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- Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 5/44 -


woman's answer, as she clutched the bank note eagerly, and thrust it from sight.

Then Professor Ruggles turned to the door. Here he paused and faced the woman once more.

"Madge, what charge was your nephew arrested under?"

"An old one."

"That is not an answer," and the man frowned.

"The charge is for uttering counterfeit coin. I believe the boy was innocent, but there was money on the other side, and Martin was sent up for ten years; my husband for fifteen. My man died of a broken heart, being innocent, and Martin served five years and then escaped."

"I understand. I don't think the boy will ever serve out his time."

"I hope he may not, but---"

"Keep a stout heart, Mrs. Scarlet. Influences are at work to free the boy. It will not do to permit him to languish in prison. I tell you Providence is on your side."

Then Mr. Darlington Ruggles passed from the room.

"Strange man," muttered the woman, after he had gone. "He is a mystery. Sometimes I imagine he is not what he seems, but a detective. I hope I have given nothing away, for I find it won't do to trust anybody these days."

In the meantime Professor Darlington Ruggles made his way to another part of the city, not far from the river, and met a man in a dingy basement room at the rear of a low doggery.

Strange place for a learned professor, was it not?

"You've kept me waiting awhile, boss."

The speaker was the man we have seen at Madge Scarlet's--Nick Brower by name.

"I couldn't get away sooner," returned the professor. "How does the land lay, Nat?"

"In an ugly quarter."

"I feared so myself. The young chap that Dyke Darrel took to Missouri knows enough to hang you---"

"And you, too, pard; don't forget that," retorted the grizzled villain grimly.

"I forget nothing," said Mr. Ruggles, giving his plug hat a rub across his left arm. "It isn't pleasant, to say the least, having matters turn out in this way. I wish to see you in regard to this Dyke Darrel." "I'm all ears, pard."

"He must never see Chicago again."

"Wal?" "I want you to see to it, Nick."

"I don't know about that," muttered the grosser villain. "I've shed 'bout enough blood, I reckin."

"It is for your own safety that I speak, Nick. No trace of that last work can ever reach me."

"Don't be too sure, Darl Ruggles. With Dyke Darrel on the trail, there's no knowing where it'll end. He's unearthed some o' the darkest work ever did in Chicago an' St. Louis. I WOULD breathe a durn sight more comfortable like if Dyke Darrel was under the sod."

"So would others."

"Yourself, fur instance."

"I won't deny it, Nick. I don't feel very comfortable with the young detective free. Between you and me, Nick, I believe we can make this the last trail Dyke Darrel ever follows. A thousand dollars to the man who takes the detective's scalp. That is worth winning, Nick."

"Put 'er thar, pard."

Nick Brower held out his huge hand and clasped the small white one of the Professor.

"I'll win that thousan' or go beggin' the rest o' my days, Darl Ruggles."

"I hope you may. You'd best take the next train for the Southwest. I won't be far behind."

And then the two separated.

A little later Professor Darlington Ruggles stood on the dock overlooking the river and the shipping. Although yet early in the season the big lake was open, and several vessels laden with lumber had entered the river from various ports on the Eastern shore during the day.

A tug lay on the further side, and a schooner with bare spars loomed up in the moonlight.

"This open sewer has witnessed more thar one crime," mused the Professor. "I would like it if that infernal Dyke Darrel was at the bottom of the river. He has taken into his head to hunt down the men who killed Arnold Nicholson, and if there's a man east of the Mississippi who can ferret out this crime, Dyke Darrel is the one. But I don't mean to permit him to do anything of the kind if I know myself. It's a fight between the detective and as sharp a man as any detective that ever lived. I imagine--hello! who is this?"

The last exclamation was caused by the sudden appearance of a dark form coming up over the dock as if from the water. A moment later a man paused within six feet of Professor Ruggles, and penetrated him with a pair of glittering eyes.

"What do you want?"

It was the Professor who uttered the word, at the same time receding a step or two, for the stranger's glance startled him considerably.

"Who are you?" demanded the stranger, shortly.

"It does not concern you."

"Don't it? We'll see about that."

An arm shot forward. The Professor's plug fell to the ground, and the next instant a red wig was swung aloft in the moonlight.

"Ha! I thought so. You are the man I seek--"

The speaker's words were cut off suddenly.

CHAPTER V.

ELLISTON'S REBUFF.

A mad cry fell from the lips of the Professor when he felt himself unceremoniously scalped. The next instant his right hand drew forth a gleaming knife.

"Oh! Ah! MURDER!"

A dark form went backward over the dock; a splash followed, and the Professor stood alone. He peered into the muddy water to note the fact that it flowed on calmly as before.

Then Ruggles picked up his hat and wig, and readjusted them on his head.

"My soul! that was a narrow escape."

At this moment another form was seen approaching, and the Professor, deeming it prudent to move away, was soon striding from the spot, his tall form disappearing in the shadows before the third person reached the edge of the dock.

**************************************

On the day following the events last narrated, a man ran up the steps at the Darrel cottage in Woodburg, and rang the bell.

Nell answered, and met the gentlemanly Mr. Elliston. She led the way at once to a room opening from the hall, where preparations had been made for a lunch.

"Where is Dyke?" questioned the gentleman the moment he was seated.

"I haven't seen him since he left for Chicago to look into the express robbery," returned Nell. "Haven't you met him?"

"No. Strange he did not write if he meant to be gone long," remarked Elliston. "You were about to dine, I see."

"Yes; will you keep me company?"

"With pleasure."

"I thought Dyke would be with me ere this," proceeded Nell, as they discussed the edibles. "When he goes for a long stay she usually drops me a line."

After the lunch, Mr. Elliston left his chair and crossed the room to glance from the window, at the same time plucking at his short beard in an apparently nervous manner.

Nell was on the point of removing the ware from the table, when Mr. Elliston turned suddenly, and resumed his seat at the table.

"Sit down, Nell, I wish a word with you."

The girl sank once more into a chair, wondering what was coming.


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