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- Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective - 6/44 -


Laying both hands on her shoulders, Harper Elliston looked her in the eyes and said:

"You must have guessed the object of my visit to-day, Nellie Darrel."

She blushed under his gaze, and looked away nervously.

"N--oo, I can't say that I do. I suppose you came to see my brother."

"Not so. It is you I wished to see, Nell. Why have I come here so often? I know you must have guessed before this. I love you, dear girl, and want you to be mine--"

He could say no more then, for Nell Darrel started sharply to her feet, pressing her hands to her burning face.

"No, no, not that." she murmured. "I never suspected that, Mr. Elliston."

"But listen to me, Nell," he pleaded, reaching up and attempting to draw her hands aside. "I can give you a handsome home in New York. If you will be my wife, I will return there at once."

She tore herself from his hands, and her confusion vanished, a feeling of indignation taking its place.

"Mr. Elliston, I tell you I do not love you, and never can. I was never more surprised in my life than now. You are old enough to be my father, sir."

He came to his feet also, and leaned with his hands clinching the top of a chair. There was a frown on his brow and a glitter in his black eyes unpleasant to see.

"Must I call you coquette?" he said, in an undertone of concentrated feeling. "You certainly have encouraged me."

"Never, sir," was the indignant response.

"Then our paths must lie apart hereafter, I suppose, Miss Darrel?"

"That is as you shall determine," she answered. "As my brother's friend, I have tolerated you, and can do so in the future."

"Ah! It was only TOLERATION then. I did not think this of you, Nell Darrel. Do you know that many of the wealthiest, most beautiful maidens of Gotham would jump at the offer you have just spurned so lightly?"

"I will not deny it."

"I could have long ago taken a partner to share my life in my elegant home on Fifth avenue, but do you know the reason of my not doing so? I can tell you. I had not seen a girl to my taste. Until I came West I believed I should never marry. From the moment of meeting you, however, I changed my mind. To see was to love, and--"

"Please cease, Mr. Elliston," pleaded Nell Darrel, putting out her hand deprecatingly. "This is a most painful subject to me."

"Very well."

With a sigh he crossed the floor and stood by the window once more. He seemed struggling to keep down his emotions. At that moment the detective's sister pitied the man, and felt really sorry that she had unintentionally been the means of making him miserable.

"Mr. Elliston, please do not feel so badly. I respect you, and hope we may ever be friends."

She approached him and held out her hand. He turned and regarded her with a queer glow in his eyes.

"I accept your proffer of continued friendship," he said with a forced smile. "It is better so than open war between us."

"It would avail nothing to make war on a friend," she said simply. "I respect you very highly, Mr. Elliston, and as Dyke's friend, shall always hope to retain your good opinion."

"Whatever may happen, you will have that," he returned.

Soon after the gentleman departed. The moment he was gone Nell Darrel sank to a chair, and, bowing her head on the table, began to cry.

Strange proceeding, was it not, after what had taken place? Women are enigmas that man, after ages of study, has been unable to solve.

Another face came before the girl's mind at that moment, the face of one to whom her heart had been given in the past, and who, for some unaccountable reason, had failed to put in an appearance or write during the past six months.

"If Harry were only here," murmured the girl, as she raised her head and wiped the tears from her pretty eyes. "I know something has happened to him--something terrible."

At this moment Aunt Jule, the colored housekeeper, the only other resident of the cottage, aside from Nell Barrel and her brother, entered the room, and her appearance at once put an end to Nell's weeping.

"Marse Elliston done gone. What did he want, honey?"

"To see Dyke," answered Nell, with a slight twinge at uttering such a monstrous falsehood.

"Marse Dyke don't come yet. 'Deed but he's full of business dese times. Marse Dyke a great man, honey."

If the old negress noticed traces of tears on the face of her young mistress, she was sharp enough to keep the discovery to herself.

In the meantime, Mr. Elliston made his way to the principal hotel in the little city and sought his room. He was a regular boarder, but, like other men of leisure, he was not regular at meals or room. Nevertheless, he paid his board promptly, and that was the desideratum with the landlord.

The man's teeth gleamed above his short, gray-streaked beard, as he sat down and meditated on the situation.

"So, I can be her friend still. Well, that is something. I don't mean to give up so. Dark clouds are gathering over your life, Nell Darrel, and when the blackest shadow of the storm bends above and howls about you, in that hour you may conclude that even an elderly gentleman like myself will DO."

Again the man's teeth gleamed and the black eyes glittered.

"I have set my heart on winning that girl. A mock marriage will do as well as anything, and such beauty and freshness will bring money in New York."

Harper Elliston remained in his room until a late lour. After the shades of evening fell he left the room and hotel with a small grip in his hand. He turned his steps in the direction of the railway station. Arrived at the depot, he purchased a ticket for St. Louis. Then he sauntered outside and stood leaning against the depot in a shaded spot.

It would be five minutes only until the departure of the train. There were troubled thoughts in the brain of Harper Elliston that night.

A touch on his hand caused him to start. At thin fold of paper was passed into his palm. Turning quickly, Elliston saw a shadowy form disappear in the gloom.

"Confound it, who are you?" growled the tall man, angrily. Then, remembering the paper, he went to a light, and opening it, held it up to his gaze.

"HARPER ELLISTON: Go slow in your plot against Nell Darrel. She has a friend who will see that her enemies are punished. Beware! The volcano on which you tread is about to burst."

No name was signed to the paper.

At this moment the express came thundering in; the conductor's "all aboard" sounded, and, crunching the paper in his hands, Elliston had hardly time to spring on board ere the train went rushing away into the darkness.

CHAPTER VI.

DYKE DARREL'S DANGER.

Martin Skidway was an old offender, and through the efforts of Dyke Darrel he and his uncle had been detected in crime and sent to the Missouri State prison for a term of years. It was a mere accident that the detective came upon the escaped young counterfeiter, or rather it was through the young villain's own foolhardiness that he was again in durance vile.

"I will not serve my time out, you can bet high on that," asserted the young prisoner in a confident tone.

Dyke Darrel more than half suspected that the young counterfeiter knew something of the late crime on the midnight express, and during the ride to St. Louis he did all that he could to worm a confession from the prisoner.

"It is possible that you may get your freedom at an early day," said the detective. "I have heard of men turning State's evidence, and profiting by it."

"I suppose so."

"I would advise you to think on this, Martin Skidway."

"Why should I think on it? Do you think I'm a fool, Dyke Darrel?"

"Not quite," and the detective smiled. "I know you have been pretty sharp, young man, but not keen enough to escape punishment. You have five years yet to serve, at the end of which time you may be arrested


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