E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE BOY FROM THE RANCH
Roy Bradner's City Experiences
FRANK V. WEBSTER
Author of "Only a Farm Boy," "The Newsboy Partners," "Bob the Castaway," "The Young Treasure Hunter," Etc.
[Frontispiece: "Some fired their revolvers"]
New York Cupples & Leon Company Publishers Copyright, 1909, by Cupples & Leon Company THE BOY FROM THE RANCH
I. ROY RECEIVES A MESSAGE II. MR. BRADNER IS SUSPICIOUS III. A FAREWELL RIDE IV. ROY IS PUZZLED V. A QUEER BED VI. A SUDDEN AWAKENING VII. A GAME ON THE TRAIN VIII. A STOP FOR REPAIRS IX. THE DUDE IS SWINDLED X. ROY GAINS A FRIEND XI. ROY STOPS A RUNAWAY XII. AT THE HOTEL XIII. A VISIT TO MR. ANNISTER XIV. ROY'S TRICK XV. CALEB ANNISTER IS SURPRISED XVI. SOME NEW EXPERIENCES XVII. CALEB ANNISTER MAKES PLANS XVIII. ROY IN DANGER XIX. ROY IS MISSING XX. IN THE TENEMENT XXI. A DANGEROUS DESCENT XXII. GETTING A CLUE XXIII. A LAWYER'S ADVICE XXIV. ANOTHER RASCALLY ATTEMPT XXV. THE ROUND-UP—CONCLUSION
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Some fired their revolvers" . . . . . . Frontispiece
"Look out," cried Roy, "they are swindlers!"
"Get out of my office!"
"I think you'll stay there for a while," said Wakely.
THE BOY FROM THE RANCH
ROY RECEIVES A MESSAGE
"Hi there, Low Bull, ruste [Transcriber's note: rustle?] around the other way and round up them steers! Hustle now! What's the matter with you? Want to go to sleep on the trail?"
Billy Carew, foreman of the Triple O ranch, addressed these remarks to a rather ugly-looking Indian, who was riding a pony that seemed much too small for him. The Indian, who was employed as a cowboy, was letting his steed amble slowly along, paying little attention to the work of rounding up the cattle.
"Come now, Low Bull, get a move on," advised the foreman. "Make believe you're hunting palefaces," he added, and then, speaking in a lower tone he said: "this is the last time I'll ever hire a lazy Indian to help round-up."
"What's the matter, Billy?" asked a tall, well-built lad, riding up to the foreman.
"Matter? Everything's the matter. Here I foolishly go and give Low Bull charge of the left wing of rounding up these steers, and he's so lazy and good-for-nothing that he'll let half of 'em get away 'fore we get back to the ranch. Get a move on you now!" he called to the Indian, and, seeing that the foreman was very much in earnest, Low Bull urged his pony to a gallop, and began to get the straggling steers into some kind of shape.
"Can't I help you, Billy?" asked the boy.
Since he is to figure largely in this story I shall give you a brief description of him. Roy Bradner was the only son of James Bradner, who owned a large ranch, near the town of Painted Stone, in Colorado. The boy's mother was dead, and he had lived with his father on the ranch ever since he was a baby.
Spending much of his time in the open air, Roy had become almost as strong and sturdy as a man, and in some respects he could do the work of one.
He was quite expert in managing horses, even steeds that had never known a saddle, and at throwing the lariat, or lasso, few on the ranch could beat him. He was a good shot with the revolver and rifle, and, in short, was a typical western boy.
"Can't I help you, Billy?" the lad asked again, as he saw the foreman had not appeared to hear his question.
"Yes, I wish you would, Roy. Ride up there alongside of Low Bull, and sort of keep him up to the mark. It sure looks as if he was going to sleep in the saddle."
"I'll do it, Billy. Where are we going to camp to-night?"
"Well, I guess if we make a few miles more I'll call it a day's work and quit. We've done pretty well, and if Low Bull would have done his share, we'd be nearer the ranch than we are now. I don't want any better round-up men than Nesting Henderson and the rest, but we need another man, and that's why I had to take Low Bull along. But I'll know better next time."
"Never mind, Billy. I'll see if I can't keep him on the go," said Roy, and, with a ringing shout, to hurry up some lagging steers, he touched his horse lightly with the spurs, and dashed toward where the Indian was making a half-hearted effort to keep his division of the drive from straggling.
"I've come to help you, Low Bull," announced Roy, as he reached the side of the Indian.
"Hu! Boy heap smart!" grunted the redman. "Steers like boy—go fast now."
In fact it seemed as if the cattle knew some one was now behind them who would keep them on the move, for they quickened their pace.
"I don't know whether they like me or not," remarked Roy, with a laugh that showed his white teeth in contrast to his bronzed skin, "for I reckon if I happened to fall off my horse they'd trample over me mighty quick; they sure would."
"Hu! Mebby so. Steers no like men not on hoss," spoke Low Bull, stating a fact well known among cattlemen, for the steers of the plains are so used to seeing a man on a horse, that once a cowboy is dismounted the cattle become frightened, and are liable to stampede, and trample the unfortunate man to death.
"Billy says we must hurry the steers along," went on Roy. "We're going to camp pretty soon, and he wants to get to the ranch as soon as possible, though I guess it will take us two days more."
"No need so much rush," said Low Bull. "Go slow be better. Boy drive steers now, Low Bull take smoke and think. Low Bull much tired."
"I guess he was born that way," thought Roy, as he saw the redman start to make a cigarette, a habit he had learned from the white cowboys. Low Bull was soon smoking in peace and comfort, while he let his pony amble along at its own sweet will. The Indian gave no further thought to the cattle, leaving the management of the stragglers to Roy, and the lad had to dash here and there on his nimble pony, shouting and waving his lariat, to keep the lagging steers up with the rest of the herd. However, Roy was so full of life, and took so much interest in his work, that he did not mind doing Low Bull's share, as well as his own.
"That's just like that lazy Indian," remarked Billy Carew, as he observed, from a distance, what Roy was doing. "He'll let the boy do all the work. I'll discharge him after this round-up, that's what I'll do. Might have known better than to hire one of them copper-skins!"
Roy, whose father owned the Triple O ranch, had come out on this round-up about a week previously. On all big ranches it is the custom, at stated intervals to send out a party of men to round-up, or gather together, in herds, the cattle or horses that may have strayed to distant pastures.
Sometimes a week or more is spent on this work, the men sleeping out of doors, and making camp wherever darkness overtakes them. During the night they take turns riding around the cattle, to keep them from straying away.
Day by day the herd is driven nearer the ranch, until they are either placed in corrals, which are big pens, or are counted, brands put on the new calves, and turned out again, to roam about over the immense pastures, and fatten up for the market.
Mr. Bradner was an extensive ranch owner, and had several herds of cattle. He was considered quite wealthy, but he had made his money by hard work, having very little when he first went out west with his wife and little boy. His wife had died soon after he reached Colorado, and, after his baby days, Roy had been brought up by his father.
The boy liked the life on the ranch, and was fast becoming an expert along cattle lines. He was a good judge of steers and horses, and, while he knew nothing of city ways, never since a mere infant having been in anything larger than a town, and not having traveled more than a few miles, there was nothing about life on the plains but what he was acquainted with.
After much hard riding Roy managed to get that part of the herd entrusted to the Indian, into compact form. Then he came back to his companion, who was riding along as if he had nothing more to think about than keeping his cigarette lighted.
"Hu! Heap smart boy!" grunted Low Bull. "Know how make steers travel."
"I should think you would know how to do it too," said Roy. "You've always lived on the plains."
"Too much work. Indian no like work. Like sit an' think, an' smoke. No like work."
"Everybody's got to work in this world, Low Bull."
"Rich man no work. Me like be rich man."
"But the man sure had to work hard to get rich. I s'pose rich men feel that they can take life easy after they have earned a fortune."
"Indian no like work. Drive cattle too hard. Me quit soon," was all Low Bull replied.
"Yes, and if you don't quit I think Billy will make you vamoose anyhow," murmured Roy.
Low Bull rolled another cigarette, and seemed to go to sleep under the influence of it. Roy had to race off after a couple of straying steers, and had no further time for talking. When he had brought the cattle back, a long, shrill cry echoed over the plain. At the sound of it Low Bull seemed to wake up.
"Billy make camp now," he said. "Soon supper—eat—Low Bull hungry."
It was the signal for making camp, and, finding themselves no longer urged forward, the steers stopped, and began to crop the rich grass.
The cowboys, of whom there were several, with joyful shouts, came riding up to the cook wagon, which had been pulled along in the rear, but which now came to a halt on the broad, rolling plain. "Smoke" Tardell started a fire from grease-wood, and began to prepare the evening meal.
"Set out plenty of grub, Smoke," called one of the cowboys, riding close up to Tardell, and playfully snatching his big sombrero off.
"Here! You let that be, Bruce Arkdell!" exclaimed the cook. "That's my new hat, an' I don't want it spoiled!"
"Give me an extra plate of beans, or I'll shoot a hole in it!" threatened the cowboy, drawing hit heavy revolver, and aiming it at the hat, which he held in one hand.
"All right. You can have three platesful, but don't you spoil my hat!" cried the cook, as he received back his sombrero. "I never see such crazy chaps as them boys be when they're headed for the ranch," muttered "Smoke," as he set the coffee pot over the fire.
It did not take long to prepare the meal, and the cowboys crowded around the "grub wagon" as they called it. Low Bull was among them, his eyes greedy for food.
"Here, Low Bull," exclaimed Billy Carew, "you go out and ride around them steers awhile. They ain't quieted down yet, and I don't want no stampede now. Ride around 'em, and make 'em feel easy."
"After supper," said the Indian.
"No, now!" insisted the foreman.
"Low Bull hungry. Like eat."
"Low Bull is going to stay hungry then, until some of the others have piled in their grub," declared Billy. "I'll send somebody out to take your place, as soon as they've eaten. Now vamoose!"
"Low Bull like eat."
"Yes, I know. Low Bull like eat, but no like work. That's what's the matter with Low Bull," exclaimed Billy with a laugh. "Now git."
The Indian knew there was no use disputing this decision, so, with no very good grace, he started to ride slowly around the cattle, to keep them from moving off in a body.
"I'll go out and relieve him in a little while," offered Roy. "I'll soon be through supper."
"You take your time now, son," advised Billy. "It won't hurt that redskin to go hungry a while. Maybe he'll be a little sprier after this."
Supper was soon served, and when Roy had eaten his share he prepared to go out, and relieve Low Bull. He threw the saddle over his pony's back, and, having tightened the girths, was about to vault into place, when he and the other cowboys became aware that some one was riding in great haste toward the temporary camp.
"Somebody's coming," remarked Bruce Arkdell.
"Don't you s'pose we know it," said Billy good naturedly. "We've got our sight yet."
"Yes, and it's Porter Simms, from the way he gallops," added the cook, shading his eyes from the setting sun, and peering across the prairies at the riding man.
"'Tis Porter," confirmed Billy. "Wonder what he wants? Hope nothing's happened."
Somehow the words sent a slight feeling of fear to Roy's heart. The man might have bad news for some one in camp.
"Is Roy here?" cried Porter, as soon as he had come within talking distance.
"Yes, I'm here," replied the boy. "What's the matter? Is it my father—?"
"Now don't go gettin' skeered," advised Porter, as he pulled up his horse sharply. "I sure did ride fast to locate you, but your daddy wanted me to be sure to tell you, first-off, not to git skeered."
"What's the matter?" asked Roy, his heart fluttering.
"Well, your daddy's a little under the weather, and he wants for you to come back to the ranch right away. That's the message I was to give to you. Don't wait to come in with the steers, but start right off. I'll stay here and take your place."
"Is he—was he very bad?" asked Roy, who had left his father, seemingly, in perfect health.
"No, not so very I guess. The doctor was there, and he didn't seem much put out. I reckon Mr. Bradner had a sort of a bad turn, that's all."
"I'll start right away," decided Roy. "If I ride all night I can get there by morning."
"Don't you want one of us to go with you?" asked Billy.
"No. I'm not afraid. I've done it before. Smoke, will you pack me a little grub?"
"Surest thing you know!" exclaimed the cook, as he began to do up some bacon and bread.
MR. BRADNER IS SUSPICIOUS
Crowding around Roy in ready sympathy, the cowboys questioned Porter as to the state of affairs at the ranch. The messenger knew very little about it. He had been to a distant pasture land, when he had been summoned to the ranch house by another cowboy, who was sent after him. When he got back he found Mr. Bradner quite ill.
"He said he wanted me to go for Roy," went on Porter, "'cause he knew I could ride fast. But he particular didn't want Roy to git worried. He said it was as much a business matter as anything."
"Maybe he's goin' to die an' wants to make his will," suggested one of the cowboys.
"Here! What's the matter with you! Don't you know no better than that?" demanded Billy in a hoarse whisper. "Want to give Roy a scare? I'll peg you out if you do that again!"
"I—I didn't think!"
"No, I guess you didn't. Lucky he didn't hear you. Now you think twice before you speak once, after this."
"Here's your grub," announced the cook, holding out a big package to Roy. It contained enough food for three men, but Roy was a favorite with "Smoke," as indeed he was with all the men on the ranch, and this was the only way the genius of the camp-fire could show his affection.
"Say, what do you think he goin' to do? Be three days on the home trail?" asked Billy. "He don't want no snack like that. He can't carry it."
"I thought maybe he'd be hungry in the night."
"I expect I will be, but not enough to get away with all that," remarked Roy with a smile, as he saw the big package. "I just want a little bread, and some cold bacon."
The cook, with a sigh at the thought of the boy not being able to eat all the food, made a smaller package. Meanwhile Roy was in the saddle, ready to travel, wondering what could be the matter with his father, and why his parent had sent for him in such a hurry.
"Got your gun?" asked Porter.
"Yes," answered Roy, tapping the pistol in its holster at his belt.
"Maybe you'd better take my pony," suggested Billy. "He can travel faster than yours."
"No; Jack Rabbit's good enough for me," replied the boy, patting his own pony on the neck. "Yours may be a bit faster, but Jack Rabbit will stick longer. Well, I'm off!"
"Good luck!" called Billy.
"Don't worry!" advised Porter.
"We'll see you in a couple of days," shouted the other cowboys. "Take care of yourself."
"I will," said Roy, as he called to his pony, who started off on a steady "lope" that rapidly carried him over the ground.
Now that he was away from the confusion of the camp, and had nothing to distract his mind, Roy gave himself up to thoughts of his father.
"He must be quite sick," he reasoned, "or he never would have sent for me in such a rush. I wonder if Porter was afraid to tell me the truth?"
For an instant the fear that his father might be dead, and that the cowboy had not dared to tell him of it, unnerved Roy. Then his natural braveness came back to him.
"Oh, pshaw! What's the use of thinking such gloomy thoughts," he said to himself. "Maybe dad only had a little fit of indigestion, like he had before. I remember then I thought he sure was going to die. But Porter said it was as much business as anything else. Now what sort of business could dad have that he would need me in such a hurry?"
Roy did not see any prospect of his questions being answered, at least until he got to the ranch, and could talk to his father, so he continued on, urging his pony to a faster gait.
It soon began to get dark, but Roy did not mind this, as he had often ridden all night when on a round-up. Of course, on such occasions he had been in company with his father's cowboys. Still, the prospect of his lonely journey through the darkness did not alarm him.
He knew the trail very well, from having been over it often, and, though there were occasionally ugly Indians, or unemployed cowboys, to be met with on the plains, Roy did not imagine he would have any trouble with them. He was armed, but he hoped he would have no occasion to draw his revolver.
There were no wild animals, except steers, to be met and these, he knew, would be in herds under the care of competent men. Besides a steer rarely attacks a man on a horse.
So Roy rode through the long night. About one o'clock he stopped, built a little grease-wood fire, and warmed his bacon. Then he munched that and the bread with a good appetite, drinking some coffee the cook had given him in a flask.
"I ought to get to the ranch by sun-up," thought the boy, and he was not mistaken, for, when the golden ball peeped up over the prairies Roy saw the outbuildings of his father's big cattle farm. A little later he had ridden up to the ranch house, and dismounted.
"My father! How is he?" he exclaimed, as he saw the cook on the verandah.
"Better," was the reply, and the boy felt a sense of relief. "Much better. Come right in and have some hot coffee. I've got it all ready for you."
"Not until I've seen my father," and Roy hurried into the ranch house.
"Is that you, Roy?" called a voice from a bedroom.
"Yes, father! How are you?"
"Considerable better. I hope you were not alarmed."
"Well, I was—some."
Roy saw that his father was in bed. The man looked quite pale, and on a stand, near him, were several bottles of medicine.
"What is it, father?" asked Roy. "What happened?"
"Well, nothing much, though I was afraid it was at the time. I got one of my bad spells of indigestion, and it affected my heart."
"Did you think you were going to die?"
"Well, I did, but the doctor only laughed at me. He said I was needlessly alarmed, and I think, now, that I was. But when I was in such pain, fearing something would happen, I thought of a business matter that needed attending to. I decided I had better get my affairs in shape—in case anything should happen, so I sent for you, to have a talk."
"What sort of a talk, father?"
"A business talk. I'm going to have you undertake something in an entirely new line. You're a pretty good cattleman now, and I want to see how you'll make out on a business deal."
"I'll soon explain. But tell me; how is Billy, and the boys?"
"Are they getting the cattle in good shape? Where did Porter find you?"
"The cattle will be here to-morrow, I think. Porter came up just as we were camping out near the small dried creek in the big swale," replied Roy, describing the place so that his father would know it. "But now tell me about this business. I am glad you are better."
"Yes, I feel much improved. My indigestion is all gone, and I think I can eat breakfast. I'll tell you then."
Roy could hardly wait for the meal to be finished. After his father had had his repast in bed, Mr. Bradner told his son to close the door, and sit down close beside him.
"I'm going to take you into my confidence," said the ranch owner. "It's time you knew something of my business affairs, and I am going to entrust you with a commission. A good deal depends on the success of it."
"I hope I can do it, father."
"I am pretty sure you can, or I would not let you go. Now I'll tell you what it is. You do not know it, but I have an interest in some property, left by your mother's brother, your Uncle Henry Mayfield. This property was left to your mother, and when she died the property came to me, and to you. That is, I have a third interest in it, and you have two-thirds."
"That hardly seems fair. You should have more than I."
"Never mind, Roy. In fact I intend that, in time, you shall have the whole of the property."
"Where is it located?"
"In New York City."
"New York? That is a long way off."
"Yes, a good many miles. In fact I have never seen the property. It is in charge of an agent—a real estate man. Every month he sends me the money received for rent, and, for several years I have put your share away, at interest in a bank."
"Then I have some money saved up, and did not know it."
"That is right, and it is quite a sum. But, of late, the rents have been falling off, until they are only about half what they were when your mother owned the property."
"Why is this?"
"The agent says it is because the property has gone down in value, but I can not see how that is, as it is in a good part of New York, and that city is certainly not getting smaller."
"How do you account for the rents being less, then?"
"That is just the point. I can't account for it, and, to tell you the truth, I am suspicious of this real estate man."
"Who is he?"
"His name is Caleb Annister."
"What do you propose doing, dad? Can't you get a lawyer to see him, and find out if he is cheating you?"
"I suppose I could, but I have thought of a different plan. It came to me when I was lying sick here, and I decided to put it into operation, so as to straighten out my affairs as well as your own."
"What's your plan, dad?"
"I am going to send you to New York, to look up this property and the matter of rents, and see whether or not Caleb Annister is telling the truth, when he says that the value has gone down. Roy, I want you to act as my agent, and start for New York at once!"
A FAREWELL RIDE
His father's announcement rather startled Roy. He had never thought much of business, outside of that connected with the ranch, and now the idea of endeavoring to ascertain the value of property, and whether the agent of it was doing his duty, came as a sort of shock. But, more than this, was the idea of going to a big city.
In all his life, as far as he could remember, Roy had never been in any town of more than five thousand inhabitants. He had never, so far as he knew, taken more than a short ride in a railroad train. I say as far as he knew, for he had been born in Chicago, but when he was an infant, his parents had gone out west, so while it was true that he had lived in a big city, and had made quite a railroad journey, he knew nothing about it, except what his father had told him.
"You want me to go to New York, dad?" he repeated, wondering if he had heard aright.
"That's it. I want you to find out just exactly what Caleb Annister is doing."
"But, I have had no experience in those lines."
"I know you have not, but I think you can do what I want. All it needs is brains and common sense, and you have both."
"But I have never been in a big city."
"No, not since you were old enough to notice anything, but that need not worry you. If I told you to go back to where the boys were rounding-up the cattle, you could do it; couldn't you?"
"Well, if you can find your way over the trackless plains I guess you can manage to get along in a big city, even if it is New York. All you have to do is to ask when you don't understand. I guess if some of those city boys came out here, they'd get lost a good deal quicker than you will in the streets of New York. Now you had better get ready to start. I'll draw up some papers, and get some instructions ready for you. I think Annister is trying to swindle you and me out of this property. If I was well enough I would go myself, but, as it is, I shall send you."
"Do you think you are well enough for me to leave you?" asked Roy anxiously.
"Oh, yes, there is nothing serious the matter with me. I shall have to be careful of what I eat, that's all, and if I went to New York I'd probably be worse off than I am here, for I would want to try all sorts of new dishes, and my dyspepsia would be very bad."
"Very well, dad. I'll get ready at once. It sure will be a new experience for me. I'll round-up this Caleb Annister for you, rope him and put the branding iron on, if I find he's trying to get any of our mavericks into his herd."
"That's the way to talk!" exclaimed Mr. Bradner. "You're a regular westerner, Roy. Don't let the ways of city folks bother you. Do the best you know how, be polite to the ladies, respectful to the men, and don't let 'em bluff you! Stick up for your rights, and don't be afraid of anybody. They may try to stampede you in New York, but you keep your head, and you'll come out all right."
"I'll try, dad. When do you want me to start?"
"To-morrow, if you can. The boys will be in from the round-up then."
That day Roy spent in getting his clothes packed in a big valise and a trunk. It was decided he should ride to the nearest railroad station, and there take a train for Chicago, where he would have to change cars for New York.
In the meanwhile Mr. Bradner drew up a paper giving his son the right to act in a certain capacity. This was put into legal form, and witnessed, a near-by notary being called in to attach his seal.
"Of course I don't know exactly how you will find the lay of the land there in New York," said Mr. Bradner that night, "as I have never been there. Nor do I know this Caleb Annister. I have had considerable correspondence with him, and I take him to be a sharp business man. He may try to bluff you, but don't you stand for it. It might be a good plan to size him up first, before you tell him who you are."
"That's what I'll do, dad."
"You'll have to make your own plans when you get there," went on his father. "You may have to spend considerable money, so I'll give you a good sum in cash, and a draft on my New York bankers. If you get in a hole do the best you can, and telegraph me if you need help. Just camp on the trail of this Caleb Annister, and see what his game is. It doesn't stand to reason that property in New York is shrinking in value. I think there is something wrong somewhere, and I depend on you to find it."
"I hope I won't disappoint you, dad."
"I don't believe you will, Roy. Now you had better get to bed, for it's quite late, and you'll have a hard journey ahead of you."
Roy did not feel a bit tired, for he was hardy and strong, but he did as his father suggested. He could not get to sleep at first thinking of his prospective trip, for he had always wanted to go to a big city, and now he had the chance.
Billy Carew and the other cowboys came in the next morning with the steers, which were turned into a corral for branding purposes. Roy told his friends of his journey.
"Prancing prairie dogs!" exclaimed Billy. "I wish I was going. Lickity thunder, but that's a great trip, clear to New York!"
"We'll ride to the station with you," proposed Bruce Arkdell. "We'll give you a good send off!"
"That's what we will!" chorused the others.
Roy was to start soon after dinner, as the Chicago express would not stop at the railroad station of Painted Stone unless it was flagged.
A little later a strange procession left the ranch house. Roy and Billy Carew rode at the head, and all the cowboys who could be spared followed after. Roy's trunk and valises were strapped on the back of a pack mule.
Mr. Bradner, who was not quite well enough to stand the trip to the station, bade his son an affectionate good-bye, and wished him all success.
"Telegraph if you get into trouble," he said.
"Yes, and we'll all hot-foot it to the burg of New York, and shoot-up the town!" exclaimed Billy. "We'll show 'em how a boy from the ranch can be took care of!"
"I guess there'll be no need of that," remarked Roy with a smile.
It was several miles to the railroad station, and, on the way the cowboys rushed their ponies here and there, indulging in all sorts of antics, for they regarded it as a sort of a holiday, though they liked Roy, and were sorry to see him leave.
"Now boys! Give him a grand salute!" proposed Bruce, when they came in sight of the station.
The cowboys drew their revolvers, aimed them into the air, and fired them off as fast as they could pull their triggers. It sounded as though a small battle was in progress.
"Give him a yell!" suggested Smoke Tardell, and the ranchers shouted like wild Indians.
"Here comes the train!" called Billy Carew, as a whistle was heard, and, down the long line of glistening rails, the smoke of a locomotive was seen. The station agent went out to flag the express.
"Take care of yourself," advised Bruce.
"Bring me back a slice of New York," requested Smoke. "I want it well done."
"Be careful you don't get 'well-done', Roy," advised Billy Carew. "Don't buy any gold bricks, or Confederate money, and take care, Roy, that them sharpers don't git ye!"
He waved his big sombrero, an example followed by all the other cowboys, as Roy climbed aboard the express. His trunk and valises were tumbled into the baggage car, the engineer blew two short blasts, and the train was off again, bearing Roy to New York.
His last view was of his father's cowboys, waving a farewell to him with their big hats, while some fired their revolvers, and others yelled at the top of their lungs.
"I wonder when I'll see them again," thought Roy. "I sort of hate to leave the old ranch, but I'm glad I'm going to New York."
He did not know all that was before him, nor what was to happen before he again saw his friends, the cowboys.
ROY IS PUZZLED
While Roy's father had given him some instructions as to the best method of proceeding while in New York, Mr. Bradner had said nothing to his son about what he might expect on his railroad trip. Therefore the boy was totally unprepared for the novelties of modern travel. Mr. Bradner had thought it wise to let his son find out things for himself.
Roy had never been in anything but an ordinary day coach, and those were of an old-fashioned type. But his father had purchased for him tickets all the way to New York in the Pullman parlor and sleeping cars, and it was in a luxurious parlor car, then, that Roy found himself when he boarded the express.
At first the boy did not know what to make of it. The car had big chairs instead of the ordinary seats, the windows were nearly twice as large as those in other coaches, and there were silk and plush curtains hanging over them. Besides there was a thick, soft velvety carpet on the floor of the coach, and, what with the inlaid and polished wood, the hangings, mirrors, brass and nickel-plated fixtures, Roy thought he had, by mistake, gotten into the private car of some millionaire.
He had occasionally seen the outside of these fine coaches as they rushed through Painted Stone, but he had never dreamed that he would be in one. So, as soon as he entered the coach, he started back.
"What's de matter, sah?" inquired a colored porter in polite tones, as he came from what seemed a little cubby-hole built in the side of the car.
"Guess I'm in the wrong corral," remarked Roy, who was so used to using western and cattle terms, that he did not consider how they would sound to other persons.
"Wrong corral, sah?"
"Yes; I must be mixed in with the wrong brand. Where's the regular coach?"
"Oh, dis coach am all reg'lar, sah. Reg'lar as can be. We ain't got none but reg'lar coaches on dis yeah express. No indeed, sah."
"But I guess my ticket doesn't entitle me to a ride in a private car."
"Let me see youh ticket, sah."
Roy passed the negro the bit of pasteboard.
"Oh, yes indeedy, sah. Youh is all right. Dis am de coach youh g'wine to ride in. We goes all de way to Chicago, sah."
"Is this for regular passengers?" asked Roy, wondering how the railroad could afford to supply such luxurious cars.
"Well, it's fo' them as pays fo' it, sah. Youh has got a ticket fo' de Pullman car, an' dis am it, sah. Let me show yo' to youh seat, sah."
"Well, I s'pose it's all right," remarked Roy a little doubtfully. He saw several passengers smiling, and he wondered if they were laughing at him, or if he had made a mistake. He resolved to be careful, as he did not want it known that he was making a long journey for the first time.
"Heah's youh seat," went on the porter, escorting Roy to a deep, soft chair. "I'll be right back yeah, an' if youh wants me, all youh has to do is push this yeah button," and he showed Roy an electric button fixed near the window.
"Well, I don't know what I'll want of you," said the boy, trying to think what excuse he could have for calling the colored man.
"Why, sah, youh might want to git breshed off, or youh might want a book, or a cigar—"
"I don't smoke," retorted Roy promptly.
"Well, I'm here to wait on passengers," went on the negro, "and if youh wants me all youh has to do is push that yeah button."
"All right—er—" he paused, not knowing what to call the porter.
"Mah name's George Washington Thomas Jefferson St. Louis Algernon Theophilus Brown, but folks dey gen'ally calls me George, sah," and the porter grinned so that he showed every one of his big white teeth.
"All right—George," said Roy, beginning to understand something of matters. "I'll call you if I want you."
"Dey calls out when it's meal time."
"I say dey calls out when it's meal time. De dining car potah will call out when it's time fo' dinner."
"Oh," remarked Roy, rather dubiously, for he did not know exactly what was meant.
The porter left him, laughing to himself at the lack of knowledge shown by the boy from the ranch, but for all that George Washington St. Louis Algernon Theophilus Brown resolved to do all he could for Roy. As for the young traveler he was so interested in the scenery, as it appeared to fly past the broad windows of the car, that he did not worry about what he was going to do when it came meal time.
Still, after an hour or so of looking out of the window it became a little tiresome, and he turned around to observe his fellow passengers. Seated near him was a well-dressed man, who had quite a large watch chain strung across his vest. He had a sparkling stone in his necktie, and another in a ring on his finger.
"Your first trip East?" he asked, nodding in a friendly way to Roy.
"My first trip, of any account, anywhere. I haven't taken a long railroad journey since I was a baby, and I don't remember that."
"I thought you looked as if you hadn't been a very great distance away from home. Going far?"
"To New York."
"Ah you have business there, I suppose?"
Now Roy, though he was but a youth, unused to the ways of the world, had much natural shrewdness. He had been brought up in the breeziness of the West, where it is not considered good form, to say the least, to ask too many questions of a man. If a person wanted to tell you his affairs, that was a different matter. So, as Roy's mission was more or less of a secret one, he decided it would not be well to talk about it, especially to strangers. So he answered:
"Yes, I have some business there."
His manner was such that the man soon saw the boy did not care to talk about his affairs, and, being a keen observer, too much so for Roy's good, as we shall soon see, the man did not pursue his questioning on those lines.
"Fine scenery," he remarked. "Good, open country around here."
Roy felt that was a safe enough subject to talk about, and he and the man, who introduced himself as Mr. Phelan Baker, spent some time in conversation.
Roy, however, was continually wondering what he should do when the announcement was made that dinner was to be served. He did not want to make any mistakes, and have the car full of passengers laugh at him, yet he did not know what was proper to do under the circumstances.
He had neglected to Inquire how they served meals on trains, and, in fact, had he done so, no one at the ranch could have told him, as not even Mr. Bradner had traveled enough to make it necessary to eat in a dining car.
"If I was back at the ranch I'd know what to do when I heard the grub-call," thought Roy. "But this thing has got me puzzled. It sure has. I wonder if they bring you in sandwiches and coffee, as they did to a party I went to? Or do you have to go up and help yourself? I don't see how they cook anything on a train going as fast as this one. They must have to eat cold victuals. Well, I guess I can stand it for a few days, I've eaten cold bacon and bread when on a round-up, and I'm not going to hold back now. Guess I'll just do as the rest do."
A little while after this a colored man, in a spotless white suit, passed through the parlor car, calling out:
"Dinner is now being served in the dining car. First call for dinner!"
"Well, it's up to me to go to grub now," thought Roy. "I wonder how I'll make out?"
A QUEER BED
"Are you going to eat on the first call?" asked Mr. Baker, rising from his comfortable chair and looking at Roy.
"I don't know—I think—Yes, I guess I will."
It suddenly occurred to the boy that he might take advantage of the acquaintance he had formed with the man, and observe just how he ought to conduct himself in the dining car.
"I shall be glad of your company," spoke Mr. Baker, with a pleasant smile. "Will you sit at my table?"
"I'm not so very hungry," remarked Roy, thinking that if he found things too strange he could call for something simple, though the truth was he had an excellent appetite.
"I am not either," declared Mr. Baker. "I never eat much while traveling, but I think it best to have my meals regularly. Now, if you'll come with me, we'll see what they have at this traveling hotel."
He led the way from the parlor to the dining car. If Roy had been astonished at the magnificence of the first coach he was doubly so at the scene which now met his eyes.
Arranged along both sides of the dining car, next to the broad, high windows, were small tables, sparkling with cut-glass and silver. In the center of each table was a small pot of graceful ferns, while throughout the car there were fine hangings, beautifully inlaid wood, and on the floor a soft carpet. It was, indeed, a fine traveling hotel.
At the tables, not all of which were occupied, were seated beautiful women, some handsomely gowned, and there were men, attired in the height of fashion. For the first time Roy felt rather ashamed of his ordinary "store" clothes, which were neither properly cut, nor of good material.
"Here is a good table," said Mr. Baker, indicating one about the center of the car.
Roy took his seat opposite his new acquaintance, a queer feeling of nervousness overcoming him.
"I'd rather ride a bucking bronco any day, than be here," the boy thought. But he was not going to back out now. He knew he had the money to pay for whatever he ordered, and, he reflected that if he was not as stylishly dressed as the others, he was probably more hungry than any of them, for he had an early breakfast.
As soon as Roy and Mr. Baker were seated, a colored waiter glided swiftly to their table and filled their glasses from a curiously shaped vessel, called a "caraffe," which looked something like a bottle or flask, with a very large body, and a very small neck. Inside was a solid lump of ice, which made the water cold. Roy looked curiously at the piece of frozen crystal. Mr. Baker noted his look of astonishment.
"Don't you like ice water?" he asked.
"Yes, but I was wondering how in the world they ever got that big hunk of ice through the little neck of that bottle."
"Oh," exclaimed Mr. Baker with a laugh, "they first fill the caraffe with water, and then they freeze it in an ice machine they have on the train for keeping the other supplies from spoiling. It would be rather difficult to put that chunk of ice down through that narrow neck."
Roy understood now. He began to think he had lots to learn of the world, but there was more coming. The waiter placed a menu card in front of Mr. Baker, and laid one at Roy's plate. He knew what they were, for he had several times taken dinner at a small hotel at Painted Stone.
He was not prepared however for the queer language in which the menu card or bill of fare was printed. It was French, and the names of the most ordinary dishes were in that foreign tongue.
Roy was puzzled. He wanted a substantial meal, but he did not know how to order it. He was afraid to try to pronounce the odd looking words, and I am afraid if he had done so he would have made a mistake, as, indeed, better educated persons than he would have done. He had a wild notion of telling the waiter to bring everything on the bill of fare, but there seemed to be too many dishes.
Finally he decided on a course to pursue. The waiter was standing there, polite and all attention, for, though Roy's clothes did not impress him as indicating a lad of wealth, Mr. Baker's attire was showy enough to allow the colored man to think he might receive a handsome tip.
"I think I'll have a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee," said Roy in desperation. He knew he was safe in ordering that, even if it was not on the card, though it might have been for all he knew, disguised under some odd name.
Mr. Baker looked surprised.
"I should say you hadn't any appetite," he remarked. Then, as he understood the situation, and Roy's embarrassment, he said: "Suppose I order for both of us? I am used to this sort of thing."
Roy was grateful for this delicate way of putting it, and, with a sigh of relief, he replied:
"I wish you would. I guess I've got a good appetite after all."
Thereupon Mr. Baker ordered a simple but substantial meal, including soup, fish, roast beef, potatoes and side dishes of vegetables, ending up with coffee and pie.
"This is fine!" exclaimed Roy, when he had finished. "I s'pose they charge about two dollars for grub like this?"
Several persons in the dining car smiled, for Roy was used to shouting at cattle, and calling to cowboys, and had acquired a habit of speaking in rather loud tones.
"No, this 'grub' will cost you one dollar," said Mr. Baker.
"Well, it's worth it," declared the boy, pulling out quite a roll of bills, for his father had been generous. At the sight of the money a greedy look came into the eyes of Mr. Baker, a look that would have warned Roy had he seen it. But he was busy looking for a one-dollar bill among the fives and tens.
"Now, if you're ready we'll go back to the parlor car, and have a cigar in the smoking room," suggested Mr. Baker.
"No, thank you. Not for mine. I don't smoke."
"Well, it is a useless habit I suppose, but I am too old to change now. I'll join you presently," and the man went into a small compartment at one end of the parlor car, when they reached it, leaving Roy to go to his chair alone.
Had the boy seen the three men whom Mr. Baker greeted in the smoking room, perhaps our hero would not have been quite so ready to continue his acquaintance with the man. For, in the little apartment were three individuals whose faces did not indicate any too much honesty, and whose clothes were on the same "flashy" order as were Mr. Baker's, though none of the trio had as expensive jewelry as had Roy's new friend.
"Well, sport, how about you?" asked one of the men. "Did you manage to pick up anything?"
"Not so loud, Ike," cautioned Mr. Baker, addressing the man who had spoken, and whose name was Isaac Sutton. "I think I can put you on the track of something."
"Something good?" asked the third man, who was known as Jerome Hynard, though that was not his real name.
"We want it with plenty of cash," added the last man, who was called Dennison Tupper.
"This is a green kid, right from the ranch, going to New York," said Phelan Baker. "He's got quite a wad of money, and if you work the game right you may be able to get the most of it. I'll tell you how."
Then the four began to whisper, for they were laying a plot and were afraid of being overheard. All unconscious of the danger that threatened him, Roy was back in the parlor car, enjoying the scenery, and thinking of the many strange things he would see in New York.
For some reason Mr. Baker did not come back where Roy was. Perhaps he feared the boy might be suspicious of his sudden friendship, for Mr. Baker was a good reader of character, and he saw that Roy, in spite of his lack of experience, was a shrewd lad.
As for the young traveler, he began to get tired. He was unused to sitting still so long, and riding in a soft chair was very different from being on the back of the swift pony, galloping over the plains.
"I wonder what they're going to do about bunks?" thought Roy, as he looked about the car. "I don't fancy sleeping on these chairs, and I've heard they made the seats in the coaches up into bunks."
Roy had never seen a sleeping car, and imagined the coach he was in was one. He decided he would ask the porter about it soon, if he saw no signs of the beds being made up. He had his supper alone at a table in the dining car, Mr. Baker remaining with his three cronies, and out of Roy's sight. Profiting by his experience at dinner, the boy knew how to order a good meal.
To his relief, soon after he got back to the parlor car, the porter who had first spoken to him, came up and announced:
"Youh berth will be ready any time youh want it, sah."
Roy did not know exactly what was meant. At the ranch that word was never used, a bed being a "bunk."
"I don't think I care for any," said Roy, deciding that was the safest way.
"What's that, sah? Youh ain't goin to sit up all night, be youh? Mighty uncomfortable, sah. Better take a bed. Youh ticket calls fo' one, sah."
"Oh, you mean a bunk?"
"Bunk! Ha! Ha! Youh western gen'men gwine to hab youh joke, I see. We calls 'em berths, sah."
"Is mine ready?"
"Jest as soon as youh want it. Youh can go back in de sleeping car."
This Roy understood. He went back two coaches toward the rear, as directed by the porter, and found himself in still another kind of car. This had big plush seats, like small couches, facing each other, while, overhead, was a sort of sloping ceiling.
"I don't see where there are many bunks here," the boy remarked to himself. He saw persons sitting in the seats, talking, and, finding one unoccupied, he took possession of it. Soon a porter came in to him, examined his ticket, and asked:
"Do youh wish youh berth made up now, sah?"
"Guess I might as well," replied Roy, wondering where the porter was going to get the bed from, and whether he was going to produce it from some unseen source, as a conjurer pulls rabbits out of tall hats.
"Ef youh jest kindly take the next seat, I'll make up your berth," said the porter, and Roy moved back one place, but where he could still watch the colored man.
That individual then proceeded to make up the berth. While the process is familiar to many of my young readers, it was a novelty to Roy. With much wonder he watched the man lift up the cushions of the seats, take out blankets and pillows from the hollow places, and then slide the two bottoms of the seats together until they made a level place.
Then what Roy had thought to be merely a slanting part of the ceiling was pulled down, revealing a broad shelf, that formed the upper berth or bed. On this shelf were sheets, blankets and other things needed for the beds. In a short time Roy saw made before his eyes, where there had been only seats before, a comfortable "bunk" with pillows, white sheets, blankets, curtains hanging down in front and all complete.
"Now youh can turn in," said the porter with a smile, as he began to make up another berth. Roy decided to wait a while, until he saw how other men travelers undressed, and when he saw one man retire behind the curtains, and, sitting on the edge of his berth, take off his shoes, and the heavier parts of his clothing, Roy did likewise. Thus the difficult problem of getting to bed was solved.
A SUDDEN AWAKENING
Stretching out in the comfortable berth Roy thought he would soon fall asleep, as he was quite tired. But the novelty of his ride, the strange sensation of being whirled along many miles an hour while lying in bed, proved too much for him, and he found himself still wide-awake, though he had been in the berth an hour or more.
The noise of the wheels, the rumble of the train, the click-clack as the wheels passed over rail joints or switches, the bumping and swaying motion, all served to drive sleep away from Roy's eyes.
He thought of many things, of what he would do when he got to New York, of his father, of Caleb Annister, and what he should say to the New Yorker. Finally, however, the very monotony of the noises began to make him feel drowsy. In a little while he found his eyes closing, and then, almost before he knew it, he was asleep.
Meanwhile, back in the smoking room, the three men and Mr. Baker were talking over their cigars. One of them produced a pack of cards, and they began to play.
"Maybe if Isaac's game doesn't work, we can get him with these," suggested Mr. Baker, as he dealt the pasteboards to his companions.
"Maybe," agreed Hynard. "What time is Ike going to try it?"
"About two o'clock. He'll be sure to be asleep then."
Back in his berth, some hours after this, Roy was dreaming that he was being shaken in his bunk at the ranch house. He thought Billy Carew was urging him to get up early to go off on a round-up, and Roy was trying to drive the sleep away from his eyes, and comply.
Suddenly he knew it was not a dream, but that some one was moving him, though very gently. Then he became aware that a hand was being cautiously thrust under his pillow.
Roy did not stop to think—he acted. His instant impression was of thieves, and he did the most natural thing under the circumstances. He grabbed the hand that was being gently shoved under his pillow.
Instantly the wrist, which his fingers clasped, was snatched away, withdrawn from the curtains, and a voice exclaimed:
"Beg pardon. I was looking for your ticket. I'm the conductor. It's all right."
Roy thought the voice did not sound a bit like the voice of the conductor, who had spoken to him some time before. Nor could the boy understand why a conductor should be feeling under his pillow for his ticket, when Roy had, as was the custom, given him the bits of pasteboard, including his berth check, earlier in the evening. The conductor had said he would keep them until morning, to avoid the necessity of waking Roy up to look at them during the night.
"That's queer," thought the boy.
He sat up in bed, and thrust his head through the curtains that hung down in front of his berth. Down the aisle, which was dimly lighted, he saw a man hurrying toward the end of the car—the end where the smoking apartment was.
"That wasn't the conductor," said Roy to himself. "He has two brass buttons on the back of coat, and this chap hasn't any. I believe he was a thief, after my money. Lucky I didn't put it under my pillow, or he'd have it now. I must be on the watch. No wonder Billy Carew warned me to be careful. I wonder who that fellow was?"
Roy had half a notion to get up and inform a porter or the conductor what had happened, but he did not like to dress in the middle of the night, and go hunting through the sleeping car for someone to speak to about the matter.
"I'll just be on the watch," thought Roy, "and if he comes back I'll be ready for him."
However, he was not further disturbed that night, and soon fell asleep again, not forgetting, however, the precaution of hiding his pocketbook in the middle of his bed, under the blankets, where, if thieves tried to take it, they would first have to get him out of the berth.
Roy awakened shortly after sunrise the next morning. He was accustomed to early rising at the ranch, and this habit still clung to him. He managed to dress, while sitting on the edge of his berth, and then he reached down under the edge of it on the floor of the car, where, the night before, he had left his shoes. To his surprise they were gone.
"That's funny," he thought. "I wonder if the fellow who didn't get my money, took my shoes for spite?"
To make sure he stepped out into the aisle in his stocking feet, and looked under his berth. His shoes were not to be seen.
"Now I am in a pickle," thought the boy. "How am I going all the way to New York without shoes? I can't go out in my stocking feet to get a new pair, and I don't suppose there are any stores near the stations, where I could buy new ones. But that's the only thing I can do. I wonder if the train would wait long enough until I could send one of the porters to a store for a pair of shoes? It would be a funny thing to do, I guess, and, besides, he wouldn't know what size to get. I certainly am up against it!"
As Roy stood in the curtained aisle of the car, all alone, for none of the other travelers were up yet, he saw a colored porter approaching. Something in the boy's manner prompted the man to ask:
"Can I do anything fo' youh, sah? You'se up early, sah."
"I am looking for my shoes."
"Oh, youh shoes. I took 'em, sah."
"You took 'em? What right have you taking my shoes? Haven't you got any of your own?" and Roy spoke sternly, for he thought this was too much; first an attempt made to rob him of his money, and then some one stealing his shoes.
"Where are they?" he went on. "I want 'em."
"Yais, sah. Right away, sah. I jest took 'em a little while ago to blacken 'em, sah. I allers does that to the gen'men's shoes. I'll have 'em right back. Did youh think I done stole 'em, sah?"
"That's what I did," replied Roy with a smile. "I thought I'd have to go to New York in my stocking feet."
"Ob, no indeedy, sah. I allers goes around and collects the gen'men's shoes early, 'fore they gits up. I takes 'em back to my place and I blacks 'em. Den I brings 'em back."
"That's quite an idea," said Roy, now noticing that from under the berths of his fellow travelers the shoes were all missing.
"Yais, sah," went on the colored man. "And sometimes, sah, sometimes, youh know, de gen'men's gives me a little remembrance, sah, for blackenin' their shoes."
"Then I'll do the same," spoke Roy, remembering what Billy Carew had told him of the necessity for "tipping" the car porters.
"Thank youh, sah. I'll have youh shoes back d'rectly, sah."
The porter was as good as his word, and soon Roy was able to put on his shoes, which he hardly recognized. The dust that had accumulated from his ride across the plains to the railroad depot had all been removed, and the leather shone brightly. He gave the porter a quarter of a dollar, for which the colored man returned profuse thanks. Soon the other travelers began to get up. Roy watched them go to the washroom and did likewise. He met Mr. Baker in there, and accepted an invitation to go to breakfast with him in the dining car.
"Did you sleep well last night?" asked the man with the big watch chain.
"Pretty well," replied Roy, deciding to say nothing of the hand that was thrust under his pillow. He first wanted to make a few observations of his fellow passengers.
After breakfast, when Roy was sitting in his chair in the parlor car, Mr. Baker approached.
"There are some friends of mine in the smoking room," he said to the boy. "I would like to introduce you to them."
"That is very kind of you," replied the young traveler. "I shall be glad to meet them," for Roy considered it nice on the part of Mr. Baker to take so much interest in him.
"We can have a pleasant chat together," went on the man as he led the way to a private room or "section" as they are called. This was near the smoking room end of the car. "My friends are much interested in ranch life, and perhaps you will give them some information."
A GAME ON THE TRAIN
The three men in the compartment looked up as Phelan Baker and Roy entered. They exchanged significant glances, but the boy from the ranch did not notice them. Then the men made room for the new-comers on the richly upholstered couches.
"Ah, how are you, Baker?" said Isaac Sutton. "Glad to see you."
"Allow me to introduce a friend of mine," said Mr. Baker presenting Roy to the three men in turn. "He can tell you all you want to know about ranch life," for, by skillful questioning Mr. Baker had learned more about Roy than the lad was aware he had told.
"That's good," remarked Jerome Hynard. "I may decide to buy a ranch, some day."
"Would you say it was a healthy sort of life?" asked Dennison Tupper, who was quite pale, and looked as if he had some illness.
"It was very healthy out where I was," answered Roy.
"I guess one look at you proves that," put in Mr. Baker, in an admiring tone. "You seem as strong and hardy as a young ox."
"Yes, and I eat like one, when I'm on a round-up," said the boy.
There was considerable more conversation, the men asking Roy many questions about western life, and showing an interest in the affairs of the ranch. Roy answered them to the best of his ability, and naturally was pleased that the men should think him capable of giving them information.
Finally, when the conversation began to lag a bit, Dennison Tupper remarked:
"Perhaps our young friend would have no objections if we gentlemen played a game of cards to pass away the time."
"Certainly I have no objections to your playing," said Roy, who had often watched the cowboys at the ranch play various games.
Once more the four men exchanged glances. Mr. Baker produced a pack of cards and soon the travelers were deep in the game. They did not seem to be gambling, only playing for "fun" as they called it.
"Oh, I believe I'm tired. I'm going to drop out," suddenly remarked Mr. Baker.
"Oh, don't do that," expostulated Sutton.
"No, you'll break up the game," remonstrated Tupper.
"Of course. Three can't play whist very well," added Hynard in rather ungracious tones. "Be a good fellow and stay in the game, Baker."
"No, I'm tired."
"Perhaps our young friend from the ranch will take your place," suggested Sutton. "Will you—er—Mr. Bradner? We'll play for love or money, just as you like. You must be a sport—all the western chaps are. Come on, sit in the game, take Mr. Baker's place and don't let it break up."
It was a cunning appeal, addressed both to Roy's desire to be of service to his new friends, and also to his vanity. Fortunately he was proof against both. Roy had watched the men playing cards, and, to his mind they showed altogether too much skill. They acted more like regular gamblers than like persons playing to pass away an idle hour. He was at once suspicious.
"No, thank you," he said. "I never play cards, for love or money."
Something seemed to annoy at least three of the men, and they looked at Mr. Baker.
"Why I thought you said—" began Tupper, winking at the man who had first made Roy's acquaintance.
"Dry up!" exclaimed Hynard. "That's all right," he added quickly to the boy. "We don't want any one to play against his will. It's all right. We only thought maybe you'd like to pass away the time. I dare say Baker will stick in the game now."
"Oh, yes, I'll stay to oblige you, but I don't care for it," and pretending to suppress a yawn, Mr. Baker again took his seat at the small card table. A little later Roy left the apartment, going back to his place in the parlor car.
"I don't like those three men," he said to himself. "I believe they are professional gamblers. Mr. Baker seems nice, but I wouldn't trust the others."
As for the four men whom Roy had left, they seemed to lose all interest in their game, after the boy from the ranch was out of sight.
"Humph!" exclaimed Hynard. "That didn't work, did it?"
"No more than Isaac's attempt last night to get—" began Tupper, but Sutton silenced him with a gesture.
"Hush! Not so loud!" he said. "Some one may hear you."
"Leave it to me," said Mr. Baker. "I think I can get him into something else soon. You fellows lay low until I give you the tip."
The rest of that morning Roy saw nothing of the men whose acquaintance he had made. He got into conversation with several other passengers, some of whom were interesting characters. One man, who had traveled extensively, pointed out, along the way, the various scenes of note, telling Roy something about them.
It was after dinner when Mr. Phelan Baker, followed by his three friends, entered the parlor car. They took seats near where Roy had chanced to rest.
"Traveling is rather dull, isn't it?' began Mr. Baker.
"I don't find it so," replied Roy.
"No, that's because it's your first journey. Wait until you have crossed the continent a dozen times, and you'll begin to wish you'd never seen it."
"It seems to me there is always something of interest," said the boy.
"Probably there is, if your eyesight is good, and you can see it. I'm getting along in years, and I can't see objects as well as I once could."
"I suppose you must have pretty good eyesight, haven't you?" asked Sutton, abruptly taking part in the conversation. Roy and the four men were all alone in one end of the car, the other passengers, with but few exceptions, having gotten off at various stations.
"Well, I reckon I don't need glasses to see the brand on a steer," replied Roy.
"That's so, and I guess you have to be pretty quick to distinguish the different branding marks, don't you?"
"You do when you're cutting out a bunch of cattle after a round-up. They keep moving around so it's hard to tell which are yours, and which belong to another ranch."
"What did I tell you?" asked Sutton in triumph of Hynard, who sat next to him.
"Well, you're right," admitted the other.
Roy looked a little surprised at this conversation. Mr. Baker explained.
"My two friends here were having a little dispute about eyesight," he said. "Mr. Sutton said you had the best eyesight of any one he ever saw, and were quick to notice anything. He said you had to be to work on a cattle range."
"And Mr. Hynard said he believed he had as good eyesight as you," put in Tupper.
"I told him he hadn't, and we agreed to ask you," went on Sutton.
"That's all right. His saying so doesn't prove it," remarked Hynard, in a somewhat surly tone.
"Of course not, but it doesn't take much to see that he has better eyesight than you, and is quicker with it. He has to be to use a lasso, don't you, Mr. Bradner?"
"Well, it does take a pretty quick eye and hand to get a steer when he's on the run," admitted Roy.
"And you can do it, I'll bet. Hynard, you're not in it with this lad."
"I believe I am!"
"Now don't get excited," advised Mr. Baker, in soothing tones. "We can easily settle this matter."
"How? We haven't got a lasso here, nor a wild steer," said Hynard. "Anyhow I don't claim I can throw a lariat as well as he can. I only said I had as quick eyesight."
"Well, we can prove that," went on Mr. Baker.
"Easy money. Let's see. This windowsill will do."
From his pocket Mr. Baker produced three halves of English walnut shells, and a small black ball, about the size of a buck shot. It seemed to be made of rubber.
"Here's a little trick that will prove any one's eyesight," he said. "The eye doctors in New York use it to test any person who needs glasses. A doctor friend of mine gave me this."
"How do you work it?" asked Hynard, seemingly much interested.
"This way. I place these three shells on the windowsill, so. Then I put the little ball under one. Watch me closely. I move it quite fast, first putting it under one shell, then the other. Now, I stop and, Hynard, tell me which shell it's under! I don't believe you can, I think my young friend can do so."
"All right," agreed Hynard.
"Which shell is the ball under?" asked Mr. Baker, drawing back, and leaving the three shells in a row; they all looked alike, yet Roy was sure the ball was under the middle one.
"It's under there!" exclaimed Hynard, putting his finger on the end shell nearest Roy.
"Is it?" asked Mr. Baker with a laugh, as he raised it up, and showed nothing beneath. "Now let Mr. Bradner try."
"I think it's there," spoke the boy, indicating the middle shell.
"Right you are," came from Mr. Baker, as he lifted the shell, and disclosed the ball.
"Well, it's easier to pick the right one out of two, than out of three," remonstrated Hynard.
"All right. I'll give him first pick this time," and once more Mr. Baker manipulated the shells and ball.
"Now where is it?" he asked Roy quickly. The boy, who was quite taken with the new trick, was eagerly leaning forward, watching with eyes that little escaped, the movements of Mr. Baker's fingers.
"It's there," he said quietly, indicating the shell farthest away from him.
"What did I tell you?" asked Mr. Baker, lifting the shell and showing that Roy was right.
"He's got you beat, Hynard," said Sutton.
"Well, I'll bet he can't do it again."
Roy did, much to his own amusement.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Hynard suddenly. "I'll bet you five dollars I can do it this time, Baker."
"Very well, I'll go you."
The money was put up, the shells shifted, and Hynard made his choice. He got the right shell.
"There's where I lose five dollars," said Mr. Baker, with regret, passing the bill to Hynard.
"You try him," whispered Tupper to Roy. "You can guess right every time. Bet him ten dollars. You can't make money easier."
All at once the real meaning of what had just taken place was revealed to Roy. The men wanted him to gamble, under the guise of a trick. And he was sharp enough to know that once he bet any money, the shell he would pick out would have no ball under it. In fact, had he taken the bait and bet, Mr. Baker, by a sleight-of-hand trick, would not have put the ball under any shell so that, no matter which one Roy selected, he would have been wrong, and would have lost, though they might have let him win once or twice, just to urge him on. Understanding what the trick was, he exclaimed:
"I don't think I care to bet any money. I have proved that I have quick eyesight, and I think that's all you wanted to know," and, turning away he went back to his chair, at the farther end of the car.
A STOP FOR REPAIRS
For a few seconds the four men were too surprised to say anything. They stood looking at each other and, when they had gone to the smoking room, with an angry glance at Mr. Baker, Sutton remarked:
"I thought you said the kid would bite at this game?"
"I thought he would."
"Well, you've got another 'think' coming."
"Yes, you've bungled this thing all the way through," added Hynard.
"I didn't blunder any more than you did. I'd like to know who first made his acquaintance, and found out he had money."
"Well, you did that part of it, but he's got his money yet, and we haven't," said Tupper.
"And we're not likely to get it," went on Hynard. "I think he'll be suspicious of us after this."
"Maybe not," remarked Sutton, hopefully. "We may be able to get him into some other kind of a game. If we can't—"
He did not finish, but the other men knew what he meant. Roy had incurred the enmity of some dangerous characters, and it behooved him to be on the lookout.
The boy had not been in his seat many minutes before an elderly gentleman, the one who had been describing the various scenes of interest, came up to him.
"Did I see you playing some game with those men just now?" he asked.
"They were showing me a game," answered Roy. "They said they wanted to test my quick eyesight."
"What was it?"
"It was a game with three shells and a small ball."
"I thought so. My boy, do you know what that game is called?"
"No, sir, but I didn't care to play it the way they wanted me to. They wanted me to bet money."
"And you refused?"
"I sure did."
"That is where you were right. That is an old swindling trick, called the 'shell game'. If you had bet any money you would have lost."
"I thought as much," said Roy. "I'm not so green as I look, even if I spent all my life on a ranch."
"Indeed you are not, I am glad to see. I would advise you not to have anything more to do with those men."
"Do you know them?"
"No, but they have the ways and airs of professional gamblers."
"They tried to rope me up, I guess," said Roy. "But they didn't have rope enough to tie me. Now I know their brand I'll sure be careful not to mix in with 'em."
"I don't exactly understand your terms. I—"
"I beg your pardon," said Roy. "I suppose I talk, more or less, as I do on the ranch. I meant they tried to get me into one of their corrals and take my hide off. Hold me up, you know."
"I'm afraid I don't exactly know," went on the gentleman with a smile, "but I gather that you mean they would have robbed you, after getting you into their power."
"That's it," said Roy. "I'm on another trail now, and they want to be careful," and he looked as though he could take care of himself, a fact that the gentleman noticed.
"I felt like warning you, my boy," he said, "as I saw it was your first long journey."
"And I'm much obliged to you," said Roy. "I wonder how everyone knows I'm a tenderfoot when it comes to traveling on railroad trains?"
"Yes, that's what we call persons who don't know much about western life. I suppose their feet get tender from taking such long walks on the plains. Anyhow that means a sort of 'greenhorn' I suppose. Everyone on the train spots me for that."
"Well, it is easy to see you are not used to traveling, for you take so much interest in everything, and you show that it is new to you. But you are learning fast. Even an experienced traveler might have been taken in by those gamblers."
"I guess they'll not bother me any more," said Roy.
And he was right, but only to a certain extent, for, though the gamblers did not "bother" him again, he had not seen the last of them, as you shall see.
The tricksters were in a bad mood, and, soon after that they left the smoking room, and remained in another car, so Roy did not see them again that day.
The express continued on, bringing the boy nearer and nearer to Chicago. He wished he might have a little time to spend there, as he had heard much of it, especially the stock yards, where his father sent many head of cattle in the course of a year. But Roy knew he must hurry on to New York, to attend to the business on which he had been sent.
The next morning, soon after breakfast, the train came to a sudden stop, near a small railroad station. As the express did not stop, except at the large cities, Roy wondered if some one like himself, had flagged the engineer. Soon he was aware, however, that something unusual had occurred. Passengers began leaving their seats, and went out of the cars.
"I wonder what's the matter?" Roy said aloud. He was overheard by the gentleman who had talked to him about the gamblers, and who had given his name, as John Armstrong.
"I think we've had an accident," said Mr. Armstrong.
"An accident? Is anybody killed?"
"No, I do not think so. Suppose we get out and see what the trouble is?"
They left their seats, and joined the other passengers who were walking toward the head of the train, which was a long one. It did not take many seconds to ascertain that an accident had occurred to the engine of the express, and that it would be necessary to send to the next station to get materials to make repairs.
"That means we'll be held here for some time," observed Mr. Armstrong. "Well, if the delay is not too long, it will give you a chance to walk about and stretch your muscles."
"And I'll be glad enough to do it," replied Roy. "I'm not used to sitting still, and it sure is very tiresome to me. I'd like to have my pony, Jack Rabbit, here now. I'd take a fine gallop."
"Well, I think a walk will have to answer in place of it now. There does not seem to be much in the way of amusements at this station."
The depot was a mere shanty, with a small telegraph and ticket office in it. A few houses and a store made up the "town," which was located on the plains.
As Roy started toward the depot many of the passengers got back in their cars, as the sun was hot. Roy, however, rather enjoyed it. Among those who had alighted were Mr. Baker and his three cronies. They stood on the depot platform, talking together.
"Maybe they're trying to get up some new scheme to get me to gamble," thought Roy. As he neared the station his attention was attracted by a rather curious figure.
This was a young man whom Roy at once characterized as a "dude," for he and the cowboys had been in the habit of so calling any one who was as well dressed as was the stranger. And Roy at once knew that the man had not been on the train before, as the boy from the ranch had seen all the passengers during his journey.
The "tenderfoot", as Roy also characterized him, was attired in a light suit, the trousers very much creased. He had on a purple necktie, rather a high collar, and patent leather shoes. In his hand he carried a light cane, and in one eye was a glass, called a monocle. Beside him was a dress-suit case, and he looked as if he was ready to travel.
Roy glanced at him, and was inclined to smile at the elaborate costume of the youth, for the western lad had the usual cattleman's contempt for fashionable clothes, arguing (not always rightly) that a person who paid so much attention to dress could not amount to a great deal.
The young man stood leaning against the side of the depot, carelessly swinging his cane. Roy could see he had a valuable watch chain across his vest, and, in his tie there sparkled what was presumably a diamond.
As Roy watched he saw Baker and his three cronies approach the "dude." A moment later they had engaged him in conversation.
"I'll bet they're up to some game," mused Roy. "I wonder if I can find out what it is, and spoil it? I believe they will try to get the best of that 'tenderfoot.' Guess I'll see what's up."
THE DUDE IS SWINDLED
Carelessly, so as not to attract the attention of the four men, Roy strolled to the depot platform, taking care to get on the side opposite that on which was the elaborately-dressed youth. The sharpers did not see Roy, who kept in the shadow, and the attention of the other passengers from the train was taken up with what the engineer and firemen were doing, to get the locomotive ready for the repair crew.
"How do you do?" asked Mr. Baker, of the "tenderfoot," as he approached with his three cronies. "Haven't I met you somewhere before?"
"Well, really, I couldn't say; don't you know," replied the well-dressed youth, with an affected drawl.
"I am sure I have," went on Mr. Baker. "So are my three friends. As soon as we saw you standing here, my friend, Mr. Sutton, said to me, 'Where have I seen that distinguished looking gentleman before?' Didn't you, Sutton?"
"Indeed I did, Mr. Baker. And Mr. Hynard said the same thing."
"Sure I did," replied Mr. Hynard. "I know I've met you before Mr.—er—Ah, I didn't quite catch the name."
"My name is De Royster—Mortimer De Royster, of New York," replied the dude, seemingly much flattered at the attention he had attracted. "I'm sure I can't recall where I met you gentlemen before, but, don't you know, your faces are very familiar to me."
"Of course," went on Mr. Baker. "I remember you very well now. You are a son of Van Dyke De Royster, the great New York banker; are you not?"
"No," replied Mr. De Royster, "he is only a distant relative of mine, but I belong to the same family. It is very distinguished."
"Indeed it is," said Mr. Baker. "I have often read in history of the great doings of the De Roysters. Gentlemen, shake hands with Mr. De Royster. I know his relative, the great banker, Van Dyke De Royster, very well."
Now this was true, to a certain extent, but all the acquaintance Mr. Baker had with the well known banker, was when the latter had him arrested for trying to cash a forged check. But Mr. Baker did not mention this.
"I am very glad to meet you," said Mortimer De Royster, as he shook hands with the four swindlers, thinking them delightful gentlemen indeed.
"Are you going far?" asked Hynard.
"To New York. You see I am—er—that is—er—I have been doing a little business—I am selling jewelry for a relative of mine in New York. It is not exactly work, for I am traveling for my health, and I do a little trade on the side."
"Guess he's ashamed to let it be known that he works for a living," thought Roy, but later he found he had misjudged De Royster.
"Ah, in the jewelry line, eh?" asked Mr. Baker. "I used to be in that myself."
He did not mention that the way he was "in it" was to try to swindle a diamond merchant out of some precious stones, in which he was partly successful.
"Did you do any business in this section?" asked Tupper.
"Not much. I stopped off to see some friends, and I did not try to sell them anything. I don't do business with my friends—I don't think it dignified, don't you know," and Mortimer De Royster swung his cane with a jaunty air, and tried to twirl the ends of a very short mustache.
"That's right; I can see you're the right stuff," remarked Mr. Baker, with a wink at his companions. "Did you come down here to take the train?"
"Yes, I am on my way to New York."
"How do you find trade?" asked Mr. Baker.
"Well, really, it is not very good, but that does not annoy me, as I am only doing this as a side line. I don't worry, don't you know."
"I see. You're a sport!" exclaimed Tupper, with easy familiarity. "I sized you up for a sport as soon as I saw you. I must have met you in New York."
"Yes, I make my headquarters there," said the salesman. "I seem to remember you. Sporting life is very attractive to me, I assure you, really it is."
"That's the way to talk!" put in Hynard. "Be a sport!"
"They're flattering him for some purpose," thought Roy. "I wonder what their object is."
He was hidden around the corner of the depot, where he could hear without being seen.
"That's a very fine watch chain you have on," said Mr. Baker. "It is much better than mine."
"And I guess he has a better watch than yours, too, Baker," spoke up Sutton, with a wink, which Mr. De Royster did not see.
"No, he hasn't. My watch cost five hundred dollars."
"I have a very fine timepiece, I don't mind admitting," spoke the well-dressed youth. "It was given to me by my father, who is quite wealthy."
"I'd like to see it," said Mr. Baker.
By this time an engine, with some parts to repair the broken locomotive, had arrived from a near-by freight yard. The train crew had made the adjustments, and the express was almost ready to proceed. Nearly all the passengers, who had alighted, had again boarded their cars.
"I shall be pleased to show you my watch," said Mr. De Royster, drawing out a heavy gold affair. "I think you will readily agree with me, that it is a valuable one."
He passed it to Mr. Baker, and, from where he stood Roy could see the swindler slip it into his pocket and substitute for it one somewhat like it, but, probably made of brass instead of gold. Mr. Baker turned his back, pretending to be trying to get a good light, while he compared his watch with that of Mr. De Royster.
"That's a fine diamond pin in your tie," said Tupper, indicating the stone in the salesman's tie.
"Yes. Would you like to look at it? It is of very pure color."
He drew out the gem, and, unsuspectingly passed it to Tupper.
At that instant the locomotive engineer blew two warning whistles, so that the lagging passengers might get on the train, which was about to start.
"Hurry up! All aboard!" exclaimed Hynard, and, as Roy watched, he saw Tupper thrust Mr. De Royster's diamond into his own pocket.
"They're robbing him!" thought the boy from the ranch. "I must warn him!"
He started forward. Mortimer De Royster grabbed up his suit-case and started for the train. Then he became aware that Mr. Baker had not handed him back his watch, while the other man had his pin.
"My timepiece!" he exclaimed. "I'll show it to you when we get in the train. I assure you it's a very fine one. And my pin—I would not like to lose it! Give them back!"
Hardly had he spoken when Hynard thrust his hand down into the inside pocket of Mr. De Royster's coat. His object was to grab his pocketbook, the bulging outline of which he had seen.
"Look out!" cried Roy in a loud voice, springing from his hiding place. "Look out! They're swindlers! They've got your watch and pin, and they're trying to get your money!"
"There's that boy!" exclaimed Hynard, as he drew out his hand.
But Mr. De Royster had felt the sneaking fingers, and had made a grab for them. He was too late, however, and, in attempting to catch Hynard he stumbled and fell.
"Come on!" cried Baker to his companions. "Let him go! We've got the stuff."
"Grab them!" cried Roy to De Royster. "I'll help you."
He rushed forward. No sooner did the swindlers see him coming, than they changed their plans. They had intended jumping on the train, which was already in motion, and leaving Mr. De Royster behind, after they had his watch and diamond.
But Roy's quickness prevented this. Baker signalled to his companions, and they ran off down the track.
"Come on!" cried Roy. "We'll catch them!"
"No! I must go to New York," replied the salesman as he arose, and brushed off his clothes. "The train is going."
"But they've got your valuables!"
"I know it. I was a fool, but it's too late now. Help me aboard."
The train was gathering headway. Roy ceased his pursuit of the robbers and helped De Royster aboard, the young man carrying his dress-suit case. Then Roy followed, while the four swindlers kept on down the railroad tracks.
ROY GAINS A FRIEND
"Come neah gettin' left, sah!" exclaimed the colored porter of Roy's car, as our hero, followed by Mortimer De Royster, entered the coach. "Dat were a close call, sah."
"Yes, but I wish I had had a chance to round-up those swindlers. I'd shown them how we handle such chaps out on the ranch!" exclaimed Roy.
"Swindlers? Was dem nicely dressed gen'men swindlers?" inquired the porter.
"Swindlers, upon my word, they are the very worst kind," put in De Royster. "The idea of tricking me into letting them see my watch, and then keeping it, don't you know! I shall report them to the authorities."
"I'm afraid it will not do much good," remarked Roy. "They are far enough away by now, and we're getting farther off from them every minute."
"That's so. Well, then, my watch and diamond pin are gone," and the dude seemed to accept the loss quite calmly.
"Excuse me, sah," broke in the colored man, addressing De Royster, "but has youh a ticket for dis parlor car?"
"Not yet. I could not buy one at the little station back there, but you may get me one, from the conductor, don't you know," spoke the well-dressed youth, taking a roll of bills from his pocket. At the sight of the money the eyes of the colored man shone in anticipation of a tip he might receive. His opinion of the stranger went up several points. Such is the effect of money, and it is not always the right one.
"Are you going to travel in this car?" asked Roy.
"Yes, it looks like a fairly decent coach. I am really quite particular how I ride."
Roy was rather amused at the airs Mortimer De Royster assumed, and he did not quite know whether to like him or not. The youth had an affected manner of speaking, and some oddities, but, in spite of these Roy thought he might be all right at heart.
The boy from the ranch had learned, from his life in the west, not to judge persons by outward appearances, though they often give an indication of character.
"I don't believe I thanked you for what you did for me," went on De Royster to Roy, when the porter returned with his ticket and the change. The colored man's heart was made happy by a generous tip.
"I don't know that I did anything in particular. I didn't think they were going to take your hide off, or I would have warned you sooner."
"My hide off? I don't quite catch your meaning, my dear chap—Oh, yes, I see. You mean they were going to skin me. Oh, yes. That's a good joke. Ha! Ha! Well, thanks to you, they didn't."
"Still they got something."
"Yes, that watch was a valuable one, and one my father gave me as a present. The diamond was worth considerable, too. But I am glad they did not get my money. Only for your timely warning they might have. Some of it is mine, but the most of it belongs to the firm I work for."
"They tried to get me into some swindling games, but I refused to have anything to do with them," and Roy told of the efforts of Baker and his cronies.
"I was easily taken in," admitted Mortimer De Royster. "I am ashamed of myself."
"Do you carry a valuable stock?" asked Roy, wondering if it were not dangerous to have so much jewelry about one.
"Quite valuable, yes, but all traveling jewelry salesmen belong to a league, and if thieves get away with anything belonging to any member, we have the services of a good detective agency to run the criminals down. The professional thieves know this, and, as capture is almost certain in the end, we have little fear of being robbed. These swindlers took my personal property, and nothing belonging to the firm, I'm glad to say."
"Perhaps you will get it back," suggested Roy.
"No, I'm afraid not. But I say, my dear chap, where are you going? You don't look as if you had traveled much."
"I haven't. I am going to New York on business for my father."
"To New York? Good! Then I shall have company on the way. That is unless you don't like to be seen with one who lets himself be robbed so easily."
"That would not make any difference to me."
"Thank you. Perhaps I may be able to be of some service to you in New York. I know the town fairly well."
"That will be very kind of you. I know nothing about it, and I'm afraid I'll be rather green when I get there. I have lived on a ranch all my life."
"On a ranch? Fancy now! Really, don't you know, I often used to think I would like to be a cowboy," drawled the dude.
Roy looked at the slim figure, and delicate features of Mr. De Royster, and thought that he would hardly be strong enough for the rough life on the plains. But he was too polite to mention this.
"Yes," went on the well-dressed youth, "if I had not gone into the jewelry business I might now be a 'cow-puncher,'—I believe that is what you call those gentlemen who take charge of wild steers?" and he looked at his companion inquiringly.
"Yes, some folks call 'em that."
"It must be a very nice sort of life. Now this sort of thing is rather tame, don't you know."
"Well, you had it exciting enough a while ago."
"So I did," admitted Mr. De Royster with a smile. "But that doesn't happen every day. I wish I could do you some favor, in return for what you did for me."
"I didn't do much. I wish I could have gotten them in time to have saved your watch and chain. But they stampeded before I could rope them."
"Yes, I mean they started to run."
"Oh, yes. And—er—rope—"
"Oh, I forgot you didn't understand my lingo. I meant catch them. Whenever we want to catch anything on the ranch, we rope it. Throw a lariat over it, you know."
"Oh, yes, a lasso. I should like to have seen you lasso those chaps. Have you a lasso with you?"
"I have one in my large valise."
"Where are you going to stop in New York?"
"I don't know yet. I'm going to look around for a good place to get my grub, and a bunk after I get there."
"Your grub and bunk?" Mr. De Royster seemed puzzled.
"Well, I mean my meals and a place to sleep."
"Ah, then perhaps I can be of service to you. I know most of the best hotels, and I can introduce you to the managers of some of them. Do you intend to remain in the city long?"
"I can't tell. I don't just know how long my father's business will keep me. Probably I shall be there several weeks."
"Then I'll tell you what I'll do," said De Royster, in a friendly tone. "I'll get you fixed up at a good hotel, and then I'll show you the sights."
"But how can you spare the time from your business?" asked Roy, who was beginning to think he had found a real friend in the rather eccentric person of Mortimer De Royster.
"Oh, my work is nearly done now for the season. I shall not start out on the road again until fall, when I shall take goods for the spring trade. I was selling Christmas stock this trip."
"Christmas stock, and it is only June," exclaimed Roy. "My, but they hustle things in the East!"
"They have to. That's why I'll have some spare time now. I can show you various sights of interest, and, in turn, you must promise to protect me from robbers. I think I'll have to get a guardian if this keeps on," and the dude laughed at his joke.
"I'll do my best," replied Roy. "If I see those fellows again, they'll not get off so easily."
"Then we'll consider ourselves friends!" exclaimed De Royster, extending his hand, which Roy shook warmly.
The boy was quite attracted to the young man, whom he began to like more and more, as he saw that, under his queer ways, he hid a heart of real worth and kindness.
ROY STOPS A RUNAWAY
With a companion who proved himself as interesting as did Mortimer De Royster, the time passed very quickly for Roy. Almost before he knew it the train was pulling into Chicago, where they changed cars.
He wanted to stop off and view the stock yards, but there was not time for this. However he saw much of interest from the car windows, and De Royster pointed out various objects, explaining them as the express passed by.
"We'll soon be in New York now," said the well-dressed youth, as the train passed beyond the confines of the "Windy City."
"Is New York larger than Chicago?" asked Roy.
"Larger? Well, I guess, and it beats it every way."
"What's that you said, young man?" inquired an individual, seated back of Roy and his new friend.
"I said New York was larger and better in every way than Chicago, don't you know," replied De Royster, looking at the man through his single eyeglass.
"You must hail from New York then?"
"I thought so. You don't know Chicago, or you wouldn't say that. Chicago has New York beaten any way you look at it."
"Then I reckon you're from Chicago, stranger," put in Roy, who had the easy and familiar manners which life in the west breeds.
"I am, and I don't believe I'm far wrong when I say you're from off a ranch."
"I am," admitted Roy, wondering how the stranger had guessed so soon.
"Well, there's no use getting into a dispute over our respective cities," went on the stranger. "Everyone thinks his home town is the best. Are you two traveling far?"
Thus the conversation opened, and the three were soon chatting pleasantly together.
In due time the train arrived at Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York.
"Here we are!" exclaimed Mr. De Royster. "A short trip across the ferry now, and we'll be in the biggest city in the Western hemisphere."
Roy followed his friend from the train, mingling with the crowd on the platform under the big shed.
"Wait a minute!" exclaimed Roy.
"I've got to see about my baggage. It's checked. I wonder if I can hire a pack mule, or get a stage driver to bring it up?"
"Sure. That's how I got it from the ranch to the depot."
Mortimer De Royster laughed.
"I guess there isn't a pack mule within two thousand miles of here," he said. "Nor a stage either, unless it's the automobile ones on Fifth avenue. But I'll show you what to do. Wait a minute though. You don't know where you're going to stop, do you?"
"Then if you'll allow me, I'll pick out a good hotel for you."
"I'll leave it to you, pardner," said Roy, with a helpless feeling that, however much he might know about ranch life, he was all at sea in a big city.
"All right. Then I'll give your checks to an expressman, and he'll bring the trunks to the hotel. Right over this way."
Mortimer De Royster led Roy through the crowd, to the express office. The matter of the baggage was soon attended to, and the agent promised to have the trunk and large valise at the hotel before night. It was now four o'clock.
"Come on!" cried De Royster again, pushing his way through the crowd, with Roy who carried a small valise, containing a few clothes, following close after him.