By Horatio Alger
Public Domain Books
Chapter XXII. Tracking the Thief
Fosdick was right in supposing that Jim Travis had stolen the bank-book. He was also right in supposing that that worthy young man had come to the knowledge of Dick’s savings by what he had accidentally overheard. Now, Travis, like a very large number of young men of his class, was able to dispose of a larger amount of money than he was able to earn. Moreover, he had no great fancy for work at all, and would have been glad to find some other way of obtaining money enough to pay his expenses. He had recently received a letter from an old companion, who had strayed out to California, and going at once to the mines had been lucky enough to get possession of a very remunerative claim. He wrote to Travis that he had already realized two thousand dollars from it, and expected to make his fortune within six months.
Two thousand dollars! This seemed to Travis a very large sum, and quite dazzled his imagination. He was at once inflamed with the desire to go out to California and try his luck. In his present situation he only received thirty dollars a month, which was probably all that his services were worth, but went a very little way towards gratifying his expensive tastes. Accordingly he determined to take the next steamer to the land of gold, if he could possibly manage to get money enough to pay the passage.
The price of a steerage passage at that time was seventy-five dollars,–not a large sum, certainly,–but it might as well have been seventy-five hundred for any chance James Travis had of raising the amount at present. His available funds consisted of precisely two dollars and a quarter; of which sum, one dollar and a half was due to his washerwoman. This, however, would not have troubled Travis much, and he would conveniently have forgotten all about it; but, even leaving this debt unpaid, the sum at his command would not help him materially towards paying his passage money.
Travis applied for help to two or three of his companions; but they were all of that kind who never keep an account with savings banks, but carry all their spare cash about with them. One of these friends offered to lend him thirty-seven cents, and another a dollar; but neither of these offers seemed to encourage him much. He was about giving up his project in despair, when he learned, accidentally, as we have already said, the extent of Dick’s savings.
One hundred and seventeen dollars! Why, that would not only pay his passage, but carry him up to the mines, after he had arrived in San Francisco. He could not help thinking it over, and the result of this thinking was that he determined to borrow it of Dick without leave. Knowing that neither of the boys were in their room in the daytime, he came back in the course of the morning, and, being admitted by Mrs. Mooney herself, said, by way of accounting for his presence, that he had a cold, and had come back for a handkerchief. The landlady suspected nothing, and, returning at once to her work in the kitchen, left the coast clear.
Travis at once entered Dick’s room, and, as there seemed to be no other place for depositing money, tried the bureau-drawers. They were all readily opened, except one, which proved to be locked. This he naturally concluded must contain the money, and going back to his own chamber for the key of the bureau, tried it on his return, and found to his satisfaction that it would fit. When he discovered the bank-book, his joy was mingled with disappointment. He had expected to find bank-bills instead. This would have saved all further trouble, and would have been immediately available. Obtaining money at the savings bank would involve fresh risk. Travis hesitated whether to take it or not; but finally decided that it would be worth the trouble and hazard.
He accordingly slipped the book into his pocket, locked the drawer again, and, forgetting all about the handkerchief for which he had come home went downstairs, and into the street.
There would have been time to go to the savings bank that day, but Travis had already been absent from his place of business some time, and did not venture to take the additional time required. Besides, not being very much used to savings banks, never having had occasion to use them, he thought it would be more prudent to look over the rules and regulations, and see if he could not get some information as to the way he ought to proceed. So the day passed, and Dick’s money was left in safety at the bank.
In the evening, it occurred to Travis that it might be well to find out whether Dick had discovered his loss. This reflection it was that induced the visit which is recorded at the close of the last chapter. The result was that he was misled by the boys’ silence on the subject, and concluded that nothing had yet been discovered.
“Good!” thought Travis, with satisfaction. “If they don’t find out for twenty-four hours, it’ll be too late, then, and I shall be all right.”
There being a possibility of the loss being discovered before the boys went out in the morning, Travis determined to see them at that time, and judge whether such was the case. He waited, therefore, until he heard the boys come out, and then opened his own door.
“Morning, gents,” said he, sociably. “Going to business?”
“Yes,” said Dick. “I’m afraid my clerks’ll be lazy if I aint on hand.”
“Good joke!” said Travis. “If you pay good wages, I’d like to speak for a place.”
“I pay all I get myself,” said Dick. “How’s business with you?”
“So so. Why don’t you call round, some time?”
“All my evenin’s is devoted to literatoor and science,” said Dick. “Thank you all the same.”
“Where do you hang out?” inquired Travis, in choice language, addressing Fosdick.
“At Henderson’s hat and cap store, on Broadway.”
“I’ll look in upon you some time when I want a tile,” said Travis. “I suppose you sell cheaper to your friends.”
“I’ll be as reasonable as I can,” said Fosdick, not very cordially; for he did not much fancy having it supposed by his employer that such a disreputable-looking person as Travis was a friend of his.
However, Travis had no idea of showing himself at the Broadway store, and only said this by way of making conversation, and encouraging the boys to be social.
“You haven’t any of you gents seen a pearl-handled knife, have you?" he asked.
“No,” said Fosdick; “have you lost one?”
“Yes,” said Travis, with unblushing falsehood. “I left it on my bureau a day or two since. I’ve missed one or two other little matters. Bridget don’t look to me any too honest. Likely she’s got ’em.”
“What are you goin’ to do about it?” said Dick.
“I’ll keep mum unless I lose something more, and then I’ll kick up a row, and haul her over the coals. Have you missed anything?”
“No,” said Fosdick, answering for himself, as he could do without violating the truth.
There was a gleam of satisfaction in the eyes of Travis, as he heard this.
“They haven’t found it out yet,” he thought. “I’ll bag the money to-day, and then they may whistle for it.”
Having no further object to serve in accompanying the boys, he bade them good-morning, and turned down another street.
“He’s mighty friendly all of a sudden,” said Dick.
“Yes,” said Fosdick; “it’s very evident what it all means. He wants to find out whether you have discovered your loss or not.”
“But he didn’t find out.”
“No; we’ve put him on the wrong track. He means to get his money to-day, no doubt.”
“My money,” suggested Dick.
“I accept the correction,” said Fosdick.
“Of course, Dick, you’ll be on hand as soon as the bank opens.”
“In course I shall. Jim Travis’ll find he’s walked into the wrong shop.”
“The bank opens at ten o’clock, you know.”
“I’ll be there on time.”
The two boys separated.
“Good luck, Dick,” said Fosdick, as he parted from him. “It’ll all come out right, I think.”
“I hope ’twill,” said Dick.
He had recovered from his temporary depression, and made up his mind that the money would be recovered. He had no idea of allowing himself to be outwitted by Jim Travis, and enjoyed already, in anticipation, the pleasure of defeating his rascality.
It wanted two hours and a half yet to ten o’clock, and this time to Dick was too precious to be wasted. It was the time of his greatest harvest. He accordingly repaired to his usual place of business, succeeded in obtaining six customers, which yielded him sixty cents. He then went to a restaurant, and got some breakfast. It was now half-past nine, and Dick, feeling that it wouldn’t do to be late, left his box in charge of Johnny Nolan, and made his way to the bank.
The officers had not yet arrived, and Dick lingered on the outside, waiting till they should come. He was not without a little uneasiness, fearing that Travis might be as prompt as himself, and finding him there, might suspect something, and so escape the snare. But, though looking cautiously up and down the street, he could discover no traces of the supposed thief. In due time ten o’clock struck, and immediately afterwards the doors of the bank were thrown open, and our hero entered.
As Dick had been in the habit of making a weekly visit for the last nine months, the cashier had come to know him by sight.
“You’re early, this morning, my lad,” he said, pleasantly. “Have you got some more money to deposit? You’ll be getting rich, soon.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Dick. “My bank-book’s been stole.”
“Stolen!” echoed the cashier. “That’s unfortunate. Not so bad as it might be, though. The thief can’t collect the money.”
“That’s what I came to see about,” said Dick. “I was afraid he might have got it already.”
“He hasn’t been here yet. Even if he had, I remember you, and should have detected him. When was it taken?”
“Yesterday,” said Dick. “I missed it in the evenin’ when I got home.”
“Have you any suspicion as to the person who took it?” asked the cashier.
Dick thereupon told all he knew as to the general character and suspicious conduct of Jim Travis, and the cashier agreed with him that he was probably the thief. Dick also gave his reason for thinking that he would visit the bank that morning, to withdraw the funds.
“Very good,” said the cashier. “We’ll be ready for him. What is the number of your book?”
“No. 5,678,” said Dick.
“Now give me a little description of this Travis whom you suspect.”
Dick accordingly furnished a brief outline sketch of Travis, not particularly complimentary to the latter.
“That will answer. I think I shall know him,” said the cashier. “You may depend upon it that he shall receive no money on your account.”
“Thank you,” said Dick.
Considerably relieved in mind, our hero turned towards the door, thinking that there would be nothing gained by his remaining longer, while he would of course lose time.
He had just reached the doors, which were of glass, when through them he perceived James Travis himself just crossing the street, and apparently coming towards the bank. It would not do, of course, for him to be seen.
“Here he is,” he exclaimed, hurrying back. “Can’t you hide me somewhere? I don’t want to be seen.”
The cashier understood at once how the land lay. He quickly opened a little door, and admitted Dick behind the counter.
“Stoop down,” he said, “so as not to be seen.”
Dick had hardly done so when Jim Travis opened the outer door, and, looking about him in a little uncertainty, walked up to the cashier’s desk.