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Fred appeared at the depot the next morning the superintendent said to him, "I shall have to change your train to-day. You will wait for the nine o'clock train for Suspension Bridge."
"When shall I get there?"
The superintendent, referring to his schedule of trains, answered, "At 11.44 to-night. The boy who usually goes on this train is sick."
"When shall I return?"
"Let me see, it is Saturday. If you would like to stay over a day and see Niagara Falls, you can do so, and start on your return Monday morning at 8.35. How do you like the arrangement?"
"Very much. I was only thinking how I could get word to my mother. She will feel anxious if I am not back at the usual time."
"You might send her a note by a telegraph messenger."
At this moment Fred espied a boy of his acquaintance in the street outside.
"Here, Charlie Schaeffer," he called, "do you want to earn a quarter?"
"Yes," answered the boy quickly. "What do you want me to do?"
"Take a note to my mother."
"It'll cost me almost a quarter for expenses."
"I will pay that besides."
"All right! Give me the letter."
Fred scribbled these few lines:
I am sent to Suspension Bridge and shall not probably be back till late Monday evening, or perhaps Tuesday morning. Don't worry.
Charlie Schaeffer, a stout German boy, who was temporarily out of work, was glad of the chance of earning a quarter for himself, and started at once on his errand. Fred, quite elated at the prospect of seeing Niagara Falls, prepared for his trip. He had to carry a larger supply of stock on account of the length of the journey, and was instructed to lay in a fresh supply at Buffalo for the home trip.
He was about to enter the car at ten minutes of nine when Joshua Bascom appeared on the platform with a well-worn carpet-bag in his hand.
"Are you going back, Mr. Bascom?" asked the train boy.
"Yes," answered Joshua. "I don't want to go to no more station houses. I shan't rest easy til I'm back in Barton. You hain't seen any policeman lookin' for me, have you?"
"No; you haven't done anything wrong, have you?"
"Not as I know of, but them cops is very meddlesome. I thought that pickpocket might have set 'em on my track."
"You are safe here. This is New Jersey, and a New York policeman can't arrest you here."
"That's good," said Joshua with an air of relief. "Where are you going to-day?"
"I'm going all the way with you."
"You ain't goin' as far as Barton?"
"Yes, I am, and farther too. I'm going to Niagara."
"You don't say? And you don't have to pay a cent either?"
"No, I get paid for going."
"I wish I was goin' to Niagara with you. By hokey, wouldn't the folks stare if I was to come home and tell 'em I'd seen the Falls!"
"Can't you go?"
"No, I've spent all the money I can afford. I must wait till next year."
"Did you spend all of your money, Mr. Bascom?"
"No," chuckled Joshua. "I've only spent the fifteen dollars I got for that ring, and shall carry home the ten dollars."
"You are an able financier, Mr. Bascom. You've made your expenses, and can afford to go again. You must tell your father how you got the best of a pickpocket."
"So I will. I guess he'll think I'm smarter than he reckoned for."
At about half-past four in the afternoon, Fred was called upon to bid his country friend good-by. Looking from the door of the car, he saw Joshua climb into a hay wagon driven by an elderly man whose appearance led him to conclude that he was the "dad" to whom Joshua had frequently referred.
The sun sank, the darkness came on, but still the train sped swiftly over its iron pathway. The passengers settled back in their seats, some fell asleep, and the hum of conversation ceased. Fred too gave up his trips through the cars, and stretching himself out on a seat, closed his eyes. Presently the train came to a stop, and the conductor, putting in his head at the door, called out "Niagara Falls."
Fred rose hastily, for he had made up his mind to get out at this point. He descended from the train, and found himself on the platform of the station.
He had already selected the hotel, a small one where the rate was very moderate, and as there was no carriage representing it at the train he set out to walk. It was a small, plain-looking inn, of perhaps thirty rooms, named after the proprietor:
On the road thither he was overtaken by a stranger, whom he remembered as one of the passengers on the second car. He appeared to be about forty years of age, and though it was a warm summer evening he was muffled up about the neck.
"Are you going to stop here over night?" he asked.
"You are the train boy, are you not?"
"What hotel shall you put up at?"
"One recommended to me by the conductor—the Lynch House."
"I think I will stop there too."
"You may not like it. It is a small, cheap house."
"It doesn't matter. I am well provided with money, but I don't care for style or fashion. I am an invalid, and I prefer the quiet of a small hotel. There will be less noise and confusion."
"Very well, sir. I think that is the hotel yonder."
Such proved to be the case. It was large on the ground, but only three stories in height. Over the portico was a sign, bearing the name. It was by no means fashionable in its appearance, but looked comfortable.
Fred and the stranger entered. A sleepy-looking clerk sat behind the desk. He opened his eyes, and surveyed the late comers.
"Can you give me a room?" asked Fred.
"I would like one too," said the other.
"We've only got one room left," said the clerk. "That's a back room on the second story. Are you gentlemen in company?"
"No," answered Fred. "We are strangers to each other."
"Then I can't give but one of you a room. If you don't mind rooming together, you can both be accommodated."
"Are there two beds in a room?" asked the stranger.
"Then I don't object to occupying it with this young man. He is a stranger to me, but I watched him on board the train, and I am sure he is all right."
"Thank you, sir," said Fred.
"Well," said the clerk, "what does the boy say?"
Fred looked curiously at his companion. He was so muffled up that he could only see a pair of black eyes, a long sallow nose, and cheeks covered with dark whiskers. The train boy did not fancy his looks much, but could think of no good reason for declining him as a room companion. He felt that the gentleman had paid him a compliment in offering to room with him, particularly when, as he stated, he had a considerable amount of money about him. He paused a moment only, before he said, "Perhaps we may as well room together, then."
"All right! I will go up with you, as the hall boy has gone to bed. I hardly expected any guests by this late train."
The clerk took the stranger's valise—Fred had only a small paper parcel in his hand, containing a clean shirt and a collar which he had bought in Jersey City before taking passage on the train. Up one flight of stairs the clerk preceded them and paused in front of No. 21, the back room referred to. He unlocked the door, and entering, lighted the gas.
It was a room about twelve feet wide by twenty in depth. At each end was a single bedstead.
"I think you will be comfortable," said the clerk. "Is there anything you want before retiring?"
"No," answered both.
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