|Chapter Title||TWO PRECIOUS LETERS.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||A Long Chase|
.TWO PRECIOUS LETBUS.
One glance into the room showed that it was empty.
Running quickly to the widow, Nick threw it up and looked up and down the back of the house.
She could not have escaped that way, for the fire escape was not connected.
He searched two adjoining rooms and their closets. There was no trace of her. ^
Where could the exhausted girl have gone so suddenly ? She could not have gone out by any other door, for the only other one was locked and
bolted on the inside.
Nick, however, had no more time to speculate on her disappearance, for, even before he had com- pleted his search, the man who had been in pursuit of him, had entered the room, and closed the door, standing with his back against it.
" So," he said with a threatening sneer. " You old villain, you ain't satisfied with chasing girls in the street, but you must break into houses too. I'll make you remember this, you grey-headed
" Please don't hurt me," said Nick, with a quiet
" Hurt you ? I'll break every hone in your old carcase, an' don't you forgit it."
" I'll try not to forget it if you do it ; but I'm sure you wouldn't hurt a defenceless old man."
The burly ruffian strode toward Nick with such a wicked gleam in his eye that the young man saw that he really intended mischief.
"Don't touch me or I'll call for help," he said.
" Call ahead ; only take care you don't spoil your
The man had one hand in his coat-pocket, and was watching Nick with a wary eye, evidently ex- pecting him to draw a weapon.
Nick was fully aware that the hand in the man's pocket held a pistol.
He pretended fright.
" What have I done to you ? The girl's nothing to you."
" Never you mind what she is to-"
The man probably never realised what happened
"Nick had waited until he was near enough, and then, like a flash of lightning, had taken one step forward, at the same time shooting out his terrible right arm.
The small fist took the fellow under the jaw, fairly lifting him off his feet, and hurling him sense-
less on the floor.
" Well," said Nick, coolly, " there's nothing like beef tea, after all, for quieting a man's nerves. I guess he's had a dose he won't forget. Now let'B
see what I can find out."
"Very carefully, hut with the rapidity of the most expert» pickpocket, ho went through the man's
It was a very miscellaneous assortment that filled those pockets, though the most striking things were a big roll af greenbacks, and two large caliber
Nick had almost decided that he was to find nothing important there when he came upon a small, crumpled piece of paper.
Smoothing it out, he read :
"Dangec They've got old Sim. Carter. At the old place, now. Send this to Billy,"
There was no signature. The writing was in lead pencil, and was evidently that of an inexperienced
"Thank you, Billy-I s'pose your Billy," said Nick, smiling grimly at the unconscious man. " I'll take this, if you are quite done with it. I'll give
yen an answer another day, as soon as possible J
And with mock politeness Nick left the roo» and J
the house. I
There were several things he wanted to do, but '
as he could only do one at a time, he lost no j '
valuable minutes in deciding, but started at once to see Ralph Moreland.
It was shortly after noon when he reached the
"Is Mr. Moreland in?" he asked.
"Who shall I say wnuts to see him ?" " A messenger from Mr. Livingston."
" Oh, yes, sir," exclaimed the clerk, with a sudden rush of politeness.
In a moment he returned, and led Nick to the private office.
"From Mr. Livingston?" inquired Ralph More-
To his vexation, Nick was almost startled into an
Ralph Moreland was about twenty-five, with dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and brown moustache. And he lind a small sear over one eye-
A quick glance revealed the fact that a high hat and a coachman's overcoat hung on the rack in the
He was not a handsome man as the paying-toller had said, but he waa as manly and straightforward looking as a man well could be.
Care and trouble sat on his face, and it was easy to see he had had but little rest the previous night.
"I am the dotective employed by Mr. Living- ston," said Nick.
" Sit down, please."
Nick thought he saw an uneasy blush pass over the young man's face.
" I wanted to seo you, thinking you might help me in some way to find out Miss Mabel."
There seemed to be a short struggle going on in the cashier's breast. Then he looked up, and said, looking firmly, almost defiantly, Nick thought, in his eyes.
" I do not think I can help you ; but I will do what I can. I suppose you would like to question
" If you please. In the first place, am I right in believing that you are as anxious as her parents that Mías Mabel should be found."
'* I would give my life," said Ralph Moreland, in a deep, almost solemn tone, " if I could be sure that it would bring Mabel happily home again. You know she was to be my wife."
" I know that and you must forgive me if I seem to ask impertinent or unfeeling questions. My only motive is to discover Miss Mabel. Do you know of any reason why she should leave home ?"
" Her intended marriage to you was her own un-
biased choice ?"
" I am sure it was. There is no reason why it should not be. Of her love to me, sir, I am as sure as of mino for her." .
There was a fervour in Moreland's voice and manner that left no doubt of his sinoerity. But from what he knew, Nick had no doubt of their love or good understanding with each other anyhow.
What he was seeking for was some of the know- ledge which he knew Moreland to possess of Mabel's
He did not expocb to draw that out by his ques- tions, for he saw plainly enough that the cashier was on his g-uard.
His questions, indeed, were only put to give him time to concoct a scheme whereby he could search the coat-pocket of the young man.
He felt quite sure that if there had been any correspondence, it would be in Moreland's pocket, unless it had been destroyed.
His plan was ready. It was simple almost to childishness ; but he knew that simple plans were more likely to succeed than complicated ones.
" Mr Moreland," he exclaimed, as if overcome by a sudden exoitement. I am an old man, you are a young one." j
Ho rose from his chair and approached the desk at which Moreland was sitting.
" I believe you love Miss Mabel. I do not doubt she loves you ; but there is more in this than appears on the surface. I am not only old in years but older still in the ways of the world, and I tell you-" He was excitedly gesticulating with his hand. "I tell you there is a mystery-a foul mystery under all this. Oh, I beg your pardon.
How careless of me."
In his excitement he had upset the inkstand spilling the ink over Moreland's hand, which had been resting nervously on the desk.
Nick snatched up a sheet of blotting paper, and, putting it quickly on Moreland's hand, absorbed
" Now wash your hand, quick ! before it can dry in ! Here ! I'll take your coat off !"
And with an excitement and rapidity that com- pletely carried the unsuspecting young man away Ni»k had hurried him to the wash-basin,.and taken
his coat off.
Standing close beside him, Nick pretending great solicitude about the ink stain, he at the same Mue examined Hie pocket of the coat he held.
Even as he stood there he took a letter from an envelope which was directed in a lady's hand.
While Moreland was protesting half-impatiently that it was no matter and while Nick, himself, was profuse in apologies, the cunning fellow was reading
this note :
" DARLING RALPH :-Be cautious. Detectives are after me. I have the money. Meet me corner Of Avenue A and 8th street at 10 o'clock precisoly.
" Lovingly, MABBI,."
The letter was back in the pocket and the coat on Ralph Moreland.
Nick asked a number of questions, and said a great deal about the terrible mystery, and then to Moreland's evident relief went away, saying cheer- fully:
" I shall find Miss Mabel, and shall eat some of your wedding cake yet, so don't be cast down."