BOB CHESTER'S GRIT
From Ranch to Riches
FRANK V. WEBSTER
Author of "The Newsboy Partners," "Only a Farm Boy," "Bob the Castaway," Etc.
New York Cupples & Leon Company Publishers
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BOOKS FOR BOYS
By FRANK V. WEBSTER
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume, 40 cents, postpaid
ONLY A FARM BOY TOM, THE TELEPHONE BOY THE BOY FROM THE RANCH THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER BOB, THE CASTAWAY THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES TWO BOY GOLD MINERS JACK, THE RUNAWAY COMRADES OF THE SADDLE THE BOYS OF BELLWOOD SCHOOL THE HIGH SCHOOL RIVALS AIRSHIP ANDY BOB CHESTER'S GRIT BEN HARDY'S FLYING MACHINE DICK, THE BANK BOY DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER
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Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York Copyright, 1911, by Cupples & Leon Company
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BOB CHESTER'S GRIT
CHAPTER PAGE I UNDER A CLOUD 1 II BOB FINDS AN UNEXPECTED CHAMPION 11 III FREE AGAIN 19 IV BOB DETERMINES TO BE HIS OWN MASTER 31 V BOB MISSES A FRIEND 40 VI A KIND-HEARTED WAITRESS 46 VII GOOD LUCK FROM BAD 57 VIII BOB'S LUCK CONTINUES 65 IX A TALE OF THE PLAINS 74 X BOB DOES A KIND ACT 83 XI BOB FAILS TO FIND MRS. CAMERON 93 XII ALONE IN A STRANGE CITY 100 XIII BOB STARTS AGAIN 108 XIV AT THE THROTTLE OF A FREIGHT ENGINE 116 XV BOB EARNS HIS PASSAGE 124 XVI FAIRFAX AT LAST 133 XVII SEEKING A JOB 143 XVIII ON THE TRACK 149 XIX AN AMAZING RECEPTION 155 XX BOB BECOMES OWNER OF A DOG 160 XXI AT THE RANCH 167 XXII ON THE RANGE STATION 173 XXIII BOB OVERHEARS A SECOND PLOT 179 XXIV A RACE FOR LIFE 189 XXV FROM RANCH TO RICHES 197
Bob Chester's Grit
UNDER A CLOUD
"Hey, boy! What's your name?"
"Where are you going with that basket of groceries?"
"To deliver an order to one of my guardian's customers."
"Are you honest?"
"I hope so, sir," replied Bob, his face expressing surprise that his probity should be questioned.
The man who had hailed Bob Chester appeared to be about twenty-five years old, and his clothes were well-fitting, giving him the air of a man of means. With him were two other men; one of whom, several years older, was also well dressed. The third member of the group was entirely different from the others. His clothes were grotesque, and bore every trace of having been purchased in some country store. His derby hat was green-black, and apparently a size too small, judging from the manner in which it rested on his head. Had not his appearance bespoken that he was a stranger come from the country to see the sights of New York, his face, sunburned and honest, would have proclaimed him as one unaccustomed and unfamiliar with the wiles of a great city.
Prior to his having been addressed, the boy who had given his name as Bob Chester had noticed the difference between the three men as they stood in earnest conversation on the sidewalk, and instinctively he had been attracted by the frankness of the countryman's face. He had been wondering why the two New Yorkers were so interested in the other man, but the unexpectedness of his being accosted had driven all thought from his mind, and he had given his answers as though compelled by the searching glance the younger of the two men had directed at him.
All three watched him intently, and as he made his answer that he hoped he was honest, the elder of the New Yorkers exclaimed:
"I think he will do, Harry."
"Well, if you say so, all right," returned the other, and then turning to Bob, he asked:
"Would your guardian object seriously if you did not deliver your order for about half an hour?"
"I don't know. Saturday is always a busy day at the store, and Mr. Dardus always scolds me if I don't get right back. It doesn't make any difference to him how far I have to go, he always thinks I should be back within fifteen minutes after I have started. So I'd rather not delay—because I don't like to be scolded," added the boy, as though by way of apologizing for his refusal.
"Well, if we gave you a dollar, don't you think you could stand the old man's scolding, if you were half an hour late?" asked the elder of the New Yorkers, at the same time putting his hand in his pocket and drawing forth a large roll of bills, which he opened ostentatiously. The figures were so large that Bob's eyes seemed as though they would pop out of his head, so eagerly did they scan them. The man extracted a dollar bill.
The sight of so much money in the possession of one man fairly hypnotized the boy, and he replied:
"Do you mean you will give me a whole dollar if I will wait here half an hour?"
"That's what!" exclaimed the man with the roll of bills. "But there is a little more to it. Our friend, Mr. Anthony Simpkins, and we, have an important business transaction in hand, involving fifteen hundred dollars. My friend and I don't happen to have more than five hundred dollars with us, while Mr. Simpkins has seven hundred and fifty, and so we want you to hold this money while my friend and I go to our bank and get the two hundred and fifty dollars more, which is our share in the deal."
"What, me hold twelve hundred and fifty dollars!" exclaimed Bob, as though unable to believe his ears. "Why, you don't know anything about me. I might run off with it."
"You look honest," replied the man who had hailed him, "and that's why we stopped you. Besides, you wouldn't be able to run away if you wanted to, because Mr. Simpkins is going to wait here with you until we return."
"And you will give me a dollar just for keeping the money until you come back?" demanded Bob.
"All right. That's half as much as I get for working a week."
"That's the boy. I am glad to see that you have the sense of thrift so strongly developed. Now we will just put Mr. Simpkins' seven hundred and fifty dollars and our five hundred dollars in this envelope, which you will keep until we return."
As he spoke, the elder of the New Yorkers counted out five hundred dollars, put it in the envelope, and then asked the countryman for his share. After verifying the amount, he placed it with the other money, then handed an envelope to Bob, exclaiming:
"Now you two stay right here, and we will be back within fifteen minutes."
"All right, sir," said Bob, as he grasped the envelope. And as his fingers closed about it, he unconsciously threw back his head, and squared his shoulders, proud of the thought that he had been selected as the custodian of such a large sum of money.
Again repeating their promise to return within a quarter of an hour, the two New Yorkers hastened away, and were soon lost among the people who thronged the thoroughfare.
Oblivious as the people who live in New York are to the presence of their fellowmen, the sight of the man so obviously from the country and the bright-eyed, alert boy, closely clasping the envelope in one hand, while at his feet rested the basket packed with groceries, attracted many a passing glance.
Between Simpkins and Bob, however, no words were exchanged; though each, while apparently gazing at the passersby, kept a sharp lookout upon the other.
Minute after minute went by, without the return of the two men, who had said they were going to the bank for money, and as the time wore on without their re-appearance, Simpkins exclaimed:
"I wonder what's keeping them? I don't want to stand here all day."
"And I can't," said Bob. "I will be more than half an hour late in getting back to the store, and I know Mr. Dardus will be very angry. I most wish I hadn't said I'd wait. It just shows that Mr. Dardus is right when he says there is no pleasure in having money that isn't earned honestly, and getting a dollar for just holding this money isn't really honest work."
"Well, if you think you ought to be delivering your groceries, why not give the envelope to me? I'll stay here and wait, though I must say I am getting tired."
"Oh, no," said Bob. "I gave my word that I would stay, and I will."
The countryman's suggestion that he be intrusted with the money aroused Bob's suspicion, for he remembered that the others had placed five hundred dollars in the envelope, and he thought it was a scheme on the part of Simpkins to get possession of this money. So that after this interchange of words, both lapsed into silence.
As the quarter hour lengthened into a half, then to three-quarters, and finally to an hour, without the re-appearance of the two well-dressed New Yorkers, Bob's dread of his guardian's anger outweighed his desire to earn the dollar, and he finally exclaimed:
"I can't wait any longer; honest I can't." And then, chancing to catch sight of a policeman standing on the corner about a hundred feet away, a way out of the difficulty suggested itself, and he said to the countryman:
"I tell you how we can fix it. We will go over to that policeman and explain the matter to him, and I'll ask him to hold the envelope until those men come back."
And without giving Simpkins time to protest, Bob picked up his basket, and led the way to where the guardian of the law was standing, indolently surveying the crowd.
Casting a contemptuous glance at the two ludicrous figures that approached him, the policeman first listened to the excited explanation of the boy indifferently, then with incredulity, and finally with amusement.
"I have heard of such easy marks, but I never expected to see them in flesh and blood," exclaimed the officer, when Bob stopped speaking. "So you think you are holding some money in that envelope, do you, kid? Well, I'll bet a year's pay that there is nothing in it but old paper."
And while the countryman and the boy gazed at him in speechless dismay, the policeman took the envelope from Bob's hand, opened it, and drew forth to their startled gaze a roll of tissue-paper.
"I told you so," grunted the policeman, but further comment was interrupted by the actions of Simpkins.
No sooner had he discovered that he had been swindled than he shouted at the top of his lungs:
"I've been robbed! I've been robbed! They've stolen seven hundred and fifty dollars from me!"
The loud, excited words and the gesticulations of the grotesquely-garbed man quickly drew the attention of the passersby, and in a trice the victims of the swindlers and the policeman were the center of a curious throng of people.
"I want my money! I want my money!" bellowed Simpkins.
"You stand a fine chance of getting it," returned the policeman, "but I will do what I can for you. I'll take you around to the police station, and you can make a complaint to the sergeant and give him a description of the 'con' men."
As word of the swindle was passed among the crowd, various were the comments and bits of advice offered.
At first Bob had been too stunned by the discovery that he had been made an innocent party to the swindle even to think, but as he gradually recovered from the unpleasant surprise, his one thought was to get away from Simpkins, to deliver his groceries and get back to the store as quickly as possible. In order to carry out this plan, he began to worm his way through the constantly increasing crowd.
One of the men who were offering advice chanced to see him, and cried:
"There goes the boy! He was probably standing in with the swindlers. Why don't you arrest him, Mr. Officer?"
"That's the thing to do," agreed several others, and the policeman, evidently thinking that it would be a wise procedure for him to seize some one in connection with the swindle, leaped after Bob, grasped him roughly by the shoulder, and started for the station-house, followed by Simpkins and those of the crowd who had nothing better to do.
Arrived at the police station, the countryman and the patrolman both talked at once, while Bob stood in silence, overcome by the disgrace of his arrest.
Taking his pencil, the sergeant stopped the countryman's torrent of words, and began to ask him questions as to his meeting with the strangers, eliciting the information that he had met them coming over on the ferry-boat from Jersey City, and that the business deal they had proposed was the betting of fifteen hundred dollars on a race horse that was sure to win.
"It's a pity there isn't a law to keep you country people out of the cities," grunted the sergeant, when the details of the story had been told him, and then, turning to the policeman, he said:
"You did right in bringing along the boy, McCarty. He is evidently one of the gang, or he wouldn't have been passing along the street just as he was. We may be able to learn from him who the 'con' men are, and where they hang out. Search him, and then take him back to a cell. I'll send a couple of plain-clothes men in to talk with him."
And grabbing Bob by the arm, the policeman dragged him toward the door which led to a cell.
BOB FINDS AN UNEXPECTED CHAMPION
Among those who had heard the story of the swindling of the countryman were several reporters for the great metropolitan afternoon papers, and as the burly policeman dragged the pathetic figure of the grocer's boy to the cell, one of these, a particularly clean-cut, wide-awake young fellow, exclaimed:
"Sergeant, that's the rawest thing I ever saw you do. I don't believe that boy knows anything more about those 'con' men, and probably not as much, as you do. It's a shame to lock him up, and I am going to give you the hottest roast for doing so that the paper will stand for."
"You do, and you'll never set foot inside this station while I'm in charge," retorted the officer. "If you knew as much about old Dardus as I do, you wouldn't be so keen to champion this boy. The old man has been mixed up in many a questionable transaction, and I shouldn't be surprised if it turned out that he was in league with these fellows who got that country bumpkin's seven hundred and fifty dollars, and that he put the boy up to playing the part he did."
"I don't know anything about Dardus," announced the reporter who had taken up the cudgel in Bob's behalf, "and I don't care. If he is mixed up in questionable dealings, that doesn't mean that the boy is necessarily a party to them. You can't tell me that a chap, with a face as honest as that boy has, is a criminal."
"When you've been doing police stations longer, Foster, you will learn that you can't judge criminals by their faces," snarled the sergeant, and as the other reporters heard this caustic comment, they laughed uproariously.
"Laugh if you want to," returned Bob's champion, "but I am going to prove the boy's innocence of any complicity in the swindle."
And without more ado, the reporter left the police station.
Although the representatives of the other papers had sided in with the police official who announced his belief in Bob's guilt, they nevertheless experienced a feeling of uneasiness, lest Foster might after all be right, and they were holding consultation as to the advisability of investigating the story more thoroughly, when the sergeant exclaimed:
"Don't let that fellow worry you. I've known Len Dardus for years. He's as crooked as they make them, and he never had an honest man work for him that I know of."
As the acceptance of the police official's theory would save them the necessity of investigating the story further, the reporters agreed to accept his version, and to accord with it they wrote their stories.
As Jack Foster left the police station, his anger at the system which made it impossible for a person without influence or money to obtain justice, was strong, and his heart went out to the boy, as he thought how he would feel, were he himself in his place.
"If that boy isn't honest from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, I shall be the most surprised man in New York," he said to himself, "and if my paper has any influence, I am going to get him out of his trouble."
Occupied with considering various plans for aiding Bob, Foster quickly reached the store of Len Dardus, but as he entered and caught sight of an old, gray-haired man, with a face in which craftiness was the chief characteristic, he wondered if, after all, the police sergeant could have been right.
"Is this Mr. Len Dardus?" asked Foster, walking up to the counter, behind which this repelling creature stood.
"That's my name," snapped the proprietor of the store, adding as he scrutinized his questioner closely:
"What do you want?"
"I want to know if you have a boy working for you by the name of Bob Chester."
"I have, but I won't have after to-night, I can tell you. I have no use for lazy boys, and for laziness he can't be beaten. Here I sent him to deliver some goods more than two hours ago, and he hasn't got back yet, and this is my busiest day."
So disagreeable was the tone in which the old man spoke that Foster could not refrain from remarking:
"Well, you do not seem to be overrushed with trade just now. However, that is neither here nor there. How long have you had Bob in your employ?"
"Ever since he was big enough to be of any service to me."
"He's a good boy, isn't he?"
"No, he's not. Didn't I just tell you he has been gone over two hours, delivering an order that should not have taken him more than fifteen minutes at the most? No good boy would dawdle so about his business. But why do you ask?"
Foster, however, was not ready to tell Bob's employer of his predicament until he had obtained more information about the boy, and instead of answering the question, said:
"You misunderstood my meaning. I want to know whether or not he is honest or has any bad habits."
"He has the habit of taking a long time to deliver his orders, and he always has some plausible excuse for the delay—although I never accept his excuses. It isn't the way to bring up a boy. But he doesn't steal, and I don't let him go out nights, so he can't have any companions. But why do you ask? What business of yours is it?"
"Just one more question before I answer you."
"You seem mighty long on questions, but I'll not answer another one until you tell me why you are taking such pains to find out about Bob. He hasn't any friend but me. I'm his guardian."
So hostile was the grocer's manner becoming, and with such increasing suspicion did he view his inquisitor, that Foster realized it would be necessary to explain Bob's predicament were he to be able to help him, and briefly he told the story that had been repeated in the police station.
"That just goes to show my theory is right," declared the grocer, when he had been given the particulars of his ward's arrest. "If Bob had gone about his business and delivered the order, instead of being tempted by the offer of a dollar, he wouldn't have got into this trouble. It will be a good lesson for him, and I shall be able to get along some way, I suppose, until he comes back."
"But surely you don't mean to say that you are not going to do anything to help him out of his trouble?" exclaimed Foster in amazement, as he heard the heartless words.
With a depreciating shrug of his shoulders, Len Dardus responded:
"But what can I do? It will cost money to hire a lawyer, or even to bail him out. Besides, as I said, it will be a good lesson for him."
"But hasn't he any money of his own?" queried the reporter.
"What do you want to know for? Are you a lawyer? No, sir! if you are, and have come to tell me about Bob in the hope that I will hire you, you might as well go back to your place of business. I won't spend a cent on him. The lesson will do him good."
The heartlessness of the grocer incensed Foster, and he retorted:
"It happens that I am not a lawyer, so it isn't any money that I am after. I am acting simply from a desire to see the boy get fair treatment, and if I were his guardian, whether he had any money or not, I would do everything in my power to help him out of his trouble."
"But what can I do? There is no one to stay in the store here, and I don't see how I could help any way."
"You could go down to the police station and speak a word for the lad. If you have had the care of him for so long, what you could say in regard to his honesty ought to be sufficient to cause his release."
As he mentioned the grocer's going to the police station, Foster thought he noticed the old man tremble, as though in fear, and what the sergeant had said about Dardus recurred to him, and while he hesitated as to whether or not he should press the point, Bob's guardian exclaimed:
"I can't go now. There is no one to look after the store. But perhaps I can go down this evening."
"That would be too late. His case will come up in court this afternoon."
"Well, if it does, the boy'll have to take the consequences. I always told him he shouldn't linger over delivering his orders. It will be a good lesson to him."
The incessant repetition of the last words grated on Foster's ears, and, realizing that he was only wasting time in trying to persuade the hard-hearted guardian to help his ward, he exclaimed:
"Then you refuse to do anything to assist Bob, do you?"
"Well, I don't know as I would put it exactly that way. I'll see if I can't do something this evening."
"Well, you may be obliged to leave your store, whether you want to or not," retorted Foster, and with this enigmatical remark, the very suggestiveness of which caused an expression of fear to settle on the face of the grocer, the reporter turned on his heel and left the shop.
While Bob's champion, unknown to the boy, was interesting himself in his cause, Bob was sitting on a little iron bunk his cell contained, staring about him as though unable to comprehend the situation.
After a few minutes he heard footsteps approaching down the corridor, and then he was suddenly aroused from his reverie by a voice exclaiming:
"Well, kid, you came near making a good-sized bit of money."
"I don't call a dollar a very large sum," retorted Bob.
"A dollar? What do you mean?" exclaimed one of the two men whom Bob beheld standing outside the cell door, staring at him through the bars. "You had seven hundred and fifty dollars of that countryman's money, didn't you?"
"I saw seven hundred and fifty dollars of his money put in the envelope, but all I was to get for holding the envelope until those bad men returned was to be one dollar—and they didn't even come back to pay me, and now I haven't delivered the groceries, and Mr. Dardus will be very angry."
"Oh, ho! So you are Len Dardus' kid, are you?" queried the other of Bob's inquisitors.
"I'm not his kid, but he is my guardian," corrected the lad in a voice so full of reproach that the two men could not refrain from smiling.
"Then you don't like Dardus?" smiled the one who had addressed him first.
"I think he is unreasonable," returned Bob.
"Yes, and none too honest," commented the other.
With the various methods known only to the police detectives of the large metropolitan police forces, the two men put Bob through a grilling examination, trying in every possible way to scare him into admitting either a knowledge of who the swindlers were, or of direct complicity in the confidence game, but without being able to shake his story, even in the slightest detail.
Loath as the police officials were to admit Bob's innocence, his straightforward answers and manly manner finally convinced them that he was, as he had said, entirely guiltless, and they withdrew.
As they returned to the outer room of the police station, the sergeant looked at them questioningly.
"That boy had nothing to do with the swindle," announced one of the men who had been examining Bob.
"That's what," confirmed the other. "If there ever was an honest boy in New York, that poor little chap back in the cell is one. If you take my advice, sergeant, you will let him go, and you will change the entry on your police book from 'Arrested and Held for Complicity,' to 'Held for Examination'."
"What's the matter with all you guys, anyway?" snarled the sergeant, as he saw that the weight of opinion was against him. "Has the boy hypnotized you? It's enough to convict him that he should be working for Len Dardus."
"That isn't his fault," returned the officer who had advised the sergeant to change the entry in his book. "His mother and father died when he was three years old, and his father provided in his will that Dardus should be his guardian, though from what the boy has told us, he hasn't had any too happy a time of it, poor little shaver."
"Now don't go turning on the sympathy," growled the sergeant. "I don't care whether the boy is guilty or not. All I know is that we have got to make a case against him. It would never do to have it said that two sharpers could rob a countryman in broad daylight in our precinct. Haven't our reports to headquarters said, and haven't the papers said, that our precinct has been free from all such crimes for more than six months, and this is one of the rawest swindles that has been worked for a long time. So you two get busy and fix up your case if you want to stay in this precinct. If you don't, I'll tell the captain and the inspector, and you will be sorry."
Without response, the two officers, who believed in Bob's innocence, turned on their heels, and started toward the door of the police station.
"Hey, you two! Go down to the court. I am going to send this boy right down, and mind you remember what I told you," shouted the sergeant. And, suiting his action to his words, he gave orders for Bob to be brought from his cell and taken to the police court.
Just as Bob appeared in the outer room of the station house, Foster entered.
As he saw the boy whose cause he had espoused, the reporter exclaimed:
"So you have decided to release him, have you, sergeant?"
"Release nothing," growled the official. "He's on his way to court," and then, as he had read from the expression on Foster's face that his mission to interview Len Dardus had not been altogether satisfactory, he continued: "You found I was pretty near right about old Dardus, didn't you?"
"He surely isn't a very agreeable person," answered the reporter, "and I quite agree with you that if there was money enough in the undertaking, he would never stop to question whether or not it was against the law. But I tell you one thing, sergeant, you are dead wrong about the boy. The old man actually hates him."
"Then it would be an easy way for him to get rid of the kid by getting him into just this kind of a mess."
"Maybe you're right," assented Foster, as this theory was announced, "still I don't believe you are. I am more convinced than ever that the boy had nothing to do with the swindle, and I don't think old Dardus did, either."
"Well, it won't help matters to keep arguing about it here. We'll let the judge decide. McCarty, call a patrol wagon, and take the kid to court."
"Oh, I say! you are surely not going to make that kid ride in the patrol wagon?" protested one of the other newspaper men. "That would be rubbing it in too hard."
Emphatically the others added their protest, and in the face of such opposition, the sergeant countermanded his order for the police wagon, and instead instructed Patrolman McCarty to take the boy to court, which was less than two blocks away.
Surrounded by the reporters, Bob and the patrolman walked down the street, closely followed by the countryman, whose desire to make money without working for it had led to the loss of the seven hundred and fifty dollars.
Arrived at the building in which the court was located, Bob was led away to the detention room, to await the calling of his case, while the reporters and Simpkins made their way direct to the court room.
In due course the case was reached.
When the presiding magistrate caught sight of Bob's sad face, the stern expression on his own countenance relaxed, and he bestowed upon the trembling boy a glance full of encouragement.
Noting this, Foster, who had been watching the judge intently, was inspired with the hope that the boy would be quickly discharged. But his pleasure was only momentary, for, as the magistrate read the charge, his face became even more austere than usual.
"Well, Chester, what have you to say for yourself?" demanded the judge, directing a glance at the boy, as though he would pierce his very soul. "Are you guilty, or not guilty?"
The strangeness of the scene and lack of familiarity with the procedure of a court caused Bob to remain silent.
Again the magistrate repeated his question, but still Bob made no reply.
"I think he wants to plead guilty," interposed one of the plain-clothes men whom the sergeant had ordered to make a case against the boy. "Perhaps if you offered to give him a light sentence if he would tell us who the two men are who got away with the money, he would do so."
"How about that?" demanded the magistrate, again directing his gaze at the boy.
But before Bob had a chance to reply, Foster exclaimed:
"He does not want to plead guilty, your honor. This whole business in dragging this boy to court is an outrage. He had no more knowledge of the fact that those men intended to, or were, swindling this man from the country, than you have."
The tone in which the reporter spoke was one that could not fail to be impressive, and after a moment's hesitation, the magistrate, who knew Foster as a reporter and admired him for his manly fearlessness, asked:
"What do you know about the case?"
"I protest, your honor, that this man should not be allowed to interfere with the case," said one of the plain-clothes officers. "He was not a witness of the transaction. I think it would be more proper to hear Simpkins' version of the affair."
"When I wish your advice, officer, I will ask for it," snapped the magistrate, and turning again to Foster, he said:
"Tell me all you know about this business."
"Thank you, your honor, I will:
"I happened to be in the police station when the boy was brought in. He told a straightforward story about having been on the way to deliver some groceries, when he was hailed by one of three men, who asked him a few questions, and then offered him a dollar if he would hold an envelope, which was supposed to contain twelve hundred and fifty dollars, for a few minutes. The thought of earning such a sum of money so easily evidently caused the boy to forget all discretion. But as the minutes went by and the two men did not reappear, the boy grew restless, and finally suggested that he hand the envelope to Officer McCarty here, and that he be allowed to go about his errand of delivering the groceries. Then——"
Interrupting, the magistrate turned to Simpkins, and demanded suddenly:
"Is that true?"
The question was so unexpected that the countryman was surprised into answering truthfully, and replied:
Realizing that the turn of affairs was making them appear ridiculous, the officer who had suggested that Bob be allowed to plead guilty, and receive a light sentence, if he would divulge the name of the two swindlers, hurriedly exclaimed:
"But the boy has a bad record, your honor."
"That is not so, your honor," retorted Foster hotly. "When I found that the sergeant was determined to hold the boy, I went to the man for whom he works—his name is Len Dardus—and made inquiries about him. Mr. Dardus is his guardian, and though it was evident that he had no love for the boy, the worst he could say about him was that he took a half hour to deliver an order that should have been delivered in twenty minutes. As to his associating with bad companions, that is not so, for his guardian said he was never out at night, always preferring to read."
"If the boy is such a paragon of virtue, why didn't his guardian come to court himself and try to help the boy, instead of leaving it to a reporter?" sneered the officer who was trying so hard to make a case against Bob.
"I tried to get him to come," exclaimed Foster, "but he refused on the ground that he could not leave his store."
"You reporters are certainly good ones at putting up a plausible story," retorted the officer contemptuously.
Striking his desk a sharp rap with his gavel, the magistrate exclaimed:
"When I want to hear from you, sir, I will let you know. You would make a far better impression if you and the sergeant and every other available man connected with the precinct were out searching for the two swindlers, instead of trying to send a poor, almost friendless, lad to prison. If you arrested half as many criminals as you do innocent men, it wouldn't take long to rid this city of crime."
So stinging was this rebuke that the reporters were busy writing down the words of the judge, and before they had finished, the magistrate said:
"Does your guardian treat you well, Bob?"
"Why, sir, I suppose so, sir; but he scolds me a lot. He seems to think that every time he sends me out to deliver an order, that I should come back within a quarter of an hour, no matter whether I have to go one block or twenty."
"How much does he pay you?"
"Two dollars a week, sir."
"What do you read at night?"
"About farming and ranching out West, sir."
"Then you want to go out West?"
"Yes, sir. I'm going just as soon as I have money enough. I have saved ten dollars already towards going."
"Huh! What becomes of your charge that the boy has evil associates, Mr. Officer?" snapped the magistrate, as he heard Bob's reply. "Any boy who earns two dollars a week, and has managed to save ten, surely can't have any bad habits.
"Bob, you are discharged. The disgrace to which you have been subjected of being arrested and brought to court is an outrage, and I wish there was some way that you could obtain redress from the officers who subjected you to it, but unfortunately there is not."
Reaching into his pocket, the magistrate drew forth some bills, from which he selected one of the denomination of five dollars, and handed it to Bob.
"Put this with your ten dollars," he continued. "It will help some toward getting you out West, and now you go back to Mr. Dardus, and tell him that Judge Bristol said that your arrest was an outrage. Clerk, call the next case."
If Bob had been bewildered by the circumstances that had led to his being brought to court, he was still more so with the sudden turn in events that had resulted in his release, and it was not until one of the court attaches good-naturedly advised him to leave the court room as soon as he could, that he realized he was again free.
But in his haste to obey, he suddenly remembered the reporter whose interest in him had been of such assistance, and he stopped and looked about the courtroom for him. But Foster and the other reporters were busy telephoning the story to their papers, and repeating the magistrate's scathing rebuke to the police of the precinct and the city, so that Bob could not see them. And, after lingering a moment or so, he finally decided to return to his guardian without more delay, promising himself that he would search out his champion and thank him another time.
BOB DETERMINES TO BE HIS OWN MASTER
Fearing that if he hurried too fast through the dismal corridors of the court building he might arouse suspicion and get into more trouble, Bob restrained his impulse to break into a run, and endeavored to walk as unconcernedly as possible. But it was with a feeling of vast relief that he stepped forth from the stone portal and again breathed the free air of the street.
Once he had reached the sidewalk, not long did it take him to mingle with the throng of passersby.
Like a bad dream did the trying experiences through which he had passed seem, and he actually pinched himself to see if, after all, it might not have been some sleep delusion. But the pain of the sharp nip he gave himself satisfied him that he was indeed awake, and further evidence of the fact that his experiences had been all too real was given by the presence of the five-dollar bill in his pocket.
His pace had been rapid, and he was within two blocks of his guardian's store, when he suddenly remembered that the basket full of groceries, which he had started out to deliver, had been left in the police station.
That his employer would berate him sharply for their loss, he was aware, yet he dared not go for them in the fear that he might be subjected to further unpleasantness.
His steps, however, grew slower and slower as he approached the store, which had been the only home he had known for years. That his guardian knew of his arrest, the words of his champion to the magistrate had told him. How his guardian would take the double blow of the loss of the groceries and his arrest, he did not know, but past experience told him that he could expect no sympathy, and perhaps a beating, and he was sorely tempted not to return at all, but to strike out for the great West of his hopes and ambitions. In this moment of indecision, however, the admonition of the magistrate to return to his guardian recurred to him, and he felt that he would not be entitled to keep the five dollars did he not obey.
To Bob's surprise, as he entered the store, not a soul was visible, but at the sound of his footsteps on the hard floor his guardian suddenly appeared from his private office, his shrewd face suffused by the ingratiating smirk he always put on when going to meet a prospective customer. At the sight of his ward standing in the middle of the floor, however, he started, and then his face assumed a look of forbidding severity.
"What, you here!" the grocer exclaimed, as he regained control of himself. "I thought—that is, I was told—I mean, I heard that you had been arrested, and I didn't expect to see you again for some time; that is—I mean not here in the store. If you had been sent to prison I should, of course, have gone to see you."
Never before had Bob seen his guardian so ill at ease, and from his knowledge of the man, he decided that his entrance must have interrupted him when he was engaged at some unusual task. But how to meet the situation, Bob did not know, and he was vainly striving to think of the right thing to say when their relations were brought back to their normal plane by his guardian snarling:
"What did you do with my delivery basket? Did you leave it with the groceries, or didn't you even deliver them?"
The subtle cruelty of this remark stung Bob to the quick. It was the straw that broke his endurance of the long term of abuse and harsh words to which he had been subjected.
"No, I didn't deliver the groceries," he flashed back. "I had to leave the basket at the police station when they took me to court, and after the judge told me I could go, I didn't want to go back to the place for it."
"But there were three dollars worth of groceries in it," wailed his guardian, wringing his hands. "Here, just because you didn't mind what I told you about stopping to play on the way when you are delivering orders, you get arrested and leave me here alone for almost four hours, without any one to deliver goods, and my customers all complaining because they don't get their orders. And as though that weren't enough, you deliberately abandon three dollars' worth of groceries. But you'll pay for them, young man! You'll pay for them! Never fear. I shall take the two dollars you would have had coming to you to-night in part payment, and then one dollar from your wages next Saturday night."
For an instant, Bob was tempted to produce the five dollars the kindly magistrate had given him and pay for the groceries then and there. But there swept through his mind an idea fascinating in its boldness.
As he stood contemplating the thought which had occurred to him, his guardian snarled:
"Don't stand there like a gawk! You've delayed my deliveries long enough. Take those two baskets," and he pointed to two bulging packages resting on the counter, "and deliver them. On your way back, as you will pass the police station, you can stop in and get the basket you left. But I'll make you pay for the groceries just the same. It will be a good lesson for you."
If anything were needed to determine Bob to put his idea into action, it was this command to go to the station, and he exclaimed:
"I won't go there to get your old basket! I won't pay for the groceries, and I won't deliver your old orders! I am going to leave you. I won't work for you another minute," and without giving his amazed guardian time to say anything, Bob darted away to the room at the back of the store, in which he had been accustomed to sleep.
The plan he had decided upon was to get his ten dollars and enough more of the money his father had left him to pay his fare to some town in Oklahoma, where he could begin his long-dreamed-of life on a ranch. He would not be bothered with the packing of any clothes, for his guardian had never allowed him any extra clothing, and he had nothing but the suit upon his back; but he did have his money, and two letters which he had hidden under a board in the floor that he had fixed so that he could take it up and put it back whenever he wished.
In the fear that his guardian might follow him to the room and discover him as he was procuring his money, Bob worked with feverish haste to lift the board, and so excited was he that it seemed as though he could never raise it. But at last he did so, secured possession of his treasures, and then put the board back, just as the grocer called to him from the doorway:
"What are you doing? What do you mean by saying you won't deliver my groceries and do what I tell you?"
Panting with excitement, Bob stood like some animal at bay, his eyes flashing defiance, one hand tightly doubled up, the other clasping his treasures in the pocket where he had thrust them.
"I mean I am going West. I won't be treated as you have treated me any longer."
For a moment, as he heard the amazing announcement of his ward, Mr. Dardus stood staring at him in silence, and then broke into a mocking laugh.
"So you're going West, are you? That is a good one. Why, you couldn't even get across the river to Jersey City. It takes money, money, my boy, to travel, and you haven't a cent. And yet you're going West! That is a good one. Do you think the trains will carry you for nothing, just for the pleasure of having you travel on them?" and the grocer indulged himself in another burst of laughter at what he considered his keen wit.
But the next words of his ward soon drove all mirth from his soul.
"I expect you to give me enough money to carry me to Oklahoma City from what my father left me. When I get settled out there, I will let you know, and you can send me the rest of the money which was entrusted to you for me. If I took it with me, I might get robbed."
When the merciless old man recovered his breath, he exclaimed:
"What do you mean about the money your father left for you? Don't you know he didn't have a cent? Don't you know that if I hadn't taken pity on you, fool that I was—but your father did me a favor once, and so I thought I could repay it by taking you—that you would have been sent to an orphan asylum? And this is the return I get. Here I've spent my hard-earned money for twelve years to buy you food and clothing, and yet you dare to say that I have money for you which your father left. I never heard of such ingratitude."
"I know that you are not telling the truth," retorted Bob. "I have a letter my father wrote, saying that I was to open it when I was ten years old, in which he said that he had given you five thousand dollars to have me educated."
"What nonsense! What an outrage!" exclaimed the grocer, though Bob's statement had caused his face to become more than usually ashen-hued. "I've a mind to thrash you for saying such a thing. Me have five thousand dollars of yours! I never heard anything so preposterous!"
"I tell you, you have the money. Here's the letter that says so," retorted Bob. And, as he spoke, he drew his hand from his pocket, disclosing to the uneasy gaze of his guardian an envelope yellow with age, worn and soiled from much handling, but upon which was the writing which he recognized, all too well, as that of Horace Chester, Bob's father.
For an instant the grocer glowered at the boy and the letter, and then his shrewd mind, suggesting a way out of the embarrassing predicament in which the boy had placed him, he exclaimed:
"Poor Horace! I had always hoped to keep from you the fact that he was insane at the time of his death, but this letter makes it impossible. It was while laboring under the delusion that he had money, that he wrote you of this phantom bequest. Poor Horace! The sight of his writing moves me deeply, especially as I have to disabuse you of the delusion that I am holding five thousand dollars in trust for you," and he held out his hand.
Had it not been for the look of cunning that appeared in his guardian's eyes as he uttered these words, which cast such a stigma upon the name of the boy's dead father, Bob might have believed him, but he had been watching his guardian intently. He saw the look of cunning, and instead of surrendering the letter, he hastily thrust it back into his pocket.
Forgetting all discretion, as he saw that his plot for obtaining possession of the letter had failed, Len Dardus rushed upon the boy, with the evident purpose of obtaining it by force, exclaiming:
"You won't give it to me, eh? Well, I will take it, whether you want me to or not."
But Bob, in the flush of his youth, was quick and agile, and it was no task at all for him to dive under the arm stretched forth to seize him, and then to dash through the door and out onto the street.
BOB MISSES A FRIEND
Never stopping to notice in what direction he was going, Bob dashed along the street, fearful only lest his guardian would pursue him, and expecting every moment to hear his voice shouting at him to stop. But as the moments wore by without any sign of excitement or alarm, Bob gained confidence, finally slackening his pace to a walk, and began to think of what he should do, now that he had taken matters into his own hands, and severed the ties of years that had bound him to his guardian.
Back in the store the grocer had stood undecided what to do. The knowledge that his ward had been informed of the bequest, a fact which he supposed was known only to himself, had unnerved him. And the failure of his attempt to get the letter and thus destroy all evidence of the trust fund, had caused him to be seized with a great fear lest retribution should be visited upon him.
Instead, therefore, of going in pursuit of Bob, his one idea was to conceal himself. Going to the front door of the shop, he closed it and locked it and then betook himself to his private office, the door of which he also shut, and sitting down in the chair buried his head in his hands and tried to think what was best for him to do.
But his sense of guilt would not let him rest, and in the thought that Bob might seek some lawyer and place the matter in his hands, which would mean a visit to the grocery store and the necessity of making embarrassing explanations, the dishonest guardian determined to go away for a few hours at least. No sooner had he made up his mind upon this course of action than he seized his hat, stole from his room, glided across the floor to the front door, listened a moment for the sound of voices, or any other indication that people were passing, then hurriedly turned the key in the door, stepped outside, locked the door again, and after a furtive glance up and down the street, slunk away, keeping close to the buildings, for all the world like a dog that was hounded, rather than a man.
It was because of this action on the part of Mr. Dardus in closing his store that Foster was unable to gain admittance when he arrived half an hour later, having come for the purpose of seeing the boy he had championed so effectively, and of assisting in a reconciliation between the ward and the guardian, in case it had not already been accomplished. On his way, his mind had pictured many scenes in which the boy and the grocer were participants, but none of them had contained the possibility of the store being closed. And it was with distinct surprise that he found the door locked, and was unable to arouse any one by his vigorous pounding upon the weather-worn panels.
"I wonder what it means," said the reporter to himself. "Perhaps Bob didn't come back, and the old man, repenting of his refusing to go to his ward's assistance, is on his way either to the police station or to the court."
His occupation, however, necessitated his being resourceful, and, seeing an elderly woman peering at him closely from a window of the neighboring house, Foster hastened toward her.
Bowing politely, he asked:
"Have you seen anything of Mr. Dardus, or Bob Chester?"
"Uhuh! I seen 'em both," replied the woman, nodding her head, as though to confirm her words. But though Foster remained silent in the hope that she would add to this information, he was at length obliged to renew his questions, as she vouchsafed nothing more.
"Were they together?"
"Which way were they going—in the same direction?"
"No. Bob ran up the street as though the police were after him."
"Then Mr. Dardus was chasing him," suggested Foster, jumping at the conclusion that Bob and his guardian had had angry words, that the boy had run away, and that his guardian had gone in pursuit.
"No, he wasn't. He came out about twenty minutes after Bob had gone, and went in the opposite direction."
This response puzzled the reporter, as he could think of no plausible explanation, but his thoughts were diverted by the old woman, who demanded:
"What's wrong, mister?"
"What makes you think there is anything wrong?" parried Foster, determined, if possible, to keep the knowledge of Bob's arrest from so evident a neighborhood gossip.
"Because Len Dardus closed his store on a Saturday. I've been living here thirty years, and he has never done such a thing before, but once, and that was twelve years ago, the day he brought Bob back with him. So I know that it must be something important, or the old man wouldn't lose the opportunity to make a few cents in his store."
Struck by the coincidence that it was because of Bob the grocer had at both times shut up his store, Foster considered for a few moments what it was best to do, and then said with ever so faint a smile:
"I suppose you will see Bob when he comes back?"
"I reckon I will. I see most everything going on around here that's to be seen."
"Then I will be obliged if you will give him this," and he handed her one of his calling cards. "Tell him, please, that I am at home any evening after seven o'clock, and should like to have him call on me."
"I'll be glad to. I suppose you may be some friend of Bob's who knew his father? I've often wondered why no one came to see the boy and take him from that man Dardus."
These words suggested a new train of thought to the reporter, and, judging from the remark that his informant had some knowledge of the boy's antecedents, he determined to learn what he could about them.
"Then you knew Bob's father?" asked Foster.
"No. I can't say as I knew him, but I do know that I wouldn't treat a dog the way Dardus has treated Bob, and I have often wondered why none of the friends of the lad's father came to find out about him, or to take him away. And I made up my mind, as soon as I saw you, that you were one of them. Anyway, I hope so, for Bob is a real bright boy; too bright to be working for that old miser. He's fond of book reading, and I've told old man Dardus, every time I saw him, that he ought to have the boy educated."
"Well, I am Bob's friend," said the reporter, "and if you think it's a wise thing, I'll see what I can do about getting him into a different place. You just tell him to come and see me the first opportunity he has."
And again lifting his hat, Foster bowed and took his departure.
A KIND-HEARTED WAITRESS
After Bob had found that no one was pursuing him, he decided that the first thing to do was to get away from New York, and with this purpose he headed for one of the ferries that would take him to the Jersey shore.
How far his fifteen dollars would carry him, he did not know, but he realized that it could not be any great distance, and he was trying to think of some plan by which he could obtain more funds, when he suddenly remembered the reporter who had taken such an interest in him.
"I'll go and find him," said Bob to himself. "He'll know about how much it costs to travel, and all such things, and perhaps he'll help me to get some work where I can earn more money. Anyway, I will be able to believe what he tells me, and to depend on his advice."
So simple a solution of his difficulties gave Bob new courage, until all at once it flashed upon him that he did not know the name of his benefactor, or where to find him.
As this thought occurred to him, Bob stopped still. However, his having thrown himself upon his own resources was sharpening his wits, and he suddenly exclaimed:
"I can find out at the police station. Perhaps he'll be there."
And though the boy was fully three miles away from the place where he had suffered such outrageous treatment, he turned his steps to retrace the distance.
When at length he was within sight of the grim building, the same fear of entering it that had made him refuse his guardian's command to fetch the basket of groceries, again seized him, and he paused.
"I won't go in," said Bob, shaking his head decidedly, "but I'll wait over by that pile of boxes on the opposite side of the street. Probably he'll be coming out before long."
Though this plan of Bob's would ordinarily have been effective, it happened that Foster had finished his work for the day even before he had paid his visit to the closed store of Len Dardus, and thus the boy was doomed to disappointment, although he stayed at his post of observation until dark began to fall.
With the garish flarings of the street lamps, Bob for the first time realized the true meaning of the step he had taken. Heretofore he had always possessed a home to which to go, unpleasant as it was, but now he had no place, and the contemplation of his loneliness caused him to grow very sober.
As the pangs of hunger were added to his general feeling of helplessness, for a moment he thought of returning to his guardian, but only for a moment. As he left the letter in his pocket and remembered the awful stigma his guardian had tried to cast upon his dead father, his pride arose.
"I will never go back there!" he told himself. "I have money in my pocket, and I can get something to eat. Then I'll go over to one of the stations in Jersey City and find some place to sleep. Perhaps there'll even be a train going out West to-night that will carry me part way to Oklahoma."
Coming forth from the pile of boxes from which he had sought in vain to catch a glimpse of his friend, the reporter, Bob walked up the street until he came to a restaurant, brilliantly lighted, and with a sign standing in the door from which the words: "Pork and Beans, 15 cents a plate," stared at him invitingly.
Dearly did Bob love pork and beans, but only occasionally had his guardian provided them, and then in such small quantities that the boy had never been able to eat all he wanted, and oftentimes had he promised himself that some day he would have his fill. Consequently, as he read the sign, he determined to gratify his desire, and timidly entered the restaurant, where there were stools in front of a high counter and tables along the wall, upon which stood an array of food that amazed him, accustomed, as he had been, to living on almost nothing.
Making his way diffidently to one of the tables, he sat down. In a moment a waitress, in what seemed to him a dazzlingly white and gorgeous dress, approached, and, with a smile, asked:
"What will you have?"
"Beans, please, and lots of them."
"And brown bread, too?" asked the waitress.
The thought of this with his beans had never entered Bob's head, and as it was suggested to him, he felt a great longing for it. Yet as no mention of it had been made on the sign that had attracted him to the restaurant, he feared it might be too expensive. But the more he thought of it, the more he wanted it, and finally he stammered:
"How much does it cost?"
"Five cents a slice."
"Then you may bring me two slices," replied the boy, laying emphasis upon the word "two."
"Coffee or tea?"
"I don't believe I'll have either," said Bob, feeling that his expenditure of twenty-five cents was all that he could afford.
Divining the reason of his refusal, the waitress smiled:
"You get either tea or coffee with the order. It doesn't cost any more."
"Then I'll have coffee," replied Bob.
And as the waitress went to bring his order, he again felt in his pocket to make sure he had the money with which to pay for his meal.
As the heaping plate of beans—for the waitress had not been scrimping in her measure—was set before Bob, together with the rich brown bread and coffee, it seemed to him that never had anything smelled quite so savory, and he began to eat as though he were famished.
Though the plate of beans had been heaping, so good did they taste to Bob, that he could not resist the temptation of ordering more, and calling the waitress to him, he asked:
"If I have a second plate, will it cost less?"
For a moment the girl was on the point of laughing at him, but the wistful seriousness of his face checked the outburst of merriment on her lips, and instead she replied, in a kindly tone:
"What's the matter, kid? Haven't you any money?"
"Oh, yes," Bob hastened to reassure her.
"Well, if you have money enough, what's to prevent your ordering as much as you want?"
For a moment Bob contemplated the question from this new viewpoint, but, unable to decide, observed:
"I don't just know as I ought to spend any more."
"Isn't the money yours?"
"Oh, yes, it's not that," rejoined Bob, and then, after hesitating a moment, he determined to leave the decision to this girl, whose face showed that she was kind and sympathetic, and he said:
"You see, it's this way: I'm going out West, and I haven't got much money, and I'm afraid I'll spend too much, because I don't just know how much it will take."
"Well, if I was you, I'd eat all I wanted while I had the money. If you've got to 'hobo' your way, there'll be times when you'll probably be without both food and money."
This reasoning struck Bob as being eminently practical, and he was on the point of ordering another plate, when the girl made it unnecessary by saying:
"I'll stake you to another plate, if you want the beans very much. It's just about time for me to eat my supper, and I will bring it over to your table and eat with you, and I'll make them think the beans are for me."
Bob wasn't quite sure whether such a plan was all right or not, but he had a healthy boy's appetite for beans, and so he made no objection.
"You are very kind," he said, when the second plate of the savory food was placed before him. "I suppose I shall be hungry sometimes before I get to Oklahoma, but I don't expect to 'hobo' it."
"Then how do you expect to get along? You say you haven't much money."
"I guess I don't just understand what it means to 'hobo' it," admitted Bob.
"No, I guess you don't. It's the name they give out West to travelling when you don't have money enough to pay your railroad fare, and have to beat your way, riding on freight trains."
As Bob heard this explanation of the term, his eyes sparkled with delight, and he said earnestly:
"I'm glad you told me about it. I'd never thought of trying to steal a ride on a freight train."
"For pity sake! How did you expect to get away out there?"
"Walk, unless I could earn money enough in one town to take me to another."
Bob's conversation, which showed such a remarkable ignorance of the world, especially in view of the fact that he was a New York boy, suggested to the waitress that perhaps he had run away from home.
Determined to find out, she banished the sympathetic smile from her face, and becoming very severe, leaned across the table and gazing straight into Bob's eyes, asked:
"Look a here, kid, you haven't run away from a good home, have you?"
The unexpectedness of this question took Bob by surprise. Under the searching gaze of the girl's eyes, he felt just as he had when the magistrate had glanced at him, and his voice trembled a little as he replied:
"No! Oh, no, indeed!"
But his manner was not convincing, and the girl continued her interrogations, but on a different tack.
"Your folks live in New York?"
"I haven't any."
"Then where have you been living?"
"With my guardian."
"What do you do?"
"I used to deliver groceries for him."
The stress Bob laid upon the word "used," led the girl to inquire:
"Did he fire you? Or what?"
"No. I left him."
"How long ago?"
"Just this afternoon."
The close questioning of the waitress was making Bob very uncomfortable, and he determined to tell her the real reason he had left, especially as she was so kind and seemed to know so much about traveling in the West. Having reached this decision, he told, with many hesitations, the story of his experiences.
With quick sympathy the girl listened, and, as he concluded, exclaimed tenderly:
"You poor kid! I'm sure glad you happened to drop in here. I've got a sister living out in Chicago, whose husband runs as far as Kansas City on a freight train. I'll give you a note to her, and her man will give you a lift, and probably he can arrange with some of the men he knows to carry you west from Kansas City."
"That will be very kind of you," returned Bob. "It seems as though strangers are kinder to me than people I've known all my life."
"That's often the way," exclaimed the girl, as she rose and went up to the desk in the front of the restaurant, where she obtained some paper, an envelope, and pen and ink, which she brought back to Bob's table.
It was evident from the slowness with which her self-imposed task advanced that the girl was more ready with her kind-hearted sympathy than with her pen. But at last the missive was finished, and she gave it to Bob.
"Don't forget that address: 'South 101st Street, on the left-hand corner, in a big, yellow brick building.' It's on the side of the street nearest New York, and the name is Mrs. John Cameron."
Gratefully Bob took the letter, which he placed with the one written by his father, and as he did so he asked:
"I wonder how much it costs to get to Chicago?"
"Depends on how you travel. You can go in a plain car for about ten or eleven dollars. That is on one of the round-about railways, at cut rates. Or, you can pay between fifty and seventy-five dollars for a state-room."
"Oh, goody! If it only costs ten dollars, I can get out there all right, and still have some money left."
"I'm glad of that. Now, you sit here a few minutes, and I'll put up a lunch for you, and then you won't have to buy any food while you are on the train. They always charge a lot more on trains or in station restaurants than they ought to."
"Hadn't I better pay you now?" inquired Bob.
"No. You wait until I bring the box of lunch. The boss hasn't noticed how much you had to eat, and he'll think it's all on the check I will ring in."
"But that isn't exactly right, is it?" protested Bob.
"Well, I'll make it right with the boss."
So well were things working out for him, that it seemed to Bob that he must be in a dream, but the sight of the people and objects about him told him that it was indeed a reality.
In due course the kind waitress returned, bringing a sizeable box, tightly tied, which she placed on the table before him.
"Here, kiddo, I wish you good luck," she said. "I must leave you now, because I've got some more work to do."
"But you must tell me your name," insisted Bob, looking at her with his eyes filled with gratitude. "I'm coming back from the West a rich man, and I shall want to look you up and repay you for your kindness."
"I hope you strike it fine, kid," laughed the girl, "but I am afraid if you do, you'll never think of looking up Nellie Porter. Oh, by the way, do you know to which station to go?"
"No, I don't," admitted Bob.
"Well, if you want to get a plain car, you want to go over to Weehawken and buy your ticket over the West Shore railroad."
And giving Bob a check for his food, the girl smiled upon him pleasantly, and hurried away to wait upon some other people who had entered the restaurant.
GOOD LUCK FROM BAD
By dint of questioning, Bob reached the Weehawken ferry and was soon on a boat, gliding through the dark waters of the river toward the Jersey shore.
Never had the boy been on a ferryboat at night, and the spectacle presented by the brilliantly lighted buildings filled him with wonder. Fortunate was it for him that he was so enthralled, for the boat had bumped into her slip and the people were rushing ashore before he had time to realize that he was leaving behind all he had ever known of a home.
Indeed, so absorbed was he in gazing about him, that it was not till one of the crew exclaimed: "Hey, kid, get ashore. You can't beat your way back on this boat," that he knew they had reached Weehawken.
"I'm not trying to beat my way," rejoined Bob. "I'm not going back to New York. I'm going to Chicago—and then to Oklahoma," he added in a boyish attempt to impress the boatman with his importance.
"Well, you'd better hurry if you want to make the train for Chicago," returned the other. "This is the last boat before it starts. You'll have to hustle if you've any baggage, or are you travelling 'light'?"
But Bob had not waited to hear the comment upon his lack of equipment, and, before the words had left the mouth of the boatman, was running up the gangway and into the station.
The glare of the lights after the darkness of the river and the many people scurrying to and fro, together with the porters and trainmen calling and shouting, bewildered the lad who had never been so far away from home before, and he stood in the middle of the station as though dazed.
Noticing the woe-begone figure, the station policeman walked over to where Bob was standing.
"What's the matter, kid? Looking for some one?"
"No. I'm going away, to Chicago. I wish you'd tell me where to go to get a chair car."
"Not running away from home, are you?" inquired the official, scanning Bob's face searchingly.
This constant suggestion that he was running away angered the boy, and he determined to put an end to it.
"No, I'm not," he retorted impatiently. "I'm going out West to become a ranchman, though I don't see why it is any of your business. The man on the boat told me I would have to hurry if I was going to catch my train."
"Got any money?" inquired the policeman, ignoring the boy's manner.
"Surely." And Bob drew forth the precious ten dollars he had managed to save from the pittance his guardian had paid him and all that remained from the money the magistrate had given him.
"All right. Come with me. I'll show you," responded the official, assured by the sight of the money that Bob was not trying to steal a ride on the train.
Quickly the two made their way to the ticket office.
"Ticket for this youngster," announced the policeman.
"Where to?" asked the agent.
"Chicago, in a chair car," answered Bob.
"'Leven thirty," returned the man in the ticket office, turning to his rack and taking down a long strip of paper, which he stamped rapidly.
With trembling fingers, Bob counted out the money, and shoved it through the opening in the window.
"Correct," muttered the agent, as he counted the roll of bills. "Now hurry, or you won't get your train."
As Bob received the amazingly long ticket, his breast swelled with pride. Its possession meant the beginning of his long-cherished dream, and he started to study it, when the voice of the officer warned him:
"Come this way, kid. Go through gate No. 3. You can read your ticket when you get on the train; you'll have time enough before you reach Chicago. Good luck on your ranch," he added in a kindly banter.
But Bob had no time to reply, for the trainmen were already shouting their "All aboard for Chicago," and it was only by running down the platform that he was able to get on a car just as the wheels began to move.
The car in which Bob found himself was upholstered in dark green, and the woodwork was of polished mahogany. Never had he seen anything so magnificent, and as he sank into a high-back seat, he uttered a sigh of contentment.
But he was not allowed to enjoy his luxury long.
While he was gazing with wide-staring eyes at everything about him, a colored porter entered the car and languidly glanced from one to another of the occupants, as though making a mental calculation of the tips he would receive, when his eyes fell on the poorly-clad figure of Bob, holding his box of lunch on his knees.
With an exclamation of surprise, the porter hastened to where the lad was sitting.
"What you-all doin' in hyar?" he demanded harshly.
The tone in which the question was asked now caused the other passengers, who had hitherto been too busy getting themselves comfortably settled to notice Bob, to turn their gaze upon him.
"I'm going to Chicago," returned Bob.
But the hostile look on the porter's face scared him, and he could not help a tremor that crept into his voice as he made his reply.
"Whar's yer ticket?" snarled the negro.
Reaching into his pocket, Bob drew forth the long strip of paper and presented it to the officious porter.
"The ticket's all right," grunted the man. "Now, whar's youah parlah cyar ticket?"
"My what?" asked Bob.
"Youah parlah cyar ticket."
"That's all the ticket I have," returned Bob. "Isn't that enough? I told the man I wanted a chair-car ticket, and that's what he gave me."
"Huh! I thought so. This ain't no chair cyar. This is a parlah cyar. The cyar you-all want is up front, four cyars ahead. Now get out of hyar lively."
"But I can't get out while the train's going," protested Bob. "I might get hurt, and—and besides, I want to go to Chicago, and if I get off I'll lose my train."
And in Bob's voice, as he pictured himself in his mind left beside the railroad tracks in a strange place and at night, there was a plaintive appeal.
"You don't have to git off ther train," snarled the porter. "All you gotta do is to walk right fru ther other cyars, three of 'em, mind you, and you'll find your chair cyar. The idea of you-all getting into a parlah cyar with a chair-cyar ticket."
Reassured by the information that it would be unnecessary for him to leave the train in order to reach the proper car, Bob rose from the soft and luxurious seat slowly.
"Come, hurry," growled the porter, making a move as though to seize Bob by the arm and drag him from the car.
But before he could do so, the stern voice of an elderly and well-dressed man, who was occupying the second seat ahead, exclaimed:
"Porter, can't you see this boy is unaccustomed to travelling? Why don't you show him the way to the chair car?"
"What, me take that crittur fru three coaches? It's——"
But the negro was not given the opportunity to finish.
Bumping into the porter so that he knocked him to one side, the man who had taken the negro to task for his treatment of Bob exclaimed:
"Then I will show him the way. Come, son."
And he held out his hand, while all anger had disappeared from his face, as he looked at Bob kindly.
"My name is Bob Chester," said the boy, taking the outstretched hand and shaking it.
"And mine is Horace Perkins," returned the elder man, unable to restrain a smile as he thought of the unceremonious introduction to himself, who practically owned the road. "I am sorry you should have had so unpleasant an experience."
And as the railroad magnate and the poorly-clad boy passed from sight of those in the car, the porter moaned:
"Oh, lawdy, lawdy! Ah sho has done got mahself in a mess."
And the comments of the other passengers, as they prophesied the punishment the railroad president would inflict on his uncivil employee, told him that they agreed with his opinion thoroughly.
As Bob and his distinguished guide reached the chair car, the latter beckoned to the brakeman and said:
"I am Mr. Perkins. I presume you know that I am the president of this road. I want you to keep an eye on this boy. He isn't accustomed to travelling. He'll probably need something to eat to-morrow, so either take him into one of the railroad restaurants, or bring him some lunch into the car. Here's some money for his meals."
But before his benefactor could withdraw his hand from his pocket, Bob exclaimed:
"I have my lunch with me, right here in this box, Mr. Perkins. I'm just as much obliged to you, though."
A moment the railroad president hesitated, then realizing from the look on Bob's face that he would give offense should he press his gift, he smiled and said:
"All right, son. Just as you wish. But I want you to be my guest at breakfast in the morning."
And again shaking hands with Bob, Mr. Perkins left the car.
BOB'S LUCK CONTINUES
After the railroad president had left the car, the brakeman found a chair for Bob, and showed him how to work its mechanism so that he could drop it back when he wished to go to sleep, all the while eyeing the poorly-dressed lad with evident curiosity, which finally he could no longer restrain, and he asked:
"Have you known Mr. Perkins long?"
"No," replied Bob. "I only met him to-night."
"You must have made a hit with him."
"No. I just think he is very kind."
"Huh! That's a new one. You're the first one that ever called old Perkins kind. If you could hear some of the men talk about how he has treated them, you wouldn't think he was so kind."
"I don't know about that. I only know he was very kind to me," returned Bob, "and I like him. If his men were honest and square with him, I think he would be with them."
The approach of the train to a station, necessitating the member of the train crew going about his duty, prevented him from plying Bob further with questions, much to the latter's relief.
Placing his box of lunch on the floor beside him, Bob leaned back in his chair, partially closed his eyes, and gazed about him at the other passengers. But there was none who interested him, and he soon turned his mind to the contemplation of his position.
It was with difficulty that he could realize that he was actually on his way to the great West. But the steady motion of the train, the whirl of the wheels, and the occasional blast of the engine's whistle, told him that he was not dreaming, and after enjoying for a while the sensation of travelling he began to think about what he should do when he reached Chicago.
He had read much of the enormous area the city covered, and he wondered if he would have any difficulty in finding the home of the woman whose husband was to form such a necessary link in his travelling arrangements.
"Suppose she shouldn't be at home, or suppose Mr. Cameron doesn't feel like helping me? I guess under those circumstances it would be necessary for me to get a job somewhere. But I won't be an errand boy in a grocery store," he promised himself. But with the custom of looking only on the bright side of things, which is a fortunate habit of youth, he began to think of the good times he would have riding the horses on the plains, and of watching the cowboys as they roped the steers and branded them. And his fancy even pictured himself as a successful participant in various nerve-stirring contests.
"I may be from the East, but I won't let them call me a tenderfoot," Bob exclaimed earnestly; "and I'll try and get on the right side of them, so they won't play tricks on me."
Bob's idea of cowboys had been gathered from his reading of many stories of life on the plains, and was, therefore, rather vague. And it was while holding imaginary conversations with ranchmen conjured from his brain, that his body, wearied by the unusual events through which he had passed, grew quiet, and he finally dropped off to sleep.
The motion of the train and frequent stops affected him not at all, and as soundly as though he were in the bed at the rear of the grocer's shop, he slept through the night.
Mindful of Mr. Perkins' request that he look after Bob, the brakeman brought a coat with which he covered the boy, as the chill of night settled on the car, and several times as he passed he tucked it about Bob, when his moving had caused it to slide to the floor.
About seven o'clock in the morning the trainman, after having waited in vain for Bob to wake of his own accord, shook him gently by the shoulder, exclaiming:
"Come, son, it's time you were up and doing, if you are going to have breakfast with the 'old man.' He is liable to send in any time for you now, and after you have known him as long as I have, you'll learn that he doesn't like to be kept waiting."
"But where am I going to wash my face and hands? Doesn't the train stop at the station?"
At this naive question, the brakeman looked at Bob for a moment, and then chuckling heartily to himself, exclaimed:
"Say, kid, are you trying to jolly me, or have you been kept in a glass cage all your life? Don't you know that they have washrooms on the trains?"
"No. This is the first time I have ever taken a journey on a train in my life."
"Where are you going?"
"To Chicago, first, and then out to Oklahoma."
"Well, that's far enough, so that if you don't know anything about travelling now, you will when you get there. What part of Oklahoma are you going to?"
"I don't just know exactly," and then, his breast swelling with pride, he continued: "I'm going on a ranch, but I haven't decided quite yet where."
"Folks live out there? Going to friends?"
"Well, I suppose you know your own business, but taking it all in all, if I was you, I think I'd stay East among people I knew, and whose ways I was used to."
"I don't believe you would if you were me," said Bob, and then tiring of the questioning, he said: "I thought you were going to show me the washroom. I want to be ready when Mr. Perkins sends for me."
Smiling at the manner in which Bob changed the conversation, the brakeman led him to the lavatory, and soon Bob had made his very primitive toilet.
In his endeavor to make himself as presentable as possible, he had washed and wiped his face so vigorously that it almost shone. And no sooner had he finished the task than the brakeman put his head in the door, and said:
"All ready, kid? Mr. Perkins has sent for you."
Going out into the car, Bob saw a negro clad in a suit of immaculate linen.
"Is you Mr. Chester?" asked the darky, restraining the smile Bob's appearance produced.
"My name's Bob Chester, if that's what you mean," returned the boy.
"Then you'se to come with me to the dining-car, where Mr. Perkins is waiting for you."
Without more delay, the negro led the way.
Unmindful of the glances indicative of curiosity that were cast at him, Bob followed his guide into the dining-car.
As the railroad president saw his youthful guest approach, he arose, and with punctilious ceremony shook Bob's hand, murmuring:
"I hope you slept well, Bob?"
"Very, thank you. I don't think I should have been awake now, if the brakeman hadn't called me. He was very kind to me."
"I'm glad of that," smiled the official. "What would you like to eat?"
"Most anything, thank you."
"Then suppose you let me order for you."
This suggestion brought great relief to Bob, and he listened with wide eyes as he heard the order for strawberries, bacon and eggs, buckwheat cakes, maple syrup and coffee.
"Does that selection meet with your approval?" smiled the railroad president.
"Indeed it does, sir! Next to beans, I like buckwheat cakes."
"I guess all boys do. I know my sons at home are very fond of them."
Bob's enjoyment of his breakfast was so evident that it was almost pathetic. And as Mr. Perkins watched him eat, he wondered what the boy's story could be, and from having taken merely a passing interest in him, his desire to do something for him became keen.
Under the discreet guidance of the railroad president, Bob was led to tell him of his life and of the experiences of the day before that had resulted in the severing of all ties, and the taking of so radical a step as the trip to the West.
As he listened to the narrative, his mind reverted to his own boys at home, surrounded by every luxury that wealth and affection could give them, and he wondered if, were either of them placed in Bob's circumstances, they would have the courage to do as he had done.
When Bob had finished his story, Mr. Perkins sat in silence for several minutes, evidently in deep thought.
"I think you have chosen the wisest course, Bob," he finally said. "The West is a great country, and you have qualities about you that I think will bring you success. Of course, you will probably be obliged to stand a good many hard knocks, but they won't hurt you, my boy. Hard knocks are good for any man. The only thing to be careful about is that they do not sour you and cause you to feel anger and hatred against your fellows.
"I suppose you know, of course, that the West, just like any other part of the world, contains a lot of bad men as well as good—only out West the bad men are more noticeable because they act more openly, gambling and drinking and fighting.
"You must be very careful whom you choose for your companions. If you make up your mind to treat every one politely and with kindness, you will soon be able to determine who are the ones whose friendship is worth having, and whom to avoid. But if you wish to succeed, you must keep away from the saloons and gambling dives.
"This may seem a good deal of a lecture to you, but if you follow my advice, some day you will thank me for giving it to you. And now, what do you propose to do, in case you don't find Mrs. Cameron? You know in big cities people often move, and it may be some time since her sister saw her. Then again, perhaps her husband won't prove very accommodating."
"I've thought of that, Mr. Perkins. If I can't find them, I shall try to get some work somewhere, so that I can earn money enough to pay my fare from Chicago."
"You'll succeed all right, Bob," said the railroad president. "You have the right spirit of grit. But I have a plan which will do away with the necessity of depending upon the good nature of Mrs. Cameron or her husband."
And taking one of his cards from his pocket, Mr. Perkins wrote several words on it, and then handed it to Bob.
"If you'll take this card to the offices of the Grand Pacific, which you will find in the building directly across from the station where we arrive in Chicago, they will give you a pass, which will carry you to any part of Oklahoma you desire to go. I want you to accept it as a present from me. You can tell them to what place to make it out, and as it will take many hours to reach your destination, I want you to accept this money, so that you can buy your food." And he handed Bob a twenty-dollar bill. "If you are careful, you will have something left when you reach that part of Oklahoma to which you decide to go."
Before Bob could recover sufficiently from his surprise to express his thanks, Mr. Perkins had arisen, and saying that it was necessary for him to get off the train at the next station, went back to his car, leaving Bob in contemplation of his pass and money.
A TALE OF THE PLAINS
Placing in his pocket the money and the precious piece of pasteboard which possessed the magic power of procuring for him transportation to the land of his dreams, Bob rose from the breakfast-table and made his way back to his chair.
As the train stopped at one station after another, people kept getting aboard, and soon the car in which Bob was riding was filled to its capacity.
Having nothing better to do, the lad amused himself by studying each new passenger, and he was amusing himself in trying to assign them to their proper vocations, when he was attracted to the man who came in and took the seat directly in front of him.
Tall and inordinately thin, the man's clothes seemed simply to hang from his shoulders. His hair, of a curious rusty gray, seemed to stick out from under the faded straw hat, and his whole appearance suggested nothing so much as a scarecrow.
Despite the man's ungainly appearance, however, his face was one that would attract and hold attention. So thin was it that it seemed as though the cheek bones would any minute pierce the bronzed skin, and from under bushy eyebrows two restless black eyes glistened.
Like Bob, this man surveyed his fellow passengers, giving them, however, only a momentary glance, until his eyes rested upon Bob, and upon him they lingered, glancing him over from head to foot, and then dropping to the lunch-box which was on the floor.
During this inspection of himself, Bob had also been examining the man more closely, and had discovered that his forehead was marked with a deep scar.
"You don't happen to have any lunch in that box, do you, that you would be willing to sell me?" asked the stranger. "I didn't have time to get any before I started. In fact, I came mighty near losing the train as it was, and there won't be any station where I can get anything before noon."
"Why, yes," replied Bob; "that is, I have some lunch. But I won't sell it to you. You are welcome to some of it, if you would like it."
How the man had been able to divine that his package contained food, Bob could not understand. But had the boy been as keen an observer as the stranger, he would have noticed that the paper on one end of the box was saturated with grease, causing the obvious inference that some sort of food was wrapped up inside.
"I don't like to take your grub for nothing, son," returned the other, "but I sure am hungry. I have always made it a rule never to accept anything from any one without giving something in return. So I tell you what I'll do. If you're sure you won't accept any money, and will give me a bite, when the train stops for dinner, I'll pay for whatever you want to eat."
"That seems fair," returned Bob, "but I should be just as willing to give you some, even if you didn't return it."
While Bob had been speaking, he had picked up the box, broken the string, unwrapped the paper and opened it, after which he held it out to the stranger, saying:
To Bob's surprise, the man accepted the invitation literally—and took the whole box, which he rested on his knee. Though it contained cake and pie, hard-boiled eggs, and several sandwiches, the stranger exercised no choice of selection, but began at one end of the box and ate everything just as it came.
Naturally Bob had supposed that the man would eat possibly only a couple of eggs and one or two sandwiches, with perhaps even a piece of cake or a piece of pie. But as he saw one piece of food disappearing after another, and remembered that the stranger had asked only for a bite, he wondered what he would require to make a full meal.
As the last piece of food was devoured, the man reached down, put the cover on the box, folded the paper, wrapped up the box and set it on the floor, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, then exclaimed:
"My, but that went to the right spot! I sure was hungry."
"Yes, I guess you were," assented Bob, a bit ruefully, for he had expected to have at least a portion of the food, put up for him by the kind waitress, to eat during the day.
The stranger, however, ignored the insinuation in Bob's tone, and proceeded to talk with him.
"Going far?" he asked.
"Yes, to Chicago."
"That's good. So am I. I'm glad to have some one to talk to. It makes the time pass quicker. Been visiting in the East?"
"No. I've always lived in New York."
"Going to Chicago on a visit?"
"Not exactly. I'm going to call on some friends, and then go on to Oklahoma."
The mention of Oklahoma roused the stranger to immediate interest.
"You don't say! To what part?"
"I don't know exactly."
"Going to Oklahoma, and you don't know to what part?" repeated the man in surprise.
"I'm going on a ranch somewhere. I was thinking I'd get a map when I got to Chicago, and decide just where."
"Well, if that don't beat anything I ever heard!"
The intonation which the man gave to his words was such that Bob felt that he must give some explanation of his indecision, and he returned:
"You see, I'm going to be a cowboy first, and then a ranch owner, and I didn't want to decide where to go until I could find out where I would have the best chance."
"Well, it certainly is fortunate that fate led me to get into this car of all on the train. I can tell you just the place for you to go."
"Have you ever been to Oklahoma?" inquired Bob.
"Have I ever been there? Well, son, I was there off and on for about ten years, when the government first opened up the land, and you could travel for miles without seeing anything but Injuns."
The knowledge that his companion was familiar with Oklahoma set Bob's heart beating rapidly, and the thought that he could gather much useful information from this peculiar man caused him to forget all annoyance over the loss of his lunch.
"Then you've really seen a live Indian?" asked Bob, his eyes big with excitement.
"I seen too many of the critters. See that scar?"
And he tapped his forehead with one of his long fingers.
"Yes," said Bob eagerly.
"Well, it was an Injun gave me that; Flying Horse, they called him."
At the memory of what had evidently been an exciting adventure, the man lapsed into silence, as though he were re-enacting the events in his mind.
To Bob his silence was tantalizing. He longed to hear of the experience, and yet he hesitated to ask point-blank. His interest was so keen, however, that he could not restrain himself entirely, and he squirmed restively in his chair.
The movement had the effect of recalling the man from his memories, and gazing at the lad's eager face, his own broke into a smile, as he said:
"I suppose you'd like to know how it happened?"
"Indeed I should."
"I was punching cows for an old fellow called Sam Ford; a man so mean you could pull the pith out of a horse-hair and then put his soul inside, and it would rattle.
"But this story don't concern old Sam, except in so far as I was working for him. He'd got together a fine bunch of cattle. Where he got 'em, no one ever knew exactly, and in them days it wasn't what you'd call healthy to ask questions. Indeed, I've seen many a perfectly healthy man took off sudden, just because he got inquisitive about su'thin', that wasn't none of his business in the first place. But that's neither here nor there. Sam had the cattle, and I was punchin' for him.
"One day Sam come to me and said he wanted me to ride over to a creek near what is now the town of Fairfax, and watch a bunch of about thirty head he told me he just bought. There was a pack of Crow Injuns that we knew was somewhere around there. But in them days it was the same with working for a man as it was about asking questions. If he told you to do anything, it was up to you to do it, or stand the consequences. So I saddled a flea-bitten pinto and set out, though I must say I wasn't particularly keen on going. It had been rumored that Sam had got some of his cattle from the Injuns, and we'd always expected that if Sam ever did die—of which we had our doubts, because he was so mean—that it would be at the hand of a redskin.
"After riding about thirty mile, I come to the cattle all right, and they was sure a fine bunch. The place where Sam had left them was filled with fine grazing grass, and there was a 'drink' near-by, so's I got to feeling a little better, for I'd been afraid I was going to have some trouble in locating water. Sam had said he'd come up in three or four days, and we'd drive 'em back to where we had the main herd.
"The grass was so rich that a baby could have looked after them cattle; they stayed so close, and I was taking things easy most of the time, lying on my back and smoking.
"On the second night it was cloudy, and I had built a little fire, before which I curled up and went to sleep.
"How long I'd been asleep, I don't know. But I do know that I was suddenly wakened by feeling something sharp drawn across my forehead.
"Opening my eyes, I saw a face, hideous in white and yellow paint, peering into mine.
"Fortunately, I still had my six-shooters on me, and being pretty handy with them, it didn't take me long to put an end to Mr. Injun.
"Whether there was more than one buck 'round, I didn't know. But I'd no sooner got to my feet than I found out, for on all sides of me the air was split with their awful yells.
"Dropping to my knees, I crawled into the long grass as fast as I could, and the only thing that saved me was because they had been busy with the cattle, and didn't know where I was.
"After they'd hunted for me a while, they rounded up the critters, gathered in my pinto, and moved away.
"Just as soon as I heard 'em going I lit out in the opposite direction, and hoofed it back to Sam's."
BOB DOES A KIND ACT
As the stranger recounted this exciting adventure, Bob's eyes grew larger and larger, and his mouth gaped in wonder. Many a time had he read in story-books of similar attacks by Indians, but the thought that he was actually gazing at a man who had been through such an ordeal seemed too delightful to be true. And so reverentially admiring was his manner toward his travelling companion that the other couldn't but smile good-naturedly.
"Where did you say that place was?" inquired Bob, after a silence of many minutes, as he retold to himself the story of the scar and pictured the scene before his mind's eye.
"What part of the state is that?"
"It's about the middle, as east and west goes, but nearer the northern than the southern border."
"Are there—are there any ranches near Fairfax now, do you suppose?"
"I reckon so, though it's more than seven years since I came East."
"Aren't you ever going back there?" inquired Bob, in a tone which said plainly that it was beyond his understanding how a man could give up life on a ranch and settle down to the very ordinary, prosaic life of the East.
For a moment the man looked at Bob searchingly, and then replied:
"I reckon that it's better for my health here in the East."
But the significance of this remark was lost on Bob. For a few minutes he was silent, the expression on his face, however, indicating that he was thinking earnestly, and at last the cause of his deliberation was explained in his question:
"Do you think there are any Indians around Fairfax now?"
"Not the kind there was in the early days when I was out there. The government has tried to make them like white people, and now the Injuns that you would find are either lazy, or they have deteriorated into half-breeds. Once in a while some of the bucks go on a rampage, but not very often."
"I think I'll go to Fairfax," announced Bob after another period of deliberation. "You don't know any one out there with whom you think I could get in to work, do you?"
"No, I can't say as I do, and besides a recommendation from me wouldn't help you any. But I think so long as you have no particular section of the state in mind, that Fairfax would be as good as any."
Bob lost no time in taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by his companion for asking him about the customs of the cowboys and life on a ranch in general, and many were the valuable pointers the stranger gave him, some of which Bob afterwards remembered, but more of which he forgot.
Between Bob's inquiries and the stories which his travelling companion narrated, the morning passed quickly, and what had loomed before the boy as long and dreary hours, seemed but a minute, so entertaining was the stranger.
True to his word, when the train pulled into the station where the stop was made for those passengers who desired to get lunch, the stranger insisted upon Bob getting out and eating with him. And Bob found that the man's appetite was just as keen when he was paying for his food, as when he was eating that provided by others.