MoboReader > Literature > Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic


Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11090

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne, otherwise Lynch, had a small valise in his hand, and was sauntering leisurely along, as though earth had no sorrow for him, and he was not responsible in St. Louis for an infamous act done in Leavenworth. I wanted my money; in fact, I needed it. For Mrs. Greenough's remarks had assured me that my wardrobe was entirely inadequate to the requirements of civilized life.

"How do you do, Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne?" I began, making towards him.

He glanced at me very contemptuously, and continued on his way. I had expected to astonish and confound him, but the result did not realize my anticipations. It was decidedly a look of disdain that he bestowed upon me, which I thought was adding insult to injury. So far I was disgusted with his conduct; but I had no idea of abandoning the purpose I had in view.

"I want to see you, Mr. Lynchpinne," I continued, following him, and taking position at his side.

"Who are you?" he demanded, halting, and giving me another contemptuous look.

"Don't you know me, Mr. Lynchpinne?"

"My name is not Lynchpinne."

"Lynch, then. Don't you know me?"


"Yes, you do."

"You impertinent puppy!"

"O, yes! All that's very pretty, but I want my money."

"What money? What do you mean, you saucy young cub?"

"Perhaps I am saucy; so was Nathan when he said to David,'Thou art the man!' and that's just what I say to you."

"Go about your business," said he, angrily, as he resumed his walk.

"My business, just now, is to get back the money you stole from me; and I'm going to stick to it, too."

"Stole! How dare you use that word to me?"

"Because I believe in speaking the truth, even when it is not pleasant to do so."

"Clear out, and don't come near me again."

"Hand over my money, and I shall be glad to do so."

"If you don't leave, I'll call a policeman."

"I wish you would. I should like to tell him my story. If you don't call one, I shall, as soon as I see him. I'll follow you till your legs or mine give out."

"You evidently take me for some other person, boy," said he, halting on Front Street, perhaps afraid that we might meet a policeman-a thing which has been known to happen.

"No, I don't; I take you for Lynch, the man that stole my money, and I want a policeman to take you for that, too."

"See here, boy; I can't be annoyed in this manner in the public street," he replied, in a kind of confidential tone. "What do you want of me?"

"I told you what I wanted-my money."

"I know nothing about your money. If you want to see me, come to the Planters' Hotel at eight o'clock this evening, and I will meet you."

"I think not. I don't mean to lose sight of you, Lynch."

"If you don't clear out, I'll chastise you on the ground for an impudent puppy."

"Well, sir, when you get ready to chastise, you begin," I replied, as I glanced at his slender form. "If I don't keep up my end, you can have the money you stole."

"How dare you-"

But he checked himself, for two or three persons had already stopped; and their example was so contagious, in a populous city, that there was danger of collecting a crowd, to which my sensitive friend seemed to have very strong constitutional objections. He moved on, and I followed him into Market Street. I was anxious to meet a policeman, that I might state my case to him, and invoke his aid; but the officers, justifying all the traditions of their craft, were somewhere else, because they were wanted in Market Street.

Lynch quickened his pace, and turned into Fourth Street; but I kept close to his heels till we were near the Planters' Hotel. I concluded that he was going to this grand establishment, and that he expected to shake me off within its sumptuous walls. I did not believe he would, though the want of an officer was a sore inconvenience to me. Just as he was about to cross the street, a shabby genteel and very seedy gentleman confronted him.

"How are you, Lynch?" exclaimed the dilapidated individual, extending his hand.

"How do you do, Farringford?" replied Lynch.

Farringford! This must be the decayed steamboat owner of whom Lynch had before spoken to me. He was apparently about forty-five years of age, and he looked as though the world had used him very roughly.

"I'm glad to see you, Lynch," said Farringford. "I'm always glad to see an old friend. I'm hard up, and I want to borrow a dollar."

Lynch took two half dollars in silver from his pocket. Perhaps the present generation of young people never saw a half dollar; but it is true that there was a time when such a coin was in general use! He handed the money to the seedy gentleman, and then said something to him in a whisper, which I could not hear, though I had planked myself close by the side of the villain. Lynch then turned to cross the street, and I started to follow him.

Phil meets Leonidas Lynchpinne. Page 100.

"See here, my lad," said Farringford, grasping me by the arm.

"Let me alone!" I cried, struggling to escape, fearful that I should lose sight of Lynch.

"Hold still, my lad. I only want to speak to you," replied Farringford, in cheerful tones, though he did not relax his grasp. "Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you. I've known you ever since you were a baby."

"Known me?"

I was startled by his words, for they seemed to have some relation to the mystery of my being.

"Certainly I have, Phil."

"Do you know me?" I demanded, forgetting, for the moment, all about Lynch and my hard money.

"Known you from you

r babyhood, my lad," said he, glancing towards the hotel.

This act reminded me of my business again. I turned my face towards the hotel. Lynch had disappeared.

"That's all, Phil; you can go now," said Farringford, laughing.

"What do you mean, sir?"

"That's all, my lad. I only stopped you to prevent you from following my friend."

"You said you knew me."

"Never saw you or heard of you before in my life," chuckled he, evidently pleased at the trick he had played upon me.

I left him, and rushed into the hotel. I looked for Lynch in all the public rooms, but I could not find him. I inquired at the office for him, and the clerks answered me, very curtly, that no such person was in the house. I asked a porter, who sat near the entrance, describing Lynch. He had seen the gentleman, but did not know where he was; he had not taken a room or registered his name, and had probably gone away again. It seemed to me that everything was going against me. I had to go home to dinner, as I could spend no more time in looking for him then; but I determined to renew the search in the evening.

As I walked down Fourth Street, I overtook Farringford, who had evidently spent a portion of the dollar borrowed of Lynch for liquor. I accosted him, for I thought that I might recover my money through his agency, as he evidently knew Lynch.

"Ah, my lad! You didn't find him," chuckled the toper.

"I did not. I have heard of you, Mr. Farringford, and I can put you in the way of making some money."

"Can you? Then I'm your man. Most distinctly, I'm your man," he replied with emphasis. "There's only two things in this world that I want, and those are money and whiskey. If I get the whiskey, I don't care for the money; and if I have the money, I can always get the whiskey."

"I should like to meet you somewhere this evening, for I am in a hurry now."

"I will be in the bar-room of the Planters' Hotel at seven o'clock this evening, if you have any money for me. But what's it all about? Can't you tell me now?"

"I haven't time now."

"Very well. Planters' Hotel-bar-room-seven o'clock. I'll be there if they don't turn me out before that time. If they do, you will find me in the street."

Although I was not very confident he would keep his appointment, it was the best I could do. If he failed to be there, he was evidently a character so noted, that I could easily find him. I hastened to my dinner, and reached Mrs. Greenough's rather late. I explained the reason of my tardiness, which was quite satisfactory. My landlady hoped that I should recover my money, and I hoped so too-a degree of unanimity which does not always exist between landlady and boarder.

I was on the work as the clock struck one, but I had to do some running that noon, in order to protect my reputation. Conant did not drive business in the afternoon as he had in the forenoon, when I think he intended to wear me out. We worked steadily, and I kept my end of the board up. I was not sorry to hear the clock strike six, for I was tired, though perhaps not more so than Conant himself. I went home, ate my supper, did my chores in the house, and at seven o'clock I was in the bar-room of the Planters' Hotel. It was no place for a boy, or a man either, for that matter. No one was what could be called, in good society, disreputably drunk, unless it was the seedy gentleman whom I met by appointment; and even he was able to handle himself tolerably well. No doubt he would have been more intoxicated if he had not drank up the dollar he had borrowed; but his wits were not wholly stupefied.

"Well, my lad, you have come, and so have I," said Farringford, when I entered the room. "Both come, and that makes two of us, all told."

"Yes. I wanted to see you about-"

"Stop a minute, my lad," interposed he, putting his trembling hand upon my shoulder. "Let us go to work right. When I used to run steamboats, we had to put in wood and water before we could get up steam."

"When did you run steamboats?" I asked.

"Ten or fifteen years ago. I was a rich man then; but now I'm as poor as a church mouse with his hair all singed off. I am; but I'm jolly; yes, I am jolly. Let's proceed to business."

"Did you own a steamboat-"

"Stop, my lad; I owned half a dozen of them. But that's no matter now. Do you happen to have a dollar in your pocket-one dollar, my lad."

"No, sir; I have not."

"Not a dollar?"

"No, I have not."

"Do you happen to have half a dollar in your pocket, my lad?"

"Not even half a dollar, sir."

"Your name is-somebody told me your name," said he, musing.

"Phil, sir."

"Phil, do you always speak the truth?"

"I always endeavor to do so," I replied.

"I hope so. Truth is mighty, and must prevail. You should always speak the truth."

"As you did, to-day, when you said you had known me from my babyhood."

"Boys must speak the truth, whether men do or not. Did you speak the truth when you said you had not even half a dollar?"

"I did."

"Have you any money?"

"I have thirty cents."

"Then lend me a quarter."

"It's all I have."

"We can't do any business till this little matter is attended to," said he, with tipsy solemnity. "You shall be paid, my lad; you shall be paid-when I pay the rest of my creditors."

Finding it impossible to proceed any farther without complying with his request, I reluctantly gave him the quarter; but I felt guilty in doing so. He went to the bar, drank, and returned to the corner where he had left me.

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