Hamden Potter lived in one of the finest houses in New York. Larry had often admired it as he walked in the neighborhood of Central Park, in which vicinity many other New York millionaires have their residences.
"Now I've got a chance to see the inside," thought Larry, as he sat in the elevated train, and was whirled along toward his destination. "That is if they let me in. Guess I'll have my hands full getting information up there. Still, if I work it right, I may learn all I want to know."
There are only two general classes of persons from whom reporters can get news. One class is that which is only too ready to impart it, for their own ends and interests, and this news is seldom the kind the papers want. The other class consists of persons who are determined that they will give no information to the representatives of the press. This class usually has the very news that the papers want, and the journals strive all the more eagerly to get it, from the very fact that there is a desire to hold it from them. Both classes must be approached in ways best suited to them; the one that they may not take up a reporter's valuable time with a lot of useless talk, and the other that they may be tricked into giving out that which they are determined to keep back. It was to the latter class that Larry was going that morning. On his way up he was turning over in his mind the best means of getting what he wanted.
"Some butler or private secretary will come to the door," he reasoned. "I've got to get in to see a member of the family. There's only Mrs. Potter and her daughter Grace," for, in common with other rich men and those in the public eye, Mr. Potter's family affairs were, in a measure, public property to the New York newspaper world.
As Larry had surmised, his ring at the door was answered by a stately butler.
"I wish to see Mr. Potter," said the reporter, venturing on a bold stroke. He had learned several tricks of the trade.
"Mr. Potter is not home," and the door was about to close.
"Will you take a message to Mrs. Potter?" asked Larry quickly.
The door was opened a little.
"What name?" and the butler did not relax his severity.
"It doesn't matter what name. Tell her I have called in reference to Mr. Potter's absence."
"Come in!" the butler exclaimed quickly.
Larry had gained his first skirmish, in a manner perfectly legitimate, regarded from a newspaper standpoint. He had called in reference to Mr. Potter's disappearance—not to give information (as the butler may have supposed), but to get it.
"This way," said the man. "Mrs. Potter is in the library."
Larry entered through the velvet portieres the butler held aside for him. He saw, reclining on a couch, a handsome woman, whose face showed traces of tears. Beside her stood the most beautiful girl Larry had ever seen. She had brown eyes, brown hair, and a face that, though it was sad, made Larry think of some wonderful painting.
"Some one with news of Mr. Potter," the butler announced.
"Oh! Have you come to tell me of my husband?" the lady exclaimed, sitting up suddenly.
Larry's mind was working quickly. If he took the right means he was liable to get the information he wanted. On the other hand he was in a fair way to be shown the door indignantly, for he realized that he had entered under false pretenses, however honorable his motives might have been.
"I beg your pardon for intruding," he said, speaking quickly. "I have come to ask news of Mr. Potter, not to bring it. One moment," as he saw Mrs. Potter's face assume a look of anger. "His disappearance has been reported to the police. They tried to keep it quiet, but it was impossible in the case of a man of Mr. Potter's standing. Our paper—the Leader—knows of it. In a short time it will be known to every paper in New York. I think it would be wise for you to meet the situation, and give me whatever information you can. We will only be too glad to help you locate your husband, and I believe there is no better way than by newspaper publicity, even the police will tell you that. If you could give me a description of the missing man, when he was last seen, what sort of clothing he wore, and a picture of him we will publish it in the paper. Thousands of persons will see the account and will be on the lookout for him. Believe me, it is the best way!"
Larry paused for breath. He had rattled all that off without giving Mrs. Potter a chance to stop him, for he wanted to present his case in the most advantageous light.
"Mamma, I believe he is right!" exclaimed Grace Potter. "I never thought of it that way before. I thought the newspaper people were horrid when any one had trouble."
"We are human," said Larry with a little laugh, and Grace smiled, though her eyes had traces of tears.
"I could not think of discussing your father's affairs with a reporter," said Mrs. Potter stiffly.
"I don't want to pry into his affairs," returned Larry. "I only want to help you find him."
"But this publicity is so disgraceful!"
"Not at all, madam. It is a misfortune, perhaps, but other families have the same trouble. Nothing is thought of it. The newspapers are the best means of tracing lost persons."
"That's right, mother," interrupted Grace. "I often read descriptions of persons who have disappeared, and a few days later I see that they have been found, principally through an account in the paper. I am sure this young gentleman will help us."
"I will do all I can," said Larry. "So will the other papers, I am sure. Now when did he disappear? Is this a picture of him?" and he took one from the library table. "Suppose you let me take this to have a cut made of it. I will return it," and before Mrs. Potter or Grace could object Larry had it in his pocket. That is the way reporters get along sometimes, by taking advantage of every opportunity. Once lost these golden chances seldom can be seized again.
Before mother or daughter could answer Larry's question the door bell rang, and, a moment later, the butler announced:
"Some newspaper reporters, madam!"
"Oh, this is dreadful! I can't see them!" exclaimed Mrs. Potter. "Tell them to go away. Let them see Mr. Potter's lawyer!"
"Mother, let me attend to this for you," said Grace. "I will see the reporters. I will tell them all that is necessary. I'm not afraid. I want to find poor, dear papa!"
"You are a brave girl," murmured Mrs. Potter, as she wiped her eyes. "I would not dare face them all in our trouble."
Larry agreed with Mrs. Potter's characterization of Grace. It was no easy task for a girl of eighteen to thus assume the responsibility, but she had the courage, and Larry admired her for it.
"You had better go to your room, mother," Grace went on. "I will see the newspaper men in here," she added to the butler who was waiting. "You may stay," she said, looking at Larry, "and you will learn all we ourselves know."
Larry realized there was no opportunity for a beat in this matter of the disappearance of the millionaire, as the news the police get they give out indiscriminately to all papers. So he was content to get what information he needed in common with the other reporters. But he had a picture, and he doubted if all the others would get one.
The butler showed the reporters in. They were nearly all young men, about Larry's age, though one or two were gray-haired veterans of the pencil.
"What is it you wish to inquire about first?" asked Grace, as she faced the newspaper men, more calmly than could her mother, who had gone to her room.
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