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   Chapter 34 A STRANGE MEETING.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7067

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Ernest left Oreville with four hundred dollars in his pocket. The balance of his money he left in the hands of his friend Horace Ames, upon whom he was authorized to draw if he should have need.

"I don't intend to carry all my money with me," he said to Luke Robbins. "I might lose it."

"Even if you did, Ernest, you could draw on me. If you need it, do so without any hesitation."

"You are a good friend, Luke," said Ernest warmly. "What should I do without you?"

"I am beginning to wonder what I shall do without you, Ernest. Suppose, now, this lawyer puts a fortune in your hands?"

"If he does, Luke, I am sure to need your help in some way. I will see that we are not separated."

"Thank you, Ernest. I know you mean what you say. You may find a better friend, but you won't find one that is more ready to serve you than Luke Robbins."

"I am sure of that, Luke," said Ernest with a bright smile, as he pressed the rough hand of his faithful friend.

Ernest did not loiter on his way, though he was tempted to stop in Chicago, but he reflected that he would have plenty of chances to visit that bustling city after his business had been attended to.

As he approached Buffalo on the train his attention was attracted to two persons sitting in front of him. They were a father and son, as he gathered from the conversation.

The son was about his own age and size, apparently, but rather more slender in figure. He had a peevish expression, and Ernest doubted whether he would like him.

"Father," Ernest heard him say, "won't you give me a little money? I am dead broke."

The father frowned.

"I gave you five dollars when we set out on this journey," he said.

"Well, five dollars won't last forever," was the pert rejoinder.

"It ought to last more than four days, Clarence."

Ernest started. He knew that his cousin's name was Clarence. Could this be Stephen Ray and his son?

Even if it were so, he felt that it would not be advisable to make himself known. This business which was carrying him to New York might bring him into conflict with Stephen Ray. If so, he would not care to let his presence be known.

On arriving at Buffalo Ernest left the train. He had never visited Niagara, and being now so near, he felt that he could not forego the opportunity.

He registered at the Tefft House, and decided to remain twenty-four hours. This would give him time to see the Falls.

Ernest had a room assigned him, and went up to it at once in order to have the luxury of a good wash.

Five minutes afterwards, Stephen Ray and his son Clarence entered the hotel.

Mr. Ray, in a pompous manner, went up to the desk and said to the clerk, "Can you give me a good room?"

"Yes, sir."

"I want a front room, if you have it."

"I can't give you a front room, but I can give you a good side room."

Stephen Ray grumbled a little, but finally decided to take the room offered him. He saw that his haughty manner did not impress the clerk, who was accustomed to men of his class.

Clarence looked over his father's shoulder as he registered.

"Why, pa," he exclaimed in surprise, "there's another guest of our name."

"Where?" asked his father.

"There, three names above your signature."

Stephen Ray looked at the register, and started violently as he read the entry:

ERNEST RAY, Oreville, California.

"What's the matter, pa?" asked Clarence, noticing his father's agitation.

"Oh, nothing, nothing," answered his father, with an effort.

"Haven't we a cous

in named Ernest Ray?"

"We had, but he is dead."

"It is strange that there should be another person of the name."

"Not at all. The world is large, and there are probably a good many persons of one name."

"This one is from California."

"So I see. By the way," here Mr. Ray addressed the clerk, "did you observe the person who registered under the name of Ray?"

"Yes. It is a boy about the size of this young gentleman."

"It is strange!" said Clarence. "It may be our cousin."

"Didn't I tell you that the person you refer to is dead?" said his father, testily.

"I don't believe it," thought Clarence, but he did not express his unbelief. He determined, however, to have an interview with the boy, and find out for himself all about him.

He saw Ernest at the table soon after, and so did Stephen Ray. The latter noted with alarm the resemblance of the boy to his cousin Dudley Ray, whose estate he had usurped.

"I hope Bolton won't get hold of him." he said to himself. "It would be bad for me."

After supper Mr. Ray went out, leaving Clarence to himself.

He improved the opportunity. Seeing Ernest sitting alone, he went up to him.

"Is your name Ray?" he asked.

"Yes, Ernest Ray."

"My name is Clarence Ray."

"So I thought. We are cousins."

"That's what I told pa, but he said it was not so--that Ernest Ray was dead."

"Your father's name is Stephen Ray?"

"Yes."

"I have known of him and you since I was old enough to remember anything."

"Then you are really my cousin Ernest?"

"Yes."

"I wonder why pa said you were dead. I will tell pa he is mistaken."

"No, Clarence, I would rather you wouldn't. There are reasons why it is better not to say anything about it."

"All right. Are you well off?"

Ernest smiled.

"I am not rich," he said, "but I am comfortably fixed."

"Do you live in California?"

"I have lived there for the last few months."

"Why did you come East?"

"On a little business."

"I am glad you are well off. I think pa was afraid you were a poor relation."

"Your father is rich?"

"Yes, ever so rich. We've got a fine place near Elmira. If pa wasn't so cranky I would invite you there to visit me."

"Thank you all the same," said Ernest, smiling.

Later in the evening, when Stephen Ray came in, Ernest noticed that he looked at him critically. He, too, examined the man who, he had reason to believe, was enjoying the estates that should be his, and was not attracted towards him.

"What will he say," thought Ernest, "when I make a formal demand for the property?"

"What in the name of all that's unlucky can have brought that boy here at this time?" Stephen Ray was saying to himself.

He never for an instant doubted Ernest's identity--in fact, he could not well have done so, for he bore a strong resemblance to Dudley Ray, who had been a strikingly handsome man, very much the superior of Stephen in personal attractions.

Stephen Ray's curiosity was excited. Ernest did not appear like the average poor relation. He was quite as well dressed as Clarence. Besides, he had registered at a high-priced hotel, and this alone showed that he was not cramped for means.

This gave him some satisfaction, as it made it less likely that he would appeal to him for assistance.

Stephen Ray was rather surprised that Clarence made no further reference to Ernest. Had he known that the two had had a conversation he would have been seriously disturbed. He only hoped that Bolton would not get hold of the boy.

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