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CHAPTER V.


A NIGHT IN NEW YORK.


"The description certainly does fit these two men," said Earl, with some hesitation. " And it is queer that Roland should be down here, when only a few days ago he was in Basco. Guardley, I know, is not above cheating—he's been up before Squire Dobson several times for it."

"Let us go and have a talk with them," said Randy, impulsively. "If they stole that money, I want to know it."

"It's not our business to hunt those swindlers up," answered Earl, hesitatingly; yet he followed Randy to the platform of the smoking-car, and they were soon inside, and making their way to where Roland and Guardley sat, pulling away at two black-looking cigars.

"How do you do, Earl?" said Tom Roland, familiarly, as soon as the boys appeared. "It's queer we should be on the same train, isn't it?"

"It is queer," answered Earl, stiffly, taken aback by the greeting. "Where are you bound?"

"Guardley and I are going to try our luck in the West. Say, I heard you boys were bound for Alaska. Is that true?"

"Yes."

"It costs a heap to go there—didn't know you had so much money," put in Guardley, with a smile that neither Earl nor Randy appreciated.

"And I didn't know you had any money for a Western trip," returned the older brother, rather sharply.

"Oh, Tom here is seeing me through," answered Guardley; but both Randy and Earl noted that he appeared somewhat confused for the moment.

"Guardley has done me several good turns, and it wouldn't be fair for me to turn my back on him," finished Tom Roland. "We are going right through to San Francisco. How about yourselves?"

"We stop off at New York," said Randy.

"It's a pity we can't travel together—" began Roland, when Earl cut him short.

"Roland, did you pick up a letter belonging to me?" asked the boy.

The man's eyes dropped, but only for the fraction of a second. "A letter belonging to you?" he repeated. "No. Where did you lose it?"

"Somewhere around Basco. Did you see it, Guardley?"

The second man shook his head. "Was it important?" he asked.

"Very," said Earl, laconically, and then, as the train began to move again he motioned to Randy, and the two started back for their seat in the last car.

"What do you think? " questioned Randy, when they were seated.

"I don't know what to think. It's mighty queer the pair should leave Basco in such a hurry."

"We left in a hurry. But we had a good reason."

"And they may have—a reason most folks don't look for."

"Do you think they left on account of some crooked work?" cried Randy.

"That would probably be Jasper Guardley's reason for getting away. But it's not our affair, and we have enough other matters to think of," concluded Earl, after a pause. "When we get to New York we'll be like stray cattle in a hundred-acre lot. We must look out not to get lost, and above all things not to lose our money."

"And engage the cheapest and quickest passage to San Francisco," said Randy. "Let us look over those folders before it gets too late. It's too dark to see much outside."

The lamps were lighted in the car, and they lost no further time in digesting the contents of the folders of the railroad companies and pouring over the maps of the various routes to the Golden Gate.

"One looks about as good as another on paper," remarked Earl, at last. "I think we had best take the New York Central Railroad to Chicago, then the Rock Island & Chicago to Rock Island, and then the Southern Pacific. We'll find out about that route when we reach New York."

It was exactly ten o'clock in the evening that the train rolled into the Grand Central Depot at Forty-second Street and Randy and Earl alighted. The crowd was very thick, and though both looked for Roland and Guardley, the two men could not be discovered. The coming and going of so many people confused them, and the many cries which greeted them as they emerged on the street did not tend to set them at ease.

"Cab, sir? Coupé? This way for the Broadway Central Hotel! Evening papers, Post or Telegram! Mail and Express!"

Several came up to the two boys, offering them cab rides and the like, but both Randy and Earl shook their heads. Then Earl remembered that the ticket office was close at hand, and he and his brother went inside again. A long talk with the ticket clerk followed, and they concluded to take the New York Central road to Chicago, and from there as previously intended. The train would start at ten in the morning, and Earl bought two tickets, paying an amount which brought their cash balance down quite low once more.

"Never mind; that pays for about all we'll need," said Randy. "Let us leave the tickets to be called for, and then they'll be safe."

"No indeed!" said Earl. "Some one may call for them just as the money was called for. I'll carry my ticket in an inside pocket, and you had best do the same."

This settled, the brothers strolled out once more. It was rather late, but they could not resist the temptation to a walk down Broadway, of which they had heard so often. They trudged as far as the Post-office, took a look at Park Row and the numerous newspaper buildings, and the Brooklyn Bridge all lit up in a blaze of electric lights, and then Earl happened to glance at the clock on St. Paul's Church.

"Half-past twelve. Randy!" he ejaculated. "Gracious! we'll never find a hotel open as late as this! Let us get back to the vicinity of the depot again!"

"I guess the hotels are open all night here," answered the younger brother. "Let us ride up Broadway on that street car." And they boarded a cable car, which speedily took them back to Forty-second Street. A convenient hotel was found close to the railroad station, and they lost no time in retiring. The constant rumble and roar of the elevated trains disturbed them not a little, and it was well into the morning hours before both dropped off into dreamland, not to awaken until a bell boy aroused them at seven o'clock.

After a hasty breakfast another look was taken around the city. Finding they had the time, they took an elevated train to the Battery and back, staying long enough at the lower end of the city to catch a glimpse of Castle Garden with its aquarium, and the statue of Liberty out in the bay.

"One could spend a month in sight-seeing here," sighed Randy. "I wish we had had the time to do Boston and New York thoroughly."

Ten o'clock found them on the train which was to take them through to Chicago without change of cars. The cars were comfortably filled, but there was no crowding. Again they looked for Roland and Guardley, but without success.

"I guess they remained in New York," said Earl; but for once the young fellow was mistaken.

Leaving the vicinity of the metropolis, the train began its long journey up the beautiful Hudson. But the journey northward did not last long. Soon the train branched to the westward and plunged into the hills and rolling lands of the Mohawk Valley. City after city were left behind with a whir and a rush that almost took Randy's breath from him. At noon a stop was made for lunch, then on they went again. Supper was served in a dining-car, and both boys voted it about the best meal they had ever tasted.

After the lamps were lit it was not long before the passengers began to think of going to bed. Both Randy and Earl watched the porter closely as he drew out the beds from the narrow closets in the sloping roof of the car, set up the little wooden partitions, and otherwise arranged the sleeping-apartments. The boys had a section to themselves and concluded to sleep together in the lower berth, so the upper berth was left out.

"A sleeping-car is a great institution," said Earl, as they turned in. Why, a train like this is just a moving house and nothing else!"

Shortly after noon of the day following Chicago was reached. Here they had a three hours' stop and spent the time in a ride on State Street, and a trip to the roof of the great Masonic Temple, where a grand bird's-eye view of the entire city was to be seen, spread out far below them.

And so the long trip westward continued. To tell of all the places stopped at would be impossible. All day long for nearly a week they sat at their car window taking in the sights of cities, towns, prairies, and mountains. There were wonderful bridges to cross and perilous turns to make, at which both held their breath, expecting each moment to be dashed to pieces. In the mountains a severe storm was encountered, and the rolling of the thunder was awe-inspiring, so long was it kept up.

But all journeys, long and short, must come to an end, and one fine morning the boys found themselves safe and sound in San Francisco, and on their way to the Palace Hotel. The trip overland had brightened them a good bit, and they no longer looked as green as when they had started.

They had just stepped from a Market Street car in front of the hotel when they saw a youth coming down the hotel steps who looked strangely familiar, in spite of the somewhat ragged clothing he wore.

"Randy, who is that fellow?" questioned Earl, quickly, as he caught his brother by the elbow.

"Why, if it isn't Fred Dobson!" burst from Randy's lips. "How in the world did he get away out here? Fred Dobson! Fred Dobson! Stop, we want to talk to you!" he called out, as the youth in question was on the point of hurrying off.