The Twin Ventriloquists: or, Nimble Ike and Jack the Juggler
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"Hold on there! you're covered."
Ike and Jack entered the room. Both were armed, and Ike went directly to the woman and in a strange, weird voice said:
"You do not wish to die."
"Throw up your hands," commanded Du Flore.
The man did not obey. The click of a hammer sounded in his ears and he muttered: "It's all up with us, Maggie. Who is to blame?"
Du Flore was a powerful fellow. He suddenly leaped forward and quicker than a wink struck the man a blow that felled him to the floor. The robber was unprepared, and fell as though shot; and Jack, ever ready as usual, clapped the darbies on him while Ike with singular dexterity performed the same service for the woman, and the job was over.
It had been a bold, well-played game from first to last.
The bonds and gold and jewels were scooped into a bag, the man and woman were led down the stairs, and a little later the whole party were on board one of the Staten Island ferryboats. Jack remarked:
"The servants in that house will wonder where their mistress is when they walk downstairs in the morning."
The two prisoners were taken to headquarters, and within two hours the "pard" of the robber was captured on information which the chief of police secured from the woman. The mystery of the robbery had been solved, and on the following morning our hero proceeded to the home of Mr. Sidney. He found the old gentleman in his usual placid humor, but he did display just a little excitement when Ike said:
"I'm ready now to introduce you to your niece."
The old man stared.
"Is it possible?" he ejaculated.
"Yes, sir, it is possible. It's true your fortune has been recovered – every bond, every dollar, every jewel."
The old man stood a moment lost in deep thought, and finally he said:
"This is indeed wonderful – yes, very wonderful!"
"It is true, and now I go to prepare your lovely niece to receive you."
Ike did proceed to the home of Sara Sidney. He found the young lady in quite a happy mood, and her lovely face became radiant as she entered the little parlor where Ike waited to meet her.
"I am so glad you have come."
"Do you anticipate the news I have to tell you?"
"I do not."
"I have great news for you, but first let me tell you a strange tale."
Ike proceeded and told the tale of the robbery – told it as though he were merely relating an interesting story with which Miss Sidney had no connection – and proceeded and told how he and his friend Jack, with Detective Du Flore, had recovered all the stolen bonds, money and jewels.
The girl listened and was deeply interested, evidently believing that Jack was merely telling a tale of his success, and she said when he had concluded:
"You are one of the greatest detectives on earth."
"I will not lay claim to that distinction until I have found your uncle. You know I told you I had a clue."
"Yes, and it would be so strange if after all these years I should meet my father's brother, my uncle."
"Would you like to meet him?"
"How can you ask such a question? Do you know what it means to be alone in the world?"
"Yes, I know exactly what it means to be alone in the world.I am alone in the world. I do not know that I have a living relative on earth."
"Ike, you never told me your story."
"Shall I tell you my story?"
"Yes; I should be delighted to hear it."
"I will tell it to you. All I can remember of my earliest days is that I was traveling around the world from city to city with a strange man who bade me call him uncle. He was a great magician. He taught me his trade. I had a natural aptitude for the business. I evidently possessed a gift in that direction, and he cultivated my natural gift so that I became a wonder to him and a wonder to myself. Well, one day, without any previous warning, the old man announced to me here in New York that he was going away – to leave me. I was amazed and heart-broken. He had been in America a year when he made the announcement. He would not tell me why he deserted me; he would not tell me where he was going and would not assure me that I should ever see him or hear from him again. And what was stranger still, although I knew that he was rich – for together we had been very successful – he was leaving me practically penniless. All he gave me was five dollars, and when I reproached him he said:
"'You can earn the money you need with your wonderful gift.' He gave me a great deal of good advice as concerned my conduct while making the struggle of life."
"Did you not ask him about your parentage?"
"I did, but he refused to give me any information."
"Did he deny knowing about you?"
"He indicated that he did know the story of my earliest life, but he refused to give me any information. He did say, however, that some day if I lived I would learn all about myself."
"How cruel he was!"
"It would appear so, but after all it is proved that he knew what he was talking about. He said I could earn all the money I needed with my great gift, and his words have proved true. I have not wanted for anything since the night he so strangely disappeared. Before going he gave me a box and told me I must not open that box until I was twenty-one, or until such time as I might fall into some dreadful calamity; then, when all other means failed, I was to open the box."
"And you have that box?"
"You never opened it?"
"I have never opened it."
"Oh, how I would like to see what is in that box!" said Sara in an eager tone.
"No doubt you are a true daughter of Eve, but I will not open that box until I am one-and-twenty. I have never had any excuse for opening it, as far as having been overtaken by any dire calamity. My life has been pleasant and successful. I have been enabled to perform many good deeds for people who needed aid and assistance."
"You did a wonderful deed for me."
"I propose to do more for you. I propose to find your uncle."
"But that box, Ike?"
"Well, what about the box?"
"Are you sure it is safe?"
"Yes, I am sure it is safe."
"Oh, how I should like to be present when you open that box!"
"Maybe you can be," said Ike.
"Oh, I should go wild in anticipation."
"Some day – not now – but some day I may propose a condition whereby you may earn the privilege of being present when I open that box."
"No doubt it contains some wonderful secret."
"It is possibly a secret concerning me. It may inform me that I am the unknown son of a beggar, or it may tell me that I am a prince, a lord or a duke."
"A prince, Ike! Yes, it will inform you that you are a prince."
"The prince of ventriloquists," said Ike with a laugh – a very merry laugh.
"Oh, Ike, you are really a lord or a duke," cried Sara in tones of great enthusiasm.
Ike observed her enthusiasm, and, for reasons which our readers shall learn when we tell the story of the opening of the mysterious box, our hero was quite pleased, and the girl again said:
"Ike, remember your promise. You are to give me an opportunity to be present when you open that mysterious box. Oh, how I would like to learn its secret! Not for myself, but for you. It will be a great and pleasing discovery when you open that box."
"Maybe I have a great and pleasing disclosure to make to you now."
The girl's face assumed a sudden pallor.
"What do you mean, Ike?"
"I made you another promise. I told you I would find your uncle."
"I see, I see! You have found him?"
"Yes, I have found him."
"I know now why you told me the story of the old miser and the loss and recovery of his treasures."
"You discern why I told?"
"Why did I tell you?"
"I hardly dare answer."
"Do not fear. Tell me what you suspect."
"That old miser is my uncle?"
"Yes, Sara, that old miser is indeed your uncle, and I have a great surprise for you."
Sara was thoughtful a moment and then asked:
"Are you sure he is my uncle?"
"You have absolute proof?"
"And I am the niece of a soulless miser!" murmured Sara in a disconsolate tone.
"No, he is not an old miser – he is a warm-hearted, generous man. I will tell you more about him later on."
"But are you sure you have the proof?"
"Yes, I am sure."
"Tell me what the proof is."
"I am going to show you the proof. I have a great surprise for you. Come, put on your hat and cloak. You are to go with me and behold something that will make you stare."
"I shall not stare at my uncle; and again, Ike, I assure you I must have positive proof."
"You shall have positive proof. This is a most strange and remarkable romance. It is fate. I am a strong believer in fate. I have encountered so many strange incidents during my short life. See my meeting with you; remember the tragic incidents that followed. You intended to drown yourself in the park lake."
The girl's face became ghastly.
"No, no, Ike."
"Yes, I know."
"I will admit the temptation to drown myself after the discovery of my loss was very great; but no, no, I would have recoiled at the last moment."
"I am so glad to hear you say so. I do not think much of people who on the appearance of every little trouble rush to kill themselves. It shows lack of mind strength. But come; I am to take you to meet your uncle."
The girl hesitated. She did not appear as glad as Ike had thought she would be. The fact was, he did not know the lovely girl yet. He was to learn more about her later on, and there was to follow an intense romance as a result of his meeting with this lovely little lady from the far West.
"Come, your uncle awaits you."
"Does he know about me?"
"Does he accept the proof?"
"He will when he sees you."
"What do you mean?"
"That is my little secret for the present. I tell you I still have in reserve a great surprise for you – the proof for you, the proof for him. It is a most remarkable coincidence, and here again fate comes in. Yes, yes, there is a wonderful surprise for you."
While Ike was talking he could not keep his eyes off the face of the lovely girl. Its changing expressions made her look wondrously beautiful. He was charmed – charmed as he had never been charmed before in all his life. We will not say yet that he had met his fate, but we will say that he was in a very dangerous position.
Our hero finally persuaded Sara to go and prepare herself for the street, and together they started to go to the home of the old miser. When they arrived in front of the house the girl stood still; a shudder passed over her delicate frame and she said:
"Must I enter that old miserable-looking house to meet my uncle?"
"Yes, but I am surprised. I do not understand your reluctance."
"Never mind. I must go and I will."
Ike led the way into the house. He had completed all his arrangements for the meeting. He knew just what he was about. Once in the house he led the fair girl into the parlor. There had been no cleaning done. Everything was moldy, old and decaying as upon the night when Ike first forced an entrance. The girl looked around in a disdainful manner, and again Ike did not understand her mood. She did not appear even pleased when he had thought she would be so delighted. He dusted off a chair, bade her sit down and then he lit the gas; for there was gas in the old house. After lighting the gas he went to the covered picture and said:
"Sara, look at this and tell me how old you were when you sat for this picture."
As he spoke he removed the cover and the beautiful face of the old man's dead daughter was revealed as pictured upon the canvas. It was a beautiful painting, and the resemblance to the living girl who gazed upon the face was marvelous. She did not speak – she could not speak. She just gazed with all her eyes.
"This is something I did not promise to find," said Ike; "but it is the proof that Mr. Sidney is your uncle. This is a portrait of his – "
Ike stopped short, and the girl gasped:
"Go on. Of whom?"
"Mr. Sidney's daughter – your cousin – the daughter whose place in his affections you are to supply; for she is dead, and that is why he lives the life which led people to believe that he was a miser. He is not a miser, but a kind, generous, liberal man, and in finding your uncle for you I have found one whom you can and will love."
Sara appeared to be completely overcome with astonishment.
"I do not understand it," she said.
Ike had told the story of the robbery. He proceeded and told the previous history of Mr. Sidney, and when he had concluded he said:
"It's all very strange and wonderful. Indeed, mysterious are the ways of Providence, but the most remarkable feature of this whole series of incidents, Miss Sidney, is the fact that the portending d?nouement was all brought about through two very mean and contemptible robberies. But all's well that ends well, as I've often had occasion to say in the past, and I wish you to meet your uncle."
Ike had no reason, however, to go and call the old miser, for there occurred a most unexpected metamorphosis. Our hero had just concluded the last remark above quoted when he chanced to turn, and there stood a fine-looking old gentleman, clean shaved, his hair cut and his attire perfect. Ike started in amazement, for despite the startling metamorphosis he recognized Mr. Sidney. Sara also beheld the old man, and she stood and gazed aghast.
For a few moments both stood and gazed at each other as though they were looking upon a visitant from the grave. It was Mr. Sidney who broke the silence. He said:
"Indeed you have brought to me my child from the grave. I need no further proof. This is my niece."
Sara's voice was broken as she said:
"No, no, there is no call for proof. It is wonderful – it is wonderful! It would appear that my father had come to me from his grave."
"My dear child, your father and I were twin brothers. Forty years ago we quarreled. The quarrel was due to me. I have mourned your father long before he went away to California, and now that he is dead this is more than I deserve that he should have left as his legacy to me a child to solace the remaining years of my life."
A little later Jack and Du Flore entered the room. Many explanations followed and also a very enjoyable time.
Jack and Ike had performed several great feats, but later they were led into another series of adventures together which we shall relate in Number 50 of "Old Sleuth's Own," wherein our readers will learn the thrilling romance of the life of Nimble Ike, the most wonderful ventriloquist yet known in all the world, and also will be revealed the secret of the mysterious box.
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