Paul had an errand farther uptown, and, on leaving Tiffany's walked up as far as Twenty-third street. Feeling rather tired, he got on board a University place car to return. They had accomplished, perhaps, half the distance, when, to his surprise, George Barry entered the car.
"How do you happen to be here, at this time, Barry?" he asked. "I thought you were attending to business."
"I closed up for a couple of hours, having an errand at home. Where have you been?"
"What, the jewelers?"
"To buy a diamond ring, I suppose," said Barry, jocosely.
"No—not to buy, but to sell one."
"You are joking," said his companion, incredulously.
"No, I am not. The ring belongs to my mother. I am trying to raise money enough on it to buy you out."
"I didn't know your mother was rich enough to indulge in such expensive jewelry."
"She isn't, and that's the reason I am trying to sell it."
"I mean, I didn't think she was ever rich enough."
"I'll explain it," said Paul. "The ring was found some time since in Central Park. As no owner has ever appeared, though we advertised it, we consider that it belongs to us."
"How much is it worth?"
"Mr. Tiffany offered two hundred and fifty dollars for it."
Barry uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"Well, that is what I call luck. Of course, you accepted it."
"I intend to do so; but I must bring some gentleman who will guarantee that I am all right and have the right to sell it."
"Can you do that?"
"I think so! I am going to ask Mr. Preston. I think he will do me that favor."
"Then there's a fair chance of your buying me out."
"Yes. I guess I can settle the whole thing up to-morrow."
"Have you got the ring with you?"
"I should like to see it, if you have no objection."
Paul drew it from his pocket, and passed it over to Barry.
"It's a handsome one, but who would think such a little thing could be worth two hundred and fifty dollars?"
"I'd rather have the money than the ring."
"So would I."
On the right of Paul sat a man of about forty, well-dressed and respectable in appearance, with a heavy gold chain ostentatiously depending from his watch pocket, and with the air of a substantial citizen. He listened to the conversation between Barry and Paul with evident interest, and when Barry had returned the ring, he said:
"Young gentleman, would you be kind enough to let me look at your ring? I am myself in business as a jeweler in Syracuse, and so feel an interest in examining it."
"Certainly, sir," said Paul, the stranger's explanation of his motives inspiring him with perfect confidence.
The jeweler from Syracuse took the ring in his hands and appeared to examine it carefully.
"This is a handsome ring," he said, "and one of great value. How much were you offered for it at Tiffany's?"
"Two hundred and fifty dollars."
"It is worth more."
"Yes, I suppose so," said Paul; "but he has to sell it, and make a profit."
"He could do that, and yet make a profit. I will pay you two hundred and seventy-five dollars, myself—that is, on one condition."
"I don't object to getting twenty-five dollars more," said Paul. "What is the condition?"
"I have an order from a gentleman for a diamond ring for a young lady—an engagement ring, in short. If this suits him, as I think it will, I will pay you what I said. I can easily get three hundred and twenty-five from him."
"How are you going to find out whether it will suit him?"
"Easily. He is stopping at the same hotel with me."
"What hotel is that?"
"Lovejoy's. If you can spare the time and will come with me now, we can arrange matters at once. By the way, you can refer me to some responsible citizen, who will guarantee you. Not, of course, that I have any doubts, but we business men are forced to be cautious."
Paul mentioned Mr. Preston's name.
"Quite satisfactory," answered the jeweler. "I know Mr. Preston personally, and as I am pressed for time, I will accept his name without calling upon him. What is your name?"
"I will note it down."
The gentleman from Syracuse drew out a memorandum book, in which he entered Paul's name.
"When you see Mr. Preston, just mention my name; Felix Montgomery."
"I will do so."
"Say, if you please, that I would have called upon him, but, coming to the city strictly on business, was too hurried to do so."
This also Paul promised, and counted himself fortunate in falling in with a friend, or, at all events, acquaintance of Mr. Preston, since he was likely to make twenty-five dollars more than he would otherwise have done.
When he got out of the car at the Astor House, the stranger said:
"It will be half an hour before I can reach Lovejoy's, as I have a business call to make first. Can you call there, say, in three-quarters of an hour?"
"Very well, then, I will expect you. Inquire for me at the desk, and ask the servant to conduct you to my room—you remember my name?"
"Yes, sir—Mr. Felix Montgomery."
"Quite right. Good-by, then, till we meet."
Mr. Felix Montgomery went into the Astor House, and remained about five minutes. He then came out on the steps, and, looking about him to see if Paul was anywhere near, descended the steps, and walked across to Lovejoy's Hotel. Going up to the desk, he inquired:
"Can you accommodate me with a room?"
"Yes, sir; please enter your name."
The stranger entered his name with a flourish, as Felix Montgomery, Syracuse.
"Room No. 237," said the clerk; "will you go up now?"
"Yes, I think so."
"My trunk will be brought from the St. Nicholas in the course of the afternoon."
"We require payment in advance where there is no luggage."
"Very well. I will pay for one day. I am not sure but I shall get through my business in time to go away to-morrow."
Here the servant appeared to conduct Mr. Montgomery to his room.
"By the way," he said, turning back, as if it were an afterthought, "I directed a boy to call here for me in about half an hour. When he comes you may send him up to my room."
"Very well, sir."
Mr. Montgomery followed the servant upstairs to room No. 237. It was rather high up, but he seemed well pleased that this was the case.
"Hope you won't get tired of climbing, sir," said the servant.
"No—I've got pretty good wind."
"Most gentlemen complain of going up so far."
"It makes little difference to me."
At length they reached the room, and Mr. Montgomery entered.
"This will answer very well," he said, with a hasty glance about him. "When my trunk comes, I want it sent up."
"I believe that is all; you can go."
The servant retired and Mr. Felix Montgomery sat down upon the bed.
"My little plot seems likely to succeed," he said to himself. "I've been out of luck lately, but this boy's ring will give me a lift. He can't suspect anything. He'll be sure to come."
Probably the reader has already suspected that Mr. Felix Montgomery was not a jeweler from Syracuse, nor had he any claim to the name under which he at present figured. He was a noted confidence man, who lived by preying upon the community. His appearance was in his favor, and it was his practice to assume the dress and air of a respectable middle-aged citizen, as in the present instance. The sight of the diamond ring had excited his cupidity, and he had instantly formed the design of getting possession of it, if possible. Thus far, his plan promised success.
Meanwhile, Paul loitered away the time in the City Hall Park for half an hour or more. He did not care to go home until his negotiation was complete, and he could report the ring sold, and carry home the money.
"Won't mother be astonished," he thought, "at the price I got for the ring? I'm in luck this morning."
When the stipulated time had passed, Paul rose from the bench on which he was seated, and walked to Lovejoy's Hotel, not far distant.
"Has Mr. Felix Montgomery a room here?" he asked.
"Yes," answered the clerk. "Did you wish to see him?"
"He mentioned that a boy would call by appointment. Here, James, show this boy up to No. 237—Mr. Montgomery's room."
A hotel servant appeared, and Paul followed him up several flights of stairs till they stood before No. 237.
"This is the room, sir," said James. "Wait a minute, and I'll knock."
In answer to the knock, Mr. Montgomery himself opened the door.
"Come in," he said to Paul; "I was expecting you."
So Paul, not suspecting treachery, entered No. 237.