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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 10711

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I could not imagine what had so suddenly driven Mr. Gracewood from the room. He left as though he had been shot from a gun, and did not utter a word in explanation of his conduct. On the impulse of the moment I followed him. In the entry I looked for Mr. Bogart, in order to report progress to him; but I did not see him. The ladder was still standing at the skylight, but the detective was not in sight upon the roof, and though I called his name as loud as I dared to speak he did not respond.

I descended the stairs to the next floor, where I had understood the room of the invalid was located. The door of his apartment was open, and I discovered Mr. Gracewood in the act of ransacking his bed. He was very nervous and excited, and I saw that the hand he was able to use trembled violently.

The Lost Money. Page 281.

"What is the matter, Mr. Gracewood?" I asked, as he continued to tumble over the mattress and the pillows.

"All is lost!" exclaimed he, in the tones of despair.

"What is lost?"

"My money!" he gasped, in a hoarse whisper.

"Do you mean to say that it is gone!" I asked, startled at the suggestion.

"All gone!" groaned he. "Twenty-four thousand dollars!"

"But where did you put it, sir?"

"Between the two beds, when Lynch sent for me to come up into his room."

"Did he send for you, sir?" I interposed.

"He did."

"Then it was a plot to rob you, sir."

"I fear that it was; but I was careless. I had hardly been out of my room before; but when I did leave it, I took my money with me. I had become accustomed to its possession, and I did not think of it. I did not believe Lynch was a bad man. He was very kind to me, and attended to my wants after I was hurt."

"Did he know you had this money?"

"I did not tell him, but I think he did. He must have stolen it."

"Don't be alarmed, sir. I don't think you will lose it," I added.

"It is gone already, and I shall never see it again."

"Perhaps you will, sir."

"No, never! The men in this house are all villains," said he, bitterly, as he dropped into a chair, apparently from sheer exhaustion, and in utter despair.

"No, sir; I happen to know that the eyes of a detective were upon him at the very moment when he left the room above. I have no doubt he has been arrested by this time."


"Yes, sir;" and I gave a brief account of the manner in which Lynch had swindled me, and stated the purpose for which I had returned to the house.

"But I shall be exposed!" exclaimed Mr. Gracewood, bitterly. "I would rather lose my money than have my wife and children know that I have been gambling, and that I frequent such places as this. I wrote them a miserable lie-that I was obliged to go to Memphis-to explain my absence. If God will forgive and spare me this time, never will I be guilty again!"

"Calm yourself, sir. I am sorry you have done wrong; but seeing and repenting the wrong half undoes it-so your brother taught me."

"I shall never be at peace again in this world," groaned the sufferer. "But let the money go; I can sell another estate, though a third of all I had is gone already."

"The money is not gone, Mr. Gracewood. I am satisfied that Lynch is arrested by this time."

"So much the worse! I shall be exposed."

"Perhaps not. Let us look the matter over. Why did Lynch send for you to go up into his room?"

"He sent me a note by the young man who was with him. Here it is," he added, rising and taking a piece of paper from the table.

I took the paper, which contained a few lines, as follows: "I have seen the young fellow, Phil Farringford, who was with your brother. If you will come up to my room, I will tell you what he says."

"You seem to have known about me before," I added, when I had read the note.

"As I said, this Lynch took care of me when I was hurt. I did not intend that any one here should know my name, but I think he read it where the tailor had written it on the inside of my coat; at any rate, he called me by name. I think he must have seen me take the package of bank notes from my pocket and put it under the pillow, before the surgeon came. When the doctor left, and I was more comfortable, he told me that he had met my brother on board of a steamer up the Missouri, and said there was a boy with him whom he had since seen in the city. I was very anxious to know when my brother was coming, so that I might be prepared to see him.

"Lynch did not know where my brother was, and I asked him if he knew where to find you. He thought he should be able to see you, and to-night I was very glad to learn that he had succeeded, and I hastened up stairs to obtain the intelligence of the absent one."

The plan of the villain appeared to me to be past finding out. I concluded that I had been sent for to assist in some manner in the plundering of the unhappy gentleman. But they had done the job, so far as I could see, without any help from me, unless my presence was intended to lure the victim from his room, and thus enable them to do the work. Why they had skirmished by robbing me of sixty-five dollars was not at all clear to me. I explained to Mr. Gracewood that I had left Mr. Rockwood and an officer outside of the house.

"I will go down and see if they are there now," I added. "Perhaps I shall be able to tell you something about


"Don't leave me, young man. I am miserable."

"But I want to know what has become of Lynch."

"No matter; let him go. Do not allow them to expose me."

I did not wonder that this man's conscience stung him, and that he dreaded to have his name in the newspapers in connection with his presence at the gambling-house. The only safety for men, young or old, is to keep away from evil haunts. Those who enter gambling-houses from curiosity may be impelled to repeat the visit from stronger motives.

While I was discussing the question with the miserable man, I heard footsteps in the entry. I opened the door, and found Mr. Rockwood and the detective, who had come to look for me.

"We have nabbed them both, Phil," said Mr. Rockwood. "They are in irons at the next station-house. And a big haul it was, too."

"Whose room is that you came out of just now?" asked Mr. Bogart.

"It is occupied by a gentleman who is stopping here," I replied.

"Do you know what Lynch stole from that room?"

"I do-a package containing twenty-four thousand dollars. Did you see him take it?"

"I did," answered Mr. Bogart. "But I don't understand this business."

"Neither do I."

"Where is the gentleman? I want to see him."

"I wouldn't see him to-night. He is quite sick, and suffering terribly."

"I want to tell him that his money is safe."

"I will tell him that."

"And that the thief is in custody. When he is able, he must appear, and claim his money."

Fortunately Mr. Bogart was in a great hurry; and when I assured him I had no fears in regard to my own safety, he left me in the house, with Mr. Rockwood. Before he went he took the occasion to apologize to me for doubting my story, earlier in the evening. Leaving Mr. Rockwood in the entry, I went in to see Mr. Gracewood again. He was exceedingly nervous and uneasy when I told him that his money was safe.

"And the whole story will be out in the newspapers on Monday morning," said he, gloomily.

"I don't know much about these things. I am willing to do anything that is right for you," I replied.

"I deserved to be exposed, but I have not the courage to meet the ordeal."

"Mr. Rockwood is waiting for me in the entry. He is a wealthy and influential gentleman. His brother and your brother were neighbors and intimate friends on the upper Missouri. If you will see him, I think he could serve you."

At first he was very unwilling to meet any one, but at last he consented. I stated the case to Mr. Rockwood in the entry, and then introduced him to the sufferer.

"Don't distress yourself, my dear sir," said Mr. Rockwood, when the misery of the other was manifested. "The best of men have their misfortunes."

"I cannot call that a misfortune which is brought upon me by my own folly and wickedness," replied Mr. Gracewood.

"But the best of men have their failings. Your secret is safe with me, and I shall only hope that you may be stronger in the future than in the past."

"With the help of God, this will be a lesson to me that shall make me a better man than ever before," added Mr. Gracewood, fervently.

"But you shall not stay another night in such a place as this, my dear sir," continued Mr. Rockwood, earnestly. "The very atmosphere of the den is poison."

"I dare not leave it."

"My hotel is only a few steps from here. You shall have my rooms, and no one need ever know that you are there."

"You are very kind. I had no right to expect such generous treatment from an entire stranger."

"Your brother and my brother were the best of friends for many years; we will imitate their example, and be friends for their sake."

Mr. Rockwood insisted upon his arrangement, paid the invalid's bill, and sent for a carriage to convey him to his new quarters. We dressed the miserable man, and helped him into the vehicle. The driver was directed to stop at the private door on the cross-street, and Mr. Gracewood was conducted to the rooms of his new friend without attracting any attention.

"I used to stay at this hotel myself," said Mr. Gracewood, when he was seated in the planter's great arm-chair.

"It is a good house, and you shall have every care you need."

Having seen the invalid so comfortably provided for, I thought it was about time for me to go home. I promised to call the next day, and left the room. I felt as though a mighty secret had been confided to me; but I could not see how Mr. Gracewood could escape the exposure he so much dreaded. I could not understand how he had thus far escaped it, if he frequented gambling-houses. Certainly he was thoroughly conscious of the sin of which he had been guilty, and peace would follow penitence and reform.

I descended the stairs to the lower floor of the hotel, and was hastening by the office when I discovered my excellent friend Mr. Henry Gracewood walking up and down the hall, smoking his pipe. My heart thrilled with emotion as I hastened to greet him. He grasped my hand with a warmth that assured me he had lost none of his old regard for me.

"I am glad to see you, Phil Farringford," said he. "Come right up stairs, and see Mrs. Gracewood and Ella."

He led the way to a suit of rooms adjoining those of Mr. Rockwood, and it seemed to me that the catastrophe which the invalid so much dreaded could not long be postponed.

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