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There was one little circumstance that led Luke to think favorably of his new companion. As the hackman closed the door of the carriage, Luke asked: "How much is the fare?"
"Fifty cents apiece, gentlemen," answered cabby.
Luke was about to put his hand into his pocket for the money, when Coleman touching him on the arm, said: "Never mind, Luke, I have the money," and before our hero could expostulate he had thrust a dollar into the cab-driver's hand.
"All right, thanks," said the driver, and slammed to the door.
"You must let me repay you my part of the fare, Mr. Coleman," said Luke, again feeling for his pocketbook.
"Oh, it's a mere trifle!" said Coleman. "I'll let you pay next time, but don't be so ceremonious with a friend."
"But I would rather pay for myself," objected Luke.
"Oh, say no more about it, I beg. Claflin provides liberally for my expenses. It's all right."
"But I don't want Claflin to pay for me."
"Then I assure you I'll get it out of you before we part. Will that content you?"
Luke let the matter drop, but he didn't altogether like to find himself under obligations to a stranger, notwithstanding his assurance, which he took for a joke. He would have been surprised and startled if he had known how thoroughly Coleman meant what he said about getting even. The fifty cents he had with such apparent generosity paid out for Luke he meant to get back a hundred-fold. His object was to gain Luke's entire confidence, and remove any suspicion he might possibly entertain. In this respect he was successful. Luke had read about designing strangers, but he certainly could not suspect a man who insisted on paying his hack fare.
"I hope you will not be disappointed in the Ottawa House," observed Mr. Coleman, as they rattled through the paved streets. "It isn't a stylish hotel."
"I am not used to stylish living," said Luke, frankly. "I have always been used to living in a very plain way."
"When I first went on the road I used to stop at the tip-top houses, such as the Palmer at Chicago, the Russell House in Detroit, etc., but it's useless extravagance. Claflin allows me a generous sum for hotels, and if I go to a cheap one, I put the difference into my own pocket."
"Is that expected?" asked Luke, doubtfully.
"It's allowed, at any rate. No one can complain if I choose to live a little plainer. When it pays in the way of business to stop at a big hotel, I do so. Of course, your boss pays your expenses?"
"Then you'd better do as I do—put the difference in your own pocket."
"I shouldn't like to do that."
"Why not? It is evident you are a new traveler, or you would know that it is a regular thing."
Luke did not answer, but he adhered to his own view. He meant to keep a careful account of his disbursements and report to Mr. Armstrong, without the addition of a single penny. He had no doubt that he should be paid liberally for his time, and he didn't care to make anything by extra means.
The Ottawa House was nearly a mile and a half distant. It was on one of the lower streets, near the lake. It was a plain building with accommodations for perhaps a hundred and fifty guests. This would be large for a country town or small city, but it indicated a hotel of the third class in Chicago. I may as well say here, however, that it was a perfectly respectable and honestly conducted hotel, notwithstanding it was selected by Mr. Coleman, who could not with truth be complimented so highly. I will also add that Mr. Coleman's selection of the Ottawa, in place of a more pretentious hotel, arose from the fear that in the latter he might meet someone who knew him, and who would warn Luke of his undesirable reputation.
Jumping out of the hack, J. Madison Coleman led the way into the hotel, and, taking pen in hand, recorded his name in large, flourishing letters—as from New York.
Then he handed the pen to Luke, who registered himself also from New York.
"Give us a room together," he said to the clerk.
Luke did not altogether like this arrangement, but hardly felt like objecting. He did not wish to hurt the feelings of J. Madison Coleman, yet he considered that, having known him only six hours, it was somewhat imprudent to allow such intimacy. But he who hesitates is lost, and before Luke had made up his mind whether to object or not, he was already part way upstairs—there was no elevator—following the bellboy, who carried his luggage.
The room, which was on the fourth floor, was of good size, and contained two beds. So far so good. After the ride he wished to wash and put on clean clothes. Mr. Coleman did not think this necessary, and saying to Luke that he would find him downstairs, he left our hero alone.
"I wish I had a room alone," thought Luke. "I should like it much better, but I don't want to offend Coleman. I've got eighty dollars in my pocketbook, and though, of course, he is all right, I don't want to take any risks."
On the door he read the regulations of the hotel. One item attracted his attention. It was this:
"The proprietors wish distinctly to state that they will not be responsible for money or valuables unless left with the clerk to be deposited in the safe."
Luke had not been accustomed to stopping at hotels, and did not know that this was the usual custom. It struck him, however, as an excellent arrangement, and he resolved to avail himself of it.
When he went downstairs he didn't see Mr. Coleman.
"Your friend has gone out," said the clerk. "He wished me to say that he would be back in half an hour."
"All right," answered Luke. "Can I leave my pocketbook with you?"
The clerk wrapped it up in a piece of brown paper and put it away in the safe at the rear of the office, marking it with Luke's name and the number of his room.
"There, that's safe!" thought Luke, with a feeling of relief. He had reserved about three dollars, as he might have occasion to spend a little money in the course of the evening. If he were robbed of this small amount it would not much matter.
A newsboy came in with an evening paper. Luke bought a copy and sat down on a bench in the office, near a window. He was reading busily, when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Looking up, he saw that it was his roommate, J. Madison Coleman.
"I've just been taking a little walk," he said, "and now I am ready for dinner. If you are, too, let us go into the dining-room."
Luke was glad to accept this proposal, his long journey having given him a good appetite.
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