Read CHAPTER III of A Successful Shadow / A Detective's Successful Quest, free online book, by Harlan Page Halsey, on ReadCentral.com.

It was evident that Mrs. Speir, who was bright and quick of perception, had discerned partially what the ultimate conclusion of the narrative would be, and it was her excess of emotion that affected her, but as stated she speedily recovered and the detective immediately continued his story:

“As I said,” resumed Jack, “the gentleman, Harold Stevens, confided his child to old Mr. Canfield because he had reason to know that Jacob Canfield was an honorable man, and he also confided to this old fisherman a large fortune in trust, but for reasons that will never be known he made the singular conditions that his child Amalie should be kept in ignorance of the fortune until she was twenty-five. The old man, fearing to keep the money, transferred the trust to the banker, a Mr. Townsend, and left the letter of instructions, which was not found until after forty years; and now, madam, I come into the romance. Once more I started out to find this heir; I learned that Jacob Canfield had placed his ward in charge of friends to care for, but we could not discover who these friends were, and I was compelled to go it blind. I had found the picture which I showed you and learned a name. I spent weeks in prosecuting my search, and at length found a little grave in an out-of-the-way cemetery, and on the tombstone was engraved: ’Amalie Canfield, died December 20, 18 , aged four years.’ This age about accorded with the age of Amalie Stevens, and we were forced to conclude that Amalie Stevens was known as Amalie Canfield. I gave up the search, concluding that there was no heir unless Harold Stevens had left other heirs than his own child. I have been looking for those heirs, and had about given up all hope of ever finding them when you came to me.”

There followed a moment’s silence and then the woman asked:

“What do you conclude now?”

“I will tell you; I believe that Jacob Canfield did have a granddaughter, and that this granddaughter was but a little younger than his ward. I believe he placed his granddaughter in the care of certain people, and that this child died, while the real heiress, Amalie Stevens, survived.”

“You believe now that Amalie Stevens survived?”

“I do.”

“And why have you told me this strange, weird narrative?”

“Madam, do you not guess?”

The woman did not answer, and the detective again produced his daguereotype, and pointed to the name Amalie Stevens.

“What does this suggest, sir?”

“That is a portrait of Amalie Stevens, and Amalie Stevens is the heiress of Harold Stevens, and you claim to be the original of that portrait. Madam, if this can all be substantiated you are a very wealthy woman. I will tell you candidly, I believe you are the heiress; I believe your claim can be established. Remember, your baby clothing was marked A. S. We need but one more proof.”

“And what is that?”

“You say your girlhood linéaments are preserved in your daughter?”

“Yes, in a most remarkable manner.”

“Then all we have to do is to find your daughter, confirm your claim, and all the evidence under present conditions is gained, and you shall be recognized as the heiress, and the fortune will be surrendered to you.”

“Who holds this fortune?”

“I do, madam yes, the banker is now an old man. He turned the fortune over to me to hold in trust for any heir that might be found, or failing that the money under the original plan as outlined in the letter was to be mine through the banker, who under certain conditions became the heir.”

“But how will I prove all the facts in court?”

“There is nothing to prove in court; I alone am to be convinced that you are the heiress, and all I have to do is to transfer the property over to you yes, let me learn, or rather, be satisfied that you are really Amalie Stevens that was, and the whole property is yours.”

“Sir, you are a most extraordinary man.”

“I am?”

“You are.”

“How?”

“You tell me if the heirs are not found the property is yours.”

“That is true; part mine, and part goes to charity.”

“And you have been searching for parties to whom you might give this fortune?”

“No, madam, I give nothing; I’ve been searching for parties to whom this fortune belongs.”

“And you think it belongs to me?”

“Frankly, I do.”

“Again I say you are a remarkable man, and now I will ask one favor. If it should prove that the fortune is mine do not mention the fact to a living soul until you receive permission from me.”

“I do not recognize your right to place me under any such restriction, but I will so agree all the same to oblige you.”

“And you will never regret your decision; and now, sir, how about my child?”

“I propose to search for your child.”

There came a sad look to the face of Amalie Speir, as she said:

“If anything evil has befallen my child this fortune is yours.”

“What evil do you fear?”

“There are several. One is that this baron has bewitched her. If this shall prove true, in mercy never reveal the story of the fortune. I will never need it, and that wretch shall never enjoy it. No, sir, if my child has become his victim, I should wish her in her grave.”

The detective did have grave misgivings as to the possible fate of the missing girl, and knowing who she was, for in his own mind he was perfectly satisfied, he determined to devote all his time and his best energies to discovering what her fate might be.

“Madam,” he said, “one fact is assured, since what has developed you can trust me.”

“I can; you are a noble man.”

“Then do not make any efforts yourself to find your child; leave all to me.”

“I will.”

The detective made a great many inquiries concerning the Richards family with whom Amalie Speir had resided. Mrs. Speir, however, knew but little about them. He made an arrangement, however, that he would call upon Mrs. Speir on the following day and then went forth. He had such a description of the young baron that he did not doubt being able to recognize the man at a glance, and when he left the humble home of Mrs. Speir he proceeded to the home of the Richards family.

Jack had determined upon a very novel plan in order to assure the safety of Amalie Speir in case he should become satisfied that she had been abducted. He had thought the matter over very calmly, and had arrived at a very positive conclusion in one direction. He arrived at the Richards house at a very fortunate moment, for lo, the very man he had started to “shadow” had just issued forth. The detective recognized the man at once and started to follow him, and saw him enter a low gambling house on the East Side. The detective followed the man, saw him put up a few chips, and start in to gamble. His face betrayed great anxiety, although he had only a few dollars at stake, and he was a loser. Our hero got into the game and bet recklessly. Jack could afford to lose when set to accomplish a given purpose, for he had plenty of money to spare. He was very reckless and had taken a seat beside the baron, with whom he engaged in conversation, and soon he learned that the pretended nobleman was “broke.”

“Luck went against you,” said our hero.

“Yes, it always does.”

“Permit me to give you a chance to win your money back.”

“Sir, you are a stranger.”

“A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

“But I have no right to accept your money.”

“You have if I offer it to you.”

“But why should you offer me money?”

“I believe your luck will change.”

“Alas! no, luck is against me, I cannot lose your money.”

Here an enigma confronted our hero. If this man was a fraud, as had been represented, he would have accepted money from any source. The question arose, Was he refusing the money fairly or was he merely playing a game?

“I have good luck as a rule,” said Jack; “I will play for you.”

“There is no reason, sir, why you should play for me.”

The detective was more and more perplexed. He had been led to believe that the baron was a cold-blooded fraud, and yet here he was displaying the qualities of a proud and honorable man, with a high sense of honor.

The detective played on and luck turned in his favor. He won a little money. The baron had gotten up from the table, but stood over our hero’s chair and occasionally a word would pass between the two young men. Jack admitted that he was mystified all at sea concerning the real character of the so-called baron. He discounted prior prejudice, which, as is known, goes a great way in forming conclusions, and yet he did not understand the young man. Finally our hero rose from the table and said:

“My luck was much better than yours.”

The baron was certainly a very handsome young man. His manners were those of a gentleman, and his language and general demeanor indicative of one who had been well born, and we repeat, in view of all statements concerning the young man, our hero was mystified.

“Come,” he said in an offhand way, “let’s go and have some supper.”

“Why do you ask me?”

“I need a companion; you are a good fellow and a loser. I am a good fellow and a winner. You will go with me?”

“As you insist I will; you appear to be a very charming gentleman.”

Jack led his new friend to a fine restaurant and they were soon seated at a table, and our hero undertook to order a very sumptuous meal, also some very choice wine; but later, to his surprise, he observed that the baron did not touch the wine, and Jack said:

“You do not drink the wine?”

“No, I never drink wine.”

“That is strange, seeing you are a German. Probably you prefer beer?”

“No, thank you. Yes, I am a German, but I never drink beer.”

“You amaze me.”

“Possibly so, but I have the best of reasons for not using any sort of liquors.”

The baron spoke good English, but there was just enough of the German dialect to indicate that he was not an American.

“Your countrymen, as a rule, are free drinkers.”

“Yes, unfortunately, yes; but I am not; I repeat, I never do drink liquor of any sort.”

“To tell the truth,” said Jack, “I am not a drinking man myself. I rarely use liquors; I really ordered the wine thinking it would be agreeable to you.”

“You were very kind.”

“You made a remark,” said our hero, “that I did not understand.”

“Indeed?”

“Yes.”

“What did I say, please?”

“You said you always had hard luck.”

“It is true.”

“Then why do you gamble?”

“I do not desire to air my misfortunes.”

The baron spoke as a reserved gentleman would speak under the circumstances.

“Excuse me,” said Jack, “I did not put the question in a specific manner, but only in a general way.”

“You appear to be a good fellow. I will answer you frankly. I gamble because I want the money.”

“It’s a poor way to get money.”

“Yes, I know it, but I am very poor. I have a small remittance, not sufficient to support me. I was not reared to labor indeed, I do not know what to do. I am half-inclined to put a pistol to my head and end it all.”

Jack was more and more amazed. The young man talked less like a rogue than any individual he had met in a long time. He meditated a moment and then said:

“I have plenty of money; possibly I can be of some service to you.”

“A stranger?”

“Yes, a stranger; why not? We are both young men and have the world before us. I will admit that I have taken a great fancy to you.”

“I am very much obliged for your kind interest in me, but you cannot be of any service.”

The detective was perplexed beyond measure.