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


Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11005

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I felt that I could afford to lose sixty-five dollars better than ever before; but I did not like the idea of being swindled. It was especially repugnant to be overreached by such scoundrels as Lynch and Blair, though the latter appeared to be only the tool of the former.

"I did not like to give the man the money, but your father thought that, as he was a policeman, it was all right," Mrs. Greenough explained. "Your father was very much worried when he heard you were arrested."

"I have not been arrested," I replied.

"Your father wishes to see you," added the landlady.

"I will go up with you, if you please," said Mr. Rockwood.

We went up to my father's room, where I introduced my new friend to him. It required some time, of course, to explain who and what the planter was, and how I had made his acquaintance.

"Then you have not been arrested," said my father.

"No; but I was kept a prisoner by these scoundrels."

"We must attend to them," added Mr. Rockwood, consulting his watch.

"Dear me! there is the door-bell again!" exclaimed Mrs. Greenough. "Who can it be at this time of night!"

"It is only half past nine," added the planter, as I took a light to answer the bell. "I think Mrs. Greenough had better go to the door, for I don't believe these scoundrels will be satisfied with sixty-five dollars."

At this suggestion Mrs. Greenough answered the summons, and soon returned with another note-from me! I opened it, and read that I had been arrested in connection with the claim of Morgan Blair, and that when the police sergeant heard there was a note, which represented the property claimed, in my possession, he thought it was better to have it deposited with the chief of police for safe keeping.

"These fellows evidently think you have not yet returned to your home, Phil," said Mr. Rockwood.

"I don't blame them much for thinking so, for I expected to stay on those roofs all night; and I think I should if you had not been so wise as to put a hotel in the block," I replied.

"The man asked if Phil was at home before he gave me the note," said the landlady, "and I evaded the question."

"What shall we do?" asked my father, raising himself in the bed.

"Phil and I will pay a visit to these rascals," answered the planter. "Have you an envelope?"

"Yes," I replied, producing one, with some paper.

He folded up a sheet of paper, put it in the envelope, and requested the landlady to direct it to the chief of police.

"Where is this messenger?" asked Mr. Rockwood.

"He is waiting in the kitchen."

"Very well, Mrs. Greenough. If you will close the door, so that we can get into the street without his knowledge, we will follow him up and attend to this business."

The landlady went down stairs, and when she had closed the kitchen door, the planter and myself crept softly down stairs, and went into the street. We placed ourselves where we could identify the messenger when he came out of the house. He was evidently satisfied that the envelope contained the document for which he had been sent, for he immediately followed us out of the house. He was a well-dressed man, as we saw by the light of the corner street lamp. He wore a light-colored overcoat, so that we could easily follow him as he passed through the streets. Mr. Rockwood went behind him, while I walked on the other side of the street, and kept up with him. He went, as I supposed he would, to the house to which I had been enticed earlier in the evening. He went in by the aid of a night-key, and doubtless believed that he had fully accomplished the mission upon which he had been sent.

"You are younger and more active than I am, Phil," said Mr. Rockwood, when the man had entered the house and closed the door behind him. "If you will stay here, and follow any of the rascals if they come out again, I will get an officer."

"Very well, sir."

The planter hastened to his hotel, and I stationed myself where I could see who left the house. My friend was not absent more than a quarter of an hour, and returned with two officers, whom the landlord of the hotel had procured for him. One of them was in uniform, and the other a detective in plain clothes. I concluded that Mr. Rockwood meant business, and instead of my spending Sunday as a prisoner, this would be the fate of those who were trying to swindle me.

"That's a gambling-house," said the policeman in uniform, when I pointed out the door where the man entered.

"Undoubtedly it is a gambling-house," replied the detective, gazing inquiringly at me, as though he was not quite satisfied with the story related to him by Mr. Rockwood; "but even a gambling-house has certain rights, which may not be disturbed without proper cause."

"Proper cause!" exclaimed Mr. Rockwood. "Don't I tell you that this young man has been robbed and abused by the villains in this house?"

"You will excuse me, sir, but it is possible to be mistaken. If I understand you, Mr. Rockwood, you met this boy for the first time about two hours ago."

"But I have entire confidence in him. He is the son of Edward Farringford."

"Perhaps he is, though I do not believe it; but that is nothing to recommend him. His story is absurd on the face of it."

"My story is true, sir, every word of it," I interposed, indignantly.

Mr. Bogart, the detective, asked me a few questions in regard to my escape from the building, and I repeated all the particulars. He shook his head, and declared that he

was unwilling to enter the house upon the strength of such a story. It would damage his reputation as an officer, and his superiors would not justify the measure.

"I'll tell you what I will do," he continued.

"Well, what will you do?" demanded Mr. Rockwood, impatiently.

"I will go with this young man to the top of the house, where he left the chamber of the gambler. I will follow him into the house by the window through which he came out."

"I don't think you can get in at the window."

"I suppose not," said Mr. Bogart, with a palpable sneer.

"But I will go with you, and show you the window," I added.

"I wish you would," replied the officer, who evidently believed that I should give him the slip before I verified my position.

Mr. Rockwood and the policeman were to remain in the street and keep watch of the house during our absence. If the gambler's messenger who had gone to the house of Mrs. Greenough appeared, he was to be arrested.

Mr. Bogart and myself went to the hotel, where, after my companion had spoken to the landlord, we ascended to the roof.

"Now, young man, if you will go ahead, I will follow you," said the detective.

"I hope you are used to climbing," I replied.

"Don't borrow any trouble on my account; I will follow anywhere that you will lead."

"All right, sir; I hope I shall soon be able to prove all that I have stated."

"I hope so," replied he, in a tone which assured me that he did not expect anything of the kind.

I led the way across the flat roof, and at the next block we mounted the ridge-pole of the pitch roof. Mr. Bogart cautioned me to move with care, so as not to disturb the inmates of the houses beneath us. I was soon in position to see the bright light streaming up from the tenement to which I had been decoyed by the villains.

"That's the house," said I, pointing to the light.

"Did you come up through that scuttle?" he asked.

"No, I came up over the top of the luthern window."

"Impossible!" exclaimed he, glancing at the window.

"It is true; and I suppose I shall have to go in that way," I continued; and I explained minutely how I had made my exit from the chamber.

"Lead on. We will examine the house," said Mr. Bogart.

On a nearer approach to the roof of the gambling-house, I discovered that the glass scuttle was open, and I concluded that Lynch and Blair had been upon the roof in search of me. When I reached the opening I found a ladder conveniently placed for my descent, if I chose to avail myself of its aid. I looked down into the entry, where the gas-light still blazed cheerfully. The door of Lynch's room was open, and I could distinctly hear the voices of my late captors.

"They took me into that front room," I whispered to my doubting companion.

"This looks a little as though your story was true," said Mr. Bogart.

"Will you follow me down this ladder?"

"No, not yet. I wish to get a little better idea of what these fellows mean. Are you afraid of them?"

"No; not a bit," I answered, raising the poker which I had picked up where I left it on the roof.

"Will you go down alone?" he asked.

"Yes, if you desire it."

"I will keep the run of you, and see what is done. If you get into trouble with them, just whistle as loud as you can, and I will join you."

"But suppose they take away the ladder?"

"Then I will go down as I came up, and enter the house by the front door. Don't be afraid of anything."

"I'm not afraid."

"I will be near you. I want to know what these fellows mean to do. If they close the door, I will go down the ladder into the entry."

Suddenly my companion appeared to have become very enthusiastic in the business upon which we were engaged. Though he did not say so, I was satisfied that he was convinced of the truth of my statement.

"What shall I do?" I asked, rather puzzled by the tactics of the detective.

"Do whatever they wish you to do; but don't let them know that you have been off the roof since you escaped.

"Why not?"

"I cannot stop to explain now; only I don't think these rascals have taken all this trouble with you for fifty or a hundred dollars; and they mean to use you as a cat's paw for something else."

"I know they do," I replied, in a whisper. "They want the fifteen hundred dollars in gold, for which I hold a note signed by Mr. Gracewood."

"No matter now," said he, impatiently. "Go down, and give them all the rope they want."

"Shall I give them the note, which I have in my pocket?"

"I haven't heard about the note. If you had told me the whole story before now, I should have known better what to do."

We retreated a few paces from the skylight, and I told him all about the note and the object of Lynch. I assured him that Mr. Rockwood was the legal heir of the property.

"The note is of no consequence then," said Mr. Bogart. "Give it to them, but don't indorse it, and I will see that it is returned to you. We have them now. They can't escape us. Now, go down, and let them have their own way, but with some show of opposition."

I descended the ladder, and stood before the open door of the chamber, when I saw Lynch, with his feet on the table, smoking. Morgan Blair sat opposite him. They discovered me as soon as I landed in the hall, and made haste to place themselves between me and the stairs, in order to cut off my escape. As I did not wish to escape, I gave them no trouble in this direction, but entered the chamber.

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