying just now; and Nan is there with them.
She is to be their guest until spring. I believe there is a whole
season of pleasure mapped out for Nan, and she is to be made quite the
lioness—and all that.”

“I understand. But what has all that got to do with——”

“I am coming to that, Chick. That is what brings me to the rather
remarkable tale that Nan told me.”

“I see.”

“To let you in on the ground floor of the story at once, a burglar
got into the house up the river, a few nights ago. Nan surprised the
burglar at work, made him give up his booty, agreed to say nothing
about it to the members of the household, and let him go. But, it
appears, that instead of relinquishing his booty and going away empty
handed, he only gave up what was in sight, and actually got away with
a diamond necklace and some other jewels that belonged to Mrs. Remsen,
and to some of her guests. Nan says that what was actually stolen
represented close to forty thousand dollars.”

“Jimmy always was discriminating, when it came to a selection of
jewels,” said Chick, with a slow smile.

“Right again. But because of the disappearance of those jewels, Nan
finds herself in a perplexity. Now, I’ll tell you the story just as it
is.”

“All right.”

“It happened last Thursday night. Nan had not been feeling up to the
mark that day. She had kept herself rather to herself, since morning.
During the day Mrs. Remsen told Nan that she was expecting another
guest that evening—a gentleman from the South, named Dinwiddie; Ledger
Dinwiddie, to be exact.”

“Rather a high-sounding title, that; eh?”

“Yes. Well, Nan didn’t go down to dinner that evening, so she did
not meet the guest, when he arrived. She retired early—that is, she
arranged herself in comfortable attire, and kept to her own room,
where she passed the time in reading. About eleven o’clock, she tried
to compose herself to sleep, but after an hour of vain effort in that
line, she decided that it was of no use, and sought another book. There
did not happen to be one handy which interested her, and so, garbed in
a wrapper, she descended the stairs to the library.”

“It sounds like a chapter out of a book, Nick.”

“It does, for a fact; but you haven’t got the real thing, yet.”

“Go ahead, then.”

“She had bed slippers on her feet, which made no sound as she walked.
She crossed the lower hall, after descending the stairs, and stepped
into the library, reaching around the jamb of the doorway, as she did
so, to switch on the electric lights—and she did it so quickly that she
failed to notice that there was a single light already burning in the
room.”

“More and more like a novel, Nick.”

“Yes. When she snapped on the lights, a man who had been seated at
the table in the middle of the room sprang to his feet—and she found
herself looking into the muzzle of a revolver.”

“Well, it wasn’t the first time that Nan has done that. It might have
scared most women half to death; but Nan——”

“I rather think that she was more surprised and startled by the
appearance of the man himself than by the weapon he held in his hand,”
said the detective, interrupting. “The man was Jimmy Duryea; Bare-Faced
Jimmy; at least she says it was—and is.”

“And—_is_?”

“Yes. I’m coming to that.”

“All right.”

“The room was, of course, in a blaze of light. In the man who
confronted her, Nan saw the face and features of Jimmy Duryea. On the
table where he had been seated was a confused heap of the spoil he had
stolen, and was engaged in sorting when Nan interrupted him.”

“And she was looking into the muzzle of a gun,” commented Chick.

“Yes. But it wasn’t that which startled her. It was the face and
appearance of the man; of a man whom she supposed to have been dead
four years, at least; of the man whom she had once married, and whom
she had tenderly loved, until she discovered that he was a crook, when
she deserted him and got a divorce.”

“What did she do?”

“What would nine out of ten women do, under like circumstances?”
retorted the detective.

“Let out a yell, I suppose.”

“Nan cried out his name. ‘Jimmy!’ she exclaimed; and he dropped the gun
to the floor, and called back, ‘Nan!’”

“Tableau!” said Chick.

“Precisely,” said Nick Carter.



                             CHAPTER III.

                        JIMMY DURYEA’S DARING.


Chick chuckled softly to himself as he imagined the scene in the
library that Nick Carter had just described to him.

“Hold on a minute, Nick,” he said. “Let me get the chronology of those
two straight in my mind. Jimmy, according to his own story, told to us
four years ago, was, originally, a born aristocrat, the second or third
son of somebody-or-other, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. He would never tell who he was; but it is certain that he is well
born.”

“So was Nan; and both were English, eh?”

“Yes.”

“Scapegrace Jimmy went to South Africa to finish the sowing of his
wild oats, and Nan went there as governess to the children of the
South African consul. They met there, and were married. Jimmy was a
burglar and a thief, and Nan didn’t suspect it until long after the
two had come to this country. Then she found it out, and for a time he
compelled her to assist him in his crooked work. Then he got caught,
and was sent away, to Sing Sing, and Nan got a divorce. Later, she
married Smathers, the man of many faces, and an actor. Then Jimmy got
out of prison, thought Nan had peached on him, threatened vengeance,
and all that, and intended to kill her, until it happened that you
showed him that Nan was not the one who had betrayed him. She wanted to
reform, and did so, and Jimmy agreed to let her alone. Then Jimmy got
caught, was sent back to England to answer charges against him there,
escaped, returned here, and supposedly died on an island in Long Island
Sound. That was four years ago. Almost two years ago, Smathers died—I
suppose he is really dead, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes, there is no doubt of that, Chick.”

“And now Nan discovers her former husband, robbing a house where she is
a respected guest, and——”

“And that isn’t all of it; not by a long shot.”

“Go ahead, then.”

“Well, it was a tableau for a moment, after the mutual discovery
in that library. There was a half mask on the table, which Jimmy
had removed while he was sorting the spoil. He always was a cool
proposition, you remember.”

“Yes. That is how he got his name of Bare-Faced Jimmy.”

“He didn’t lose his presence of mind, just then, either. He stooped
and picked up the gun from the floor, dropped it into one of his
pockets—and sat down again upon the chair where he had been seated
when she interrupted him.”

“Just like him.”

“The rest of the story I will tell just as Nan told it to me.”

“All right.”

“She said: ‘For a moment I didn’t know what to do. Until that instant
it had never occurred to me that Jimmy was alive. I had not a doubt
that he was dead. But there he was, as natural as ever, as handsome as
ever, as cool and self-contained as ever, and just as daring as he used
to be in the old days.’

“‘Sit down, Nan,’ he said to her; and she sat down.

“‘I thought you were dead,’ she told him, and he laughed in his
pleasant way, and replied that he was as good as an army of dead men.
Then she pointed at the jewels on the table, and at the other things
that he had gotten together.

“‘At your old tricks?’ she asked him, and he nodded.

“‘Can’t keep away from it, Nan,’ he told her. ‘It is in my blood, I
guess. But what are you doing here? Are you up to the old game, too?’

“Then she told him all about herself, and they talked together for
quite a while. The upshot of it was that Jimmy agreed to take the risk
of returning all the things to the rooms from which he had taken them,
and she promised to wait where she was, until he had done so.”

“That was like Jimmy. Think of the nerve of the fellow, in going back
to the rooms he had robbed, to return the jewels to the places where he
had found them.”

“That is just the point, Chick; he didn’t.”

“Oh; I see.”

“He replaced a few of the things, but many of them he still kept. He
told her, when he came back, that he had returned them, and it wasn’t
till the following day that she discovered his deception.”

“I think it is rather remarkable that she trusted him to do it at all.”

“Jimmy could always make Nan believe that the moon was made of green
cheese. Well, she promised him that she would say nothing of having
found a man in the library, and much less would she mention to any
living person who that man really was. So they parted. Nan returned to
her room, and retired. Jimmy, presumably, left the house by the way he
had entered it.”

“But he didn’t do that, either, eh?”

“No. He didn’t do that, either.”

“What did he do?”

“He sat opposite Nan, at the breakfast table, the following morning,
and was introduced to her by their hostess as Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie.”

“Gee!”

“That’s what I said.”

“Say, Nick, if I had heard this story without names being mentioned,
I’d have said that Jimmy Duryea would have done that very thing if he
were alive.”

“So would I.”

“What did Nan do, when the introduction took place?”

“What could she do? Nothing more than acknowledge the introduction. She
couldn’t tell the story of what had happened during the night, with
much more credit to herself, than he could have done so; and, besides,
just then she supposed that all the stolen property had been returned.
It wasn’t till later in the day—some time in the afternoon—that she
knew the truth.”

“And then?”

“Then she laid for Jimmy. But he knew that, and avoided her, of course.
Finally, she went directly to him, and asked him to walk with her to
the stables, and he couldn’t very well refuse to do that. Halfway to
the stables, they found a secluded spot, and there she stopped him and
told him that unless he returned all the stolen property before the
following morning, she would denounce him, no matter what might happen
to her.”

“And he made another promise, I suppose?”

“Sure.”

“And kept it in about the same manner?”

“In precisely the same manner.”

“That brings the time to Saturday morning, doesn’t it? The thing
happened Thursday night.”

“Yes.”

“What then?”

“Saturday, she went for him again. He told her that there had been no
opportunity to replace the stolen jewels the preceding night, but that
he would do it that night—Saturday night. Yesterday morning she did not
see him at all, but she learned that the jewels had not been returned.
Mrs. Remsen asked her to take a motor ride, and she had to go. They
came to the city, and decided to remain till to-day—and that is how Nan
happened to be at church last night, when I met her.”

“She was alone last night? Mrs. Remsen wasn’t with her?”

“No; she was alone. Nan had been chewing on the thing all day. She
didn’t know what to do. She said that she had decided to telephone to
me, after church, when she discovered that I was among the members of
the congregation.”

“In the meantime I suppose she hasn’t said a word to anybody but you.”

“Not a word.”

“What have you advised her to do?”

“I haven’t advised her—yet. What I did do was to promise to become one
of the invited guests at ‘The Birches,’ as they call the Remsen place
on the Hudson.”

“I see. So you are going up there, eh?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“In a couple of hours. I’m going to take the car, and drive there—and
you are going with me. Danny will do the driving.”

“Oho! I see! Do you know the Remsens?”

“No. I never met either of them; or any of the family; but Nan said
she could fix that part of it all right. Nan was to tell Mrs. Remsen,
this morning, that she met an old friend at church, who is to motor out
their way to-day, and that she invited him to stop at The Birches. That
is all there is to that.”

“You intend to get Jimmy off to one side, and—what?”

“I haven’t decided that point, as yet. You see, there is another
complication in the affair. Mrs. Remsen is Theodore Remsen’s second
wife. There are two stepchildren at The Birches, a son and a
daughter—and Ledger Dinwiddie is supposed to be the future husband of
Lenore Remsen. You see, Jimmy Duryea has an assured position at the
house, and in the family. He thinks, now, that Nan dare not denounce
him, because of the effect that such a denouncement would have upon
herself; but with me on the ground——”

“I see. What do you propose to do?”

“I don’t know, Chick, until I get on the ground. It is a queer case
all around. Nan is for compelling Jimmy to give up the plunder, and
to disappear, without doing anything to him at all. She believes that
I am the only person who can accomplish that with him—and, under the
circumstances, she is about right, Chick.”

“Yes.”

“So I promised her that I would go there this afternoon. She and Mrs.
Remsen—who is a beautiful woman of about Nan’s age—were to return this
morning; they are probably halfway there by this time.”

“And you want me with you.”

“Why, yes. I thought you’d like it. Jimmy will realize what he is up
against when he sees both of us there.”

“He certainly ought to.”

“I don’t know just what attitude Jimmy will take. You know as well
as I do that he never plans a thing of this sort without doing it
thoroughly. He is doubtless prepared at every turn, and he may have the
bareface to defy me.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did.”

“Nor me, either, Chick.”

“Then what?”

“Oh, we won’t cross any bridges till we get to them.”

“How soon will we start, Nick?”

“In an hour or two.”



                              CHAPTER IV.

                        THROWING THE GAUNTLET.


“The Birches,” one of the summer residences of Theodore Remsen,
multimillionaire, financier, Wall Street wizard, and one of the
recognized powers in the moneyed world, stood, and still stands, a
prominent landmark at the location already described.

It stands upon a high bluff overlooking the Hudson, and is approached
from the main highway by a winding, macadamized road, which, from the
lodge gate to the mansion, is more than a mile in length, and shaded on
either side by a double row of white birches; hence its name.

The lawn, directly in front of the house, is laid out in tennis courts,
and there Nick Carter and Chick discovered nearly all the guests of
the house assembled, when they drove beneath the porte-cochère at four
o’clock that Monday afternoon.

Nancy Nightingale had evidently been watching for their arrival, for as
Nick stepped down from the car and gave Danny a few directions, he saw
her approaching. He went forward to meet her, followed by Chick.

As the detective moved toward her he cast his eyes rapidly over the
assembled people—there was a score of them, all told—and thought he
saw Jimmy Duryea among them, engaged in an animated conversation with
a group of which he appeared to be the centre. But the man’s back was
turned, and Nick could not be certain.

Nan, in an outing gown and coat of white flannel, with her black hair
and sparkling eyes, looked more beautiful than ever as she approached
the two detectives, and her smile of greeting was warmth itself.

She conducted them directly toward the place where Mrs. Remsen was
seated, and presented them. She added, after she had done so:

“I told Mrs. Remsen that I had invited you to stop here to call upon
us, and now she insists that you shall join our party for as long a
time as you can remain.”

After that, with Nan on his arm, Nick passed from group to group on
the lawn, acknowledging introductions here and there as he went along.
Chick remained with the group that had formed around the hostess.

Presently Nick and his companion approached that particular group
of which the man who called himself Ledger Dinwiddie, and whom Nan
believed to be Jimmy Duryea, formed one part.

Nan purposely left the introduction to him, for the last of that
particular group; and then she said:

“Mr. Dinwiddie, this is an old friend of mine—Mr. Carter;” and Duryea
turned about lazily, as if he had not noticed the arrival of a stranger
till that moment.

“Glad to know you, Mr. Carter,” he said imperturbably, and with just
the faintest trace of a smile on his handsome features; and then he
turned back again to the companion with whom he had been talking, and
who happened to be the daughter of the house, Miss Lenore Remsen, who
was not more than two years younger than her beautiful stepmother.

There was not the slightest trace of recognition in the eyes of Jimmy
Duryea when he acknowledged that introduction, although he must have
known Nick Carter at once—and he could not have prepared for the sudden
appearance of the detective there, unless he had guessed that Nan might
communicate with the detective while she was in the city.

Nick was equally reticent. It was no part of his present purpose to
force matters; at least he did not intend to do so until the proper
moment should arrive; but he did desire to get the gentleman cracksman
into conversation, to see how far the assurance of the man would carry
him.

Presently he found an opportunity.

It was when Duryea turned to make some general remark to those near
him, and Nick chose to reply directly to it.

“I quite agree with you, Mr. Dinwiddie,” he said. “Stolen jewels are
difficult things to trace. That is the subject you were discussing, I
believe?”

“Yes,” said Nan, before Duryea could reply. “A most remarkable thing
happened here, during the night of last Thursday. A necklace, and other
jewels, disappeared most mysteriously from the rooms of the owners.
But—shhh—we have all agreed to keep very still about it, for the
present.”

Duryea laughed softly.

“Perhaps, Miss Nightingale,” he said, “this gentleman will be able to
make some valuable suggestions in regard to those missing jewels. He
has a namesake in New York who is said to be one of the smartest of
living detectives. Isn’t that so, Carter? Eh?”

“Quite so,” replied Nick, looking him directly in the eye. “Only the
gentleman to whom you refer is not a namesake. I happen to be the
person mentioned myself.”

Duryea’s brows went upward in well-feigned surprise; a chorus of
exclamations arose from every side; Nan bit her lips, for she had not
intended that Nick should announce himself quite in that manner.

Lenore Remsen turned at once to the detective, and exclaimed:

“Really, Mr. Carter, are you the detective?”

“Yes, Miss Remsen, I really am.”

“Oh, I am so glad. Then you can assist us to recover our jewels.”

“I can try, if it is your wish that I should do so,” replied Nick
calmly. “Were you a victim of the robberies, Miss Remsen?”

“Yes, indeed. It was my diamond necklace that was the most valuable
thing taken. I must admit that I was very careless about it that night.
Instead of putting it away, as usual, I merely dropped it into my jewel
box. In the morning it was gone. Don’t you think, Mr. Carter, that it
is remarkable how a burglar could get into the house, and go through
the rooms as that one did, without leaving a trace of any sort behind
him?”

“It does seem so; yes.”

“There wasn’t a trace. Not one; anywhere.”

“Was no one in the house suspected?” asked Nick quietly.

“No one in the——Oh, you mean one of the servants, of course. No;
really. The staff of servants that we have in this house are, all of
them, old retainers; every one of them has been a long time with us.
You know this is the one place which we really call home. We always
speak of ‘coming home,’ when we come here. Oh, no, indeed, we could not
suspect one of the servants.”

“What is your opinion on the subject, Mr. Dinwiddie?” asked the
detective, turning fairly toward Duryea.

The latter smiled, showing his white and even teeth; he twirled his
mustache for a moment before he replied, and when he did so it was with
deliberation.

“Really,” he said, “you know I am not an authority, Mr. Carter—such
as yourself, for example. Still—er—I think I have an opinion,
nevertheless. We are all apt to form opinions in such cases, don’t you
think, Mr. Carter?”

“Yes. What is yours? You interest me.”

“Do I? Really! You confess yourself to be the great and only Nick
Carter, and then do me the honor to care for my opinion!”

“In the hope that it might prove to be an expert one—yes,” replied the
detective.

“Expert? Oh, dear, no; not at all expert. Just an opinion.”

“Well, what is it?”

“I shall shock all the ladies present—and some who are not immediately
present in this group—when I mention it.”

“Nevertheless——”

“Oh, nevertheless, I shall not hesitate—even at the risk of giving
offense. I should venture it as my opinion that the thief in this
instance is a woman, whether she happens to be a servant—or one of the
guests. There! Have I shocked all of you?”

He laughed easily when he asked the question, as if to take away the
sting of it, and he turned his speaking eyes from one to another of the
group until he had gone the rounds—and, somehow, he managed to create
the impression that he was merely indulging in a joke at their expense.

But there was an uneasy laugh around him, nevertheless.

Lenore Remsen started to her feet, and exclaimed:

“I think that was horrid of you, Ledger! Horrid! The idea of saying
such a thing! We shall all be looking askance at each other, from now
on. What do you think about it, Miss Nightingale?”

“I should sooner incline to the opinion that the thief was a man, and
a guest,” was the deliberate reply; and she added, not without intent,
for she was angry, seeing exactly what Duryea had intended to convey to
her: “One of the lately arrived guests, at that.”

Lenore clapped her hands.

“That is where you get it back, Ledger,” she exclaimed. “But, really,
that was horrid of you, to say such a thing.”

“Who are the lately arrived guests, Miss Nightingale?” asked the
detective, without turning his head; and she replied, without
hesitation:

“Mr. Dinwiddie is himself the most lately arrived one.”

Duryea laughed aloud.

“Good!” he said. “That is right, too. I arrived that very evening.
Now, I wonder if it could have been me? I used to walk in my sleep
when I was a child, although I don’t remember that I had the habit of
purloining necklaces when I did so. But, then, one never can tell.”

“Indeed one cannot,” retorted Nan. And then, assuming the air of one
who was joking, she added: “I should advise a close inspection into
your past record, Mr. Dinwiddie, if it is true that you formerly were
in the habit of prowling about houses in the night.”

“Gladly!” he exclaimed, joining in the general laugh that followed.
“Will you give us the benefit of searching yours, also, Miss
Nightingale?”

A slow flush stole into the cheeks and brow of Nan Nightingale, but she
was equal to the occasion. She replied:

“It will not be necessary that you should search. Fortunately there is
one who has known me many years. Mr. Carter can supply all particulars
that may be required.”

“I am afraid,” said Duryea, “that what was intended as a joke all
around has taken a serious turn. Let us drop it before we begin to
indulge in personalities. Nevertheless, Miss Nightingale, it is well to
have a person so renowned as Nick Carter to vouch for one. I only wish
that he could perform the same service for me.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Dinwiddie, I might be able to do that, also,” replied
Nick quietly. “It is my profession to know something about a great many
people who do not suppose that I know them at all. However, as you say,
the conversation is taking too serious a turn. I will propose a game of
tennis with you, Mr. Dinwiddie; what do you say?”

“Gladly. Come along. Singles?”

“Yes. Singles. There is a vacant court.”

“All right. You’re on. But I warn you, Mr. Carter, I am considered an
expert.”

“So much the better. I think I just suggested that about you in quite
another line, did I not?”



                              CHAPTER V.

                          THE GHOST OF JIMMY.


The game of tennis was over.

There were indications of a shower, and the spectators had scampered
toward the wide verandas for shelter, so that Nick Carter and the
so-called Ledger Dinwiddie stood alone near one end of the net. It was
the opportunity which Nick wanted.

“Well, Jimmy, this is a bolder game than usual, that you are playing,
isn’t it?” he asked smilingly.

Duryea raised his eyes to the detective’s without a trace of resentment
in them, and also without a vestige of surprise visible. He also raised
his brows interrogatively.

“Now, I wonder where in the world you hit upon that name?” he said,
in reply, and his expression denoted nothing more nor less than
wonderment. “That is what my dear old dad used to call me, Jimmy! James
Ledger Dinwiddie is my full name. How’d you hit upon the Jimmy part of
it?”

“Oh, come, Jimmy, don’t try to play it out with me. You know it won’t
work. You are Jimmy Duryea, all right—and the climate of The Birches
isn’t good for you, just now.”

“What the blazes do you mean?” was the indignant ejaculation; and then:
“I say, we’ll get caught in that shower, old chap. Come along!”

He seized his racket from the ground and started toward the house; but
he had not taken two steps before Nick Carter seized him by the arm and
propelled him toward a summerhouse that was near at hand.

“This place will shelter us, Jimmy,” he said coldly. “You come along
with me. If you attempt to resist, I shall take you there anyhow, so if
you don’t want a scene here on the lawn, come.”

“This is a high-handed——” began Duryea; but the detective interrupted
him.

“It’ll be higher-handed if you don’t do as I say,” he remarked; and
then the big, advance raindrops began to fall, and they ran together
beneath the shelter of the summerhouse.

“Now, what the deuce——”

“Drop it, Jimmy. If you don’t, I’ll put the handcuffs on you now, and
take you away with me through this storm. You know that I can do it.”

Bare-Faced Jimmy shrugged his shoulders. Then he laughed. He dropped
his lithe and graceful length upon one of the rustic settees, thrust
his hands deeply into his pockets, and replied:

“Well, speak your piece, Mr. Carter, since you seem bound to do so. I
can listen, and the storm prevents my leaving you. Besides, there is no
one to hear us.”

“No; there isn’t any one to overhear us. That is why I pulled you into
this place.”

“Extremely kind and thoughtful of you, I’m sure; only, you’d have done
better if you had not ventured to thrust yourself upon me at all,
wouldn’t you? What the blazes is the matter with you, anyway?”

“Drop it, I say, Jimmy.”

“Gladly—if you’ll tell me what it is that you want me to drop,” was
the cool reply. He removed his hands from his pockets long enough to
abstract a cigarette case from another one, and to light a cigarette.
“Have one? No? Too bad. They’re Russian.”

“Drop the play acting with me, Jimmy.”

“Say, look here, mister man, it was all right for you to make a play
with that name that my dad used to call me—at first; but it’s getting
tiresome,” exclaimed Duryea, with a fine show of rancour. “I’m Jimmy,
all right, only nobody calls me by that name now. I’m Mr. Dinwiddie,
particularly to strangers, if you don’t mind. I’ll thank you to address
me by that name. What kind of a game are you up to, anyway? Blackmail?”

The effrontery of the man was phenomenal.

Instead of being offended by it, Nick Carter was amused; and he could
not resist a small sense of admiration, too, for Duryea’s pluck,
under the circumstances. He resolved to meet him on the ground he had
selected.

“All right, Mr. Dinwiddie,” he said, smiling. “It is my wish to discuss
a certain person whom we both knew in the past. If you prefer to speak
of that person in the third person, I see no reason for not humoring
you. But, before we continue with the subject, I wish to warn you that
I am about through with your pose. I will talk in the third person
about that other man, but you’ve got to talk—or something will happen.”

“How melodramatic. Look here, Carter, what are you driving at?”

“I’m driving at one Bare-Faced Jimmy Duryea.”

“Oh; you are! And who might he be? Or who might he have been? Is he a
dead one, or is he alive, Mr. Carter? You interest me. Really, you do.”

“He has long since been supposed to be dead, but just now he seems to
be very much alive.”

“That’s where you are dead wrong, Carter. Believe me, you are. Dead men
do not return. Neither do they discuss tales of themselves. Bare-Faced
Jimmy, eh? What a name!”

“It was never more appropriate than at this moment, Jimmy, for if you
are not the most barefaced reprobate out of prison, I’ll eat my hat;
and that’s quite a compliment.”

“I suppose so. Anyway, I choose to take it so, rather than be offended.
But you said he was supposed to be dead—this Bare-Faced Jimmy, as you
call him. Why not let him lie? What is the use of stirring up the dead?”

“He has been stealing jewels, that’s all.”

“Oh; has he?”

“Yes. He can stay dead just as long as he pleases if he returns those
jewels, and then disappears again, at once.”

“I see. It must be his ghost that you are talking about, Carter.”

“Yes; we’ll call it that. The ghost of Bare-Faced Jimmy.”

“What has he got to do besides return the jewels he has stolen?”

“Beat it. Skip. Get out. Disappear.”

“What! All four, and all at once? Really. Say! Suppose the ghost
refuses to walk?”

“He won’t refuse when he realizes just what he is up against.”

“Won’t he? Maybe you wrong him there. Perhaps you do not do this ghost
full justice.”

“Perhaps not; but I think I do.”

“Say, Carter, honest, did you ever hear of a ghost that got caught? A
real ghost?”

“I don’t think I ever did.”

“Well, you don’t hear of this one’s getting caught, either. If the
ghost of Jimmy Duryea stole the jewels you are talking about, the ghost
of Jimmy Duryea intends to keep them, and it will go hard with the man
or woman—or shall I say the man and woman—who attempts to deprive the
ghost of them.”

Nick Carter’s reply was a smile.

“There aren’t any witnesses to this conversation, Carter,” Duryea went
on, “so I don’t mind being more or less plain with you for just a
moment.”

“I am glad that you have arrived at that conclusion, Jimmy.”

“I’ll tell you this: If anybody has got to ‘drop it,’ as you suggested
just now, you are the one to do it. You have bitten off more than you
can chew. You just now said that Mr. James Duryea is dead. Let him lie.
Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie stands before you, and Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie can
prove his descent for generations back, and that without the slightest
trouble. If Jimmy Duryea’s ghost walks, Nick Carter won’t be the man to
lay it. You can bet your last dollar on that.”

“All the same, I think he will; and to prove it to you, I’ll just clap
the irons upon you right now, Jimmy, and as soon as this storm is past
I’ll take you where you belong.”

As the detective spoke he produced a pair of handcuffs from one of
his pockets, and he held them, jingling before Duryea’s eyes, looking
straight at the man.

But Duryea only laughed.

“Put ’em away, Carter,” he said. “You won’t use them; not on me; not
to-day, at least.”

“Why not?”

“Because you won’t. That’s reason enough. What do you think would
happen, if you should be ass enough to do what you threaten?”

“I think it would be Sing Sing for yours, Jimmy.”

“Not on your life; not much.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, I’ll admit, for the sake of argument, that you may have enough
against the aforesaid James Duryea to send him up for the rest of his
life; but—you know the old receipt for roasting a hare, don’t you?”

“Well?”

“First catch your hare, Carter. In this case, first catch the man—or
shall I say the ghost?”

“Say what you please; it does not alter the circumstance.”

“Doesn’t it? You would find that it did. Admitting that the ghost of
Jimmy Duryea is now standing before you, you have already agreed that a
ghost was never caught. Do you suppose—you who claim to know me—that I
would be fool enough, if I were the man you believe me to be, to stand
here and defy you unless I knew exactly what I was doing?”

“You’ve got cheek enough to do almost anything, Jimmy.”

“Yes, and I have got brains enough to have prepared for all the
emergencies that might arise, too. I asked you a moment ago if you
realized what would happen if you should clap those irons onto me and
take me away. You haven’t replied to that question, yet.”

“You answer it, then.”

“You would make a charge against me—as James Duryea. I would establish
the fact that I am not James Duryea. All the pictures in the world, no
matter whether they are in a rogues’ gallery or not, would have any
effect upon the proof that I would be able to offer. I have a long
line of ancestry to fall back upon. Ledger Dinwiddie is a personality,
widely known in a certain locality where his home is—now. Jimmy Duryea
is dead, and buried, and his bones can be dug up, if necessary. Nick
Carter, the great detective, would make himself the laughingstock of
the whole country.”

“Nick Carter isn’t a bit afraid of doing that, Jimmy.”

“And then, again, you heard my opinion—the one I gave out there on the
lawn—about the personality of the thief who stole the jewels. I need
only suggest to you that if you should enter that house now, and make
a search, you might find the jewels, and you might not; but if you did
find them, you would find that everything would point to the identity
of the thief as I named it out there.”

“You scoundrel! Do you mean to say——”

“I mean what I have said—no more, no less. You cannot crush me, Carter;
you haven’t got it in your power to do so, just now. I would rise, like
a phœnix from the ashes, and laugh at you.”

“You think so.”

“No; I know so. I know exactly how thoroughly I have builded this
edifice in which I am now living. And so, Mr. Nicholas Carter, the
ghost of Bare-Faced Jimmy defies you!”

He stopped and then laughed mockingly.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                         NICK MEETS DEFIANCE.


It might occur to the reader to ask: Why did not Nick Carter seize upon
his man then and there, put the irons on him, and take him away? The
answer is obvious.

The detective knew the man with whom he had to deal, too well.

He realized that Jimmy Duryea would never have placed himself in the
present position unless he had been very sure of his ground.

There was no doubt in Nick’s mind that when Jimmy found that Nan had
gone to the city, he suspected at once that she would notify Nick
Carter of all that had happened at The Birches. The fact that Jimmy had
awaited with calmness the arrival of the detective upon the scene was
sufficient proof that the former burglar was fairly positive of the
ground upon which he stood.

Jimmy denied his identity while admitting it—by implication.

He called himself the ghost of Bare-Faced Jimmy with an irony that was
inimitable.

He had stated that Ledger Dinwiddie, the man whom he claimed to be,
could establish his identity, with a long line of ancestry, without a
doubt, and with very little trouble; and he had asserted that the bones
of Jimmy Duryea might be dug up, if necessary, to prove that Jimmy
Duryea was really dead.

There is just where the rub came. Jimmy might be bluffing, but again he
might be entirely in earnest. Jimmy was a careful one in preparing his
coups, and there could be no doubt that he had prepared this one from
every available standpoint.

And again, until that meeting with Nan, at the church, Nick Carter
himself had believed that Duryea was long since dead and buried.

Nevertheless, Nick Carter was not one to be driven aside from a
determination upon which he had studied and decided; and he had decided
that this was Jimmy Duryea, and that he must not only give up the
stolen property, but must also disappear. If the detective at times
appeared to hesitate, it was only because he wished to make himself
more sure of his own ground.

“Jimmy,” he said, after a short pause which followed the burglar’s last
remark, which was in the nature of a defiance, “you can’t bluff me, and
you know you can’t.”

“That is precisely why I am not attempting to do so,” was the quick
retort. “You will find, if you persevere far enough, that this is no
bluff. I’m in dead earnest. Jimmy Duryea is dead, buried, and gone;
Ledger Dinwiddie is very much alive, and is here on the spot, ready
to do business. Ledger Dinwiddie owns estates in the South, heavily
mortgaged, to be sure; but his, nevertheless. He can prove who he
is, and every statement he makes about himself. If you should place
me under arrest, you would cause me great inconvenience, to be sure;
but you would cause others more than you would me—yourself among the
number. Now, you can take that, or leave it.”

“You are covertly making a threat against Nan Nightingale.”

“I am not covertly threatening anybody; but I openly threaten every
person, no matter who it is, who attempts to connect me with the former
Jimmy Duryea. Now you’ve got it, straight from the shoulder.”

“Jimmy, I’ve got three questions to ask you.”

“Fire away.”

“I won’t go into the details of them till I have asked all of them.”

“Just as you please. I don’t want to hurry you. The storm is almost
over, and as soon as it is past I shall deny myself the pleasure of
your company, and go to the house.”

“We’ll see about that—when the storm is over.”

“We will see. Now, what are your questions?”

“The first one is this: Will you return those jewels you stole last
Thursday night?”

“I have not stolen any jewels, and therefore I cannot return any. Next?”

“Will you, after the jewels are returned to the proper owners, leave
this place, and the United States as well, never to return, on
condition that I let you go away unmolested?”

“Since I cannot—or will not, if you prefer it so—return the jewels,
that last question requires no answer; but I will answer it by saying
that I shall remain a guest at this place just so long as it pleases me
to do so.”

“The third and last question, is this: Will you promise me never to
communicate with Lenore Remsen again, after to-day?”

One quick flash of keen resentment crossed the face of Duryea, when
that question was asked; but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. He
laughed outright, flicking away the stub of a cigarette as he did so,
and producing another one.

“Don’t be an ass, Carter,” he said, rising and turning to cross the
summerhouse toward the door through which they could see the people on
the veranda of the mansion.

Instantly Nick Carter leaped from the seat he had been occupying, and
sprang upon him. He seized him by the arms, pulled his hands behind
him, and snapped the handcuffs upon his wrists in that position; and
then Nick pulled him away from the door so that there was no chance of
being seen from the house.

Beyond the first impulse of resistance, Jimmy made none at all; and
when the detective thrust him back again upon the chair where he had
been seated before, he looked up with a quiet smile, as if he rather
enjoyed the proceeding.

“Jimmy,” said Nick, “I’m not going to monkey with you. You are past all
that. You have laid your plans, and you think they will work out to the
end. But they won’t. They might do so with some people, but they won’t
with me. Now, I offer you your liberty upon those three conditions, and
I do it for Nan’s sake, not for yours.”

“Why don’t you marry her, Carter?” was the cool response. “You’re a
widower, and she is twice a widow. Why don’t you marry her? You seem to
be mightily stuck on her.”

“I am, in the sense that I thoroughly respect a good woman, Jimmy, and
Nan is that.”

“She was good enough to go to you and give things away up here, when
she supposed that she had the kibosh on me,” sneered Jimmy.

“She did not come to me and give you away, Jimmy. I met her by
accident; and even then it was after you had broken your solemn word
given to her that night. What has changed you so, Jimmy? You used to be
a man of your word, even though you were a crook.”

“I’m not Jimmy, I tell you. Jimmy is dead. Nothing of him
remains—unless it is that ghost we have been talking about. Come,
Carter, take these irons off me. You can only make trouble for Nan, if
I am found in this predicament. She would be the one to suffer; not I.”

“You think so.”

“I know so, Carter. I know whereof I speak. I don’t do things halfway,
and you know I do not. I intend to carry off this plan I have laid out,
Nick Carter to the contrary, notwithstanding.”

“What does that plan include, Jimmy?”

“If I should tell you, you would know.”

“Do you mean that you would have married that girl, if fortune had not
gone against you in the way it has?”

“I intend to marry her, as it is. I have got a name to perpetuate,
Carter; the name of Dinwiddie. There is not an older or a better one in
this benighted country of yours.”

“Perhaps you will tell me how you came by that name,” suggested the
detective; and he was surprised when Duryea laughed aloud.

“I’d like to tell you; by Jove, I would, and no mistake, Carter. It is
almost too good to keep. But that would be throwing altogether too much
information in your way—and it cannot be done. Look here, Carter, I’ll
tell you what I’ll do.”

“Well?”

This was what Nick had been hoping for. He had now got his man to a
point where he was tacitly admitting his position, and was doing his
share of the talking.

“We’ll admit, for the sake of the circumstance, that I am the ghost of
Bare-Faced Jimmy, or at least that I represent the ghost. We’ll admit
that the ghost got the diamonds. We’ll admit that the ghost can return
them. See?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ll confess to you that I badly need those diamonds, in order
to carry out my plans, for I am short of money. Nevertheless, since you
make such a point of it, I’ll get the ghost to return them to their
proper owners—on a condition.”

“What is the condition?”

“Wait. Don’t go off half cocked.”

“What is the condition?”

“I’ll return the diamonds, I’ll forget, as long as I live, that I ever
saw Nan Nightingale in my life—provided you’ll go away from here and
forget that such a person as Jimmy Duryea ever existed.”

For a moment the detective stared at Jimmy; then he laughed shortly.

“Have you so small an opinion of me as that, Duryea?” he asked. “Do you
suppose that I would permit a man like you to ruin the life of that
girl, as you would do, if she became your wife?”

“I wouldn’t ruin it; I would make her happy. I would——”

“That’s enough of that. Do you know, I have more than half a notion
to call your bluff about your being able to prove yourself to be a
Dinwiddie, and take you in right now?”

“Try it on, if you think it will work, Carter.”

Nick started to his feet as if he intended to do so. He was more
than half inclined to do it, and probably might have done so, had
it not been that at that moment he heard voices, as if persons were
approaching the summerhouse.

He stepped quickly to the vine-shaded doorway, and looked out.

The storm had passed, and halfway across the lawn from the house,
coming toward him, was Lenore Remsen, accompanied by two of the young
women guests at the mansion.

Nick realized instantly that this was no time for the dénouement.

One glance, and the thought that accompanied it, satisfied him that the
time was not yet ripe, and he wheeled and returned quickly to the side
of Duryea.

Then, without a word, he quickly unlocked the manacles and removed
them, dropping them into a pocket out of sight.

“Thanks. Thanks, awfully,” drawled Duryea, and yawned. “You’re really
quite a bore, Carter—sometimes.”

“People are coming, Jimmy,” said Nick, speaking rapidly. “You are free,
now, for the moment, but it won’t be for long. I am not sparing you,
just now; I am sparing that poor girl, whom you are deceiving. But
I’ll tell you right now, Duryea, that from this moment, no matter what
happens, I do not leave your trail until you are behind the bars of a
prison, condemned under the name that belongs to you. I’ll add that the
offer I made a little while ago, to let you escape on conditions, is
withdrawn. That’s all. You have defied me, Duryea, and you will have to
take the consequences. Maybe you know what that means when I say it. If
you do not, there are people up at Sing Sing who could tell you.”

The first tinge of uneasiness that Duryea had shown, appeared in his
face for an instant; and then the summerhouse door was darkened by the
young women whom Nick had seen approaching, and he started to his feet
with a smile and an exclamation of greeting. A moment later they were
all walking together toward the mansion.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                       WHEN A MAN IS DESPERATE.


During what remained of that day, through the dinner hour, and in the
evening when the entire company of guests thronged the big rooms, Nick
Carter and Duryea kept as far apart as they conveniently could. Nick
had an object in carrying out his part of that unspoken arrangement: He
wished Jimmy to understand that he had not yet decided what to do.

It has always been one of the detective’s theories that if you leave a
criminal well enough alone, he will presently become uneasy under the
restraint of inaction, and do something himself. Nick had a notion that
Jimmy would attempt some sort of move before another day came around,
if only he were left severely to himself; that is, as far as the
detective was concerned.

But Nick found an opportunity to make Chick thoroughly acquainted with
all that had happened; and he also had it arranged to take Nan in to
dinner, and so secured an opportunity to talk with her.

He noticed, while at the dinner table, that Jimmy, who was seated
nearly opposite, kept a furtive eye upon him and Nan, and noted that
they were whispering together. No doubt the cracksman would think that
they were hatching some sort of a plot against him. That was precisely
what Nick wished to have him think.

Nick did not believe that Jimmy would have the pluck to hold his
ground, and really attempt to marry the girl; for he must know that
Nick Carter would never permit that.

No, it was plain to the detective that the bluff on Jimmy’s part was
directed at some other effort, since that one must now be abandoned.

There was a time after dinner when Nick and Nan found themselves alone
together, at a corner of the veranda. Nick was seated upon the rail,
and Nan stood beside him, picking apart the leaves of a wilted rose
that she held in her hand.

It was the first chance that Nick had had to tell her about what
happened in the summerhouse; there had been no opportunity to do so at
the dinner table.

“You and Jimmy were a long time in the summerhouse together, during the
storm,” she said to him, in a low tone. “What happened?”

“A great deal happened, and very little happened,” he replied, smiling.

“Tell me about it, Mr. Carter,” she asked.

“Jimmy is a great bluffer,” replied Nick. “He is also a brave man, for
one in his position. To tell you the truth, Nan, if what he says is
half the truth, he holds trumps at the present moment. Can you guess
what he would do if I were to arrest him now?”

“Deny his identity, of course.”

“More than that. He has got another identity established. That name
he is wearing is more than a mere name which he has assumed for his
present purposes.”

“What do you mean by that statement?”

“I mean that somehow he has managed to establish a new identity. I
don’t know how he has accomplished it, but if I read him correctly, he
has practically made himself over into a new being, and established
beyond a doubt—that is, a present doubt—that he is that person.”

“But how could he do that?”

“I don’t know—at the present time; but some day I shall make it my
business to look into the matter; after we have got the present
predicament off our hands.”

“You admit, then, that it is a predicament?”

“Decidedly so.”

“Will you tell me in just what way it is a predicament?”

“Jimmy has practically defied me. Out there in the summerhouse I
actually put the handcuffs on him, thinking that he might weaken; but
not a bit of it. He was as cool as a cucumber. He not only insisted
that he could prove the death of Jimmy Duryea, but that he could prove
his own identity as Ledger Dinwiddie. He actually dared me to arrest
him—and under the circumstances I thought it best not to do so—till
later. Nan, where is the room you occupy in this house?”

“I have a suite of three rooms. They are in the south wing. Why?”

“I want to go to them. I want to examine them—thoroughly.”

“Why?”

“Because I think that Jimmy has hidden those jewels there.”

“What; in my rooms?”

“Yes.”

“Why should he do that?”

“Can’t you guess?”

“I’m afraid not. I——”

“When he found that you had gone to the city with Mrs. Remsen, his
first thought must have been one of panic, for he guessed that you
would go straight to me with the story about him. The fact that he
remained here, was perfectly cool when I arrived, and thoroughly the
master of himself, is proof to anybody who knows Jimmy that he had
prepared to strike back, and strike hard, if anything happened after
your return.”

She nodded, and Nick continued:

“When you returned, nothing happened; but there is no doubt that he
expected me, and was not in the least surprised when I appeared on the
scene. Do you remember what he said when we were discussing the theft
of the jewels?”

“Yes. About a woman having taken them? He meant me, did he not?”

“Surely. I understood it at the time, but he made it more plain, later
on, in the summerhouse. He almost openly threatened you, in case
anything happened to him.”

“With a revelation of my past, do you mean?”

“Worse than that. With accusing you directly with stealing the jewels,
and proving it.”

“By finding them in my possession? Do you mean that?”

“Yes.”

“That is why you would like to search my rooms?”

“Yes.”

“Do you really think that he would have taken the risk of hiding them
in my rooms?”

“Nan, Jimmy Duryea will stop at nothing to carry his point. He has
come here, resolved to marry Theodore Remsen’s daughter. He has made
that daughter fall in love with him, and he can render himself a most
lovable chap, if he has the mind to do so.”

“That is only too true, Mr. Carter. Even now I find myself trying to
make excuses for him. In the old days, when he made me assist him in
his burglaries, and finally when I actually stole things under his
direction, there was no resisting him.”

“I know.”

“But what——”

“Nan, Lenore Remsen will have a dowry of more than a million. This
house, with the estate upon which it stands, will go to her. He regards
that as a prize worth winning, no matter what the effort. He stole the
jewels merely to provide himself with ready cash when the time comes
for him to leave here to prepare for the wedding. The wedding itself is
the great goal.”

“I am aware of that.”

“Therefore, when he decided that you had gone to New York to warn me,
and possibly to bring me back with you, he realized that he must make
his position unassailably strong, or else abandon it altogether.”

“But, how——”

“Now, if the worst should come to the worst, he could tell what you
used to be—and he knows that you could not and would not deny that.
He also knows that you and I, both, will do anything in our power to
prevent the necessity of such a revelation.”

“Yes,” she said.

“So it remains—at least it is apparent to me—that he has found a place
inside of your rooms to conceal those stolen jewels; a place where he
could find them by accident, or where some other person would find them
seemingly by accident, in case a search should be made for them. Where
would you be then, Nan?”

She smiled wistfully; and then, with an attempt at playfulness, replied:

“I’d be in a bad fix, wouldn’t I?”

“You certainly would.”

“But, Mr. Carter, he must know that he cannot carry off that marriage,
with you and I both at hand to prevent it. He must know that we would
not permit it to take place, no matter what the consequences might be.”

“One would think so; but—well, perhaps he intends, somehow, to
forestall us.”

“Forestall us? How could he do that?”

“Oh, I don’t know; only, perhaps, if the marriage had actually taken
place, and there was no help for it, you and I might both think that
it would be the better way to leave things alone. While we might, and
would, prevent such a thing, if we had the time and the opportunity, we
might both of us feel disinclined to interfere after it had actually
happened.”

“I understand what you mean.”

“Well, just what do you think I mean?”

“That he was only playing you to gain time, and that he will, if he can
do it, induce Lenore to run away with him, and be married. Only there
wouldn’t be any earthly reason for such a thing as that, when he is
already the accepted suitor. No; it isn’t that. It is something else,
and I think I can guess what it is.”

“What, then?”

“Remember, I have been his wife. I have lived with him and I know him,
even better than you do.”

“Yes.”

“A little while ago, you called him a brave man. Well, if physical
courage is bravery, then he can certainly lay claim to that quality.
James Duryea is not afraid of anything.”

“I know it.”

“Once he has made up his mind to do a certain thing, he will do that
thing, though the heavens fall.”

“I understand that quality about him, too.”

“It is evident that he has made up his mind to marry Lenore.”

“Yes, I think so.”

“And the only obstacles that are in his way at the present moment stand
right here; they are Nick Carter and Nan Nightingale. Is that correct?”

“Admitted—if you put aside a small one that I see at the other end of
the veranda, who is called Chick.”

“True; I had forgotten Chick. But that does not alter what I was about
to say.”

“What was that?”

“In the past, whenever obstacles got in the way of Jimmy’s designs, he
broke them down, put them aside, or destroyed them. That is what he
will attempt to do now.”

“Nan, my dear girl, do you mean murder?”

“Yes. That is just what I do mean. He would not hesitate.”

“Perhaps not, if there were opportunity. But here there is none.”

“Then he will make one. I am afraid, Nick Carter! I am afraid!”



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                      PLOTTING AGAINST A PLOTTER.


It should be permitted us to look inside the brain of Bare-Faced Jimmy
Duryea for a moment, in order that we can see just how he was working
out the existing situation. It will help us better to understand
the events which followed; although, of course, the one who reads
must understand that no such privilege could have been afforded the
detective at that time.

He had to form his judgments as to what Jimmy might determine to do
next, from his past knowledge of the man, and that, he decided wisely,
was to his credit.

We cannot relate here just how it happened that Jimmy appeared at the
summer residence of Theodore Remsen in the character of a Southerner
named Ledger Dinwiddie, and was prepared to establish that character,
and the reputation that went with it, to all comers. That is another
story.

But that Jimmy Duryea never entered upon any task without having
thoroughly prepared himself to meet all the emergencies that might
arise has already been made sufficiently clear.

His presence in that house as an accepted suitor for the hand of
Lenore Remsen was the result of careful study and preparation, and the
step had been taken with due recognition of all the risks that had to
be met and overcome.

The encounter with Nan, in that house, and the manner of it, as related
by her to Nick Carter, were, of course, unforeseen; they could not have
been anticipated.

When Jimmy met Nan that night in the library, while he was sorting over
the jewels he had stolen, it came in the nature of a surprise to him.
He was absolutely unprepared for it.

Nevertheless, he had met it with his customary aplomb and coolness. We
already know the consequences of that encounter.

Jimmy had no intention of keeping his promise to her, when he agreed
to return the jewels to their rightful owners; and that was because he
really needed the cash that the jewels would supply, rather than any
reluctance he felt to keeping his word with her.

In order to carry out his plans to the end, he did really require more
money, and a considerable amount at that; else he would never have gone
to the extent of robbing the visitors at the house where he was himself
a guest; of actually robbing his expected bride of her necklace.

But, so far as that was concerned, he merely argued to himself that it
was only anticipating the future. That he was taking only what he had a
right to take—or would have a right to take later on.

But, when he did not keep his word, and Nan threatened him with
exposure, he came very near being desperate.

He had arrived at that position where this was the last play out of the
pack, so to speak. He had thrown aside every other chance he had in his
career, for this one effort—to win a position in the world, a bride,
and a fortune, all at one cast.

Jimmy Duryea was never a murderer at heart; never had he been cruelly
inclined. He would go out of his way to do a kindness to another, if it
in no way interfered with his own successes.

But that same characteristic worked to the opposite extreme, as well.

Woe betide the circumstance or the person who stood in the way of
his success. He was thoroughly implacable in that respect. So, when
that Friday night came, and he had not returned the jewels, and Nan
threatened him—and when, the following morning, he discovered that Nan
had gone to the city with Mrs. Remsen, causing him to believe that
she would seek out Nick Carter and tell him all before her return—he
realized that he was “up against it hard,” and that he was confronting
the struggle of his life.

And so, as Nick Carter had just told Nan, the coming of the detective
to the house that Monday afternoon was no surprise to Jimmy Duryea. It
was only a confirmation of his expectation.

He had decided, long before Nick Carter appeared, just how he would
conduct himself when that incident happened; and we have seen how he
did it.

Naturally he could not foresee that interview in the summerhouse; he
was not entirely prepared for that; but he met it, when it came, with
all the cool effrontery that was a part of him.

If Nick Carter knew and understood Jimmy Duryea, no less did Jimmy
Duryea know and understand the detective.

At least he knew that Nick Carter could not be bluffed.

Jimmy’s trump card was Nan—and Nan’s position was precarious; and Jimmy
knew that the detective would stand for Nan, and protect her, just as
far as it was possible to do so.

But, after the interview in the summerhouse, Jimmy was thoughtful. He
knew that the truce that had been declared when Nick took the irons off
his wrists was only a temporary arrangement, and that the detective
would lose no time in drawing the coils about the interloper, and so
tightly that there would be no way of escape left open.

Jimmy realized that in order to succeed now he must play what remained
of the game with supreme boldness—and that he must rely upon his
established position in that house to see him through it to the end.

At dinner, as has been said, he watched his two active enemies,
covertly, all the time. He gave very little thought to Chick, although
he recognized the fact that the assistant was there, prepared to render
aid whenever it should become necessary to do so.

After dinner, Jimmy kept his eyes open and his wits on the alert, and
he saw Nick and Nan when they withdrew to one corner of the veranda,
and entered upon that intimate interview.

What Jimmy would have been willing to sacrifice could he have overheard
that conversation need not be estimated upon; and the longer he watched
it from a distance, the more anxious he became concerning what it might
portend.

When he could stand it no longer, he drew Lenore aside from the group
with which she had mingled, and with her on his arm sauntered toward
Nick and Nan, arriving at their secluded corner of the veranda just at
the moment when Nan had said to Nick:

“I am afraid, Nick Carter! I am afraid!”

Low as the words had been uttered, they were overheard. Jimmy
and Lenore both heard them, although they understood them quite
differently.

Jimmy believed that he thoroughly comprehended the meaning that was
conveyed; Lenore was only puzzled that Nan Nightingale should be afraid
of anything, and should give voice to her fears in exactly that tone.
As she stopped before them, she exclaimed:

“Afraid, Nan? Of what are you afraid?”

“Of the consequences of her misdeeds, doubtless,” interjected Jimmy,
before Nan could reply; and he added, with deeper meaning than Lenore
could understand: “Fear is a wholesome thing, at times, when it conveys
a warning of things that are likely to happen, under given conditions.
It leads one to avoid those conditions, eh, Mr. Carter?” and he laughed.

“Unless the fear is entirely misplaced, and unnecessary, Mr.
Dinwiddie,” replied the detective.

Nick looked across the veranda at that moment, and managed to catch the
eyes of Chick, to whom he signaled. A moment later, Chick joined the
little party in the corner.

“I’m going to ask you to take my place here for a time, Chick,” said
the detective. “Mr. Dinwiddie has begun a discourse on the quality of
Fear, used as a proper noun, and I will leave it to you to answer him.
Pray, do not let him escape, Chick, without having first given a good
reason for his last statement.”

The detective bowed, and withdrew. Nan laughed aloud. Jimmy Duryea
scowled. Lenore, unsuspecting the byplay that was contained in the
sentence Nick Carter had just uttered, smiled encouragingly upon Chick.

But by those words Chick and Nan both understood that they were to keep
Jimmy Duryea under surveillance for a time at least, while Nick Carter
should occupy himself elsewhere; but what was more to the point, Jimmy
understood them, also.

Nick Carter stepped aside, and passed into the house through one of the
open French windows; then he disappeared.

He had been quite sincere when he had expressed a desire to see the
inside of the rooms that Nan occupied, and he wished to see them at
once. He believed that no better opportunity could offer than the one
already at hand, and so he took advantage of it.

He had only a vague idea of the plan of the house, judging it from
the outside view he had been able to obtain of the mansion when he
approached it in the automobile, and from the few words that Nan had
uttered regarding the location of her rooms.

He passed through the library, into the hall, and up the wide stairway
to the second floor, and so found his way, with comparatively no
difficulty, to Nan’s suite of rooms.

The door was open, and he could see that there was no one inside the
room into which he peered; Nan’s maid was evidently taking advantage
of the evening hour, to gossip with the other servants of the house.

The detective passed inside and closed the door after him. Then he
stopped, and began, from that point of vantage immediately inside the
closed door, to make a systematic survey of his surroundings.

Nick Carter’s method under such circumstances has been too often
described to need repetition here. He stood in that one spot on the
floor, and permitted his eyes to travel slowly from floor to ceiling,
and back again to floor, carefully covering every inch of space that
was before him, with that searching gaze.

There were just three points upon which Nick Carter was certain since
that conversation with Jimmy Duryea in the summerhouse; two of them
were dependent upon the first one, but Jimmy had as good as stated the
first one for a fact.

First, then, Jimmy had hidden those stolen jewels somewhere within the
rooms occupied by Nan Nightingale—had hidden them somewhere, so that
when discovered, apparently by accident or otherwise, the conclusion
would be self-evident that Nan had, herself, hidden them there.

Second, they would necessarily have to be hidden where searchers would
come upon them more by accident than by design.

Third, they could not, therefore, be under lock and key, put away in
a drawer or a trunk; but must have been placed in some receptacle into
which a stranger might peer, quite naturally, to discover them.

Although Nick Carter, during the half hour that he spent inside those
rooms, searched every possible place where the jewels might have been
hidden, he turned at last toward the door, profitless from the search.

He had peered into every vase, into every possible receptacle that
stood in sight, and had found no trace of them—and so much time had
elapsed that he did not dare to remain longer away from the other
members of the house party.

So he turned toward the door which opened upon the hall, opened it, and
found himself looking into the face of Jimmy Duryea.

But Jimmy did not come within reach. He only laughed, and turned
hastily away.

“I thought so,” he said. “I thought so;” and then he ran down the
stairs, before Nick could make an effort to detain him.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                       EXCITEMENT IN THE NIGHT.


Nick Carter was seated alone in the room that had been assigned to him.

It was rather more than an hour after midnight, and the guests of the
house had retired to their respective rooms, and it so happened that
Chick had been roomed in an entirely different part of the house from
Nick.

The detective was uneasy in his mind. The atmosphere, somehow, seemed
filled with portent of some sinister kind, and he could not define just
the feeling that was upon him.

No further opportunity had been obtained for conversation with Nan
Nightingale since that talk in the corner of the veranda; indeed, when
Nick returned downstairs, after his inspection of Nan’s rooms, and
the encounter, at the door of them, with Jimmy, the party had divided
itself into groups, some of which were playing cards, and others were
indulging in music and the usual occupations of an evening of that sort.

But Nick was uneasy about Nan.

He realized that Jimmy could protect himself only by casting suspicion
upon the songbird of the stage, and Nick knew that Jimmy would not
hesitate to do that very thing—if it happened that the opportunity was
offered him.

The detective’s own impotency, so far as Jimmy was concerned, was
apparent, and the reader must understand that, too.

Put yourself in his place for a moment.

Nick Carter could not arrest Ledger Dinwiddie and charge him with being
Bare-Faced Jimmy Duryea, without the ability to produce proofs of the
assertion—and Jimmy was undoubtedly prepared to meet and to refute
all such charges; was prepared to prove his claim to the name and
reputation of Ledger Dinwiddie, and therefore to establish a sufficient
alibi to whatever charge the detective might bring against him.

Nick Carter could not charge Ledger Dinwiddie with the theft of the
jewels, because there was absolutely no evidence against him to support
such a theory; there was only the statement of Nan, that she had seen
him with them in his possession, in the library, during the night when
they were stolen. That would be the unsupported word of one person
against another—and Jimmy, as Ledger Dinwiddie, would not come off
second best in such a scene. Nan could not, or at least would not, deny
her past history, if it came to a show-down, and Jimmy would have to
deny only that he was Jimmy, and to bring forward his proofs that he
was, in reality, Dinwiddie.

Nick had had no opportunity to find out the exact location of Chick’s
room. Rooms had not been assigned to either of them until it was too
late to do that.

“It is a remarkable circumstance,” the detective told himself, in
thought. “Here is a case where I know to a certainty the identity of
the thief, and yet have no means of establishing the fact; a case where
I know, approximately, where the stolen property is concealed, and yet
I dare not make an open search for them; a case where the criminal
is in a position to look me in the eyes and defy me, simply because
his own proofs are far better and more convincing than any that I can
supply.”

It was a remarkable circumstance.

The detective was cogitating upon these conditions when there came a
low tapping against the panel of his door, and he sprang to his feet,
snapped off the electric lights, and opened the door.

The hall outside was only dimly lighted, and Nick discovered, as he
opened the door, the figure of a woman, clothed in a silken princess
wrapper, and with a large veil, such as are worn in automobiles, thrown
over her head, gliding rapidly toward the top of the stairs.

Nick followed swiftly, having not a doubt that the figure was Nan’s,
and that she was conducting him to one of the rooms on the parlor floor
for the purposes of further conversation; but she was so far in advance
of him that he could not see her distinctly, and he did not dare to
call to her lest he should arouse other members of the household.

But the figure ahead of the detective did not approach the library door
when it reached the parlor floor of the house; it passed the door,
still keeping far in advance of Nick.

It hastened to the rear of the house, it opened a door that was there,
which gave upon a back porch—and instantly, when that happened, the air
was filled with the ringing of gongs, and the house itself—all of it,
it seemed—was flooded with light.

Nick Carter realized at once, if too late, just what had happened.

The opening of that rear door had set off the burglar alarms in the
house. Automatically it had switched on the lights in the house—and
Nick understood that it was not Nan Nightingale he had followed, but
Jimmy Duryea. Jimmy, in a woman’s wrapper and with the veil over his
head, so that in the dim light, and with the hasty glance through the
partial darkness, Nick Carter would not be able to recognize him.

When that rear door opened, and the figure passed through it; when
the lights flashed on, and the ringing of the alarm gongs began their
din, Nick Carter leaped forward toward the open door; but only to trip
and fall headlong in the hall before he had taken three more steps. He
had tripped over a rope that had been stretched across the hallway,
purposely to catch him.

As he fell, he heard the whir of an automobile engine, and the
chug-chug of the machine as it started forward. As he sprang to his
feet again, he not only knew that he was too late to overtake it, but
he realized that he had fallen into a trap of some sort that had been
carefully prepared by Jimmy Duryea.

Men think quickly in emergencies like that one; and Nick’s first
thought as he leaped to his feet was that the crux of the occasion
remained inside the house, and that the apparent escape from it could
be nothing more than a blind.

Of course the house was instantly in an uproar.

Doors opened and closed. Heads and shoulders were thrust over the
balustrades. Voices called from above, demanding to know what was
the matter. Men and women appeared from every conceivable quarter,
in all stages of dress, and undress. Foremost among them, incased in
a bathrobe which he was tying around his person, was Jimmy Duryea,
otherwise Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie.

Behind him appeared the owner of the house, Theodore Remsen. He was
followed by Mrs. Remsen, and by Lenore. Other guests, in various
conditions, so far as clothing was concerned, appeared on the stairs,
all demanding with one voice, almost, to know what had happened.

Nick Carter was the only person in that motley group who was fully
clothed; but even as he turned to face those who were rushing toward
him he noticed that there were two absentees.

Nan Nightingale and Chick were nowhere to be seen.

Because Nan was not there, Nick instantly felt undefined misgivings;
because Chick was not present, Nick experienced a certain amount of
assurance, for he knew that unless Chick were otherwise employed, he
would have been among the first to put in an appearance.

It was Jimmy Duryea who gave expression to the first coherent thought,
in the midst of that scene. He exclaimed:

“Really, Mr. Carter, if it is a part of the practice of your profession
to scare us all to death, you might have given us some warning of it.”

“There has been a burglar in the house!” shouted one of the women.

“Some one entered my room, and stole——”

“Oh dear, I never was so frightened in my life. I——”

“Did he get away?”

“It was a woman. I saw her. She ran out at that——”

“Where is Miss Nightingale? She isn’t here. Perhaps she has been
murdered in her sleep. Oh, it is horrible. I wish——”

And so on, and so on, ad libitum, ad infinitum. Half-finished
sentences, all of them. Excitement everywhere, and then a general
rush toward Nan Nightingale’s rooms to find why she was not among
them. Hysterical cries from the women; reassuring expressions from the
men. Expressions of wonder at the din of the alarm, and at the sudden
appearance of the lights—and then, the interior of Nan’s suite of rooms.

Nan Nightingale was not there.

Everywhere within those rooms were evidences of disorder, but Nan
Nightingale, herself, had disappeared.

More than that, it was discovered, presently, that many of her effects
had disappeared with her. In one of the rooms, where the maid slept,
the maid herself was discovered, deep in the stupor of a drug which was
supposed to be chloroform.

One by one the house guests crowded into the parlor of Nan’s suite.
Some of them remained standing; some of the men perched themselves upon
the arms of chairs, or upon the edges of tables; the women dropped
upon chairs, or upon hassocks, and without exception they gazed at
one another in utter consternation. Then, one by one, they began the
recounting of the experiences of the night, which was still young, for
it was not yet two o’clock.

Chick was not there, and, strangely enough, nobody seemed to have
noticed his absence.

Without giving in detail all that was said at that informal meeting in
Nan’s boudoir, suffice it to say that there was not a woman present who
was not willing to swear that she had seen or heard some person in her
room; and in the midst of it all Lenore Remsen exclaimed:

“But why should a burglar have carried Nan away?”

Every one was silent; then the voice of Duryea:

“Little goose! She wasn’t carried away. She ran away.”

“But why? Why?”

“My dear, there could be only one reason. Carter was right behind her.
She had to escape, or get caught, and she took the former course.
I caught a glimpse of her as she ran through the rear doorway, and
apparently jumped into a motor car. That must have been held there
by an accomplice who was waiting to take away the spoils; the swag,
I believe they call it? Eh? Carter? You’re a detective. You ought to
know.”

Every eye in the room was turned upon Nick Carter then.

The situation was a clever one, adroitly arranged by Jimmy Duryea.

Nick met their looks calmly, and he replied quietly:

“I ran after a person, but it was not a woman. It was not Miss
Nightingale. Of that, I am certain.”

“Oh, come, Carter, what’s the use of all that?” exclaimed Duryea. “I
saw her, too. She wore some sort of a red wrapper, and an automobile
veil, and——”

“And trousers under the wrapper, and a mustache under the veil,” the
detective interrupted him.

“Then where is Nan Nightingale?” demanded Theodore Remsen, stepping
forward.

“She has been abducted,” replied the detective coolly.

“Abducted? Nonsense! By whom?”

“By a scoundrel named Jimmy Duryea, known to the police as Bare-Faced
Jimmy, all-around crook and expert cracksman. Just now the man is
posing under another name, and is imposing upon certain confiding
people, who believe all that he tells them. But, Mr. Remsen, the time
has come to denounce him, and now——”

He stopped suddenly. A figure had appeared in the doorway, and all
turned to follow Nick Carter’s glance.

It was Nan Nightingale who stood there, facing them.



                              CHAPTER X.

                           A PLOT MOST FOUL.


But it was Nan Nightingale, fully dressed as she had been when the
members of this oddly assorted group had parted with her at retiring
time, not arrayed in a red wrapper, and with an automobile veil thrown
around her head, who faced them all.

She was strangely composed, too, although a trifle pale, as she entered
the room and paused beside Nick Carter.

“Will some one please tell me what has happened?” she asked. The
question was a general one, addressed to all alike, but she looked at
the detective when she uttered it. And, she added, speaking directly to
him this time: “I heard only the latter part of what you were saying.
You said that the time had come to denounce some one. Who was it?”

She was outwardly calm and collected, though exceedingly pale. Nick
realized that Nan was trying to convey some sort of intelligence to
him, with her eyes; but he could not read it, for truth to tell he was
as greatly amazed as were the others by her sudden appearance among
them.

Before he could reply, Duryea took the centre of the stage, so to
speak. He thrust himself forward, into the limelight, if the expression
may be used here, and with a smiling sneer on his handsome face,
confronted Nan and Nick, both.

“I will tell you who it was, Miss Nightingale—and I call upon all who
are here to let me finish what I have to say. If there are others
here who have comments to make upon my statements, let them be made
afterward.”

He paused an instant. No one spoke. Nick Carter believed that it was
best to let the man have his head at that moment. The detective had
not seen through the plot, as yet, and it was necessary that he should
see and know more about it before he continued with the denouncement
he had intended to make. The things that Duryea intended to say might
have some effect upon what Nick Carter would say in reply. Nick Carter
waited; and he placed a restraining hand upon the arm of Nan, to bid
her wait, also.

“What is it, Ledger? What have you to say about this?” asked Theodore
Remsen, turning to him. “Do you mean to tell us that you know something
about it?”

“I certainly do, Mr. Remsen,” was the reply. “It was because I already
knew something, and believed that we would yet catch the thief who
stole Lenore’s necklace and the other jewels, that I advised the
repairs to the burglar alarm, which worked so perfectly to-night. I
anticipated precisely this result.”

“Go on; go on, Ledger. Come to the point. Don’t beat about the bush!”
exclaimed Lenore’s father.

Jimmy deliberately turned his back upon Nan and Nick; he faced the
other members of the company.

Pausing just long enough to give emphasis to what he would next say, he
continued:

“I arrived here last Thursday, as you will remember. I made my first
appearance before you at the dinner table. There was one guest who was
in the house at that time, and who is present now, in this room, who
did not appear at the dinner table that night. I did not then know that
that guest was here.

“Many of you will remember that we passed a pleasant evening, and that
the guest to whom I have referred did not come downstairs at all during
it. Also, that we parted early and that I complained of being very
tired with my long ride.”

There were nods in the affirmative, around the room.

“Notwithstanding the fact that I was greatly fatigued,” he continued,
“I could not go to sleep. Some time during the middle of the night I
left my bed, partly dressed myself, and descended to the library to
obtain a book, intending to read myself to sleep; but, as I stepped
into the library, I discovered that it was occupied, and that one of
the persons who was there was the guest to whom I have referred, and
who was not present at the dinner table.

“That guest, as you may have surmised, was a woman. She was not alone
when I discovered her in the library. There was a man there, with
her, and they were bending across the library tables, conversing in
whispers, so low that I could not hear what was said. At the moment
I did not suspect more than a clandestine meeting—and, inasmuch as I
recognized the aforesaid guest as an old acquaintance, and knew a great
deal about her, I was not surprised.

“I withdrew, as silently as I had gone there; and as I did so I heard
just one remark that passed between the two. It was made by the man,
to the woman, and he said: ‘Very well, then. I will return here next
Monday night.’”

Jimmy paused a moment to permit his words to take full effect.

“The day following, which was Friday,” he continued, “I was duly
presented to the woman in question. She did not remember me, or if she
did, succeeded in concealing the fact from me, as well as from others.
Some years have passed since I saw her, and at that time she was—well,
she was associated with the notorious character whose name has been
mentioned by Detective Carter to-night; with the notorious Bare-Faced
Jimmy Duryea, who is now dead, although Mr. Carter seems not to know
that fact. I will say one word more about that man, although it pains
me to do so. He was a burglar, a thief, everything that was bad and
low, but he was my cousin, and his real name was the same as mine.
Moreover, there was a personal resemblance between us. I can tell more
about him when the proper time comes.”

Again he came to a pause, and found this during it to glance exultingly
around toward the detective. Then he continued:

“That day, Friday, it became known that certain jewels had been stolen
from this house. I was instantly convinced that the woman had stolen
them; also that she had taken them after the hour when she met the
man in the library, because there had not been time, or opportunity,
then. But I said nothing to anybody, until to-day, on the lawn, when,
in a conversation that happened after the arrival of the detective, I
ventured the opinion that the thief was a woman. But I determined to
keep careful watch to-night.

“Now I am coming down to the explanation of present circumstances. I
went to my room, determined to keep watch; but I half undressed, and
I was sleepy. I fell asleep in my big chair. I was aroused from that
sleep by the clanging of the burglar alarm, which I advised Mr. Remsen
to have fixed, and which was done yesterday. I rushed into the hall,
and down the stairs. I saw that same woman to whom I have referred
passing rapidly through the lower hall, and directly behind her was
Nick Carter, evidently in pursuit. But as I looked the detective
tripped over something, and fell. The woman ran out at the rear door,
which had been opened for her escape, and which act set off the alarm,
thus enabling me to discover her.

“She sprang into a motor car. She wore a red wrapper and an automobile
veil; but I recognized her, nevertheless. Nick Carter thinks it was a
man in disguise, or he says he does. But I know it was a woman, and
that woman stands—_there_!”

He wheeled and pointed an accusing finger at Nan Nightingale, who
shrank away from him as from a loathsome thing.

“Deny it if you can Nan Nightingale, alias Nan Drummond, and alias many
other names!” he cried out. “And you, Nick Carter, deny if you can that
you knew this woman when she was Nan Drummond, a thief, and the wife of
Bare-Faced Jimmy Duryea, the crook.”

It was a clever statement, cleverly devised, cleverly delivered.

It had all the effect that Jimmy anticipated.

The women in the room shrank away from Nan, and looked at her
askance. It was evident that it did not occur to them to doubt Ledger
Dinwiddie’s statement.

“I will hear all of your remarkable story, Jimmy, before I reply to
it,” said the detective quietly. “That isn’t all, is it?” He put
out one hand and grasped Nan’s arm, holding her firmly, to give her
courage, for he did not want her to faint just then.

“No; it isn’t all,” said Jimmy, as coolly, in return. “There is more.”
He turned again toward the others. “Nick Carter knows the history of
Nan Drummond, who calls herself Nan Nightingale, as well, or better
than I do. He secured her a position on the stage, when she gave up
thievery. He has been her sponsor ever since; and now I can see just
how she has played upon his belief in her. When she went to the city,
Saturday, and remained over Sunday with Mrs. Remsen, she must have
looked him up. She must have told him—not that I was here, but that
Jimmy Duryea, the burglar, was alive, and here under an assumed name. I
have mentioned the fact that we were cousins, and resembled one another.

“The proof of my assumption is that when I was in the summerhouse alone
with Nick Carter, during the shower of this afternoon, he actually
charged me with being that same Bare-Faced Jimmy, here under disguise,
and he demanded that I leave this place at once, and forever forego
my hopes of making this beautiful girl, here, my wife. That I laughed
at him goes without saying; that he did not mention what had passed
between us to others is sufficient proof that he had made a mistake.

“Now, two things more: I do not know what part of this woman’s plot it
is to have returned here now, as she has done, fully dressed, after
having made her escape with a wrapper on and a veil over her head, but
she will probably tell you some cock-and-bull story in regard to it, in
order to establish her innocence.

“The other thing is this: Those jewels that she stole, unless she has
had opportunity to-night to pass them on to her confederates, are
concealed somewhere in these rooms, without a doubt. That is all, my
friends. Now, Nan Drummond, do you deny that you are Nan Drummond?”

“Don’t reply to him, Nan,” said Nick, speaking quickly.

“Do you dare, woman, to deny that you were once the wife of Bare-Faced
Jimmy Duryea, the crook and burglar?” thundered the supposed Dinwiddie,
still addressing Nan, who shrank away from him until she rested her
body against Nick Carter.

“Don’t answer,” said Nick, again.

“Then you answer for her!” cried Jimmy, wheeling upon the detective,
and playing his part to a finish. “You answer for her. You know all
about her. You know that she was Nan Drummond. You know that she was
once a thief. You know that she was everything else that was low and——”

Jimmy got no farther than that.

Somewhere, in the past, we have said that Nick Carter rarely let his
temper act for him. But, like all men, he has a temper, and Jimmy
Duryea had tried it sorely, in more ways than one, since Nick’s arrival
at The Birches.

It cannot be said that Nick exactly lost it at just that moment, but it
is certain that he permitted it to act just long enough to stop Jimmy’s
mouth, and to stop it effectually, too.

The detective stepped forward, loosening his grasp upon Nan’s arm.

For just an instant he peered into the face of Jimmy Duryea, and then
he acted.

His right fist shot forward, and it struck Jimmy squarely upon the jaw;
and Jimmy went down like a clod of earth that is thrown from a shovel.

Some of the women there cried out. The men uttered various
exclamations, and several of them rushed forward at once. There was a
commotion outside, in the hall, and the local constable, with two or
three men to assist him, rushed into the room. Evidently they had been
brought there for the occasion by Jimmy Duryea.

But they halted at the aspect of Nick Carter, who stood facing them,
directly over the figure of the prostrate man on the floor.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                         THE DIAMOND NECKLACE.


“Stand back, all of you!” said Nick Carter, facing them all. “This man
on the floor is my prisoner, and the one among you who attempts to
interfere with me now will be sorry.”

The constable and his assistants halted; they hesitated; and then Mr.
Remsen pressed forward toward Nick.

“Mr. Carter; Mr. Carter,” he expostulated, “you are going beyond your
authority. You had no right to strike Mr. Dinwiddie. You——”

“One moment, Mr. Remsen. As an officer, I admit that I had not the
right to strike him in the way I did; but as a man, I not only had
every right, but it was my duty. He was defaming a good woman, and
doing it in a shamefaced manner that long ago earned him the title he
bears—for, in spite of all that he has said, this man is none other
than that very Bare-Faced Jimmy he has been talking about.”

“Oh, you brute! you brute!” cried Lenore, striving in vain to escape
from her mother’s detaining arms.

Nick merely glanced at her and murmured, “Poor girl!” then he went on,
addressing the constable, who was still reluctant to perform what he
considered to be his duty.

“Where did you come from?” Nick demanded of the constable.

“From the village,” was the reply. “What is that to you, anyhow?”

“You’ll find out what it is to me presently. Who asked you to come
here?”

“Mr. Dinwiddie; that man there, whom you knocked down.”

“And why did he ask you to come here?”

“He told me that there had been a jewel robbery, and that if I was on
hand at this hour to-night, he would expose the thief, and that I would
get the credit for the arrest.”

“I thought so. He had it all nicely arranged, didn’t he? When did he
tell you all that, Mr. Constable?”

“He didn’t tell me; he sent a letter by one of the grooms. But he had
seen me yesterday, and had given me an inkling of what would happen.
And, now stand aside. I want that woman whom he has exposed. I arrest
her——”

“No you don’t. You won’t arrest anybody, Mr. Constable, unless you have
a warrant, which I doubt; and if you have one, and serve it, you’ll
regret it as long as you live. You won’t make any arrest, just now,
unless I direct it, constable.”

“Who says I won’t? I——”

“I say so. I have the warrant, constable.”

Duryea was beginning to move; he was recovering, and quick as a flash
Nick Carter bent forward and snapped handcuffs on his wrists.

“Stop that!” cried Mr. Remsen. “You cannot arrest that man, here,
Mr. Carter. He is my guest, and you are my guest. You are abusing my
hospitality—and besides, just now you said that no arrests could be
made without a warrant.”

Nick Carter turned to Remsen. He spoke quietly, and in a kindly tone.

“Mr. Remsen,” he said, “I have two duties to perform here to-night, and
one of them, in particular, supersedes all the claims that might be
made in the name of hospitality. I am doing you a very great service
in saving your daughter from that man on the floor. He is as vile a
scoundrel as ever went unhung. He is Bare-Faced Jimmy, the crook. He is
the one who stole the jewels, and who has now tried to charge it upon
a defenseless woman, after slandering her in a way that requires no
answer. That is why I told Miss Nightingale not to speak.”

“But the warrant! The warrant!”

“I have it here, Mr. Remsen. I secured it before I left the city. It is
a bench warrant and is good anywhere in the State—and it directs me to
arrest and to hold the person of James Duryea, alias Ledger Dinwiddie,
alias Bare-Faced Jimmy. Here it is. Are you satisfied as to that?”

“Y-yes,” reluctantly.

“He told you partly the truth, regarding that scene in the summerhouse,
for he did have the face to defy me. I offered him his liberty, if he
would leave the country, after returning the jewels he had stolen; but
he dared to face me; to claim that he could prove that he is Ledger
Dinwiddie, and not James Duryea.”

“But where is the man who was in the library with Miss——”

“He is there, on the floor,” replied Nick, interrupting. “The real
circumstance is just the reverse from the manner in which he told it.
It was Miss Nightingale who found him there. He had the jewels in his
possession at the time. She saw them. That was why she asked me to
come out here to-day—and even you will admit that I came here upon her
invitation.”

“Why doesn’t Nick Carter produce the jewels, since he seems to know so
much about them, Mr. Remsen?” said a drawling voice from the floor, and
then they saw the fallen Ledger Dinwiddie draw himself to a sitting
posture, and attempt to caress his bruised jaw with his manacled hands.

“I think I can do that, too, now that the time has come,” said the
detective, smiling. He turned to Mrs. Remsen, who had drawn nearer to
Nan, and was now holding her by the hand.

“Madam,” he said, “I wish to ask you a few questions about the interior
arrangements of your house; that is, about some of its ornamentations.
Will you indulge me?”

“Certainly, sir. What is it?”

“Before I ask the questions, I wish to make a statement for all of
you—and if you interrupt me, Jimmy, before I have done, I’ll put a gag
in your mouth. Just for the present, I am running this show, as you may
have noticed.”

“Go ahead and run it, then. I’ll do my talking after you have exploded
all your detective theories.”

“The statement is this, Mrs. Remsen. During that scene in the
summerhouse with this scoundrel on the floor, I suspected that he
had concealed the jewels somewhere in the rooms of Miss Nightingale,
because he openly threatened to accuse her of the theft.

“This evening after dinner, I came to these rooms and examined them,
hoping that I could find where he had concealed them; but I was unable
to do that. I was not able to discover anything that suggested a
possible hiding place, although I searched as thoroughly as I could do
so, while I was here. When I went out, I encountered the real thief in
the hall, waiting for me.

“He ran away before I was able to stop him. He descended the stairs
ahead of me; but a very few minutes later, he was missing from the
rooms downstairs, and I suspected that he had returned here. I
concluded, in fact, that when I saw him in the hall, as I went out of
these rooms, he had not followed me there, and did not suspect that I
was there, but had gone there on some errand of his own.

“Now, madam, I have not been inside of these rooms since then,
but nevertheless, in the short time that I have been here, I have
discovered a certain change in the ornamentation of this particular
room. I will ask you to look carefully about you, and to tell me if you
perceive any change. Please do so. You, also, Nan.”

Both women turned.

Everybody else in the room, including the nonplused constable and his
three men, did the same.

Nan and Mrs. Remsen searched with care, using their eyes, but both of
them presently shook their heads negatively.

“I see no change, Mr. Carter,” said Mrs. Remsen.

“And you, Nan, do you observe none?” asked Nick.

“No,” she replied. “What do you mean, Mr. Carter?”

He did not reply to her. He turned again to Mrs. Remsen.

“Madam,” he said, “I have observed, since I have been a guest in your
home, that you are evidently a collector of rare vases. Is that true?”

“Oh, yes; it has always been a hobby with me. But what——”

“In every room that I have entered, there are several, but in no case
have I noticed two that are exactly alike. Will you tell me if you have
two vases that are precisely alike, now in your possession?”

“Why, yes, now that you speak of it, there are two. But——”

“Pardon me, but will you tell me where those two vases are, now? Is one
of them in this room? Don’t squirm, Jimmy. We’re getting warm, I know,
but please remember that you are not to interrupt unless you want a gag
in your mouth. Madam, is one of the vases, of which you have two alike,
now in this room?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Remsen pointed toward a vase that stood upon a bracket in
one corner of the room. “That one, there.”

“Precisely. That is what I thought. Now, will you tell us where the
other one—the one that is precisely like this one—is located at the
present moment, to the best of your knowledge?”

“Why, it is—or at least it should be—in the parlor of the red suite.”

“And who occupies the so-called red suite of rooms?”

“Mr. Dinwiddie.”

“Precisely. Now, I have not been inside the rooms occupied by Mr.
Dinwiddie, as you call Jimmy, here, so I will have to ask you if those
two vases are, in reality, precisely alike. Has not one of them been
broken at some time, and mended?”

“Why, yes, as a matter of fact, one has. That is how I came to have two
of them. A gentleman who was staying with us last fall broke one, but
he found another like it and sent it to me after I had had the broken
one mended.”

“Madam, did it happen that the gentleman referred to was Mr. Dinwiddie?”

“Y-yes, sir. It was Mr. Dinwiddie.”

“And the broken vase—the one that was mended, I mean—is it now in the
red suite that has been occupied by Mr. Dinwiddie since last Thursday?”

“No,” she replied, pleased that he had asked the first question that
called for a negative reply. “I thought he deserved to have the good
one in his room, so I put it there, and brought the one that had been
broken to this room. There it is now.”

“Thank you. Will you be so good as to examine it more closely, so that
you can assure yourself that you have made no mistake in regard to it?”

Mrs. Remsen crossed the room to the vase. She raised it from the
bracket, and held it in her hand for a moment. Then she exclaimed:

“Why, this is strange. This is the vase that was broken; and there is
something inside of it that I never noticed before.”

“The jewels, Mrs. Remsen, by any chance?”

“No. Something white. It looks like plaster of Paris. It——”

“Permit me to see for myself,” said Nick, interrupting her, and he
crossed the room with quick strides.

One glance into the vase was enough. He saw what had been done, on the
instant.

He raised his eyes to Mrs. Remsen; he turned as if to speak to her; and
then, as if it were done entirely by accident, he permitted the vase to
fall crashing to the floor, where, weakened as it was by reason of a
former fracture, it fell apart into three pieces. The diamond necklace
that was Lenore Remsen’s property was exposed to view.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                        THE REVELATIONS OF NAN.


“Found it, didn’t you?” exclaimed Jimmy, with a return of his old
assurance. He had managed to raise himself to a sitting posture, and
to turn about so that he had a full and uninterrupted view of the
exposure, when it happened. When nobody replied to him, but remained
staring in more or less stupid wonder at what had taken place, he
added: “Now, I wonder how in the world you knew it was there, Carter?
Did Miss Nightingale tell you where she had hidden it?”

Nick made no reply—in words.

But he did take a hasty stride or two across the floor, pulling his
handkerchief from his pocket as he did so, and the next instant Jimmy’s
jaws were forced apart, and the soft linen of the handkerchief was
introduced between them.

“I told you that I would gag you if you interrupted,” said the
detective; and then, as Lenore attempted to rush forward toward her
lover, the detective restrained her.

“Young lady,” he said, “I honor you for your loyalty. You are ready to
fight for, and to defend with your last breath, the man who has been
your accepted sweetheart. It is hard for you to believe that he is not
the man he has pretended to be.”

“I won’t believe it. I will never believe it!” she cried out. “You are
no better than a brute to treat him so, Nick Carter. I hate you!”

Nick smiled down upon her, somewhat sadly.

“Some day you will thank me,” he told her. “In the meantime, you must
be patient. But, tell me. Do you also hate Miss Nightingale?”

“Hate Nan? No; I love her. But she has had nothing to do with this——”
she stopped; and again the detective looked at her and smiled. Then, in
a low tone, he spoke to her again.

“Do you believe that Nan stole your necklace?” he asked, so that the
others, who were now examining it, could not hear.

“No; I don’t.”

“You would never believe that of your friend Nan, would you?”

“Indeed I would not.”

“But somebody did steal the necklace. Now, who do you suppose it was?”

“I should sooner think that you did it than that he did,” she retorted.

At that point they were interrupted by Mrs. Remsen, and as that lady
spoke, all the others in the room turned and looked squarely at Nick
Carter.

“Mr. Carter,” she said, “I would like you to tell me, if you please,
how you knew that the necklace was inside that vase?”

The question was a cold one. It was not reassuring. Nick saw that the
spectators of the scene were now regarding him with suspicion.

“I did not know that it was there,” he replied. “I only suspected it.
As I stated before we discovered it, I was satisfied, by things that
the thief said to me, that he had concealed the necklace in these
rooms, or that he intended to do so. It was part of his plan.”

“But——”

“One moment, please. When I came here to search for a hiding place
for the jewels, the necklace had not yet been concealed here. I doubt
if I would have discovered it, if it had been. But, as I left the
room, I met him. He turned and ran away. I followed him quickly, but
nevertheless I remembered, afterward—while I was seated in my own room
to-night, in fact—that in leaving this room I saw on the mantel at the
opposite side of the hall a vase that had not been there before. I
saw it, and noticed it, only from force of habit in taking particular
notice of the furnishings of every place where I happen to be.

“I could not have told you what vase it was. I could not have described
it. I was merely conscious of the fact that such a thing was there—and
that, later, when I came to the hallway out there particularly to look
for that extra vase, to see if it was still in the place where I had
seen it, it had disappeared.

“And so, madam, when we all entered this room a little while ago, I
used my eyes in looking at vases. I saw that the vase that was just
now broken was not in the position that it was when I supposed I had
seen it last. It was not exposed to view in precisely the same way; and
while I was talking, I changed my position somewhat, so that I could
see behind it.

“It was then, madam, that I noticed the fact that this vase here had
been broken, and mended; also that it was a long time since it had been
mended. _I knew that the vase that was here when I came to this room
earlier had not been broken and mended._

“Do you see the deduction?

“There must have been two vases just alike, one of which had been
broken and mended—and the one that had been broken and mended, had
been, during that short time, exchanged for the perfect one.

“It was only necessary, then, to establish the point that the other
vase had been kept in the room occupied by Jimmy Duryea, or Mr.
Dinwiddie as you know him. Your answers to my questions established
that fact.

“A moment later, when you said that there was something white inside
the vase that had not been there before—something resembling plaster
of Paris—the solution of what remained of the problem was apparent.

“Some years ago there was a great robbery in a jewelry store, in Paris.
Afterward those jewels were discovered, imbedded in plaster of Paris,
at the bottom of two huge vases that were ornaments in that store. That
robbery was committed by the scapegrace younger son of a good family in
England, whose people hushed the thing up and permitted him to go to
South Africa on condition that he would never return. In South Africa,
he changed his name to James Duryea; afterward he came to this country,
and was known here as Bare-Faced Jimmy; still later, he wormed his way
into your household under the name of Ledger Dinwiddie.”

Mrs. Remsen came nearer to the detective.

“Mr. Carter,” she said slowly, “I have heard many good things said of
you. Are you sufficiently positive of all that you have said to swear
to me that you know it to be true—all of it?”

“Yes, madam.”

“Nan,” Mrs. Remsen turned to her as she spoke, “will you explain now
how it happened that you were outside the house, and returned here just
when you did?”

“Yes,” replied Nan. “I will explain. I hope you will believe me.”

“I see no reason why I should not do so.”

Nan hesitated for a moment. Then she turned so that she faced the
assembled company.

“It is necessary that I explain to all of you,” she said falteringly.
“For a little while I have hoped that the necessity for it might be
escaped; but now I see that it is essential.”

“No, no, Nan, it is not essential. It need not be,” said Nick Carter.

“Yes it is,” she replied. “Let me have my way about it.”

“Very well. Proceed.”

Again Nan hesitated. Then, before she spoke, she half turned about and
opened her arms toward Lenore. When Lenore hesitated, she said:

“Come here, dear. I want you near me when I speak, for you, above all
others, must believe what I will tell you now. Come, dear.”

Slowly Lenore moved forward. She seemed to sense the truth of what was
coming, and a dark scowl crossed the face of Jimmy Duryea. Had it not
been for the gag in his mouth, he doubtless would have interrupted
them, then; but he could not speak, and nobody offered to relieve him
of the impediment to speech.

“You must hear all of the truth, now, all of you,” said Nan, then, with
one arm tightly around the quivering form of Lenore Remsen; “and in
order to explain the circumstance that Mrs. Remsen had asked about, it
is necessary that I should tell other things, first.

“That man there”—she pointed an accusing finger at Jimmy—“told a great
deal that was true, when he talked to you a little while ago, accusing
me; but he did not tell all the truth about one part of it, and he told
much less than the truth about another part of it.

“He is not an American. He never had any right whatever to the name of
Dinwiddie, and how he possessed himself of it I do not know. He is an
Englishman. His real name is James Howard Drummond. He is the younger
son of a titled family in England. I knew him when I was a girl. I have
known him all my life. As a girl I fell in love with him. As a girl and
woman I still loved him, and finally I became his wife.

“Hush, Lenore. I am not his wife now. I secured a divorce from him when
he was sent to prison eight years and more ago. Later, I married again.
But I was his wife, and I am the Nan Drummond he referred to—his wife,
then, when I bore that name.

“It was this way: My family became impoverished. I sought a position
as governess, and went to South Africa with the family of an army
officer. Later, Howard Drummond came there, also sent out by his family
matters, as he informed me. My old love for him revived, and we were
married.

“Then we came to this country. All the while he was a thief and a
cracksman, and I did not know it—until later.

“After the discovery, my life seemed an utter wreck. I permitted myself
to be led into crime by that man. I was afraid of him. He threatened
my life if I did not obey him. Then he was caught and sent to prison,
and I escaped him. And then Mr. Carter found me, held out hope to
me, secured me a position on the stage, and so helped me back to an
honorable life.

“I married a Mr. Smathers, an actor, and he has since died. Howard
Drummond was supposed to be dead, also. Mr. Carter believed him
dead; everybody who had known him thought the same. I did not know
differently until last Thursday night, in the middle of the night, when
I went to the library of this house to get a book to read, and found
him there with Lenore’s necklace and the other stolen jewels on the
table before him.

“The recognition between us was mutual in an instant.

“He threatened me with a pistol. He even tried to make love to me
again, believing that his old influence over me still existed. But he
found that it did not.

“We were there, in the library, a long time. At the end of the scene,
he promised me that he would return the stolen property, and that he
would leave here for good and all. Formerly he possessed one virtue; he
would keep his word; so I believed him then.

“But he did not restore the stolen property, and I threatened him with
exposure.

“Then I went to New York with Mrs. Remsen. I encountered Mr. Carter by
accident. I told him everything, because I knew that there, at least,
was one man who knew the truth about me, and in whom I could trust.

“And now I come to what took me out of the house to-night, and so the
explanation of my return here at an unexpected moment—for it was not
expected that I would return—at the least, not until that scoundrel had
won the victory he anticipated.

“Have any of you happened to notice the absence of one guest from this
room? Mr. Carter, will you call your first assistant, Chick? He is
outside waiting. His presence will help me to explain fully.”



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                       THE LAYING OF THE GHOST.


Nick Carter stepped to the doorway, and called aloud:

“Ho, Chick! Come here!”

A moment later there were steps along the lower hall, and Chick entered
the room where now all were eagerly awaiting him.

“Thank you for waiting so patiently, Chick,” said Nan; then she turned
to the others again.

“Please remember what I have just told you about finding Howard
Drummond, alias Bare-Faced Jimmy, and all the other names he has passed
under, in the library, with the jewels in his possession. Remember that
he had promised to restore those jewels, and that he did not keep his
word, and that I induced Mr. Carter to come here to help me get them.

“When Mr. Carter appeared here, Jimmy, as he is called, tried to brazen
it out, and Mr. Carter told me about it. I was of the opinion then that
the villain would try to kill me, or Mr. Carter, or both of us, but
Mr. Carter did not think so when we talked it over on the veranda last
evening. Mr. Carter told me then that he was coming to my rooms to see
if the thief had concealed the jewels here. The thief saw us talking
together, and evidently decided that he must act quickly, if at all.

“Later in the evening he sought me, when Mr. Carter was not near. He
managed to draw me aside, and although he detained me only a moment, he
managed to say in effect that since his interview with the detective
in the summerhouse he had decided to abandon his entire plan here,
and take Nick Carter at his word; that he had decided to give up the
jewels, and go.

“He agreed to return them to me, with a written confession that would
state the case plainly, if I would meet him at half-past one o’clock
to-night, in the summerhouse where he had talked with Mr. Carter. The
condition was that I was not to inform Mr. Carter about it until I
could put the jewels into his hands.

“I agreed to that, for I did not think that the man would dare to do me
harm, now that Mr. Carter was here on the spot. But I did not promise
not to inform Nick Carter’s assistant—this gentleman here, who is Mr.
Chickering Carter.

“I told Chick all about it, and asked his advice. He advised me to see
the thing through to the end, and said that he would be near at hand if
danger threatened.

“At half-past one o’clock to-night, I let myself out of the house
silently. There were no burglar alarms that sounded then, showing that
somebody must have turned off the power from them to permit me to go
outside.

“I went to the summerhouse, and entered it. There was no one there, but
after a moment two men sprang upon me from the darkness, I was seized,
my hands were tied, and I was told that if I uttered a sound I would
be killed. Then my feet were tied together and my own handkerchief was
thrust into my mouth to gag me; and I was left there.

“But it was only for a moment.

“When those men stepped from the doorway of the summerhouse they were
both knocked flat, handcuffs were put on them, and Chick came into the
summerhouse and set me free. Then he made use of certain persuasive
arguments which induced the men to talk and tell all they knew, with
the result that we understood that they were to drive an automobile
they had with them, to the rear door, and wait there until a woman in a
red wrapper ran out of the house, when they were to start the car and
go away about their business.

“I remained in the summerhouse, standing guard over the two handcuffed
men, with a revolver, while Chick used the automobile as the men had
been directed to use it. Just what the plan was, neither of us knew,
but Chick decided to be on the spot when it happened.

“Now, you know when the woman, supposed to be me, but who was in
reality that man there on the floor, disguised in a wrapper that he
had taken from my room, rushed from the house, don’t you? He dashed
out at the door, and sprang into the car; Chick started the car ahead,
according to the directions that the two captured men had received; but
the disguised man in the tonneau leaped from the car when it started,
seized a rope ladder that hung from one of the windows of the red
suite, occupied by Ledger Dinwiddie, ran up it like a squirrel, and
disappeared into the house. A moment later, it appears that he was
here, on the stairs, tying the cord of a bath robe around him. That was
the man of many names, who lies there, a prisoner now.

“Chick leaped from the car and came to me in the summerhouse. He tied
up the two men so that they could not escape—and then we came here
together.

“But we did not enter the house at once.

“Neither Chick nor I could understand just what the plot was, or
exactly how the thief intended to have it work out.

“The instructions given to the men were to leave me in the summerhouse,
bound and gagged, and the supposition is that it was part of
Bare-Faced Jimmy’s plan to go there later, and release me, permitting
me to return to the house, where, if I told the story of what had
really happened, I would not be believed.

“For don’t you see, he had made it appear that it was I who had escaped
from the house, pursued by Nick Carter, who was tripped and thrown by a
rope which Jimmy had stretched in the hallway for that purpose. How Mr.
Carter saw him and gave chase, I do not——”

“He tapped at my door,” said Nick. “That was probably a part of his
plan. The necklace was to be discovered in your room, and he was
foolish enough to suppose that even I would believe that you were more
or less implicated.”

“No, Mr. Carter,” replied Nan, “he knew that you would never believe
that; but he did hope to implicate me so deeply that you would be
discredited. Perhaps he did not intend to free me, unless you compelled
him to do so. I do not know.

“Well, when Chick and I returned to the house, you had all entered
here. I came up the stairs alone, telling Chick that I would call him
when he was needed. He thought that it was better that he should remain
outside for a time.

“My unlooked-for return threw Jimmy entirely out of his reckoning. He
had not expected that. All his plans threatened to go wrong at once.
He was made desperate by the circumstance. He saw no other way than to
make the bold charge he did against me.

“He knew that I would not deny that I had been Nan Drummond.

“He dared even to make use of the name of Bare-Faced Jimmy, claiming
cousinship, in order to render his story the more plausible.

“He told near enough to the truth to give everything he said the
appearance of reality. Once again he has earned the right to his title
of barefaced, for such a barefaced scoundrel and falsifier, never lived
or dared to live before.”

Nan paused a moment, and then turned again to her friend Mrs. Remsen.

“That, my dear, is all of my story,” she said. “Much of it you have
heard before, for I thank Heaven that before I came into your house to
live here as your friend, and to love the stepdaughter who is as dear
to you as if she were your own, I told you all of that unhappy past
history of mine. I did not come here under false pretenses.”

“No, indeed you did not,” cried Mrs. Remsen, putting her arms around
Nan.

Lenore was quietly sobbing her heart out on Nan’s shoulder, and now
Nan, with one backward glance toward all who were in the room, led
Lenore through a doorway into an adjoining room, and closed the door
behind them.

“I have got just a word to say, right here,” said Chick.

“Go ahead, Chick,” said the detective. “We are all expecting to hear
from you.”

“Well, I didn’t remain outside the house all the time things were
happening in this room. I went upstairs, and visited the red suite—the
rooms that were assigned to Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie.”

He paused, stepped to the door, passed out, was gone a moment, and
returned.

“I found these things in that room,” he said. “They were under the bed,
but I found them. There they are. Look at them.”

He threw the heap to the floor, and all who were there saw the red
wrapper, the big automobile veil, and the ladder of rope up which Jimmy
had clambered in order to return to his own room in time to be on the
scene.

“More than that,” Chick continued, “I have got a full confession from
one of the men I captured in the summerhouse, when they attacked Nan.

“Nick,” he turned to his chief, “one of those men is the chap who used
to live on that island where Jimmy Duryea was supposed to have died.
His name is Griggs. Do you remember him?”

“Perfectly.”

“Well, he can supply the truth that Jimmy Duryea did not die up there.
He has already told it to me, and he will tell it again, whenever he is
called upon to do so.”

Again Chick turned about, facing the assembled guests again.

“There is just one more thing to tell you,” he said. “I found a few
other things while I was searching that red suite of rooms. I found
these.”

He thrust a hand into his pocket, and drew it forth filled with jewels.

“Here,” he said, “is, I think, all the stolen property. If it is not
there, the rest of it will doubtless be found in those rooms.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

“Jimmy,” said the detective, a little later, “do you want to make any
confession in regard to the Dinwiddie game you have been playing?”

“When I do, I’ll send for you,” replied Jimmy. “Maybe you haven’t got
me quite so dead to rights as you think you have.”

“Oh, yes, I have,” replied the detective. “You’ll get all that’s coming
to you, James, before I get through with you.”

But the detective had somewhat underrated the resourcefulness of
Bare-Faced Jimmy.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                         THE STOLEN IDENTITY.


It was several weeks after the arrest of Jimmy Duryea that Nick Carter
one morning laid aside the newspaper he had been reading and gave his
attention to the hearty breakfast that had just been put before him.
He made no remark, although Chick, who was seated at the table at his
right, and Patsy Garvan, his second assistant, who was at his left, and
Adelina—the wife of Patsy—who was opposite him, all raised their eyes
inquiringly to his face, as if they had confidently expected some sort
of a statement from their chief.

But the detective ate his breakfast in silence; and the three persons
who were closest to him in point of intimacy respected that silence,
and preserved it on their own several parts.

Never, in the house of Nick Carter, had there been a more wordless meal.

The two assistants knew what their chief was thinking about; Adelina’s
intuitiveness made her aware of Nick Carter’s desire for silence. All
knew that presently, when he had thoroughly digested the thoughts
induced by the reading of that article in the paper, he would say
something upon the subject that so strangely interested each of them.

But he had pushed away the breakfast things and had carefully selected
a cigar from his case, before he broke that unusual silence; and then
he said, addressing no one in particular, but all of them generally:

“I don’t care a hang what that supreme court judge says, or how much
proof has been brought to sustain the contention of Bare-Faced Jimmy;
not a hang. I know that the man is Bare-Faced Jimmy Duryea, otherwise
Howard Drummond, and what is more, I am going to chuck everything else
aside until I have proved it. I won’t let that fellow beat me.”

Chick and Patsy glanced across the table at each other, and nodded.
Adelina replied:

“Nobody has ever supposed that you would permit such a thing,” she said.

“The thing about it that hurts,” said Nick, “is the fact that my
testimony and all that Nan Nightingale swore to, went for nothing.
I wonder if that judge thinks me a fool? One would suppose that
my reputation would stand for something; and yet—— Listen to this
paragraph from the learned opinion.”

The detective seized the paper, and read aloud:

 “‘It is one of the most remarkable cases of mistaken identity that
 has ever been brought to the attention of this court. The testimony
 of Nicholas Carter, the detective, of his assistant, and of Miss
 Nancy Nightingale, would seem to be conclusive, if the evidence they
 gave were not so entirely overwhelmed by the voluminous testimony
 in contradiction. But where a whole community comes forward, as in
 this instance, and offers what must stand as irrefutable testimony
 concerning the identity of the appellant, Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie, the
 duty of the court is obvious. Men and women of advanced years, who
 have known Ledger Dinwiddie since his birth, swear to his identity—and
 there can be no gainsaying them. Men and women of approximately his
 own age, who knew him in his childhood and youth, who attended school
 with him, swear to his identity—and there can be no question of their
 entire sincerity. A negro woman who nursed him in his babyhood, and
 who watched him grow to young manhood, swears to his identity, and
 demonstrates her fondness for him, now—and her love for him speaks in
 his favor even stronger than her words. On the other hand, the proof
 offered, establishing the death of the man called James Duryea, seems
 incontrovertible. There is only one conclusion at which this court can
 arrive, namely, that Ledger Dinwiddie has sufficiently established his
 identity.

 “‘The judgment of the lower court is affirmed.

 “‘All concur.’”

“Now, what do you think of that?” the detective asked, turning his
glance from one to another of his companions at the table.

“It sounds to me,” replied Patsy, who was always plainspoken and who
was apt to call things by their right names, “as if the judge meant
to let you down as easily as possible, chief, but that he evidently
believes you to be one of two things; a——”

“A liar, or a jackass,” Nick interrupted his second assistant.

“Well, that is putting it rather strong, chief. I didn’t mean to say
exactly that. In the first part of that lengthy opinion, he cites case
after case of mistaken identity, and tries to show that he hasn’t the
slightest doubt of your sincerity; but all the same he implies that
your zeal has got the better of your judgment—and that is what hurts
most, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” replied Nick, nodding.

“Anyhow,” said Chick, smiling a bit grimly, “Jimmy seems to be on top
at the present moment. He has established his legal right to the name
of Dinwiddie; he has placed on record, legally, the death of Bare-Faced
Jimmy Duryea. He has won out.”

“For the present—yes.”

“But,” volunteered Adelina, “there is still the charge against him of
the theft of the diamond necklace, and the other jewels; and there
is the unpleasant fact that he posed as a single man, and affianced
himself to Lenore Remsen from whom he stole the necklace, when all the
time he was a married man. That——”

Nick Carter shrugged his shoulders so significantly that Adelina
stopped. Then she asked:

“What will he do about those charges?”

“He will manage to slip away from them,” replied the detective; “and,
for the present, I am quite content to let him do so. In fact, I would
rather he would succeed, for the moment.”

“Isn’t it an unfortunate circumstance,” asked Patsy, “that the Remsens
should have started away for an unlimited stay in Europe, the moment
after they had given their testimony?”

“Yes; and no. The additional testimony they might have given would have
done little or no good to our side of the case; at least, it would not
have injured Jimmy. He would have succeeded in establishing himself
just as firmly as he has now done, if they had remained. And, when all
is said, one cannot blame them for wishing to get out of the country.
It isn’t a very pleasant experience for people in their position to
have had their only daughter engaged to be married to a man who is even
suspected of having been the sort of crook that Bare-Faced Jimmy was,
to say nothing of the fact that he was already married.”

“I suppose that is why Theodore Remsen came out in that interview in
the paper and stated over his own signature that the report of his
daughter’s engagement to Jimmy was all a mistake; was not true, and
that there had never been the slightest foundation for the report.”

“Of course. Wouldn’t you do the same under like circumstances?”

“I don’t know but I would, at that.”

“We will not concern ourselves about that part of the affair,” said
the detective. “It is not vital to what I wish to accomplish in this
matter, whether Jimmy posed as a single man or not, or whether he
became engaged to Lenore Remsen, while he already had a wife living,
or not. It is not particularly vital whether he stole those jewels, or
not—save only from one standpoint.”

“What is that one?” Adelina asked him.

“That one standpoint is Nan Nightingale,” replied the detective.

The others were silent and waited for the detective to proceed with
what he was saying.

“The fact of the matter is right here,” Nick continued. “Up there at
the Remsen residence—The Birches—all of Nan’s previous history was
brought out. She confessed it all herself. She was all right after that
confession—so far as those who were present and heard it are concerned;
but she was not, and is not, all right in the estimation of thousands
of others who have had only the reports in the newspapers to direct
their thought.”

“I see,” said Adelina.

“Aside from those who were present in that house at the time of the
finding of the jewels, when I put the irons on Jimmy, nine out of ten
people believe to this day that Nan Nightingale knew more about the
disappearance of that necklace and the other jewels than any other
person. So you see for Nan’s sake, if for no other, the fact that
Ledger Dinwiddie is not Ledger Dinwiddie, but is really Bare-Faced
Jimmy, must be established. It is the only thing that can be done
to set her right, for, in doing it, we also prove that he was,
unquestionably, the thief.”

Patsy got upon his feet and crossed to the window. He stood there
for a moment and then turned about, delivering himself of an opinion
which was by no means original, since it has been voiced since time
immemorial by thousands of others. He said:

“I’m no lawyer, and I’m glad that I am not; but I do want to say this:
I think that many of the rules practiced in a court, governing the
admission of evidence, are far from right.”

“Why?” asked the detective, smiling.

“Because, as in this affair, every bit of testimony we relied on
relating to the engagement between Lenore Remsen and Jimmy was ruled
out; every question that Jimmy was asked relating to this wife of his,
who is said to have been a countess, or a duchess, or something of the
sort, was ruled out. We don’t know a thing about that, officially.”

“Has it ever occurred to you, Chick, or you, Patsy, to ask who and what
that woman, who is now Jimmy’s wife, has been in the past?”

“It had not—until this moment,” confessed Chick.

“I thought of her only as another possible victim of Jimmy’s,” said
Patsy.

“Well,” said the detective slowly, “in my opinion you will find that
she is a product of the underworld, just as Jimmy is one. This whole
thing was a conspiracy planned and hatched between those two. This
wife consented to leave him, for the time being, that there might be
no obstacle in the way of his marrying the millions that Lenore Remsen
would have brought to him.

“After Jimmy had succeeded in getting his clutches upon the aforesaid
millions by divorcing the wife who has been called Juno, and marrying
Lenore for her money, Lenore would have been put out of the way
quietly, and then Jimmy and Juno would have come together again to
remarry and enjoy the great fortune which could be obtained only by
sacrificing the life and happiness of a sweet girl.”

“Gee, Nick!” said Chick. “If I thought that——”

“I think it, Chick; and it is because I think it, and also for the sake
of Nan Nightingale, that I am determined to search this affair to the
bottom and to explore the whole rotten business.

“The weak point in Jimmy’s case is the woman, Juno,” said Nick.

“Just how do you mean that?” Chick asked his chief.

“I’ll give you a left-handed answer to that question,” replied the
detective. “I am not going to waste my time in trying to search out
what Jimmy has done and where he has been since he was supposed to have
died on that island in the Sound.”

“Why not?”

“Because the chances are about ten thousand to one that Jimmy has
covered up his tracks so thoroughly that there would be no tracing him.
He’s an adept at that sort of thing, as you know.”

“Yes.”

“There never was a craftier villain on earth than Jimmy; there never
was a more far-seeing one; there never was a man so well adapted to
throwing others off the scent as Jimmy has proved himself to be ever
since I have known anything about him.”

“Well?”

“And, to begin with, we already know that salient fact about him and
his present situation; but the point is, we cannot prove anything.”

“I know.”

“So does he know. And all the time he is laughing in his sleeve at us.
He knows that we know—and he doesn’t care a rap.”

“That is true enough.”

“And why? Simply because he knows also that we cannot establish
evidence that would be upheld in a court of law. That has been tried.
Jimmy has ceased to be Jimmy and has become Dinwiddie. His position
from that point is unassailable.”

“I guess you are right about that.”

“But, Chick, there never yet was a fortress so impregnable that it did
not have its one weak spot; just as the speed of a fleet is determined
by the slowest vessel in it, so is the strength of a fort established
by its weakest spot; and so is the invulnerability of evidence made
vulnerable.”

“And you look upon this woman, Juno, as being the weak spot in the
armor?”

“Precisely.”

“Have you ever seen her?”

“Not that I know of. The name means nothing, suggests nothing, to me;
but a name is of no importance.”

“No; the woman may have had a dozen names.”

“Well, Chick, I am going to look up that woman. The very circumstance
of her being so decidedly in the background just now, when Jimmy was
trying to marry that little Remsen girl, assures me that Juno was as
deeply concerned in the plot, as Jimmy. If she was as deep in the mud
as he was in the mire of it, it follows as naturally as two-plus-two,
that Juno not only knew Jimmy before she married him, but that she had
lived the same sort of life as he had. I’m going after that woman.”

“At once?”

“Yes. I’m going to leave Jimmy severely alone and trace the woman; but,
first, I’ve got to see her; to have a look at her; to make a sketch of
her face.”

“What am I to do in the case, Nick?”

“I’m going to give you the part that is really most difficult, because
it will be less likely to be productive of results,” replied the
detective.

“Well?”

“I’m going to send you out on Jimmy’s track. I want you to start at the
island.”

Chick nodded.

“I understand,” he said. “You want me to go there and see what can be
found concerning the supposed death and burial of Jimmy.”

“Exactly. When the time comes to bring forward the proofs which I am
confident that we shall find—the stronger we are in that quarter the
better it will be for us.”

“I see. I’m to keep on that lay, no matter whether I succeed in digging
up anything or not.”

“Exactly. Patsy will go with you and assist you.”

“You mean that you will work alone?”

“Not entirely alone. I think I will call upon Nan for assistance. But I
want you and Chick to bear in mind just one thing.”

“What is that?”

“No matter what comes to the office in the way of cases, everything
is to be turned down and put aside until this one is finished. Every
energy of this office, yours, Patsy’s, and mine, is to be devoted to
putting Bare-Faced Jimmy behind the bars. Understand that?”

“Yes. Thoroughly.”

“Well, with that understanding, go ahead. Be your own master. Do as you
want to do. Do not wait to ask a question of me. I shall go away this
afternoon. I won’t be back here in this office until I have solved this
case and am ready to put Jimmy where he belongs. It may take me six
days, and it may take me six months—but if it takes me a year to do it,
it shall be done just the same.”

It was only a few hours later when Nick Carter was seated in the parlor
of the little apartment which Nan Nightingale called home, in Riverside
Drive, and presently Nan entered the room and hurried toward him with
extended hand.

“I know what has brought you here, Mr. Carter,” she said, as she took
a seat opposite him. “I have read the morning papers containing the
report of that decision—and also an edition of one of the afternoon
papers, which is just out. I was finishing that article just as you
were announced.”

“Something in one of the afternoon papers?” returned Nick. “What is
that? I have not seen it.”

“I have it here. I will show it to you in a moment. Don’t you think it
is a remarkable thing that Jimmy should so thoroughly have established
himself that he was able to satisfy the court that he is Ledger
Dinwiddie and has not been Bare-Faced Jimmy?”

“Remarkable? Of course it is remarkable. It only goes to show what
a thorough plotter the fellow is. He had prepared himself for every
emergency before he started on this affair.”

“Yes. He was not so far wrong when he defied you up there at The
Birches, was he?”

“No; and he did defy me, too. He said that he could prove that he was
Dinwiddie, even while he did not hesitate to admit to me that he was
Jimmy. But what about that article in the afternoon paper? Tell me
about that.”

“Shall I tell you about it, or would you prefer to read it for
yourself?”

“Tell me about it. I am satisfied that you have gleaned all there is in
it.”

“Oh, it isn’t much; only one of Jimmy’s old tricks.”

“Old tricks? How is that?”

“Why, he has condescended to permit a reporter to interview him—about
his wife.”

“Ah! There ought to be some meat in that—for me.”

“I think there is. That is why I was so interested in it.”

“Tell me about it.”

“There is more than a column and a half in the story that the reporter
tells about the interview.”

“Yes? Well?”

“The account starts in by giving a resumé of the case. It tells
how Mr. Ledger Dinwiddie, the last of his race, broken in fortune,
land-poor, left his home in despair before he was seventeen, and had
never been heard of since then until a short time ago, when he suddenly
reappeared, bringing with him a beautiful wife.”

“Yes.”

“It tells how old friends of the family would never permit the lands of
the Dinwiddies to be sold for taxes, and how Jimmy paid up the interest
on the mortgages when he returned, and paid off the taxes. Then it
recites the remarkable case of his being mistaken for a criminal,
and how readily he proved that he was not—and goes into quite a long
explanation of a distant relationship existing between that dead
criminal and Ledger Dinwiddie, which accounts for the resemblance.”

“Oh, yes. Never mind all that, Nan. Get down to the part about the
wife. That is what interests me most just now.”

“In the interview Jimmy explains to the reporter that the alleged
engagement between him and Miss Remsen was in the nature of a joke. He
admits that there was some foundation for the report, but says it was
given out at the request of Miss Remsen herself—and, by the way, there
is a printed cablegram from Theodore Remsen which says that the stated
version of it is substantially correct.”

“Of course Remsen would say that. It lets him down easy and stops
gossip. Go on.”

“The impression that Jimmy succeeds in giving is to the effect
that Lenore Remsen’s father wanted her to marry a man she did not
admire—whose name is not mentioned.”

“Naturally, since there was no such man. But, go on.”

“And that it was a put-up job between Jimmy and Lenore that they
should pretend to be in love with each other in order that she might
escape the other man. That is all there is to it, save that Jimmy
speaks at length about his wife, whom he calls Juno.”

“Yes. Well, that is the part of it that I want to hear.”

“He says that soon after he left his home in Virginia he made the
acquaintance of the young woman, who is now his wife. That he fell in
love with her at once, but that because he had no means with which to
support a wife, he did not ask her to marry him until about a year
ago. And then, he states, it developed that she had been in love with
him all the time—and so they were married. A real love match. He says
that he adores his wife and that she is equally fond of him, and that
he makes this statement to the reporter in order that the world may
understand exactly how things stand, and may not misjudge him, or her,
ever again.”

“The cheek of the fellow is monumental, Nan.”

“It certainly is,” she replied.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                          A WOMAN OF MYSTERY.


“Where does Jimmy say that his wife is staying?” asked Nick, after a
pause.

“He does not say—more than that she happens to be absent. He insinuates
that she is out of the country—visiting relatives in her own country,
in fact, although he does not state where that is, or who the relatives
are.”

“I see. At all events she is not in evidence just now, Nan. Is that the
idea?”

“Yes.”

“That is significant, Nan.”

“Is it? Why so?”

“It suggests to me that there is some reason why she prefers to keep
out of sight at the moment when so much attention is directed toward
her.”

“That is very possible.”

“That brings me to the point about which I wished particularly to
question you.”

“What is that, Mr. Carter?”

“Nan, do you remember the occasion of our first meeting?”

“As if I ever would forget it!” she said reproachfully.

“Oh, I don’t mean the part of it that you are referring to, Nan. What I
did then, in assisting you to put behind you forever the life you had
been leading with that man, I would have done for anybody. I would be
glad to do it again for any other woman, circumstanced as you were.”

“I know that; but it does not render me the less grateful, for all
that.”

“Possibly not. But, Jimmy was just out of Sing Sing, then, after
serving the best part of a four years’ sentence.”

“Oh, yes, I remember it quite well.”

“You told me then, and in subsequent conversation, that you had known
Jimmy when you were children; that both of you came from good families
in England; that you had gone to South Africa as governess in the
family of an army officer; that a considerable time afterward Jimmy
drifted to that part of the world also; that your acquaintance, and
your childhood’s romance was renewed, and that you married him. Then
you came to this country together, and it was not until long afterward
that you discovered what his real occupation in life was. That is
substantially correct, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Nan, I never knew any of the particulars of that old life of
yours—I refer to the time when you and Jimmy were children. Will you
tell me about that now?”

“Must I?”

“I think so.”

“Why?”

“Because I think that this new woman in the case—this Juno who is now
his wife—also had to do with that old life.”

Nan shook her head in a decided manner.

“No,” she said, “I do not think that.”

“Nevertheless, it may be so. The woman is some one who has known all
about Jimmy, what he has been and what he is now. She did not marry
him, thinking he was Ledger Dinwiddie; she married him knowing who he
was, and helped him to carry out the deception—or, if the plot arose
after they were married, it is all the more proof that she is of his
own kind; a crook like he is.”

“Oh, yes, I agree to that. But—she might have known him after he went
to the bad, and I should assume that it is more likely that she did.”

“Nevertheless, tell me something about that old life.”

“No, Mr. Carter; please don’t ask me. At the risk of offending you I
must refuse. I am not the person I was then. That girl is dead; I will
not bring her to life. I am Nan Nightingale now, and no other. Even if
Jimmy should escape his just deserts, because of my reticence, I would
not speak.”

“Very well. Will you do another thing?”

“What is that?”

“Will you go with me and help to run Jimmy down?”

“Yes. Anywhere.”

“And for the sake of what I want to accomplish, will you become one of
my assistants for a time?”

“Yes.”

“Then that is settled.”

“Wait just a moment, Mr. Carter.”

“Well?”

“I don’t want you to think unkindly of me because I will not discuss my
girlhood, will you?”

“No. Certainly not.”

“I will say this much: My father and mother bore a title. By rights I
should have one now; but I am supposed to have died, and the title that
is mine is now borne by another—and I would not deprive her of it under
any circumstances. Also, there was an episode in my life then which I
do not care to have raked up again, now, that it is forgotten.”

“Then let it rest.”

“You are sure that you will not think me ungrateful?”

“Quite sure, Nan. Forget it.”

“Thank you. One thing more. You know that Jimmy’s real name is Howard
Drummond; you know that that is one of the proudest family names in
England.”

“Yes.”

“Well, if in searching and bringing to justice Bare-Faced Jimmy it
should develop to your understanding, will you keep my secret and never
talk about it?”

“Yes. I promise.”

“In that case I will assist you all I can.”

“Good. Now let us talk for a moment about this woman who is called
Juno, and who seems to be Jimmy’s present wife.”

“Yes.”

“Does the name she bears—Juno—suggest anything to you?”

“Do you mean that I may have known her in the past? No; it does not.”

“Nor her description?”

“I have not heard that. Describe her.”

“First, she seems to be a woman of extraordinary beauty, and of an
uncommon type I should say, from all that I have heard.”

“Light or dark?”

“A pronounced brunette—rather of the Spanish type, I should say, from
what I have been told; or the Italian.”

“No; it suggests nothing. Perhaps if I should see her, or a picture of
her, it might suggest something; but at the present moment I have no
information to offer.”

“When you were a child you were—as children are so—practically in love
with Jimmy, were you not?”

“Yes. I never got over it, either, until I discovered that he was a
professional criminal.”

“Was there not another young woman, or girl, at that time, who——”

She held up a hand and stopped him.

“Yes,” she said, “there was such a girl. It was to her that I referred
when I said that there was an episode in that past life of mine, when I
was a girl, which I did not care to recall.”

“I see. Tell me something about that girl.”

“Why? With the idea that she may be this Juno?”

“Yes.”

“That is impossible.”

“Why so?”

“Because that girl is—dead.”

“My dear Nan, the fact that one is reported dead does not make that
person dead. We have sufficient proof of that in the present existence
of Jimmy Duryea.”

“But I saw this girl in her coffin.”

“I supposed that I saw Jimmy in his coffin. You have not forgotten
that, have you?”

“No.”

“Nor that you were there on that island where he was supposed to have
died, just before his death was reported? That you, in person, attended
what was supposed to be Jimmy’s funeral?”

“No. I haven’t forgotten any of that. But this case is different.”

“How is it different? Tell me that.”

“Because in a way I was responsible for the death of that girl. Oh, I
do not want to go into it at all, please.”

“Well, never mind that part of it, then. Tell me something about the
girl herself. You can have no objections to that, can you?”

“No; only it pains me to speak of it at all. She lived near to where I
did, and where Jimmy did—or Howard, as I called him in those days.”

“Yes.”

“She was two years younger than I, but was more developed, and looked
and appeared that much my elder. She was a beauty, and, strangely
enough, since you will have it so, she was a pronounced brunette. Need
I tell you her name?”

“Only her given name, at the present time, and unless there is need of
it, I will not ask for the other one.”

“Her given name was Sarah, and that name became changed to Siren, which
was appropriate in every way. Everybody who knew her called her Siren,
and even the servants addressed her as the Lady Siren. I suppose,
really it came from that fact that the average cockney English servant
pronounce the letter A like the letter I. They say tyke for take, and
sy for say, and so they called her Lady Syra, for Lady Sarah, and Lady
Syra became Lady Siren. That is the only way in which I can explain it.”

“I think it a very reasonable explanation. She was beautiful as a
child?”

“Wondrously so. But I don’t see why we need speak of her at all.”

“Only because I have the notion that this woman, who is now Jimmy’s
wife, is associated in some manner with that early life of his. I may
be all wrong as to that view of it, but at least I want to try it out.”

“But this particular girl cannot be, I tell you. She is dead—more than
ten years.”

“And Jimmy has been dead—how long? Yet he is alive. I will ask you
just one more question about this Siren, and if you can reply to it
satisfactorily, I will drop the subject. The question is this: Did she
die in quite a natural manner, and at her home, or——”

Nan raised one hand as if to ward off a blow; then she replied:

“No. She did not. I see that I must tell you about it.”

“Please,” replied the detective.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                           GOING AFTER JUNO.


The tale that Nan told to the detective was given without names, or
localities, more than those already given here; and the story need not
be repeated in detail.

It was the story of a highborn girl, left motherless at her birth,
and fatherless within a few years thereafter, who is left to the care
of governess and servants, and allowed to run wild and to develop a
thoroughly willful nature to its fullest extent.

Who, from being ungovernable, became unmanageable; from being reckless,
became a wild thing; who developed a terrible temper; who did things
that no well-bred girl should have done; who insisted upon having her
own way in everything, and who cared not a whit for the opinions or the
criticisms of others—and who came to the ultimate consequence of such
an ungoverned, non-regulated life, and finally disappeared from her
home.

Nan’s story told how this girl, months afterward, was found in London,
by relatives of the family, in a hospital, where she was dying. Soon
after she died, and was taken to the house of her ancestors and buried
in the family plot.

That was practically all of the sad story that need be developed here,
and Nick Carter listened to it without comment.

There was no earthly reason why he should suppose that the Juno in whom
he was interested at that moment was the girl who had been called Siren
in her youth.

Yet, he had that intuitive feeling that they were the same—and without
a reason.

“Nan,” he said, at the conclusion of the tale, “I have asked you to
assist me in this matter. I had intended to take you to Virginia with
me, believing that there might be a something about the appearance of
this Juno to associate her with the past of Jimmy Duryea. But I have
thought better of taking you down there. I will go to Virginia alone.”

“Oh, thank you. I do not care to go.”

“But,” he continued, with a smile, “I shall ask you to do a more
difficult thing; and unless you can and will do it for me, I shall be
compelled to do it for myself.”

“What is it?” she asked, somewhat startled by his manner.

“Wait a moment. Have you ever been back among those scenes of your
childhood since you left them to go to South Africa?”

“No,” she replied.

“Well, I want you to go back there and——”

“Oh, no, no, no!”

“Either you must go there, or I shall.”

“What is it that you would have me do there?”

“You need not, necessarily, go to the old home. Your search will be
in London, rather than in that neighborhood. But I want you to search
out the career of that girl from the time she left home until it was
reported that she had died in a London hospital.”

“Must I do that, Mr. Carter?”

“Unless you prefer to leave it for me to do. But you are in possession
of facts which will aid you materially in such a search, and you can
make it more quickly, because you will know exactly where to go in
doing it. I would lose valuable time in getting those facts together,
unless you related them to me, and you are reluctant to do that. So go
there and make the search in your own way. I do not require of you all
the names and particulars; all I wish to know is the result.”

“And you? What will you be doing in the meantime?”

“I shall go to Virginia. I start this evening. I am convinced that the
only weak spot in the armor of Bare-Faced Jimmy is through that woman,
Juno. I shall search her out in some way. I shall follow on her back
track—if there is one. It may be that my search and yours will bring
us face to face in the end—and it may not be. Nobody can tell as to
that.”

“No; nobody can tell as to that.”

“So, you will do as I ask?”

“Yes, since you insist upon it.”

“Then you will sail for England to-morrow. I will see that your passage
is engaged on one of the fast steamers. Chick will come here with the
tickets, and will take you to the steamer. At London you will stop
at Gray’s Hotel, in Dover Street, Piccadilly, at which place I will
communicate with you. You will address me at my house, and I will
arrange so that any message from you will be forwarded to me at once.”

“What sort of information must I send to you?” she asked.

“You need send none at all unless it is to the point. If you find, for
instance, that the report of the death of Siren was not true—if you
should become convinced that the report was a subterfuge of the family,
to put a stop to gossip and to preserve a good name, you are to inform
me of that.”

“But how will that be of any assistance to you?”

“It will assist me only in the dénouement. In order to compel those
two plotters who have stolen the name of Dinwiddie, to confess their
crimes, I must corner them. The only way in which it can be done is to
threaten them with complete exposure. I think that even now you are
almost in a position to make that threat, if you would do it. I must
attain to that position. That is all, Nan.”

Nan smiled up at him, sadly.

“Oh, if Jimmy had only died, really, when it was supposed he did,” she
said.

“Yes; or if that girl, Siren, had not left home when she did. What is
the use of all that sort of reasoning, Nan? None at all. You will go?”

“Yes.”

“And try your best to do all that I have asked?”

“Yes.”

“And make reports to me, as I have outlined?”

“Yes.”

“Then good-by. I shall be in Virginia in the morning.”

Nevertheless, it was the following evening, at dark, when Nick Carter
arrived in the little village where the supposed Ledger Dinwiddie had
been received with such acclaim upon his return to “his own,” and with
a wife.

The detective knew that Jimmy was still in New York, and that was one
reason why he hastened his movements. He wished to be there on the
ground, at Kingsgift, before the supposed heir to it returned.

I wonder if any of the readers realize how entirely remote from the
news of the day some portions of the State of Virginia are, right now?

It is a fact that of two letters deposited in a mail box in the City
of New York, at the same time, one addressed to Denver, Colorado, and
the other to Hague, Virginia, the former will arrive first at its
destination—for the Hague is sixty miles from the nearest railway
station, and the river boats do not carry the mails. And this fact will
suffice to explain how it was that nothing was known in that locality
of the strange doings of Ledger Dinwiddie, in New York.

But Nick drove a span of horses from Fredericksburg, sixty miles away;
he arrived at Hague at dark; he drove on straight through the one
street of the village, and out toward Kingsgift, which is eight miles
farther.

Hospitality is a watchword through all that part of Virginia.

There are no hotels, or inns, or anything of the sort, save only in the
larger towns, and they are remote from one another.

If a traveler is caught upon the road at dinner time and wants a meal
he has only to approach the nearest house, which may stand a mile away
from the highway, and ask for it. He gets it, and he must not offer to
pay for it, either.

The same unwritten law applies to the matter of a night’s lodging—and
Nick Carter intended to make the most of it upon his arrival at
Kingsgift, and had timed himself accordingly.

It was after eight o’clock in the evening when he drove upon the
estate, and had still another mile to drive before he could reach the
house. In due time he stopped his horses before the door, got down
and tied them—and by that time a negro servant was at hand, ready to
receive him.

“Hello, uncle,” said the detective. “I suppose your master can put me
up for the night, can’t he?”

“I reckon so, sah,” was the reply. “Mistur Dinwiddie ain’t to home,
sah, but dat don’ make no sort uh diff’ence, sah. You is welcome, jes
de same. Whar you done come from, sah?”

“I am from the North, uncle.”

“Hush, chile! Is you, now! Dat mus’ be a won’ful country up dar, sah,
from all I hearn tell about it. Jes you walk right into de house, sah;
I’ll take care of the hosses—an’ they sure is fine ones. Looks to me
like they done come from Fredericksburg. Reckon I’s seen ’em afore,
sah.”

“Perhaps you have. Is your mistress at home, uncle?”

“Well, sah, she ain’t rightly at home, nohow; but den she am at home,
too.”

“How is that, uncle? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“It’s dissaway, sah. She says to me, ‘Uncle Henery’—dat’s my name,
sah—‘Uncle Henery,’ she says, ‘if any pusson done ask fo’ me, you tol
’em dat I is not at home, ceptin’ it’s sure-nuff home folks what asks,
an’ in dat case you can say dat I is at home.’ Dat’s de way in, sah;
right dar. Yo’ jes rap on dat do’ and my ol woman’ll opin it fo’ you.”

Nick stood still until the negro had led the horses toward the stable,
and then he mounted the steps of the wide veranda, and rapped with the
metal knocker against the door.

There was a long wait before it was opened, and then a negress, as
black as the proverbial ace of spades, appeared so suddenly that Nick
was startled, for he had not heard her approach. She peered out at him
after throwing the door widely ajar.

“Hello, auntie!” he exclaimed. “Can you take in a traveler, and give
him something to eat, and a bed for the night?”

“I reckon so. Yassir. Come right in. You is welcome. Dar ain’t nobody
home ‘ceptin’ me an’ dat good-for-nothin’ nigger, Henery, but I reckon
we can make you comfortable; yassir.”

“Isn’t your mistress at home?” asked Nick, remembering what Henry had
said on that point.

“No, sah. We is de onliest ones to home, jes now. Come in, sah. Mistuh
Dinwiddie, he’s in de Norf somewheres—I dunno whar—and de missus she’s
in de Souf somewheres—I can’t jes’ tell you where, and we is de onliest
ones yere; dat’s a fact.”

“But Uncle Henery said that Mrs. Dinwiddie was at home,” said Nick,
entering the house.

“Huh! You mustn’t mind what dat lyin’ nigger done tell you, sah. He’s
suttinly de biggest liah dis side uh de Rappahannock, dat’s what he is.
Now, sah, you jes’ make yo’self comftil till I rustles yo’ somethin’ to
eat.”

Before the detective could say another word she had taken herself off,
leaving him alone in the room into which he had been ushered, where a
single kerosene lamp, heavily shaded, burned upon a centre table.

“So,” he mused to himself, “Juno is at home; and Juno is not at home.
Well, we will see about that, presently.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                                 JUNO.


The house remained silent while Nick Carter waited.

Indeed there was barely a sound to be heard at all, even from without,
so remote was the place, for Kingsgift, comprising more than eight
hundred acres of land, much of it forest, was bounded on three sides
by water, and on the fourth by a narrow neck of land only, so that
the nearest neighbor, save for the negro tenants, lived several miles
distant.

While the time passed during which the negress was preparing food
for the detective, he amused himself by inspecting the room in which
he waited. It was evidently a reception room, used only for the
accommodations of people like Nick Carter, who appeared there without
any definite purpose—apparently—and presently went on their ways again,
never to be heard of more.

After a time the negress reappeared and invited him to follow her; and
he was conducted to the spacious dining room where Liza had spread food
enough for three hungry men.

“It’s on’y jes’ a cold snack, honey,” she said apologetically, “but
it sure was de bestes’ I cud do on so short notice. Dar ain many
strangers what gits in h’yere from de main road. It suttinly is
clar-to-goodnes clean off’n de trabbled road.”

“So your master isn’t at home, eh?” said the detective, helping himself
to the good things before him.

“No, sah, dat he ain’t.”

“And your mistress is away, too?”

“Yassir; yassir. She done gone away, too.”

“It is rather strange that uncle should have said she was here.”

“Say, ain’t I done tol yo’ dat my ol man is de hugest-most liah in de
worl’? My, my, yo’ don’ wanttuh go for to b’lieve wat dat man tells
yo’. Tain’t safe, nohow. He suttinly is de onliest man I know what
can’t tell de truth; he suttinly is.”

“Well, auntie, maybe you can tell me how to go from here to Hague. I
want to go there in the morning, after breakfast.”

“In de mawnin’? Yo’ jes’ drives ’long de road. Dere ain’t nothin’ else
to do. Reckon yo’ must ha’ come straight through Hague when you done
come yere. When you is quite finished eatin’, sah, I’ll show you to
your room whar you is to sleep, and you kin go to baid jes’ as soon as
yo’ is a mind to.”

“Oh, I won’t go to bed right away, auntie. I’ll sit out there on the
veranda and smoke,” said the detective, rising, for he had eaten his
fill. “You can show me where the room is, if you wish, and I will go
to it after I have smoked my cigar.”

“Lord bless yo’, sah, you is welcome to smoke right in yo’ room, all
yo’ pleases,” said the woman hastily. So hastily that Nick decided at
once that she wished to get him stowed away immediately. He was just
turning over in his mind the question as to why the woman desired that,
when he heard the sound of horses’ hoofs on the roadway, and then a
musical voice called from the darkness:

“Lize! Lize! Oh, uncle! Here I am!”

The negro woman looked appealingly toward the detective, as if she
wished that he would hide himself away somewhere. Nick stepped quickly
to the door, threw it ajar, and then stood there, framed in the
opening, with the light of the room behind him so that it fell full
upon the face and figure of a woman who had pulled her saddle horse
close to the stepping block, and was just gathering the reins in her
hand preparatory to dismounting.

She straightened quickly when she saw Nick, and for an instant it
seemed to him as if she was on the point of urging the horse away
again. But if she felt the impulse, she controlled it; and she said
coolly:

“Good evening, sir.” Then she called past Nick to the negress, adding:
“Where is your mistress, Liza? I rode over to make a call upon her.”

“She done gone out, missy, jes’ a lil’ while ago, for sure,” the
negress replied quickly, and the detective could not repress a smile
at the transparency of the falsehood, or, rather, at the attempt to
deceive.

It was evident that the woman on the horse’s back saw the expression on
Nick Carter’s face, and read it correctly, for she instantly broke into
a laugh, and exclaimed:

“Oh, dear, it isn’t the slightest use to tell Aunt Liza to say that I’m
not at home. She cannot understand how a person can be not at home and
in the house at the same time. But I won’t try to deceive you, sir. I
am Mrs. Dinwiddie, and if you are a stranger, you are welcome to such
hospitality as I can provide.”

She started to dismount, and Nick stepped forward to assist her; but
with a quick, light spring, she was out of the saddle before he could
touch her.

There was no mistaking the accent of the woman when she spoke, or
rather, there could be no two opinions in regard to her enunciation.
It was decidedly English, and yet with so faint a trace of it that she
probably thought, herself, that she spoke it like an American.

It has been said that the real English sing their words, and she sang
hers, certainly, and with a voice that sounded capable of singing
anything.

“I found myself in this neighborhood a little while ago, and made bold
to ask for accommodation,” explained the detective, approaching nearer
to her; and he perceived that she answered very well indeed to the
meager description he had of her.

There was no denying her beauty, or that it belonged to a class by
itself.

She was the brunette that had been partly described to him; the woman
with the luminous eyes, with the perfect figure, the dark hair, the
olive complexion, which was yet too fair to be olive. She was Juno; he
was assured of that; and hence was the woman with whom he wished to
converse.

As soon as she dismounted and after replying to his statement with a
word or two, she led the way into the house, and to a sitting room
which Nick had not seen before.

“You are a stranger in this part of the country?” she said inquiringly,
after indicating a chair for him to occupy, and disposing of her own
person on a low rocker. “Kingsgift is such an out of the way place that
strangers rarely honor us; still, you are welcome. It is unfortunate
that my husband is absent, else he would entertain you.”

“Madam, thank you,” replied Nick, accepting the proffered chair. “You
are very kind. The truth is, I was informed that you, also, were
absent.”

Again she indulged in that musical laugh of hers, which was almost
contagious.

“That is a little story of mine,” she said, “but I cannot make Liza
keep to it. Since my husband went away, I have preferred to keep to
myself, and I permitted it to be thought around here that I had gone
with him—or in another direction. But it makes no difference. I believe
that you have not yet told me your name, sir.”

“I am Mr. Carter, from New York,” he replied, giving his own name in
spite of the fact that he was partly disguised. He wished now that he
was not.

“Then you are a long way from home, are you not?”

“A very long way; yes, indeed; and my horses were about played out when
I arrived here. I doubt if they could have gone three miles farther.”

“And you were bound for——” she stopped with the rising inflection.

“In the morning I will go to a place called Hague, if some one here
will direct me.”

“Did you come from the north?”

“I drove from Fredericksburg.”

“Indeed? And arrived here? Why, you must have gone directly through
Hague, unless you took the wrong road and came by a very devious
course.”

“People who drive along strange highways at night are apt to take the
wrong road, are they not?” he replied, smiling. “But, madam, since
your husband is not at home, I will go on again as soon as my horses
are rested, if you prefer it,” he added.

“Oh, no; there is no reason why you should do that, sir. Make yourself
as comfortable as you can while you are here. You will excuse me, of
course—and, as I probably will not be up when you leave in the morning,
I will also say good-by.”

She inclined her head, and was gone before he could venture a protest.

He had hoped that she would be inclined to remain and talk with him
for a while, but such a proceeding was evidently furthest from her
thoughts. And so Nick Carter found himself alone, almost as soon as the
purpose of his visit was achieved.

For he had accomplished the purpose of that visit, almost as soon as he
saw Juno and heard her speak.

He had satisfied himself of two things; one was that he had never seen
her before, and the other was that he would be able to recognize her
again under any circumstances.

For a time after she left him he remained standing where he had risen
to bid her good night, watching the closed door by which she had passed
from the room. He was thinking to himself:

“A wonderful woman! Truly a remarkable woman—and as beautiful as she is
remarkable. No person who has ever seen her face and looked into her
eyes could forget either; no one who has ever heard the sound of her
voice could forget it. She has a wonderful charm; a quick intelligence;
a keen perception.”

He stopped at that expression, “a keen perception.”

He asked himself if by any possibility her perceptions were
sufficiently keen to have suggested to her the explanation of his call
there; and he replied to his own thought:

“If she is the sort of woman I have believed her to be she would not be
deceived by the explanation I offered of my presence here. She would
know at once that I did not come here by accident.”

However, if Juno knew or guessed such a thing, she did not show it at
all.

She had acted throughout in a perfectly natural manner. The most
critical could have had no fault to find with her conduct, or with her
manner of receiving the detective.

The negress, Liza, entered the room a moment later, evidently sent
there by her mistress, and the detective followed her to the room that
had been assigned to him.

An old-fashioned teester bed, surmounted by a resplendent canopy,
waited there to receive him, and he was tired enough to have taken
advantage of its comforts at once; but another duty demanded his
attention first.

From the lining of his coat, where he had cut a place to receive it,
he drew forth several sheets of drawing paper; from another pocket,
pencils; and then he drew forward under the light the drop leaf
mahogany table, and set himself to work on a reproduction of the
features of the beautiful woman who had entertained him so short a time.

He made a profile; he made a full view drawing; he made a
three-quarters. He drew a picture of her standing; another sketch
represented her in the saddle, as he had first seen her. Still another
showed her seated in the low rocker in the sitting room where she had
talked with him only a few moments.

In all he made eight sketches of Juno, for it was an art which his
father had compelled him to acquire when he was learning to be a
detective—to draw with great accuracy from memory.

When he had finished them and raised them before his eyes for his own
inspection he nodded his head, well satisfied with the result he had
achieved. He had eight fairly good likenesses of Juno to work with.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                          A DANGEROUS WOMAN.


“Without a doubt,” said the chief of the secret police of Paris, taking
the several drawings from the desk in front of him and examining them
one by one.

They were greatly improved since that night when Nick Carter made them
in the room he was occupying at Kingsgift, in Virginia.

With those original sketches as guides he had made on the way across
the ocean, several finished drawings of Juno, and these were what he
now exhibited to the chief. Two weeks, lacking one day, had passed
since then, and Nick was in Paris.

He had already visited London and Scotland Yard, where no information
was obtainable—that is, such information as he sought; but he had
determined to visit every capital in Europe before he returned to the
United States.

The detective was convinced—as he had been convinced all along—that
Juno had a history somewhere in Europe, and that if he searched for it
he would find it.

He had arrived that morning in Paris and had lost no time in
presenting himself to the chief of the secret police, who was an old
acquaintance. As soon as he was received in the private office of that
great man, he had said:

“Chief”—we use a free translation of all that passed between them—“I
have here a few drawings, made by myself, of a woman whom I wish to
identify. I think it more than likely that you will know her. Will you
look at them?”

“Assuredly.”

Then the detective had passed out one of the drawings, putting it face
upward on the desk in front of the chief; and the latter had exclaimed
at once:

“‘The Leopard!’ Of course it is ‘The Leopard.’” And then he had added
as we have noted it down here. “Without a doubt.”

Nick Carter raised his brows, interrogatively.

“‘The Leopard?’” he repeated questioningly.

“Yes. That is the name by which she is best known, Carter. She had a
different name for use in each one of the capitals of Europe, but ‘The
Leopard’ is the one by which she is best known, and more generally
recognized. I had been wondering what had become of her.”

“So you know all about her, chief?”

“All about her? No, indeed; very little about her, as a matter of
fact—and a very great deal about her, too.”

“Isn’t that statement of yours rather ambiguous?”

“Yes, it is; but it comprehends precisely what I wished to say.”

“Would you mind being more direct about it?”

“I’ll be as direct as I can. What do you desire to know about her?”

“Everything.”

“Ah, my dear friend, Carter, but that is impossible.”

“Then all that you can tell me about her.”

“That is different. Yet—if you were to give me the precise line
concerning which you wish information we might get at it sooner.”

“Why? What is the matter with general information concerning her?”

“There is no such thing as general information concerning her. She is
not ‘general’ in any sense of the word. She is a many-sided woman.
Young, you will say? Yes; but not so young as she appears to be.
Beautiful? Ah, as a witch! Fascinating? She is an houri. There are no
words to describe her accurately. What is the circumstance which leads
you to make inquiries concerning her, my friend?”

The detective hesitated a moment; then he said:

“She is just now engaged, in company with a man whom we know on our
side of the water as Bare-Faced Jimmy, in rather a large scheme. Jimmy
has stolen the identity of a young Virginian who is doubtless dead—it
isn’t unlikely that Jimmy murdered him and that this woman helped him
do it. ‘The Leopard,’ as you call her, has married Jimmy——”

“Wait, wait, wait! Married, you say? Impossible!”

“Eh? Why impossible?”

“Because, why should she have married a criminal, when she could have
had her pick of titles over here many times?”

“That is a question I cannot answer; only there is no doubt that she is
married to Jimmy.”

The chief of the secret police of Paris shook his head with emphasis.

“Impossible!” he said again, with conviction.

“Why?” repeated the detective.

“Because—ah, who can give a reason for what women do, or refuse to do?
Not I, although I have been studying them for years.”

“But you have a reason for such a decided opinion, chief.”

“Assuredly. Of course, Carter. There is a reason. We have it set down
in our _dossier_ of her in the books; there it is a cut and dried
opinion; just a practical one. Perhaps that is the answer you want to
your question.”

“Perhaps it is. Let me hear it.”

“Wait. I will send for the book.”

“No. Tell me about it, and her, first. I would rather have your version
of it. Later, if you will permit it I will read the _dossier_.”

“Assuredly you shall read it.”

“Now, what is that cut and dried reason? Tell me that. I have an idea
that it will supply some sort of a pointer in the investigation I am
making.”

“Possibly. Who knows? I have just told you that she might have had her
pick of titles, here in France; or Austria; or Germany; or Italy; or
even in Russia. Everybody who came in contact with her fell in love
with her. She has been the ruin of a score of good men in the secret
police of several countries. Two of my own men committed suicide
because of her. She led them to betray their trusts, and so, dishonored
them. Ah, she is a wonder, that woman! That leopard!”

“But that is not the reason you spoke about for her not marrying.”

“No, it is this. There was a Duc de Luvois—a rich man with an honored
name, which he offered to bestow upon her, together with his fortune.
He laid them both at her feet, and she refused them and him. It was her
reply to him that is used now in the _dossier_, as the reason why she
will never marry.”

“Good. What was that reply, chief?”

“The duke repeated it to a friend of his before he shot himself after
her refusal. ‘She told me,’ he said to his friend, ‘that there is only
one name in all the world which she will ever consent to bear, and that
as there is small chance of that name ever being offered to her is not
likely that she would ever marry.’ Now you have it, Carter. That is the
cut and dried reason. Cannot you read between the words all that they
imply?”

“Yes; I think so. Still, I would like to have your version, chief.”

“You shall, then.”

“Thank you.”

“I told you a moment ago that while we know a great deal about her, we
know, in fact, a very little. When I made that remark I meant that we
know absolutely nothing concerning her history before she arrived at
womanhood. In other words, we know everything about her, for the past
eight years—and we know absolutely nothing concerning her before that
time. We do not know where she came from or what her country is. Have
you got that in your mind?”

“Yes.”

“Well, now refer again to what she told the duke when he asked her to
be his wife.”

“I do.”

“There can be only one explanation of that expression. It meant, if
it meant anything at all, that once, before we knew anything about
her, she loved a man who was the cause, directly or indirectly, of her
entering upon a career that brought her to the notice of the police. It
meant that the man is still alive, and that he might yet offer her his
name, and that if he did so, she would accept it; and that if he failed
to do so, she would never accept any other name. I know that I am a
romantic Frenchman, but that is the way I read that answer she made to
the Duc de Luvois.”

“Very well, chief, I accept your version.”

“Yet you say that she is married.”

“Yes; there is no doubt of it.”

“But you suggest that the man she has married is a criminal.”

“He is one.”

“Then I do not believe——”

“Wait, chief.”

“Well?”

“Suppose that the man was not always a criminal? Suppose that once upon
a time he bore a splendid name, and was in line to succeed to a title?
Suppose——”

The chief half started from his chair, then sank back again into its
depths.

“You mean that she has married the only man she would give her liberty
to—the man to whom she referred in that talk with the duke?”

“Yes.”

“And that he is now a criminal, and that you are on his track—and hers?”

“Yes, again.”

“By Jove, Carter, I cannot believe it! Do you know who she is?”

“No.”

“But you are on the track of finding out?”

“Yes; if you will assist me, chief.”

“You may be sure that I will do that, Carter, to the extent of my
ability; and of everything that this office can supply. Where is she
now? In America?”

“Yes.”

“Look here, Carter; before you go more deeply into this affair I should
tell you one thing about the woman.”

“Well?”

“Although she has been the cause of many a crime, and is responsible
for the sudden taking off of many men, although she has filled a large
place in our records for a long time, there is not, to-day, a thing
against her for which she could be arrested, with the least chance
of conviction. It has even been said of her that she has lived a
spotlessly moral life, and so far as my own knowledge goes, it is the
truth. But, she is none the less a dangerous woman.”

“I know. I have seen her.”

“Ah; then you do know. Why, my friend, she even tried her wiles upon
me—and I nearly fell. It was chance that saved me, rather than my own
good sense.”

“And you are more than half in love with her yet, chief. I could see
that when you looked at her picture.”

“No; I am not in love with her; not in the least. But I am fascinated
by her. And there is a difference, Carter.”



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                        TRAILED BY FATALITIES.


Although the detective had been in London before he visited Paris, he
had not sought Nan, who was in that city on the quest he had given her;
just now, in talking with the chief, he half wished that he had done so.

But he was satisfied that he had not made a mistake in his conjectures
concerning Juno.

She had been a dangerous woman always. According to the conversation
the detective had had with Nan—always provided that this woman was the
same who had once been Siren—she had begun to scatter danger around
her, even when she was still a child. The peril of her propinquity had
grown greater with the physical development until now even the chief of
the secret police of Paris acknowledged that he had nearly been one of
her victims.

While the detective was studying the chief, the chief was contemplating
him. It was the latter who spoke first.

“I wish, Carter, that you would take me more into your confidence,” he
said. “If I was made aware of precisely what you want, it might be that
I could help you. Or, will you have a look at the _dossier_ first?”

“The _dossier_, please; after that I will try to be quite frank. But,
first—you assure me that this woman has no criminal record?”

“None that could be designated as such. You will discover all that when
you read the _dossier_.”

“Will you tell me just why she has made herself so prominently a figure
for the police to study?”

“Ah! That is different. ‘The Leopard’ has been what you might call ‘a
near-criminal’ ever since she first came to our notice; but she has
never been quite one, that we can ascertain, or prove.”

“I see. Will you tell me how she first attracted the attention of the
police of Paris? That might be interesting.”

“Yes. That was a curious case. There was a certain Prince Turnieff
here in Paris as a diplomatic agent of the Russian government. We
were keeping half an eye upon the prince, not being quite sure of his
status, and we noticed that he was frequently seen in the company of a
beautiful young woman who was a stranger to us.”

“And that woman was Juno?”

“Eh? Who?”

“The woman you call ‘The Leopard.’ I know her by the name of Juno.”

“Ah; an apt name. It fits her. Yes; that woman was—Juno.”

“Well?”

“It was known that the prince was a very rich man in his own right.
Whatever his capacity was here in representing his government, he lived
in regal style, spent money lavishly, possessed a fortune in jewels and
precious stones, and did what in your country you would call cutting a
wide swath. He was also a handsome man, young and gifted. Just the sort
of a man that the average woman would admire. See?”

“Perfectly.”

“He lived in a palace in the Faubourg St. Germain, which he had leased,
furnished; he maintained a retinue of servants and lived like royalty.
One day, at four o’clock in the afternoon, he was found dead in the
library of that palace. There was a bullet hole in his right temple,
and he had died instantly.

“But, Carter, there seemed to be no doubt that he had killed himself.
Everything in the room bore evidence of that, even to a half-written
note that he had left on the table near where the body was discovered.

“But the last person who was known to have been with him was the
woman you call Juno, and whom I call ‘The Leopard.’ She was arrested,
questioned, subjected to every art that the French police employ to
force her to tell all she knew of the circumstances, but we might just
as well have left her alone, so far as any result was obtained from
her. She smiled at us, defied us, bewitched us, fascinated all of us.
That was the time when I so nearly fell under her spell myself. She was
permitted to go; but ever after that we felt it our duty to keep her
under close surveillance.

“But that is not all of the story, as it relates to Prince Turnieff.

“I have said that he made a great display of wealth; that he had in his
possession several fortunes in jewels. I should have added that he did
no business at the banks, and that because of that, it was assumed that
he had brought with him all the cash he required.

“It was estimated that he must have had a million francs or more in
cash in his house at the time of his death, to say nothing of the
jewels. When I tell you that after his death there was no trace found
of either cash or jewels, and that none of it has ever been seen
since, you will understand how it was that Juno, as you call her, was
suspected.”

The detective nodded.

“Still,” continued the chief, “there was nothing against the woman. It
could not even be established that she had been other than a friend and
a companion of the rich prince. On that day when he killed himself—or
was presumed to have done so—she had been with him in his library
only a short time, and it was not until more than two hours after her
departure that the body was discovered.

“You wished to know what it was that brought her first to our
attention; that was the circumstance.”

“And the next one? What was that?”

“It happened to be another victim—if I may use the term. This time it
was an Austrian. We did not know till after his death that he was a spy
in the service of Austria, but that developed later.”

“Did the Austrian also kill himself?”

“No; he was murdered in cold blood. But it happened more than an hour
after he had parted with your Juno, and there was not a thing to
connect her with the crime, save that she had been with him an hour
previously—and that all his money and valuables had disappeared at the
time of his death. He was killed while he was the occupant of a closed
carriage in which they had been riding together; the carriage stopped
at the door where she lived to put her down, and the driver testified
that the man was alive after she left him.

“He was a diplomatic agent, also; and, as in the other case, it
was said that papers of great value, as well as other things, had
disappeared from his person.

“I could give you other incidents of the same sort, Carter, that have
happened in her career. The police of St. Petersburg could do the same.
Vienna, Berlin, and other centres of activity could each add a quota;
and there you are. Now, I will ask you to read her _dossier_, and
after that we will discuss her further, if you desire it.”

The chief touched a button and gave a direction; and, presently, with
an open volume before him, Nick withdrew into a corner and passed half
an hour in studying what had been written down in it under the name of
“The Leopard.”

At the end of that time he closed the volume and drew his chair forward.

“The _dossier_ tells me nothing new,” he said to the chief. “It gives
me no further information than that already supplied by you, save that
it goes into details rather more particularly.”

“Exactly.”

“I find that the part which interests me most is in that sentence
already quoted, used by her in her rejection of the suit of the Duc
de Luvois. I believe, chief, that I can establish the identity of the
woman, through an agent of mine who is now in London. I think that I
can do so, but I am not certain as yet.”

“Then you will accomplish more than all my force has been able to do,
Carter.”

“Through an accident, believe me; not through lack of zeal, or because
of deficient ability on the part of your men.”

“That’s as it may be. Are you willing to tell me who you think she is?”

“Unless you insist, I would rather keep that to myself until I am
certain.”

“Very well. I cannot blame you for that. Does the woman know that you
are on her track? Does she suspect that you are searching out her
record?”

“She suspects; I do not think she knows.”

“You are positive that she suspects?”

“No; I am not positive; but I suppose she does suspect. I am morally
certain of it.”

“Carter, have you read that _dossier_ very carefully?”

“Yes.”

“Have you taken careful account of the number of fatalities to others
that have followed in her wake wherever she has gone?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. There is one thing which is not written down in words upon
that record, and it is to that I now call your attention.”

“What is it, chief?”

“I have said that we have never been able to prove anything against
your Juno. The principle reason for that is that in every case where
it has been supposed that she could no longer escape us, death by
violence, self-inflicted, or otherwise, has removed the person, or
persons, whose testimony might have convicted her. Does that statement
convey an idea to you, Carter?”

“Yes. You mean to tell me, in that roundabout fashion, that if Juno
suspects that I am on her track my own life is in danger. Is that it?”

“My dear fellow, I am speaking only in generalities; you may call it
superstition if you like; but fatalities have pursued those who have
been inimical to the peace and liberty of that woman. Whether it is the
result of coincidence or of design, I am not prepared to say; but if I
were on that woman’s trail and had unearthed anything which could be
used against her, and knew that she suspected it, I would make my will
and all arrangements for a sudden taking off, confidently expecting
that death might overtake me at any moment.”

“You would make Juno out a murderer, chief.”

“I would make her out what she is called, a leopard, who destroys.
Whether she strikes the necessary blows herself or has them delivered
for her—who can say? If she plots the fatalities and arranges them—who
can tell? If the fiend himself protects her and drives men mad and
makes them kill themselves—who can determine? The facts remain. Those
who are hostile to that woman die. There you are.”

“I have lived rather a long time, chief, and I am not dead yet.”

“No; but if that woman suspects that you are on her trail with any
chance of doing her a permanent injury, I wouldn’t give a centime for
your life; not one.”

The detective shrugged his shoulders and smiled; but he made no further
comment.

Then the chief took the receiver from the telephone hook, in answer to
a call that came in at that moment.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                      THE SIREN EXERTS HER SKILL.


Had the detective known that Juno was in Paris at that moment he might
possibly have paid more attention to the remarks of the chief of police.

But he was soon to know it.

When the chief took down the telephone, Nick picked up a paper that was
lying on the desk and was scanning the front page, when an ejaculation
from his companion caused him to turn his head and regard the man
attentively.

“Very well,” he heard the chief say over the phone, in French, “let
nothing throw you off the scent, Mouquin. Keep me informed. Let me know
everything concerning her with the least possible delay. It is vitally
important, just at this time.”

He replaced the receiver on its hook and turned to Nick Carter.

“My friend,” he said, “you will admit that perhaps I am not an unwise
prophet. You are here in Paris on the trail of The Leopard; The Leopard
is here in Paris on your trail. I am so informed by one of my best men,
Mouquin by name. What will you?”

“Do you mean to tell me that Juno is in Paris?” asked Nick, interested.

“She has only just left the train at the _gare du nord_,” was the reply.

“Are you sure that there can be no mistake, chief?”

“Perfectly.”

“And she has entered the city openly? Without any attempt at disguise?”

“Yes. Why should she disguise herself? There is nothing for which we
can apprehend the woman. She knows that every footstep she takes while
she is here will be watched. She has known that for a long time. I
think she rather likes it; so why should she not come here openly?”

“What has brought her here, I wonder?” mused the detective.

“You have brought her here, my friend,” replied the chief.

“But, why should she follow me here? I know why she would like to have
me out of the way—dead, if you will—but——”

“Listen here, Mr. Carter. On the other side of the water, in your own
country, you are something of a celebrity. Murder is as common there
as here, but it is done differently, as a rule. Believe me, you are
a dangerous man to that woman, and, being dangerous, she desires to
overcome that danger. Very well; there is no place on earth where she
would rather see you just now, than here in Paris. In coming here you
have played directly into her hands.”

“Well, admitting that it is so, what then?”

“What then? He asks me, what then? Death, then, my friend!”

“And you, the chief of the secret police of Paris, sit here, in your
chair, in your own private office, and tell me that? And you still
permit such a woman to run at large in the streets of your city!”

Nick smiled when he made that remark; smiled tauntingly.

The chief hunched his shoulders, spread out his hands, palms upward,
screwed his face into an indescribable expression, and replied:

“What can I do? What could you do, in my position? Nothing. Nothing at
all.”

“I could at least keep the woman under such close surveillance that she
would not make a move that I did not know about. She would not——”

“Ah! Ah! Ah! Well, I will do that. I have already given directions to
that effect. But I have done it before, times without number—and it has
always been the same.”

“The same what? Do you mean that she gives you the slip?”

“I mean that, although my men believe that they can put their hands
upon her at any moment of the day or night, while they watch her,
yet—yet the things that I have attempted to describe, happen.”

“Who is the man who telephoned to you just now, chief?”

“Louis Mouquin; one of my best men. There is no better detective in
Paris to-day, and not another one who is as good at shadowing.”

“He has shadowed her before, has he not?”

“Yes. Many times.”

“Then you can rely upon it she is ‘onto his curves,’ all right.”

“She is—what?”

“She knows the man and his methods. No matter how good he is, he is no
good so far as she is concerned.”

“What, then, would you do, Carter? I am quite willing to take any
suggestion from you that you can make.”

“Very well, then, I will make this one. I’ll take the job of trailing
that woman myself.”

“You, Carter?”

“Yes.”

“For me? For this department?”

“Certainly; only, if I do that—for you, and not wholly for myself—you
must call off your own men and leave it all to me alone.”

For the fraction of a moment the chief hesitated. Then a quiet smile
stole across his face, and he replied:

“Very well. It shall be done. I appoint you—without pay; eh?”

“Certainly. I am now a special, under your orders; but there is one
other thing I must have, chief.”

“What is that?”

“Authority.”

“Eh? What sort of authority?”

“A written appointment over your signature; a badge; anything. I don’t
care what it is, so long as it bestows the authority I want and gives
me the command over any of your men whom I may chance to meet.”

“You shall have that. I will give you the badge which will place you
next in authority to me. That place happens to be vacant just now. It
shall be yours so long as you remain in Paris. And I will send you to
Mouquin. He will show you to what place——”

“Pardon me, chief, but I would prefer it in another way.”

“Well? As you please. What, then?”

“I will sit right here until Mouquin telephones to this office again.
When he does so, you will tell him to bring The Leopard here to you. If
she should hesitate to come——”

“Oh, she will not do that. She will probably be delighted to come here.”

“Indeed? Well, I will remain here till she arrives. I will see her
here.”

“And then——”

“Chief, you and I work on different plans and by different methods; but
we work to the same ends.”

“Assuredly.”

“In the case of a person like this woman something new and entirely
original has to be undertaken. There are circumstances where I think it
is best to play your cards, face up, on the table, and this is one of
them. When she arrives here you will see what I mean.”

“Do you intend to let her know that you are to take the trail after
her, and that——”

“Exactly, chief. But, wait until she arrives. You have other business
to attend to now. I will amuse myself with these books here until
Mouquin telephones. After that, he will not be long in bringing the
woman here, will he?”

“No. Very well. As you say, my friend.”

It was an hour later when Mouquin called again and notified the chief
of the street and number to which Juno had betaken herself; and then he
received his orders to bring her to the private office of the chief
without delay. When another half hour had passed she was ushered into
the room.

Nick had felt no doubt that Juno was aware of his presence in Paris,
but he did expect her to manifest some surprise at finding him in that
office in consultation with the chief of the secret police.

But, quite on the contrary, her eyes sought him at once after she had
greeted the chief, and she turned to him with a smile and exclaimed,
quite as if she had confidently expected to see him:

“How do you do, Mr. Carter? We meet again, in a strange place, after
our last interview; is it not so?”

“I must confess that I did not expect to find Mrs. Dinwiddie in Paris
so soon,” replied the detective, rising and stepping toward her. Then,
addressing the chief, he added: “Chief, I wish to present you to
madam by her true name; a name which I fancy you have not known—Mrs.
Dinwiddie, of Virginia.”

She laughed, and with a gayety which did not appear to be assumed.

“I am a respectable married woman now, chief,” she said. “I am, indeed,
Mrs. Ledger Dinwiddie, of Virginia, and if you are perhaps wondering
why I am here, or in Paris at all, I will enlighten you without delay.
Mr. Carter, as you doubtless know, is that famous detective whom all
America praises. He is supposed to be exceptionally great in his
class, and his profession has brought about a strange circumstance.

“Notwithstanding the great ability of Mr. Carter, he has committed a
grievous error. He has mistaken my husband for a man who was once a
criminal, but who is now dead. The highest court in the State of New
York has adjudged that criminal to be dead and accepted the proofs of
identity offered by my husband. Yet Mr. Carter persists in asserting
that Ledger Dinwiddie is that dead criminal. Remarkable, isn’t it?”

The chief did not reply. He preferred not to commit himself. He waited;
but, in the meantime, he devoured the beauty of the woman with his
eyes. It was quite true that she had brought with her into that obscure
office a radiance, a fascination, and an atmosphere of influence which
affected every person there.

It was not her beauty alone; it was a certain magnetism which seemed
to shed energy around her like the particles that spring spontaneously
from radium.

As no one spoke, she continued:

“Not long ago, Mr. Carter appeared, during an evening, at my home in
Virginia. He did not say that he was a detective, then; and I did not
suspect it till after he had gone away. I remembered that Mr. Carter
possessed an international reputation, and thought it not unlikely that
he knew something about me, as you have known me here. I followed him
to New York when he returned there—and then I followed him here.”

She paused for a moment and turned squarely toward Nick Carter. Then
she spoke directly to him.

“I have followed you here, Mr. Carter, for my own protection,” she
said, using her eyes with all the art she possessed, and lowering her
voice until it purred like the animal for which the Paris police had
named her. “The chief will tell you that I am not a criminal, and that
there is nothing against me, although many ugly things have been said
about me.

“Mr. Carter, I do not want to have all these matters discussed over
there in your country, where I have married, and am happy, so I have
come here after you to plead with you to spare me. Surely that is not
a great boon to ask at your hands. I ask you now to come with me to my
hotel so that I may tell you the story of my chequered life—so that I
may prevail upon you to become my champion instead of my traducer. Will
you go there with me?”



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                          THE SIREN AT WORK.


“Madam,” said Nick Carter, “let us understand each other. I came here
to trace out the career you have pursued, not because I expected to
make you the victim of my researches, but because I believed that
through you I would be able to prove the identity of Bare-Faced Jimmy
Duryea. That is the reply to your request for me to tell you why I am
in Paris. I will add this: My work here is already finished. I have
found the information that I expected to find.” He looked at his watch.
“In three hours from now I shall leave for London.”

They were seated opposite each other in the parlor of the suite she had
taken on her arrival in the city, where he had accompanied her from the
office of the chief.

Nick had placed no confidence whatever in her stated wish to reveal
her life history to him, but he had thought that she might say or
do something to betray herself, or to give him the cue he needed in
following out his plans. So he had accepted her proposal that he should
go with her.

She left her chair and crossed the door toward him. He arose as she did
so and stood facing her.

He knew her to be a dangerous woman; he believed her to be a
treacherous one; he had no doubt that just now she was a desperate one.

To what ends she might dare to venture in this interview with him he
had no idea, but he was thoroughly on his guard. That she would dare
to attempt violence of any sort was farthest from his thoughts, for
they had gone there together with the full knowledge of the chief of
police—and that they had been trailed from the office of the chief Nick
did not for a moment doubt.

But he did expect that she would try her feminine wiles upon him.

He knew that to be her most effective weapon. He had heard enough to
understand that she did not hesitate to make use of it when occasion
demanded.

There are women in the world who have been gifted wondrously, and she
was the personification of them all.

The word beautiful does not describe her. She was alluring. She drew
men to her as a charged magnet draws particles of steel. Once amenable
to her influence, they were apparently as powerless to resist her as
those same bits of steel are helpless under that attraction.

She halted directly in front of him.

Her eyes, luminously bright, glowed upon him. He felt the thrill of
them. He realized that there was something more than mere magnetism in
that gaze, too. There was a quality about it that was hypnotic. He knew
that at that moment she was exerting all the latent powers within her
to bring him under the spell of her charms.

Nick Carter had anticipated something of this sort, and he was prepared
for it.

He had suggested to the chief that there were occasions when it was
well to play one’s cards face up on the table, and up to this point
he had done that very thing. He had purposely thrust himself in this
woman’s way in order that she might have all the opportunity she
desired to exert her powers of fascination—for Nick Carter intended all
along to appear to yield to them.

That was the game he had intended, from the moment her presence in
Paris was known to him, to play. He meant to let her suppose that he
was the same sort of weakling as the others had been, who were inimical
to her interests.

In a word, _he meant to appear to become her willing victim_.

He realized that he had an extremely difficult part to play. He knew
what her intelligence was and that she would be as shrewd as he in
every move that she might make—unless her supreme confidence in her
own powers, so many times successful with others, should lead her
astray.

But egotism, too much self-confidence, is the rock upon which many a
one has foundered. Nick Carter believed it to be the one which would
be the undoing of this brilliant woman, who had so successfully defied
the police departments of all of Europe, and, figuratively, snapped her
fingers at them.

As she approached him across the floor he arose and faced her.

When she smiled into his eyes he compelled his own to glow with an
answering fire.

When she reached out one hand toward him, in a half pathetic, half
pleading gesture, he extended both his own and took it between them and
held it there.

“Mr. Carter,” she said.

“Yes?” he replied.

“You will spare me, won’t you?”

“Spare you? From what?”

“From the consequences of the investigation you are making. See, I
throw myself upon your mercy; I plead with you; I am pleading with you
now.”

She held his eyes with her own. Her other hand reached forward and
joined the first one resting upon both of his. They were standing in
the middle of the room. They were very close together. Juno’s eyes
were glowing strangely, and Nick, playing his part, wondered if, after
all, he had not dared too much.

She was alluring. She was fascinating. She had the power of casting a
spell, and already he was cognizant of the force of it.

Her eyes never left his face. He knew that she was exerting all the
hypnotic power she possessed to subject him to her will.

He had no doubt that she had cultivated that power to the utmost for
years, under competent teachers, until she had become a master in its
use. The power of exerting hypnotic influence is an attainment which is
the consequence of study and practice; it is not a gift. One may learn
it just as one may learn to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a dentist.

Here, then, was the secret of what this woman had been able to
accomplish in her defiance of authority and in her undoing of the men
who had stood in her way in the past.

Her weapon had been hypnotism, and with it she had lured that Russian
prince, that Duc de Luvois, that Austrian, and others to their death.

Slowly that free hand of hers stroked the backs of his.

Brightly, almost with a suggestion of living fire, her big eyes burned
into his.

He felt a tightening at his throat. There was a sensation as if a
rubber band wound tightly around his brows; but he controlled himself.
He managed to fix his mind upon the object of his presence there, and
he felt that he could resist her, even unto the end.

Her victims had not suspected this quality in her. They had been men
who had thought that she was succumbing to them rather than they to her.

He forced his eyes to express all that she wished to show, or to
give out that lack of expression which would assure her that she was
succeeding.

All the while that they stood there, facing each other, with their
hands clasped, she kept on murmuring to him in a low voice, but
uttering words that would have been meaningless under any other
circumstances.

It was the droning of her voice, the soft cadences of it, that tided
in what she had undertaken to do. She was so accustomed to success,
so entirely unfamiliar with failure, that she could not see that her
effort was failing, and that Nick Carter was just as much the master of
himself now as when he entered the parlor with her.

In the struggle that Nick had with himself when she first began to
attempt the exertion of her power, beads of perspiration came out
upon his brow. The effort with his own will brought to his face that
strained expression which she had expected to see there as a result of
her own influence.

Presently she drew him toward one of the large armchairs that were in
the room. She forced him gently down upon it, standing before him,
holding his eyes still, and now stroking his forehead with her velvety
touch.

Nick knew then why other men had become her willing victims.

He realized the depth of the pitfall that had been spread out for them,
and how entirely willing they had been to cast themselves into it.

He appeared to struggle against her power for a time, and then he
permitted his eyes to close, as if he were indeed hypnotized—and then
he heard a quick sigh of satisfaction escape her.

She drew away from him. He heard her cross the room, but he did not
dare to peer at her between his lashes, lest she should be watching and
see him do it.

He knew that she sank upon a chair, and rested there for a time,
breathing heavily, as if the effort to which she had put herself had
fatigued her greatly. After a time, when she seemed entirely to have
recovered, she approached him again.

This time she spoke commandingly, as if she were ordering some menial
to do her will.

“Nicholas Carter!” she said sharply. “Answer me!”

“Yes,” he replied dully.

“You are my slave, are you not? Answer.”

“Yes. I am your slave.”

“You will do my will, as I direct? Answer.”

“I will do your will—as you direct,” he replied.

“Hereafter, when I raise my hand—so—open your eyes that you may see me
now—when I raise my hand, so, you will lose the power of resisting me.
Answer.”

“Hereafter, when you raise your hand, so, I will lose the power of
resisting you,” he repeated in a sing-song voice.

Again she walked away from him, crossing the room to one of the
windows, and this time, as the detective’s eyes were open, he could
watch her.

He saw her stand there for a time looking out upon the street, and he
heard her murmur broken sentences to herself.

“To think that this man should also succumb to me! He seemed too
strong, at first. I have overpowered him. When will it all end.” And
more to that effect; then, with a deep sigh she turned about again and
went to him.

“Nick Carter,” she said, standing in front of him.

“Yes?” he replied.

“I am about to awaken you now. You will forget that you have slept.
You will remember, only, a belief that I shall give you now.”

“Yes.”

“You will believe that you have held me tightly in your arms; that my
head has been pillowed upon your breast; that you have told me of your
love for me; that I have confessed my love for you. You will implicitly
believe all that, when you awaken.”

“Yes. I will believe all that.”

“And, when you are seemingly in your right mind, you will look your
love for me; you will feel it, too, through all your being—but you will
make no effort to demonstrate it. You will not so much as touch me with
your hands. You will be the slave to my will. You will love me with all
your strength, and you will believe that I return that love—poor fool.
And now, awake! I command it! Awake, Nick Carter!”

But it was no part of Nick Carter’s policy to wake up just then. He
believed there was more to be learned if Juno believed him to be in
the hypnotic trance, and he realized that there would never be another
opportunity like the present one for learning things that he wished to
know about. So, instead of starting fully awake, as she had commanded
him to do, he sprang up only half alive to things about him, seemingly;
and he did the very thing which he knew would compel her to reduce him
again, as she would suppose, to the hypnotic trance.

He seized her in his arms.

For just one instant of time she did not resist him. Then she jerked
herself away, out of his grasp, and he made no effort to prevent her
doing so. He sank backward upon his chair as if he were again fully
under her influence.

He saw that for a moment she turned her back to him, and that she
seemed to struggle with herself—and in that instant he recalled the
brief interval of hesitation on her part when he had seized her in his
arms. He thought no more of it then, although there was to come another
time when he would remember it. But that is another story.

She turned toward him again, and between his eyelids he could see that
she was very pale. She raised her hands and made passes over him, and
he permitted himself to sink into a state which had every appearance of
being a deep, hypnotic sleep.

Having reduced him, as she supposed, to that utterly unconscious and
helpless state, she crossed again to the window and looked out. Nick
watched her furtively, suddenly possessed with the idea that she was
expecting somebody.

He saw her start, glance hurriedly toward him, then hasten from the
room.

Nick remained quietly where he was, not making a move, and in a
moment she was back again—but not alone. The identity of the man who
accompanied her, notwithstanding the disguise he wore, was instantly
apparent to the detective.

Jimmy Duryea—Bare-Faced Jimmy—stood just inside the door beside her;
Jimmy, perfectly made up to represent a man long past middle age,
and French, at that; but, Jimmy, nevertheless. Jimmy was looking
down upon the detective with an ironical smile upon his lips, and a
self-satisfied air that made the detective long to leap to his feet and
seize the fellow.

“Look at him,” said Juno, indicating Nick. “I have done what you could
not do; I captured Nick Carter. I have made him my slave. I could
command him to start for the far North pole, and he would awake and
start, nor would he turn back.”

“Then for goodness’ sake, Juno, command him to go and drown himself in
the Seine,” was the quick reply. “The world will be well rid of him—and
I will be able to live in peace. Could you do that, Juno?”

“I could.”

“And would he obey you?”

“He would.”

“Then do it. Do it, and we will go to Havre to-night and catch the
French line steamer that steams away to-morrow. We will be in New York
in six days. Do it. Do it. I have been sorry ever since I arrived that
I came here at all. It is too close to old times. I’m not healthy, or
healthful, here. I seem to feel a string around my neck, and to see a
huge knife falling from above. I am going back, anyhow, whether you go
or not, so do it, Juno; do it.”

For a moment she was silent. Then she replied:

“Go over there and stand near the window, then. Stand with your back
this way. Help me, yourself, by saying over and over to yourself,
‘Obey! Obey! Obey! Obey!’ Will you do that, Jimmy?”

“Yes. Go ahead.”

Jimmy crossed to the window, and Nick could see that she kept her eyes
upon him as he did so. Nick dared to peep between his eyelids toward
her, and he was amazed to see that she had tiptoed half the distance to
the window behind Jimmy, and was making passes in the air toward the
man she had married; not toward Nick Carter.

In his amazement the detective opened his eyes wider. He could see
that Juno’s whole mental effort was at that moment concentrated upon
Bare-Faced Jimmy, and he was utterly astounded by it.

But a greater astonishment followed when he saw Jimmy’s arms suddenly
fall limply at his sides, after which the man turned slowly around on
his heels and faced Juno, every vestige of expression gone from his
face.

“Come nearer to me, Howard Drummond!” she commanded him; and he obeyed,
drawing nearer to her, keeping his eyes riveted upon hers. Nick knew
that she had accomplished this control of the man merely by having
induced him to concentrate his mind upon one thing when she asked him
to repeat over and over again the word, obey. But why had she done it?
Nick was soon to know.

For a moment she sank back against a chair, half exhausted, but keeping
her eyes upon Jimmy. Then Nick heard her muttering words to herself,
and yet toward Jimmy. They were:

“You had the thought; fulfill it. You spoke of the Seine; go there. You
talked of drowning; drown yourself.”

Suddenly she wheeled toward the detective, who managed to close his
eyes again before she discovered that they had been unclosed.

“And you, Nick Carter,” she said, half fiercely, “go with him. Jump
into the river with him. Seize him in your arms and hold him so that
neither of you can unclasp from that embrace. Leap into the river
together; drown together. Go, go, go, go! I will be well rid of both of
you!”

Nick was so amazed by the turn that affairs had taken that he did not
move, although Jimmy turned obediently toward the door. She cried out
at him again, “Go, go, go!” and he pretended to obey.

He started to his feet and moved toward the door after Jimmy, who was
already passing the threshold. Juno darted after Nick, seized him,
held him for an instant, pulled his head partly around, and whispered
another command into his ear.

“Jump into the river with him, but do not drown yourself,” she
commanded in a whisper. “See to it that he dies beneath the water, but
save yourself. Save yourself, Nick Carter, and then—return here to me.
I have other work for you. Obey me.”

She thrust him through the now open doorway. She closed the door upon
him. Jimmy, under her influence, was already halfway to the street. For
a moment the detective hesitated. Then, realizing that she had ordered
him to return there, he followed slowly after Jimmy, not doubting that
he would find Juno when he did choose to return, and realizing that he
must keep this other man from throwing himself into the river Seine.

The hour was late in the afternoon. Darkness was falling.

They passed up the street and Nick seized Jimmy by one arm and guided
him around the first corner they came to—and there, as he had half
suspected would be the case, he encountered the detective, Mouquin, who
had taken Juno to the office of the chief. Mouquin had been sent after
Nick to keep watch over him, for the chief of the secret police of
Paris feared “The Leopard.”

“Mouquin,” said the detective sternly, “you know that I am temporarily
in authority over you. Here is the badge of authority given to me by
the chief. Here, also, is some money; sufficient for your needs. Now,
listen to my orders, and obey them, literally.”

“At your service,” was the calm reply.

“This man here”—Nick had seized Jimmy by the arm and was holding
him—“is under a hypnotic trance, or spell. He has been ordered to jump
into the Seine, but you must lead him to the river Thames, instead; to
London. All rivers will be the same to him, and that one will do as
well as another. Speak soothingly to him; tell him that you are taking
him to the Seine, and he will go with you quietly enough. Wait for me
in London at Gray’s hotel, in Dover Street. I may be there as soon as
you are.”

“Am I to put him into the river? Did you mean that?” asked Mouquin.

“No. Wait for me at Gray’s. Go, now. If you have to address the man by
name, call him Jimmy. Can you pronounce it? Good. Go, now.”

Nick stood there and watched Mouquin and his charge until they were
out of sight. After that—and there had been a lapse of a quarter of
an hour—he hurried back again to the house and the room where he had
parted with Juno.

But Juno was no longer there; instead, upon the centre table, where
it instantly caught his eye, was a written message which she had left
there for him. He could not repress a smile as he read it. It was——

 “NICK CARTER: Immersion in the water will restore you to full
 consciousness. I have willed it so, only consciousness will not
 return soon enough for you to save the life of Howard Drummond, alias
 Bare-Faced Jimmy, and many other names. He will have drowned before
 you can save him. I have willed it so, and I am an expert pupil of the
 master who taught me. But I have spared your life; perhaps some day
 you may remember it and spare me. Possibly I have been foolish; I do
 not know as to that.

 “I could not send you to your death. But what I could do, and did
 do, was to use you, and him, as a means for my own escape. This will
 afford me the only hour I have ever enjoyed in the city of Paris when
 I have been free from surveillance. I shall make use of the time to
 disappear, so that even the chief cannot find me. If you care to do me
 a favor, in return for what I have spared you, forget me, and do not
 seek me. You may make use of this letter wherever it will do you the
 most good.

 “Tell that judge in New York, and others, that the real Ledger
 Dinwiddie died a natural death in a cottage called ‘The Willows,’ at
 Palmetto Peach, in Florida, and is buried in the churchyard of the
 village of Tyrone, under the name of John Brown; that the man who
 represented himself as Ledger Dinwiddie is really the James Duryea you
 claimed he was—Bare-Faced Jimmy, etc.; that I assisted in the plot by
 which Jimmy passed himself off as Dinwiddie; that sufficient proof of
 all this is buried in a cigar box behind the small headstone of that
 grave, where I placed it, secretly.

 “I sign myself, for the sake of this message,

  “JUNO DINWIDDIE.”

The detective caught the same boat from Calais to Dover that Mouquin
had taken with his charge, and he rode up to London with them; but
before leaving Paris he called again upon the chief of the secret
police and showed him the letter that Juno had written.

“Let her go,” said the chief. “She will not remain in Paris, and what
she does elsewhere I do not care. She was more considerate of you than
she has been of others, Carter. Beware of her if you come in contact
with her again.”

At Gray’s hotel, in London, Nick found Nan Nightingale awaiting him.

“You were right, Mr. Carter,” she told him, when they met. “The girl,
Sarah, who was called Siren, did not die. I have proof of it here.
She became a diplomatic spy, and has served many governments as such.
Her reputation is not savory, but there is nothing said against her
personal purity. Throughout Europe she is known by a name that was
bestowed upon her by the French police—‘The Leopard.’ She is the Juno
who married Jimmy; and Jimmy—you know who he is.”

“Yes. I know now,” was the reply.

Jimmy had, in fact, proven entirely practicable, and continued to do so
as long as he was assured that he was being taken to the Seine. In that
belief he took passage with Nick Carter for New York; arrived there in
due time and was permitted to plunge head foremost into the swimming
pool of a Turkish bath. He came out of it, presently, clothed in his
right mind, with the spell of hypnotism gone from him, entirely.

If there was ever a madder man in the United States than Bare-Faced
Jimmy, when he discovered all that had happened to him since that
moment in the parlor with Juno when he was cast under the spell she
imposed upon him, Nick Carter has never succeeded in finding him.

He was taken from that Turkish-bath plunge straight to the Tombs;
and this time there was no difficulty in proving him to be the real
Bare-Faced Jimmy, for in addition to the proof that Nick was able to
produce, Chick and Patsy had found sufficient evidence that James
Duryea did not die, and, therefore, was not buried, on the island in
the Sound.

Nan Nightingale did not return to America at once.

Acting upon the advice of Nick Carter, she went into Hertfordshire,
England, determined to make peace, if possible, with certain relatives
who still lived there. And Nick Carter returned at once to New York.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                           A SECRET MISSION.


It was not long after the detective’s return from abroad that Joseph,
his major domo, ushered a stranger into the library, bowed to him, and
said:

“Mr. Carter is engaged for the moment, sir, but he will be at liberty
presently. I will tell him that you have arrived.”

The stranger nodded his head and stood like a wooden image until Joseph
had left the room. Then his tall and soldierly figure relapsed upon
a chair, and he stared across the room at nothing during the entire
interval of waiting.

Above stairs in the study when Joseph presented himself there, with the
card of the stranger, Nick Carter received it, glanced at it, nodded to
Joseph, who passed from the room again, then turned to Chick, who was
near the window, and said:

“Go down to the library, Chick. Look the fellow over for me. Tell him
that I’ll be down presently. Then come back here and tell me what you
think of him.”

Chick left the study in obedience to this direction, and the moment he
was gone the detective picked up an opened letter that was on the desk
in front of him and read it once more, from beginning to end. It was
typewritten, on a letter head of the Russian embassy, in Washington,
and after the usual superscription, it said:

 “I hope you will regard this letter in the light of a personal matter,
 not intended to be at all official in its character. When it is
 possible to enjoy a personal interview with you, I will explain fully
 that point, and all the others that are connected with this affair. I
 have not had the honor to make your acquaintance, but I need only say
 to you that it is a mutual friend of ours who has induced me to make
 a demand upon your services, and that I do so acting solely upon his
 advice.

 “And of your services in a matter of extreme delicacy, I stand greatly
 in need, so I beg that you will come to Washington—since it is utterly
 impossible as well as impolitic for me to go to you—as soon as you
 can make it convenient to do so. The direct purpose of this letter
 is to prepare you for the reception of a gentleman of my staff whom
 I have sent to you with credentials, and who will explain, in part,
 the dilemma in which I have unfortunately become involved. Please
 understand that I make no charge against the gentleman mentioned, but
 his position and his relations with me and with my household have been
 such that I would be glad if you take this opportunity of studying him
 somewhat.

 “I have the honor to remain, my dear sir,

 “Your most obedient and humble”—etc., etc., etc.

The letter was signed by the ambassador in person. It had arrived at
Nick Carter’s house during the afternoon of the preceding day. It was
now approaching eleven o’clock in the forenoon of the first day in June.

Nick Carter, during his varied career, had had more or less experience
with matters diplomatic, and was accustomed to the somewhat stilted
phrases and mannerisms which all ambassadors and ministers regard it as
necessary to employ; but it was unusual that an ambassador should so
far commit himself as to make a covert charge against one of his own
household.

For the detective could read the letter in no other way than that the
gentleman—he had been so described—now waiting in the library to see
him was under suspicion.

But suspicion of what?

Nick Carter had no idea as to that. Something had gone wrong with
the Russian ambassador, which required the services of an expert
investigator, and for some reason not given, it had not been deemed
advisable to call in the services of the regular Secret Service of the
United States Government.

Somebody as yet unknown to the detective, but doubtless a person
high in authority in Washington, had recommended Nick Carter to the
ambassador; hence the letter.

Chick returned while the detective was turning these things over in
his mind, and he raised his eyes expectantly when his first assistant
entered the room.

“There is nothing remarkable, or even interesting, about the chap that
I can discover,” said Chick, in reply to the interrogative glance. “He
is just a plain, common type of the Russian army officer who has been
appointed military attaché to this country through influence at court.
He is less than thirty years old and more than six feet tall. I should
say that he is not overburdened with brains.

“He belongs to the type that gets into no end of trouble through
ignorance, stupidity, pride, arrogance, and all that sort of thing, but
does not seem malicious at all. He is fair-headed, blue-eyed, rather
good-looking—some women would call him handsome—and all in all, is
rather a likable chap, I imagine. He ranks as colonel in the Russian
army, and the card he sent up to you is not his own, which fact he took
pains to explain the minute I entered the library where he is waiting.”

“This card is not his own?” said Nick, picking it up and glancing at it
again. He had barely noticed it when Joseph gave it to him.

“No. His name is——”

“Why did he send me a card not his own?”

“He said it was done by mistake, and that he did not discover it until
Joseph had left the room to take it to you. I think he told the truth
about that. He spoke as if it were the truth.”

“Very likely. The name on this card means nothing at all to me—or to
him probably. No name was mentioned in the letter from the ambassador.
What is his name?”

“He is Colonel Alexis Turnieff.”

“Turnieff? Turnieff? Now, where have I——Oh! I know. I say, Chick, that
is rather an odd circumstance. Turnieff, eh? And Alexis Turnieff, at
that. You say he is not more than thirty years old?”

“Rather less than that, I should say.”

“Humph! Oh, well, I don’t suppose the name has any significance in this
matter, but it is rather a strange coincidence, just the same, that it
should recur just at this time.”

“Then the name does mean something to you?” asked Chick.

“No; not really. It recalled my last trip to the other side, that
is all. It is the name of one of the supposed victims—the first one
that was known about, if I remember correctly—of Juno, otherwise ‘The
Leopard’.”

“It isn’t likely that Juno has anything to do with this matter, is it?”
Chick asked.

“No. It isn’t likely, I suppose. But the affair is Russian. Anyway, I
haven’t the least notion what it is all about. The name struck me, that
is all. Well, I will go down and see Colonel Turnieff. Wait here till I
return.”

The detective left the room and presently entered the library, where
the Russian official rose from the chair to greet him.

“Prince Alexis Turnieff, I believe?” said the detective, as he advanced
toward his caller. He made the remark quite naturally, putting it in
the form of a question. He spoke as if he had always known the man, and
had always been fully aware that he was a Russian prince.

“Yes. I am Prince Alexis Turnieff; but I was not aware that I mentioned
my title to the person who was just here with me, sir.”

“The person to whom you refer, prince, was Mr. Chickering Carter, my
first and chief assistant. He is not a servant, as your words might
imply was your belief.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Carter. I had no intention to give offense.”

“None is taken, prince. None at all.”

“Would you do me the favor, Mr. Carter, to call me colonel instead of
prince?” the Russian asked, while another flush rose to his cheeks and
forehead.

“Certainly, sir; the more readily, because in this country there are no
hereditary titles.”

“Will you tell me, please, how you knew me to be Prince Alexis
Turnieff?”

“Certainly.” This was precisely the point at which the detective had
wished to arrive. “My assistant informed me that you sent up the wrong
card by mistake. Also that your name is Alexis Turnieff, and that you
are a colonel in the Russian army. Just now, I assume you to be in the
diplomatic service attached to the Russian embassy. That is correct, is
it not?”

“Quite so.”

“Very well; I am more or less familiar with many Russian names and
titles. Not so very long ago I knew of a gentleman by your name, who
was also a prince. He would be old enough to be your father, if he were
living. I assumed that he was your father, and being aware that he is
dead, I also assumed that you had succeeded to his title. So”—with a
smile—“you will observe that it was not strange that I should make use
of the title in addressing you.”

“I quite understand. Thank you.”

“And now, colonel, if you are ready we will come to the business of
your call upon me,” said the detective.

“At once. Yes, sir. You have doubtless been informed that I am here
at the request of the ambassador for the czar, but that my errand is
unofficial, and——”

“Pardon me, colonel; my information is solely to the effect that a
gentleman from the Russian embassy would call upon me,” said Nick.

Colonel Turnieff fidgeted for a moment in his chair. Then with some
abruptness he said:

“Will you pardon me, Mr. Carter, if I mention another subject first?
I wish to do so because our conversation, since you entered the room,
has suggested that what I wish now to speak about may have some bearing
upon my errand here to-day.”

“Speak as you please, Colonel Turnieff,” replied Nick. “I will tell
you that I don’t know a thing about your errand here. I have been
instructed that a gentleman would call upon me, sent here by the
Russian ambassador; farther than that my information does not extend.
If you were to talk about the North Pole, or the South Pole, it would
be all the same to me—save only that I would like to get at the real
purpose of your visit as soon as possible.”

“Certainly. I was about to refer again to my father.”

“Yes? Well?”

“Did you, perhaps, know him personally?”

“No. I never met him or saw him. All that I know about him refers to
his unfortunate death, in Paris, some time ago.”

“Do you know any of the particulars in relation to his—death?”

“Only such as were related to me by the chief of the secret police of
Paris, when I was in that city on quite another matter. The subject of
your father came up between us, and it was mentioned; that is all.”

“You were told that he—that he killed himself?”

“If it is a painful subject to you, colonel, why continue it? Yes, I
was so informed.”

“Were you also informed of the circumstances associated with his
death?” the Russian persisted.

“Yes. Of some of them, at least. I did not go into the subject
definitely. It was not of especial interest to me at the time.”

“Will you tell me what was told to you?”

“Really, colonel——”

“Pardon me, sir, I know that this seems entirely beside the subject of
my call here, but possibly it may not appear so later on. If you will
be patient with me, I will be your debtor.”

“Very well, sir.”

“Will you tell me what was told to you in regard to the death of my
father?”

The detective hesitated. What had been told to him was, in a way, a
privileged communication imparted in confidence. Presently he replied:

“I will tell you as much about it as I think I may with discretion. The
main points of my information are these: Your father, Prince Turnieff,
was sent to Paris on a secret mission of some sort for his government.
He took there with him a very large sum of money presumably his own.
Also while there he made a great display of valuable jewels, though why
he did so does not appear.”

“Your information is entirely correct so far, Mr. Carter. I will add to
it in that particular. He had with him the equivalent of two hundred
thousand dollars in cash in your money. He also had in his possession
at that time certain jewels which were the property—or had been—of a
family that had suffered exile. Those jewels had been forfeited to the
crown together with other possessions, and——”

“My dear sir, what has all this to do with our matters?”

“Bear with me a moment, please.”

“Go on, then.”

“The jewels which my father displayed with seeming recklessness were of
very great value—they were worth another sum equal to the amount he had
with him in cash. My father was not a person given to needless display,
and so you may assume that there was a definite purpose in his conduct
in making a display of them, and in his reckless expenditure of money
also. All that formed a part of his mission there.”

“I understand you. Well?”

“Now, will you tell me what more you heard about his death?”

“No. I will not say any more on the subject now.”

“Then I will tell you—for I perceive that you hesitate only to spare my
feelings, and I honor you for it. While in Paris, he was very much in
the company of a woman who had at that time, and has since had, many
names. To the police she was known as ‘The Leopard.’ Am I correct?”

“Quite so.”

“My father made his home in a palace which he had taken, furnished,
in the Faubourg St. Germain. He was found dead in the library of that
palace one afternoon, with a bullet hole in his brain. There was a
pistol beside him, and a partly written note on the table near him,
telling that he had decided to kill himself. The last person who was in
his company before that happened was ‘The Leopard,’ the beautiful young
woman in whose company he had been seen so often.

“But she had been gone from the house a long time before the shooting
was supposed to have taken place, and although she was taken to the
prefecture of police and closely questioned, not a thing could be
determined against her. Is that substantially what was told to you by
the chief, Mr. Carter?”

“Yes.”

“Did he inform you also that not one centime of the money, and not one
trace of the jewels, could be found after the death of my father?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. That is all I care to ask you about the circumstance at the
present moment; but I wish to add to it one statement of my own.”

“Well?”

“My father went to Paris on a secret mission in which there was almost
no hope of success; a secret mission in which his life was at stake
from the moment he departed from St. Petersburg. The display of the
jewels was a necessary part of his enterprise. The possession of a
great sum of money, and the lavish expenditure of that money, was
another necessary part of it. The woman known as ‘The Leopard,’ was
supposed at that time to be also in the service of Russia, but it has
been thought—not determined, mind you, but only suspected—since then,
that she was all the while in the actual service of another government.
It was because she was ostensibly in the service of Russia, that she
was seen so much with my father. That was another definite part of the
enterprise.”

“I understand.”

“My own opinion—and it is only an opinion, not knowledge—is that
she was all the time working against my father in Paris. If she
did not actually murder him, she was nevertheless the direct cause
of his death. Well, sir, now I come to the point toward which this
conversation has tended.”

“Yes?”

“That woman—‘The Leopard’—is now in the city of Washington. She lives
there openly, supposedly the possessor of a large fortune. She occupies
a large house in one of the fashionable streets of the capital where
she entertains lavishly. She is a woman of most remarkable beauty and
attractiveness. She is a creature of many fascinations. All who go near
her fall under the spell she casts about her.”

“You surprise me, colonel,” said the detective. And indeed it was so.
Nick Carter was surprised that Juno had ventured to return to the
United States so soon. “But assuredly she does not call herself ‘The
Leopard,’ in Washington society, does she?”

“No, indeed. She is now the Countess Juno Narnine—Countess Narnine—and
Narnine happens to be the name of one of the branches of my own family.
I can positively assure you that she is in no manner related to them,
notwithstanding the fact that this woman has succeeded in establishing
herself beyond question; and supplied credentials which cannot be
denied. Now, sir, I will get down to the purpose of my visit here.”

“Wait a moment. Why have you chosen to tell me about this countess? We
will call her so, since she has succeeded in establishing her right to
use the name.”

“Because she has something to do with the purpose of my call upon you—I
think.”

“Oh. You think so. You are not sure of it, then?”

“Nobody has ever been sure of anything connected with that woman, sir.”

“I see. You regard her much as the chief over in Paris did.”

“I am not informed concerning his regard for her, nor as to what his
estimate of her character may have been; but speaking for myself, I
can say that she is at once the most compelling creature, the most
attractive woman, the most fascinating personality, and the most
beautiful human creation that God ever put into the world. At the same
time she is the most dangerous. All the objections to her are summed up
in that one word dangerous, Mr. Carter.”

“One more question, colonel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If I had not addressed you as prince, and hence, had not called up the
unpleasant recollections of your father, would you have mentioned this
woman in connection with the matter that sent you to me?”

“I should have mentioned her, but not in the manner I have now chosen.
Her name would have been mentioned, but not in just the way I have done
it.”

“Would you have told me this story about your father, and his relations
with her, if the subject had not been brought about in the manner it
was?”

“No. I should not have done that—now.”

“But later you might have done so?”

“Yes. Later I am certain that I would have done so.”

“Why? I would like to know that before we proceed. You see you are
somewhat ambiguous, Colonel Turnieff.”

“I don’t know that I can explain why, unless it arises from the natural
inclination to clear up the mystery of my father’s death. That is
human—and filial—isn’t it?”

“Decidedly.”

“Now, shall we get at the object of my mission here to you?”

“Yes.”

“May I ask you, first, if you are at all familiar with the methods
employed in diplomatic affairs, where the thing to be done is a
secret one and bears no direct relations to the official duties of an
ambassador?”

“Your question is somewhat involved. I will reply to it generally. Yes;
I know that a representative of royalty, no matter where stationed,
is supposed to take his orders without question, and to execute them
literally, no matter what the consequences, or what means it may be
necessary to employ.”

“Very well, sir. My chief, whom I now represent unofficially, has
been engaged upon an affair of great delicacy for his royal master.
Concerned in that affair are papers of the vastest importance
imaginable—of such supreme value that their loss cannot be estimated
in words or in figures. Mr. Carter, one-half of those papers have
disappeared absolutely. They must be recovered at any cost. In the
meantime the remaining half of them must be safeguarded so thoroughly
that there can be no chance that they will follow after the others.”



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                      THE WORK OF A SECRET AGENT.


“It seems to be your pleasure to speak in enigmas, colonel,” said the
detective.

“In enigmas? How so, sir?” was the reply.

“You speak of certain important papers which are of untold value,
and announce that one-half of those papers have disappeared; as if
the papers were a melon, or an apple that one might cut into two
parts—dividing them equally. Be good enough to explain what you mean.”

“Ah; I made the announcement just as it came to me; but I did not
intend to puzzle you, Mr. Carter.”

“Well?”

“Perhaps it will be the pleasure of the ambassador, when you talk
with him, to explain to you exactly what those papers are; but I have
not permission to do so. In fact I am not entirely informed upon the
subject myself. I know only so much about them as it was necessary for
me to know, to carry out my part of the work.”

“I understand.”

“Let me endeavor to explain in this way: His majesty, the czar, is
interested in accomplishing a certain purpose that is well defined
in his own mind, and in the minds of his counselors, which relates to
another government—not the United States. You understand that, Mr.
Carter?”

“I think so.”

“I was instructed to assure you that you would not be asked to do
anything that you could not conscientiously perform as a loyal citizen
of the United States.”

“Very well. Go on.”

“The ambassador whom I represent was directed to carry on the secret
work of that affair, and to direct it from his embassy, in Washington.
He has done so. In carrying on the work a mass of documents has
collected. They are entirely apart from his regular official duties as
ambassador to the United States.”

“I already understand that, sir.”

“Among those documents which have collected, there are certain papers
which, if placed upon this table in one package, might be contained in
a rubber band, and might be deposited within the space contained in
your greatcoat pocket. As I have stated, those documents—those to which
I am referring just now—are of vast importance.”

“I think I am sufficiently well assured of that, colonel.”

“As a means of safety, these papers were not only written in cipher,
but they were then redrawn, in halves, and the originals were
destroyed. They were drawn up and written in such a manner that neither
half of them could be deciphered without the other half. Do you follow
me?”

“Perfectly.”

“Those two halves, each necessary to the other half, were concealed,
hidden away for safe-keeping, by the ambassador in person, in places
known only to himself supposedly; in localities widely different.
Understand that they were not yet complete, or they would have been
forwarded to St. Petersburg before now. That is what was to be done
with them as soon as they were completed.”

“Yes.”

“They would, each half by itself, have been sent to St. Petersburg—and
by entirely different routes. For example, I might have been dispatched
there with one-half of them in my charge, ignorant of what I carried
with me, save only that they were documents of importance to be
delivered exactly as directed.”

“Yes.”

“I might have been sent with them by way of China; the other half might
have been sent direct by another person. Each of us would have known
nothing of the other one. Understand?”

“Yes. But what has that to do with their disappearance?”

“I am merely endeavoring to impress upon you the care with which they
were guarded, and would have been guarded to the end.”

“Very well. I understand that.”

“The documents were nearly complete, but not quite so. There remained
one matter of importance to be accomplished, before the documents were
forwarded, as I have described, to St. Petersburg.”

“Yes.”

“Well, sir, one of the halves of those prepared documents has
disappeared from the place where the package was concealed. The
ambassador instructed me to tell you that, so far as he is aware, no
person other than himself knew where either of those packages was
concealed. He wishes to have you go to Washington, to consult with him
on the matter without delay, and he desires to impose entire secrecy
concerning the affair upon you.”

“Is that all?”

“That, Mr. Carter, is the purport of my mission here. I was to tell you
that much. I could not tell you more than that, for the reason that my
own knowledge goes no farther. Whatever else there is to be told to
you, the ambassador will tell you in person.”

“You have no idea where the papers were concealed, colonel?”

“Beyond the surmise that they were somewhere within the embassy, I
have not even an idea concerning them; and even that much is only a
surmise.”

“Colonel Alexis Turnieff, in a matter of this kind, one has to ask
plain questions—so plain that they are sometimes offensive,” said the
detective, fixing his eyes upon the face of the man before him.

“Yes, sir. I can understand the necessity for that. I am not
thin-skinned, Mr. Carter. If your statement in any manner applies to
me, I will say that you are at liberty to put any questions to me that
occur to you. But I must assure you again that I have absolutely no
knowledge as to the contents of those papers.”

“But you do know that name of the government, other than the Russian
government, that they concerned; eh?”

“Yes; although I am not at liberty to tell you that. The ambassador——”

“I don’t care to know it at the present time. What I do want to
know—and this is one of the questions which might be offensive;
particularly if you are entirely loyal to your chief—is this: Could the
ambassador serve his own purposes, personal or otherwise, by making it
appear that those papers had disappeared when in reality they had not
done so?”

“Do you mean, would he steal them himself?” demanded Turnieff, in
amazement.

“Words to that effect; yes.”

“Impossible!”

“Now, if you had discovered where one of those packages was
concealed—in making use of the pronoun, I refer not alone to yourself
in person, but to every other member of the official household of the
ambassador—would it have advantaged you or any other person within that
household to have abstracted one of those packages?”

“I cannot conceive how it would have done so, Mr. Carter.”

“I do not mean that papers so taken would necessarily be used, or
passed on to other persons; but would it have been to the interest of
any person of your knowledge to repress those papers?”

“The question, Mr. Carter, is beyond me. Remember, I am utterly
ignorant of their contents.”

“But knowing the country besides your own that they concern, you, being
in the diplomatic service, could make a shrewd guess regarding the
purport of them, could you not?”

“No. Really, Mr. Carter, I could not. I have known enough about what
has been going on, to have drawn conclusions several times; conclusions
which I thought at the time were quite satisfactory, but which
inevitably have proven to be entirely and utterly erroneous.”

“How long a time have those papers been in preparation?”

“I do not know.”

“How long a time have you been attached to the embassy at Washington?”

“Two years; rather more than that.”

“They have been in preparation since you have been there?”

“Yes.”

“And before that time?”

“I have reason to suppose so.”

“Who would be chiefly interested in stealing papers of the sort you
suppose them to be, colonel?”

“Ah; now you ask me a question which I can answer. Not directly; I
don’t mean that; but in a general way.”

“Well?”

“I am only young in the service, Mr. Carter, but I have been
sufficiently long engaged in it to know that whenever there is a
diplomatic movement on foot, inimical to another country or government,
the government which it threatens is pretty apt to have an inkling of
the matter, or at least a suspicion.”

“Yes. I should suppose so.”

“We will say, then, that this affair threatens the government of
Siam—which is preposterous, of course; I suggest it only by way of
illustration.”

“Yes.”

“If the government of Siam were one of the first or second rate
powers, it would have diplomatic representatives at every capital
in the world. It would have secret agents all over the world. You
understand that?”

“I do.”

“Now, if it suspected that Russia was plotting some antagonistic move,
it would watch Russia, not alone at St. Petersburg, but all over
the world. It would consider carefully who the man might be in the
diplomatic service of Russia, who would be most likely to be given the
operation of such a delicate affair, and who could be entirely trusted
with it; who possessed the brain capacity to carry it out; who was in
every way competent.”

“I understand you. Well?”

“Suppose that in such a case Siam decided that the ambassador to the
United States was that man. Siam would at once dispatch a horde of
secret agents to this country. Some of them would be Siamese, but the
majority of them would be of other nationalities. They would belong to
that class which become international spies through choice, and have
little care what governments they serve; who go from the service of
one to the service of another as readily as you or I would change our
clothing.”

“And it is your opinion, then, that Siam—we will keep up the fiction
for the moment—has many secret agents in Washington now, and that one
of them has managed to get his hands on those papers.”

“Or her hands; yes. That is the idea.”

“I understand you. Now—could one of those secret agents for the other
power, by any possibility, become a member of the official family of
your ambassador?”

“Why not, Mr. Carter?”



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                       THE AMBASSADOR’S CABINET.


Nick Carter was seated in the private cabinet at the embassy, facing
the ambassador.

He had just been conducted to that room, and the ambassador, a
tall, stately gentleman of the inscrutable school, every inch the
representative of his czar, was still standing beside his desk, with
one hand resting upon it, while he bent a little forward toward the
detective, devouring him with his piercing eyes.

And they were eyes which had been accustomed for years to read the
characters of men of all nationalities, and of every walk in life.

Nick Carter felt at once that this tall gentleman was a power within
himself, and that nothing short of an explosion of dynamite at his feet
could move him out of his habitual calm.

“I have heard very satisfactory things about you, Mr. Carter, if you
will pardon me for using that expression,” the ambassador said slowly,
picking his words, and still keeping his keen eyes upon the detective,
while he retained that same attitude beside the desk. “I will not
hesitate to say that the statements were made by no less a person than
the present incumbent of the White House.”

“Indeed?” replied the detective. “That is gratifying.”

“Do not misunderstand me, Mr. Carter. He was not aware that I needed
the services of a gentleman of your qualifications. Nobody has been
made aware of that, save the man who went to New York to induce you to
come here—and myself.”

The detective bowed his head. He made no other reply.

“I suppose you are more or less well known in Washington?” the
ambassador asked; and he passed around the desk to his chair.

“I suppose so.”

“I apprehended that your personality is, also, more or less well known;
and by that I refer also to your profession?”

“I suppose so,” Nick replied again.

“That is why I made the appointment with you for this hour—midnight. I
desired that as few persons as possible should know of your visit to
this house.”

“In that case, prince,” replied the detective, smiling, “you should
have made the appointment at noonday, instead of at midnight. One is
less noticeable, if one arrives among others, than if one goes by
oneself to a place of appointment. The best place to hold a secret
conference is in the midst of a crowd; at least that has been my
experience.”

The prince—for he was one, although his title was rarely used in
Washington—shrugged his shoulders.

“After all,” he said, “the matter of the secrecy of your present
employment is one that is entirely your own affair. I assume that if
you are competent to take this matter in hand for me you are also
perfectly capable of guarding the minor details connected with it.”

“I think so.”

“This city at the present time is filled with secret agents of another
government than mine or yours—and those secret agents have been chiefly
interested in watching me for a long time. I have no doubt that your
presence here at the embassy is already known to them.”

“More than likely it is.”

“Nevertheless, Mr. Carter, it might be inferred that you have come here
to see me on matters entirely your own; or at least not mine. It is
quite as logical that you should represent one government as another.”

“Yes; or none at all, prince.”

“True.”

“Before we go into the particulars of my visit here, prince, I would
like you to tell me the name of that government whose spies swarm in
the city at the present time.”

“Oh, I shall not permit you to work in the dark, Mr. Carter. I have
had no such intention, for that would thwart the very purpose of your
employment.”

The ambassador bent forward, selected a piece of paper and a pencil,
wrote something on the paper, passed it over to the detective, and said:

“That is the name of the government whose spies are chiefly interested
in the subject which we will presently discuss, Mr. Carter; but, if you
please, we will not mention it to each other, even in a whisper or by
so much as an innuendo.”

“Certainly not.”

“Walls have ears, you know; and sometimes eyes as well.”

“I know. While I was talking with Colonel Turnieff, he had occasion
to draw a simile, and he made use of the name of Siam. Suppose in
referring to this country, the name of which you have written down
here, we call it Siam.”

“Good! A capital idea.”

“And now, sir, I return this paper to you in order that you may destroy
it yourself.”

“Mr. Carter, I like your methods.”

“Thank you. Now, prince, if you will get down to business——”

“At once. But first, how much did Turnieff tell you, and what
conclusions did you draw from his manner of telling it?”

“Prince, so far as the information which you will tell me is concerned,
he has told me nothing; and his manner made no impression upon me one
way or another.”

The ambassador smiled.

“You should have gone into the diplomatic service, Mr. Carter,” he said.

“I seem to be in it now, prince,” was the reply.

“True. But I perceive that you prefer not to commit yourself to any
opinion until you have formed a positive one. I entirely approve of
that course.”

“Thank you. And now, prince, one matter before we proceed.”

“Yes.”

“You have taken it for granted since my arrival here, that I will
accept the commission you wish to give me. I will say that I am quite
ready to accept it, and that it is the sort of thing that I like to do.
But nevertheless there are conditions which I must make before I agree
to take this matter in hand.”

“Oh, as to that, Mr. Carter, your recompense——”

“I had not even thought of that part of it. When the work is done, you
will receive a bill for my services, which I will expect you to pay. I
shall supply the money for my own expenses, and make them as liberal as
seems necessary. But I was not referring to that subject.”

“To what one, then?”

“To the matter in hand. I cannot take your case and carry it through
to an end, depending upon half confidences, or only part confidences.
I must be intrusted with full and entire confidence, otherwise we must
let the matter drop where it is.”

“You mean—just what do you mean, Mr. Carter?”

“I mean that I must know _all_ of the story; not merely a part of it.”

“I understand you, but I doubt——”

“Pardon me, prince, but if you doubt, let the matter stop where it
is. There is absolutely no use continuing it. I must have your entire
confidence, or none at all.”

“To give you my full confidence in the manner you imply, Mr. Carter, I
must betray the secrets of my sovereign, which are, in part, at least,
reposed in me alone.”

“Even so, sir, I cannot qualify what I have said. I cannot perform the
service for you, if I am like the horse of a picador when it enters
the bull ring; blindfolded. I must be able to see; and unless you can
intrust me with the secrets of your sovereign, as well as with your
own, I am not worthy to be trusted at all.”

The ambassador was silent, tapping the top of the desk with his pencil.

But after a moment he raised his eyes and said:

“So be it, Mr. Carter. I will not caval with you; you are right. In
order to carry out this matter to a successful issue, you must know as
much as I do about it.”

“Just so, prince.”

“But bear in mind our agreement to refer to that unnamed country as
Siam.”

“I do.”

“I will begin, then, by stating that some years ago I was ambassador
to—er—Siam. Really, I will have to accustom myself to that form of
expression, for upon my word I was never anywhere near Siam in my life.”

“Never mind a small detail like that one, prince.”

“No, indeed. Well, when I represented his majesty there, certain
matters arose which led me to make a suggestion to my august master,
which I believed would redound to the credit, and greatly to the
aggrandizement also, of my own country.”

“And that matter was—what?”

“I will go into all of that presently, Mr. Carter. It is not my purpose
now to keep anything back from you; but permit me to get over the main
point of the matter first.”

“As you please.”

“When I first proposed it, I was smiled at; then I scored. Heed was at
last taken of my suggestions, and I was directed to begin work on the
idea. That, I may say, happened ten years ago.”

“It is not a new thing, then.”

“From the point of time, it is not.”

“Well, sir?”

“I remained in—er—Siam three years longer. Then I suggested that, in
order to prosecute the work upon which I had begun action, it would be
well to place another man there, and to send me to the court of St.
James. I figured that I could work from there, with less chance of my
purpose being discovered than from Siam itself.”

“I understand you.”

“Two years after that, I again suggested a change, and I came here.”

“So you have actually been engaged upon it five years here in
Washington.”

“Yes.”

“Well, sir?”

“Until I came here to Washington, I had reason to suppose that entire
secrecy had been preserved; but almost at once after my establishment
here, I became convinced that a suggestion of what I was doing, or
trying to do, had reached the government of—er—Siam. In a short time I
was sure of it. Spies from there began to appear. Of course I have a
sufficient staff of spies at my own command, and it was not difficult
for me to know that Siam was largely represented here. I put two and
two together, and made up my mind that I and my work was the cause, or
rather the reason of their presence.”

“Naturally.”

“Nevertheless, I have worked on confident in my ability to control
affairs—until now; but at last they have succeeded in sending some
person here, who has proved to be too keen for me. Certain of my
papers, which I have safeguarded with the greatest care, have been
stolen. Those papers must be found and restored; not because I cannot
replace them, for I can do that; but because they must not be permitted
to betray what I am doing.”



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                          THE HOLLOW BEDPOST.


It was twelve o’clock when Nick Carter entered the cabinet of the
ambassador; it was past four in the morning when he went out of it, and
even then he did not leave the embassy itself, but was conducted to a
room by his host where he said he would take about three hours’ sleep.

The particulars of the conversation between them we need not give
here. The facts of the case, so far as they concern the relation of
this story, have been already given; but of one thing be assured: Nick
Carter had his way in regard to the detailed confidence of the matters,
and before parting with the ambassador he was in possession of all the
secret.

The thing was a stupendous undertaking on the part of Russia, and had
it been permitted to succeed, would have altered the map of the world
to a considerable extent.

But the point of the case was this:

Important papers of vital interest to the Russian government—and of
still more vital interest to the ambassador himself, so far as his
reputation was concerned—had been mysteriously taken from the place
where he had concealed them.

He did not believe that they would prove of any immediate value to that
government which he disguised under the name of Siamese, because, as
he assured the detective, it would be impossible to read even the half
that had been stolen without the presence of the remaining half, which
was still in his possession.

One word as to how the papers had been hidden away by the ambassador.

In the first place it must be understood that all the writing was upon
exceedingly thin paper, such as is used by diplomatic agents the world
over, because it has so little bulk that much of it can be put away
within a very small space.

There were twenty-two of those thin sheets of paper in the stolen lot,
and they had been rolled together tightly as one would roll a scroll or
map. Then they had been put inside a tin cylinder that was less than an
inch in diameter, and the cylinder itself, with the contents—now, where
do you suppose a practical man like the ambassador would hide such an
affair as that?

In his safe? Not at all.

Would he deposit them in a box at a safe-deposit institution? That
would seem at first to be the logical place; but safe-deposit vaults
have been opened before now, through subterfuge, and in other ways.

Moreover, it was necessary to hide them where they could be reached
quickly, in case he should want them.

Well, the ambassador had selected a place most simple, after all.

Remember that the very set of papers of which the stolen ones formed
one-half, had been a long time in preparation when the ambassador first
came to the United States, and that the necessity for concealing them
had already arisen.

One day at about that time, the ambassador, in riding through the
country, across the river in Virginia, had passed, in his automobile, a
place where an auction of household furniture was in progress.

He had stopped and turned back. While he looked on at the scene, more
in amusement than with interest, an old-fashioned bedstead had been
offered for sale.

It was a big four-poster, with canopy top and all; it was a handsome
old thing, of the best mahogany—and the ambassador purchased it,
suddenly possessed with an idea.

That idea he had carried into execution before the bed was delivered at
the embassy; and it consisted in having a hollow receptacle bored into
each of the legs of the bedstead.

Now stop a moment and consider just what this meant.

Remember that each of the legs of the bed held a caster; that the
caster had to be affixed to a plug which would fit into the bottom of
the hole, before it could do its duty. Remember that the foot-end
of that bedstead was so heavy that three ordinary men could not have
lifted it from the floor after it was in place, to remove the caster,
and to get at the receptacles which they concealed.

Well, that was the condition.

The holes were bored into the legs of the bedstead, before the bedstead
was delivered; the casters were arranged so they could be removed.
After that, the ambassador simply kept an automobile jack in one of
the closets of his room—and so you see, he was able to jack up the bed
at any time he so desired, remove the caster, and to get at his tin
cylinders.

And here the ambassador had been cute again.

Although there was a receptacle in each one of the legs of the
bedstead, he made use of only one of them; but that one was bored to
twice the length of the tin cylinder, and, instead of hiding the two
cylinders he wished to conceal inside two of the hollows, he put them
both in the same one; one above the other, affixing the top one in its
place by sticking it there with a piece of wax, so that it would cling,
but yet could be easily dislodged.

That fact had saved one of the cylinders when the other had been stolen.

Doubtless it had not occurred to the thief that both cylinders were in
the same cavity, and probably they had searched all four of them; but
it remained that one of them had not been taken.

The problem was, how had any person been able to discover the hiding
place?

The ambassador assured Nick Carter that no other person than himself
was aware of the hiding place; that he had never taken any person into
his confidence, not even his wife or his daughter.

The room was his own room, which he occupied alone; the bed was so huge
an affair that it was never moved from its position. How, then, had any
person determined where the hiding place had been arranged?

The ambassador asked the detective all these questions; and to them
Nick replied:

“It does not interest us to know how the hiding place was discovered,
unless that was the quickest way of recovering the lost papers; but it
is not. The only thing for us is the fact that they were taken—and it
is a clear and logical deduction that whoever took them has passed them
on to another person.”

“That is undoubtedly true,” the ambassador replied.

“What excuse have you made for keeping that automobile jack in your
room?”

“None at all. I simply kept it there.”

“How often was it your habit to remove those papers from their hiding
place?”

“Not once in six months. Only when there was something to be added to
them.”

“When was the last time that you had them out, before you discovered
the loss?”

“Rather more than a month ago.”

“How did it happen that you discovered the loss?”

“Very simply. I found the jack in the middle of the floor. The sight of
it there alarmed me. I closed the door, pulled the curtains, examined
the hollow post, and discovered what had happened.”

“Now, just when was that?”

“Exactly one week ago to-night.”

“What time of day or night was it when you made the discovery?”

“It was two o’clock in the morning. The papers were stolen between
nine o’clock that night and then. I had been inside of my room at nine
o’clock in the evening, and everything was in order then. I passed the
evening at a theatre, and accompanied some friends to supper after it.
It was two when I entered my room and made the discovery.”

So much for the manner of the loss.

Concerning the papers themselves, Nick had asked the following
questions:

“You have referred to the swarm of spies for that other government, who
are now in the city, presumably for the sole purpose of watching you.
How many of them do you know, or, how many of them have you knowledge
about?”

“Just an even dozen.”

“Have you reason to believe that there are more than that number here?”

“There may be another dozen, or a score more of them, for all I know.”

“How could they, or any of them, discover the existence of the papers
in the first place?”

“Merely by conjecture; but it was a natural conclusion. They must know
that it has been necessary, during all these years since I have been
engaged on the matter, to keep very careful data. My memory could not
be depended upon in a matter so vital. Hence, it has been a perfectly
natural assumption that such papers existed. The thing was, to discover
the hiding place—and it was discovered.”

“Have you reason to suppose that any other effort than this one has
even been made to steal the papers?”

“Certainly. There have been seven or eight attempts during the ten
years, or, rather, during the last seven of them; all but one during
the last five.”

“What was done at those attempts?”

“Oh, burglars have entered my house. Thieves of the sneak-thief order
have ransacked my rooms at one time and another, notwithstanding my
watchfulness. A box at a safe-deposit institution was opened through
subterfuge—but nothing was taken from it, and I would not have
discovered that strange hands had been inside it, had not the manager
mentioned something about the man I had sent there.”

There was one other point concerning which we will repeat some of the
conversation between the detective and the ambassador.

“Of the dozen spies whom you know to be in this city, keeping watch on
you, and of whom you have given me a list, which are the ones you deem
most competent to have carried this theft into effect?”

“Either of the first two on the list. The man, Rafael Delorme, and the
woman, Dolores Delorme, his wife. They are unquestionably at the head
of the system of spies, which we call Siamese; the others are only
their puppets.”

“Do they know that you are aware of their business here?”

“They would be very poor spies indeed if they were not aware of it—and
they are the slickest of their kind.”

“There is no other one among the twelve whom you think is clever enough
to have done this thing?”

“Any one of them is clever enough, if directed by either of the
Delormes; but with the possible exception of Jules Legrande, who is
really a Greek, notwithstanding his French name, I don’t think any one
of them could have carried it off alone.”

“Now, outside of this dozen on the list, is there any other person
in Washington, man or woman, toward whom your suspicions have been
directed, believing that he or she might be a spy in the service of
Siam?”

“Yes. There is one.”

“Who is that one, prince?”

“She is called Countess Narnine. She acknowledges the given name of
Juno. In Paris, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and other cities of Europe, she
was long known as ‘The Leopard.’ And I wish to assure you, Mr. Carter,
that she is more dangerous than all the others put together—if she is
a—er—Siamese spy.”



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                            THE WOMAN SPY.


“Juno again,” the detective had mused, when he heard that statement;
but he did not say it aloud, although he did question the ambassador on
one more point which the mention of her name had brought to his mind.

“Your letter to me implied that you had some reason to suspect
Turnieff; if not of the theft itself, then of something. What was it,
and why did you select him?” he asked.

“I do not suspect Turnieff, and I do not wish to be so understood. My
belief in him is as thorough as it can be, and I would require positive
proof to convince me of his disloyalty. Yet, Mr. Carter, in a case of
this kind, one suspects everybody.”

“Well, go on, please. Tell me exactly why you mentioned him to me in
your letter, in the manner you used; why you thought it necessary to
write a special letter to me about it.”

“I had two reasons,” the ambassador replied, without hesitation. “I
will give them to you exactly as they occurred to me.”

“Please.”

“There is no one in this household who is so near to me in a
confidential capacity as Turnieff—not even my secretary. I have always,
ever since he has been with me, intended to employ him as one of the
messengers, when the time should come to send the documents to my
august master.”

“Well?”

“It has been necessary that one member of my household should know
that I had a secret mission, in addition to my regular one. Turnieff
does not know, has not known, and would never know until after its
completion, what that mission is. But he does know what the name of
the country is which you and I have designated by the name of Siam.
Now, that is one point, and it is every bit as far as it goes. It would
break Turnieff’s heart if he believed that I had suggested that much
about him.”

“But there is more?”

“Yes; on an entirely different basis.”

“Well, what is it?”

“It refers to that woman who has purchased the title, or has married
it, or has procured it in some way that makes it hers, and gives her a
right to use it—Countess Narnine.”

“Juno,” said Nick.

“Yes. That is the first name she claims. I never heard that it is
hers, more than many of the others she has made use of in the past.”

“In what way do you associate Turnieff with her? Why should any
association with her by him give rise to suspicion against him?”

“I have said that it does not amount to suspicion against him; only
that I must search in every direction around me, Mr. Carter.”

“Yes. I understand.”

“Well, I will speak of the woman first before I refer to him in
connection with her.”

“Very well.”

“Once upon a time, to my certain knowledge, that woman served Russia in
the capacity of secret agent. On that occasion she was sent to Paris,
in company with the father of Turnieff. There were strange things that
happened there. The woman evidently sold out to others, although it
could never be established that she did so—and actually she finally
succeeded in proving the charge against another. You may rest assured
that that other person died very suddenly—as she would have done, had
she not established her innocence.”

“I don’t go in for assassination, prince.”

“Nor I. But sudden deaths happen frequently among traitors in the
secret-agent business, nevertheless. The woman has been in the service
of other countries since then, we have reason to think, although we do
not know it. Just now she appears to have somehow succeeded to great
wealth, and to be living on her income, which seems large. There is not
a thing or a circumstance to disprove that view. Nevertheless, she is
here, and there is no reason on earth why she should be here, unless it
is in the interests of Siam.”

“Well?”

“She is cleverer than the cleverest. She is almost uncanny in her
abilities and profound astuteness. While I haven’t a thing to bear me
out in what I say, I haven’t a doubt on earth that she is, at this
moment, a Siamese spy.”

“And as such——”

“Wait; I haven’t quite got to that yet. During that Paris experience of
hers, to which I just now referred, when she was an aid to my friend
Alexis Turnieff, the father of my military aide, he was killed. It was
said that he shot himself. Circumstances surrounding the affair upheld
that view of the matter; but those who knew the man personally knew
then, and know now, that he was not the man to have taken his own life.
He was the soul of honor and uprightness. A large fortune in cash and
jewels disappeared at the time of his death, and was stolen—if it can
be said that things are stolen when they are taken by the people to
whom they really belong.

“But that money and the jewels had been forfeited to the throne.
Ah, well! That is political history, and has nothing to do with the
things I am telling you; only I wished to say that the jewels and money
probably found its way to just the hands where Russia did not wish it
to go.

“Now, Mr. Carter, I have always believed, and I believe now, that ‘The
Leopard’ caused the death of Prince Turnieff, if she did not actually
shoot him herself—and I more than half believe that.”

“And you are attempting to tell me that young Turnieff believes that
view of the case also.”

“I am attempting to tell you more than that. What I started to say was
that ever since Countess Narnine appeared here, Turnieff has been a
devotee at her shrine. He has fluttered around her like a moth around a
candle flame. He has been in her train constantly. He goes nightly to
her house; or, when he is not there, he is an attendant at functions
where he knows she will be present.”

“Do you mean to tell me that he is in love with her?”

“No; not unless love and hate are akin. He is bent on vengeance for the
untimely death of his father. That is why he pursues her.”

“Then how do you find a cause for suspicion against him in this matter,
because of his intimacy with the countess?”

“Ah; there you have me again. I do not know. I cannot answer that
question save in a most general way.”

“Well, in a general way, then.”

“I know that woman’s possibilities; I know her capabilities—or at least
some of them. Wherever she is concerned, I am afraid; not for myself,
for I think I am above and beyond her wiles; but for others.”

“Just what do you mean to imply, prince?”

“That Turnieff would be as clay in her hands, if she chose to exert
herself against him; that she would play with him as a tigress might
play with a tiny mouse—or as her namesake, the leopard, might toy with
a kitten. With her, he is as a child in the hands of a giant.”

“Still I do not see——”

“No, nor do I. But I have heard it said that she has great powers of
fascination; that strong men have gone down beneath her wiles; that she
molds men as potters mold clay. May it not be that she has found a way
to mold him, and to turn him into a traitor to me and to his emperor?”

“That is going rather far, isn’t it, prince?”

“Yes; too far. I admit that. But I try to look on every side. Mr.
Carter, I would like to make a suggestion, if you will permit it. I
have said that you should go your own way entirely about this case,
but all the same there is one suggestion that I would like to make.”

“What is it? Make it by all means.”

“Go and see that woman. Manage to be introduced to her in such a way
that she will be forced to receive you. Interest her. Study her. Try to
read her. Try to fathom the unsounded depths of her. Then come to me
and tell me about her.”

“You seem to have entire confidence that I may not become one of her
many victims,” the detective remarked, with a smile.

“I had not thought of it; really. It had not occurred to me. Perhaps,
after all, you had best keep away from her.”

The detective laughed outright.

“I observe, prince, that you do fear her. But I think that you need
have no fear for me. I will confess to you that I have already seen her
and know her. I have met her and talked with her, twice, in fact.”

“You have?”

“Yes; once in this country, when she happened to be a Mrs. Ledger
Dinwiddie; once again in Paris—after that. But the fact remains that I
can claim an old acquaintanceship with her, and that I do not think she
will be inclined to deny it to me.”

“Ah! That is good—perhaps.”

“I think it is very good; for I entirely agree with you that she is
in this city in the interests of Siam; that she has been sent here to
discover your secrets; that she, and not the Delormes, husband and
wife, engineered the theft of those papers—and that now she will be
more eager than ever to get possession of the other half of them.”

“Then you will seek her?”

“I will.”

“Beware of her, Mr. Carter.”

“Forewarned is forearmed, you know, prince,” laughed the detective.
“But that reminds me of something that I must say to you on that point.”

“Well?”

“I know the habits of you gentlemen, when a man like myself is engaged
in your service. You have one of your regular spies watch that man. I
will have none of that, prince. If I discover that it is done in my
case—and I shall discover it if it is done—I will throw up your case on
the instant, and have nothing more to do with it.”

“It shall not be done, Mr. Carter, I promise you.”

“Another thing: If you should get reports from any person that I seem
to be worshiping at the shrine of the countess, along with Turnieff,
you are to understand that it is a part of the game, and that I am
doing it with my eyes wide open, although they may have the appearance
of being closed all the time.”

“I will understand.”

“In the meantime let Turnieff continue as he has started out. Let him
have his head and go as far as he likes. I may use him as a foil in
what I intend to do.”

“But you are going to probe into the life of that woman; eh?”

“Yes; and so deeply that she will wince. So thoroughly that if she
stole those documents we will recover possession of them; and that,
too, very soon.”

“I wish I could be assured of that, Mr. Carter.”



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                        IN THE NET OF A SIREN.


Nick Carter paused just inside the doorway.

The scene before him was a resplendent one, and not to be duplicated
in the city of Washington, so rumor had said; certainly, the hostess
who presided over it all was not to be duplicated anywhere else in the
world.

For the scene upon which the detective looked was that of a formal
function at the home of Countess Juno Narnine and the countess herself
defied vocabularies, when an adequate description of her was sought.

The detective had thought it best to wear no disguise at all; to appear
there in his own proper person; to come upon the hostess suddenly and
without announcement, and so to surprise her, if that were possible,
although he had not a doubt that she had been informed of his presence
in the city.

He had managed purposely to arrive at the house rather late, and
already the parlors were thronged with guests, for hers was one of the
most popular houses in the capital—not alone because of the beauty of
the hostess, but because of the entertainment one found there, and the
people one met there.

As Nick halted he drew backward a little, screening himself for a
moment behind other persons who were only too eager to crowd ahead
of him, for he wished to study the scene for a time before he thrust
himself directly into it.

He saw her at the far end of the room, the centre of a throng that had
gathered around her chair; for she sat like an enthroned queen, upon a
raised dais, the better to receive her guests—and the moment had not
yet come for her to leave it and to mingle with them.

The admiration that was given to her was not stinted; and it was due,
moreover, for the detective confessed to himself then and there that
never had he seen a more beautiful human creature.

Brightness, vivacity, wit—every attribute that goes to adorn beauty and
make it a compelling factor were hers.

Statesmen, professional men, persons of prominence in every walk of
life were grouped around her, each vying with all the others to do
homage to her charms.

Such was the scene upon which Nick Carter gazed as he paused just
inside the doorway and studied the environment.

“A wonderful woman, truly,” he told himself, with just the suggestion
of a shrug, and he withdrew still farther into the background, waiting
for a better opportunity to present himself.

The moment came at last.

He saw that she was about to leave her raised chair and to mingle with
her guests. He discerned an uneasy movement around her which told him
that; and just at the instant when he believed that he would be in
time, he moved forward and stood before her.

She had been talking with a man who stood beside her, and did not
notice his approach; did not realize that another guest had approached
until he stood directly before her. Then she raised her eyes and saw
him.

A person standing near them and watching her would not have noticed
that her expression changed at all; but Nick Carter saw that it did.

There was just the slightest narrowing of the eyes; just an added
depth to them; just the suggestion of a slight start in her attitude,
unobservable to others, but plainly noted by the detective, although it
endured not more than the fraction of an instant.

Then, her face beamed. A bright smile, which was also glad in its
expression, illumined her eyes and her features. You would have said
that she was unqualifiedly delighted to discover him there.

She did what she had not done to another guest that evening. She
started from her chair and extended her hand in cordial greeting; and
she followed that hand with the other one, thus signally honoring him
by giving him both. He took them both, and for a moment held them,
looking down into her eyes as he did so, with an expression which the
spectators took to be one of intense admiration, if not more; with an
expression which she must have seen, and noted, and wondered about,
too, in her inmost heart.

The murmurs about them became hushed for the instant.

It seemed as if all eyes in the room were fixed upon those two; and yet
no one stood quite near enough to them to hear her low-toned greeting,
or his reply to it.

“You have not forgotten?” she murmured, with that bewitching smile
which could not have been counterfeited by another.

“I am here; that should be your answer,” he returned, and he smiled
back at her.

She did another thing then that was not in accordance with her usual
custom. She took his arm deliberately when she knew that a dozen others
were waiting near, to have that very honor bestowed upon them—and among
them it may be said that Colonel Alexis Turnieff was one—and she said:

“It is my habit to rest for a few moments in the conservatory, after
the fatigue of the reception. Take me there, please.”

The others drew backward, away from them. A lane was formed through
the throng, and Nick walked through it with Juno clinging to his arm,
the envied of every man in the room.

No one could surmise why she had signaled him out for this especial
honor. Nick Carter would have found it difficult to have told the
reason himself; perhaps she had none, and it was only a whim and
impulse.

But nevertheless Nick asked himself if she had in mind the last scene
between them, in the parlor of her suite of rooms in Paris, when she
had believed that she hypnotized him. The detective caught himself
wondering if she had discovered since then the fraud that he had
practiced upon her.

“She must have discovered it,” he told himself. “She knows that the
orders she gave me when she supposed me to be under the hypnotic spell
were not carried out. She knows that Bare-Faced Jimmy was brought back
to this country, and tried, and convicted. She must know all of that.”

But these thoughts found no outward expression on the part of the
detective. He walked along beside her, with her arm clinging to his,
and so they passed among the guests, and at last went through a draped
doorway and entered upon a spacious conservatory.

Others were there, to be sure; but there was one seat which was sacred
to the hostess, and it was an unwritten law of the house that when she
occupied it with another she was not to be disturbed, save by her
expressed wish.

She guided the detective toward it, seated herself, and motioned Nick
to a place beside her.

“Now,” she said to him, “we are as isolated here as if we were
behind closed doors with a substantial guard at every outlet. No one
approaches me when I am here, unless I request it, so we can converse
for a time undisturbed.”

“Isn’t it an unusual honor that you do me, countess?” the detective
asked, replying to her.

“No; not particularly. I always bring a companion here with me, after
the fatigue of receiving for two hours on that raised dais. Now—why are
you here?”

“Can you ask that, countess?”

“I do ask it,” she smiled back at him.

“I am here because I had the impulse to come. I have not forgotten our
last interview.”

“No? I had hoped that you might forget it—at least, a part of it.”

“Perhaps it is the part you would have me forget that I best remember,”
he replied softly.

“I beg, Mr. Carter, that you will not be like all the others, and
begin by making love to me offhand, as if I expected it as my due. Be
original at least, for I know that you are not in the least in that
condition.”

“What does not exist, may be made to exist, countess. Love commands
most people, but it seems to me that you have transposed the rule, and
that you command love.”

She shrugged her white shoulders and laughed softly; she also flushed,
and turned her matchless eyes full upon him for a moment, remaining
silent while she did so. Then she replied with studied deliberation:

“No; I do not command love. If I could, I would do so now. Do you
regard that as rather a bald statement, my friend? Perhaps it is so;
but nevertheless it is true. Have you ever walked past beautiful
grounds that surrounded a mansion which attracted you, and have you
said to yourself, in passing it, ‘If I could enter and claim it as
mine, I would throw open the gate and enter’?”

“Perhaps. I have not thought of it in exactly that way.”

“No? I will draw the simile a bit farther. You see in that place a
haven where you might, if you would, enter and be happy and content
forevermore; but you look a second time and discover that the gate is
locked against you—so you pass on your way. You remember the garden of
flowers, and the mansion only vaguely, yet knowing that you could have
been content had you entered there. Do you understand me?”

“I am afraid not, countess.”

“You do, but you will not admit it. Well, I will be more explicit. The
atmosphere around you, Mr. Carter, is the garden of flowers; you are
the mansion; but the gate is locked against me, and I may not enter.
Sometimes, my friend, we pass such scenes too late in life to know
where to search for the key.”

She was still looking into his eyes.

She had bent nearer to him. There was a deeper flush upon her cheeks
and brow, and her eyes were glowing with a light which must, in her
early life, have given her the name of Siren.

She reached out one hand tentatively, and permitted it to fall upon
the back of one of his hands. Her fingers tightened upon it, almost
imperceptibly, yet they tightened, and they clung there.

The detective felt the thrill of her; realized the magnetism of the
woman; knew the danger he courted; understood that she was openly
making a bid for his admiration—perhaps for something more.

He found himself returning her gaze; he saw her lips, dimly, as through
a haze, and he knew that they were protected from the view of others
by the screen of leaves that shaded them—and then he saw one of her
white arms steal softly upward toward him, and he knew that in another
instant it would wind itself around his neck.

Still he did not move.

He caught the wrist of that white arm just in time, and gently but
firmly he forced it back again upon her lap, although he did not
attempt to remove her other hand, where it was resting on the back of
one of his.

“You refuse me the key?” she murmured, so low that it was almost a
whisper. “You keep the gate locked against me? You shut me out, leave
me in the cold? Are you wise to do that, my friend?”

“Who shall tell what wisdom is, Juno?” he replied to her. “When we deem
ourselves the wisest, we are often the most stupid. But you are right,
nevertheless. The gate is locked—only there are two gates instead of
one, and that one behind which you are sheltered is an impregnable one.
I would not dare to open it if I could do so, and I doubt if I could.”

“You charge me with insincerity, my friend?”

“Ah, that term is also ambiguous, countess. You are sincere enough so
far as your purpose is concerned; but that purpose is not what you
would have me think it is.”

She drew her hand away from his. For a time she was silent, and Nick,
watching her, saw that she was thinking deeply. He waited, wondering
what would be the fruit of that thought.

At last she turned to him, and looked into his eyes again; but now her
expression had changed greatly; there was a depth to it which he had
not seen there before.

“Will you believe me if I speak to you with entire frankness?” she
asked him.

“Yes, countess. At least I will try to do so.”

“I will be, for once at least, entirely sincere.”

“I believe that you mean what you say.”

“Then listen. This scene between us outrages all precedent, does it
not?”

“In a way it does; yes.”

“I invited you to come here with me to this secluded corner of
my conservatory. I drew you down upon the seat beside me. I have
deliberately made love to you, and I have as deliberately, by my
actions, given you permission to take me into your arms—I, who have the
power to command the love of almost any man in those rooms yonder. That
is true, isn’t it, my friend?”

“Quite true.”

“I did not begin, as I would have done if I were playing at love, did
I, by inviting you to make love to me, by using coy glances, and all
the little arts that a woman is master of—I did not do any of that.”

“No.”

“Well, I will tell you why I have outraged precedent. It is because,
when I drew that comparison between you and the mansion with its
garden of flowers, I spoke the truth. You have attracted me strangely,
Nick Carter; not as other men might do, but as only you could do,
and have done it. I can see in you the possibilities of supreme
content—and Heaven knows that I long for content, as we all long for
the unattainable. I do not love you—but I could love you. You are
not necessary to me—but you could be so. One does not fall into love
blindly—at least not one like I am, or like you are, possessed of brain
and of judgment. I wonder if you understand me now?”

“I think so.”

“You know who I am. I know that you do know; and yet you have kept the
secret. You are aware that I was born to better things; that no woman
in the world is better connected than I am. Yet in my youth I threw
that all away from me and went out into the world, driven there by one
foolish act, and I have been in that world ever since buffeted by it;
maligned by it. In that outer world there is no content anywhere.

“I am like other women in that I long for content. I am like other
women in that I have a heart for love. I am like other women in that I
am loyal to one thing at least, and that is to myself. I am like other
women after all, and it is only those who do not know my real self who
think me different. Can you understand that?”

“Yes. I think so.”

“You have the key to content, if you will give it to me. I hate this
life of mine, in which there is nothing that is true and real. I crave
the real things of life—and, my friend, all the real things of life
depend upon just one quality—love.

“Wait, my friend, bear with me just a moment longer. Now that I have
begun—and I have never talked frankly to any person before now—I have
the wish to complete what I began to say.”

“Yes, countess.”

“When the sinner, moved by the exhortations of the revivalist, goes
down in front and falls upon his knees and is converted, that sinner
becomes a changed being. All the black past is forgotten. Redemption
has been found. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I am that sinner. All that has gone before in my checkered life
could be forever forgotten, and my soul might be saved—with that key to
the gate of content which you could hold out to me—if you would.”

“Countess, I——”

“And you and I together—ah, what could we not accomplish? You in your
profession, and I helping you, assisting you, working for you and with
you! Think of it! Think of the perfection of it! The beauty of it!
But—the gate is closed and locked.”

“The gate is closed and locked,” he replied soberly.

“And yet, Nick Carter, I am a good woman. You doubt it, but it is true.
I have not been good perhaps in the little things of life, but in the
great ones I have been so. No man lives who can point his finger at
me in scorn; no man who is dead might have ever done so. I have never
committed a crime in my life, or abetted one, although I have been
accused of many crimes.”

“And yet, countess——”

“Ah!” she interrupted him. “I know what you would say. You would charge
me with things that the chief of police in Paris told you about. You
would say that I had lured men to their death. It is not true. You
would say that men have killed themselves because of me. It is not true
in so far as it was a studied fault of mine, or that I led them to it,
or was willfully responsible for it.

“My life has been a strange one, my friend. One may cleave closely to
the awful precipices, and yet avoid them. That is true, is it not?”

“Yes; it is quite true.”

“Nicholas Carter, I would at least have you judge me fairly—and the day
will come when you will do so.”

She stopped suddenly, laughed in a low tone, and half turned away.

“And now,” she said, with an entire change of tone, “let us return to
present things and to the life we really live, not the one which we
would like to live. The life we do live is false, hollow, filled with
deceits, subterfuges, lies! The life I long to live in is true, sound,
upright, filled with fairness and frankness and honesty. Now again—why
are you here to-night?”

“I came here to this house, countess, expressly to see you and to talk
with you.”

“Then you have accomplished your desire. Why are you in Washington?”

“I am here in pursuit of my profession.”

“Ah; that is frankness, at least—and we were not to be frank with each
other any more, were we?”

“You must follow your own bent in that particular, countess, and permit
me to follow mine.”

She arose from the seat she had been occupying, and he rose also and
stood near her.

“I will return frankness with frankness—for this once,” she said, with
one of her inscrutable smiles. “I know why you are here. I will tell
you enough to assure you that I do know it; enough to assure you that
I am aware of your own shrewdness, and therefore am perfectly assured
of what you suspect me.”

“Well?”

“You came to Washington at the invitation of the ambassador for Russia.
That invitation was taken to you in person by colonel, the Prince
Alexis Turnieff—who believes that I murdered his father, or at least
was the cause of his death. You have become convinced that I am in
the service of a country which, at this time, believes it has reason
to keep a sharp watch upon the things that Russia is doing, or is
attempting to do, and you have taken it upon yourself to watch me.
Isn’t that true?”

“Since you believe it, countess, it seems a waste of words to say that
it is, or that it is not true. Have it so, if you wish.”

“Ah; you will not be quite frank with me.”

“Perhaps it is best, countess, that we meet on the common ground of
distrust.”

She started away from him. The remark stung her, and he could see that
it had done so, although he had not intended to hurt her by what he
said.

For a moment she stared at him, hard-eyed, suddenly cold, and he caught
a glimpse of the other side of this woman’s character.

“We meet on the common ground of distrust,” she repeated after him. “So
be it. I was not minded to have it so; but so be it. The common ground
of distrust, say you! So be it. Mr. Carter, I must become willfully
guilty of a grave breach of courtesy. I must tell you to your face that
your presence here in my home is not congenial. I must ask you to leave
it. I must inform you that your presence will not be tolerated here
again.”

The detective stared at her in amazement.

He had not expected this; had not anticipated anything of the kind.
Truly hers was a many-sided character.

While he stared, she smiled ironically upon him. Then she raised her
two hands and clapped them together loudly.

Instantly in response to the signal, many who were in the conservatory
came toward them, and two servants hastened forward also, as if the
clapping of her hands were a well-known signal to them.

Juno did not speak again until many of her guests and the servants were
quite near.

Then she turned and spoke again, directly to the detective.

“Mr. Carter,” she said, and there was no mistaking tone and air of
offense which she managed to introduce into her voice and manner, “my
servants will show you the way out. I believe that is all.”

With a gesture that was worthy of an offended queen, she turned away
from him, while the guests who had been observers of the scene stood
and stared. One of the two servants moved forward.

“This way if you please, sir,” he said. He had received his orders and
he meant to execute them.

Alexis Turnieff strode forward to the centre of the group. His face was
white and drawn with concentrated passion.

“One moment——” he began; but by a gesture Juno stopped him.

“Not another word, Alexis,” she said sharply. “Your arm, if you
please.” And then: “My servants will show this man the way out. Come.”



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                        A FIGHT IN THE STREET.


Nick Carter stopped at the corner just below the house to consider what
had happened.

Unceremoniously he had been ejected from the home of the countess.
Undeniably she had defied him, and she had managed to do it in the
presence of many others among her guests. There was no doubt whatever
that the affair would be the talk of the town by another day, and it
would be surprising indeed if the whole thing were not a column long,
or more in the morning papers.

The detective had been placed in many trying positions during the
course of his experience, but never had he met with one which had been
quite so original as this one.

Why had she done it, he asked himself as he stood there in thought, at
the corner.

Was it because when she found she could not make a puppet of him she
had resorted to the other extremity?

Had she really intended to make a puppet of him, or had she been
sincere during those moments in the conservatory?

Who could tell? She had appeared sincere enough; but who could tell?

What was the detective to do now? It was out of the question that he
should return to her house in any guise whatever. Juno read a part of
his character well, in realizing that, driven thus from her house, Nick
Carter would not return to it under any circumstances—unless, indeed,
it were to make an arrest.

But it went without saying that he could not go there again as a guest,
even in disguise. A detective has to do many things which are not
congenial, but he does not have to do ungentlemanly or dishonorable
things. This woman had seemed to know that in forcing him out of her
house in the manner she had done, she had rid herself of his presence
there for good.

And to arrest her was out of the question.

That could not be done under any circumstances, even if he could
provide himself with proof positive that she had gone in person to the
house of the ambassador, had entered it with burglarious intent, and
had stolen the tin cylinder with its contents.

That would constitute a theft, of course; and the breaking and entering
would be burglary under the law; but to accuse her, arrest her, or
attempt to prosecute her for it, would be to defeat the ends at which
his effort was aimed.

It would be also to nullify and destroy every effect of the
ambassador’s labors for ten years.

Another man in Nick Carter’s place in that conservatory might have
permitted Juno to twine her arms around his neck, and might have seized
her in his arms and embraced her—might have made the most of that
opportunity which she offered, and have traded upon that chance to
accomplish what he wished to do.

Not so Nick Carter.

Another man might have gone far in succumbing to her, and might well
have considered the case upon which he was engaged well lost—and all
the world of self-respect with it—to have won Juno’s love.

Not so Nick Carter.

Without egotism, he believed that she had been sincere to a certain
extent in outlining her longing for content, and in her belief that
with such a man as he she might find it; nor could he deny to himself
that Juno possessed a powerful attraction for him.

But that terrible _if_.

If Juno had been different; if circumstances had not been just what
they were; if the world had wagged differently.

“Bosh!” he ejaculated aloud, and started to move on. Instantly he was
conscious that a heavy hand fell upon his shoulder, and he heard a
voice exclaim:

“Wait a moment, sir!”

The detective turned about. Before him, tall and straight with his
military manner, stood Alexis Turnieff.

“Ah, colonel——” he began; but the Russian stepped forward nearer to the
detective.

He uttered an epithet. His arm swung outward and around, and if it had
been permitted to continue upon its course, the open palm of Turnieff’s
right hand must have been brought into sharp contact with Nick Carter’s
cheek.

The detective saw the blow coming and met it halfway.

He caught the swinging wrist, twisted it, wheeled around and drew it
down sharply across his shoulder, bent forward, exerted his strength,
jerked—and sent Turnieff flying over his head and over the low iron
fence near where they stood, so that the Russian landed on the soft
green sod beyond it.

It was a jujutsu trick that the detective made use of, and although it
badly jarred the recipient of it, the man was not injured.

Turnieff leaped to his feet again with a cry of rage, and with a curse
on his lips rushed forward toward the fence which separated them.

But the fence stopped him, and so did Nick Carter, for he reached out
one hand and seized the Russian by the collar and held him so, pulling
him tightly up against the iron pickets in such a way that he could not
escape.

And he held him there.

“Don’t be an ass, Turnieff!” he said. “I am in the humor just now to
box somebody’s ears, and yours would serve as well as another’s. What
is the matter with you, anyhow? Why did you attack me?”

“Release me if you are not a coward!” stormed Turnieff.

“I’m not a coward; neither will I release you. Big as you are,
Turnieff, you are only a child in my grasp. You must realize that now.
Why did you attack me?”

“You insulted the countess, you——”

“There, there, now! Colonel Turnieff, I have never insulted a woman in
my life, much less one who was my hostess. Did she say that I insulted
her? Did she tell you that?”

“No; but her actions——”

“Ah! Her actions. I see. You have no other reason for attacking me than
what you saw in the conservatory?”

“No; but that was sufficient, heaven knows.”

“My dear fellow, you have been misled. The countess was offended, I’ll
admit; but it was because I would not do things which no man of honor
could do; not because I affronted her in any manner, for I did not. Do
you believe me?”

“No.”

“Turnieff, if I did not feel a certain degree of pity for you, I would
chuck you back on the grass and leave you. As it is, I am sorry for
you. You have been endeavoring to hate this woman whom you believe
killed your father, or caused his death, and instead you are in love
with her. You have gone into her presence time after time, deceiving
yourself into the idea that you were seeking vengeance, when in reality
you were only a moth playing around a flame which, unless you break
away, will consume you utterly. Believe me, it is true.”

“Release me, I say! Let me go.”

“What will you do if I let you go?”

“I will strike you in the face to discover if there is any fight in
you.”

“Listen to me a moment, colonel, and then I will let you go. Do you
realize that I am now in the service of your country, and am acting
under the direct commands of your ambassador? Do you understand that
you are jeopardizing your whole career at this moment? If I should
report to the ambassador what you have done, you would be sent back to
St. Petersburg at once. For what are you so conducting yourself?”

The man struggled fiercely, but Nick Carter held him; and the detective
saw that he was coming to his senses, too.

“I shall release you now, Turnieff,” he said, and suited the action to
the word. “There is a gate yonder; pass through it. We will walk down
the avenue together while we talk. I only hope for your own sake that
no person has seen this affair.”

But Turnieff did not reply. Neither did he follow the advice of the
detective and go to the gate. He stood quite still, staring at Nick,
evidently impressed by what had been said to him, but too stubborn to
do as was suggested.

And Nick, half disgusted by all of the events of the night, turned away.

“I shall say nothing of this affair to the ambassador,” he said. “From
me, he will be made no wiser concerning what has occurred between you
and me to-night, and I advise you to be silent on the subject, also.
In the morning when your temper has cooled, we will discuss it. Good
night.”

He moved on down the thoroughfare, which happened to be Connecticut
Avenue.

Turnieff stung to madness by the coolness, not unmixed with contempt of
the detective, leaped the pickets of the iron fence and rushed after
him.

“You will fight. I will make you fight,” he exclaimed. “If you won’t
meet me as gentlemen should meet, then have it this way,” and he struck
wildly at the detective again.

Nick turned in time to ward off the blow, but not soon enough to
prevent the savage rush of the Russian having its effect.

For Turnieff was no weakling, although Nick Carter was greatly the
stronger of the two. The Russian clinched, winding his long arms around
the detective’s body with such tenacity that it was all that Nick could
do to escape the consequences of it.

They struggled for a moment there in the middle of the sidewalk; but
at the end of that moment Nick threw Turnieff away from him with such
force that the man staggered backward, and finally fell to his knees on
the cement flagging.

As he did so three men rushed forward out of the darkness, coming
apparently from nowhere, for Nick had not suspected their nearness.

They reached the fallen man ere he could get upon his feet and they
seized upon him, evidently to assist him—that was how Nick regarded
their intentions.

As they grasped Turnieff, as if to assist him to his feet, the Russian
uttered a sharp cry; he collapsed in their hands; something fell to the
pavement with a clatter; and then one of the three men cried out in
accents of horror:

“Good heaven, the fellow has stabbed him! The man has been stabbed!”

They dropped their burden and rushed at Nick. As if by magic, two
more men appeared, and they also rushed forward. They surrounded the
detective—and he, taken entirely unawares, startled by the accusation
that had been made, was seized by them before he realized what had
happened.

Then, as the five men lifted their voices in outcries of “Murder!”
“Help!” “Police!” and kindred words, Nick Carter’s wit told him what
must be the explanation of the scene. He realized that he would be a
helpless member of the community indeed if he should be caught there in
such a predicament with these five witnesses against him.

Instantly he laid about him with his arms and fists. He called into
play every ounce of strength that he possessed. He scattered those five
men about him as if they were so many straws. He piled them into a heap
beside the fallen Turnieff—and then he permitted discretion to control
him, and, hearing answering shouts of men approaching, he tore himself
loose finally and fled.

Under the circumstances, as he now understood them, it was the only
thing to do.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                                MURDER.


All Washington was excited the following morning, anent the murder of
Colonel Alexis Turnieff.

There were extras of the morning papers on the streets, in which the
full particulars were given, and summed up into one paragraph, an
epitome of the accounts of the crime was about like this:

Turnieff had been one of the guests at the reception given last night
by Countess Narnine, at her home in K Street. There had been another
guest there who had arrived and departed within less than an hour.
That guest had been seen by many persons, but was not personally
known to any of them save the countess herself. That he passed under
the name of Carter, was admitted, but no first name was given, and
the countess asserted that she did not remember it. It was said that
the man called Carter had in some way given offense to the countess,
although she utterly refused to discuss that point with any person. It
was sufficient, however, that she had asked him to leave her house, and
a servant had shown the man to the door.

Colonel Alexis Turnieff, supposed to have been a witness to the
affront offered the countess and avowedly in love with her, although
hopelessly so, had followed the stranger from the house. The two had
met in the street outside; there had been words and a hand-to-hand
struggle. At the end of it, Turnieff had fallen to the pavement,
stabbed to the heart, and he had never spoken again.

Three men—their names were given—passing along the avenue at the
opposite side had seen the beginning and the end of the struggle.
At first they had not thought to interfere, but finally had rushed
forward, just at the moment when Turnieff had fallen, stabbed to death
by the man with whom he had been fighting.

Even then the three men had not suspected what had happened. They
supposed that Turnieff had merely been knocked down and had rushed
to his assistance; but on attempting to lift him to his feet, they
discovered that he had received his death wound.

They had called for help. Two other men, unknown to them till then,
had rushed to their assistance, and the five together had endeavored
to hold the murderer. But the strength of the man had proven to be
prodigious. He had torn himself away from them. He had piled them into
a heap upon the pavement. He had made his escape.

Then other men came to the rescue, among them two policemen. They had
pursued the murderer; but that terrible man had made good his escape
and disappeared.

The city was being scoured for him. Every nook and corner of it was
being searched. A fairly good description of him had been obtained,
and the chief of police gave it as his opinion that the fellow would
quickly be apprehended.

In the meantime the “murderer”—that terrible fellow who had thrown
five men into an ignominious heap on the pavement _had_ made good his
escape, although for a time it seemed that it might be impossible for
him to do so.

Nick Carter had never been in quite such a predicament as that one,
and he realized on the instant that he decided to run for it, that his
reputation would not save him. His life, or at least his liberty, would
be sworn away by those five hired assassins who had taken advantage of
the opportunity offered to rid the principals who hired them, of a man
who had become obnoxious.

For so Nick Carter read the truth of the incident.

Doubtless the life of Turnieff had already been sworn away by the spies
of that unnamed country, which, for the purpose of this story, had been
called Siam, but which, of course, was not Siam.

Doubtless it had already been decreed that Turnieff should die that
night, after he came away from the reception at the home of the
countess. More than likely the five men who appeared so opportunely
for their own purposes upon the scene would have murdered the Russian
anyway, before he reached his own home. In the quarrel with Nick Carter
they had seen an opportunity not only to accomplish what they had been
ordered to do, but to cast the blame of it upon another.

Nick regarded it merely as a coincidence that that other should have
been himself. He did not associate the murder with that other incident
of the night, at the house of the countess. He did not connect her with
it, although there were moments when he thought of doing so.

The thing that the crime did tell the detective was this: That Turnieff
had been in some way instrumental in the theft of the tin cylinder with
its contents, from the house of the ambassador, and that his usefulness
was over. Considering him a weakling who might at any time betray them,
he had been sacrificed.

And yet—the matter was most opportune.

There was always the possibility that the countess had seen in
Turnieff’s anger at Nick Carter for the supposed affront an opportunity
of ridding herself of two dangerous men—Turnieff and Nick Carter.

But Nick knew that even if he could ultimately establish his own
innocence, there was sure to be much inconvenience and trouble
connected with it. He realized when he saw through the thing that
the best way for him to do was to get out of sight, and to keep out
of sight until he could clear up the mystery and apprehend the real
murderers.

That was why he ran away.

That was why, after he had made good his escape, he directed his steps
straight for the embassy and roused the ambassador from his slumbers.

For the detective had been provided with a means of entering that house
at any hour of the day or night without calling upon the servants to
admit him. When he entered it that night, he took himself straight
to the room where the big teester bed was located, and where the
ambassador slept.

Nobody saw the detective enter the house; nobody but the ambassador was
aware of his presence there; and Nick’s first words to the Russian were
a shock to him. He said:

“Turnieff has been sacrificed, prince. I do not know that he is dead,
but I fear that he is.”

“My God!” cried the ambassador.

And then with deliberation Nick recounted all that occurred at the
house of the countess, the quarrel in the street that followed it—and
the crime.

“You had the forethought to escape,” said the ambassador, when he was
able to speak after he had heard the story. “Heavens, Mr. Carter, think
of the fix you would be in if you had been captured.”

The detective smiled, though sadly.

“I have thought of it,” he said. “I thought of it then, and I had
to think very quickly, too. On the whole, I believe that those men
were not sorry to have me get away from them, since it saved them the
necessity of swearing away the life of an innocent man; although I have
very little idea that they would have hesitated at that.”

“Hesitated? Not at all. Poor Turnieff! First the father; now the son.
It is awful! But, Mr. Carter, I see men fall about me all the time. The
life of a man is not considered where the schemes of a government are
at stake. What a terrible woman!”

“Eh? Why do you say that, prince?”

“Because there can be no doubt, not the slightest, that she set those
men upon you.”

The detective shook his head in a positive negative.

“No,” he said, “I do not think so.”

“You do not? Why not?”

“For several reasons, the chief one being because it would have been
bad policy on her part. Then there are minor reasons. For example,
there was not time for her to arrange it. She could not know that I
would stop on the corner near her house, puzzled by the experiences of
the night, and that Turnieff would overtake me there. For if I had not
stopped there for five minutes or more, he would not have found me and
there would have been no quarrel.”

“And he would still be among the living.”

“No; I do not think so.”

“You do not? Why?”

“Prince, hasn’t it occurred to you that in order that this affair could
happen just as it did, those men must have been there on the watch?”

“Yes. But——”

“Wait. If they were there on the watch, they saw me leave the house,
did they not?”

“Supposedly so.”

“Well, they permitted me to go my way unmolested. If they had received
instructions concerning me, they would hardly have done that. No,
they were watching and waiting for Turnieff, intending that he should
die—intending to kill him. I had no place in that plot. It was
hatched—it must have been—without considering me, and only because
they deemed it expedient to get him out of the way. He would have been
killed just the same—only it would have been a mysterious crime, and no
person would have been directly charged with it.”

“I see what you mean.”

“If I had not stopped at that corner, where I remained certainly five
minutes if not longer before Turnieff overtook me, he would not have
found me at all. I should have gone around the next corner.”

“Perhaps you are right; and yet——”

“Well?”

“It does look to me like the work of that woman’s craft.”

“It looks so on the face of it; yes. But when one stops to analyze it,
it does not. She could not have arranged it in the time allowed, even
if it had occurred to her—and honestly, I do not think that she knew of
the attack that was to be made on Turnieff. It was necessary that she
should have known of that in order to have involved me in it.”

“You are defending her, Carter.”

“No; I am merely being just to her.”

“But poor Turnieff is dead, and he has been killed by the men with whom
she is working.”

“We surmise that; but we do not know it. Even if it is so, it does not
follow that she is in any way accountable for his murder, or that she
knew that it was decreed.”

“I think it does. Anyhow I shall act on that belief.”

“As you please, prince.”

“But, Carter, what are you to do now?”

“I am to work this case out to the end, I believe; and incidentally, I
shall seek and find the men who murdered Turnieff, and who would have
charged me with the crime.”

“Good. I believe you will do it. But how? You are a suspected man,
Carter. You cannot go abroad in the streets now as you would have done.
The papers will be filled with talk about you.”

“I know it. I am anxious to see them. But I shall go about in the
streets just the same, prince. I have not studied the art of disguising
myself for nothing. Really, the case has just begun.”



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                      BARE-FACED JIMMY’S DOUBLE.


Nick Carter, after he escaped from his pursuers that night, and could
take it more easily for the remainder of the distance he wished to go,
had thought deeply. Even before he had the interview which followed
with the ambassador, he had determined upon his future course of action.

Since Turnieff had been murdered, evidently in cold blood, and merely
to get rid of him, the detective was convinced that the Russian colonel
had been the real instrument in the theft of the tin cylinder and its
contents.

Whether Juno had engineered and directed the affair or not was a mere
incident in the matter. There was no longer any doubt in the mind of
Nick Carter that Turnieff had been the really guilty one.

And that Turnieff had had it in his power to betray those whom he
had served in performing the act—and might have done so, if driven
to it—was sufficient cause for his untimely taking off, from the
standpoint of those who had ordered his assassination.

Again Turnieff was really the only person who could have had access to
the sleeping room of the ambassador, and who could have gone through
the corridors of the house toward it, or have returned through them
from it, without exciting suspicion. After all, the ambassador had been
wiser than he realized in directing the detective to study the man
thoroughly and well.

But Juno, “The Leopard,” where was she in the matter?

During that conversation with Nick in the conservatory, she had said
enough to make it plain to him that she was really in the service of
that country which they had agreed to call Siam.

Practically she had admitted as much when she charged him with being in
the employ of Russia.

Nevertheless, Nick could not bring himself to the belief that she had
taken any part in the assassination of Turnieff, actively or passively,
or that she had knowledge of the intention to kill him.

He believed that in that respect she had been maligned. He believed
the statements she had made in regard to herself at the time of that
conservatory conversation, and he looked upon her now as not half so
bad as she had been painted, or as she had permitted others to believe
her.

Her conduct toward him when she drove him away from her home left no
sting after it, for, after all, that was part of the game, and it
was up to her to take all the tricks she could take. Aside from the
assassination, Nick had a notion that the country Juno was serving had
more of right on its side than Russia did.

Nevertheless, Nick had pledged himself to recover those secret
documents for the ambassador, and he meant to do so; and now that
Turnieff had been killed, he had promised himself that the assassins
should be caught.

“Whether Juno is the person sought in this case or not, she is the real
key to the situation,” he told himself; and believing that, he made
arrangements for the next move.

He had determined now to move quickly. The murder of Turnieff should
not go unpunished, nor would he consent that he should himself be
thought guilty of such a crime if it could be avoided.

By the time he had finished his talk with the ambassador, morning
had come; and the ambassador, at the detective’s request, arose much
earlier than usual, and went forth to make some purchases for Nick,
since it was not safe at that time to trust another with the errand.

The things he wanted were the necessities for the disguise he had
determined to wear when night should fall again, and in the meantime he
intended to keep very quiet indeed within the house of the ambassador.

When the prince returned with the articles needed, he brought with him
several of the morning papers, and Nick learned from their contents the
exact status of affairs at that time. After he had discussed the matter
to some further extent with the ambassador, he shut himself in a room
and began to make the transformation in his appearance which now seemed
so necessary.

“Once there was a man who called himself Bare-Faced Jimmy,” he said to
himself with a smile as he regarded his own reflection in the mirror of
the room, “and now I shall proceed to bring that man—although he is in
Sing Sing prison at the present moment—into this room for my especial
benefit.”

Much had been said about the ability of Nick Carter in the way of
disguises. It was an art that his father had taught him, and which he
had studied in all its branches ever since then, at every time and
place where opportunity offered. One of the things that Nick Carter
could do, and do well, was to make himself like another person,
provided that stature and physical development were approximately the
same.

Nick’s first occupation in arranging the present disguise was to make a
careful drawing of Jimmy, and this, when he began to manufacture the
actual disguise, he pinned against the wall beside the mirror.

Midnight found the detective in the vicinity of the home of Juno,
Countess Narnine. He studied the dwelling for a time, and then walked
away from it, satisfied that he would have no difficulty in carrying
his design into execution.

He satisfied himself on another point also, and that was that Juno was
not only at home, but that she had denied herself to all callers; for
he saw several persons approach the door of her home, only to be turned
away again by the servants.

“I shouldn’t wonder if the murder of Turnieff and the hue and cry after
me, as a consequence of the crime, has got on her nerves,” he told
himself.

At two in the morning he was back again near the house. This time,
watching for his opportunity, he sprang over the fence, for the
house was a detached one, crept through the shrubbery, and presently
approached a side door which he had selected for the beginning of his
operations.

He did not know that, during his absence between midnight and two
o’clock, three men had called there, had been admitted, and were even
at that moment in consultation with Juno in the library of her home.

Perhaps, if he had known it, it would only have rendered him the more
eager to proceed with the undertaking in hand; at all events, he did
go ahead with it.

It consisted, first, in using his picklock upon that side door; a small
instrument of his own invention of which he often had occasion to make
use.

A chain bolt inside the door was quickly snipped through by nippers he
had brought with him for that purpose, and he stood inside the home of
Juno shortly after two o’clock in the morning.

His pocket flashlight showed him the way around. He pressed the button
of it long enough to determine his course, and went ahead slowly and
cautiously, and so he arrived in the main hallway at the front of the
house, from which point he knew his way fairly well.

There was more light burning in the hall than he had expected to find
there, and he decided that Juno might not have retired as yet. As he
bent his head to listen he could plainly hear the murmur of voices from
some place not far away, which he rightly judged to be the library.

Nick knew the location of the library from his visit to the house the
preceding night. He knew that it communicated with one of the parlors
of the house which was directly in front of it, and so he passed
through the hall to the parlor door and entered that room.

At once the voices became more distinct, though as yet he could not
determine words of the conversation. He crept forward and drew the
heavy curtain a trifle aside from the doorway that connected the two
rooms.

As he did so, he started back so suddenly that he almost betrayed
himself, for Juno at that moment, expressing something about the
closeness of the room, left her chair, came directly toward him, and
with a quick motion pulled the curtain all the way back.

It was a miracle that she did not discover him, but she did not,
and Nick understood the reason why. It was because she was greatly
exercised with the matter she had in hand at the moment.

She wheeled about where she stood, facing the others in the room, who
were seated at a table whereon were bottles, glasses, and cigars. There
were three men there, and Juno faced them from the curtained doorway,
standing with one of her hands still grasping the curtain. She was
angry. Nick could see that at once.

“There is absolutely no use in discussing the matter further,” she
told them in a tone which was emphatic. “I will not countenance what
has happened, and I will have nothing more to do with you or with your
crowd of assassins. You may go your ways. That is final. I am sorry
that I ever came here at all.”

“Beware, my purring leopard,” said one of the men in reply, with a
short and not pleasant laugh. “You may find that you call us assassins
to some purpose.”

“You threaten me?” she demanded, her lips curling with contempt.

“Yes, countess, I threaten you.”

“You would murder me, doubtless, as you murdered poor Turnieff.”

“Very likely,” replied the man coolly. “Very certainly, if you defy us.”

“Bah! As if I feared you! You—was it you who struck the blow, Delorme?
Was it you who stabbed Turnieff to death? You would stab me also; eh?”

“Yes. It was I. His death was necessary, and if it should happen that
you were in the way, my fair one, you could die quite as easily.”

She laughed at him deliberately, mockingly. She bent forward toward
him, still holding her grasp upon the curtain.

“You are a brute and a coward, Maurice Delorme!” she exclaimed.
“But—have you forgotten the tin cylinder with its contents? What would
you do without that? Offer to do me the least harm, and I will return
it to the Russian ambassador.”

“By heaven, you shall give it up now!” cried Delorme, leaping to his
feet and starting toward her; but he had not taken the second step
in that direction when Juno was seized from behind, pulled backward
through the open doorway and Maurice Delorme found himself facing a man
instead of a woman. The man was coolly pointing a pistol at his heart
and commanding him to throw up his hands or take the consequences.

Nick Carter had not anticipated any such development as this, when he
determined to enter the house of the Countess Narnine as a burglar
would. He had intended, then, merely to personate Jimmy, to surprise
Juno, and if possible to force a confession of some sort from her.

But here was a gathering of the very men he wanted to find, at her
house. And here she was resenting what they had done in murdering the
Russian officer; defying them to their faces, and admitting in his
hearing that she could place her hand upon the papers he was seeking.
And more, here was the confessed murderer of Turnieff, with two of his
accomplices.

Nor would Nick have interrupted the scene just when he did had he not
realized the necessity of immediate action.

He had seen enough to know that Delorme was ugly, and to understand
that the man was quite capable of killing Juno then and there.

Indeed, Delorme afterward confessed that the countess would not have
lived a moment longer had Nick Carter not appeared when he did.

Nick saw the flame in the man’s eyes; he saw the temper the fellow was
in. The detective realized that he must act at once, and so he snatched
Juno out of danger, whipped out his own weapons and took her place,
getting the “drop” on all of the three men at once.

And they did not know him.

Had he been Nick Carter in proper person, they would have done so; but
in his character of Bare-Faced Jimmy, he was a stranger to them.

More than that, when he seized Juno, dragged her back away from
Delorme, and took her place, they heard her cry out in evident
consternation:

“_Jimmy!_”

They were frightened.

They did not dare to move, and doubtless they supposed that it would be
possible to temporize.

In obedience to the stern command that the detective uttered, they
raised their hands high above their heads and held them there, staring.
The two revolvers he held, one in either hand, with the muzzles
wavering from one to another and keeping each of them constantly
covered, confirmed a sufficiently convincing argument.

“Juno?” said Nick without turning his head, and for the moment
forgetting to imitate the voice of James Duryea.

She stared for a moment without replying. Then she moved forward until
she stood near him, still staring.

“Yes?” she replied. And then as if impelled by a second thought she
added: “What is it, Jimmy?”

Nick chuckled. He knew from the manner of her reply that he had already
betrayed himself, but that she preferred to accept the deception as
fact. Then he spoke calmly.

“I want you to know,” he said, still keeping the pistols wavering so
that they covered all three of the men, “that I believe all that you
said to me in that last interview we had. And now will you help me to
do something? Will you, Juno?”

“Yes. I will help. You want me to disarm those men?”

“Yes. Tell them that you know me; that if they make the slightest move
I’ll drop every one of them with a bullet; not dead, you understand;
just maimed. I’ll shoot one knee out from under each one of them.
Now go ahead, Juno. Be careful there, mister man, you who are called
Maurice Delorme.

“You look ugly and you would commit murder if you had an opportunity;
but you won’t get one. Did you ever happen to hear of Bare-Faced Jimmy,
the gentleman burglar? Well, that’s me. I came here just in time,
didn’t I? I happened to see you—all three of you—when you killed that
Russian colonel last night, so you didn’t have to make that confession
we just heard. Have you got ’em all, Juno?”

“Yes.”

“Every one of them? Are you sure that you have not overlooked a knife
or a pistol, or a bottle of acid, or poison?”

“Quite sure,” she smiled back at him.

“Good! Now, my festive assassins, turn around. Your backs are more
agreeable than your faces. That’s right. Juno, take one of these
pistols; I’ll keep the other. Now, you three cutthroats, stand still.
If you move it means a broken knee for each of you. Juno, I regret the
necessity for taking down some of these pictures on the walls, but I
need the wire.”

Five minutes after that, bound hand and foot with wire picture cord,
the three men were lying on their back on the floor of the library.
Then, and not till then, Juno stepped forward demurely and gave the
pistol back to Nick Carter.

“We will leave those fellows where they are for the present, Juno,” the
detective said. “They can’t get away. That wire cord is too strong for
them, and I am too good an expert in its use. Have you another room to
which you can take me, countess?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Come with me.”

He followed her and she led him through the hall and up the broad
stairway to the parlor of her own private suite. There she turned about
and faced him.

“Why did you make yourself so like Jimmy?” she demanded. It was the
last thing he expected her to say.

“Because I realized the necessity of another interview with you, and
because I thought that for a few moments at least I could deceive you.”

“You might have done so indeed, for a moment; but not for long. But why
did you wish to do it?”

“Juno, every wish that I had was built upon the desire to recover
possession of the tin cylinder, which I was sure you held in your
possession. To-night I have heard you admit that you have it. I want
it, Juno.”

“Suppose I should refuse it?”

“In that case I would keep on searching till I discovered it; that is
all.”

She came a step nearer to him.

“You saved my life to-night, Nick Carter. Do you realize that? That man
would have killed me. You appeared on the scene just in time.”

“That is why I appeared,” he replied.

“I owe you something for that, my friend. But first of all, I owe you
an apology—for what I said and did when you were here at my reception.
Will you forgive me?”

“Oh, that is all in the game, Juno. I think I admired you when you did
it. It was a very plucky thing to do.”

“No. That is a mistake. It was not a plucky thing to do; it was a
despicable thing for me to do. Will you forgive it? Say yes, if you
mean it.”

“Yes. Wholly. Entirely. And now——”

“Before we refer to the tin cylinder and the papers it contains, will
you do me a favor, please?” she interrupted him.

“I think so. What is it?”

“That door opens into a lavatory. Go in there and remove the disguise.
Let me talk to you as Nick Carter; not as what you appear to be.”

Without a word he turned away. Five minutes later he was back again,
and stood before her with not a trace of the disguise left upon him. He
noticed that she was holding in one of her hands the tin cylinder about
which so much had been done, and which had been the cause of so many
things happening.

With only a few words of comment, she placed it in his hands.

“Take it,” she said. “I hate it and all that is connected with it.
Somehow I feel as if I were responsible for the death of poor
Turnieff, although I swear to you——”

“You need not, Juno. I am already convinced of that much.”

“But I had nothing to do with the theft of it. I did not even ask
him to get it for me or if it was in his power to get it. Once I did
mention those papers to him, and say that if I could get possession of
them my fortune would be made. Then one day he brought them to me—and
I hated him for it; hated him for the weakling he was. I did not come
here in the service of that country that wanted the papers. It was only
after I arrived here that I was induced to take part in their affairs;
but I swear to you that I have never done one single thing for them, or
abetted one of their acts, which could reflect upon me in the slightest
degree. Oh, please believe me, Nick Carter.”

“I do believe you, Juno.”

“One more thing and I have done. I want to swear to you again that I
had nothing to do with the death of Turnieff’s father. Maurice Delorme
did that, too, I believe, although I do not know. The money and the
jewels that were stolen from the old prince I never saw out of his
possession, although I think that Delorme could explain about that part
of it, too. And now, now——”

She turned her back to him for a moment, and waited. After a little
she turned about again, and raising her head proudly, asked:

“What are you going to do with me?”

“I am going to give you a bit of advice, Juno; that is all. It is that
you give up the life of an international spy, and of a diplomatic
agent, and live the life that will make you happy. That is all.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

After a time she asked him:

“What will you do with those men downstairs, Nick Carter?”

“I have been thinking about that,” he replied to her. “It would not do
for them to be taken to jail from your home. I will telephone for the
ambassador from here. He will send a closed carriage. We will bundle
these men into it—and, unless I greatly mistake, he will know how to
handle the situation.”

And the ambassador did know.

Just how it was done nobody ever discovered, but the men made a full
confession, and ultimately they suffered the extreme penalty of the law
in such cases.

Another thing: Bare-Faced Jimmy Duryea, with the many aliases, died
that same night in the prison where he was confined.


                               THE END.

No. 1288 of the NEW MAGNET LIBRARY will be entitled “A Play for
Millions.” This story by Nicholas Carter holds many thrills and
surprises for the reader.



                            Everybody Reads

                       The Street & Smith Novel


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years, so far as placing a proper valuation on paper-covered reading
matter is concerned.

In the old days, anything between paper covers was a dime novel and,
therefore, to be avoided as cheap and contaminating.

Since men like Frank O’Brien have pointed out to the world the fact
that some of the best literature in the English language first appeared
between paper covers, such books are welcomed in the best of families.

The STREET & SMITH NOVELS are clean, interesting, and up-to-date.
There are hundreds of different titles, and we invite your careful
consideration of them from a standpoint of value and of literary
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                      Street & Smith Publications
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