Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXII

In his new position Rodney could easily hear the conversation which took place between the Western man and his old railroad acquaintance.

"I am quite a man of leisure," said Wheeler, "and it will give me great pleasure to go about with you and show you our city."

"You are very obliging."

"Oh, don't mention it. I shall really be glad to have my time occupied. You see I am a man of means--my father left me a fortune--and so I am not engaged in any business."

"You are in luck. I was brought up on a farm in Vermont, and had to borrow money to take me to Montana four years ago."

"I hope you prospered in your new home?"

"I did. I picked up twenty five thousand dollars at the mines, and doubled it by investment in lots in Helena."

"Very neat, indeed. I inherited a fortune from my father--a hundred and twenty five thousand dollars--but I never made a cent myself. I don't know whether I am smart enough."

"Come out to Montana and I'll put you in a way of making some money."

"Really, now, that suggestion strikes me favorably. I believe I will follow your advice. When shall you return to your Western home?"

"In about a fortnight I think."

"You must go to the theater tonight. There is a good play on at the Madison Square."

"I don't mind. When can I get ticket?"

"I'll go and secure some. It is only a few blocks away."

"Do so. How much are the tickets?"

"A dollar and a half or two dollars each."

"Here are five dollars, if it won't trouble you too much."

"My dear friend, I meant to pay for the tickets. However, I will pay next time. If you will remain here I will be back in twenty minutes."

Louis Wheeler left the hotel with the five dollars tucked away in his vest pocket.

He had no sooner disappeared than Rodney went forward and occupied his seat.

"Excuse me, sir," he said to the miner, "but do you know much of the man who has just left you?"

"I only met him here. He seems a good natured fellow. What of him?"

"He said he was a man of independent means."

"Isn't he?"

"He is a thief and an adventurer."

The miner was instantly on the alert.

"How do you know this?" he asked.

"Because he stole a box of jewelry from me in the cars some months ago."

"Did you get it again?"

"Yes; he left the train, but I followed him up and reclaimed the jewelry."

"Was it of much value?"

"They were family jewels, and were worth over a thousand dollars."

"Do you think he wants to bunco me?"

"I have no doubt of it."

"I have given him money to buy theater tickets. Do you think he will come back?"

"Yes. He wouldn't be satisfied with that small sum."

"Tell me about your adventure with him."

"I will do it later. The theater is so near that he might come back and surprise us together. I think he would recognize me."

"Do you advise me to go to the theater?"

"Yes, but be on your guard."

"Where can I see you again?"

"Are you staying at this hotel?"

"Yes. Here is my card."

Rodney read this name on the card:

JEFFERSON PETTRIGREW.

"I wish you were going to the theater with us."

"It wouldn't do. Mr. Wheeler would remember me."

"Then come round and breakfast with me tomorrow--at eight o'clock, sharp."

"I will, sir. Now I will take a back seat, and leave you to receive your friend."

"Don't call him my friend. He seems to be a mean scoundrel."

"Don't let him suspect anything from your manner."

"I won't. I want to see him expose his plans." Five minutes afterwards Louis Wheeler entered the hotel.

"I've got the tickets," he said, "but I had to buy them of a speculator, and they cost me more than I expected."

"How much?"

"Two and a half apiece. So there is no change coming back to you."

"Never mind! As long as you had enough money to pay for them it is all right."

As a matter of fact Wheeler bought the tickets at the box office at one dollar and fifty cent each, which left him a profit of two dollars. When he saw how easily the Western man took it he regretted not having represented that the tickets cost three dollars each.

However, he decided that there would be other ways of plundering his new acquaintance. He took his seat again next to the miner.

"It is not very late," he said. "Would you like a run out to Central Park or to Grant's Tomb?"

"Not today. I feel rather tired. By the way, you did not mention your name."

"I haven't a card with me, but my name is Louis Wheeler."

"Where do you live, Mr. Wheeler?"

"I am staying with an aunt on Fifth Avenue, but I think of taking board at the Windsor Hotel. It is a very high toned house, and quite a number of my friends board there."

"Is it an expensive hotel?"

"Oh, yes, but my income is large and----"

"I understand. Now, Mr. Wheeler, I must excuse myself, as I feel tired. Come at half past seven and we can start for the theater together."

"Very well."

Wheeler rose reluctantly, for he had intended to secure a dinner from his new acquaintance, but he was wise enough to take the hint.

After he left the room Rodney again joined Mr. Pettigrew.

"He didn't give me back any change," said the Western man. "He said he bought the tickets of a speculator at two dollars and a half each."

"Then he made two dollars out of you."

"I suppose that is the beginning. Well, that doesn't worry me. But I should like to know how he expects to get more money out of me. I don't understand the ways of this gentry."

"Nor I very well. If you are on your guard I think you won't be in any danger."

"I will remember what you say. You seem young to act as adviser to a man like me. Are you in business?"

"At present I am out of work, but I have money enough to last me three months."

"Are you, like my new acquaintance, possessed of independent means?"

"Not now, but I was six months ago."

"How did you lose your money?"

"I did not lose it. My guardian lost it for me."

"What is your name?"

"Rodney Ropes."

"You've had some pretty bad luck. Come up to my room and tell me about it."

"I shall be glad to do so, sir."

Mr. Pettigrew called for his key and led the way up to a plain room on the third floor.

"Come in," he said. "The room is small, but I guess it will hold us both. Now go ahead with your story."

In a short time Rodney had told his story in full to his new acquaintance, encouraged to do so by his sympathetic manner. Mr. Pettigrew was quite indignant, when told of Jasper's mean and treacherous conduct.

"That boy Jasper is a snake in the grass," he said. "I'd like to give him a good thrashing."

"There isn't any love lost between us, Mr. Pettigrew, but I think it will turn out right in the end. Still I find it hard to get a place in New York with him circulating stories about me."

"Then why do you stay in New York?"

"I have thought it might be better to go to Philadelphia or Boston."

"I can tell you of a better place than either."

"What is that?"

"Montana."

"Do you really think it would be wise for me to go there?"

"Think? I haven't a doubt about it."

"I have money enough to get there, but not much more. I should soon have to find work, or I might get stranded."

"Come back with me, and I'll see you through. I'll make a bargain with you. Go round with me here, and I'll pay your fare out to Montana."

"If you are really in earnest I will do so, and thank you for the offer."

"Jefferson Pettigrew means what he says. I'll see you through, Rodney."

"But I may be interfering with your other friend, Louis Wheeler."

"I shall soon be through with him. You needn't worry yourself about that."

Mr. Pettigrew insisted upon Rodney's taking supper with him. Fifteen minutes after Rodney left him Mr. Wheeler made his appearance.