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The fellow who had posed as a broker and commission merchant was taken completely by surprise when confronted by Nat, and for the moment did not know what to say.
"I guess you didn't expect to see me again," said our hero, after a pause, during which Nick Smithers—to use his real name—glared fiercely at the youth.
"Excuse me, boy, but I don't know you!" said the swindler, at last. "You have made a strange mistake."
"Oh, no, I haven't," answered Nat. "You are Hamilton Dart, alias Nick Smithers."
"My dear young friend you are in error. My name is Josiah Garfield, and I am from Concord, Massachusetts."
"I am not mistaken. You are Nick Smithers, and you are the rascal who swindled me in New York City."
"Boy, you must be mad!" burst out Nick Smithers, in assumed indignation. "I a swindler! Preposterous!"
"It's the plain truth, and there is no use of your denying it."
By this time a small crowd was gathering around. Soon a clerk of the hotel came up hastily.
"What's the trouble here?" he questioned, anxiously.
"This boy is crazy," said Nick Smithers.
"No, I am not. This man is a swindler, and I want him arrested," came from Nat. He made up his mind, come what might, he would stand up for his rights.
"I am an honest man—well-known in Concord, where I keep a jewelry establishment," puffed Nick Smithers. "This is an insult to me." He turned to the hotel clerk. "I shall hold your hotel responsible for this."
"I—this looks as if you were making a mistake," said the clerk to Nat. "This gentleman has been stopping here for over a week. He is registered on our book as Josiah Garfield."
"He has half a dozen names," said Nat. "I tell you he is a swindler."
"And I say the boy is crazy. Boy, if you say another word, I'll have you locked up."
Nick Smithers thought Nat was so green that he would back down, but for once he made a mistake.
"Call a policeman, please," he said to the clerk. "We can talk this over when we get to the police headquarters."
"Are you sure of what you are doing?" asked the clerk.
"Yes, I am sure of it. I can prove beyond any doubt whatever that this fellow is a confidence man and a swindler. He swindled me out of a hundred dollars in New York, and he swindled several others out of the same amount. Just help me to lock him up and I'll get all the witnesses necessary."
"That's straight talk," came from a commercial traveler standing nearby. "If the boy can prove what he says this man ought to be arrested by all means."
"He can't prove a thing," answered Nick Smithers, but he began to grow hot and cold, for he realized that Nat meant business and was not to be overawed as easily as he had imagined.
"I'll call a cop!" piped in a newsboy who had drifted into the room. "I see one on de corner a minit ago," and away he ran to execute his errand.
"The police will have to settle this," said the hotel clerk. "If you are making a mistake it will cost you dear," he added, to Nat.
"I am making no mistake," answered our hero, firmly.
This reply set Nick Smithers to thinking. To try to bluff Nat was one thing; to prove his innocence at the police station might be quite another.
"I can't bother to go to the station—I've got to get a train for Boston!" he cried, and ran from the room with all of his speed.
"Stop him!" yelled Nat, and, began to give chase. "Stop him!"
The cry was taken up by several others, and all began to run after Nick Smithers.
"Keep my valise—I'll catch him if I can!" said Nat, to the hotel clerk, and off he sped, and was soon ahead of the others who had joined in the chase.
If there was one thing that Nick Smithers could do well, it was to run, and now he made the best possible use of his rather long legs. He darted out of a side door of the hotel, down the square, and around a corner leading into a back street lined with small shops and dwellings.
"The young fool!" he muttered, as he sped along. "Who would have dreamed of his turning up in such a place as this?"
At last the swindler turned into another street. A car was passing and he hopped aboard this. Not to be seen, he dropped into a seat and crouched down. He rode on the car a distance of a dozen squares and then left, and hurried to a small house setting far back, in a rather neglected garden. The house was to let, and he pretended to be looking it over, and thus passed to a back porch and out of sight.
Nat continued the hunt for the swindler for a good hour and then gave it up.
"Well, how did you make out?" asked the hotel clerk, upon his return.
"He got away from me."
"He put on a pretty good front, if he was a swindler."
"Yes—that's how he came to swindle me and several others," answered our hero.
"Did you report the case to the police?"
"There is no use of doing that."
"Why not? They'll help you all they can."
"That may be true. But by the time my report is in, that rascal will be miles and miles away."
Nevertheless, Nat was persuaded to report to the city authorities before he went to the railroad station. He had missed his train and so had to lay over until three hours later.
This was fortunate for him, for a little later came a telegram from John Garwell, which ran as follows:
"Go to Albany at once and get papers from Caswick & Sampson."
This made Nat change his plans, and he at once found out when a train could be had for Albany. Half an hour later he was aboard of the cars, little dreaming of the surprise in store for him.
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