Florence stopped short in deep embarrassment.
Chapter XII. A Friend, Though A Dude.
Percy de Brabazon looked sincerely glad to meet Florence, and she herself felt some pleasure in meeting one who reminded her of her former life.
But it was quite impossible that she should allow him to accompany her to her poor home on the East Side.
"Thank you, Mr. de Brabazon, but my engagements this morning will hardly permit me to accept your escort," she said.
"I suppose that means that you are going shopping; but I don't mind it, I assure you, and I will carry your bundles," he added, magnanimously.
"That would never do. What! the fashionable Mr. de Brabazon carrying bundles? You would lose your social status."
"I don't mind, Miss Florence, as long as you give me—aw—an approving smile."
"I will give it now, as I bid you good-morning."
"May I—aw—have the pleasure of calling upon you to-morrow evening, Miss Linden?"
"It is evident that you have not heard that I am no longer residing with my uncle."
Mr. de Brabazon looked surprised.
"No, I had not heard. May I ask—aw—where you are wesiding?"
"With friends," answered Florence, briefly. "As you are a friend and will be likely to hear it, I may as well mention that my uncle is displeased with me, and has practically disowned me."
"Then, Miss Florence," said Mr. de Brabazon, eagerly, "won't you accept—aw—my heart and hand? My mother will be charmed to receive you, and I—aw—will strive to make you happy."
"I appreciate your devotion, I do, indeed, Mr. de Brabazon," said Florence, earnestly; "but I must decline your offer. I will not marry without love."
"I don't mind that," said Percy, "if you'll agree to take a feller; you'll learn in time to like him a little. I am wich—I know you don't care for that—but I can give you as good a home as your uncle. If you would give me hope—aw——"
"I am afraid I cannot, Mr. de Brabazon, but if you will allow me to look upon you as a friend, I will call upon you if I have need of a friend's services."
"Will you, weally?"
"Yes, there is my hand on it. I ought to tell you that I must now earn my own living, and am to give lessons to a young pupil in West —— Street, three hours daily."
"You don't mean to say you are actually poor?" said Mr. de Brabazon, horrified.
"Yes, indeed, I am."
"Then, won't you let me lend you some money? I've got more than I need, I have, 'pon my honor."
"Thank you, I promise to call upon you if I need it."
Mr. de Brabazon looked pleased.
"Would you mind telling me where you are going to teach, Miss Florence?"
Florence hesitated, but there was something so sincere and friendly in the young man's manner—dude though he was—that she consented to grant his request.
"I am to teach the daughter of Mr. Robert Leighton."
"Why, Miss Leighton is my cousin," said Percy, in joyous excitement.
"Indeed! Had I known that I would hardly have told you."
"Don't be afwaid! I will be vewy discreet," said Mr. de Brabazon.
"Thank you, and good-morning."
Florence went on her way, cheered and encouraged in spite of herself, by her success in obtaining employment, and by the friendly offers of Mr. de Brabazon.
"It is wrong to get discouraged," she said to herself. "After all, there are warm hearts in the world."
When she entered her humble home, she found Dodger already there. There was an eagerness in his manner, and a light in his eye, that seemed to indicate good news.
"Well, Dodger, what is it?"
"I've been waitin' half an hour to see you, Florence," he said. "I've got some work for you."
"What is it—sewing on a button, or mending a coat?"
"No, I mean workin' for money. You can play on the pianner, can't you?"
"They want a young lady to play the pianner at a dime museum, for nine dollars a week. It's a bully chance. I just told the manager—he's a friend of mine—that I had a young lady friend that was a stunnin' player, and he wants you to come around and see him."
It was a preposterous idea—so Florence thought—that she should consent to play at such a place; but she couldn't expect Dodger to look at the matter in the same light, so she answered, very gently and pleasantly:
"You are very kind, Dodger, to look out for me, but I shall not need to accept your friend's offer. I have secured a chance to teach uptown."
"You have? What'll you get?"
"I am to be employed three hours daily, at fifty cents an hour."
"Geewhillikens! that's good! You'd have to work as much as twelve hours at the museum for the same pay."
"You see, therefore, that I am provided for—that is, if I suit."
Dodger was a little disappointed. Still, he could not help admitting that it would be better for Florence to teach three hours, than to work ten or twelve. As to her having any objection to appearing at a dime museum, that never occurred to him.
Florence had sent for her trunk, and it was now in her room.
Dodger accompanied an expressman to the house, and luckily saw Jane, who arranged everything for him.
"How's the old gentleman?" asked Dodger. "Florence wanted me to ask."
"He's feeble," said Jane, shaking her head.
"Does he miss Florence?"
"That he do."
"Why don't he send for her, then, to come back?" asked Dodger, bluntly.
"Because Curtis Waring makes him believe she'll come around and ask forgiveness, if he only holds out. I tell you, Dodger, that Curtis is a viper."
"So he is," answered Dodger, who was not quite clear in his mind as to what a viper was. "I'd like to step on his necktie."
"If it wasn't for him, my dear young mistress would be back in the house within twenty-four hours."
"I don't see how the old gentleman can let him turn Florence out of the house."
"He's a snake in the grass, Dodger. It may be wicked, but I just wish something would happen to him. And how is Miss Florence lookin', poor dear?"
"She's lookin' like a daisy."
"Does she worry much?"
"She did at first, but now she's workin' every day, and she looks more cheerful-like."
"Miss Florence workin'! She that was always brought up like a lady!"
"She's teachin' a little girl three hours a day."
"Well, that isn't so bad!" said Jane, relieved. "Teachin' is genteel. I wish I could see her some day. Will you tell her, Dodger, that next Sunday is my day out, and I'll be in Central Park up by the menagerie at three o'clock, if she'll only take the trouble to be up there?"
"I'll tell her, Jane, and I'm sure she'll be there."
A day or two afterward Curtis Waring asked: "Have you heard from my Cousin Florence since she went away?"
"Indeed! Where is she staying?"
"She didn't send me word."
"How, then, did you hear from her?"
"Dodger came with an expressman for her trunk."
Curtis Waring frowned.
"And you let him have it?" he demanded, sternly.
"Of course I did. Why shouldn't I?"
"You should have asked me."
"And what business have you with Miss Florence's trunk, I'd like to know?" said Jane, independently.
"Never mind; you ought to have asked my permission."
"I didn't think you'd want to wear any of Miss Florence's things, Mr. Waring."
"You are silly and impertinent," said Curtis, biting his lips. "Did that boy tell you anything about her?"
"Only that she wasn't worryin' any for you, Mr. Curtis."
Curtis glanced angrily at his cousin's devoted friend, and then, turning on his heel, left the room.
"I'll bring her to terms yet," he muttered. "No girl of seventeen shall defy me!"
Chapter XIII. Tim Bolton's Saloon.
Not far from Houston Street, on the west side of the Bowery, is an underground saloon, with whose proprietor we are already acquainted.
It was kept by Tim Bolton, whose peculiar tastes and shady characteristics well fitted him for such a business.
It was early evening, and the gas jets lighted up a characteristic scene.
On the sanded floor were set several tables, around which were seated a motley company, all of them with glasses of beer or whiskey before them.
Tim, with a white apron on, was moving about behind the bar, ministering to the wants of his patrons. There was a scowl upon his face, for he was not fond of work, and he missed Dodger's assistance.
The boy understood the business of mixing drinks as well as he, and often officiated for hours at a time, thus giving his guardian and reputed father a chance to leave the place and meet outside engagements.
A tall, erect gentleman entered the saloon, and walked up to the bar.
"Good-evening, colonel," said Tim.
"Good-evening, sir," said the newcomer, with a stately inclination of the head.
He was really a colonel, having served in the Civil War at the head of a Georgia regiment.
He had all the stately courtesy of a Southern gentleman, though not above the weakness of a frequent indulgence in the strongest fluids dispensed by Tim Bolton.
"What'll you have, colonel?"
"Whiskey straight, sir. It's the only drink fit for a gentleman. Will you join me, Mr. Bolton?"
"Of course, I will," said Tim, as, pouring out a glass for himself, he handed the bottle to the colonel.
"Your health, sir," said the colonel, bowing.
"Same to you, colonel," responded Tim, with a nod.
"Where's the boy?"
Col. Martin had always taken considerable notice of Dodger, being naturally fond of boys, and having once had a son of his own, who was killed in a railroad accident when about Dodger's age.
"Danged if I know!" answered Tim, crossly.
"He hasn't left you, has he?"
"Yes; he's cleared out, the ungrateful young imp! I'd like to lay my hands on the young rascal."
"Was he your son?"
"He was my—stepson," answered Tim, hesitating.
"I see, you married his mother."
"Yes," said Tim, considering the explanation satisfactory, and resolved to adopt it. "I've always treated him as if he was my own flesh and blood, and I've raised him from a young kid. Now he's gone and left me."
"Can you think of any reason for his leaving you?"
"Not one. I always treated him well. He's been a great expense to me, and now he's got old enough to help me he must clear out. He's the most ungrateful cub I ever seen."
"I am sorry he has gone—I used to like to have him serve me."
"And now what's the consequence? Here I am tied down to the bar day and night."
"Can't you get some one in his place?"
"Yes, but I'd likely be robbed; I had a bartender once who robbed me of two or three dollars a day."
"But you trusted the boy?"
"Yes, Dodger wouldn't steal—I can say that much for him."
"There's one thing I noticed about the boy," said the colonel, reflectively. "He wouldn't drink. More than once I have asked him to drink with me, but he would always say, 'Thank you, colonel, but I don't like whiskey.' I never asked him to take anything else, for whiskey's the only drink fit for a gentleman. Do you expect to get the boy back?"
"If I could only get out for a day I'd hunt him up; but I'm tied down here."
"I seed him yesterday, Tim," said a red-nosed man who had just entered the saloon, in company with a friend of the same general appearance. Both wore silk hats, dented and soiled with stains of dirt, coats long since superannuated, and wore the general look of barroom loafers.
They seldom had any money, but lay in wait for any liberal stranger, in the hope of securing a free drink.
"Where did you see him, Hooker?" asked Tim Bolton, with sudden interest.
"Selling papers down by the Astor House."
"Think of that, colonel!" said Tim, disgusted. "Becomin' a common newsboy, when he might be in a genteel employment! Did you speak to him, Hooker?"
"Yes, I asked him if he had left you."
"What did he say?"
"That he had left you for good—that he was going to grow up respectable!"
"Think of that!" said Tim, with renewed disgust. "Did he say where he lived?"
"Did he ask after me?"
"No, except he said that you were no relation of his. He said he expected you stole him when he was a kid, and he hoped some time to find his relations."
Tim Bolton's face changed color, and he was evidently disturbed. Could the boy have heard anything? he wondered, for his suspicions were very near the truth.
"It's all nonsense!" he said, roughly. "Next time you see him, Hooker, foller him home, and find out where he lives."
"All right, Tim. It ought to be worth something," he insinuated, with a husky cough.
"That's so. What'll you take?"
"Whiskey," answered Hooker, with a look of pleased anticipation.
"You're a gentleman, Tim," he said, as he gulped down the contents of a glass without winking.
Briggs, his dilapidated companion, had been looking on in thirsty envy.
"I'll help Hooker to look for Dodger," he said.
"Very well, Briggs."
"Couldn't you stand a glass for me, too, Tim?" asked Briggs, eagerly.
"No," answered Bolton, irritably. "I've been at enough expense for that young rascal already."
But the colonel noticed the pathetic look of disappointment on the face of Briggs, and he was stirred to compassion.
"Drink with me, sir," he said, turning to the overjoyed Briggs.
"Thank you, colonel. You're a gentleman!"
"Two glasses, Tim."
So the colonel drained a second glass, and Briggs, pouring out with trembling fingers as much as he dared, followed suit.
When the last drop was drunk, he breathed a deep sigh of measureless enjoyment.
"If either of you bring that boy in here," said Tim, "I'll stand a couple of glasses for both."
"We're your men, Tim," said Hooker. "Ain't we, Briggs?"
"That's so, Hooker. Shake!"
And the poor victims of drink shook hands energetically. Long since they had sunk their manhood in the intoxicating cup, and henceforth lived only to gratify their unnatural craving for what would sooner or later bring them to a drunkard's grave.
As they left the saloon, the colonel turned to Tim, and said:
"I like whiskey, sir; but I'll be hanged if I can respect such men as those."
"They're bums, colonel, that's what they are!"
"How do they live?"
"Don't know. They're in here about every day."
"If it's drink that's brought them where they are, I'm half inclined to give it up; but, after all, it isn't necessary to make a beast of yourself. I always drink like a gentleman, sir."
"So you do, colonel."
At that moment a poor woman, in a faded calico dress with a thin shawl over her shoulders, descended the steps that led into the saloon, and walked up to the bar.
"Has my husband been here to-night?" she asked.
Tim Bolton frowned.
"Who's your husband?" he asked, roughly.
"No, Bill Wilson hasn't been here to-night. Even if he had you have no business to come after him. I don't want any sniveling women here."
"I couldn't help it, Mr. Bolton," said the woman, putting her apron to her eyes. "If Bill comes in, won't you tell him to come home? The baby's dead, and we haven't a cent in the house!"
Even Tim was moved by this.
"I'll tell him," he said. "Take a drink yourself; you don't look strong. It shan't cost you a cent."
"No," said the woman, "not a drop! It has ruined my happiness, and broken up our home! Not a drop!"
"Here, my good lady," said the colonel, with chivalrous deference, "you have no money. Take this," and he handed the astonished woman a five-dollar bill.
"Heaven bless you, sir!" she exclaimed, fervently.
"Allow me to see you to the street," and the gallant Southern gentleman escorted her up to the sidewalk.
"I'd like to horsewhip that woman's husband. Don't you sell him another drop!" he said, when he returned.
Chapter XIV. The Missing Will.
An hour after the depart of the colonel there was an unexpected arrival.
A well-dressed gentleman descended the stairs gingerly, looked about him with fastidious disdain, and walked up to the bar.
Tim Bolton was filling an order, and did not immediately observe him.
When at length he turned around he exclaimed, in some surprise:
"Yes, Bolton, I have found my way here."
"I have been expecting you."
"I came to you for some information."
"Well, ask your questions: I don't know whether I can answer them."
"First, where is my Cousin Florence?"
"How should I know? She wasn't likely to place herself under my protection."
"She's with that boy of yours—Dodger, I believe you call him. Where is he?"
"Run away," answered Bolton, briefly.
"Do you mean that you don't know where he is?"
"Yes, I do mean that. I haven't set my eyes on him since that night."
"What do you mean by such negligence? Do you remember who he is?"
"Certainly I do."
"Then why do you let him get of your reach?"
"How could I help it? Here I am tied down to this bar day and night! I'm nearly dead for want of sleep."
"It would be better to close up your place for a week and look after him."
"Couldn't do it. I should lose all my trade. People would say I was closed up."
"And have you done nothing toward his recovery?"
"Yes, I have sent out two men in search of him."
"Have you any idea where he is, or what he is doing?"
"Yes, he has been seen in front of the Astor House, selling papers. I have authorized my agent, if he sees him again, to follow him home, and find out where he lives."
"That is good! Astor House? I may see him myself."
"But why do you want to see him? Do you want to restore him to his rights?"
"Hush!" said Curtis, glancing around him apprehensively. "What we say may be overheard and excite suspicion. One thing may be secured by finding him—the knowledge of Florence's whereabouts."
"What makes you think she and the boy are together?"
"He came for her trunk. I was away from home, or I would not have let it go——"
"It is strange that they two are together, considering their relationship."
"That is what I am afraid they will find out. She may tell him of the mysterious disappearance of her cousin, and he——"
"That reminds me," interrupted Bolton. "He told Hooker—Hooker was the man that saw him in front of the Astor House—that he didn't believe I was his father. He said he thought I must have stolen him when he was a young kid."
"Did he say that?" asked Curtis, in evident alarm.
"Yes, so Hooker says."
"If he has that idea in his head, he may put two and two together, and guess that he is the long-lost cousin of Florence. Tim, the boy must be got rid of."
"If you mean what I think you do, Mr. Waring, I'm not with you. I won't consent to harm the boy."
"You said that before. I don't mean anything that will shock your tender heart, Bolton," said Curtis, with a sneer. "I mean carried to a distance—Europe or Australia, for instance. All I want is to keep him out of New York till my uncle is dead. After that I don't care what becomes of him."
"That's better. I've no objection to that. How is the old gentleman?"
"He grieved so much at first over the girl's loss, that I feared he would insist on her being recalled at once. I soothed him by telling him that he had only to remain firm, and she would come around, and yield to his wishes."
"Do you think she will?" asked Tim, doubtfully.
"I intend she shall!" said Curtis, significantly. "Bolton, I love the girl all the more for her obstinate refusal to wed me. I have made up my mind to marry her with her consent, or without it."
"I thought it was only the estate you were after?"
"I want the estate and her with it. Mark my words, Bolton, I will have both!"
"You will have the estate, no doubt; Mr. Linden has made his will in your favor, has he not?" and Bolton looked intently in the face of his visitor.
"Hark you, Bolton, there is a mystery I cannot fathom. My uncle made two wills. In the earlier, he left the estate to Florence and myself, if we married; otherwise, to me alone."
"That is satisfactory."
"Yes, but there was another, in which the estate goes to the son, if living. That will has disappeared."
"Is it possible?" asked Bolton, in astonishment. "When was it missed?"
"On the night of the burglary."
"Then you think——"
"That the boy, Dodger, has it. Good Heavens! if he only knew that by this will the estate goes to him!" and Waring wiped the perspiration from his brow.
"You are sure he did not give you the will?" he demanded, eying Bolton sharply.
"I have not seen him since the night of the robbery."
"If he has read the will, it may lead to dangerous suspicions."
"He would give it to your cousin, Florence, would he not?"
"Perhaps so. Bolton, you must get the boy back, and take the will from him, if you can."
"I will do my best; but you must remember that Dodger is no longer a small kid. He is a boy of eighteen, strong and well grown. He wouldn't be easy to manage. Besides, as long as he doesn't know that he has any interest in the will, his holding it won't do any harm. Is the old gentleman likely to live long?"
"I don't know. I sometimes hope—— Pshaw! why should I play the hypocrite when speaking to you? Surely it is no sin to wish him better off, since he can't enjoy life!"
"He might if Florence and his son were restored to him."
"What do you mean, Bolton?" asked Curtis, suspiciously.
"What could I mean? It merely occurred to me," said Bolton, innocently. "You say he is quiet, thinkin' the girl will come around?"
"Suppose time passes, and she doesn't? Won't he try to find her? As she is in the city, that won't be hard."
"I shall represent that she has left the city."
"For any particular point?"
"No, that is not necessary."
"If he worries himself into the grave, so much the better for me."
"There is no halfway about you, Mr. Curtis Waring."
"Why should there be? Listen, Bolton; I have set my all on this cast. I am now thirty-six, and still I am dependent upon my uncle's bounty. I am in debt, and some of my creditors are disposed to trouble me. My uncle is worth—I don't know how much, but I think half a million. What does he get out of it? Food and clothes, but not happiness. If it were mine, all the avenues of enjoyment would be open to me. That estate I must have."
"Suppose you get it, what is there for me?" asked Bolton.
"I will see that you are recompensed if you help me to it."
"Will you put that in writing?"
"Do you take me for a fool? To put it in writing would be to place me in your power! You can trust me."
"Well, perhaps so," said Tim Bolton, slowly.
"At any rate you will have to. Well, good-night. I will see you again. In the meantime try to find the boy."
Tim Bolton followed him with his eyes, as he left the saloon.
"What would he say," said Bolton to himself, "if he knew that the will he so much wishes to find is in my hands, and that I hold him in my power already?"
Chapter XV. The New Governess.
"Wish me luck, Dodger!"
"So I do, Florence. Are you goin' to begin teachin' this mornin'?"
"Yes; and I hope to produce a favorable impression. It is very important to me to please Mrs. Leighton and my future pupil."
"I'm sure you'll suit. How nice you look!"
Florence smiled, and looked pleased. She had taken pains with her dress and personal appearance, and, being luckily well provided with handsome dresses, had no difficulty in making herself presentable. As she stepped out of the shabby doorway upon the sidewalk no one supposed her to be a tenant, but she was generally thought to be a visitor, perhaps the agent of some charitable association.
"Perhaps all will not judge me as favorably as you do, Dodger," said Florence, with a laugh.
"If you have the headache any day, Florence, I'll take your place."
"You would look rather young for a tutor, Dodger, and I am afraid you would not be dignified. Good-morning! I shall be back to dinner."
"I am glad to find you punctual, Miss Linden," said Mrs. Leighton, as Florence was ushered into her presence. "This is your pupil, my daughter, Carrie."
Florence smiled and extended her hand.
"I hope we will like each other," she said.
The little girl eyed her with approval. This beautiful young lady was a pleasant surprise to her, for, never having had a governess, she expected to meet a stiff, elderly lady, of stern aspect. She readily gave her hand to Florence, and looked relieved.
"Carrie," said Mrs. Leighton, "you may show Miss Linden the way to the schoolroom."
"All right, mamma," and the little girl led the way upstairs to a back room on the third floor.
"So this is to be our schoolroom, is it, Carrie?" said Florence. "It is a very pleasant room."
"Yes; but I should have preferred the front chamber. Mamma thought that I might be looking into the street too much. Here there is only a back yard, and nothing to look at."
"Your mamma seems very judicious," said Florence, smiling. "Are you fond of study?"
"Well, I ain't exactly fond, but I will do my best."
"That is all that can be expected."
"Do you know, Miss Linden, you don't look at all like I expected."
"Am I to be glad or sorry for that?"
"I thought you would be an old maid, stiff and starched, like May Robinson's governess."
"I am not married, Carrie, so perhaps you may regard me as an old maid."
"You'll never be an old maid," said Carrie, confidently. "You are too young and pretty."
"Thank you, Carrie," said Florence, with a little blush. "You say that, I hope, because you are going to like me."
"I like you already," said the little girl, impulsively. "I've got a cousin that will like you, too."
"A young girl?"
"No; of course not. He is a young man. His name is Percy de Brabazon. It is a funny name, isn't it? You see, his father was a Frenchman."
Florence was glad that she already knew from Percy's own mouth of the relationship, as it saved her from showing a degree of surprise that might have betrayed her acquaintance with the young man.
"What makes you think your cousin would like me, Carrie?"
"Because he always likes pretty girls. He is a masher."
"That's slang, Carrie. I am sure your mamma wouldn't approve your using such a word."
"Don't tell her. It just slipped out. But about Percy—he wants very much to be married."
Florence was not surprised to hear this, for she had the best reason for knowing it to be true.
"Is he a handsome young man?" she asked, demurely.
"He's funny looking. He's awful good-natured, but he isn't the sort of young man I would like," concluded Carrie, with amusing positiveness.
"I hope you don't let your mind run on such things. You are quite too young."
"Oh, I don't think much about it. But Percy is a dude. He spends a sight for clothes. He always looks as if he had just come out of a bandbox."
"Is he in any business?"
"No; he has an independent fortune, so mamma says. He was in Europe last year."
"I think, Carrie, we must give up talking and attend to business. I should have checked you before, but I thought a little conversation would help us to get acquainted. Now show me your books, and I will assign your lessons."
"Don't give me too long lessons, please, Miss Linden."
"I will take care not to task you beyond your strength. I don't want my pupil to grow sick on my hands."
"I hope you won't be too strict. When May Robinson makes two mistakes her governess makes her learn her lessons over again."
"I will promise not to be too strict. Now let me see your books."
The rest of the forenoon was devoted to study.
Florence was not only an excellent scholar, but she had the art of imparting knowledge, and, what is very important, she was able in a few luminous words to explain difficulties and make clear what seemed to her pupil obscure.
So the time slipped quickly and pleasantly away, and it was noon before either she or her pupil realized it.
"It can't be twelve," said Carrie, surprised.
"Yes, it is. We must defer further study till to-morrow."
"Why, it is a great deal pleasanter than going to school, Miss Linden. I dreaded studying at home, but now I like it."
"I hope you will continue to, Carrie. I can say that the time has passed away pleasantly for me."
As Florence prepared to resume her street dress, Carrie said:
"Oh, I forgot! Mamma asked me to invite you to stay to lunch with me. I take lunch as soon as school is out, at twelve o'clock, so I won't detain you long."
"Thank you, Carrie; I will stay with pleasure."
"I am glad of that, for I don't like to sit down to the table alone. Mamma is never here at this time. She goes out shopping or making calls, so poor I have to sit down to the table alone. It will be ever so much pleasure to have you with me."
Florence was by no means sorry to accept the invitation.
The meals she got at home were by no means luxurious, and the manner of serving them was by no means what she enjoyed.
Mrs. O'Keefe, though a good friend and a kindhearted woman, was not a model housekeeper, and Florence had been made fastidious by her early training. Lunch was, of course, a plain meal, but what was furnished was of the best quality, and the table service was such as might be expected in a luxurious home.
Just as Florence was rising from the table, Mrs. Leighton entered the room in street dress.
"I am glad you remained to lunch, Miss Linden," she said. "You will be company for my little girl, who is very sociable. Carrie, I hope you were a good girl, and gave Miss Linden no trouble."
"Ask Miss Linden, mamma," said Carrie, confidently.
"Indeed, she did very well," said Florence. "I foresee that we shall get along admirably."
"I am glad to hear that. She is apt to be indolent."
"I won't be with Miss Linden, mamma. She makes the studies so interesting."
After Florence left the house, Carrie pronounced an eulogium upon her which led Mrs. Leighton to congratulate herself upon having secured a governess who had produced so favorable an impression on her little girl.
"Was you kept after school, Florence?" asked Dodger, as she entered her humble home. "I am afraid you'll find your dinner cold."
"Never mind, Dodger. I am to take dinner—or lunch, rather—at the house where I am teaching; so hereafter Mrs. O'Keefe need not wait for me."
"And how do you like your place?"
"It is everything that is pleasant. You wished me good luck, Dodger, and your wish has been granted."
"I was lucky, too, Florence. I've made a dollar and a quarter this mornin'."
"Not by selling papers, surely?"
"Not all. A gentleman gave me fifty cents for takin' his valise to the Long Branch boat."
"It seems we are both getting rich," said Florence, smiling.
Chapter XVI. Dodger Becomes Ambitious.
"Ah, there, Dodger!"
Dodger, who had been busily and successfully selling evening papers in front of the Astor House, turned quickly as he heard his name called.
His glance rested on two men, dressed in soiled white hats and shabby suits, who were apparently holding each other up, having both been imbibing.
He at once recognized Hooker and Briggs, for he had waited upon them too many times in Tim's saloon not to recognize them.
"Well," he said, cautiously, "what do you want?"
"Tim has sent us for you!" answered the two, in unison.
"What does he want of me?"
"He wants you to come home. He says he can't get along without you."
"He will have to get along without me," said the boy, independently. "Tell him I'm not goin' back!"
"You're wrong, Dodger," said Hooker, shaking his head, solemnly. "Ain't he your father?"
"No, he ain't."
"He says he is," continued Hooker, looking puzzled.
"That don't make it so."
"He ought to know," put in Briggs.
"Yes; he ought to know!" chimed in Hooker.
"No doubt he does, but he can't make me believe he's any relation of mine."
"Just go and argy the point with him," said Hooker, coaxingly.
"It wouldn't do no good."
"Maybe it would. Just go back with us, that's a good boy."
"What makes you so anxious about it?" asked Dodger, suspiciously.
"Well," said Hooker, coughing, "we're Tim's friends, don't you know."
"What's he goin' to give you if I go back with you?" asked the boy, shrewdly.
"A glass of whiskey!" replied Hooker and Briggs in unison.
"Is that all?"
"Maybe he'd make it two."
"I won't go back with you," said Dodger, after a moment's thought; "but I don't want you to lose anything by me. Here's a dime apiece, and you can go and get a drink somewhere else."
"You're a trump, Dodger," said Hooker, eagerly holding out his hand.
"I always liked you, Dodger," said Briggs, with a similar motion.
"Now, don't let Tim know you've seen me," said the newsboy, warningly.
And the interesting pair ambled off in the direction of the Bowery.
"So Tim sent them fellers after me?" soliloqized Dodger. "I guess I'll have to change my office, or maybe Tim himself will be droppin' down on me some mornin'. It'll be harder to get rid of him than of them chumps."
So it happened that he used to take down his morning papers to the piers on the North River, and take his chance of selling them to passengers from Boston and others ports arriving by the Fall River boats, and others from different points.
The advantage of this was that he often got a chance to serve as guide to strangers visiting the city for the first time, or as porter, to carry their valise or other luggage.
Being a bright, wideawake boy, with a pleasant face and manner, he found his services considerably in demand; and on counting up his money at the end of the week, he found, much to his encouragement, that he had received on an average about a dollar and twenty-five cents per day.
"That's better than sellin' papers alone," thought he. "Besides, Tim isn't likely to come across me here. I wonder I didn't think of settin' up for myself before!"
In the evening he spent an hour, and sometimes more, pursuing his studies, under the direction of Florence. At first his attention was given chiefly to improving his reading and spelling, for Dodger was far from fluent in the first, while his style of spelling many words was strikingly original.
"Ain't I stupid, Florence?" he asked one day, after spelling a word of three syllables with such ingenious incorrectness as to convulse his young teacher with merriment.
"Not at all, Dodger. You are making excellent progress; but sometimes you are so droll that I can't help laughing."
"I don't mind that if you think I am really gettin' on."
"Undoubtedly you are!"
"I make a great many mistakes," said Dodger, dubiously.
"Yes, you do; but you must remember that you have taken lessons only a short time. Don't you think you can read a good deal more easily than you did?"
"Yes; I don't trip up half so often as I did. I'm afraid you'll get tired of teachin' me."
"No fear of that, Dodger. As long as I see that you are improving, I shall feel encouraged to go on."
"I wish I knew as much as your other scholar."
"You will in time if you go on. You mustn't get discouraged."
"I won't!" said Dodger, stoutly. "If a little gal like her can learn, I'd ought to be ashamed if I don't—a big boy of eighteen."
"It isn't the size of the boy that counts, Dodger."
"I know that, but I ain't goin' to give in, and let a little gal get ahead of me!"
"Keep to that determination, Dodger, and you will succeed in time, never fear."
On the whole, Florence enjoyed both her pupils. She had the faculty of teaching, and she became very much interested in both.
As for Dodger, she thought, rough diamond as he was, that she saw in him the making of a manly man, and she felt that it was a privilege to assist in the development of his intellectual nature.
Again, he had picked up a good deal of slang from the nature of his associates, and she set to work to improve his language, and teach him refinement.
It was necessarily a slow process, but she began to find after a time that a gradual change was coming over him.
"I want you to grow up a gentleman, Dodger," she said to him one day.
"I'm too rough for that, Florence. I'm only an ignorant street boy."
"You are not going to be an ignorant street boy all your life. I don't see why you should not grow up a polished gentleman."
"I shall never be like that de Brabazon young man," said he.
"No, Dodger; I don't think you will," said Florence, laughing. "I don't want you to become effeminate nor a dude. I think I would like you less than I do now."
"Do you like me, Florence?" asked Dodger, brightening up.
"To be sure I do. I hope you don't doubt it."
"Why, it don't seem natural-like. You're a fashionable young lady——"
"Not very fashionable, Dodger, just at present."
"Well, a high-toned young lady—one of the tip-tops, and I am a rough Bowery boy."
"You were once, but you are getting over that rapidly. Did you ever hear of Andy Johnson?"
"Who was he?"
"He became President of the United States. Well, at the age of twenty-one he could neither read nor write."
"At twenty-one?" repeated Dodger. "Why, I'm only eighteen, and I do know something of readin' and writin'."
"To be sure! Well, Andy Johnson was taught to read and write by his wife. He kept on improving himself till, in course of time, he became a United States Senator, Vice-President, and afterward, President. Now, I don't expect you to equal him, but I see no reason why you should not become a well-educated man if you are content to work, and keep on working."
"I will keep on, Florence," said Dodger, earnestly.
"If I ever find my relations I don't want them to be ashamed of me."
It was not the first time he had referred to his uncertain origin.
"Won't Tim Bolton tell you anything about your family?"
"No; I've asked him more'n once. He always says he's my father, and that makes me mad."
"It is strange," said Florence, thoughtfully. "I had a young cousin stolen many years ago."
"Was it the son of the old gentleman you lived with on Madison Avenue?"
"Yes; it was the son of Uncle John. It quite broke him down. After my cousin's loss he felt that he had nothing to live for."
"I wish I was your cousin, Florence," said Dodger, thoughtfully.
"Well, then, I will adopt you as my cousin, or brother, whichever you prefer!"
"I would rather be your cousin."
"Then cousin let it be! Now we are bound to each other by strong and near ties."
"But when your uncle takes you back you'll forget all about poor Dodger."
"No, I won't, Dodger. There's my hand on it. Whatever comes, we are friends forever."
"Then I'll try not to disgrace you, Florence. I'll learn as fast as I can, and see if I don't grow up to be a gentleman."
Chapter XVII. A Mysterious Adventure.
Several weeks passed without changing in any way the position or employment of Dodger or Florence.
They had settled down to their respective forms of labor, and were able not only to pay their modest expenses, but to save up something for a rainy day.
Florence had but one source of regret.
She enjoyed her work, and did not now lament the luxurious home which she had lost.
But she did feel sore at heart that her uncle made no sign of regret for their separation.
From him she received no message of forgiveness or reconciliation.
"He has forgotten me!" she said to herself, bitterly. "He has cast me utterly out of his heart. I do not care for his money, but I do not like to think that my kind uncle—for he was always kind till the last trouble—has steeled his heart against me forever."
But she learned through a chance meeting with Jane, that this was not so.
"Mr. Linden is getting very nervous and low-spirited," said the girl, "and sits hour after hour in the library looking into the fire, a-fotchin' deep sighs every few minutes. Once I saw him with your photograph—the one you had taken last spring—in his hands, and he looked sad-like when he laid it down."
"My dear uncle! Then he does think of me sometimes?"
"It's my belief he'd send for you if Curtis would let him."
"Surely Curtis cannot exercise any restraint upon him?"
"He has frequent talks with the old gentleman. I don't know what he says, but it's sure to be something wicked. I expect he does all he can to set him against you. Oh, he's a cunning villain, he is, even if he is your cousin, Miss Florence."
"And do you think my uncle is unhappy, Jane?" said Florence, thoughtfully.
"That I do, miss."
"He never was very bright or cheerful, you know."
"But he never was like this. And I do think he's gettin' more and more feeble."
"Do you think I ought to call upon him, and risk his sending me away?"
"It might be worth tryin', Miss Florence."
The result of this conversation was that Florence did make up her mind the very next afternoon to seek her old home. She had just reached the front steps, and was about to ascend, when the door opened and Curtis appeared.
He started at sight of his cousin.
"Florence!" he said. "Tell me why you came here?"
"I am anxious about my uncle," she said. "Tell me, Curtis, how he is."
"You know he's never in vigorous health," said Curtis, evasively.
"But is he as well as usual?"
"He is about the same as ever. One thing would do more for him than anything else."
"Your agreement to marry me," and he fixed his eyes upon her face eagerly.
Florence shook her head.
"I should be glad to help my uncle," she said, "but I cannot agree to marry you."
"Why not?" he demanded, roughly.
"Because I do not love you, and never shall," she responded, firmly.
"In other words, you refuse to do the only thing that will restore our uncle to health and happiness?"
"It is too much to ask." Then, fixing her eyes upon him keenly: "Why should uncle insist upon this marriage? Is it not because you have influenced him in the matter?"
"No," answered Curtis, falsely. "He has some secret reason, which he will not disclose to me, for desiring it."
Florence had learned to distrust the words of her wily cousin.
"May I not see him?" she asked. "Perhaps he will tell me."
"No; I cannot permit it."
"You cannot permit it? Are you, then, our uncle's guardian?"
"No, and yes. I do not seek to control him, but I wish to save him from serious agitation. Should he see you, and find that you are still rebellious, the shock might kill him."
"I have reason to doubt your words," said Florence, coldly. "I think you are resolved to keep us apart."
"Listen, and I will tell you a secret; Uncle John has heart disease, so the doctor assures me. Any unwonted agitation might kill him instantly. I am sure you would not like to expose him to such a risk."
He spoke with apparent sincerity, but Florence did not feel certain that his words were truthful.
"Very well," she said. "Then I will give up seeing him."
"It is best, unless you are ready to accede to his wishes—and mine."
She did not answer, but walked away slowly.
"It would never do to have them meet!" muttered Curtis. "The old gentleman would ask her to come back on any terms, and then all my scheming would be upset. That was a happy invention of mine, about heart disease," he continued, with a low laugh. "Though she only half believed it, she will not dare to run the risk of giving him a shock."
It was about this time that the quiet tenor of Dodger's life was interrupted by a startling event.
He still continued to visit the piers, and one afternoon about six o'clock, he stood on the pier awaiting the arrival of the day boat from Albany, with a small supply of evening papers under his arm.
He had sold all but half a dozen when the boat touched the pier. He stood watching the various passengers as they left the boat and turned their steps in different directions, when some one touched him on the shoulder.
Looking up, he saw standing at his side a man of slender figure, with gray hair and whiskers.
"Boy," he said, "I am a stranger in the city. Can I ask your assistance?"
"Yes, sir; certainly," answered Dodger, briskly.
"Do you know where the nearest station of the elevated road is?"
"I want to go uptown, but I know very little about the city. Will you accompany me as guide? I will pay you well."
"All right, sir," answered Dodger.
It was just the job he was seeking.
"We will have to walk a few blocks, unless you want to take a carriage."
"It isn't necessary. I am strong, in spite of my gray hair."
And indeed he appeared to be.
Dodger noticed that he walked with the elastic step of a young man, while his face certainly showed no trace of wrinkles.
"I live in the West," said the stranger, as they walked along. "I have not been here for ten years."
"Then you have never ridden on the elevated road?" said Dodger.
"N-no," answered the stranger, with curious hesitation.
Yet when they reached the station he went up the staircase and purchased his ticket with the air of a man who was thoroughly accustomed to doing it.
"I suppose you don't want me any longer," said Dodger, preparing to resign the valise he was carrying, and which, by the way, was remarkably light considering the size.
"Yes, I shall need you," said the other hurriedly. "There may be some distance to walk after we get uptown."
"All right, sir."
Dodger was glad that further service was required, for this would of course increase the compensation which he would feel entitled to ask.
They entered one of the cars, and sat down side by side.
The old gentleman drew a paper from his pocket, and began to read, while Dodger, left to his own devices, sat quiet and looked about him.
He was rather surprised that the old gentleman, who, according to his own representation, was riding upon the elevated road for the first time, seemed to feel no curiosity on the subject, but conducted himself in all respects like an experienced traveler.
"He's a queer customer!" thought Dodger. "However, it's all one to me, as long as he pays me well for the job."
They got out at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, and struck down toward the river, Dodger carrying the valise.
"I wonder where we're going?" he asked himself.
At length they reached a wooden house of three stories, standing by itself, and here the stranger stopped.
He rang the bell, and the door was opened by a hump-backed negro, who looked curiously at Dodger.
"Is the room ready, Julius?" asked the old man.
"Boy, take the valise upstairs, and I will follow you."
Up two flights of stairs walked Dodger, followed by the old man and the negro.
The latter opened the door of a back room, and Dodger, obedient to directions, took the valise inside and deposited it on a chair.
He had hardly done so when the door closed behind him, and he heard the slipping of a bolt.
"What does all this mean?" Dodger asked himself in amazement.
Chapter XVIII. In A Trap.
"Hold on there! Open that door!" he exclaimed, aloud.
There was no answer.
"I say, let me out!" continued our hero, beginning to kick at the panels.
This time there was an answer.
"Stop that kicking, boy! I will come back in fifteen minutes and explain all."
"Well," thought Dodger, "this is about the strangest thing that ever happened to me. However, I can wait fifteen minutes."
He sat down on a cane chair—there were two in the room—and looked about him.
He was in an ordinary bedroom, furnished in the usual manner. There was nothing at all singular in its appearance.
On a book shelf were a few books, and some old numbers of magazines. There was one window looking into a back yard, but as the room was small it was sufficient to light the apartment.
Dodger looked about in a cursory manner, not feeling any particular interest in his surroundings, for he had but fifteen minutes to wait, but he thought it rather queer that it should be thought necessary to lock him in.
He waited impatiently for the time to pass.
Seventeen minutes had passed when he heard the bolt drawn. Fixing his eyes eagerly on the door he saw it open, and two persons entered.
One was the hump-backed negro, carrying on a waiter a plate of buttered bread, and a cup of tea; the other person was—not the old man, but, to Dodger's great amazement, a person well-remembered, though he had only seen him once—Curtis Waring.
"Set down the waiter on the table, Julius," said Waring.
Dodger looked on in stupefaction. He was getting more and more bewildered.
"Now, you can go!" said Curtis, in a tone of authority.
The negro bowed, and after he had disposed of the waiter, withdrew.
"Do you know me, boy?" asked Curtis, turning now and addressing Dodger.
"Yes; you are Mr. Waring."
"You remember where you last saw me?"
"Yes, sir. At your uncle's house on Madison Avenue."
"How did you come here? Where is the old man whose valise I brought from the Albany boat?"
Curtis smiled, and drew from his pocket a gray wig and whiskers.
"You understand now, don't you?"
"Yes, sir; I understand that I have been got here by a trick."
"Yes," answered Curtis, coolly. "I have deemed it wise to use a little stratagem. But you must be hungry. Sit down and eat your supper while I am talking to you."
Dodger was hungry, for it was past his usual supper time, and he saw no reason why he should not accept the invitation.
Accordingly, he drew his chair up to the table and began to eat. Curtis seated himself on the other chair.
"I have a few questions to ask you, and that is why I arranged this interview. We are quite by ourselves," he added, significantly.
"Very well, sir; go ahead."
"Where is my Cousin Florence? I am right, I take it, in assuming that you know where she is."
"Yes, sir; I know," answered Dodger, slowly.
"Very well, tell me."
"I don't think she wants you to know."
"It is necessary I should know!" he said, emphatically.
"I will ask her if I may tell you."
"I can't wait for that. You must tell me at once."
"I can't do that."
"You are mistaken; you can do it."
"Then, I won't!" said Dodger, looking his companion full in the face.
Curtis Waring darted a wicked look at him, and seemed ready to attack the boy who was audacious enough to thwart him, but he restrained himself and said:
"Let that pass for the present. I have another question to ask. Where is the document you took from my uncle's desk on the night of the burglary?"
And he emphasized the last word.
Dodger looked surprised.
"I took no paper," he said.
"Do you deny that you opened the desk?" asked Curtis.
"When I came to examine the contents in the presence of my uncle, it was found that a document—his will—had disappeared, and with it a considerable sum of money."
And he looked sharply at Dodger.
"I don't know anything about it, sir. I took nothing."
"You can hardly make me believe that. Why did you open the desk if you did not propose to take anything?"
"I did intend to take something. I was under orders to do so, for I wouldn't have done it of my own free will; but the moment I got the desk open I heard a cry, and looking around, I saw Miss Florence looking at me."
"I was startled, and ran to her side."
"And then you went back and completed the robbery?"
"No, I didn't. She talked to me so that I felt ashamed of it. I never stole before, and I wouldn't have tried to do it then, if—if some one hadn't told me to."
"I know whom you mean—Tim Bolton."
"Yes, Tim Bolton, since you know."
"What did he tell you to take?"
"The will and the money."
"Eactly. Now we are coming to it. You took them, and gave them to him?"
"No, I didn't. I haven't seen him since that night."
Curtis Waring regarded the boy thoughtfully. His story was straightforward, and it agreed with the story told by Tim himself. But, on the other hand, he denied taking the missing articles, and yet they had disappeared.
Curtis decided that both he and Tim had lied, and that this story had been concocted between them.
Probably Bolton had the will and the money—the latter he did not care for—and this thought made him uneasy, for he knew that Tim Bolton was an unscrupulous man, and quite capable of injuring him, if he saw the way clear to do so.
"My young friend," he said, "your story is not even plausible. The articles are missing, and there was no one but yourself and Florence who were in a position to take them. Do you wish me to think that my Cousin Florence robbed the desk?"
"No, sir; I don't. Florence wouldn't do such a thing," said Dodger, warmly.
"Florence. Is that the way you speak of a young lady?"
"She tells me to call her Florence. I used to call her Miss Florence, but she didn't care for it."
"It seems you two have become very intimate," said Curtis, with a sneer.
"Florence is a good friend to me. I never had so good a friend before."
"All that is very affecting; however, it isn't to the point. Do you know," he continued, in a sterner tone, "that I could have you arrested for entering and breaking open my uncle's desk with burglarious intent?"
"I suppose you could," said Dodger; "but Florence would testify that I took nothing."
"Am I to understand, then, that you refuse to give me any information as to the will and the money?"
"No, sir; I don't refuse. I would tell you if I knew."
Curtis regarded the boy in some perplexity.
He had every appearance of telling the truth.
Dodger had one of those honest, truthful countenances which lend confirmation to any words spoken. If the boy told the truth, what could have become of the will—and the money? As to the former, it might be possible that his uncle had destroyed it, but the disappearance of the money presented an independent difficulty.
"The will is all I care for," he said, at length. "The thief is welcome to the money, though there was a considerable sum."
"I would find the will for you if I could," said Dodger, earnestly.
"You are positive you didn't give it to Bolton?"
"Positive, sir. I haven't seen Tim since that night."
"You may be speaking the truth, or you may not. I will talk with you again to-morrow," and Curtis arose from his chair.
"You don't mean to keep me here?" said Dodger, in alarm.
"I shall be obliged to do so."
"I won't stay!" exclaimed Dodger, in excitement, and he ran to the door, meaning to get out; but Curtis drew a pistol from his pocket and aimed it at the boy.
"Understand me, boy," he said, "I am in earnest, and I am not to be trifled with."
Dodger drew back, and Curtis opened the door and went out, bolting it after him.
Chapter XIX. An Attempt To Escape.
While Dodger had no discomfort to complain of, it occurred to him that Florence would be alarmed by his long absence, for now it seemed certain that he would have to remain overnight.
If only he could escape he would take care not to fall into such a trap again.
He went to the window and looked out, but the distance to the ground was so great—for the room was on the third floor—that he did not dare to imperil his life by attempting a descent.
If there had been a rope at hand he would not have felt afraid to make the attempt.
He examined the bed to see if it rested upon cords, but there were slats instead.
As has already been said, there were no houses near by.
That part of the city had not been much settled, and it was as solitary as it is in the outskirts of a country village.
If he could only reveal his position to some person outside, so as to insure interference, he might yet obtain his freedom.
With this thought he tore a blank leaf from one of the books in the room, and hastily penciled the following lines:
"I am kept a prisoner in this house. I was induced to come here by a trick. Please get some one to join you, and come and demand my release."
Some weeks before Dodger could not have written so creditable a note, but he had greatly improved since he had been under the influence and instruction of Florence.
Dodger now posted himself at the window and waited anxiously for some one to pass, so that he might attract his attention and throw down the paper.
He had to wait for fifteen minutes. Then he saw approaching a young man, not far from twenty-one, who looked like a young mechanic, returning from his daily work.
Now was Dodger's opportunity. He put his head out of the window and called out:
The young man looked and saw him at the window.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Catch this paper, and read what there is on it." He threw down the leaf, which, after fluttering in the gentle evening breeze, found its way to the ground and was picked up.
After reading it, the young man looked up and said: "I'll go around to the door and inquire."
He was as good as his word. He went to the outer door and rang the bell.
Julius came to the door.
"What's wanted, boss?" he said.
"You've got a boy locked up in a room."
"Who told you, boss?"
"He threw down a paper to me, telling me he was kept a prisoner."
"What did he say?" asked Julius.
The young man read the note aloud.
"What have to say to that, you black imp?" he demanded, sternly.
The ready wit of Julius served him in this emergency.
"Dat boy is crazy as a loon, boss!" he answered, readily. "We have to keep him shut up for fear he'll kill some of us."
"You don't say!" ejaculated the young mechanic. "He don't look like it."
"No, he don't; dat's a fact, boss. Fact is, dat boy is the artfullest lunytick you ever seed. He tried to kill his mother last week."
"Is that true?"
"Dat's so, boss. And all de while he looks as innocent as a baby. If I was to let him out he'd kill somebody, sure."
"I never would have believed it," said the young man.
"If you want to take the risk, boss, you might go up and see him. I believe he's got a carvin'-knife about him, but I don't dare to go up and get it away. It would be as much as this niggah's life is worth."
"No," answered the young man, hastily. "I don't want to see him. I never did like crazy folks. I'm sorry I gave you the trouble to come to the door."
"Oh, no trouble, boss."
"I guess I've fixed dat boy!" chuckled Julius. "Ho, ho! he can't get ahead of old Julius! Crazy as a loon, ho, ho!"
Dodger waited anxiously for the young man to get through his interview. He hoped that he would force his way up to the third floor, draw the bolt, and release him from his imprisonment.
He kept watch at the window, and when the young man reappeared, he looked at him eagerly. "Did you ask them to let me out?" he shouted. The other looked up at him with an odd expression of suspicion and repulsion.
"You're better off where you are," he said, rather impatiently.
"But they have locked me up here."
"And reason enough, too!"
"What makes you say that?"
"Because you're crazy as a loon."
"Did the black man say that?" inquired Dodger, indignantly.
"Yes, he did—said you tried to kill your mother, and had a carving-knife hidden in the room."
"It's a lie—an outrageous lie!" exclaimed Dodger, his eyes flashing.
"Don't go into one of your tantrums," said the man, rather alarmed; "it won't do any good."
"But I want you to understand that I am no more crazy than you are."
"Sho? I know better. Where's your carving-knife?"
"I haven't got any; I never had any. That negro has been telling you lies. Just go to the door again, and insist on seeing me."
"I wouldn't dast to. You'd stab me," said the man, fearfully.
"Listen to me!" said Dodger, getting out of patience. "I'm not crazy. I'm a newsboy and baggage-smasher. An old man got me to bring his valise here, and then locked me up. Won't you go around to the station-house and send a policeman here?"
"I'll see about it," said the young man, who did not believe a word that Dodger had said to him.
"He won't do it!" said Dodger to himself, in a tone of discouragement. "That miserable nigger has made him believe I am a lunatic. I'll have him up, anyway."
Forthwith he began to pound and kick so forcibly, that Julius came upstairs on a run, half inclined to believe that Dodger had really become insane.
"What do you want, boy?" he inquired from outside the door.
"I want you to unbolt the door and let me out."
"I couldn't do it, nohow," said Julius. "It would be as much as my place is worth."
"I will give you a dollar—five dollars—if you will only let me out. The man who brought me here is a bad man, who is trying to cheat his cousin—a young lady—out of a fortune."
"Don't know nothin' 'bout that," said Julius.
"He has no right to keep me here."
"Don't know nothin' 'bout that, either. I'm actin' accordin' to orders."
"Look here," said Dodger, bethinking himself of what had just happened. "Did you tell that young man who called here just now that I was crazy?"
Julius burst into a loud guffaw.
"I expect I did," he laughed. "Said you'd got a long carvin'-knife hid in de room."
"What made you lie so?" demanded Dodger, sternly.
"Couldn't get rid of him no other way. Oh, how scared he looked when I told him you tried to kill your mother."
And the negro burst into another hearty laugh which exasperated Dodger exceedingly.
"How long is Mr. Waring going to keep me here? Did he tell you?" Dodger asked, after a pause.
"No; he didn't say."
"When is he coming here again?"
"Said he'd come to-morrow most likely."
"Will you bring me a light?"
"Couldn't do it. You'd set the house on fire."
It seemed useless to prolong the conversation.
Dodger threw himself on the bed at an early hour, but he did not undress, thinking there might possibly be a chance to escape during the night.
But the morning came and found him still a prisoner, but not in the solitary dwelling.
Chapter XX. A Midnight Ride.
Curtis Waring had entrapped Dodger for a double purpose.
It was not merely that he thought it possible the boy had the will, or knew where it was. He had begun to think of the boy's presence in New York as dangerous to his plans.
John Linden might at any time learn that the son, for whose appearance he had grieved so bitterly, was still living in the person of this street boy. Then there would be an end of his hopes of inheriting the estate.
Only a few months more and the danger would be over, for he felt convinced that his uncle's tenure of life would be brief. The one essential thing, then, seemed to be to get Dodger out of the city.
The first step had already been taken; what the next was will soon appear.
Scarcely had Dodger failed in his attempt to obtain outside assistance when an unaccountable drowsiness overcame him, considerably to his surprise.
"I don't know what's come to me," he said to himself. "It can't be more than seven or eight o'clock, and yet I feel so sleepy I can hardly keep my eyes open. I haven't worked any harder than usual to-day, and I can't understand it."
Dodger had reason to be surprised, for he didn't usually retire till eleven o'clock.
In a city like New York, where many of the streets are tolerably well filled even at midnight, people get in the way of sitting up much later than in the country, and Dodger was no exception to this rule.
Yet here he was ready to drop off to sleep before eight o'clock. To him it was a mystery, for he did not know that the cup of tea which he had drunk at supper had been drugged by direction of Curtis Waring, with an ulterior purpose, which will soon appear.
"I may as well lie down, as there is nothing else to do," thought Dodger. "There isn't much fun sitting in the dark. If I can sleep, so much the better."
Five minutes had scarcely passed after his head struck the pillow, when our hero was fast asleep.
At eleven o'clock a hack stopped in front of the house, and Curtis Waring descended from it.
"Stay here," he said to the driver. "There will be another passenger. If you are detained I will make it right when I come to pay you."
"All right, sir," said the hackman. "I don't care how long it is if I am paid for my time."
Curtis opened the door with a pass-key, and found Julius dozing in a chair in the hall.
"Wake up, you sleepy-head," he said. "Has anything happened since I left here?"
"Yes, sir; the boy tried to get away."
"Did he? I don't see how he could do that. You kept the door bolted, didn't you?"
"Yes, sir; but he throwed a piece of paper out'n de window, sayin' he was kep' a prisoner here. A young man picked it up, and came to de house to ax about it."
Curtis looked alarmed.
"What did you say?" he inquired, apprehensively.
"Told him de boy was crazy as a loon—dat he tried to kill his mother las' week, and had a carvin'-knife hid in his room."
"Good, Julius! I didn't give you credit for such a fertile imagination.
"What's dat, massa?" asked Julius, looking puzzled.
"I didn't know you were such a skillful liar."
"Yah! yah!" laughed Julius, quite comprehending this compliment. "I reckon I can twis' de trufe pretty well, Massa Curtis!"
"You have done well, Julius," said Curtis, approvingly. "Here's a dollar!"
The negro was quite effusive in his gratitude.
"What did the young man say?"
"He looked scared. I tol' him he could go up and see de boy if he wasn't afeared of the carvin'-knife, but he said he guessed he wouldn't—he didn't like crazy folks."
Curtis laughed heartily.
"So it all ended as it should. Did the boy make any more trouble?"
"Yes; he pounded and kicked till I had to go up and see what was the matter. I didn't give him no satisfaction, and I guess he went to bed."
"He ought to be in a deep sleep by this time. I will go up and see. Go up with me, Julius, for I may have to ask you to help me bring him down."
Though Julius was naturally a coward, he felt quite brave when he had company, and he at once went upstairs with Curtis Waring.
Curtis drew the bolt, and, entering the chamber, his glance fell upon Dodger, fast asleep on the bed.
"I am glad the boy did not undress," he said. "It will save me a great deal of trouble. Now, Julius, you can take his feet and I will lift his head, and we will take him downstairs."
"S'pos'n he wakes up, Massa Curtis?"
"He won't wake up. I took care the sleeping potion should be strong enough to produce profound slumber for eighteen hours."
"Seems as if he was dead," said Julius, nervously.
"Tush, you fool! He's no more dead than you or I."
The hackman looked curious when the two men appeared with their sleeping burden, and Curtis felt that some explanation was required.
"The boy has a very painful disease," he said, "and the doctor gave him a sleeping draught. He is going abroad for his health, and, under the circumstances, I think it best not to wake him up. Drive slowly and carefully to Pier No. —, as I don't want the boy aroused if it can be helped."
"All right, sir."
"Julius, you may lock the door and come with me. I shall need your help to get him on board the ship."
"All right, Massa Curtis."
"And, mind you, don't go to sleep in the carriage, you black rascal!" added Curtis, as he saw that the negro found it hard to keep his eyes open.
"All right, massa, I'll keep awake. How am I to get home?"
"I will instruct the hackman to take you home."
"Yah, yah; I'll be ridin' like a gentleman!"
The journey was successfully accomplished, but it took an hour, for, according to directions, the hackman did not force his pace, but drove slowly, till he reached the North River pier indicated.
At the pier was a large, stanch vessel—the Columbia—bound for San Francisco, around Cape Horn.
All was dark, but the second officer was pacing the deck.
Curtis Waring hailed him.
"What time do you get off?"
"Early to-morrow morning."
"So the captain told me. I have brought you a passenger."
"The captain told me about him."
"Is his stateroom ready?"
"Yes, sir. You are rather late."
"True; and the boy is asleep, as you will see. He is going to make the voyage for his health, and, as he has been suffering some pain, I thought I would not wake him up. Who will direct me to his stateroom?"
The mate summoned the steward, and Dodger, still unconscious, was brought on board and quietly transferred to the bunk that had been prepared for him.
It was a critical moment for poor Dodger, but he was quite unconscious of it.
"What is the boy's name?" asked the mate.
"Arthur Grant. The captain has it on his list. Is he on board?"
"Yes; but he is asleep."
"I do not need to see him. I have transacted all necessary business with him—and paid the passage money. Julius, bring the valise."
Julius did so.
"This contains the boy's clothing. Take it to the stateroom, Julius."
"All right, Massa Curtis."
"What is your usual time between New York and San Francisco?" asked Curtis, addressing the mate.
"From four to six months. Four months is very short, six months very long. We ought to get there in five months, or perhaps a little sooner, with average weather."
"Very well. I believe there is no more to be said. Good-night!"
"So he is well out of the way for five months!" soliloquized Curtis. "In five months much may happen. Before that time I hope to be in possession of my uncle's property. Then I can snap my fingers at fate."
Chapter XXI. A Seasick Passenger.
The good ship Columbia had got fifty miles under way before Dodger opened his eyes.
He looked about him languidly at first, but this feeling was succeeded by the wildest amazement, as his eyes took in his unusual surroundings.
He had gone to sleep on a bed—he found himself on awakening in a ship's bunk.
He half arose in his birth, but the motion of the vessel and a slight feeling of dizziness compelled him to resume a recumbent position.
"I must be dreaming," thought Dodger. "It's very queer. I am dreaming I am at sea. I suppose that explains it."
He listened and heard the swish of the waters as they beat against the sides of the vessel.
He noted the pitching of the ship, and there was an unsteady feeling in his head, such as those who have gone to sea will readily recall.
Dodger became more and more bewildered.
"If it's a dream, it's the most real dream I ever had," he said to himself.
"This seems like a ship's cabin," he continued, looking about him. "I think if I got up I should be seasick. I wonder if people ever get seasick in dreams?"
There was another pitch, and Dodger instinctively clung to the edge of his berth, to save himself from being thrown out.
"Let me see," he said, trying to collect his scattered recollection. "I went to sleep in a house uptown—a house to which Curtis Waring lured me, and then made me a prisoner. The house was somewhere near One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street. Now it seems as if I was on board a ship. How could I get here? I wish somebody would come in that I could ask."
As no one came in, Dodger got out of the berth, and tried to stand on the cabin floor.
But before he knew it he was staggering like one intoxicated, and his head began to feel bad, partly, no doubt, on account of the sleeping potion which he had unconsciously taken.
At this moment the steward entered the cabin. "Hello, young man! Have you got up?" he asked.
"Where am I?" asked Dodger, looking at him with a dazed expression.
"Where are you? You're on the good ship Columbia, to be sure?"
"Are we out to sea?"
"Of course you are."
"How far from land?"
"Well, about fifty miles, more or less, I should judge."
"How long have I been here?"
"It seems to me you have a poor memory. You came on board last evening."
"I suppose Curtis Waring brought me," said Dodger, beginning to get his bearings.
"There was a gentleman came with you—so the mate told me. I don't know his name."
"Where is the ship bound?"
"To San Francisco, around Cape Horn. I supposed you knew that."
"I never heard of the ship Columbia before, and I never had any idea of making a sea voyage."
The steward looked surprised.
"I suppose your guardian arranged about that. Didn't he tell you?"
"I have no guardian."
"Well, you'll have to ask Capt. Barnes about that. I know nothing, except that you are a passenger, and that your fare has been paid."
"My fare paid to San Francisco?" asked Dodger, more and more at sea, both mentally and physically.
"Yes; we don't take any deadheads on the Columbia."
"Can you tell me what time it is?"
"About twelve o'clock. Do you feel hungry?"
"N—not very," returned Dodger, as a ghastly expression came over his face, and he tumbled back into his berth, looking very pale.
The steward smiled.
"I see how it is," he said; "you are getting initiated."
"What's that?" muttered Dodger, feebly.
"You're going to be seasick. You'll hardly be able to appear at the dinner table."
"It makes me sick to think of eating," said Dodger, feebly.
As he sank back into his berth, all thoughts of his unexpected position gave way to an overpowering feeling of seasickness.
He had never been tried in this way before, and he found the sensation far from agreeable.
"If only the vessel would stop pitching," he groaned. "Oh, how happy I should be if I were on dry land."
But the vessel wouldn't stop—even for a minute.
The motion, on the other hand, seemed to increase, as was natural, for they were getting farther and farther from land and were exposed to the more violent winds that swept the open ocean.
There is something about seasickness that swallows up and draws away all minor cares and anxieties, and Dodger was too much affected to consider how or why it was that he so unexpectedly found himself a passenger to California.
"Lie flat on your back," said the steward. "You will feel better if you do."
"How long is it going to last?" groaned Dodger, feeling quite miserable.
"Oh, you'll feel better to-morrow. I'll bring you some porridge presently. You can get that clown, and it is better to have something on your stomach."
He was right. The next day Dodger felt considerably better, and ventured to go upon deck. He looked about him in surprise.
There had been a storm, and the waves were white with foam.
As far as the eye could see there was a tumult and an uproar.
The ship was tossed about like a cockle shell. But the sailors went about their work unruffled. It was no new sight for them.
Though his head did not feel exactly right, the strong wind entered Dodger's lungs, and he felt exhilarated. His eyes brightened, and he began to share in the excitement of the scene.
Pacing the deck was a stout, bronzed seaman, whose dress made it clear even to the inexperienced eyes of Dodger that he was the captain.
"Good-morning, Master Grant," he said, pleasantly. "Are you getting your sea legs on?"
The name was unfamiliar to Dodger, but he could see that the remark was addressed to him.
"Yes, sir," he answered.
"Ever been to sea before?"
"You'll get used to it. Bless me, you'll stand it like an old sailor before we get to 'Frisco."
"Is it a long voyage, captain?" asked Dodger.
"Five months, probably. We may get there a little sooner. It depends on the winds and weather."
"Five months," said Dodger to himself, in a tone of dismay.
The captain laughed.
"It'll be a grand experience for a lad like you, Arthur!" said the captain, encouragingly.
Arthur! So his name was Arthur! He had just been called Master Grant, so Arthur Grant was his name on board ship.
Dodger was rather glad to have a name provided, for he had only been known as Dodger heretofore, and this name would excite surprise. He had recently felt the need of a name, and didn't see why this wouldn't answer his purpose as well as any other.
"I must write it down so as not to forget it," he resolved. "It would seem queer if I forgot my own name."
"I shouldn't enjoy it much if I were going to be seasick all the time," he answered.
"Oh, a strong, healthy boy like you will soon be all right. You don't look like an invalid."
"I never was sick in my life."
"But your guardian told me he was sending you on a sea voyage for your health."
"Did Mr. Waring say that?"
"Yes; didn't you know the object of your sea trip?" asked Capt. Barnes, in surprise.
"There may be some tendency to disease in your system—some hereditary tendency," said the captain, after a pause.
"Were your parents healthy?"
"They—died young," answered Dodger, hesitatingly.
"That accounts for your guardian's anxiety. However, you look strong enough, in all conscience; and if you're not healthy, you will be before the voyage ends."
"I don't know what I am to do for clothes," said Dodger, as a new source of perplexity presented itself. "I can't get along with one shirt and collar for five months."
"You will find plenty of clothes in your valise. Hasn't it been given you?"
"You may ask the steward for it. You didn't think your guardian would send you on a five-months' voyage without a change of clothing, did you?"
And the captain laughed heartily.
"I don't know Mr. Waring very well," said Dodger, awkwardly.
As he went downstairs to inquire about his valise, this question haunted him:
"Why did Curtis Waring send him on a sea voyage?"
Chapter XXII. The Other Passenger.
Dodger sought the steward, and asked for his valise.
"Isn't it in your stateroom?" asked that functionary.
"I haven't seen it."
"I remember now. It was put with the luggage of the other passenger. I will show it to you."
He took Dodger to a part of the ship where freight was stored, and pointed to a sizable valise with a card attached to it on which was inscribed the name: "Arthur Grant."
"This must be yours," he said.
"Yes, I suppose so," answered Dodger, glad to have found out the new name which had been given him, otherwise he would have supposed the valise belonged to some other person.
He took the valise to his stateroom, and, finding a key tied to the handles, he opened it at once.
It proved to contain a very fair supply of underclothing, socks, handkerchiefs, etc., with a tooth brush, a hair brush and comb, and a sponge. Never in his life had Dodger been so well supplied with clothing before. There were four white shirts, two tennis shirts, half a dozen handkerchiefs and the same number of socks, with three changes of underclothing.
"I begin to feel like a gentleman," said Dodger to himself, complacently.
That was not all. At the bottom of the valise was an envelope, sealed, on which was inscribed the name: "Dodger."
"That is for me, at any rate," thought our hero. "I suppose it is from Curtis Waring."
He opened the envelope, and found inclosed twenty-five dollars in bills, with a few lines written on a half-sheet of paper. These Dodger read, with interest and curiosity. They were as follows:
"Dodger:—The money inclosed is for you. When you reach California you will find it of use. I have sent you out there because you will find in a new country a better chance to rise than in the city of New York. I advise you to stay there and grow up with the country. In New York you were under the influence of a bad man, from whom it is best that you should be permanently separated. I know something of the early history of Tim Bolton. He was detected in a crime, and fled to escape the consequences. You are not his son, but his nephew. Your mother was his sister, but quite superior to himself. Your right name is Arthur Grant, and it will be well for you to assume it hereafter. I have entered you in the list of passengers under that name.
"I thought you had taken the will from my uncle's desk, but I am inclined to think you had nothing to do with it. If you know where it is, or whether Bolton has it, I expect you to notify me in return for the money I have expended in your behalf. In that case you can write to me, No. — Madison Avenue.
Dodger read the letter over twice, and it puzzled him.
"He seems from the letter to take an interest in me," he soliloquized. "At any rate, he has given me money and clothes, and paid my passage to California. What for, I wonder? I don't believe it is to get me away from the bad influence of Tim. There must be some other reason."
There was another part of the letter with which Dodger did not agree.
Curtis asserted positively that he was the nephew of Tim Bolton, while he was positive that there was no relationship between them.
In that case Curtis must have been an early acquaintance of Tim's. At any rate, he seemed to know about his past life.
Dodger now comprehended his present situation fully. He was a passenger on the ship Columbia, and there was no chance of leaving it. He had ascertainel on inquiry that the vessel would not put in anywhere, but would make the long voyage direct. It would be over four months, at any rate, before he could communicate with Florence, and in the meantime, she and Mrs. O'Keefe, whom he recognized as a good friend, would conclude that he was dead.
It was very provoking to think that he could not even telegraph, as that would relieve all anxiety, and he felt sure that Florence was enough his friend to feel anxious about him.
He had just closed up his valise, when a young man of dark complexion and of an attractive, intellectual expression, entered the cabin.
He nodded pleasantly to Dodger, and said:
"I suppose this is Arthur Grant?"
"Yes, sir," answered Dodger, for he had decided to adopt the name.
"We ought to become close friends, for we are, I believe, the only passengers."
"Then you are a passenger, too?" said Dodger, deciding, after a brief scrutiny, that he should like his new acquaintance.
"Yes. My name is Randolph Leslie. I have been, for the last five years, a reporter on leading New York daily papers, and worked so closely that my health has become somewhat affected. My doctor recommended a sea voyage, and I have arranged for a pretty long one."
"What papers have you worked for?"
"Oh, all the leading ones—Tribune, World, Herald, and Sun— sometimes one, and sometimes another. Your reason for taking this trip can hardly be the same as mine. You don't look as if your health required you to travel."
"No," answered Dodger, smiling; "but I understand that the gentleman who engaged my passage said I was going to sea for my health."
"If I were as robust as you, I shouldn't give much thought to my health. Do you intend to remain in California?"
"I don't know what I do intend," replied Dodger. "I didn't know I was going to California at all until I woke up in my stateroom."
The young man looked surprised.
"Didn't you know the destination of the vessel when you came on board?" he asked.
"I was brought aboard in my sleep."
"This is curious. It looks to me as if you had a story to tell.
"Of course, I don't want to be curious, but if there is anyway in which I can help you, by advice, or in any other way, I am quite ready to do so."
Dodger paused, but only briefly. This young man looked friendly, and might help him to penetrate the mystery which at present baffled him.
At any rate, his experience qualified him to give friendly advice, and of this Dodger felt that he stood in need.
"I ought to tell you, to begin with," he said, "that I am a poor boy, and made my living as best I could, by carrying baggage, selling papers, etc."
"I don't think any the worse of you for that. Did you live at the lodging houses?"
"No; until lately I lived with a man who keeps a saloon on the Bowery, and tended bar for him."
"What was his name? As a reporter I know the Bowery pretty well."
"Tim Bolton? I know his place well. I think I must have seen you there. Your face looked familiar to me as soon as I set eyes on you."
"Very likely. A good many people came into Tim's. I couldn't pretend to remember them all."
"Was Tim a relative of yours?"
"I don't believe he was. I always thought that he got hold of me when I was a kid. I don't remember the time when I wasn't with him."
"I suppose you have always lived in New York?"
"No; I lived for several years in Australia. Tim was in the same business there. I came on with him a year or more since."
"Do you think you ever lived in New York before?"
"Yes; Tim has told me that I was born in New York."
"I understand that you have left Tim now?"
"Why, may I ask?"
"Because I didn't like the business he was in. But I liked it better than the one he wanted me to go into."
"What was that?"
The young reporter started in surprise.
"Well," he said, "this is a new tack for Tim. However, I never looked upon him as a man who would shrink from any violation of the laws, except murder. I don't think he would do that."
"No; Tim isn't quite so bad. He isn't the worst man alive, though he is a rather hard customer. It was his wanting me to enter a house on Madison Avenue and open a desk that led to me going on this trip."
"Tell me about it, if you don't mind."
Thus invited, Dodger told his story to Randolph Leslie, keeping nothing back.
He finished by showing him the letter he had found in the valise.
Chapter XXIII. Through The Golden Gate.
"Well, this is certainly a remarkable letter," said the reporter, as he handed it back to Dodger. "I am at a loss to understand the interest which this man appears to feel in you."
"I look upon him as my enemy," said Dodger. "But an enemy doesn't spend so much money upon another as he has."
"Unless he has object in it," amended Leslie, shrewdly. "Do you know of any connection this man has with you?"
"No; I never heard of him until I entered his house," and Dodger flushed as he thought that his entrance into the mansion on Madison Avenue had been as a burglar.
"It seems to me that he knows more about you than you do about him. It also seems to me that he is anxious to get you out of New York, the farther the better."
"But what harm could I do him in New York?" asked Dodger, puzzled.
"That is the question which I cannot answer. You say he was instrumental in getting his Cousin Florence out of the house?"
"Yes; he wanted to marry her."
"And she would not consent?"
"No; I think she hates him."
"How old is she?"
"He looks about thirty-five."
"The difference in years isn't great enough to constitute an obstacle, provided she loved him. I am thirty years old."
"I am sure Florence would prefer you to Curtis Waring."
"Don't flatter me. I am vain enough already. The time may come when I may ask your good offices with Miss Linden. What I was about to ask was: Is Miss Linden also entitled to a share in her uncle's estate?"
"She is just as nearly related to him as Mr. Waring."
"Then I can understand his wishing to get rid of her. I don't know why he should want to send you to a distance. I suppose there can't be any relationship?"
"Is it likely that I—a poor street boy—should be related to a rich man like Mr. Linden?"
"It doesn't seem likely, I admit," said Leslie, musingly. "Well, I suppose," he continued, after a pause, "there is no use in speculating about the matter now. The important point is, what are we to do with ourselves during the four or five months we must spend on shipboard?"
"I don't know what I can do," said Dodger. "I can't sell papers, and I can't smash baggage."
"And there appears to be no need of your doing either, as you are provided with board and lodging till we reach shore."
"That seems strange to me, for I've always had to hustle for a living."
"I was about to make a proposal to you. But first let me ask you about your education. I suppose you are not an accomplished scholar?"
"I'm about as ignorant as they make 'em," answered Dodger, drolly. "Tim was afraid to send me to college, for fear I'd get to know too much for my business."