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   Chapter 32 A CRITICAL MOMENT.

Andy Grant's Pluck By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8189

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Guided by his boy companion, Andy found the Sherman House and registered there. The change was a very satisfactory one, and he enjoyed the comfortable room to which he was assigned.

After a hearty supper he took a seat in the office and watched with interest the crowds that surged in and out of the hotel. Presently he saw a familiar figure entering.

It was his late companion, Percival Robinson. The latter was not long in recognizing the boy.

He walked up to the chair on which Andy was seated and addressed him with a look of anger.

"So I have found you, have I?" he said, roughly.

Andy knew that this man had no right to interfere with him, and answered, coolly:

"So it seems."

"Why did you play me such a mean trick, boy?"

"My name is Andrew," said Andy, with dignity. "What right have you to speak to me in this manner?"

"I'll tell you presently. You have made a nice return for my kindness."

"I know of no kindness. You got acquainted with me on the train, and took me to a house where I didn't care to stop."

"Why didn't you care to stop there?"

"Because I found that it didn't have a good reputation. My employer wouldn't care to have me stay at such a house."

"You are mighty independent for a young boy. I want you to return the pocketbook of which you relieved me."

Andy was startled at this reckless charge.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, hotly. "You know that this is a falsehood."

"We'll see if you will brazen it out. If you don't give me back the pocketbook, which I have no doubt you have in your pocket at this moment, I will have you arrested."

Andy began to feel nervous. He was a stranger in Chicago. There was no one to identify him or vouch for his honesty. What if this man should carry out his threat and have him arrested?

However, Andy had pluck, and didn't intend to surrender at discretion.

This conversation had attracted the attention of two or three guests of the hotel, who were disposed to look with suspicion upon Andy. His accuser appeared like a man of good position, being well dressed and with an air of assurance.

One old gentleman, who was fond of giving advice, said, reprovingly:

"My boy, you will find it best to hand the gentleman his pocketbook. It is sad to see one so young guilty of theft."

"Perhaps the boy is not guilty," suggested another guest.

"I am in the employ of a gentleman in New York," said Andy, "and this man is scheming to rob me."

"You are perfectly shameless!" said Robinson, encouraged by what the old gentleman had said. "I will give you just five minutes to return my pocketbook, or I will have you arrested."

Andy felt that he was in a tight place, but his wits had not deserted him.

"As you claim the pocketbook," he said, "perhaps you will tell how much money there is in it."

"I can't tell exactly," replied Robinson. "I spend money liberally, and

I have not counted the money lately."

"That is quite reasonable," said the old gentleman. "I don't know how much money there is in my wallet."

"What is there besides money in the pocketbook?" asked Andy following up his advantage.

"I think there are a few postage stamps," answered Robinson at a guess.

"You certainly have a good deal of assurance, young man," said the old gentleman in a tone of reproof. "If I were in this gentleman's place I would summon a policeman at once."

"I prefer to give the boy a chance," said Robinson, who had his own reasons for not bringing the matter to the knowledge of the police. "I don't want to get him into trouble. I only want my money back."

"You are more considerate than he deserves," said Andy's critic. "And by the way, here is the hotel detective. Officer, will you come here, please? Here is a case that requires your attention."

The hotel detective, a quiet-looking man, approached.

Robinson was far from thanking the old gentleman for his officiousness.

He feared recognition.

"What is the matter?" asked the detective, coming up and eying Robinson sharply.

The old gentleman volunteered an explanation.

The detective seemed amused.

"So this man charges the boy with robbing him?" he asked.

"Yes, sir; and we all believe that he has good grounds for doing so."

"I don't believe it," said the gentleman who had already spoken for

Andy.

"What have you to say, my boy?" asked the detective, turning to Andy.

"Only that I made the acquaintance of this man on the train. He induced me to go to a small hotel on the outskirts of the city, on the ground that I could board there cheaply. What I saw and heard there excited my suspicions, and I left the place without his knowledge."

"Taking my pocketbook with you. I incautiously laid it on the bed. When

I went up later I found that it and you had disappeared."

"Do you hear that, officer?" asked the old gentleman, triumphantly.

"I do," answered the detective. Then, turning to Robinson with a change of tone, he asked:

"How did you get so much money, Tom Maitland?"

Robinson turned pale. He saw that he was recognized.

"I will let the matter drop," he said. "I don't want to get the boy into trouble."

He turned toward the door, but the detective was too quick for him.

"You will have to go with me," he said. "You have been trying a bold confidence game. I shall have to lock you up."

"Gentlemen," said Robinson, turning pale, "will you permit this outrage?"

"It is an outrage!" said the old gentleman, hotly.

"My friend," inquired the detective, "do you know this man?"

"No; but-"

"Then let me introduce him as Tom Maitland, one of the cleverest confidence men in Chicago."

He produced a pair of handcuffs, which he deftly slipped over the wrists of Percival Robinson, and led him out of the hotel.

Andy was satisfactorily vindicated, and, it must be admitted, enjoyed the discomfiture of the old gentleman, who slunk away in confusion.

When Andy set out on his journey he intended to go to Tacoma by way of San Francisco, but found, as he proceeded, that he could go by the Northern Pacific as far as it was built, and proceed the rest of the way by stage and over Puget Sound. This seemed to him to afford greater variety, and he adopted the plan.

Some hundreds of miles east of his destination he took the stage. It was rather a toilsome mode of traveling, but he obtained a good idea of the country through which he was passing.

At that time stage robberies were frequent, nor have they wholly ceased now. Among the stage robbers who were most dreaded was a certain Dick Hawley, who had acquired a great reputation for daring, and was known to have been engaged in nearly twenty stage robberies.

As they approached that part of the route in which he operated, there was a great anxiety manifested by the passengers, and especially by a thin, cadaverous-looking man from Ohio.

"Do you think we shall meet Dick Hawley to-day, driver?" he asked.

"I can't say, sir. I hope not."

"How often have you met him?"

"Three times."

"Did he rob the stage every time?"

"Yes."

"Were there many passengers on board?" asked Andy.

"Nearly ten every time."

"And they allowed one man to rob them?"

"Wait till you meet him," said the driver, shrugging his shoulders.

"If he stops the stage I shall die of fright," said the cadaverous-looking man. "I know I shall."

"Have you a good deal of money with you?" asked a fellow passenger.

"I have ninety-seven dollars and a half," answered the other, soberly.

"Better lose that than die! If you give it up, there won't be any danger of bodily injury."

The cadaverous-looking man groaned, but did not reply.

Gradually they ascended, for they were among the mountains, till they reached a narrow ledge or shelf scarcely wider than the stage. On one side there was a sheer descent of hundreds of feet, and great caution was requisite.

Just at the highest point a horseman appeared around a curve and stationed himself directly in front of the stage, with a revolver pointed at the driver.

"Stop and give up your money, or I fire!" he exclaimed.

It was the dreaded highwayman, Dick Hawley.

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