“I’ll keep them until noon. I’ve got another offer,” said the man in bed.
“We’ll be back,” put in the man called Anderson. “So don’t you sell to anybody else.”
Then the two visitors left and went downstairs. Five minutes later they were driving away in the direction of the railroad station.
“This certainly beats anything I ever met before,” said Joe, to himself as he watched them go. “I’ll wager all I am worth that I’ve met that Anderson before, and that he is a bad man. I do wish I could get at the bottom of what is going on.”
In the evening he had occasion to go upstairs in the hotel once more. To his surprise he saw Mr. David Ball sitting in a rocking-chair, calmly smoking a cigar and reading a paper.
“He isn’t as sick as he was this morning,” he mused. “In fact, I don’t think he is sick at all.”
He wished to be on hand the following morning, when the strangers came back, but an errand took him up the lake. He had to stop at several places, and did not start on the return until four in the afternoon.
On his way back Joe went ashore close to where the old lodge was located, and something, he could not tell what, made him run over and take a look at the spot that had proved a shelter for Ned and himself during the heavy storm. How many things had occurred since that fatal day!
As our hero looked into one of the rooms he remembered the strange men he had seen there—the fellows who had talked about mining stocks. Then, of a sudden, a revelation came to him, like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” he cried. “Mr. David Ball is that fellow who called himself Malone, and Anderson is the man named Caven! They are both imposters!”
A FRUITLESS CHASE.
The more Joe thought over the matter the more he became convinced that he was right. He remembered a good deal of the talk he had overheard during the storm, although such talk had, for the time being, been driven from his mind by the tragic death of old Hiram Bodley.
“If they are working some game what can this Maurice Vane have to do with it?” he asked himself.
He thought it best to get back to the hotel at once, and tell Mr. Mallison of his suspicions. But, as luck would have it, scarcely had he started to row his boat again when an oarlock broke, and so it took him the best part of an hour to make the trip.
“Where is Mr. Mallison?” he asked of the clerk of the hotel.
“Out in the stable, I believe,” was the answer.
Without waiting, our hero ran down to the stable and found the hotel proprietor inspecting some hay that had just been unloaded.
“I’d like to speak to you a moment, Mr. Mallison,” he said. “It’s important,” and he motioned for the man to follow him.
“What is it, Joe?”