Dick Hamilton's Fortune/21
IN WHICH MR. VANDERHOOF VANISHES
Dick found his father busy, looking over some books and papers. He waited until the millionaire had finished and looked up, remarking:
"Well, Dick, what is it now? Some more of the fresh-air kids outside?"
"Yes, dad, but I've got something more important to tell you than about them. Was Mr. Vanderhoof just in here?"
"He was, and I took some more stock in the Hop Toad Mine. I had an additional report from the government assayer at Yazoo City, and the ore is richer than ever."
"You bought more stock, dad?"
"Because that man is a swindler! I just learned of it! His name is not Vanderhoof at all. He's the same man who tried to swindle me in New York. He goes by the name of Colonel Dendon. I thought there was something familiar about him the first day I saw him in here, but I couldn't place him on account of his dyed moustache. He's a swindler!"
"Who told you so?"
"Tim Muldoon, one of the fresh-air children. He saw him under arrest in New York. Probably he got out on bail. Oh, dad, I'm afraid we'e both been swindled!"
"Well, don't get excited," counseled Mr. Hamilton, who was used to facing business troubles. "He may be a swindler, but I think our mining stock is good. The reports of it are all from reliable men. But I'll make an investigation at once."
"What will you do?"
"I think I'll send for Mr. Vanderhoof and ask him to explain. We'll have your friend Tim in here. No doubt it is all a mistake. I wouldn't place too much faith in what a boy says."
"You don't know Tim," responded Dick. "He's as bright as they make 'em. I guess all New York newsboys are. But where does Mr. Vanderhoof live?"
"He is stopping at the Globe Hotel. He told me he would remain in town about two weeks longer, as he had some business to transact. I'll just call up the hotel and ask him to come here. Meanwhile, tell Tim to come in."
"Don't 'phone, dad," advised Dick. "I'll run down to the hotel in my auto. If you call him on the wire he may suspect something. I'll bring him here in the machine."
"All right, Dick. Maybe that's a good plan. But don't get excited. Be calm. This may be only a boy's excited imagination. Mr. Vanderhoof certainly seemed like a business man and not like a swindler. Of course, I may be fooled. I have been, once or twice, in my time, but you've got to take those chances. However, we'll not decide anything until we talk to him. Go ahead."
"What will I do with the youngsters?" asked Dick. "I've got five of them with me."
"Give 'em a quarter apiece and let 'em buy ice-cream," advised the millionaire, with a laugh. "That is, all but Tim. Let him come in here and wait."
"Twenty-five cents' worth of ice-cream each would put them all in the hospital," explained Dick. "I'll make 'em distribute their wealth," and, in a few moments he had sent the four boys off to see the sights of the town, happy in the possession of a quarter of a dollar each, and with strict injunctions not to get lost, and to be back at the bank in an hour.
"Me to go inside de bank?" asked Tim, when Dick told him what was wanted. "Say, I'm gittin' real swell, I am! If de kids on Hester Street could see me now dey'd t'ink I was president of a railroad," and, with a laugh he went into Mr. Hamilton's private office. While Dick was gone the millionaire questioned the newsboy, who stuck to his story that the man he had seen was a swindler, who had been under arrest in New York.
Dick made fast time to the Globe Hotel. When he jumped from the auto, and hurried inside, the manager, who knew him, nodded a greeting.
"Is Mr. Vanderhoof about?" asked Dick, trying to keep his voice calm.
"Mr. Vanderhoof?" repeated the manager. "No, he went out a little while ago."
"Why, he said he was going back to New York," was the rather surprising answer. "A telegram came for him as soon as he got here and he left in a hurry. He just caught the express, and didn't even have time to take his baggage. He paid me his bill and rushed out in a hurry, telling me he'd send word where to forward his trunk. Did you want to see him about anything important?"
"It was, but I guess it will keep," replied Dick, trying not to show any alarm.
His worst fears were realized. Vanderhoof, alias Bond Broker Bill, had been warned by some confederates, perhaps, and had fled, after securing large sums of money from Dick and his father.
"And maybe we're not the only victims," thought Dick, as he left the hotel and turned the auto toward the bank.
"Well, what luck?" asked Mr. Hamilton, as his son entered.
"He's skipped out, dad!"
"He has, eh? Now to find out how badly we have been bitten. Dick, my boy, it looks as though there was a hoodoo hanging over your investments. Still, this mine stock may be all right. I'll wire to a lawyer in Yazoo City."
"Oh, he's a foxy guy, is Bond Broker Bill," said Tim, when Dick told him what had taken place. "I wish I'd a spotted him before. Maybe he seen me an' flew de coop."
"No, I don't believe he would have known you were on his trail," replied Dick, with an uneasy laugh. "I think he left on general principles."
It was several hours before Mr. Hamilton received a reply from the lawyer in Yazoo City, Nevada. When it came the telegram stated that the Hop Toad and Dolphin mines were producing a quantity of ore, and were generally believed to be good mines.
"Not much known about them here, though," the telegram went on. "Would advise a personal inspection. Believed that some promotor has a lot of stock and is trying to sell it in the East. Better look into it."
"Well, there's a chance yet," said Mr. Hamilton. "As I said, Vanderhoof may be a swindler, but the mines seem to be good. I'll have someone right on the ground look them up. We must make our plans carefully."
"Whom will you get, dad?"
"I don't know yet. I must write to this lawyer."
"Dad!" exclaimed Dick, suddenly. "Let me take a trip out West! Let me look up those mines! If they're no good I want to know it soon, so I can make some other investment. Can't I go to Nevada?"