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Chapter 10


The clerk closed the door, leaving Fred alone with the stranger.

The latter sat down in one of the two chairs with which the room was provided.

"I am not sleepy," he said. "Are you?"

"Yes," answered Fred, gaping. "I am not used to late hours. Besides, I was up early this morning."

"That makes a difference. I didn't get up till eleven. I was about to propose a game of cards."

"I don't care for playing cards," said Fred. "Besides, I am sleepy."

"All right! You won't object to my sitting up awhile and reading?"

Fred would have preferred to have his companion go to bed, as he was not used to sleep with a light burning. He did not wish to be disobliging, however, and answered that he didn't mind.

The stranger took from his hand-bag a paper-covered novel, and seating himself near the gas jet, began to read.

Fred undressed himself and lay down. He remembered with a little uneasiness that he had with him the hundred dollars in gold which had been intrusted to him by the miner. He had had no opportunity as yet to deposit it in the Union Dime Savings Bank, as he had decided to do, and had not thought to leave it with his mother. He wished now that he had done so, for he was about to pass several hours in the company of a man whom he knew nothing about. Still, the man had plenty of money of his own, or at least he had said so, and was not likely therefore to be tempted to steal.

Fred took his place in bed, and looked over toward the stranger with some uneasiness.

"Are you a good sleeper?" asked his companion carelessly.

"Yes," answered Fred.

"So am I. I don't feel sleepy just at present, but presume I shall within twenty minutes. I hope I don't inconvenience you by sitting up."

"No," answered Fred slowly.

"I've got my book nearly finished—I began to read it on the train. When do you expect to go back?"

"Monday morning," Fred answered.

"That's good! We will go and see the Falls together to-morrow. Ever seen them?"

"No, sir; this is my first visit to Niagara."

"I have been here several times, so I know the ropes. I shall be glad to show you just where to go. But pardon me. I see you are sleepy. I won't say another word. Good night, and pleasant dreams!"

"Good night."

The stranger continued to read for twenty minutes. At any rate he appeared to do so. Occasionally he glanced over toward Fred's bed. The train boy meant to keep awake till his companion got ready to go to bed, but he was naturally a good sleeper, and his eyes would close in spite of him; and finally he gave up all hope of resistance, and yielded to the inevitable.

Soon his deep, regular breathing showed that he was unconscious of what was passing around him.

The stranger rose, walked cautiously to the bed, and surveyed the sleeping boy.

"How peacefully he sleeps!" he said. "He has nothing on his conscience. At his age it was the same with me. I started right, but—circumstances have been too much for me. There won't be much sleep for me to-night, for the detectives are doubtless on my track. I must get rid of one damaging piece of evidence."

He opened his valise, and, after searching a little, drew therefrom a massive gold watch rather old-fashioned in appearance, attached to a solid gold chain. Neither was new, and both had evidently been used for a considerable number of years.

"I was a fool to take these," said the stranger. "They are more likely to fasten suspicion on me than anything else. However, I have a good chance now to get rid of them."

Fred had laid his newspaper parcel on a small table near his bed. The other carefully untied the twine with which he had fastened it, and, putting the watch and chain inside the shirt, he carefully wrapped it up again, and tied it with the same cord.

"The boy will be considerably surprised he opens his bundle and discovers these," he reflected, with a smile. "He will be a little puzzled to know how they came there. Well, that is none of my business. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and it is important I should get rid of such tell-tale clews."

This piece of business over, the stranger stretched himself and took off his coat. He was proceeding to undress when a sudden thought deterred him.

"On the whole," he said to himself, "I will go to bed as I am. I may have occasion for a sudden start. It is best to be on the safe side."

He laid his coat on the back of a chair, and putting out the gas, stretched himself on the bed. He had not thought himself sleepy, but a recumbent position brought on a drowsy feeling, and before he was well aware of it he had sunk to sleep. But his slumber was not as sound or restful as the train boy's. From time to time he uttered ejaculations, as if he were terror-stricken, and once he waked up with a cold perspiration on his brow. It took a minute for him to realize his position.

"What a fool I am!" he muttered in disgust. "I thought the police had nabbed me, but all's safe so far. If I could only get a little more sleep—as sound and peaceful as that boy is enjoying—I should wake revived in the morning. There is no reason why I shouldn't. They can't have got on my track so soon."

He closed his eyes, and succeeded in dispelling the uneasy feeling which sprang from the consciousness of having exposed himself to the danger of arrest. It was now three o'clock. In fifteen minutes he was sleeping again, and this time his slumbers were less disturbed and uneasy. He awoke suddenly to find the sun streaming into the room.

"It must be late!" he thought, a little nervously.

But on examining his watch he found that it was only six o'clock.

"I may as well get up," he said to himself. "I shall be safer on the Canada side. I don't want to wake the boy, for he might be tempted to get up with me. Besides, if he opened his bundle, the sight of the watch might arouse his suspicions, and get me into trouble. Fortunately I did not undress, and can be up and away in two minutes."

He put on his coat, and descended to the office.

"You are down early," said the clerk in some surprise.

"Yes. I want to see the Falls and take an early train West. How much is my bill?"

He was told, and laid the money on the desk.

"The boy with you remains?"

"Yes, I suppose so. The boy is no acquaintance of mine. I only met him on the train. There is something about that boy that excites my curiosity," he added thoughtfully.

"Such as what?" asked the clerk, his curiosity aroused.

"He seems to have something on his mind. His sleep was very much disturbed. He moved about a good deal, and muttered frequently, but I could not make out any words."

"Perhaps he has run away from home," suggested the clerk.

The stranger shrugged his shoulders.

"He may have had good reasons for running away," he said. "However, that is none of my business. I suppose you missed nothing during the night."

"No. Good morning."

The stranger went out, directing his steps toward the Falls.

An hour later a quiet-looking man entered the office.

"Good morning, Mr. Ferguson," said the clerk. "What brings you here so early?"

"Business," answered the other briefly. "Did you have any late arrivals last evening?"

"Yes; two."

"Who were they?"

"A man and boy."

"Are they here still?"

"The boy is up-stairs. The man left at six o'clock. He wanted to see the Falls before taking an early train. He said the boy seemed very nervous, and had a troubled sleep."

The detective nodded. "I think he must be the party I want."

"Why, what has happened?"

"The house of a wealthy old gentleman in Elmira was entered yesterday afternoon, and articles of value taken. I received a telegram this morning which should have reached me last night, asking me to be on the watch for any suspicious parties."

"And you think the boy committed the burglary?" asked the clerk in excitement.

"It looks like it. With your permission I will go up-stairs and take a look at him."

Horatio Alger