Chapter 17




TWO YOUNG LADY PASSENGERS AT ODDS.

Ferguson produced a pair of handcuffs and pinioned the wrists of his captive. Palmer protested against the humiliation, but Ferguson said quietly: "You are too important a prisoner for me to run any risk."

"Are you going to handcuff him?" asked the burglar, indicating Fred.

"No."

"Why not? Why should you treat him better than me?"

"I don't think he is guilty; but even if he is I am not afraid of his running away."

"You are deceived in him. He looks innocent enough, but he has been concerned in a dozen burglaries."

"I hear considerable news about myself," said Fred, "but the truth will come out at last."

As the party passed through the streets they naturally attracted considerable attention. Though a criminal, Palmer had for years evaded arrest, and he felt mortified at the position in which he was placed. He reflected bitterly that but for the mistake of the hotel clerk, he might be at ease with his booty on the Canada side. As it was, things seemed to have worked steadily against him, notwithstanding his clever schemes. A long term of imprisonment stared him in the face, instead of a couple of years of luxury on which he had counted. If he could only involve Fred in his own misfortune it would be partial satisfaction. To effect this he was prepared to swear to anything and everything.

Fred, though only nominally a prisoner, felt very uncomfortable. He was saved from the disgrace of being handcuffed, and was consoled by knowing that not even the detective believed him guilty of any connection with the burglary. Still he was not his own master, to come and go as he pleased, and it was not certain that he would be able to go back to New York the next day as he had planned. Circumstances thus far had worked against him, but there was to be a turn in the tide. As they walked through the streets on the way to the station house, where Palmer was to be locked up for safekeeping, they met a man whose dress showed him to be an employee of the Erie road.

"Mr. Ferguson," said Fred eagerly, "that is the conductor of one of my trains. He will tell you that I am the train-boy."

The conductor had just discovered and recognized Fred.

"You are staying over, like me," he said.

"Yes, I have permission."

"And so have I. I have a brother living here, and got two days off. Where are you stopping?"

"At the Lynch House. Will you tell this gentleman that I am an Erie train boy?"

"Certainly; but why is that necessary?" asked the conductor in surprise.

"I will tell you later. Mr. Ferguson, have you any questions to ask?"

"Was this boy on your train yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Did he get on at Elmira?"

"Certainly not. He came all the way from New York."

"It is false!" said Palmer.

"What does he mean, Fred?" asked the conductor.

"He committed a burglary at Elmira yesterday afternoon, and is trying to make out that I was connected with it."

"There he tells a falsehood," said the conductor bluntly. "I saw you on the train through the entire journey."

"A very good alibi, Fred," said the detective. "Mr. Lawrence, after this testimony it is hardly necessary for me to hold the boy. Are you satisfied that I should let him go free?"

"Entirely so. I felt from the first that he was innocent."

"Then, Fred, you may consider yourself at liberty to go where you please. I am as glad as you are that you are freed from suspicion."

"Thank you, sir. I will go with you as far as the lock-up."

Palmer scowled at him, but saw that it was useless to persist in his charges against the boy, and walked on with head bent, reflecting bitterly that he had not only lost the proceeds of the burglary, but his freedom besides. He could see now that but for his secreting the stolen watch and chain in Fred's bundle, he would probably have escaped scot free. As for the present, at least, we shall have nothing more to do with F. Grant Palmer, it may be briefly set down that after a speedy trial he was found guilty by the jury without leaving their seats. He was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and is now serving out his term at Auburn.

Daring the remainder of his stay at Niagara, Fred used his time to advantage, and it was with a thankful heart that he took his place on the through train to New York the next morning. Just before starting, Mr. Lawrence appeared on the platform, and handed him a small package covered with brown paper.

"Have you a pocket where this will be safe?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Then put it away, and open it when you arrive home."

"Thank you, sir."

Fred's attention was taken up by his duties as train boy, and he gave no thought to the package, though he wondered at the moment what it contained.

The train left at 8:43, and was not due in Jersey City till 10:10 P.M. At Port Jervis a young lady came on board dressed in a very plain and quiet manner. In his rounds through the train Fred stopped at her seat with a pile of recent novels under his arm and asked her to buy.

"No, thank you," she answered courteously, and Fred observed that her face was very sad. If she had been dressed in mourning, he would have supposed that she had lost a near relative, but there was nothing in her dress to justify such a supposition. Being naturally sympathetic, Fred from time to time glanced at the young lady passenger, wishing it were in his power to lighten her sorrow, whatever it might be.

Sitting next to her was a young lady, handsomely dressed, who was evidently annoyed at the near neighborhood of one whom she considered her social inferior. It chanced to be the only seat unoccupied when the train reached Port Jervis, and the young lady was compelled to avail herself of it. But when she reached the seat she found it occupied by a fat poodle of uncertain temper, belonging to the fashionable young lady.

"May I take this seat?" asked the new arrival.

"Don't you see that it is occupied?" snapped the dog's owner.

"There is no other seat vacant," said the new passenger deprecatingly.

"Then you had better go into the next car." As the young girl stood in the aisle, undecided, Fred, who had heard the entire colloquy, and was naturally indignant, made up his mind to interfere.

"These seats were meant for passengers—not for dogs," he said.

"Boy, you are impertinent!" said the fashionable young lady haughtily.

"Where is the impertinence?" asked Fred composedly. "Do you wish this young lady to stand up in order that your dog may have a seat?"

"I will report you to the railroad company for insolence."

"Just as you like, but I will remove the dog in order to give this young lady a seat."

"Oh, I don't want to make any trouble," said the new arrival.

"Touch my dog if you dare, boy," said the young lady with a flush of anger on her face.

Just then the conductor entered the car, and Fred called him.

"Mr. Collins," he said, "this young lady refuses to remove her dog from the seat to make room for a passenger."

"Is this true, madam?" asked the conductor.

"She can go into the next car."

"Are you paying for two seats?"

"No," snapped the lady.

"I must take your dog into the baggage car. It is against our rules to have them in the regular cars, and they certainly cannot be allowed to keep our passengers from occupying seats."

"Don't you dare to touch my dog!"

"Do you go to Jersey City?"

"Yes."

"Then you can call for the dog there," and in spite of the remonstrance of the dog's owner, and the growling of the poodle, the conductor removed the animal to the baggage car, much to the secret satisfaction of the passengers, who had observed with disgust the selfishness of its owner.

"I am indebted to you for this," said the young lady, with a furious glance at the train boy.

Fred did not think himself called upon to make any answer. The young lady scornfully drew aside her dress to avoid contact with her unwelcome companion, saying audibly, "It is only in America that servant girls are allowed to thrust themselves in the company of their betters."

"I am not a servant girl," said the new passenger, "but even if I were I have paid my fare, and am entitled to a seat."

"Do not address me, girl!" said her seat-mate haughtily.

"I thought your remark was addressed to me."

"I am forced to sit beside you, but I don't care to converse with you."

The other took the hint, and left her undemocratic neighbor to herself.

Fred was naturally a little curious to ascertain the name of the young lady who had made herself so disagreeable. The mystery was solved in a way to surprise him.

On reaching the depot at Jersey City all the passengers left the cars.

The young lady looked about her evidently in search of some one whom she expected to meet her.

Greatly to Fred's surprise, his Cousin Raymond Ferguson turned out to be the party expected.

"Here you are, sis," he said. "Come right along. It is late."

"I can't go yet. My poor little Fido is in the baggage car. They wouldn't let me have him in the car with me. Go and get him, and I will stay here."

"Gracious!" thought Fred, "that must be Cousin Ferguson's daughter Luella. Well, I can't say I am proud of the relationship."



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