ON THE FALL RIVER BOAT

“I wish I knew whether that money I saw Mr. Kirby counting belonged to
my poor uncle,” thought Dean.

He didn’t venture to take his boy friend into his confidence, for
his suspicions, strong as they were, might prove to do his employer
injustice. At any rate he resolved to keep on the lookout for additional
evidence which might tend either to confirm or to disprove them.

If he had been present in the broker’s office, he would have heard
something to confirm the distrust he felt. When Peter Kirby was asked
by the broker’s clerk, as usual, his name, he hesitated for a second,
then answered boldly “Renwick Bates.” So in the broker’s book the sale
of bonds was recorded as having been made to Renwick Bates. Had the
squire known this, he would have felt very angry with his confederate,
as, in case the fifty-dollar notes were traced, his name would be
involved.

Guy and Dean were taking supper at a restaurant not far from the hotel
when Mr. Kirby came in and sat down at a table near them. Guy was the
first to notice him.

“There’s your respected employer, Dean,” he said in a low voice.

“So he is. I wonder whether I ought to speak to him.”

“Wait till you get through supper.”

Presently another man came in and took a seat at the same table. He
seemed to have been expected.

“You’re late, Pringle,” said Kirby.

“Yes, I was detained. I went to Jersey City to see my wife.”

“You are better provided than I. I have never found time to get
married.”

“Well, it’s awkward sometimes in our business to have such an
incumbrance.”

“Does your wife know what business you are in?”

“Scarcely. She’s a good church woman, and would be horrified. She
thinks I am a traveling salesman.”

Kirby laughed.

“I have no wife to deceive,” he said. “That is where I have the
advantage of you. However, you are no worse off than the captain. I’ve
been up to see him.”

“Where?”

“In the country,” answered Kirby evasively. “He’s a big gun out there.
They call him squire.”

Both laughed.

“So he is married?”

“Yes, and has a son who is his very image, even to the long, tusk-like
teeth. If ever he gets into trouble it’s because they will give him
away.”

“They certainly are very peculiar.”

“They are dangerous,” responded Kirby with emphasis. “If I had them I
would get rid of them in short order, but the captain owned to me that
he was afraid of the dentist.”

“I suppose his family are in the dark as to his position?”

“Undoubtedly. His son is an impudent young cub. It would have given
me pleasure to box his ears. He evidently thinks his father a man of
great importance, and is inflated by his own estimate of his social
consequence.”

“What makes the captain stay in such an obscure place?”

“He tells me it is on account of his family, and also because it adds
to his safety.”

“When are we to see him?”

“He will be in Chicago next month, and lay out work for us to do. One
thing I will say for him, he has good executive talent, but he ought
not to keep out of the way so much of the time.”

Then the talk drifted into other channels.

To this conversation Dean listened with the utmost attention. He felt
interested and excited. He could not fail to understand that Kirby was
referring to Squire Bates. The mystery was deepening. Who and what was
this man who in Oakford posed as a lawyer, a reputable citizen, and a
Justice of the Peace? It was clear that he was allied to some outside
organization in which he wished to conceal his membership.

This man Kirby who was now Dean’s employer, was a friend and associate.
Why under the circumstances should Squire Bates have been willing to
send him off as Kirby’s clerk or secretary? If there was anything to
conceal, it was only giving him an opportunity to find it out.

“I must keep my eyes open,” thought Dean. “I mean to find out who
robbed my uncle, and whether Squire Bates had anything to do with it.
If I could only recover the money I should be happy.”

“What are you thinking about so intently?” asked Guy.

“I want to get out of the restaurant without my employer seeing me,”
answered Dean in a low voice.

“Why? Would he object to your coming here!”

“Wait till we get into the street.”

The boys managed to effect their retreat without attracting the notice
of Kirby or Pringle.

“Now what’s it all about?” asked Guy.

“They were talking confidentially, and Mr. Kirby would be angry if he
thought I had heard them.”

“Oh, that’s it,” said Guy carelessly. He was not a boy of much
curiosity, and felt much less interest in Dean’s concerns than his own.
“Well, what shall we do this evening?”

“Go to bed, I suppose.”

“But why not go to some theater?”

“I should like to go,” said Dean, “but I don’t know that I ought to
use the money Mr. Kirby gave me for such a purpose.”

“You needn’t mind that. Didn’t you tell me you were to receive
twenty-five dollars a month?”

“Yes.”

“Then if he makes any fuss, tell him to charge the expense of the
theatre to your salary.”

“I might do that. How much will it cost to go to the theater?”

“We can get a fair seat for fifty cents.”

“Then I think I’ll go,” said Dean after some hesitation.

“Have you any choice as to theatres?”

“No, I don’t know anything about them. I never went to a theatre in my
life.”

“Well, you are a fresh young countryman, and no mistake. Here, I’ll get
an evening paper, and see what’s playing at the different theaters.”

The result was that Niblo’s was selected. It is not necessary to
mention the name of the play, which was at that time a popular
favorite, but is now forgotten. The two boys obtained seats in the
balcony, rather far off from the stage, but both were possessed of good
eyes, and had no difficulty in seeing what was passing on the boards.

Dean was enchanted. He had had but vague ideas of what a theater was
like, and to him everything seemed real. There was one place where the
villain of the piece throws the heroine from a bridge into the water.
Dean uttered a little exclamation.

Guy turned to him with a smile.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I—I almost thought it was real,” said Dean. “I was afraid she would
drown.”

“And I dare say you wanted to punish the brutal ruffian?”

“Yes, I did,” admitted Dean.

“Probably he and the girl are excellent friends in real life. Why, they
are husband and wife,” he added, referring to the play bill.

“It doesn’t seem possible.”

“I envy you, Dean. You enjoy the play much better than I do, for you
believe in it while I know it for a sham—that is, I know it’s merely
play-acting. Look in the next row—you see there is some one who
believes in it as much as you do.”

Guy pointed to a lady in plain, old-fashioned attire who was wiping her
eyes.

“She takes it worse than you do,” whispered Guy.

The play continued, and ended at last to the satisfaction of Dean, who
saw all the bad characters visited with retribution, while oppressed
innocence and virtue through much tribulation attained happiness and
peace.

When the play was over, they joined the throng and passed out through
the lobby. Suddenly a cry was heard from a little distance in front.

“I’ve been robbed! I’ve lost my pocket-book,” and a small man with a
red and excited face began to feel wildly in his pockets for his lost
treasure.

At a little distance pushing their way out, were two tall men, whom
Dean recognized as Peter Kirby and his friend Pringle. While others in
the immediate neighborhood of the victim were regarding him with looks
of curiosity or sympathy these two seemed to feel no interest, and to
be only intent on getting out into the street.

Dean didn’t see his employer till the next morning. Mr. Kirby did not
ask him where he had spent the evening previous, as Dean thought it
possible he might do. Indeed he seemed in unusual good spirits, and
handed his new clerk a couple of dollars to defray any expenses he
might incur.

“Are we going to stay long in New York?” Dean ventured to ask.

“No, we go to Boston this afternoon by the Fall River line.”

This was a surprise to Dean, who fancied they were bound west.

When he suggested this, Mr. Kirby said, “I have a little business to
transact in Boston first. We can go West from there as well as from New
York.”

Dean was not upon the whole sorry that he should have an opportunity
of seeing a city so famous as Boston. “I shall feel that I am quite a
traveler,” he said to himself.

During the forenoon he was called upon to bid good-bye to Guy
Gladstone. That young man had concluded his arrangements for a visit to
his Indian hunting grounds, and was in a hurry to leave New York, as he
was liable at any moment to meet some friend of his father’s who might
detain him, or ask him questions which it would embarrass him to answer.

At about fifteen minutes to five o’clock Dean and his employer went
down to the foot of Murray Street, and went on board the steamer
Pilgrim of the famous Fall River line. Mr. Kirby succeeded in obtaining
a stateroom, with two berths, and allowed Dean to occupy the upper one.

Our young hero surveyed with admiration the palatial accommodations
of the great steamer; the grand saloon, the showy chandeliers, the
handsome furniture and costly mirrors.

“You can amuse yourself as you please,” said Kirby. “I shall be
occupied till about ten o’clock, when I shall be ready to go to bed.”

He showed Dean the way to the supper room, and told him he could take
supper whenever he pleased. Dean availed himself of this permission,
and after supper stopped at the book table in the main saloon, which
was under the charge of a boy rather older than himself, arrayed in a
blue uniform. This boy he found very social and agreeable. He learned
that he was called Dan, but did not inquire his last name.

“Don’t you get tired of traveling on the boat?” asked Dean.

“No.”

“But it’s the same thing every night.”

“I have my business to attend to. That prevents it becoming monotonous.”

“Are you ever sea-sick?”

“No,” answered Dan with a smile. “It would take a good deal to upset me
now, I’m so used to it.”

“Do you expect to follow the business when you’re a man?”

“No, I think I shall look for a place in a wholesale store in Boston
next fall. It won’t pay as well at first, but it will lead to a good
salary in time. I suppose you are going to Boston?”

“Yes, but not to stay.”

“How long do you stay there?”

“I don’t know yet. That depends upon my employer.”

“The man you are traveling with?”

“Yes.”

“I noticed him. He is a tall, sallow man, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been working for him long?”

“No, I’ve only just started.”

“What do you do?”

“I am his private secretary—that’s what he calls me, but I don’t know
yet what my duties will be.”

“He don’t look like a man likely to employ a private secretary,” said
Dan shrewdly.

“I don’t know what sort of men do have secretaries,” Dean said in a
perplexed tone.

“Oh, governors, members of Congress, and sometimes authors. I don’t
suppose he’s either of those three.”

“I think not,” answered Dean smiling.

“Well, he has a right to have one, at any rate. Do you like him?”

“I can’t say I do, though I have nothing to complain of. He seems to be
liberal.”

“How much does he pay you, if you don’t mind telling me?”

“Twenty-five dollars a month.”

“And your expenses besides?”

Dean nodded.

“My, that’s fine pay. I’d be a private secretary myself for that.”

“If he wants two, I’ll recommend you.”

“You can tell all you know about me,” said Dan laughing.

“That wouldn’t be much, but I can judge of you by your looks.”

“Thank you. I couldn’t recommend your employer very highly on that
ground.”

Here two or three customers came up and inquired of the young
news-agent about some of the latest novels. Dean, seeing that his
friend was occupied, went to the after part of the boat, and seating
himself on a camp stool watched with interest the progress of the
vessel and the shores so far as they were visible. It was now dusk, and
shadows played over the surface of the water.

Meanwhile where was Mr. Kirby?

After a hearty supper in the dining saloon he smoked a cigar on the
lower deck, and then began to wander about the steamer, choosing
especially the walk that ran between the outside staterooms and the
side railing.

As he stood beside the railing a stout man looking like a prosperous
merchant came out of his stateroom, and locked the door behind him.
Then he passed through the nearest passage way into the saloon.

“He looks as if he might carry something of value,” thought Kirby.
“I’ll venture to examine.”

Waiting till the coast was clear he produced a pass key, of which
he had managed to gain possession, and inserted it in the lock of
stateroom No. 157, as we will venture to designate it.

The door opened, and Kirby entered the room.

He drew a match from his pocket, and lighting it looked swiftly and
searchingly about him.

There was a small hand-bag on the lower berth.

“I’d take the bag if I dared, but it is too large to put in my pocket,”
thought Kirby. “Perhaps I can open it.”

He drew from his pocket a bunch of keys of various sizes, and tried one
after another. The fourth proved to fit.

The bag, when opened, displayed a variety of contents in which Kirby
was not interested. But one article attracted his attention. This was a
square pasteboard box with the name of Tiffany upon it.

“I’ll take that at a venture,” soliloquized Kirby. “Since it bears
Tiffany’s name the contents must be of value. I won’t stay any longer,
for it might prove dangerous.”

He relocked the bag, opened the door of the stateroom, and locking it
again securely prepared to leave the spot.

He was only just in time, for the occupant of the stateroom appeared a
minute later, accompanied by a younger man.

“Yes,” Kirby heard him say. “I bought a watch for my daughter from
Tiffany. I’ll show it to you.”

“A narrow escape!” murmured Kirby. “If he had found me in his
stateroom, there would have been no end of a disturbance. I got through
just in time.”

Kirby went into the saloon, and taking out an evening paper began to
read it attentively, or rather he appeared to, but out of the corner of
his eyes he was watching for the return of the gentleman he had robbed.

He did not have long to wait. The two gentlemen came into the saloon,
and one, the elder, seemed much excited.

“I tell you, Johnson,” he said, “there are thieves on board. I left
the watch in a pasteboard box in my hand bag less than half an
hour since—indeed I think it is only fifteen minutes, and it has
disappeared.”

“Are you absolutely sure, Mr. Margrave?”

“Yes, for when I went to my stateroom, after coming up from the supper
room, I opened the bag and saw that the box was there.”

“And now it is gone?”

“Yes, you saw that yourself.”

“But I don’t see how, in the short time you were absent, any one could
have got in and effected the robbery.”

“Nor do I, but it was done.”

“What shall you do about it?”

“Notify the officers of the boat, but I fear that won’t do any good.”

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