Luke was in Chicago, but what to do next he did not know. He might have advertised in one or more of the Chicago papers for James Harding, formerly in the employ of John Armstrong, of New York, but if this should come to the knowledge of the party who had appropriated the bonds, it might be a revelation of the weakness of the case against them. Again, he might apply to a private detective, but if he did so, the case would pass out of his hands. Luke had this piece of information to start upon. He had been informed that Harding left Mr. Armstrong's employment June 17, 1879, and, as was supposed, at once proceeded West. If he could get hold of a file of some Chicago daily paper for the week succeeding, he might look over the last arrivals, and ascertain at what hotel Harding had stopped. This would be something.
"Where can I examine a file of some Chicago daily paper for 1879, Mr. Lawrence?" he asked of the clerk.
"Right here," answered the clerk. "Mr. Goth, the landlord, has a file of the Times for the last ten years."
"Would he let me examine the volume for 1879?" asked Luke, eagerly.
"Certainly. I am busy just now, but this afternoon I will have the papers brought down to the reading-room."
He was as good as his word, and at three o'clock in the afternoon Luke sat down before a formidable pile of papers, and began his task of examination.
He began with the paper bearing date June 19, and examined that and the succeeding papers with great care. At length his search was rewarded. In the paper for June 23 Luke discovered the name of James Harding, and, what was a little singular, he was registered at the Ottawa House.
Luke felt quite exultant at this discovery. It might not lead to anything, to be sure, but still it was an encouragement, and seemed to augur well for his ultimate success.
He went with his discovery to his friend the clerk.
"Were you here in June, 1879, Mr. Lawrence?" he asked.
"Yes. I came here in April of that year."
"Of course, you could hardly be expected to remember a casual guest?"
"I am afraid not. What is his name?"
"James Harding! Yes, I do remember him, and for a very good reason. He took a very severe cold on the way from New York, and he lay here in the hotel sick for two weeks. He was an elderly man, about fifty-five, I should suppose."
"That answers to the description given me. Do you know where he went to from here?"
"There you have me. I can't give you any information on that point."
Luke began to think that his discovery would lead to nothing.
"Stay, though," said the clerk, after a moment's thought. "I remember picking up a small diary in Mr. Harding's room after he left us. I didn't think it of sufficient value to forward to him, nor indeed did I know exactly where to send."
"Can you show me the diary?" asked Luke, hopefully.
"Yes. I have it upstairs in my chamber. Wait five minutes and I will get it for you."
A little later a small, black-covered diary was put in Luke's hand. He opened it eagerly, and began to examine the items jotted down. It appeared partly to note down daily expenses, but on alternate pages there were occasional memorandums. About the fifteenth of May appeared this sentence: "I have reason to think that my sister, Mrs. Ellen Ransom, is now living in Franklin, Minnesota. She is probably in poor circumstances, her husband having died in poverty a year since. We two are all that is left of a once large family, and now that I am shortly to retire from business with a modest competence, I feel it will be alike my duty and my pleasure to join her, and do what I can to make her comfortable. She has a boy who must now be about twelve years old."
"Come," said Luke, triumphantly, "I am making progress decidedly. My first step will be to go to Franklin, Minnesota, and look up Mr. Harding and his sister. After all, I ought to be grateful to Mr. Coleman, notwithstanding his attempt to rob me. But for him I should never have come to the Ottawa House, and thus I should have lost an important clue."
Luke sat down immediately and wrote to Mr. Armstrong, detailing the discovery he had madea letter which pleased his employer, and led him to conclude that he had made a good choice in selecting Luke for this confidential mission.
The next day Luke left Chicago and journeyed by the most direct route to Franklin, Minnesota. He ascertained that it was forty miles distant from St. Paul, a few miles off the railroad. The last part of the journey was performed in a stage, and was somewhat wearisome. He breathed a sigh of relief when the stage stopped before the door of a two-story inn with a swinging sign, bearing the name Franklin House.
Luke entered his name on the register and secured a room. He decided to postpone questions till he had enjoyed a good supper and felt refreshed. Then he went out to the desk and opened a conversation with the landlord, or rather submitted first to answering a series of questions propounded by that gentleman.
"You're rather young to be travelin' alone, my young friend," said the innkeeper.
"Where might you be from?"
"From New York."
"Then you're a long way from home. Travelin' for your health?"
"No," answered Luke, with a smile. "I have no trouble with my health."
"You do look pretty rugged, that's a fact. Goin' to settle down in our State?"
"I think not."
"I reckon you're not travelin' on business? You're too young for a drummer."
"The fact is, I am in search of a family that I have been told lives, or used to live, in Franklin."
"What's the name?"
"The lady is a Mrs. Ransom. I wish to see her brother-in-law, Mr. James Harding."
"Sho! You'll have to go farther to find them."
"Don't they live here now?" asked Luke, disappointed.
"No; they moved away six months ago."
"Do you know where they went?" asked Luke, eagerly.
"Not exactly. You see, there was a great stir about gold being plenty in the Black Hills, and Mr. Harding, though he seemed to be pretty well fixed, thought he wouldn't mind pickin' up a little. He induced his sister to go with himthat is, her boy wanted to go, and so she, not wantin' to be left alone, concluded to go, too."
"So they went to the Black Hills. Do you think it would be hard to find them?"
"No; James Harding is a man that's likely to be known wherever he is. Just go to where the miners are thickest, and I allow you'll find him."
Luke made inquiries, and ascertaining the best way of reaching the Black Hills, started the next day.
"If I don't find James Harding, it's because I can't," he said to himself resolutely.