The Twin Ventriloquists: or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler
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"Now tell me about this girl who you say is the daughter of my old friend Sidney."
Ike had his own suspicions, but he did not project them. He was going very slow, as he hoped to draw the old man on and force him to a very startling confession. He told the story of Sara Sidney – told it in a straightforward, simple manner. The old man listened attentively and betrayed considerable emotion, and he muttered:
"How unfortunate I have been robbed! How much I might have done for this daughter of my old friend! But alas! I am a poor man now – yes, a poor man."
"All your wealth can be recovered."
"Oh, they all say that."
"Who says so?"
"The detectives who have been here; but they will never recover one dollar. I will never get my property back."
"That is what your niece said," projected Ike suddenly.
The old man almost screamed as he said:
"My niece! What do you mean?"
"I will speak plainly. I cannot be deceived – this man Sidney was more to you than a friend. I recovered the stolen property of Sara Sidney; I will recover your property."
"Who are you, young man?"
"You may call me the devil or Tom Walker if you choose, it makes no difference. I will recover your property, and now I tell you I know your name is Sidney and the girl I know is your niece, and that accounts for the wonderful resemblance to the portrait of your daughter."
The old man glared.
Ike, as our readers will observe, was pressing right ahead in his impressions. He had arrived at a conclusion and he was assuming a tone calculated to force the old man to an admission. He said:
"You need not fear. Your niece is independent; she will not become a burden to you. She is a brave, true, energetic young girl. She has some means – enough to maintain her until she is in a position to support herself by her labor. I tell you, when you see her you will be proud of her."
The old man was very thoughtful for some moments but finally he said:
"Can I trust you, young man?"
"Yes, you can trust me."
"My real name is Sidney. I did have a brother who went to California. This is all very strange. I have not heard from my brother for nearly thirty years. If what you say is true this girl may be my niece. When can I see her?"
"You cannot see her until I have caught the thieves and restored the property or come to you and admit that I have failed."
The old man appeared dazed and Ike said:
"Tell me your story. Yon can trust me."
"I believe I can," said the old man; "I will. I have admitted that my name is Sidney, and that I am a brother of the Sidney who went to California. I went to South America and while there met a young American girl, the daughter of the United States consul.She became my wife and one child was born to us; but alas! my wife died, carried off by fever, ere the child was a year old, and from that moment I devoted my life to my daughter. I am of humble birth, and I set to work to accumulate a great fortune for my child. I brought out masters from Europe to educate her. She was beautiful, amiable, bright and accomplished, and I was happy. But alas! death came stealing along one night and wrapped its cold arms around my child, and I laid her beside her mother. From that moment I lost all ambition, all interest in life. I had heard many years previously that my brother was dead. I had never heard of his marriage and did not suppose he had left a child. Strange fate! I live, but my child is gone; he has gone and his child lives. I converted all my wealth into bonds, money, jewels and securities, and I came home to America. They call me a miser, alas! In my own way, secretly, I have been aiding the poor and needy for twenty-odd years. The portrait you see is a portrait of my child. In the South, you know, girls mature very fast. She was but thirteen when she died. Well, I have had no interest in life. I fear nothing, I have cared for nothing. I have only been waiting for death to come and claim me. His visit has been long delayed and now my wealth is gone. I did not care, but now I do care, for if you are not deceiving me I would have had something for the child of my brother; and you say she resembles the portrait. Well, when my brother and I were boys we greatly resembled each other. And now listen to me: I accept your gage. I will not ask to see my niece until you have made good your promise; either you shall recover my fortune or you shall come to me and say you have failed."
"It will be strange if I ever come to you and say that I have failed. You can trust me. I seek no reward, but I believe I can recover your fortune, and now I have a double motive for doing so."
There came a quick, searching glance to the old man's eyes, but he said nothing until after an interval, when he declared:
"Recover the fortune and you shall not complain of your reward."
"Have you talked much to the detectives?"
"I have not, because until now I was indifferent."
"If I can secure the slightest clue I will promise success. Have you any recollection of the appearance of either of the men?"
"Yes; I had a struggle with them before they chloroformed me."
The old man proceeded and gave quite an accurate description of one of the men.
"This is great!" said Ike, and he asked:
"Where did the struggle take place?"
"Down in my parlor. I heard them down there as I heard you, despite your care, and there I met and fought them until overpowered."
Ike went down to the parlor. He spent one minute gazing at the portrait and then set to work. He had associated so much with detectives he had their methods down to a fine point; and besides, as our readers know, he was naturally a perfect wonder in shrewdness and cunning. He drew his mask lantern and the old man asked:
"Are you a detective?"
"A sort of amateur," came the answer.
Ike got down on the floor, face forward, and flashed the light of his mask lantern over every inch of the carpet, asking questions of the old man as to just where the first grapple commenced, and soon he cried, "Eureka!"
The old man had become eagerly interested.
"What have you found?"
"All I need, added to your description."
Ike had come across several strands of hair. He rose from the floor and held the threads under the full glare of his lantern, and the old man exclaimed:
"I remember; yes, I did grasp one of them by the hair and must have pulled a few locks."
"Hardly a few locks, but enough," said Ike.
The young ventriloquist obtained what he most desired. He had the description, as stated, and he knew the color of the hair of at least one of the robbers. Let him find one of them and he well knew he would not only run down the men but the "swag." He felt quite jubilant, and after a long talk with Mr. Sidney, in which he gave the old gentleman very minute instructions, he passed out the front door, and as he did so a man seized him.
"Hello, young fellow! what are you doing in there?" came the question.
"I am not in there; I am out here," answered Ike coolly, and at the same instant Jack ran up and said:
"Look out for that fellow, Ike. He's a bad one."
"I want you," said the man.
Ike suddenly drew his mask lantern, which he had not extinguished, and flashed the light straight in the fellow's face. The man uttered an oath, drew a revolver and made as if to strike Ike a blow, but instead he received a rap on the head which felled him as though he had been hit with an iron bar. As the man fell Ike leaped over his form and he and Jack sped away. Our hero had reasons for speeding away, for he believed he was on to a great thing.
Once out of sight Jack asked:
"What happened; Ike?"
"Wonders upon wonders, Jack; it's a night of wonders. I can't stop to tell you now; but who is that fellow? You said he was a bad one."
"I'll tell you. While I was waiting for you I saw him and another man come stealthily down the street. I stole behind them and overheard their conversation. They were not looking for you, but some one else. I think when you came forth they mistook you for the man they were looking for."
"They are not officers?"
"We must trail that fellow. He is probably associated with the robbers."
The two ventriloquists worked a transform and separated, but both were making for the one objective point and both got on to the trail of the man whom Jack had so opportunely knocked over just as he aimed a blow at Ike.
As intimated, they got on the trail of the man and followed him until he met a second man on the Bowery. The latter had come from a saloon – a brilliantly illuminated gin palace. He stood right under the glare of the electric lights and Ike had a clear, full view of him.
"There's our man," said Ike.
"What do you mean, Iky?"
Quickly Ike stated that he had received a clue and that he identified the man standing in the doorway of the gin palace beyond all question as one of the burglars.
"This is great!" said Jack. "Let's close in on him, and I'll try a little hypnotism on him."
"You may have plenty of chance yet for the exercise of your mysterious power, Jack."
We will here state that Jack had given Ike an exhibition of his wondrous gift as a hypnotist. Ike was the greater ventriloquist, but he did not possess the hypnotic power; while Jack possessed it, as the readers of his former adventures as recorded in Number 19 of our series are aware, to a remarkable degree.
Ike was not naturally excitable. He was singularly cold-blooded, but upon discovering his man so soon his blood did course rather rapidly through his veins.
There is one other fact we wish to state: burglars, as a rule, do not leave the great cities. They find them safer hiding-places than anywhere else, despite the great number of detectives hovering around. There are all sorts of burglars – the bunglers and the accomplished chaps who proceed on almost scientific principles. These men are strategic. They study out all their plans weeks in advance. They calculate all their chances, both to accomplish their burglaries and also to prepare for their retreat and hiding. Ike calculated that the men who had robbed Mr. Sidney were accomplished and veteran crooks who would be likely to remain in the city, especially after making such a big haul; and when he secured the specific clue he calculated upon finding his man, but certainly did not hope to drop on him so soon.
"What shall we do?" asked Jack, after a few moments.
"We will follow this fellow. He will go home by and by, and – "
The lads did follow the man, but he did not go home, and they were destined to have quite a long shadow ere they ran their game down. They located him in his haunts, but did not trail to any permanent abiding-place; and finally, well on toward morning, they returned to their home well wearied out but hopeful. Ike was sure the man would remain in the city and that he could locate him almost any time when he needed.
It was late on the following afternoon when our hero visited Sara Sidney. He listened to a long and hopeful talk of the girl's plans. He did not say anything direct, but did project:
"Suppose you should find your uncle, and he should disapprove of your plans?"
"I do not expect ever to find my uncle."
"Well, now, I once made you a promise."
"I know you did, but remember, it is thirty years since my father saw his brother."
"Well, some men live to a pretty old age. I am sure I will find your uncle."
"What makes you so certain?"
"Oh, it came to me in a vision. Yes, I will make you a positive promise: I will find your uncle. I know that he is alive, or was a few weeks ago."
The girl became quite interested, and she looked very animated and beautiful as she urged Ike to tell her how he had learned that her uncle was living a few weeks previously.
Ike, however, did not tell his tale, but he hoped to tell her in the near future, and with it also add the wonderful narrative of the recovery of a great fortune.
Three weeks passed, and during that time either Ike or Jack or Detective Du Flore was on the trail of the light-haired man whom our hero had identified as one of the robbers.
One day Jack asked:
"Ike, are you sure you have the right man?"
"Yes, I am sure, and we'll get down to him."
"Possibly the fellow knows we are on his track."
"No, but he is well aware that detectives are liable to be on his track and he is playing away from his lair; but he'll go home sure."
On the day following the conversation recorded Ike was on the trail. All three did not "dog" the man at one time – they did so alternately. It was Ike's "tour," as boatmen say, and the ventriloquist struck his "lay" at last. Hope is the propelling force of energy, and it was constant hope that made our hero so persistent on the track of his man. Often during the three weeks he had visited Sara Sidney. He enjoyed her importunity as she urged him to explain what he meant when he told her that he knew her uncle was still living. It was delightful to him. The girl was a constant charm to him when in her presence, and a memory of her sweet personality haunted him when he was away from her. Yes, he had a strong motive for sticking to the trail, and, as intimated, he at length fell to a great lead. He had followed his man to Staten Island, or rather followed him on board one of the Staten Island boats, and then a great game commenced. He saw the thief wander all over the boat scanning the face of every man and woman on board, and the ventriloquist made a second discovery. He had seen the man exchange signals with a fine-looking lady on board, and as the burglar wandered around Ike saw the lady watch him in a most intent manner, and he muttered as a great suggestion came to him: "At last! At last!"
The exchange of signals between the burglar and the woman was an incident of great significance to our hero. The burglar was a very gentlemanly looking and acting man – a fellow far above the usual personality of robbers. Ike was after him, however, and in his own mind had arrived at a conclusion. A little time passed. The man made the circuit of the boat, appeared to be satisfied and returned to the cabin where the woman sat. He walked boldly up to her and they engaged in a very earnest conversation, while our hero muttered: "At last! At last!" When the boat reached the landing the woman went ashore alone, and Ike was in a dilemma. He did not wish to lose sight of either of them. He believed he was not only on to the burglars, but also going direct toward the hiding-place of the stolen property. He decided to follow the woman, but knew how necessary it was to be very careful.
We will here state that nearly all burglars have women confederates, and we will also state that the most romantic d?nouements have time and again followed the running down of an expert burglar. Burglars are not all vulgar, rough men. Some of them are rascals possessing ?sthetic tastes. The police records will show that many burglars have been married to very reputable women whom they have kept in total ignorance of their criminal life. It is upon the records that burglars have been known to be very fond of their families. Of course, these cases are exceptions, as the usual housebreaker is a vulgar rascal. Ike, however, knew of many singular romances connected with criminals and believed that he had fallen to one, a romance of a peculiarly exceptional character.
As stated, he desired to follow the woman, but did not dare show his hand. He left the boat, however, and a few moments later saw the burglar pass around to the returning boat. It was evident he had met the woman and was about to return to New York.
Ike boarded the Staten Island rapid transit train. He had seen the woman go on the train and she rode to the third station, where she alighted. Our hero was on the alert. He alighted from the train also. His disguise was a good one. Again, in a rural district he could lay away back. He followed the lady until to his surprise he saw her enter a very handsome villa house, and then he remembered he had overheard just one word between the lady and the burglar. As he saw her enter that villa residence he fell to the significance of the man's words. He intended to visit the house that night, and our hero was put to his wits' end to decide upon his course in the emergency. Two propositions were presented to him: Was the stolen property in the villa, and did the man intend to come that night and take it away, or did he intend to remove it from some other place and hide it in the villa? The ventriloquist meditated a long time and finally decided he had the burglar located. He had the villa located. He had reason to believe the man was to visit the villa that night. The chances favored a double catch – the burglars and the "swag."
Ike determined to return to New York, notify Jack and Du Flore and with them return to Staten Island and stand ready for a grand d?nouement. Before returning, however, he "piped" the house a bit and saw a man greet the woman as she stepped upon the grand piazza. He then returned to the station, muttering as he went:
"It will be great luck if we capture both burglars and all the swag. Great ginger! what a man the young Detective Du Flore will be!"
Our hero arrived in the city, got in communication with his detective friend and told his story. Du Flore was all excitement. He said:
"Ike, you have got on to the whole business, sure, and you've done it all yourself. Yes, that property is in that villa. We will have a great sensation for the public, who are never tired of great sensations, but we will give them a dandy this time, sure."
Ike, Jack and the detective got themselves up in first-class disguises, and taking different boats proceeded singly to the Island, where they all arrived just about dark. They met and our hero indicated the road to the villa, and some time later they were all laying low and on the watch near the house where they expected to make the capture of the season.
It had been arranged between Ike and Jack to exchange signals, but it was some hours before they had the opportunity and then Ike signaled that their man had arrived. Our hero recognized his gait. The rogue went straight to the villa, which was illuminated on the first and second floors, and the woman evidently heard the step, for she came to the door to meet her friend. The ventriloquists and detective came together and held a few moments' conversation, and it was decided that Ike should steal into the house, as he was the one most experienced in that sort of work. Ike started right in. He had reconnoitered the house earlier in the day and knew just where to effect an entrance. He succeeded, and once in the house he went very slow. He saw no servants and decided they had all retired; or, as it proved later, had been granted a holiday, for only one servant was in the house. As it also proved, this servant was really a confederate and had retired. Ike observed that all the lights on the lower floor had been extinguished, and he ascended to the second floor and fell to his old game of peep and listen. The man and woman were seated at a table. The latter was a sharp, shrewd-faced woman. Ike heard the man say:
"Mosely will not be here to-night."
"Then what do you propose to do?"
"Look over the swag."
"Do you not think it risky?"
"No, the detectives have given it up as a bad job."
"How do you intend to make a division?"
"The jewels are all yours. The money and bonds we will take."
The woman's face betrayed her delight.
"All right," she said; "such a division is agreeable to me. I will bring the bonds and let you count them over."
"Are all the windows tightly closed?"
"We can close them."
The woman did close all the windows, and then going to an adjoining room returned in a few moments, bearing in her arms, we will say, a bundle of bonds. Ike well recognized the documents. He had seen so many bonds – indeed, had captured so many at different times from thieves. The woman laid the certificates on the table and the man said:
"Where are the jewels and the money?"
"I thought they were to be my share."
"Certainly, but I wish to look them over. I wish to see the full amount of our great capture."
The woman's face displayed a little disconcertion, but she went to the adjoining room and soon returned, bringing with her a jewel case and a bag which clinked, showing its contents to be gold. The man opened the bag and tossed gold and bills on the table, and his eyes glittered as his glance fell upon the wealth.
Ike had seen enough for the time being. He slid down the stairs, gave a signal and was joined by his friends. To them he told the wondrous news. He said:
"We've got it all. It's right to our hands." As stated, he told the tale and then led his companions into the house. A programme had hastily been arranged. They all gathered at the door of the room. Just one moment they stood and then there sounded a wild, weird shriek, and it appeared to be in the very room where the robber and his female pal were counting the gold and examining the jewels. The shriek had been sent forth with a purpose. Both the man and the woman were paralyzed with terror, so sudden had come the yell, in all its shrill and piercing distinctness. As they stood and gazed Du Flore, armed with a pair of cocked revolvers, entered the room. The man attempted to draw a weapon, but Du Flore called out:
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