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CHAPTER XV


DAVE AND ROGER IN LONDON


"Off at last!"

"Yes, Roger, and I am not sorry for it."

"And just to think, Dave, inside of a week we'll be in England! It doesn't seem possible."

The two boys were standing on the deck of the great steamer, watching the last sight of New York City as it faded from view. Mr. Wadsworth and Caspar Potts had come down to see them off, and all had had a fine meal together at the old Astor House.

It was a clear, cold day, and the boys were glad enough to button their overcoats as they remained on deck watching the last bit of land disappear from view. Then they swept by the Sandy Hook lightship and out into the broad Atlantic, rolling majestically in the bright sunlight.

By good luck Dave had managed to obtain a first-class stateroom, and the chums felt very comfortable when they settled down in the apartment. But they did not know a soul on board, and it was not until the second day out that they made a few acquaintances.

"I think we are going to have a fine trip over," said the senator's son, on the evening of the second day. "Don't you think so, Dave?"

"I'll tell you better when we reach the other side," answered the boy from the country, with a laugh. "I don't know much about the Atlantic. When we were traveling on the Pacific I know the weather changed very quickly sometimes."

That very night came a heavy blow and by morning the seas were running high. The air was piercing cold, and everybody was glad enough to remain in the cabins. Dave, returning from the ship's library with a volume on travels in England, found Roger had gone to their stateroom.

"Seasick, I'll wager a new hat," he said to himself, and hurried to the apartment. Sure enough, the senator's son was on his berth and as pale as death.

"Can I do anything?" asked Dave, kindly.

"Nothing," groaned Roger. "Only make the boat stop for a minute—just one minute, Dave!"

"I would if I could, Roger. But maybe you'll get over it soon," he added, sympathetically.

"Perhaps—after my insides have had their merry-go-round ride," was the mournful reply.

Fortunately the heavy blow did not last long, and by the morning of the fourth day the Atlantic was comparatively calm. Dave had not been seasick in the least, and he was glad to see his chum come around once more. Roger greeted him with a faint smile.

"I was going to fight against it," said the senator's son. "But when it caught me I had to give in first clip. O dear! I don't see what seasickness was invented for!" And he said this so seriously that Dave was forced to laugh outright.

As soon as it had been decided that he was to go to London, Dave had begun to study up about the place, so that he might not be "too green" when he arrived there. He had two guide-books, and on the steamship he met several people who were only too willing to give him all the information at their command.

"London isn't New York, my boy," said one old gentleman to whom he spoke. "It's larger and it's different. But if you're used to big cities you'll soon find yourself at home there."

Soon the two boys were watching for a sight of land, and when it came they learned that they were in the English Channel and nearing the Isle of Wight. Here there was plenty of shipping, from all parts of the world, and they passed several other big liners, bound for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Southern ports.

"This is certainly the age of travel," was Dave's comment, as they watched the boats pass. "Everybody seems to be going somewhere."

By the time they reached Southampton there was great bustle on board. Custom House regulations had to be met, after which Dave and Roger took their first ride in an English railway coach and soon reached the greatest city of the world. They had brought with them only their largest dress-suit cases, and these they carried.

They had already decided to go to a small but comfortable hotel called the Todham. A cabman was handy, who had their dress-suit cases almost before they knew it.

"What's the fare to the hotel?" demanded Dave.

The Jehu said several shillings, but when Dave shook his head the fellow cut the price in half and they sprang in and were off. The brief ride was an interesting one, and they could not help but contrast the sights to be seen with those of New York and Chicago.

"It's certainly different," said Roger. "But I guess we can make ourselves at home."

The hotel was in the vicinity of Charing Cross, and the two boys obtained an elegant apartment looking down on the busy street. They were glad to rest over Sunday, only going out in the morning to attend services at one of the great churches.

"Well, Dave, now you are here, how are you going to start to look for Nick Jasniff?" questioned Roger. "It seems to me that it will be a good deal like looking for a needle in a haystack."

"I am going to advertise and then try all the leading hotels," was the answer. "I have a list of them here. If you want to help, you can visit one group of them while I visit another."

The senator's son was willing, and they started off without delay. During the day Dave rode around to exactly twenty-two places, but at each hostelry was met with the reply that no such person as Nicholas Jasniff had registered there.

"One day wasted," he sighed, but altered his opinion when he rejoined his chum.

"Jasniff was at the Hotel Silverin," said Roger. "But he left there a little over two weeks ago."

"Did he leave any directions for forwarding mail?"

"Yes, here is the address." The senator's son drew a notebook from his pocket. "43, Pulford Road, Noxham."

"Let us look up the place," went on Dave, eagerly, and got out his map of London and its suburbs. It was in the northern end of the metropolis, and they found a railway running in that direction.

"We can't go to-night very well, but we can try it the first thing in the morning," said Dave; and so it was decided.

On arriving in the vicinity of 43, Pulford Road, the two youths found the neighborhood anything but first-class. The houses were old and dirty-looking and had about them a general air of neglect.

"What do you want?" demanded the tall and angular woman who answered their summons at the door.

"Good-morning, madam," said Dave, politely. "I am looking for a young gentleman named Nicholas Jasniff. I believe he boards here."

"Oh, so that's it," said the woman. She eyed Dave and Roger in a suspicious manner. "Who told you he was boarding here?"

"We heard so down at our hotel."

"He isn't here—he went away last week—owing me one pound six," was the spiteful answer. "I wish I had my hands on him. It's Kate Clever would teach him a lesson, the scamp!"

"So he ran away owing you some board money?" said Roger.

"He did that."

"And you haven't any idea where he is?"

"I have and I haven't. Are you friends of his?"

"Not exactly, but we wish very much to find him."

"I am not the one to do him a favor—after him treating me so shabbily," said the woman, spitefully.

"You'll not be doing him a favor," returned Dave. "To tell you the truth, I want to catch him for some other wrong he's been doing."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" The woman became more interested. "You are from the States, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"He was from the States. He pretended that he wasn't, but I knew differently. He got letters from America—I saw one of them."

"And where did he go, if you please?" asked Dave.

The tall woman drew up her angular shoulders and pursed up her thin lips.

"If you'll pay that board money I'll help you to find him."

"Very well, if we find him I'll pay you the one pound and six shillings," answered Dave. He did not wish to waste time that might be valuable.

"Come in the parlor and I'll tell you what I know," said Kate Clever.

They entered the little musty and dusty parlor, with its old haircloth furniture and its cheap bric-a-brac. The woman dusted two of the chairs with her apron and told them to be seated.

"I am a poor widow," she explained. "I have to make my living by taking boarders. This Jasniff paid me only one week's board. He said he expected to get some money, but while I was waiting he took his bag and box and slipped away one day when I was to market."

"I thought he had plenty of money," said Roger. "He ran away with enough."

"Ran away with enough? Was he a thief?"

"Yes."

"O dear! Then I am glad he is out of my house. Really! we might all have been murdered in our beds!" And the woman held up her thin hands in horror.

After that she told what she could of Nick Jasniff. She said he had spent a good part of his time, both day and night, down in the heart of London, visiting the theaters and other places of amusement. Once he had complained of being robbed of his pocketbook on a tram-car, and again he had lost himself in Cheapside and fallen in with some thugs who had tried to carry him into an alleyway. In the fight that followed he had had an eye blackened and the sleeve torn from his coat. She had sewed on the sleeve again, but he had paid her nothing for the work.

"He spoke once of visiting an old friend named Chesterfield, who lived in Siddingate," said the woman. "He said he might meet his father there. Maybe if you can find this Chesterfield you'll find him."

"We can try, anyway," answered Dave. "Is that all you can tell about him?"

"I don't know of much else, Mr.—— I haven't learned your name yet."

"My name is David Porter. This is my friend Roger Morr."

"Porter? Why, I've heard that name somewhere." The woman mused for a moment. "Why, yes, Nicholas Jasniff had a friend by that name—a gentleman much older than you."

"A friend!" gasped Dave. "Oh, that can't be true, Mrs. Clever!"

"Well, I heard him say something about a man named Porter. They had met somewhere—I think in London. The man had a daughter named Laura, and I think this Jasniff had been calling upon her."