Read CHAPTER XXI. of Seek and Find / The Adventures of a Smart Boy, free online book, by Oliver Optic, on ReadCentral.com.

IN WHICH ERNEST VISITS MADISON PLACE

I’m waiting for you,” said the hack-driver, as I entered the office of the hotel with Mr. Loraine.

“What do you want of me?” I demanded, supposing the villain was charged with the execution of some further design upon me.

“I want my money,” he growled.

“What money?”

“For driving you out to Harlem.”

“Do you expect me to pay that?”

“As the gintleman didn’t pay me, I expect you to do so,” he replied, with refreshing coolness.

“Where is the gentleman now?” I asked; and, wishing to obtain some information in regard to Tom, if I could, I did not decline to pay his demand.

“I don’t know where he is.”

“What became of him?”

“With the help of some people I found in the bar-room, I took him into the public house.  Bedad, it was a hard crack you guv him,” added the hackman, in a low tone.  “If you pay me the tin dollars, I won’t say anything agin you.”

“You carried him into the public house,” I repeated.  “What then?”

“Wait till I tell you.  Begorra, I thought he was kilt, sure,” he replied, in confidential whispers.  “A bad scrape it was, and I didn’t want to be in it; so I jumped on my box and druv off telling ’em I was goin’ for a docther.”

“Don’t you know what became of him?”

“Faix, I do.  Two hours afther, I sent a frind of mine, one Michael Mallahy, that lives convanient to the public house, to go and drink a glass of beer at the bar-room, and inquire for the man that was hurted.  Now pay me my tin dollars, and I won’t say a word.”

“Did your friend find out about the man that was hurt?” I inquired, putting my hand into my pocket.

“Faix, he did.  The gintleman wasn’t kilt at all.  He came out of it with only a sore head, and left the public house all alone by himself.”

“Haven’t you heard of him since?”

“Not one word; and I don’t know where in the world is he.”

“And he didn’t pay you?” I added, withdrawing my hand empty from my pocket.

“He did not thin.”

“He served you just right, then,” I continued.

“Aren’t you going to pay me my tin dollars?” said he, looking uglier than usual.

“I am not-not I.”

“Begorra, thin, I will inform the police,” replied he, savagely.  “You struck the gintleman on the head with the wrinch, and I’ll have you in the Tombs.”

“What’s the trouble!” asked Mr. Loraine, who had been impatiently waiting for me in another part of the room, as he stepped up to the hackman, his attention attracted by the fellow’s anger.

“That is the man that drove us out to Harlem last night,” I answered.

“What’s your number?” demanded Mr. Loraine of the surly brute.

The hackman looked at him.  The New York merchant was no tyro, and Jehu, preferring not to deal with one who understood the characteristics of his class, suddenly bolted through the open door, and ran for his hack.  Mr. Loraine pursued him; but the rascal had left his carriage on the Bowling Green side of the street, and he distanced both of us.  Leaping upon his box, he drove off as fast as his horses could go.

“Didn’t you notice the number of his hack?” asked Mr. Loraine, as we returned to the hotel.

“I did not, sir.”

“What did he want of you?”

“He wished me to pay him ten dollars for driving Kate and me out to Harlem last night,” I replied, laughing.

“It did not take you long to give him an answer to such a demand.”

“I wanted to know why Tom Thornton had not paid him.  It seems that the scoundrel, when he found his employer was hurt, was afraid of getting into trouble, and left him.  I put my hand into my pocket, as though I intended to pay him, so as to induce him to tell me what I wanted to know.”

“You’ll do!” added Mr. Loraine, smiling.  “But what did become of Thornton?”

“When the hackman sent a friend of his to inquire about him, Tom Thornton had come to his senses and left.”

“I’m afraid you’ll hear from him again.  If you do, let me know.  Now, where is Kate?”

I conducted him up stairs to Mrs. Macombe’s parlor.  Mr. Loraine proved to be all I had wished him to be-sympathizing, noble, and decided.  He asked Kate a great many questions, in order to assure himself that she was not a naughty, wilful, and disobedient girl; and, in answer to them, she told her whole story, as she had told it to Bob Hale and me in the standing-room of the Splash.  I made a voluntary statement of my impressions in regard to the step-mother, and the interview I had had with her.

“I never liked the woman,” added Mr. Loraine; “and, till the day of my brother’s death, I did not cease to regret his marriage.  Why didn’t you write to me, Kate?”

“She would not let me.”

“Why didn’t you tell Mr. Windleton about the treatment you received?”

“It wasn’t so bad till after Mr. Windleton went to Europe.”

“We will have it made right at once.  I have done some business for Windleton during his absence; for he was a friend of mine, as well as of my brother.  He will be shocked when he hears of this business.  I expect him back the next steamer, due to-day or to-morrow.  I shall go and see this woman as soon as he returns.”

“But I don’t want to go back to her, uncle Freeman,” said Kate, with a suppressed shudder.

“You shall not; you shall live with me, if you are so disposed.”

“O, uncle!”

Kate cried; I am sure I don’t know why, for there was certainly nothing to cry about.  Mrs. Macombe, I know, was sorry that Kate was going to live with her uncle, for she had already become very much attached to her, and would gladly have given her a home, and been a mother to her.  When they parted, Mr. Loraine promised that his niece should visit her at no distant day.  I was taking my leave of Kate, when her uncle interposed, and insisted that I should go with them to his residence.  My fair fellow-traveller would not permit me to leave yet, and a carriage was called, in which we started for Madison Place.

The ride was not so long as the one we had taken on the preceding evening.  Kate was warmly welcomed by Mrs. Loraine and her family; and when I saw the kindness that beamed in their eyes, and was reflected from their actions, I was confident that Kate had found a good home-that best of earthly blessings.  I was sorry to part with her; indeed, I did not know how strongly I was interested in her until the hour of separation came.  I bade good by to the family, and she followed me to the street door.

“I don’t want you to go, Ernest Thornton,” said she, calling me, as she invariably did, by my full name.

“I don’t want to go, Kate; but you know what work I have on my hands,” I replied.

“Cannot my uncle help you?  I know he would be willing to do so,” she asked.

“I don’t think I need any more help.  If Tom Thornton troubles me any more, I shall apply to him.  But I think I have given Tom his quietus for the present.  He will carry a sore head around with him for some time.  But I must go now.  The steamer sails to-morrow, you know.”

“Shall I not see you again?” she asked, beginning to be very much moved.

“I will call upon you this evening, if I can.”

“You will come, Ernest Thornton-won’t you?”

“If possible, I will.”

“And when you get to England, you must write to me.”

“I will certainly do that.  Good by, Kate.”

She extended her hand to me, and I took it.  Then I hastened away, fearful that she would cry again.  I walked down the street thinking of her.  She was not as pretty as many young ladies I had met, but she was exceedingly interesting, to say nothing of the grace of her form, which I have never seen surpassed.  She is as graceful and interesting now as she was then.  But I will not anticipate.

I did not expect to hear any more from Tom Thornton, and I did not fear any obstacles to my departure for England the next day.  I took from my pocket the card which the gentleman whose acquaintance I had made on board the Albany steamer had given me.  His name was Solomons.  I afterwards learned that he was a Jew; and my estimate of the whole Jewish people was very much increased after a few days’ intimacy with him.  His hotel was written in pencil under his name.  I readily found it, and he was in his room.

He received me very kindly; but I had to tell him everything that had occurred after my arrival in the city, before I could introduce the topic which was uppermost in my mind.  He was warmly interested in the affairs of Kate, and was delighted when I told him she was then with her uncle’s family as happy as she could be.

“I shall sail for England with you to-morrow, sir,” I added, when Kate’s history had been disposed of.

“Ah, indeed!  I’m glad to hear it.  Have you engaged your passage yet?” he asked, briskly.

“Not yet, sir.”

“Not yet, my boy!  I am afraid you’ll find no berth.  The other one in my state-room was not taken yesterday, but I fear we are too late for it to-day.  We will go down and see to it at once.”

We rode down to the steamer office in a stage, and Mr. Solomons inquired rather nervously about the other berth in his room.

“It was taken not more than half an hour ago,” replied the clerk.

“That’s unfortunate,” added my friend, apparently as much disappointed as I was.  “What else have you?”

“Nothing just now.  A gentleman has taken No and 42,” he added, pointing to the plan of the cabins, on the counter before him; “but there is some doubt whether he will go.  He engaged the room yesterday, and I promised to keep it for him till all the other berths were taken.  He was here a while ago, and said he would give his final answer in an hour.  It is time he was here.”

“In that case we will wait a while,” continued Mr. Solomons.  “I engaged my passage a month ago, and the ship was half full then.”

“Couldn’t I find some place on board?” I asked, anxiously.

“I don’t know; the officers sometimes give up their rooms for a consideration.  I gave the third officer five pounds for his room the last time I came over from Liverpool.”

“I have concluded to take that room,” said a young man, rather dashily dressed, as he rushed hastily up to the counter.

My heart sank within me, for the announcement seemed to mean that I had lost my passage.  But I was determined to go on board of the steamer, and make an arrangement with any officer who was open to a treaty for the use of his state-room.

“You take both berths?” added the clerk.

“No,” replied the young man, glancing at me, as I had seen him do several times before.

“Then here is your chance,” said the clerk to Mr. Solomons.