MoboReader> Literature > Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret

   Chapter 27 A BOARDING-HOUSE IN HARRISBURG.

Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8305

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


At the supper table Bert made acquaintance with his fellow-boarders. There were eight in all. Three of them worked in the shoe factory where Ralph Harding had been employed, two young ladies were saleswomen in a dry-goods store, Professor Silvio and wife taught a dancing school, and the eighth was the landlady's daughter, a young woman of twenty-five, who resembled Mrs. Stubbs closely. Bert learned afterward that she was employed in a millinery store.

"Gentlemen and ladies," said Mrs. Stubbs, as Bert took the vacant chair that had been assigned to him, "let me introduce a new boarder, Mr. Barton."

Eight pairs of curious eyes were fixed upon Bert, and he blushed a little, not being accustomed to the scrutiny of strangers.

"He is a friend of a former boarder, Mr. Harding, whom some of you will remember."

"Have you heard from Mr. Harding lately, Mr. Barton?" asked Angelica Stubbs, who sat next to our hero.

"No," answered Bert.

"He left quite suddenly, owing me eight weeks' board."

"So I heard."

"Do you think he will ever pay it up?"

"If I succeed in finding him I think there is some chance of it."

"Mr. Harding and I were very good friends," continued Miss Stubbs. "He-in fact-showed quite a fondness for my society," she added, casting down her eyes modestly.

"No wonder!" said Bert, smiling.

"Oh, you sad flatterer!" said Miss Angelica, appearing pleased at what she regarded as a compliment.

"Didn't he tell you where he was going?" asked Bert.

"No; I think he was called away by bad news."

"What sort of a looking man was he?" Bert inquired.

"You ask me that?" said Angelica, in surprise. "I thought you were a friend of his."

"I never saw him in my life."

"That's funny. Why then did ma introduce you as a friend of his?"

"She thought me so. I am interested in finding him, that is all."

"You are not a horrid detective, I hope? Has poor Mr. Harding committed a crime? Oh, tell me quick. You actually make me creep all over."

"I don't mean any harm, but his testimony is wanted in a law case. You haven't told me about his appearance yet."

"I've got his photograph, and will show it to you after supper."

"Oh, thank you!" said Bert, much pleased.

"That is, if you are sure it won't do him any harm. He used to talk to me very confidentially, and I can't help liking him, even if he did get in debt to ma."

"Perhaps he was unfortunate and couldn't pay."

"That's what I tell ma, but ma's rather severe on boarders that go away without paying her."

"Did he take all his baggage with him, Miss Stubbs?"

"He left behind a box of books and papers. They weren't of much account-some old letters and such."

"Did your mother preserve them?" asked Bert eagerly.

"Yes, I believe so; but she would have preferred to have him leave his trunk. That might have been sold for a part of his board bill."

"Do you think I could look over the books and papers?" asked Bert.

"What for?" inquired Angelica, her face expressing curiosity.

"You know I want to find him, and some of the papers might throw light on his movements."

"I don't know but you could," answered Angelica indifferently.

"I'll be willing to pay your mother one week's board for the box and its contents."

"Then I am sure she will let you have them. They are worth nothing to her. I only wonder she hasn't used them to kindle the fire with before now."

"I hope she hasn't," returned Bert anxiously.

"No; I know she hasn't, for I saw them in the attic only last week. I'll look them up for you some day when I am at leisure."

"Thank you."

"I wonder Mr. Harding hasn't written to you," he said, a little later.

"Oh, go along! You don't suppose there was anything between me and him?" said Angelica, who liked nothing better than to be teased about the attentions of members of the other sex. Bert was sharp enough to see this, and thought he might make it available in promoting the object he had in view.

"I thought, perhaps, he had gone away because you didn't smile upon his suit."

Miss Angelica laughed and tossed her head in great delight.

"As if I wo

uld tell you," she said.

"I only hope he hasn't committed suicide."

"Oh, Mr. Barton, how can you? Really, I shall have to complain to ma."

All this was very amusing to Bert, who had a natural love of fun, and quite understood Angelica by this time, though, truth to tell, she was not difficult to read.

When supper was over, Miss Stubbs said graciously: "Mr. Barton, if you are not pressed for time, will you linger a while? I play a little on the piano, and if you are fond of music, I will play for you. Usually I have to be in the store, but this is my evening off."

"I shall be glad to stay, Miss Stubbs. I am fond of music."

"Mr. Harding often lingered with me in the evening hours. He liked to hear me play."

"As I no doubt shall."

"Do you sing, Mr. Barton?"

"No; I wish I did."

Miss Angelica's piano was probably twenty-five years old, and was very much out of tune. But even if it had been a Chickering Grand, her playing would hardly have captivated a musical ear. She had little taste, and the lessons she had taken had only given her the ability to play a few easy tunes.

Bert found half an hour of Miss Angelica's music and society all he cared to enjoy at one time. He therefore excused himself, and taking his hat, went out for a walk. As he was a stranger in Harrisburg, he was not particular in what direction he strolled, but naturally bent his steps toward what appeared to be the central part of the city.

As he sauntered along, his attention was attracted to a flaring poster on a dead wall, setting forth the attractive features of

THE STREETS OF GOTHAM.

A Realistic Play of New York Life.

As given by a Star Combination of world-renowned Actors.

For one week only.

Reserved seats, 50 cents. Balcony, 25 cents.

Now Bert had seldom enjoyed an opportunity of attending a dramatic performance, and felt strongly tempted to avail himself of the one that now offered. He wished to be as economical as possible, and decided to content himself with a seat in the balcony.

"Where is the theatre?" he asked of a boy who was studying the bill at the same time with himself.

"Just round the corner. I'll show you," was the reply.

"Thank you."

"Are you goin' to see de play?" asked the boy with interest.

"I think I shall."

"I'd go myself if I had another nickel," said the young guide. "I've got ten cents."

"But I thought twenty-five cents was the lowest price."

"I can go to de gallery for fifteen cents. De gallery is good enough for me."

"If a nickel will help you, here is one."

"Thank you," said the boy. "It's a boss play, dey tell me."

"I hope it is, as I am going myself."

The theatre was near at hand, and the two boys soon stood before it. It was rather early, being only a quarter past seven, but a small crowd of boys was already waiting for a chance to obtain admission to the gallery.

There seemed to be no hurry about buying a ticket, and Bert took a standing position near the box office, surveying with interest the passers by. All at once he felt a hand on his shoulder, and these words fell upon his ear:

"We meet again, my dear boy. Shake!"

Bert immediately recognized his travelling friend who had lost his money on the train.

"Are you one of the dramatic company?" he asked.

"Yes; I play the leading villain-and am acting stage manager. My name is Orville-Jack Orville. You have heard of me."

"I have always lived in the country," said Bert apologetically, "and so have little acquaintance with actors."

Orville looked disappointed. He liked to be known and recognized.

"That accounts for it," he said. "I am surprised to hear that you are from the country. You have the city air."

Bert was pleased to hear it, though perhaps that might be a mark of weakness.

At the moment another man came up hurriedly, and spoke to Orville.

"Here's a pretty kettle of fish, Orville," he said. "Bob Hazleton is sick and insists upon going back to New York. Where shall we find a boy to take his place?"

Orville had an inspiration. He clapped his hand on Bert's shoulder, exclaiming: "Here he stands!"

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