Fighting in Cuban Waters/Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV


ON THE WAY TO THE "BROOKLYN"


"Oh, what luck!"

"What is the matter now?"

"My order for a railroad ticket from Boston to Fortress Monroe is gone!"

"Is that true? Perhaps Deck Mumpers cleaned you out after he struck you down," suggested the sergeant, quickly. "Feel in your pockets."

Walter did so, and his face blanched. "He did—everything,—my money, keys, cash,—all are missing. What in the world shall I do now?"

"How much money did you have?"

"About twenty dollars. The main thing was that railroad ticket order. If that is gone, how am I to get to Norfolk?"

"Was your name mentioned on the paper?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where was it to be presented? any particular depot?"

"Yes, the New York and New England railroad depot."

"Then the best thing to do is to ring the rail road folks up and have the bearer of the order detained, if the slip is presented," went on the police officer, and stepping to the telephone he rang up central and had the necessary connection made.

"Is this the ticket office of the New York and New England railroad depot?" he questioned.

"Yes," came the reply over the wire.

"A navy-yard order for a ticket from here to Norfolk, or Fortress Monroe, has been stolen. It is made out in the name of Walter Russell. If it is presented, hold the party having it and communicate with police headquarters."

"Is the name Walter Russell?" was the excited query, and Walter's heart began to sink as he seemed to feel what was coming.

"Yes."

"That order has already been filled. It was presented about ten o clock last night."

"I've missed it!" groaned the youth, and dropped into a chair. "What will the navy-yard people say to this when they hear of it?"

"I don't see how they can blame you," returned the sergeant, kindly, "seeing as you were knocked senseless by the thief. Deck Mumpers has got the best of it so far."

He called through the telephone for a description of the party having the order, and soon learned it must have been Mumpers beyond a doubt.

"Can't you telegraph to Norfolk to have him arrested when he arrives?" asked Walter suddenly.

"You don't think he'll go all the way to Norfolk, do you?" smiled the police officer. Then he turned again to the telephone. "What kind of a ticket did that party get on the order?" he asked.

"First-class, with sleepers."

"He got a first-class ticket. Ten to one he'll not use it at all, but sell the pasteboard at some cut-rate ticket office right here in Boston and then buy another ticket for somewhere else."

"I see!" cried Walter. "But if the ticket was sold here, could we trace it?"

"It is not likely, for many first-class tickets are alike. We might trace the sleeping-car checks, but I doubt if Mumpers will try to do anything with those."

"But he may use the ticket," ventured Walter, hardly knowing what else to say.

"Oh, possibly. I'll have the men at the various stations keep an eye open for the rascal," concluded the sergeant, and after a few more words Walter left the station.

It must be confessed that the youth was considerably out of sorts. "I start off to recover some stolen property and end by losing more," he groaned. "I'm not fit to join the navy, or do anything." And he gave a mountainous sigh.

It was almost five o clock, and knowing Dan would soon be on hand with Gimpwell to open the stand, he walked slowly in that direction. To keep up his courage he tried to whistle, but the effort was a dismal failure. Walter was naturally very light-hearted, but just now no one looking at his troubled face would have suspected this.

Reaching the stand, he opened the shutters and put out the light which he had forgotten to extinguish. Soon the first bundles of papers came along, and he sorted them over and arranged them for sale and for Dan's route. The work was almost done when the carrier came along, followed immediately by the new clerk.

"Hullo, I didn't know you'd be here!" cried Dan. "Why didn't you come home last night? Mother expected you to use the room, and you paid for it."

"I wish I had used the room," answered Walter, and went over his tale in a few words, for Dan must be off, to serve several men with news papers before they themselves started off to their daily labors.

"Say, but that's too bad!" cried the errand boy. "I've got two dollars, Walter. You can have the money if it will do you any good."

"Thanks, Dan, I want to see Mr. Newell first. But it's kind of you to make the offer."

"I'd offer you something, Russell," put in the new clerk. "But the fact is I haven't even car fare; had to tramp over from Charlestown."

Phil Newell put into appearance shortly before seven o clock, coming a little earlier than usual, to see that Gimpwell got along all right. Calling him aside, Walter told of what had happened. He was getting sick of telling the story, but, in this case, there was no help for it.

"Douse the toplights, but you've run on a sunken rock, and no mistake, Walter," cried the old naval veteran. "So he cleaned you out completely, eh?"

"Yes, Mr. Newell. I don't care so much for the money, but that order for the railroad ticket—"

"It's too bad; too bad!" Phil Newell ran his hand through his bushy hair. "I don't believe the navy-yard authorities will issue a duplicate order."

"Neither do I."

"You see, some sailors wouldn't be none too good for to get such a paper and then sell it for what she would fetch."

"Yes, that s the worst part of it. I shouldn't want them to think I was was getting in on them or trying to do so."

"The best thing to do, as far as I can see, is to call on Caleb Walton and get his advice."

"Where does he live?"

"In Charlestown, only a few blocks from the Bunker Hill monument. I don't know the number, but it's on Hill Street, and I know the house."

"Will you go with me? If I haven't the number—"

"To be sure I'll go with you, just as soon as I can set the new clerk on his proper course."

"And, Mr. Newell, would you mind—that is, would you make me a—aloan—" faltered Walter.

"Out with it, my boy, how much do you want? I told you before I'd be your friend, and what Phil Newell says he means, every trip."

"You are very kind, sir. I don't know how much I want. I had twenty dollars and thirty-five cents, and Mr. Walton said that was more than enough to see me through until pay day came along."

"Then here are twenty dollars." The proprietor of the news-stand pulled a roll of small bills from his pocket and counted out the amount. "You can pay me back when you recover your money, or else out of your pay money, if they don't collar that thief. Have you had breakfast yet?"

"No, sir."

"Then you had better get a bite while I instruct Gimpwell. I'll be ready for you in quarter of an hour."

Fifteen minutes found them on the way, taking a car which took them directly over to Charlestown, along the navy-yard and up Hill Street.

"Here we are," cried Phil Newell, as he stopped the car. "And just in time, for there is Caleb Walton leaving his house now."

"What brings you up?" demanded the gunner, when confronted, "Well, this is certainly a mess," he continued, after he had been told. "No, I'm certain they won't issue a duplicate order, for Captain Line is out of the city."

"But we might try and see what we can do," insisted Phil Newell.

"To be sure; come on." And the three set off for the navy-yard. Here it looked at first as if nothing could be gained, but finally one of the higher officers took it upon his own shoulders to give Walter a new order, at the same time saying something about charging it up to the Emergency Account.

"Well, that's a big relief," murmured Walter, on coming away. "I feel as if a thousand pounds were taken from my heart." And he certainly looked it.

"I must leave you now," said Caleb Walton. "Be sure and be at the depot on time, and take care of that new order."

"It's pinned fast in my pocket," said the youth. "If it goes, so does my coat."

On returning to the news-stand, Walter procured some paper and an envelope, and in the reading-room of the hotel sat down and wrote a long letter to his uncle, Job Dowling, telling of his enlistment in the navy and of what had happened during the night. "I think you ought to come to Boston," he concluded. "If the police can t do anything, a detective ought to be set on this Deck Mumper's track. You are holding a good deal of money in trust for Ben, Larry, and me, and for my part, I would spend a good deal rather than see father's watch and his and mother's wedding rings gone forever,—not to mention grandfather's diamond, which alone is worth at least two hundred dollars. Write to me concerning this, and send the letter to the Brooklyn, Off Fortress Munroe, Va."

This letter was mailed without delay, and soon after Walter bade Phil Newell, Dan, and several others good-by, and, grip in hand, walked to the depot. Here he found several jackies already assembled, and soon learned that they were members of Walton's party. In a few minutes Walton himself came hurrying down Federal Street, with several green hands in tow.

"All here?" he demanded, and began to "count noses." Only one man was missing, and he soon put in an appearance, and all entered the depot and procured their tickets. Then Walter asked about the stolen order, but the clerk had heard nothing new concerning it. "You were mighty lucky to get another order," he said with a grin. "Next time they may make you walk the tracks."

The train was in, and hurrying out to the long shed, they found their proper places. Soon there came a sharp jerk, the train moved off; and the long journey southward was begun.

For a seat-mate Walter had a typical Yankee lad, one from the coast of Maine, a young fellow who knew but little about warships, but who had spent several years on the rolling deep, in voyages to South America, to Nova Scotia, and elsewhere. His name was Silas Doring, and Walter found him talkative, although not objectionably so.

"Yes, I couldn't hardly wait till I got to Boston," said Si, for that was what he said all of his friends "to hum" called him. "We'll lick the Spanish out of their boots, see if we don't!"

"You are bound for the Brooklyn?" asked Walter.

"Thet's it, if they want me, otherwise I'm booked for the Texas. Putty good for a boy from Maine to go on the Texas, ain't it, he! he! But I don't care much. They can put me on the San Francisco if they want to—so long as they give me a chance at them tarnal Dons. When the Maine was blowed up, why, I jest jumped up an' down an' up an' down with rage. 'Si Doring,' sez I, 'Si Doring, are you a-going to let such an insult an crime go by unnoticed? Not much!' sez I. 'I'll join the navy, an help blow all of the Spanish to Jericho,'—an' I'm going to do it!" And the Yankee lad struck his fist into his open palm with a thump of energy.

"I wish I knew as much about ships as you do," ventured Walter. "I've been on two trips across Lake Erie, and know something, but I'm afraid I'll feel like a fish out of water when I get on a man-o-war."

"We'll keep our eyes and ears open, and try to learn—that's the only way. I know every rope on a merchantman, kin name em from fore royal stay to topping lift, but that ain't the hundredth part on it. We've got to learn our vessel jest as a person has got to learn a new city and its streets, fer boats ain't built one like another, not by a jugful! And after we have learned the ship, we've got to learn the guns, and the fire-drill, and how to clear ship for action, and a lot more, not to say a word about learning how to knock out them Dons, as some calls 'em. Oh, we'll have our hands full after we get on board, don't forget it!" And Si Doring shook his head vigorously.

On and on sped the train until Hyde Park was reached. Here a brief stop was made, and several persons including a sailor got on board. The sailor came through the car as if looking for somebody and finally found Caleb Walton and shook hands.

"Yes, I'm bound for Norfolk, too," Walter and Si Doring heard him remark.

"By gum!" whispered the Yankee sailor. "I wonder if thet chap is going with us?"

"Do you know him?" asked the boy. "Know him? jest guess I do! His name is Jim Haskett, and he used to be the mate of the Sunflower, a three-master from Penobscot. I sailed under him once, and he was the hardest man on shipboard I ever got next to. If he gets in the navy, he'll make everybody under him dance to his pipings, and worse."

"If that's the case, I sincerely hope he isn't assigned to my ship," was Walter's comment. "I haven't any use for a bully, big or little."

"I owe Jim Haskett many an old score; I would like to get the chance to even up," went on the Yankee. "But I've enlisted to do my duty and lick the Spanish, and if Haskett leaves me alone, I'll leave him alone. Here he comes now." And Si straightened up.

The former mate of the Sunflower passed down the aisle slowly. When he saw the Yankee he started and then scowled at him. "Have you enlisted?" he asked, in a voice that was far from pleasant.

"I have," returned Si. "Got any objections, Haskett?"

"Humph!" was the only answer, and the ex-mate of the Sunflower passed on, to drop into a vacant seat some distance behind them.

"Oh, he's a corker," whispered the Yankee, and Walter nodded to show that he agreed with him. Walter was destined to many an encounter with Jim Haskett before his first term in the navy should come to an end.