Chapter 18




A CLEVER THIEF

"Take a seat," said Mr. Montgomery. "My friend will be in directly. Meanwhile will you let me look at the ring once more?"

Paul took it from his pocket, and handed it to the jeweler from Syracuse, as he supposed him to be.

Mr. Montgomery took it to the window, and appeared to be examining it carefully.

He stood with his back to Paul, but this did not excite suspicion on the part of our hero.

"I am quite sure," he said, still standing with his back to Paul, "that this will please my friend. From the instructions he gave me, it is precisely what he wanted."

While uttering these words, he had drawn a sponge and a vial of chloroform from his side pocket. He saturated the former from the vial, and then, turning quickly, seized Paul, too much taken by surprise to make immediate resistance, and applied the sponge to his nose. When he realized that foul play was meditated, he began to struggle, but he was in a firm grasp, and the chloroform was already beginning to do its work. His head began to swim, and he was speedily in a state of insensibility. When this was accomplished, Mr. Felix Montgomery, eyeing the insensible boy with satisfaction, put on his hat, walked quickly to the door, which he locked on the outside, and made his way rapidly downstairs. Leaving the key at the desk, he left the hotel and disappeared.

Meanwhile Paul slowly recovered consciousness. As he came to himself, he looked about him bewildered, not at first comprehending where he was. All at once it flashed upon him, and he jumped up eagerly and rushed to the door. He tried in vain to open it.

"I am regularly trapped!" he thought, with a feeling of mingled anger and vexation. "What a fool I was to let myself be swindled so easily! I wonder how long I have been lying here insensible?"

Paul was not a boy to give up easily. He meant to get back the ring if it was a possible thing. The first thing was, of course, to get out of his present confinement. He was not used to hotel arrangements and never thought of the bell, but, as the only thing he could think of, began to pound upon the door. But it so happened that at this time there were no servants on that floor, and his appeals for help were not heard. Every moment that he had to wait seemed at least five, for no doubt the man who had swindled him was improving the time to escape to a place of safety. Finding that his blows upon the door produced no effect, he began to jump up and down upon the floor, making, in his heavy boots, a considerable noise.

The room directly under No. 237 was occupied by an old gentleman of a very nervous and irascible temper, Mr. Samuel Piper, a country merchant, who, having occasion to be in the city on business for a few days, had put up at Lovejoy's Hotel. He had fatigued himself by some business calls, and was now taking a little rest upon the bed, when he was aroused from half-sleep by the pounding overhead.

"I wish people would have the decency to keep quiet," he said to himself, peevishly. "How can I rest with such a confounded racket going on above!"

He lay back, thinking the noise would cease, but Paul, finding the knocking on the door ineffectual, began to jump up and down, as I have already said. Of course this noise was heard distinctly in the room below.

"This is getting intolerable!" exclaimed Mr. Piper, becoming more and more excited. "The man ought to be indicted as a common nuisance. How they can allow such goings-on in a respectable hotel, I can't understand. I should think the fellow was splitting wood upstairs."

He took his cane, and, standing on the bed, struck it furiously against the ceiling, intending it as signal to the man above to desist. But Paul, catching the response, began to jump more furiously than ever, finding that he had attracted attention.

Mr. Piper became enraged.

"The man must be a lunatic or overcome by drink," he exclaimed. "I can't and I won't stand it."

But the noise kept on.

Mr. Piper put on his shoes and his coat, and, seizing his cane, emerged upon the landing. He espied a female servant just coming upstairs.

"Here, you Bridget, or Nancy, or whatever your name is," he roared, "there's a lunatic upstairs, making a tremendous row in the room over mine. If you don't stop him I'll leave the hotel. Hear him now!"

Bridget let fall her duster in fright.

"Is it a crazy man?" she asked.

"Of course he must be. I want you to go up and stop him."

"Is it me that would go near a crazy man?" exclaimed Bridget, horror-struck; "I wouldn't do it for a million dollars; no, I wouldn't."

"I insist upon your going up," said Mr. Piper, irritably. "He must be stopped. Do you think I am going to stand such an infernal thumping over my head?"

"I wouldn't do it if you'd go down on your knees to me," said Bridget, fervently.

"Come along, I'll go with you."

But the terrified girl would not budge.

"Then you go down and tell your master there's a madman up here. If you don't, I will."

This Bridget consented to do; and, going downstairs, gave a not very coherent account of the disturbance. Three male servants came back with her.

"Is that the man?" asked the first, pointing to Mr. Piper, who certainly looked half wild with irritation.

"Yes," said Bridget, stupidly.

Immediately Mr. Piper found himself pinioned on either side by a stout servant.

"What have you been kickin' up a row for?" demanded the first.

"Let me alone, or I'll have the law take care of you," screamed the outraged man. "Can't you hear the fellow that's making the racket?"

Paul, tired with thumping, had desisted for a moment, but now had recommenced with increased energy. The sounds could be distinctly heard on the floor below.

"Excuse me, sir. I made a mistake," said the first speaker, releasing his hold. "We'll go up and see what's the matter."

So the party went upstairs, followed at a distance by Bridget, who, influenced alike by fear and curiosity, did not know whether to go up or retreat.

The sounds were easily traced to room No. 237. In front of this, therefore, the party congregated.

"What's the matter in there?" asked James, the first servant, putting his lips to the keyhole.

"Yes," chimed in Mr. Piper, irritably; "what do you mean by such an infernal hubbub?"

"Open the door, and let me out," returned Paul, eagerly.

The party looked at each other in surprise. They did not expect to find the desperate maniac a boy.

"Perhaps there's more than one of them," suggested the second servant, prudently.

"Why don't you come out yourself?" asked James. "I am locked in."

The door was opened with a passkey and Paul confronted the party.

"Now, young man, what do you mean by making such a disturbance?" demanded Mr. Piper, excitably. "My room is just below, and I expected every minute you would come through."

"I am sorry if I disturbed you, sir," said Paul, politely; "but it was the only way I could attract attention."

"How came you locked up here?"

"Yes," chimed in James, suspiciously, "how came you locked up here?"

"I was drugged with chloroform, and locked in," said Paul.

"Who did it?"

"Mr. Felix Montgomery; or that's what he called himself. I came here by appointment to meet him."

"What did he do that for?"

"He has carried off a diamond ring which I came up here to sell him."

"A very improbable story," said Mr. Piper, suspiciously. "What should such a boy have to do with a diamond ring?"

Nothing is easier than to impart suspicion. Men are prone to believe evil of each other; and Paul was destined to realize this. The hotel servants, ignorant and suspicious, caught the suggestion.

"It's likely he's a' thafe," said Bridget, from a safe distance.

"If I were," said Paul, coolly, "I shouldn't be apt to call your attention by such a noise. I can prove to you that I am telling the truth. I stopped at the office, and the bookkeeper sent a servant to show me up here."

"If this is true," said Mr. Piper, "why, when you found yourself locked in, didn't you ring the bell, instead of making such a confounded racket? My nerves won't get over it for a week."

"I didn't think of the bell," said Paul; "I am not much used to hotels."

"What will we do with him?" asked James, looking to Mr. Piper for counsel.

"You'd better take him downstairs, and see if his story is correct," said the nervous gentleman, with returning good sense.

"I'll do it," said James, to whom the very obvious suggestion seemed marked by extraordinary wisdom, and he grasped Paul roughly by the arm.

"You needn't hold me," said our hero, shaking off the grasp. "I haven't any intention of running away. I want to find out, if I can, what has become of the man that swindled me."

James looked doubtfully at Mr. Piper.

"I don't think he means to run away," said that gentleman. "I begin to think his story is correct. And hark you, my young friend, if you ever get locked up in a hotel room again, just see if there is a bell before you make such a confounded racket."

"Yes, sir, I will," said Paul, half-smiling; "but I'll take care not to get locked up again. It won't be easy for anybody to play that trick on me again."

The party filed downstairs to the office and Paul told his story to the bookkeeper.

"Have you seen Mr. Montgomery go out?" asked our hero.

"Yes, he went out half an hour ago, or perhaps more. He left his key at the desk, but said nothing. He seemed to be in a hurry."

"You didn't notice in what direction he went?"

"No."

Of course no attempt was made to detain Paul. There could be no case against him. He went out of the hotel, and looked up and down Broadway in a state of indecision. He did not mean to sit down passively and submit to the swindle. But he had no idea in what direction to search for Mr. Felix Montgomery.



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