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

   Chapter 20 IN WHICH PHIL IS STARTLED BY THE SIGHT OF A FAMILIAR FACE.

Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11515

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


I actually laughed when I heard the bolt of the lock snapped upon me; partly because I thought it was better to laugh over my mishaps than to cry, and partly because the trick of which I had been made the victim was simply ridiculous. Perhaps, if I had been a boy brought up in the city, and had never been thrown upon my own resources in times of peril, I might have taken a different view of the matter. I can easily believe that many boys would have been intimidated, and given up the money and the note. Lynch ought to have known me better, though I had been a lamb at Leavenworth.

I seated myself in the rocking-chair, and looked around the room. There was a luthern window in it, which opened upon the roof. A cheerful coal fire burned in the grate, and the room was quite comfortable. I examined the silver card box on the table, and the other articles there; but I was not much interested in them, and soon gave myself up to a consideration of the situation. Of course the whole trick was intended to intimidate me; but I positively refused to be intimidated. I supposed my persecutors would soon return, and renew the onslaught.

For my own part, I could not see what they intended to gain, even if they obtained the note against Mr. Gracewood. It was stupid of them to imagine that he would give up the money to total strangers. Still they must have believed he would let them have the gold, for they could not have taken all this trouble for the seventy dollars which I had. But it was no use to speculate upon their intentions. The note was safe in my pocket, and the money at my boarding-house. If I had supposed there was any possibility of the villains obtaining the former, I would have burned it on the spot, for I knew that Mr. Gracewood would pay the money whether there was any legal document to show for it or not.

I rose from my chair, and walked to the door, in order to examine it. This same Lynch had once before locked me into a room, and it was possible that I might break this door open, as I had done on the former occasion. But I found this was a different piece of work from that at Leavenworth. It fitted well in the frame. I tried the handle, and found that it was securely locked.

"No use, Phil," said a voice in the entry, which I recognized as that of Morgan Blair.

It appeared that my late fellow-workman was stationed as a sentinel at the door to prevent my escape.

"Where's Lynch?" I asked, placing my mouth at the key-hole.

"Down stairs. Are you ready to give up the note?"

"No."

"When you are, let me know."

I made no reply, but walked to the window to see what the prospect was in that direction. I did not wish to stay in my prison a great while, for I knew that my father would worry about me if I did not return soon. I was in the hands of the enemy, and I was afraid that Lynch would keep me in the room till the middle of the night, and then, with the aid of others, overcome me, and rob me of the note. I was not so well satisfied with the situation as at first, when I could realize the possibilities of the occasion.

The window opened upon a steep roof. I raised the sash very carefully, so that Blair might not know what I was about. But, then, I had hardly a hope of being able to escape in this direction; for I did not see how it was possible for me to descend to the street. However, I should be out of the reach of my inquisitors, even if I passed the night on the cold slates of the roof. I climbed out of the window, and my head swam when I looked down the fearful depth below me. I was on the rear slope of the roof, and beneath me was the back yard of the house.

The darkness rather favored me, for I could not so readily measure distances, and in a short time I became accustomed to the giddy height, though I thought it best not to look down. Holding on with one hand at the side of the luthern window, I closed the lower sash, and dropped the upper one. Grasping the inside of the window-frame for support, I climbed up till my feet were placed upon the top of the two sashes. I could then reach the roof of the luthern window. A ledge on the top of it afforded me a good hold, and I drew myself up, though with considerable difficulty, and my breath was all gone when I reached the point, exhausted by the violence of my exertions.

I lay where I was a few moments to recover my wind and my strength. I had placed the poker on the roof before I ascended, for I was afraid that I might yet have to fight a battle. I had worked very carefully, so as not to disturb the sentinel at the door of the room; and, so far as I could judge, I had been successful, for I heard nothing of him. I was on the top of the luthern window; and, so far as the inquisitors were concerned, I was safe. I preferred to stay there, though the night was quite chilly, rather than in the chamber of Lynch. But if I could have my choice, it would suit me better to go home, and sleep in my own bed.

About half way between the luthern window and the ridge-pole of the house there was a skylight. The light shone up through it, and I concluded from its position that it was used to light the entry where Blair was keeping guard over the door. Lying down on the slated roof, with my feet resting upon the luthern window, I found I could reach the upper end of the skylight with my hands. I looked through the glass into the entry below, and saw a gas-light burning there. Under me was the door of the gambling-chamber, but Blair was not there. I tried to raise the skylight; but it was secure, and could not be moved. It was at least fourteen feet above the floor, and the space between the glass and the ceiling of the entry was boxed in, forming a ventiduct for the passage of the a

ir.

If I could have opened the skylight, it would have been hardly prudent for me to drop down fourteen feet upon a hard floor, with the additional peril of encountering my enemies in going down the stairs. I could not see Blair, and I concluded that he had heard me, in spite of all my precautions, and had gone to procure the aid of Lynch. Whether this view was correct or not, I decided to act upon it, and increase the distance between myself and my persecutors. Grasping the upper part of the skylight, I dragged myself up to the point where I had placed my hands. Here I paused to breathe again.

While I was waiting I heard voices through the skylight. Looking through the glass, I saw Lynch and Blair, the latter unlocking the chamber door. I immediately concluded not to rest any longer, and laying hold of the ridge-pole, I drew myself up, and took a seat astride the saddle-boards. The block extended as far as I could see in the gloom of the night. With my hands upon the saddle-boards, I hopped along like a frog till I was satisfied that I was out of the reach of any pursuers. But I began to be very anxious to reach terra firma once more, and I continued to hop till I came to a four-story block with a flat roof. This was hopeful, and passing from the steep slope I found myself in a very comfortable position.

I could discover no signs of any pursuers behind me; and I concluded that the inquisitors were not enterprising enough to follow me in the perilous track I had chosen. Pleasant as was my present location compared with the slippery sides of the slated roof, I was not disposed to spend the night there. But I did not think it safe to jump down into the street, for I knew that the pavement could stand the shock of such a descent better than I could. On one of the roofs there were planks laid down, and places for lines, and I concluded that it was used for drying clothes. At every house I found a scuttle, and some of them were not fastened; but I did not like the idea of being captured as a burglar, and sent to the station-house to remain over Sunday. I walked to the end of the block, where a cross-street interrupted my further progress in that direction.

Between the several tenements which composed the block there were brick walls rising about a foot above the flat roof. They were the dividing lines between the houses. I observed that the house at the corner of the cross-street occupied as much space as three of the others, and was planked all over, with stanchions for clothes-lines. I concluded that the building was used for a purpose different from the others. I went to the front, and looked down into the street. There were a couple of gas-lamps before the door, and people were constantly arriving and departing. I satisfied myself that the house was a hotel.

In the rear of the roof there was a kind of crane, with a couple of ropes reaching to the ground. I reasoned that the apparatus was used for hoisting up baskets of clothes. I also found a scuttle door, which was not fastened, and I began to consider whether I should go down by the rope or by the stairs. I did not like the idea of dangling in the air fifty feet from the ground on the one hand, or of being captured as a thief on the other. If I went down the rope, it might drop me in some back yard, where I might be liable to suspicion if discovered. On the whole, I concluded that the stairs were the safer expedient, and I carefully opened the scuttle door.

The steps led down to a well-lighted entry; and, having satisfied myself that no one was there, I descended, taking the precaution to hook the door behind me, which some careless servant had neglected to do, though I was not disposed to blame her for the neglect. Passing down the steps, I came to a long entry, from which opened on each side the sleeping-rooms. The stairs were at the other end, and I walked as lightly as my thick boots would permit through the hall. At the stairs I heard the sound of voices on the floor below, and I paused. I concluded that the upper floors were used for sleeping-rooms, and that no one would remain long in the entry. Presently I heard a door open, and then the sound of footsteps on the stairs below. As all was still again, I ventured to descend the steps to the next hall.

I had hardly reached this floor before a gentleman came out of one of the rooms; but he passed me, and went down stairs without taking any notice of me. I was now on the third story, and must descend two more flights in order to reach the street. I was not a thief, and there was no stolen property upon me. But men in white jackets were always whisking about in hotels, as I had observed at the Planters'. I determined to be ready with an answer if any of these fellows challenged me, and to tell the whole truth if I was detained.

I had hardly reached this conclusion before a waiter in a white jacket confronted me, looked at me suspiciously, and demanded my business.

"Where is Mr. Rockwood?" I asked, using the name most familiar to me.

"That's his room over there, where the door is open," said he, pointing towards the other end of the hall, and then continuing on his way up stairs.

I walked in the direction indicated, intending to rush down stairs as soon as the waiter was out of hearing. I went as far as the open door, and looked into the apartment. A gentleman sat in an arm-chair, reading a newspaper. A glance at him startled me more than anything that had ever occurred to me before.

That gentleman was Matt Rockwood, it seemed to me, dressed in his best clothes. He glanced from his paper into the entry, as I paused there. The face, the expression, the white beard,-everything about him was Matt Rockwood.

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