[Transcriber's note: The non-standard spellings of the original text have been retained in this etext.]
FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD
BY FRANK PINKERTON
"Will you give me a glass of water, please?"
A ragged, bearded tramp stood before the door of a cottage near the outskirts of a country village, and propounded this question to a pretty girl who stood in the door.
"In a moment."
The girl disappeared, soon returning with a pitcher.
She went to the pump near, and soon had the pitcher running over with sparkling water.
"I will bring a cup."
The tramp lifted the pitcher and quaffed the water as though he enjoyed it.
His eyes were not pleasant as he turned them keenly on the pretty face of the girl.
"Folks at home?"
"All alone, eh?"
"Yes; but Ransom will be around soon—my brother."
The eyes of the tramp glittered. He seemed to delight in reading the fresh young face before him.
"Nobody at home, eh?" he grunted. "Mebbe I'd better go in and rest a bit. Any objections?"
"Yes. If you are hungry I'll bring you food out here."
It was a pleasant day, and the sun was warm without being hot, a rare enjoyable day in June.
It seemed to the girl that there could be no excuse for a stout man like the one before her tramping and begging through the country.
"Why do you not work?" she said.
"I wasn't born that way," and he chuckled unpleasantly.
The girl hurried into the house.
His Trampship followed.
She was not a little alarmed at finding the ill-looking fellow close at her heels. She feared and dared not anger him.
Placing a chair at a table, she bade him be seated, and then she hastened to set before him bread, milk and cold meat.
"The best the house affords, eh?" he chuckled, as he sat up to the repast. "The very best."
"And it's good enough for a king."
Then he fell to and ate ravenously.
The girl walked to the door and gazed uneasily down the road.
"I do not see him."
"What's your name?"
The tramp was inquisitive.
"Eh? Is that a fact?"
The stout fellow started and regarded the girl fixedly.
"Is the name a familiar one?" questioned the girl after a moment, anxious to conciliate the man. Her nearest neighbor was at least a quarter mile distant, and the house was concealed by a clump of trees, so that the girl felt that she was at the mercy of this burly, ill-looking stranger, should he attempt violence.
"Vane, Vane," he muttered. "Reckon I've heard the name before. And you're Victory, I reckon?"
"Exactly. Sister to Rance Vane. I know'd that chap onct, and I found him not a man, but a scamp. I never liked the Vanes, father'n son. The old man's dead, I s'pose?"
"How long sense?"
"More than a year."
"Good 'nough. He wa'nt o' much account."
The tramp's eyes seemed to become suddenly bloodshot. He shoved from the table, and rose to his feet.
The girl hoped to see him go, but he made no move to do so.
"You live alone with your brother?" he queried, suddenly.
"Most of the time."
"Victory, did ye ever hear Rance speak of Perry Jounce?"
The man leered at her in a way that sent a chill over her.
"No? Wal, he didn't like me. I reckin I'll hev a kiss afore I go, anyhow."
He began to move toward her. She started to escape through the open door, but was not quick enough. The man's hand grasped her arm and she felt herself drawn toward him.
Then Victoria Vane uttered a piercing scream.
"Stop that yellin', you fool!" hissed the tramp. He drew her to him and bent to press his bearded lips to her cheek.
On the instant another person appeared upon the scene.
A bunch of bones collided with the bull neck of the tramp, sending him reeling across the floor.
Victoria darted to the arms of the new-comer, a young man, tall, slender and of prepossessing appearance, clad in hunter's costume.
"Oh, August, save me!" screamed the girl.
"Scoundrel!" cried the young hunter, presenting a rifle at the breast of the tramp. "What do you mean by this assault on a lady?"
There was a horrible expression in the eyes of the tramp, and on the instant he slipped from concealment a large knife to his hand.
"Stand aside, Miss Vane," the hunter said to the girl. "I will learn this scoundrel a lesson."
Victoria obeyed, standing back against the wall, pale and frightened, while the last comer confronted the burly tramp with his rifle cocked for instant use.
"Let me go out, August Bordine."
So the tramp seemed to recognize the youthful hunter.
"I ought to turn you over to the authorities for punishment," declared the young man, sternly.
"'T won't do you no good," grunted the tramp, "I hain't done nothing."
"I will leave it to Miss Vane."
Then he glanced at the girl.
The tramp began to glide toward the door.
"Stop!" thundered August Bordine. Then to the girl, "Miss Vane, I await your decision."
"Permit him to go then. I wish no further trouble," said Victoria.
"But he really ought to be punished. He certainly deserves ninety days in prison at the least," declared the young hunter.
"Let me go, Miss, I didn't mean nothin' wrong," whined the man who had called himself Perry Jounce.
"Let him go," said Victoria.
The hunter lowered his gun and the tramp passed into the outer air. He hurriedly left the vicinity, but before he had passed from sight, he turned his face toward the cottage, and shook a chinched hand toward the open door in which stood two forms—Victoria and August Bordine.
"Curse you, August Bordine!" hissed the coarse lips. "I'll make you repent this interference, I swear I will. You shall swing some day, and I'll be there to hear your neck crack!"
Then he turned about and disappeared in a clump of trees beside the road.
Victoria Vane and the young hunter were near enough to notice the movement of the baffled tramp, but neither heard his vindictive words. It might have been well for them had they done so.
Victoria clung to the young hunter's arm after the departure of Jounce, and seemed a long time in recovering from her fright.
"There's no further danger," declared Bordine, "so just calm your fears. I will remain until your brother returns."
"You are very kind, August."
After a little the young man quietly disengaged her hands from his arm and led her to a seat.
"There, rest yourself, Victoria, while I look about the premises."
He snatched his gun and moved toward the door.
"Don't leave me, August."
"There is not the least danger now. That tramp will not return."
"I will not be far away. If you were so fearful why did you not permit me to take him to prison?"
"I don't know. I did not wish to appear against him, I suppose."
August Bordine smiled at the look that came to the face of the girl.
He had known Victoria Vane and her brother for several months. He was never prepossessed in favor of her brother, and he often thought her "soft," to use a vulgar expression.
"I do believe the girl would make love to me if I would permit it, by giving her the least encouragement. The Vanes are queer and no mistake," remarked Bordine, to a young lady of his acquaintance, living in an adjoining town.
Rose Alstine was plain and sensible, and took no offense at her lover's referring to Miss Vane. Why should she? She knew that genial August Bordine was true as steel and generous and sympathetic to a fault.
Trouble was coming, however, that was to try the young girl's faith as it had never been tried before.
Back of Ridgewood village was a forest of large extent, bordering on a narrow stream. This woods was owned by an Eastern capitalist and he had as yet permitted no woodman's ax to resound in its depths.
Game abounded, and the woods was the frequent resort for amateur hunters, among them the young civil engineer, August Bordine.
It was his frequent visits to Eastman's woods with gun and game-bag that brought him in frequent contact with the Vanes, and especially Victoria, who, during the short space of a few months, had become violently smitten with the handsome face and gentlemanly bearing of the young engineer.
It was this fact that determined Bordine to shorten his stay at the cottage on the day in question.
"There isn't the least danger," assured August, as he lifted his gun to the hollow of his arm and prepared to depart from the Vane cottage.
"Then you will not stay?"
Tears actually stood in the blue eyes of Miss Vane.
"Good gracious! Vic, what a baby," and he laughed aloud.
He stepped to her side, however, and as her face pale, pretty, even though babyish, was upturned to his he could not resist the temptation, and he bent and kissed her full upon the pouting lips.
Then a pair of soft arms were wound quickly about his neck, and a voice whispered softly:
"Why can't you stay with me always, August?"
He tore himself loose instantly, a guilty feeling entering his heart. He was acting the hypocrite with a vengeance, and it did not agree with his honorable nature.
"Confound it, Miss Vane, what a tease you are. There comes your brother now, and I must away."
"You will call when you return from your hunt?"
He then passed outside.
A single horseman was riding slowly down the forest road toward the village.
He must needs pass the cottage.
August Bordine had called the traveler Victoria's brother. He saw his mistake as he passed out, but did not deem it necessary to rectify it.
He swung his rifle to his shoulder, and moved, with a long stride, toward the nearest point of woods.
Vaulting a fence, he crossed a bit of clearing and entered a clump of trees.
Here he paused and looked back.
The strange horseman had halted at the cottage, and was conversing with Victoria.
Bordine saw him lift his hat politely, and knew that it was no tramp this time who craved favor at the cottage.
"I don't think the girl will require my presence this time," muttered the young engineer.
She did, however, as the sequel proved.
Bordine, whistling softly, turned away and plunged deeply into the forest.
For several hours August Bordine scoured the woods in search of game. His hunt proved unsuccessful, however, and with weary limbs and anything but pleasant mood he retraced his steps.
At length he stood in the road within sight of the Vane cottage.
Everything looked quiet and peaceful about the place.
No smoke curled up from the kitchen chimney, although the sun was low in the western heavens.
"Vic hasn't begun to prepare supper it seems," muttered Bordine. "Wonder if I had best go up that way and call. Of course Ransom has returned. I believe I will and inquire who the gentleman was who called just as I was entering the woods."
And so Bordine turned his steps in the direction of the Vane cottage. The front door was closed, and a dead silence reigned over the place as he came up.
"Wonder if the folks are gone."
No answer was vouchsafed.
He rapped again.
Silence profound as the grave.
"Well, there seems nobody at home. Vic sometimes occupies the back porch with the cat and her book; I will see."
He walks swiftly around the house.
He came to a sudden stand as he gained the broad side porch of the cottage.
He stood staring, struck dumb with an awful, deadly fear. Then he moved forward a step.
His eye fell on the interior of the porch, and he started and stopped.
What was it that held his steps?
An object on the ground—Victoria Vane, lying at full length, with open, staring eyes, her masses of yellow hair stained a horrible crimson.
She lay within the porch, while at her side was a basket overturned, its contents scattered about, as though she had been holding it in her lap at the time of the accident.
Was it an accident?
As soon as he could recover his self-possession, August Bordine sat down his gun and bent over the prostrate girl.
There was a subdued horror in his eyes as he gazed.
Blood had trickled out in a little pool from a wound in her neck, that wound had proved the death of poor Victoria Vane.
Who had made it?
This was the young man's first thought—yet he soon convinced himself that this was not likely.
A letter, torn and blood-stained, lay near. August picked it from the ground and examined it. It proved to be from a gentleman, and was written in a friendly, not to say lover-like strain. At the bottom was signed a name, "A. Bor——"
The latter part of the name was completely obliterated by a blot of blood.
While the young engineer stood in an attitude of shocked irresolution, a step sounded on the gravel behind him.
He turned to look into the face of a young man whose countenance showed resemblance to the dead girl.
"My God! what is this?"
The new-comer darted forward, gazed for a moment into the dead face of poor Victoria, then staggered back, clutching the arm of August Bordine to save himself from falling.
"Suicide, I fear," answered Bordine for lack of words.
"Suicide! My soul, is Victoria dead?"
Then the last comer knelt down beside the prostrate girl, and lifted her golden head to his knee.
His cries and moans were heartrending.
In vain Bordine tried to soothe the young man, but he found that a brother's grief was beyond assuagement.
For many minutes Ransom Vane sat and moaned and wept beside his dead sister.
Then he became calm suddenly, and sprang to his feet, glancing about him in a way that caused Bordine to fear for his reason.
"Suicide you said?" turning fiercely upon August Bordine.
"I said it might be."
"It is not. Vic was happy; why should she take her own life?"
"I do not know."
"She was murdered."
"It may be so."
"You know it is. Look! See where the steel of the assassin entered her poor neck, and cut to the life. Oh, Vic, my poor darling! you shall be avenged. I will go to the ends of the earth but I will find your slayer and have his life."
Ransom Vane was white as death, and trembled like a leaf.
"I will go for a doctor," said Bordine.
"A doctor? See the life-blood there. Think you a doctor can be of service?" groaned the young brother.
"No, but it is customary in such cases, and the coroner must be notified."
August Bordine turned to depart.
Ransom Vane laid a detaining hand on the arm of the young engineer.
"See; what is that?"
It proved to be a spot of blood on the hand and sleeve of the young engineer's shirt, a point of which peered below his outer sleeve.
"It came from this," explained August, holding out the letter.
"Where did you get that?"
Vane took the stained and torn letter from the hand of Bordine.
"I found it on the porch."
Ransom Vane read the note hurriedly.
"MY DEAR:—Expect me on the 10th of June. I have been anxious to see you for a long time, dear girl, and I know you will forgive me when you hear what I have to say. If you cannot, then we must part forever, unless—but I will tell you more when I see you. Till then, good by, dear.
Quickly Ransom Vane turned upon the man before him, casting a fierce look into his face.
"This letter is yours—"
"No; you may keep it," answered Bordine quickly. "It may lead to some clew."
"But I say the letter is yours. You wrote it."
"Certainly not." "But see here;" and Vane pointed to the mutilated signature.
Bordine started when he saw how closely the name resembled his own.
"Do you deny that you wrote that?" demanded Ransom Vane, fiercely.
"Certainly; I did not write it."
"By heaven, you did, and it is you who murdered my sister!" hissed young Vane, trembling with the maddest emotions that ever whelmed a human breast.
"Vane clutched the arm of young Bordine, and glared furiously into his face.
"Calm yourself, my dear Ransom," urged the engineer. "You are beside yourself now. I had no quarrel with Victoria. In fact, we were the best of friends, and I parted from her this morning on the best of terms. I—"
"But this letter?" demanded Vane, fiercely.
"I know no more about it than you do, Ransom. I found it there on the porch."
"But it is yours?—you wrote it?"
"No; a thousand times no," articulated August Bordine, in a convincing tone.
Ransom Vane groaned and reeled against a post, the letter falling from his nerveless hand to the ground.
For some moments not a word passed between the two. Both were evidently thinking.
The thoughts of Bordine were not pleasant ones. He remembered the tramp who had that morning made himself so disagreeable to Victoria. It must be that he was the author of this horrible crime.
Another figure too came up before the vision of the young engineer, the man on horseback who sat with lifted hat, bowing to Victoria Vane, just as he (Bordine) entered the woods.
One of these men had committed the deed. Which one? Most likely the tramp.
Such were the thoughts that passed through the brain of August in the five minutes that he stood silently regarding vacancy.
The voice of the sorrowing brother fell sadly on the ear of the engineer.
"Assist me to carry poor Vic—"
He could go no further, but moved with tear-dimmed eyes toward the dead.
August bent to the work without further speech, and assisted the brother to move the body into the house to the pleasant front bed-room, the especial resort of the poor girl in life. Here they placed her on the low, neatly-covered bed, and then Bordine turned away, leaving brother and sister in solemn, silent companionship.
That was the saddest moment of August Bordine's life.
Not even when his own sister died six years before had he felt the solemn weight of sadness more deeply. Victoria had been his friend. She was not over-bright, yet she was kind and tender of heart. He felt her death deeply, and found himself wondering who could have been so wicked as to murder a pretty girl, who he believed, had not an enemy in the wide world.
There was something of mystery about the affair.
Once outside Bordine examined the ground closely. He saw nothing of the letter, and was about to move away, when a shadow fell athwart the grass giving him a sudden start.
ALL A MYSTERY.
"I beg your pardon, but does Mr. Vane live here?"
A man of small stature, smooth face and the keenest eyes Bordine had ever seen in human head, stood before him. He lifted a broad-brimmed straw hat and fanned himself as though heated, although the air was quite cool for the season.
"Do you mean Ransom Vane?"
"He lives here."
"But, sir," interrupted Bordine, "he is in no mood to receive visitors now."
"A terrible thing has happened."
Then glancing down, the small stranger caught sight of the blood. He did not shrink, but an interested look at once came to his face.
"A tragedy?" he questioned, quickly.
"Yes. Victoria Vane is dead."
"It seems to be either murder or suicide."
"This is bad. When did it happen?"
"Some time to-day."
"No witnesses to the deed?"
"None who have yet appeared."
Just then Ransom Vane appeared on the porch. The moment his gaze rested on the face of the new-comer he uttered a glad cry and extended his hand.
"Of all men in the world you are the one I most desire to see," exclaimed Vane. Then he turned to Bordine. "Mr. Bordine, this is my old friend from Newport, Silas Keene. You may have heard me mention his name."
"Yes. I have read of him as well. I am happy to clasp the hand of the most noted detective of Gotham."
This was no flattery.
Silas Keene was not a secondary man. He was first in everything pertaining to matters criminal. He had traced down more crime perhaps than any man of his age in Gotham, and he was verging on forty.
It was opportune indeed, the great detective coming at this time.
Ransom Vane had known the man for years, and the twain had been bosom friends.
"I cannot remain with you, Ransom," said Bordine, "but I will come again soon. If you require any help from me, you know, you have only to call on me."
A minute later the man in hunter's costume had disappeared.
Sile Keene went in to look at the dead girl, then he examined the ground closely, the porch, the letters, and finally investigated the extent and shape of the death-wound.
It proved to be narrow but deep, evidently made with a dirk or blade with two edges.
Then, after the house was searched and it was discovered that a bureau had been rifled of several hundred dollars left there by Ransom, the young cottager placed the torn, blood-stained letter he had found in Bordines' possession, in the hand of the detective.
"Where did you get this?" questioned Keene, after he had read the short epistle.
"It was found near my poor sister, on the porch."
"You found it?"
"By the way, who made the discovery of the tragedy first?"
"Mr. Bordine. He was standing over Victoria, with this letter in his hand, when I arrived."
"He is your friend?"
"Well, yes, I have supposed him to be."
"What is his full name?"
The detective glanced at the letter, then gave vent to a low whistle. This was natural with him at times, especially when he had made a gratifying discovery.
"Now you must be frank with me," proceeded Keene. "Tell me truly, what relation this man, Bordine, bore to your sister."
"They were friends."
Detective Keene eyed his companion sharply.
"Well, I suppose it possible that they might have enjoyed a nearer relation had Victoria lived," said Ransom Vane in an unsteady voice.
"You think they were lovers?"
"How did he seem to take this tragedy?"
"I cannot tell, I don't think he was unduly agitated, however."
Then the detective fell to thinking deeply. He folded the note carefully, and placed it in an inner pocket.
"I will retain that," he said. "Of course the coroner must be notified. This is indeed a sad case. I had no thought of such a thing when I left the depot to visit you. This will astound the neighborhood. I came from New York intending to visit Chicago, where it is thought a forger has found a hiding place. I was not employed to run him down, but thought I would place the case in the hands of the Pinkertons."
"You will not desert me in the hour of my trouble, Silas?"
"No, I will not."
"You will remain to hunt down the murderer of poor Vic?"
Emotion choked the young man's utterance then, and he turned his haggard face away to hide his feelings.
"I hoped for a brief rest, and an enjoyable visit, old friend," returned Keene.
"It seems that it is not to be. I seem destined to be forever on the trail of some criminal. Poor little Victoria. When I saw her last she was a pretty, playful child. I cannot conceive of a heart wicked enough to take such an innocent life."
"It was done for plunder?"
"Do you think so?"
"I had two hundred dollars in the bureau. That was taken."
"That convinces me that my poor sister was murdered so that the villain could rob the house."
"I am not sure of that."
"This robbery may be only a blind."
"Do you think so?"
"I will not say that. It will never do to jump at conclusions. My suspicions, if I have any, turn toward that man who just left us."
"Yes. He evidently wrote that letter. In a fit of jealousy, he may have struck the blow."
Ransom Vane was silent.
He had thought of this himself, and yet it did not seem possible that his friend could be such a demon. The detective must be left to take his own course, however.
"They seemed always on friendly terms," said Ransom, at length, "but of course there may have been secrets kept from me."
"True, I will investigate thoroughly." The detective hastened away, and a little later the coroner appeared. A jury was summoned and an examination had. This was on the morning following the tragedy.
August Bordine had been summoned by telegraph, and was the most important witness in the case.
When he told the story of the tramp the silence was oppressive.
"Did you know the fellow?"
"I did not; I believe, however, that Miss Vane stated that he had called himself Perry Jounce."
At the mention of this name young Vane started.
He plucked at his blonde mustache and seemed exceedingly nervous.
Nothing of grave importance was elicited from Bordine, only some present thought he had neglected his duty in leaving the girl so soon after the departure of the tramp.
Ransom Vane was the next witness.
He testified to finding his sister dead, with August Bordine standing over her.
"He was in hunting costume?"
"I saw no arms. He had placed his gun against the end of the porch I think."
"You saw no knife?"
Evidently the coroner had sighted the suspicious circumstances connecting August Bordine with the case.
"Did you have a knife that day?" said the coroner, turning abruptly to young Bordine.
"Yes, sir, I had a small hunting knife, but not when I found Miss Vane."
"What do you mean?"
"I lost the knife in the woods."
A short silence fell.
Many suspicious glances were cast at the young engineer. He felt that he occupied a delicate position, but remained calm under it.
The jury decided, after due deliberation, that Victoria Vane came to her death at the hands of an unknown party, and so the inquest ended. Murder was fully established, but the murderer was not found.
In the mean time Detective Keene had made some discoveries that he kept to himself for the time.
No one in or about Ridgewood knew Sile Keene, and so he did not at the outset deem it necessary to assume a disguise.
The bereaved brother did not live at the cottage after the murder, but found a room at the village tavern. Oft times, however, he wandered to the lonely cottage, and in silence brooded over the scene of the murder. He stood thus one day when the sound of a step startled him. He raised his eyes to peer into the face of a ragged tramp.
WAS IT A CONFESSION?
The city of Grandon was only a few miles distant from Ridgewood and connected by rail. It was a small city of mushroom growth, as is characteristic of many Western towns.
It was here that the engineer August Bordine resided.
He was well to-do, supporting a widowed mother, giving her a comfortable home from his earnings.
About a week after the tragedy at Ridgewood as Bordine was walking down the street his eyes was attracted by a poster on a dead wall near.
He paused and read:
The above reward will be given for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who murdered Victoria Vane at her home in Ridgewood on the 10th of June.
"BUCK BRADY, Sheriff."
Other pedestrians paused, attracted as Bordine had been by the flaming poster.
"By gosh! that ought to fetch 'im," uttered a queer-looking Yankee, who had been studying the poster for some minutes.
Bordine regarded the speaker now for the first time.
He was lean and thin, with swallow-tailed coat, tall hat, battered and worn, a huge necktie and heavy boots—a veritable Yankee from way back the young engineer thought.
"They consider the girl pretty valuable," said another.
"That reward ought to fetch the villain," uttered Bordine. "I have a notion to try for it myself."
"S'pose you dew!"
The Yankee regarded him curiously.
"It is a tempting reward."
At this moment a carriage halted, and a bearded face peered out. Beside it was a pale, pretty woman's countenance. Evidently they had been attracted by the same thing that caused pedestrians to stop and stare.
It was the woman in a pleading tone.
"But see, my dear, here's something worth looking at. A big reward for the arrest of the murderer of poor Miss Vane. Did you notice it?"
"It's in all the papers. Do drive on, Andrew," pleaded the woman's voice again.
Then, seeing people gazing at them, she dropped her veil. Her companion, a heavily bearded man, seemed intent on gazing at the flaming reward poster.
"It's worth the trial," he muttered.
Then he lifted the reins, spoke to his horse, and was soon moving away.
"Who was it?"
This from the Yankee, who seemed unusually excited as he gazed after the moving carriage.
"It's Mr. Brown, I believe," answered Bordine. The gentleman had been but a short time in town, but as he spent money freely and drove a fast horse he had attracted attention, and the young engineer had heard his name mentioned freely by some of his friends.
"Is that so? Where does he hang out?"
"At the 'Golden Lion'."
Without speaking again the inquisitive Yankee hurried on. In a little time he sighted the carriage and its occupants. He followed at a respectful distance, and saw it halt in front of a small house in the suburbs.
The lady alighted.
"Curse you! Why will you speak that name?" the man flung back, savagely. "Iris, you have been trouble enough to me, and I won't be dogged in this way."
"Dogged! Has not a wife a right to be with her husband?"
"Confound it, no! I will call on you to-night and have this matter settled—settled forever."
Then he wheeled his carriage and drove away. The woman, with veil down, remained standing at the gate for some time, watching the retreating carriage.
And the Yankee leaned against the trunk of a tree near, seemingly intent on watching a flock of sparrows near the gutter.
"It looks suspicious, anyhow," muttered the Yankee. "It would be strange enough if I should run upon Andrew Barkswell here—funny, indeed."
And the woman?
Her voice was suffused with tears as she murmured:
"Andrew, Andrew, how can you treat me so? I have sold my soul for your love, and now—now this is my reward! I feel that I shall die, yes, die, or—or go mad!"
She clasped her hands tightly, breathed hoarsely for a moment, then turned and reeled to the house. With a key she opened the door and entered; which fact convinced the Yankee that she was alone.
Slowly he shuffled down the walk and paused in front of the house.
It looked silent and gloomy enough, as though no human soul occupied the interior.
He was soon rapping at the front door. The woman he had seen enter answered.
Pushing his way in without ceremony, our Yankee friend seated himself, and removing his hat, began smoothing the crown with a greasy elbow.
"Well, sir," demanded the woman, "who are you, and what do you wish?"
"Specs, marm, specs," uttered the Yankee, grinning from ear to ear.
"I've got 'em, a heap of the best specs sold in America."
Then the Yankee drew from an inner pocket a leather case, which he proceeded to open, displaying a lot of cheap spectacles.
"I kin fit old or young, rich or poor, fat or lean, I'm a ginooine malefactor o' the human race, a honor to my profession; in fact I'm an eye doctor, and if you've weak eyes, as I see you hav', let me—"
"Sir, it is useless; I want none of your wares," said the woman, tartly.
"Yeou look sick, madam."
"I want none of your wares I tell you."
"But see here, mebbe yeou don't know who I be. I'm Jathom Green, from Goose Creek, down ter Vermount."
"But this is nothing to me I tell you."
The Yankee glanced carelessly, yet keenly, about the room. He noticed everything without seeming to do so. Folding up his spectacles, he finally returned them to his pocket and retired.
Just at dusk a man ran up the steps and opened the front door.
He did not resemble the man we have seen in the carriage some time before. He followed the woman at once to a back room, flung his elegantly clad frame into a chair, and gazed fixedly at the trim figure of the woman before him.
Producing a cigar he lit it before uttering a word.
A second figure stole up the steps and opened the door cautiously, tiptoeing down a narrow hall to the room occupied by the man and woman. The last comer was the Yankee, who had not been far from the vicinity during the afternoon.
Kneeling the Yankee peeped through the keyhole. He started then and came near uttering an exclamation.
"Now, sir, what have you to say regarding your conduct," demanded the woman, who, with hat and veil removed, was rather a pretty lady of medium size, although her white face and hollow eyes betokened much suffering.
"Nothing? Oh, And—"
"Stop! Utter that name here and I will brain you," hissed the man, suddenly, furiously, half rising to his feet.
"What must I say?"
"Brown, call me Brown, Jones, or anything but that."
"Well, Brown, you know I have been a faithful wife, and you have treated me with anything but affection."
"Why did you follow me? I told you I'd kill you if you did."
"It is because I love you, Andrew—"
"That name again!" he uttered, with an imprecation. "Madam, if you were a true wife, you would assist me in my schemes, and we might live in a mansion. I have a plan."
"We might win that reward."
The woman shuddered and covered her face with her hands.
"Do you know, Iris?" he proceeded, with the utmost coolness, "I saw that girl, Victoria Vane, before she was killed. I tell you, she was quite sweet on me."
A groan alone answered him.
"There was money in the house, and I managed to handle some of it," continued the man. "I supposed, or rather, I expected to make more out of that haul, but only got a few paltry dollars. I expect some poor tramp will be arrested for the murder of the girl, and hang, like enough."
"And you—you killed her?
"That would be telling, my dear. These girls get a fellow into a deuce of a scrape sometimes, let alone a fellow's wife. But, my dear, let's drop this subject and talk of something more agreeable."
The creak of a door startled both.
The man seemed startled.
He turned his head, then came to his feet with a hissing cry.
He was peering into the muzzle of a glistening revolver, behind which stood the form of our Yankee friend.
The light in the room was not brilliant, yet faces were plainly discernible.
"August Bordine, I arrest you for the murder of Victoria Vane!" cried the Yankee, in an awful voice.
THE TRAMP ON DECK.
For full a minute not a word passed between the two men. The sodden eyes of the tramp were fixed in a sullen gaze on the face of Ransom Vane.
"What do you want here?" finally demanded Vane in a harsh voice.
"I came to see you."
"To see me?"
"That's what I said."
"I have no money to give you, so you can travel," retorted Vane impatiently.
"I hain't just ready to travel," grated the tramp. "You act jest as though you didn't know me, Rans Vane?"
The young man glanced fixedly into the face of the ragged, filthy looking being before him.
"I never saw you before."
"I am sure."
"Didn't you once live in New York State?"
"On a farm?"
"Hev' you forgot the young feller that drove the team, the chap that got his walkin' papers in the dead o' winter, and was actually kicked into the road jest because he was absent one time to see his sister who was tendin' school in the city? You called me lazy then, Rans Vane, and you struck me, yes you did, and don't you remember, I swore I'd get even? More, you insulted my sister by speakin' ill of her, and that chit of a gal, Miss Victory, laughed. I was mad—"
"You are Perry Jounce."
"That's it the fust time guessin'."
"And you have come to this. I knew you would never amount to anything, even if you did have a smart sister."
"Hush, now! Don't you dare speak of her."
"Did she do well?"
"Better 'n yours."
A deadly pallor struck the face of Ransom Vane. His sister was dead, had been cruelly murdered, and at that moment he believed that this villainous tramp had had a hand in her death.
"Scoundrel!" exclaimed Vane, advancing toward the tramp. "You are the wretch who murdered my poor Victoria."
There was an evil glare in the eyes of the speaker.
Vane continued to advance threateningly.
"Stand back, I say, or you'll get a taste o' this."
He displayed a huge knife, the same with which he had threatened Bordine on a former occasion.
"It won't do no good to sling words. Rans, I ain't afeard of em."
For several minutes the two stood glaring at each other with glittering eyes and gleaming teeth.
"Rans Vane, I swore I'd git even with ye fur all you did agin' me and mine ten year ago. I reckin you're gittin' a leetle o' the sufferin—"
"No I won't. I want ye ter know that I hain't forgot. I know'd you'n the gal came West arter the ole man died, but I didn't know whar. I've been a tramp fur a year, and I 'lowed I'd run onter ye sometime, but 'twas all unexpected when I seed the gal t'other day."
"And you murdered her, murdered my sister?"
"Wal, 'twould a-b'en justice ef I had."
"Oh, you wretch—"
"'Twont do no good to call names, pard; they never hurted anybody yet 'at I knows of," sneered the tramp, still holding his knife ready for instant use.
The slender frame of Ransom Vane trembled, and his white hands were clinched fiercely. He well understood the vicious nature of the man before him, however, and realized that a movement of aggression on his part would lead to his own doom.
Now, more than ever, was he convinced that Perry Jounce was the one guilty of the death of poor Victoria. Vane was placed in a terrible position just then. The tramp had him completely in his power, and it might be that he meditated another murder.
"Perry Jounce, listen to me."
The young man forced a calmness he did not feel, while speaking to the man before him.
"Perceed, Rans, old boy."
"Why did you murder an innocent child like my poor Victoria? Surely she had not harmed you."
Ransom Vane began now, with the intention of talking against time, with the hope that some one might happen along, and assist in capturing the tramp.
"Nothin' but a child, eh?" with a brutal sneer. "I'd like ter know whar you git yer old gals then, ef Miss Vic war a spring chicken."
The young man's blood boiled to resent the insult.
Nevertheless, his prudence still held his passions down.
"Perry, why will you speak so brutally?"
"Look a-here, Rans, I ain't none o' your kid-glove kind. I allus speaks out what I hev to say. I hate you and yourn, and I jest tell you in plain English 'at I'm glad your sister's dead; not fur her sake, but because it makes you suffer."
"And this is why you murdered her?"
"Who said I did it?"
"You have just admitted as much."
"That's a lie! I never make such foolish admissions as that. I'd look well owning up to somethin' I didn't do."
"Do you mean to tell me that you did not murder Victoria?" cried the young man in a tone of intense feeling.
"Of course I didn't. I ain't no fool."
"I cannot believe you."
"I don't ask ye to."
The tramp polished the blade of his huge knife on his greasy sleeve.
"I might spill a little blood I s'pose," he muttered aloud, "but I reckin I'll let you live awhile yet."
Then he turned as if to depart.
"Don't go yet," cried the young cottage-owner, as his eye caught sight of a man approaching from the wood road. His thought was that with help he might capture the tramp.
"Wal, why not?"
Perry Jounce halted.
"I want you to answer a few questions."
"Tell me what you know about my poor Victoria's death. You were here just before."
"Who told you so?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I know now. It was that engineer from Grandon. I've forgot his name. He peached on me, I reckin."
"You have guessed the truth."
"Rans, don't you trust that man."
"He kin tell you how Vic come ter die, he kin. 'Twas jealousy and the like that did it."
"Do you mean that?"
Ransom Vane sprang forward and clutched the arm of the tramp.
"Let go. Yes, I mean it. He killed Victoria 'cause he thought she'd make trouble atwixt him an' another gal, that's the truth ef I hang fur it."
"My soul! it is as I feared."
Ransom Vane still clung to the arm of the tramp, however. The man was rapidly approaching, and carried a gun. Young Vane recognized him as Bordine, and he was anxious to secure his assistance in securing the tramp.
"Let go, Rans, I must be traveling."
"But wait. Will you testify to what you have jast said?"
"Let go, I tell ye."
Vane, however, still clung to the arm of Jounce. The latter became angry, and flung him off furiously.
"Help! Murder!" shouted Vane.
"Take that, you fool!"
The tramp struck a vicious blow with his knife at the heart of young Vane.
The latter sunk bleeding to the ground.
A tall, slender young man in hunter's costume peered upon the scene.
Perry Jounce walked forward, glanced keenly into the young hunter's face, then said:
"I've fixed him, I take it; but don't you peep, or—"
He did not finish his sentence, but strode swiftly away.
"Stop, August Bordine. I am badly hurt by that scoundrel. Will you help me?"
Ransom Vane sat up, with blood streaming from a wound in his breast.
The hunter at once sprang to his assistance, and made a swift examination of the wound.
He tore strips of cloth from the wounded man's shirt and succeeded, after a little, in staunching the blood.
"How do you feel?"
"Weak as a cat, but I don't believe the blade touched a vital spot," answered Vane, who now sat on the bench at the end of the porch.
"Of course he didn't. Shall I help you to the doctor's office?"
"No. You are going to the village?"
"Then you may send Dr. Helling to me."
"I will do so."
"Stay one moment."
The hunter turned about and waited for what his young friend had to say.
"You saw that tramp, August?"
"Why didn't you stop him? He gave me this wound, and I believe he is the man we need for—for the murder of poor Vic."
"No?" in evident surprise. "I was so startled I didn't think far enough to stop the fellow."
Then the young hunter proceeded on his way with his gun under his arm and a peculiar smile on his countenance.
"There's a little mistake it seems," he muttered.
Just then a man stepped from a clump of bushes near and touched the hunter's arm.
He halted and turned about quickly.
"Andrew Barkswell, I'm glad to meet you."
It was Perry Jounce, the tramp, who uttered the words.
DETECTIVE AND WIDOW.
When the Yankee crept in upon his prey he felt sure of securing him.
There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, however.
Our Yankee friend failed to take into consideration the fact that there was a second person in the room.
The young man stared at the Yankee and his revolver as if more surprised than frightened.
"What's the matter, old chap?" uttered the man, with a sneer. "This is my house—"
"You are my prisoner," uttered the Yankee, sternly.
"Who are you?"
"You will learn soon enough, August Bordine."
"That isn't my name."
"You have a dozen. I know you, however, as the forger, Andrew Barkswell."
"Well, I suppose I may's well come."
He was going in without resistance.
The Yankee was keen, but he failed to notice the movement of the woman.
Of a sudden she sprang forward behind the Yankee, and flung her arms about him, pinioning his arms for an instant. He soon tore loose, but precious time had been lost.
With a sweep of his hand, the man, whom our Yankee friend had taken for August Bordine, dashed the lamp to the floor, leaving the room in total darkness.
"Good-by, Mr. Keene. I hope you'll have better success next time," chuckled a voice, and then the outer door slammed, denoting that the outlaw had passed out into the night.
All this was the work of less than a minute.
The detective, for he it was, wrenched himself from the woman's detaining arms, and dashed down the hall to the street. Darkness reigned outside, and it soon became evident that the outlaw had made good his escape.
The baffled detective went back to the house in no enviable mood.
"I'm a little out in my reckoning," he muttered. "That man was certainly Barkswell, and yet he resembled Bordine. Can it be that the two are identical? They certainly look enough alike to be twin brothers."
Once more the detective entered the house. Groping along the hall, he scratched a match, and entering the back room, soon had the lamp burning once more.
The woman was gone.
"I might have arrested her," muttered the detective, "had I not chased her husband into the darkness. I am confident that it's the same couple I saw in the carriage, yet then he was in disguise."
Sile Keene searched the house from top to bottom, but made no important discoveries. He was prone to believe, however, that Barkswell was the assassin of poor Victoria Vane.
"Is this man and Bordine identical? That is the question," mused the detective. "I am inclined to think they are."
Then he left the house and hurried swiftly away.
The city of Grandon was small, and it did not require much time to traverse its entire length.
In a little time the detective stood before an unpretending dwelling which had been pointed out to him as the house of the young engineer.
There was a cheerful glow in the windows, although the curtains were down. Keene had cast aside his Yankee togs, and appeared undisguised.
The bell was answered by the widow Bordine herself, who at once invited him into her cozy parlor.
No one was here.
The detective glanced keenly around and noted the comfort of the little house. How could the young man who had built such a snug nest turn his attention into criminal channels? The widow was but sixty, with a plump form, pleasant eyes and agreeable manners. Detective Keene was at once prepossessed in her favor.
Could the son of such a woman be the villain appearances indicated? or had there been a grand mistake somewhere?
"My name is Keene," said the detective, introducing himself. "I called to see your son."
"My son is not in."
"When will he return."
"Not until late. His business requires him to keep late hours sometimes."
"Which is unpleasant for you."
"Somewhat, but it won't long be so."
"When they are married, he will bring Rose here, and then he'll keep better hours."
Detective Keen smiled at the simplicity of the old lady.
"Rose Alstine. They've been keepin' company a long time."
"The young lady is wealthy?"
"How do you know? Have you seen 'em?"
"No, but I've heard of the Alstines," returned Keene.
"Well, I suppose Rose is quite an heiress, especially if the old man's mine turns out well, he's been buying out in Colorado. He's out there now looking after it."
"I expect August'll be married as soon's he gets home."
"And that will be when?"
"Can't tell. It may be a month and it may be a year."
"Quite an uncertainty, indeed."
"Yes," heaving a deep sigh, "I'll be proper glad when they are settled."
"I should think so. You have friends in Ridgewood."
"None to speak of."
"Oh, yes, I know. They wan't my friends in petic'lar. Victoria was a pretty girl, and some folks called her smart, but I never could see it. Poor thing, it was an awful end she came to at last," and the widow wiped away a sympathetic tear.
"It was, indeed," agreed the detective. "Your son thought much of the girl?"
"Of Victoria Vane?"
"Law, no. Didn't I tell you that August was keepin' company with the Alstine girl?"
"Yes; but young men sometimes have more strings than one, you know."
"But August ain't that kind."
"Artless, old mother!" thought Keene. "She knows nothing of the doings of this son of her's." Then, thinking of the forger whom he had come so near capturing that evening, Keene said: "You are from New York, I believe, Mrs. Bordine?"
"From the neighborhood of Rochester?"
"Do you know a family by the name of Barkswell?"
"Never heard of 'em."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, I'm not given to telling wrong stories, Mr. Keene. Why should I? Our family was never ashamed of its name—"
"No, certainly not; but I knew the Barkswells, and I thought you might have forgotten. I am from York State myself."
"Glad to hear it. I think I heard August speak of you. He met you down to Ridgewood?"
"Yes. I am quite anxious to see your son on important business."
"Come in to-morrow, then. I expect he'll be to home."
The detective rose to go.
It did not seem possible to him then that the villain Barkswell and Bordine could be one and the same, yet it was nevertheless certain that there was a strong resemblance between the two men, and Keene was determined to watch Bordine closely.
Detective Keene hurried away.
Soon he was traversing one of the narrowest streets of the city. Just ahead of him he saw a man standing so that the light from a saloon window flared in his face.
Silas Keene halted an instant and gazed fixedly at the man.
It was certainly the same person he had attempted to arrest that night— either Andrew Barkswell or August Bordine.
The detective suddenly advanced.
The sound of his step caused the young man to turn about.
Both men regarded one another fixedly, a surprised look shooting over the face of the younger.
"Ah, it is Mr. Keene. Glad to see you, sir. Will you come home with me?" cried August Bordine, as he grasped the detective warmly by the hand.
It will be remembered that the young hunter who had assisted the wounded Ransom Vane, was hailed on his way to the village by the tramp, who has so far occupied a prominent place in this narrative.
A curious smile flitted over the face of the hunter as he looked at the ragged creature before him.
"I am glad to see you, Andrew," said the tramp, extending his hand.
The hunter refused to touch the dirty paw extended toward him.
"Won't you shake?"
"No. You have made a mistake. I am not Andrew Barkswell."
"Not Andrew Barkswell?"
"My name is August Bordine."
"Lord, is that so?" cried Jounce with a grin. "Didn't you just come from the man I knifed down yonder?"
"Certainly, and you'll have that to answer for."
"Will he die?"
"I expect so."
"You wouldn't dare appear agin me?"
"I will, as you shall see."
The tramp fell back a step and made a move as if to draw a weapon, but the muzzle of a cocked rifle cooled his ardor a little.
"Now, see here, what's the use of fooling, pardner?" whined the tramp.
"No use of it. I am in deadly earnest I assure you," returned the hunter. "I am of the opinion that you murdered that poor girl last week, and do you know, sir, there's a big reward offered for you dead or alive?"
"No. How much?"
"Five thousand dollars."
"Who makes the offer?"
"The proper officer—sheriff, I suppose. Come, now; I think I will take you into custody, and haul in that reward."
"But I ain't guilty, and you know it, Andrew."
"No more foolin', old chap. I know you, though, by gum! you do look a heap like the ingineer from Grandon. Mebbe you'n him's related. But see here, I kin tell you by that, allus."
With a quick movement, the tramp sprang forward and pushed up the hat of the hunter, revealing in the roots of the hair a red, ragged scar.
"Your loving wife made that, pardner, and I 'spose you'll acknowledge the corn now."
The hunter seemed angry enough to annihilate the tramp, but the latter stood back and grinned complacently in his face.
"Couldn't fool me, brother," chuckled Jounce. "I 'member when Iris gin ye that rap. She sticks to ye like a burr, pardner, and won't let ye play sweet on the ladies, as you'd like. Kinder mean fur a wife to keep sich a sharp eye out fur her lord, but I tell ye, Iris is grit to ther backbone, and she's jealous, too. But I won't tantalize yer, coz 'taint jest; but 'sposin' you gin me a little rhino? I'm busted—dead broke; out o' rocks, and wrecked on a lee shore."
The man uttered an imprecation.
"I see that you know me," he finally articulated. "I've fooled a good many, but it seems a loving relative can't be deceived. Don't you give me away, Perry, and I'll have money enough for all of us soon."
"It's true as preaching"
"What lay are you on?"
"I make no confidants."
"Then you'll rue it mebbe."
"I certainly should if I did. I've got the softest snap but for one thing."
"An infernal man-tracker from Gotham is out here on my lay. He may prove troublesome."
"I've seen him—Sile Keene."
"Yes. Put him off the track, Perry, and I'll make it an object."
Then the hunter laid a gold eagle in the hand of the tramp. An avaricious gleam filled the man's wicked eyes.
"You can count on me, brother."
"Never mind brothering me. I don't want you to trouble me again, you understand, until—"
"Till that man-tracker goes under?"
"You bet I won't."
Then Barkswell moved on his way, and the tramp disappeared in the bushes.
"Ho! So Mr. Andy don't like for me to call him brother," uttered the tramp, gutterally. "Wonder if he's forgot that he married sister Iris. I must look up the old girl. Mebbe she can do something for me. I'm aware that she'd be ashamed of me in these togs but I reckin I kin sleek up a bit with a part o' this"—clinching the gold-piece as he spoke.
In the meantime Andrew Barkswell made his way to the village, and finding the village physician, sent him to the cottage of Ransom Vane to attend the wounded man.
It will be seen that the man in hunter's costume was not August Bordine, although he had deceived Ransom Vane into believing him to be the engineer. It was this close resemblance to Bordine that put a scheme into the head of a villain.
"I had no idea that I looked so much like somebody else," mused the young villain as he rode toward Grandon that night. "I'll profit by this, or I am a fool. If Iris had only remained away. She's so squeamish, I can't do anything. I really wish an accident would happen to her."
All this happened on the day before the adventures of Mr. Barkswell with the detective in the guise of a Yankee, already recorded.
We now return to the city.
Silas Keene was not a little puzzled as he found himself clasping the hand of the young man in front of the low saloon.
Was this the same man he had dogged to the house in the suburbs?
He looked like him, and yet there seemed to be a slight difference in the voice.
The detective was puzzled.
"Where do you stop, Mr. Keene?"
"At the Golden Lion."
"Good hotel; but I would like to have you accompany me home. I would talk of the late crime at Ridgewood. I notice that a large reward has been offered for the perpetrator."
"It seems so."
"Of course you will strive to win the reward."
The two men were now walking away from the vicinity of the saloon.
"This is the hardest part of the city," said Bordine. "It's seldom that I come this way."
"What called you here to-night?"
The detective was suspicious now of the man, and had his revolver convenient to his hand.
"Well, simply because I saw a fellow coming this way that I recognized. The man entered that saloon. You see I brood continually over the murder of poor Victoria Vane."
"Yes; that is natural enough."
"Is it? I suppose it's because I was connected with it in such a way."
"You connected with the murder?"
Sile Keene seemed to think his companion was about to make a full confession, for he almost stopped in his walk to stare at the face of Bordine.
"I was connected with it, as you will remember. Sometimes I blame myself for not remaining until her brother returned, and not giving that tramp the opportunity he desired," said Bordine, in a solemn voice.
"So you think it was the tramp that committed the murder?"
The detective asked this question simply for the want of something better. He was now pretty thoroughly convinced that the real assassin walked at his side, and that it might be well to arrest him at once, when, if necessary, sufficient evidence could be hunted up afterward.
"I am almost sure of it."
"Robbery and revenge."
"Yes. Poor Victoria!"
"See here, Mr. Bordine, what was that girl to you?" demanded the detective, suddenly and sharply, laying his hand on the arm of his companion.
A dark form dogging their steps—had not been seen by either.
"She was nothing to me, sir."
"Certainly, and nothing more. If you knew her you will bear me out in the statement that she was something of a coquette in her way."
"I know nothing about that."
"You hadn't met her in some years perhaps."
"I admit that I had not. See here, Mr. Bordine, alias Barkswell, we may as well come to an understanding. I consider you a dangerous man, and propose to put you in a safe place."
At this moment a ring of cold steel touched the temple of Bordine, who regarded the detective in silent astonishment.
A revolver was against his temple.
"What does this mean?" demanded Bordine.
"That you are my prisoner, forger and assassin!" hissed Silas Keene.
The next instant a pair of handcuffs were snapped over the young engineer's wrists.
THE DETECTIVE PUZZLED.
August Bordine stood handcuffed and a prisoner, his face the picture of utter astoundment.
It was too dark, however, for the detective to note the look on the face of the young engineer.
"I hope you will go with me peaceably," uttered Keene, as he clutched the arm of his prisoner to lead him away.
"Mr. Keene, this is astounding. I thought you were my friend," finally uttered the young engineer, in a voice quivering with emotion.
"You are a skilled and slippery villain, young man, but you cannot throw me off the scent by any such pretense as this. I've trapped too many criminals, and heard their smooth talk. Let me tell you that I heard your confession to your wife, that you murdered Victoria Vane and robbed the house."
Bordine trembled under the detective's hand.
"But I tell you there is some mistake, sir. My name is Bordine, and—"
"I do not care to listen just now," interrupted Silas Keene. I know my duty."
"I doubt it," retorted Bordine angrily. "I will make you smart for this."
The young man walked on, however, and when in the vicinity of the city lockup, the detective turned from the street to cross a vacant lot. They were thus in a gloomy spot, and compelled to pass near the edge of a deep hollow, an excavation made a long time before for a cellar.
Just at this point a dark form glided up behind the detective and dealt him a stunning blow on the head, felling him to the ground.
"Thar, pardner, I reckon that beak won't git no furder with his pris'ner."
Bordine was dumbfounded.
Who was the rough-spoken man who had come to his rescue by perhaps dealing the detective a death-blow?
"He put the darbies on, did he?"
Bordine held up his manacled hands. The gruff-spoken individual fumbled with them a moment, and then, to his great joy, Bordine found his wrists free.
The stranger had done him a good turn indeed.
Now the young engineer was anxious about the detective's fate; who he realized, had been acting in good faith no matter how foolishly he had blundered.
"I'm allus on hand like a thumb," chuckled the man who had rescued Bordine.
"You had keys to fit the handcuffs?"
"Took 'em from the bloke's pocket."
Then, as he cast the bracelets from him, August bent over the prostrate form of Silas Keene.
"I'm afraid you've seriously injured the man," said August lowly.
"Wal, nobody'll cry ef I have," grated the rescuer, "I expect we'd better make sure of the job and then I kin claim the reward."
"Why, confound it, the rhino you promised me ef I'd knife the cursed beak who was on yer trail."
"Oh yes, to be sure," returned the young engineer, who by this time began to "catch on" to the true situation.
It was evident that a grave mistake had been made, and Bordine resolved to carry on the deception with a view to learning something of the intentions of the villain or villains who had plotted the destruction of Keene.
"Let's see, how much was I to give you for this?"
"Durn it, that was fur you to say, Andy. I want you to be liberal now."
"Yes, you've done me a good turn to-night and I'm not unmindful of it, but I don't happen to have any money on my person just at present. Suppose you call 'round to-morrow evening about this time."
"When you'll be out of the kentry mebbe," retorted the other with a growl of dissatisfaction.
"You ought to know me better than that," rebuked the engineer.
"I know ye fur jest that caper, Andy Barkswell."
So that was the man he was supposed to represent. There was something familiar in the ring of the man's voice, too. Where had he heard it before?
"Well, sir, I can't pay you anything to-night. You appoint a place of meeting and I will be there, don't you fear," returned the young engineer, after a moment given to reflection.
"Wal, ef that's yer game, I'll meet ye at Billy Bowleg's saloon, to-morrer at this time. Is't a bargain?"
"It's a bargain, Perry."
Then the two clasped hands.
August Bordine recognized the man now as the tramp who had assaulted Victoria Vane, that day, when he was up at Eastman's woods on a hunting excursion. He was the same man he had seen enter the saloon so Silas Keene came along, and it was this saloon that the tramp had named as the place for the next meeting. It was well. The engineer resolved to be on hand and make sure of the burly scoundrel who, August Bordine was sure, had murdered Victoria Vane.
"Now, pard, hadn't I better gin the hound another tap on the head?" Referring to the insensible detective.
"No, leave him to me, old fellow. You have done your complete share in disposing of the man-tracker. I will complete the work."
"Better dump him in yender."
Perry Jounce said no more, but moved swiftly away in the gloom.
Then August Bordine hastened for assistance.
He found a hack, and had the insensible detective borne to his home, which was not reached until nearly midnight.
When the man-tracker opened his eyes, he found himself in a cozy room, snugly ensconsed on a huge sofa, with the fumes of a hot sling in his nostrils.
"Taste this, Mr. Keene, and you will feel better."
It was August Bordine, with a hot drink for the detective. For a moment the man-hunter could scarcely believe his senses.
He sipped the hot sling, and afterward felt better, so that he sat up and gazed about him. It was the same room he had visited earlier in the evening, but the picture of home comfort was not the same, on account of the absence of the comfortable form and motherly face of Mrs. Bordine, who had retired long since to rest.
Silas Keene's senses were yet in a daze, and his head ached enough to split. He glanced at the pleasant face of the young engineer, then about the room, as if wondering where he was.
"You are puzzled, Mr. Keene."
"Well, I should say so," returned the detective. "I cannot account for it, nohow."
"This is my home, Mr. Keene, and you are welcome to remain here until you choose to depart. I would like for you to make it your home while you remain in the city."
"But," gasped the detective, "how does it come that I am here?"
"I had you brought here in a hack."
"Was it you that knocked me over?"
"No, indeed," smiled Bordine. "I was never known to assault an officer."
"I will explain."
The young engineer did so, telling all the circumstances and concluding with:
"I am as deeply puzzled as you can be, at the man's motive in rescuing me from your hands. Evidently he mistook me for another person, since he addressed me as Andrew Barkswell."
"And is not that your name?"
"Certainly not. I hope you did not make the same mistake. Evidently you did, for, if my memory serves me, you addressed me by that name as well as my own when you arrested me last night."
"Yes. It is quite morning now."
"And you have been with me all night?"
"Yes, and summoned a physician. You see I was afraid you had been seriously injured."
Silas Keene bowed his head in thought for some moments. At length he looked up and held out his hand.
"Mr. Bordine, I have been a confounded fool."
"I hope not."
Yet the young man could not repress a laugh at the queer expression resting on the countenance of the detective.
"I arrested you for murder."
"For the murder of the Vane girl."
"Yes. You were in a hurry to win the reward—I forgive you, sir. It was simply a mistake."
"And might have proved a grievous one."
"Certainly. I am satisfied that it is no worse."
"And you can forgive me?"
The two men clasped hands in apparent friendship.
Nevertheless the detective had a lingering suspicion that he was making more of a fool of himself than ever. He tried to smother this, and to appear frank and genial before Bordine. If the man before him was not Barkswell, then he resembled him so closely as to defy detecting the difference.
"I will watch and wait," thought Keene, "and not make another move until I am certain of the facts."
"Now that we understand each other," proceeded Bordine, "I wish to make a bargain with you."
"I promised to meet this tramp, whose real name is Perry Jounce, I believe, at Billy Bowleg's saloon to-morrow evening, for the purpose of rewarding him for his villainy."
"I find that my other duties will compel me to remain away, but if you will look after the appointment I shall be glad. You can take all the help you need, and make sure of this tramp, and may help break up a bad nest as well. What do you say?"
"I will do it of course."
"Thanks. Now lie here and rest. You need to be recuperated, for the work is hard." "I will do so."
Then bidding his guest good-night, the young engineer left the room.
As he had said it was almost day dawn, and one person was early astir, at least in the city, a man who had been listening at the slightly raised window to the conversation going on between Bordine and the detective.
"It is well," he muttered with a chuckle of delight as he hurried away.
A BIBULOUS LOVER.
In a pretty bijou of a room one evening sat a girl of nineteen, tall and stately, with a comely face and eyes that were lustrous as stars.
Rose Alstine was not a beauty, but she was good at heart, generous to a fault, and beloved by all who knew her.
She was an heiress to wealth that was reputed bordering on a million. Her money prospects, however, in no way marred the goodness of her character. Had she been overly proud she would certainly not have permitted the attentions of the humble engineer, August Bordine.
There was genuine love between them, too, not of the effusive, sickish sort, but that love that enobles and glorifies.
On the evening in question, Rose sat alone gazing thoughtfully at the carpet. There was a troubled look on her countenance, for only that day she had heard bad news. A horse had run away with her lover and flung him so violently against a post as to injure him severely.
In the evening paper she read the account, and now she was debating whether or not it would be unmaidenly for her to call on her lover. In the main Rose was a sensible girl, yet she was seldom known to fly in the face of the proprieties.
August might die!
It was this thought that brought a moisture to the eyes of the heiress, just as Miss Williams, her cousin of uncertain age, entered the room.
"It would certainly never do, Rose, never."
"What is that, Janet?"
"It would never do for you to visit a man. Just think what the gossips would say. As a relative, and one who would not like to see our good name trailed as a garment, I warn you not to think of such a thing as visiting that man Bordine."
Rose regarded the speaker keenly.
Even with a sad feeling tugging at her heart, she could not but understand that it was sour grapes with Janet Williams. She had once tried desperately to win the attention of the young engineer.
"But, Janet, August may be fatally injured," said Rose, after a moment, in a faltering voice.
"Which would not alter the status of the case in the least."
"Are you heartless, Janet?"
A bounding step on the stair cut short the words of Miss Williams. The next instant the door was flung open and a man crossed the threshold, and, hat in hand, confronted the two girls.
His face was somewhat pale, yet his lips were wreathed in a smile. Rose sat for an instant staring at the man as though about to faint, so astonished was she.
Then with a little shriek she rushed into his open arms and sealed her welcome on his lips.
Miss Williams stood dumfounded.
Rose lay sobbing on the breast of her stalwart lover.
"There, Rose, darling, that will do," said the gentleman, leading her to a seat. "Were you not expecting me?"
"No indeed," cried Rose, as she brushed away the tears. "I read of the terrible accident, and my mind was full of forboding."
"Indeed! What a little goose you are, Rose."
"But you might have been killed, you know, and then—"
"And then what would have become of poor me?"
"Sure enough; but I wasn't killed, nor even seriously hurt, my dear, so we will discard such disagreeable thoughts from our minds."
He settled himself on the wide, cushioned couch at her side, and pressed a kiss on her cheek just as Miss Williams swept, with upturned nose, from the room.
"Faugh!" ejaculated the elderly girl, as she closed the door behind her with a bang. "I can't abide such sickly slush as that. Rose is a fool, and that man isn't one whit better."
Then she flounced down the broad stairs and sought relief from her overwrought feelings in smelling-bottle and snuff.
Yes, dear reader, Miss Williams, dear old girl, was given to snuff, and she would soon cross the boundaries to that old maid's paradise where cats and parrots abounded.
With her it was indeed the sourest of sour grapes.
She felt that this was the happiest moment of her life, as she nestled against her lover's breast and realized that no harm had come to him after all.
"It was wholly a false report, August, but it made me miserable for some hours."
"Not wholly false," he said, as he toyed with a diamond ring that glittered on her finger. "I was thrown out and injured, but not very badly. I came here just as soon after the accident as possible to alleviate your fears."
"Oh, how good you are."
"This ring," he said, seeming to wish to avoid the subject of the accident. "A genuine diamond, is it not?"
"Certainly. Have you forgotten—"
"That it was my own gift. No, darling, but I believe I have forgotten the cost," he said, quickly.
She stared at him in astonishment.
Then she burst into a laugh.
"How absent-minded you have become," she declared. "I fear that accident injured your brain, August."
"It's barely possible," he said, forcing a laugh.
"Why, you goose, you know that ring was a present from papa on my last birthday, and he said it was worth a good thousand. How could you forget?"
"Surely, how could I?" he returned, with a glittering eye. "I—I don't feel just right, that's a fact."
"And it may have been very imprudent for you to come out so soon after your fall," evincing anxiety.
"Oh, no; I guess not," was his light reply. He lifted her hand again.
"It's your ring you miss?"
She rose and went to a little stand, from a drawer taking a golden circlet, and resuming her seat once more.
"Why do you not wear it?"
"It's a little large."
"Indeed. Permit me to take it. I will bring you another that you can wear."
She resigned the ring to his keeping.
"And this one. How beautiful!" he exclaimed, turning the diamond ring about on her finger.
"Strange you never noticed it's beauty before."
"Well, you know I've been too deeply absorbed in the owner."
Then he slipped the ring from her finger and held it up to the light.
"Well, it is a beauty!" he murmured, toying with it as a delighted boy might with a new plaything.
"I thought you did not admire diamonds?"
"Well, can't a person change their opinions?
"Ah, that pain again!" exclaimed the engineer, clasping his stomach suddenly and groaning.
"Oh, August, you are hurt, in pain, and trying to keep it from me!" she cried in alarm.
"It's a mere nothing, but—but have you any, brandy in the house? I feel that I need something of the kind."
He seemed trying to smother his distress, and this caused poor Rose to grow pale with alarm.
She sprang up at once.
"I believe there is a flask of brandy in the pantry; I will go for it."
"If you only would."
She passed out quickly.
In about ten minutes she returned having a flask and glass.
"I feel much better," he said, "but I will taste the spirits since it may prevent a recurrence of that ugly pain."
He tossed off a rather ample glass of the liquid, and declared that he felt twenty per cent better.
"If you weren't a strict temperance man I should think that you liked brandy," said Rose, with an amused laugh.
"I'm temperate to the backbone save when it's necessary to use liquor as a medicine," and he laughed, too, in unison with Rose.
She placed the flask and empty glass on the little stand.
"I must return now, Rose. I don't feel that I ought to remain out late to-night."
"Well, I hope you will not suffer from the effects of the accident."
"No danger. That diamond ring, Rose. I dropped it and can't just put my finger on it. Will you help me find it?"
He peered under the couch and chair.
"Never mind, August, I can find it in the morning."
He rose up then, kissed her good-night, and hurried away.
The next morning, when Rose came to look for the diamond ring, it was not to be found. She went to the stand and opened it; her case that held a set of diamond bracelets was there, open but empty.
Rose Alstine uttered a great cry.
Her diamond bracelets, valued at five thousand dollars were gone!
What did it mean?
THE BOWLEGS SALOON.
The saloon of Billy Bowlegs was a low resort, and Detective Keene realized that it was not a safe place for a member of his profession were he recognized by any of the law-breakers who frequented the place.
The detective was deeply puzzled with regard to August Bordine. He could not remove from his mind the idea that the young engineer was the same man who visited that woman, his wife, apparently, in another part of the city. It seemed that the young man was playing a double game.
"He has befriended me, and I will not move against him until I make sure, hereafter," thought Keene. "He has an estimable mother, and it seems a shame that he should be such a villain. It will break her heart, I believe, when she comes to know what a scoundrel she has for a son. I will investigate this mixed state of affairs thoroughly before I jump at conclusions. It is barely possible that I was a little premature last night."
The detective wandered about the city in disguise during the greater part of the day, but made no discoveries, save only that he saw the tramp, Perry Jounce, pass down and enter Bowleg's saloon in the early part of the day.
Late in the afternoon an elderly looking gentleman, in the office of the Golden Lion, purchased an evening paper and began perusing the locals.
"While Mr. August Bordine was driving down the street, near the depot, his horse became frightened at a passing train and ran. Mr. Bordine was hurled out against a telegraph pole and severely injured. He was removed to his home by a friend. At the hour of going to press we have not been able to obtain further particulars."
After reading this, the old gentleman came to his feet.
He passed from the hotel, and turned his steps in the direction of the Bordine cottage.
In a little time he was ringing the door-bell.
"You wish to see my son?" queried the old lady who opened the door.
"He is not able to see visitors."
"He is badly hurt, then?"
"Mother, tell the gentleman to come in," called a voice from the cozy front room, and so the visitor was permitted to go before the engineer.
"Ah, beg pardon, but I thought that it was a friend," uttered the pale young man, who sat in the great armchair, propped by pillows.
"My voice sounded familiar?"
"And I am a friend," cried the old gentleman, at the same time removing hat and wig.
"Silas Keene!" exclaimed Bordine.
"Good lord, who'd a thought it?" interjected the motherly widow, with upraised hands.
"Only a bit of disguise," laughed the detective. "I adopt such frequently. It sometimes becomes highly necessary you know, Mr. Bordine."
"I suppose so."
"I saw a notice of your injury in the evening paper and hastened here at once."
"Thanks. You are very kind," returned the young engineer. "I assure you it is nothing serious, but may lay me on the stocks for a day or two. I meant to assist you to-night, but, as you see, now, it is wholly out of the question."
"Have you made any discoveries?"
"None of consequence."
"We are no nearer the solution of the murder mystery than ever," muttered Bordine. "I think, if you succeed in arresting Perry Jounce, you may wring something from him. He is a low villain, and would as lief commit a murder as eat."
"Yes. I mean to look after the scoundrel to-night."
"Don't attempt to do anything alone, Keene."
"I think there is little danger."
"But that tramp may have discovered his mistake by this time. He undoubtedly mistook me for another person, as you did last night."
The detective eyed the engineer keenly.
If this young man was a dissembler he was certainly a keen one.
"You will be on your guard?"
"Certainly," with a smile. "I have trailed too many criminals to their lair to fear now."
"One thing more," as the detective rose to go. "I want you to consider my house open to you at all times during your stay in Grandon."
"Thank you. I will not forget it."
And then the detective was gone.
"What a strange man," remarked Mrs. Bordine.
"Yes," agreed August. "I have heard of him as a great detective, and I hope that he will prove his name good in this instance. Surely it does seem as though this murder mystery might be cleared up. Of course there may be no evidence to convict him, yet it seems plain to me that Perry Jounce, the tramp, is the guilty man."
"I should think they'd arrest him at any rate."
"I am of the opinion that it would be good policy."
In the meantime Silas Keene had resumed his disguise and returned to the Golden Lion. He remained here until after darkness fell, then, going outside, he secreted a revolver and set of handcuffs on his person, and congratulated himself that he was ready to pay the saloon of Billy Bowlegs a visit.
He counseled with a member of the police force afterward.
"I'm going to make an onset to-night, at Bowleg's saloon, and I want you to be within call in case I should need you," explained the detective, at the same time revealing his badge of office. "There's money in it if you're alert, my friend."
What member of the force could resist such an inducement?
Silas Keene sauntered down the narrow street leading to the saloon in question, paused for a moment on the threshold, then passed in.
Soon a man in blue halted in the shadows without, and waited developments. He expected that the detective would soon give the signal for assistance, but the police officer waited in vain.
Slowly the minutes passed.
An hour drew its length along, and then, becoming impatient, the man of clubs walked into the saloon.
Two men were drinking at the bar, and from beyond a screen came the sound of voices, where numerous gamesters were engaged in play.
Billy Bowlegs was himself behind the bar. He seemed to recognize the officer, for he nodded and set out a decanter of brandy and shoved it toward him.
After drinking the officer said:
"An old gentleman entered a short time since. I had my eye on him, and would like to see him."
"Man with long hair, and one eye?"
"No. A real gentleman, with gray hair and beard."
"Seems 's though I do remember seeing such a chap," uttered the barkeeper. "How long ago was it?"
"Nearly an hour."
"Probably he went away."
"Not by the front door."
"Eh! Then you've been watching him? Suspicious character, eh?"
"You can look through the rooms."
Billy Bowlegs led the way behind the screen.
Half a dozen men sat playing at the tables, as many more smoking and reclining on settees at the side of the room.
The air was thick with smoke, yet the keen glance of the police officer showed that his friend, the detective, was not present.
"Strange!" muttered the officer.
"He doubtless went out the side door," and Billy Bowlegs pointed to a narrow door at the side of the room.
The officer was not the brightest member of the force, and believing that he had been sold by the old man who had pretended to be a detective, the guardian of the night returned to the bar-room, partook or another horn of brandy, and then passed out upon the street.
"Sold!" he muttered, angrily, as he strode from the dangerous vicinity.
Meantime what had occurred to detain Silas Keene so long?
When Silas Keene, the New York detective, entered the bar-room, his glances met no familiar face. The tramp had been thoroughly described to Keene, so that he felt that he should know the fellow the moment his glances fell upon him.
The detective did not know that his man was on the lookout for him.
It will be remembered that a man had been listening through an open window to the conversation between the detective and August Bordine in the early morning.
That man was no less a personage than Andrew Barkswell, whose strong resemblance to the young engineer had so complicated affairs. He, of course, preferred to meet the detective in a way that the latter little suspected.
Keene sauntered into the card room, after partaking of a cigar.
While here watching the players, a hand touched his arm.
"Be you lookin' for somebody, mister?"
Keene looked into a dark, repulsive face, and at once recognized the man who had been described as the tramp, Perry Jounce.
"Yes," returned the detective.
"Who mout it be?"
Bending to the man's ear, Keene whispered the name of Barkswell.
"Loud o' liberty!" exclaimed Jounce, "I was expectin' him, too."
"When did you meet him last?"
"'Bout this time last night."
"Exactly; on a vacant lot—?"
The tramp started and evinced alarm.
"Don't worry, old fellow," uttered the detective in a low voice. "I know all about it, my friend. You were to meet a gentleman here by appointment?"
"I am the man."
"Yes. Mr. Barkswell couldn't come, and so he sent me to take his place. I would like mighty well to see you in private for a few minutes."
"I kin fix that."
Jounce left the room, going to the bar-room for a minute. The detective didn't mean to lose sight of his man, so he managed to watch him from a convenient position behind the screen.
He saw him procure a key from Billy Bowlegs, and whisper something in his ear. Then he came swiftly back to his room beyond the screen.
"I'll find a quiet place whar we won't be disturbed, pardner," uttered Perry Jounce, at the same time leading the way to a small screen that seemed to be tucked back in the corner to be out of the way. Turning this, a narrow door was revealed.
Unlocking this, guide and detective passed through, and stood in total darkness.
The detective was resolved to learn from this man all he could about Andrew Barkswell before he placed him under arrest, and it was for this reason that he seemed to fall in with his wishes so condescendingly.
In the darkness, with the sound of the key grating in the lock as Jounce secured the door. Silas Keene became slightly nervous for the first time.
Might he not be walking into a trap? It was possible, and yet it did not seem probable, since this man could not know who he was.
Keene clutched the butt of his revolver with one hand and waited developments with considerable anxiety.
"Come on, pard."
Then Jounce led the way down a dark and narrow passage to another door, which he pushed open.
"Go in, boss."
The detective hesitated.
Noticing it the tramp strode on in advance, struck a match and lit a gas jet that stood out from the wall.
"A pokerish place," said Keene, as he followed Jounce into the room and gazed about him.
"Its private anyhow," returned the burly fellow with a laugh.
There could be no disputing this fact.
A round table occupied the center of a small room, with a chair on either side of it. A pack of cards and decanter of liquor occupied the center of the table, also a couple of glasses.