Dick Hamilton's Fortune/7
A SHARPER FOILED
Through Hamilton Corners the big car shot, its progress watched by throngs who had heard of Dick's trip. His conduct was commented on in various ways.
"Good land!" exclaimed Hank Darby. "If I had the money that spendthrift will get rid of before he gets back here I could make my fortune. All I need is a little capital and I'd be rich inside of a week. I have a great scheme on."
"Ain't goin' t' buy any more soap, be ye, Hank?" asked Porter Heavydale, a little, thin, wisp of a man, who was fully as lazy as Hank, but who made no secret of it. "Guess you had some slip-up there."
"Oh, that—that was an accident, such as is liable to happen to any business man," and Hank carefully whittled a stick until there was nothing left of it.
"Wa'al, a fool an' his money is soon parted, the proverb says," commented Porter. "Give Dick rope enough an' he'll come t' th' end of it sooner or later."
"Dick's no fool," retorted Hank. "But I do hate to see him spend money."
"Hasn't he a right to it, father?" asked Henry, always ready to come to Dick's defense. "It's his, and I'm sure he has been kind enough to me. Why, he loaned me fifty dollars the other day."
"He did! Land sakes, where is it now, Henry? If I knowed that I could have made a deal with it. Git it for me right away."
"I can't," replied Henry. "I bought some old iron with it and I'm waiting for a raise in the market. Besides, it's only a loan."
"He'll never miss it," said Mr. Darby. "Good land! I wished I a-knowed you had it! I could 'a' bought some oil well stock. It's awful cheap now."
"Yes, an' it would be a heap sight cheaper after you'd bought it," put in Porter with a laugh.
New York was reached by those in the touring car at nightfall, and Dick registered himself and his friends at one of the finest hotels, the manager of which his father knew. The boys had adjoining rooms in the best part of the big building, and "Bricktop," Frank and Walter were so excited over the beautifully fitted-up apartments that they could do nothing but stare about.
"Oh, they're not so bad," remarked Simon, in a patronizing tone when appealed to by "Bricktop," who demanded to know if this wasn't "the best ever." Simon had never been in such a fine hotel, but he wanted to pretend he was used to the luxuries. Guy followed his crony's example and affected to sneer at the accommodations.
"My father and I generally put up at one of the better hotels," he said affectedly. "But, of course, this is all right for roughing it."
"Roughing it!" exclaimed Walter. "Come off! Why, it's good enough for a king here."
"Oh, well, wait until you've been about a bit," answered Simon languidly.
After supper Dick took his friends to a theatre, where a war-time play was in progress, and even Simon and Guy enthused over the stirring scenes.
The next day was spent in visiting Central Park, the big zoo at Bronx Park, and the Museums of Art and Natural History.
Simon acted as escort, for he was fairly well acquainted with objects of interest in New York, and Dick good-naturedly let him pilot the boys about as though Simon was paying for it all instead of the millionaire's son footing the bills.
It was not long before a keen reporter had learned of the presence in New York of the wealthy youth of whom the papers had recently contained so much, and there appeared several items telling of the trip. There were a number of incorrect stories in print, and Dick was credited with having expended nearly ten thousand dollars on his simple little pleasure jaunt.
The result of this was that Dick was visited by a number of cranks, or, rather, they came to the hotel; but the wise manager, who had been telephoned to by Mr. Hamilton, had an eye to the wealthy youth's comfort, and few of the bothersome ones got beyond the lobby.
"I say," spoke Guy to Simon, on the afternoon of the third day in New York, when Dick was in the far end of the room, writing a letter home, "when are you going to pull off that trick, Simon?"
"This evening," was the cautious answer. "I've seen Colonel Dendon, and he's coming here to-night. I'm going to introduce him to Dick. The colonel says he'll whack up with me whatever he gets out of him, and I'll see that you get your share."
"But, say," went on Guy. "This is no gold-brick swindle, is it? I wouldn't do anything wrong—or—er—criminal—you know. Is it all right?"
"Of course it is!" exclaimed Simon, with a show of indignation. "Do you think I'd do anything that wasn't right, or for which I could be—er—get into trouble?"
"I didn't know," ventured Guy.
"Of course I wouldn't," continued Simon, with a great show of indignation that any one should suspect him. "This thing is perfectly legitimate. I know a certain party here—Colonel Dendon by name—who has all kinds of stocks and bonds for sale. Some are better than others. On some he can make a large profit. They may not be quite as good as those some other men have, but that's not the fault of Colonel Dendon, or you or me. It's the fault of the market.
"He's often said to me that if I could introduce him to somebody with money—somebody who'd buy some of his stocks—he'd give me twenty-five per cent, of what he made. It's a regular business deal. It's done every day. Colonel Dendon is a sort of a promotor. I'm only helping him. It's perfectly honest—that is, as honest—well, it's as honest as lots of things I know about. I wouldn't get you into any trouble, Guy."
"I hope not," answered the weak youth, who believed nearly all that Simon told him. "But if these stocks are good ones won't Dick make money on them? And if he does how is the colonel going to make any?"
"I didn't say for sure that the stocks were good," replied Simon. "They may be good for all I know. Maybe Dick will have to hold them for some time before he can realize on them. I don't bother with all those details. The colonel has stocks to sell—all kinds—I simply introduce Dick to him and he does the rest, and pays me and you for our trouble."
"Then I guess it's all right," assented Guy, a little doubtfully.
"Of course it is." declared Simon very positively.
That evening, as Dick and his friends sat in the private parlor of their suite of rooms, there was a knock at the door. Simon, being nearest it, answered, and, as soon as he had opened the portal, he exclaimed:
"Why, Colonel Dendon. Come right in. Richard, let me introduce you to Colonel Dendon, an old friend of mine," Simon added with a grand air. "Come right in, Colonel, I'm sure we're glad to see you," and Simon winked at the man who entered. The colonel was not at all war-like looking. He had shifty eyes, and a nervous manner. His white hair would seem to have indicated that he was elderly, but his white beard, which was stained by tobacco juice, did not tend to gain for him that respect for which silver locks generally call.
"I'll come in just for a minute—can't stay long—very busy," said the colonel jerkily, as he gave Dick a rather limp and flabby hand.
"I suppose you have some big deal on that won't keep," put in Guy, who was playing his part in the plot.
"That's it. Yes, I've got an appointment with some bank directors for seven o'clock, and one with the president of Pennsylvania Railroad at eight. A big bond sale involved. I heard you were in town, Simon, and I thought I'd look you up."
"Glad you did. But, by the way, I don't suppose you have anything in the line of investment that you would care to recommend to my friend, Mr. Hamilton, here? You've heard about him, I think."
"Is this the young man who has so much money?" asked the colonel, with a start of seeming surprise.
"Well, I don't know that it's such an awful pile," said Dick with a laugh, for he disliked having his wealth talked about by strangers.
"I've read lots about you," went on Colonel Dendon. "No, I'm afraid I haven't anything that you would care for. I only deal in big sums."
"Well, Dick can command large sums," put in Guy, w4th an uneasy laugh.
"I don't suppose you would care to take a hundred thousand dollars worth of mining securities of a gilt-edge kind?" asked the colonel, looking at Dick.
"No, I'm hardly up to that yet. I intend to do some investing sooner or later; but I'm going to begin small. A hundred thousand is a little too large for me just yet."
"I was afraid so," replied Colonel Dendon, with a queer smile. "Well, I must be going. I'm a very busy man."
He turned as if about to leave the room, and then he suddenly seemed to remember something.
"Now I think of it, I have a few securities that I might let your friend have as a favor to you," he said, addressing Simon. "They are mining stocks. I took them from a man who failed, and I know they are valuable. They are worth to-day half as much again as I paid for them. But, as a favor to Mr. Hamilton, I'd let him have them at a small advance over what I paid. I have to do business on business principles," he added, with an air meant to be very important.
"Here's your chance, Dick," whispered Guy. "This man is a big stock operator. You can almost double your money and make up all you spent on this trip."
Dick was doing some rapid thinking. The loss of the money he had invested in the land was something of a disappointment to him. Then, too, he felt under the necessity of making some kind of a paying investment. He had a vision of Uncle Ezra and the house at Dankville, and the memory of that gloomy place made him wish to comply as soon as possible with the terms of his mother's will.
"I don't mind investing some money, say five hundred or a thousand dollars, in good mining stocks—if you are sure they are good," he said, turning to Colonel Dendon.
"Good! My dear young man, do you wish to insult me? As if I would deal in stocks that were anything but the best. I shall leave at once!" and, puffing up like an angry toad, the colonel again turned as if to go.
"Wait!" exclaimed Simon. "I'm sure my friend Dick didn't mean anything. Colonel. You see, he has never bought mining stocks before, and he doesn't know much about them."
"I know enough to want to be sure they are good!" replied Dick sharply, for he rather resented Simon's tone. "I'm not going to be swindled."
"Of course not," said the colonel, in less aggrieved tones. "I was a little too hasty. But I can assure you, Mr. Hamilton, that these securities are the very best of their kind. They are gilt edged."
As he spoke he drew from his pocket a bundle of certificates which, as far as appearances went, were "gilt-edged," for there was a broad band of gilt all around them.
"I can let you have these for eight hundred dollars," he said; "and they be worth a thousand inside of a month. I would keep them myself only I have bigger schemes on hand. I will let you have them as a special favor, Mr. Hamilton."
Dick examined the certificates. They certainly looked just like those he had often seen in his father's bank. They bore a number of flourishing signatures and a printed notice to the effect that they were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. They called for a number of shares of stock in a Pennsylvania oil well concern.
Dick felt impelled to take them. It seemed all right, even if he did have some lingering suspicion regarding the colonel. Still, appearances might be against him, and certainly Simon seemed to know the man.
Dick saw a vision of his investment turning out well, so he would have no further worry about fulfilling the conditions of the will. Once they were met he could enjoy his new wealth.
"I think I'll take these," he said, reaching for his pocket-book, where he carried several hundred dollars, though he had left some of his money in the hotel safe. "I will give you part cash and a check."
"It will be a fine investment," said Colonel Dendon; but he did not say for whom. "I can assure you, Mr. Hamilton, that I never sold such gilt-edged securities before. I am glad—"
At that instant the door of Dick's apartments opened, and a quietly-dressed man entered. He looked at the group of boys, noted the bundle of stock certificates, and then his glance rested on Colonel Dendon.
"I must ask you to leave this hotel at once," he said sharply, to the white-haired man. "If you don't go I shall be under the necessity of putting you under arrest."