It was hinted at the close of the last chapter that Dick was destined to be disagreeably surprised on reaching home.
Having agreed to give further assistance to Tom Wilkins, he was naturally led to go to the drawer where he and Fosdick kept their bank-books. To his surprise and uneasiness the drawer proved to be empty!
"Come here a minute, Fosdick," he said.
"What's the matter, Dick?"
"I can't find my bank-book, nor yours either. What's 'come of them?"
"I took mine with me this morning, thinking I might want to put in a little more money. I've got it in my pocket, now."
"But where's mine?" asked Dick, perplexed.
"I don't know. I saw it in the drawer when I took mine this morning."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, positive, for I looked into it to see how much you had got."
"Did you lock it again?" asked Dick.
"Yes; didn't you have to unlock it just now?"
"So I did," said Dick. "But it's gone now. Somebody opened it with a key that fitted the lock, and then locked it ag'in."
"That must have been the way."
"It's rather hard on a feller," said Dick, who, for the first time since we became acquainted with him, began to feel down-hearted.
"Don't give it up, Dick. You haven't lost the money, only the bank-book."
"Aint that the same thing?"
"No. You can go to the bank to-morrow morning, as soon as it opens, and tell them you have lost the book, and ask them not to pay the money to any one except yourself."
"So I can," said Dick, brightening up. "That is, if the thief hasn't been to the bank to-day."
"If he has, they might detect him by his handwriting."
"I'd like to get hold of the one that stole it," said Dick, indignantly. "I'd give him a good lickin'."
"It must have been somebody in the house. Suppose we go and see Mrs. Mooney. She may know whether anybody came into our room to-day." The two boys went downstairs, and knocked at the door of a little back sitting-room where Mrs. Mooney generally spent her evenings. It was a shabby little room, with a threadbare carpet on the floor, the walls covered with a certain large-figured paper, patches of which had been stripped off here and there, exposing the plaster, the remainder being defaced by dirt and grease. But Mrs. Mooney had one of those comfortable temperaments which are tolerant of dirt, and didn't mind it in the least. She was seated beside a small pine work-table, industriously engaged in mending stockings.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Mooney," said Fosdick, politely.
"Good-evening," said the landlady. "Sit down, if you can find chairs. I'm hard at work as you see, but a poor lone widder can't afford to be idle."
"We can't stop long, Mrs. Mooney, but my friend here has had something taken from his room to-day, and we thought we'd come and see you about it."
"What is it?" asked the landlady. "You don't think I'd take anything? If I am poor, it's an honest name I've always had, as all my lodgers can testify."
"Certainly not, Mrs. Mooney; but there are others in the house that may not be honest. My friend has lost his bank-book. It was safe in the drawer this morning, but to-night it is not to be found."
"How much money was there in it?" asked Mrs. Mooney.
"Over a hundred dollars," said Fosdick.
"It was my whole fortun'," said Dick. "I was goin' to buy a house next year."
Mrs. Mooney was evidently surprised to learn the extent of Dick's wealth, and was disposed to regard him with increased respect.
"Was the drawer locked?" she asked.
"Then it couldn't have been Bridget. I don't think she has any keys."
"She wouldn't know what a bank-book was," said Fosdick. "You didn't see any of the lodgers go into our room to-day, did you?"
"I shouldn't wonder if it was Jim Travis," said Mrs. Mooney, suddenly.
This James Travis was a bar-tender in a low groggery in Mulberry Street, and had been for a few weeks an inmate of Mrs. Mooney's lodging-house. He was a coarse-looking fellow who, from his appearance, evidently patronized liberally the liquor he dealt out to others. He occupied a room opposite Dick's, and was often heard by the two boys reeling upstairs in a state of intoxication, uttering shocking oaths.
This Travis had made several friendly overtures to Dick and his room-mate, and had invited them to call round at the bar-room where he tended, and take something. But this invitation had never been accepted, partly because the boys were better engaged in the evening, and partly because neither of them had taken a fancy to Mr. Travis; which certainly was not strange, for nature had not gifted him with many charms, either of personal appearance or manners. The rejection of his friendly proffers had caused him to take a dislike to Dick and Henry, whom he considered stiff and unsocial.
"What makes you think it was Travis?" asked Fosdick. "He isn't at home in the daytime."
"But he was to-day. He said he had got a bad cold, and had to come home for a clean handkerchief."
"Did you see him?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said Mrs. Mooney. "Bridget was hanging out clothes, and I went to the door to let him in."
"I wonder if he had a key that would fit our drawer," said Fosdick.
"Yes," said Mrs. Mooney. "The bureaus in the two rooms are just alike. I got 'em at auction, and most likely the locks is the same."
"It must have been he," said Dick, looking towards Fosdick.
"Yes," said Fosdick, "it looks like it."
"What's to be done? That's what I'd like to know," said Dick. "Of course he'll say he hasn't got it; and he won't be such a fool as to leave it in his room."
"If he hasn't been to the bank, it's all right," said Fosdick. "You can go there the first thing to-morrow morning, and stop their paying any money on it."
"But I can't get any money on it myself," said Dick. "I told Tom Wilkins I'd let him have some more money to-morrow, or his sick mother'll have to turn out of their lodgin's."
"How much money were you going to give him?"
"I gave him three dollars to-day, and was goin' to give him two dollars to-morrow."
"I've got the money, Dick. I didn't go to the bank this morning."
"All right. I'll take it, and pay you back next week."
"No, Dick; if you've given three dollars, you must let me give two."
"No, Fosdick, I'd rather give the whole. You know I've got more money than you. No, I haven't, either," said Dick, the memory of his loss flashing upon him. "I thought I was rich this morning, but now I'm in destitoot circumstances."
"Cheer up, Dick; you'll get your money back."
"I hope so," said our hero, rather ruefully.
The fact was, that our friend Dick was beginning to feel what is so often experienced by men who do business of a more important character and on a larger scale than he, the bitterness of a reverse of circumstances. With one hundred dollars and over carefully laid away in the savings bank, he had felt quite independent. Wealth is comparative, and Dick probably felt as rich as many men who are worth a hundred thousand dollars. He was beginning to feel the advantages of his steady self-denial, and to experience the pleasures of property. Not that Dick was likely to be unduly attached to money. Let it be said to his credit that it had never given him so much satisfaction as when it enabled him to help Tom Wilkins in his trouble.
Besides this, there was another thought that troubled him. When he obtained a place he could not expect to receive as much as he was now making from blacking boots,—probably not more than three dollars a week,—while his expenses without clothing would amount to four dollars. To make up the deficiency he had confidently relied upon his savings, which would be sufficient to carry him along for a year, if necessary. If he should not recover his money, he would be compelled to continue a boot-black for at least six months longer; and this was rather a discouraging reflection. On the whole it is not to be wondered at that Dick felt unusually sober this evening, and that neither of the boys felt much like studying.
The two boys consulted as to whether it would be best to speak to Travis about it. It was not altogether easy to decide. Fosdick was opposed to it.
"It will only put him on his guard," said he, "and I don't see as it will do any good. Of course he will deny it. We'd better keep quiet, and watch him, and, by giving notice at the bank, we can make sure that he doesn't get any money on it. If he does present himself at the bank, they will know at once that he is a thief, and he can be arrested."
This view seemed reasonable, and Dick resolved to adopt it. On the whole, he began to think prospects were brighter than he had at first supposed, and his spirits rose a little.
"How'd he know I had any bank-book? That's what I can't make out," he said.
"Don't you remember?" said Fosdick, after a moment's thought, "we were speaking of our savings, two or three evenings since?"
"Yes," said Dick.
"Our door was a little open at the time, and I heard somebody come upstairs, and stop a minute in front of it. It must have been Jim Travis. In that way he probably found out about your money, and took the opportunity to-day to get hold of it."
This might or might not be the correct explanation. At all events it seemed probable.
The boys were just on the point of going to bed, later in the evening, when a knock was heard at the door, and, to their no little surprise, their neighbor, Jim Travis, proved to be the caller. He was a sallow-complexioned young man, with dark hair and bloodshot eyes.
He darted a quick glance from one to the other as he entered, which did not escape the boys' notice.
"How are ye, to-night?" he said, sinking into one of the two chairs with which the room was scantily furnished.
"Jolly," said Dick. "How are you?"
"Tired as a dog," was the reply. "Hard work and poor pay; that's the way with me. I wanted to go to the theater, to-night, but I was hard up, and couldn't raise the cash."
Here he darted another quick glance at the boys; but neither betrayed anything.
"You don't go out much, do you?" he said
"Not much," said Fosdick. "We spend our evenings in study."
"That's precious slow," said Travis, rather contemptuously. "What's the use of studying so much? You don't expect to be a lawyer, do you, or anything of that sort?"
"Maybe," said Dick. "I haven't made up my mind yet. If my feller-citizens should want me to go to Congress some time, I shouldn't want to disapp'int 'em; and then readin' and writin' might come handy."
"Well," said Travis, rather abruptly, "I'm tired and I guess I'll turn in." "Good-night," said Fosdick.
The boys looked at each other as their visitor left the room.
"He came in to see if we'd missed the bank-book," said Dick.
"And to turn off suspicion from himself, by letting us know he had no money," added Fosdick.
"That's so," said Dick. "I'd like to have searched them pockets of his."