Digging for Goldñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Thank you, sir. I will remember.”
“Yes; don’t lose the card.”
Mr. Crosmont left the restaurant, and Grant did not again see him before his departure. He felt cheered to think he had found such a friend. Two thousand miles from home, it was worth a good deal to think that, if he were sick or got into trouble he had a friend who would stand by him, and to whom he could apply for help or advice.
The next day, in an hour which was given him during the time when business was slack, Grant went round to see Mr. Cooper.
He found the blacksmith busy in his shop. He had bought the little cabin opposite, and his family had already moved in.
“It didn’t take me long to get established, Grant,” he said with a well-satisfied smile.
“No, sir. I was quite taken by surprise to hear it.”
“I did a good thing in coming to California. I am convinced of that. Why, Grant, how much do you think I took in for work yesterday?”
“Ten dollars,” suggested Grant.
“Better than that – seventeen! Why, at this rate, I shall be able to buy back my old place in a year out of my savings.”
“I am glad to hear of your good luck, Mr. Cooper.”
“You have got employment, too, Grant?”
“How much are you paid?”
“My board and three dollars a day.”
“Why, that’s fine, and you only sixteen years old, too. I shall be well pleased if Tom does as well at the mines.”
“If he does well, I expect to join him in a month or two.”
“I don’t know as it’s wise. Perhaps you had better stay where you are.”
“I might not make as much money, but I should not be satisfied to come to California and not go to the mines.”
“That’s just exactly what I am going to do. Me and mother are better off in Sacramento. However, you are young, and that makes a difference.”
“I must leave you now, Mr. Cooper, and get back to business.”
“Are you a good deal confined?”
“Yes, that’s the worst of it. I have to be at the restaurant in the evening till ten o’clock, but I can get off for an hour every afternoon.”
“Well, come out and see us often. I would invite you to come and take supper some night, but I suppose you couldn’t accept.”
“No, Mr. Cooper, thanking you just the same.”
“You haven’t been homesick yet, Grant, have you?”
“No; except the first day, when I didn’t know how I was coming out.”
“And you wouldn’t like to be back on Mr. Tarbox’s farm again?”
“Not much; but I should like to see mother again, if only for a few minutes.”
“If you do well, and carry home a good sum of money, you can make things comfortable for her, you know.”
“That’s what I am thinking of all the time.”
Grant took leave of the blacksmith and went back to work. He was glad to think he had some one to call upon who reminded him of home. He worked long hours, though the labor could not be considered hard. There was one other waiter beside himself, a young man of twenty-five, named Albert Benton.
He was thin and dark-complexioned, and Grant, without being able to explain why, conceived a dislike to him. He saw that Benton was inclined to shirk work, though he received higher pay than his young associate. He was paid five dollars per day and had a room outside. Mr. Smithson, the proprietor of the restaurant, had desired him to sleep in a small room over the restaurant, but he had declined to do so. Upon this the same request was made of Grant, and he complied, glad to save the price of lodging elsewhere. When the restaurant closed at ten o’clock, frequently Grant would go out for a short walk, as it was a relief to breathe the fresh outside air after being confined in the close atmosphere of the eating-house during the day and evening. Generally he and Benton went out together, but his companion soon left him, finding a simple walk entirely too slow and unexciting for his taste.
GRANT FALLS UNDER SUSPICION
It struck Grant as strange that his fellow waiter, though he received five dollars a day, never seemed to have any money on hand. More than once he had borrowed a couple of dollars of Grant, which, however, he always repaid.
“What can he do with his money?” thought Grant. “He gets very little chance to spend it, for he is confined in the restaurant from twelve to fourteen hours a day.”
The mystery was solved when, one night, he saw Benton entering a notorious gambling saloon not far from the restaurant.
“So that is where he disposes of his money,” reflected Grant. “I wish I could venture to give him a hint. But probably he would pay it no attention, as I am a boy considerably younger than he.”
He did, however, find occasion for speaking soon afterward.
“Have you ever been to the mines, Mr. Benton?” he asked.
“Don’t you ever expect to go?”
“I would go in a minute if I had money enough.”
“I should think you might save money enough in a month or two. You get good pay.”
“It’s tiresome saving from one’s daily pay. I want to make a strike. Some day I shall. I might win five hundred dollars in the next week. When I do I’ll bid the old man good-by, and set out for the mines.”
“I believe in saving. A friend of mine, now in San Francisco, warned me to keep clear of the gambling-houses, and I would be sure to get on.”
Albert Benton regarded Grant suspiciously.
“Does the boy know I gamble, I wonder?” he said to himself.
“Your friend’s an old fogy,” he said, contemptuously.
“Don’t you think his advice good?”
“Well, yes; I don’t believe in gambling to any extent, but I have been in once or twice. It did me no harm.”
If he had told the truth, he would have said that he went to the gambling-house nearly every evening.
“It’s safest to keep away, I think.”
“Well, yes, perhaps it is, for a kid like you.”
No more was said at the time. But something happened soon which involved both Benton and his associate.
Mr. Smithson, the proprietor, began to find that his receipts fell off. This puzzled him, for it appeared to him that the restaurant was doing as good a business as ever. He mentioned the matter to the senior waiter.
“Benton,” said he, “last week I took in fifty dollars less than usual.”
“Is that so?” asked Benton indifferently.
“Yes; I can’t understand it. Has the trade fallen off any, do you think?”
“Really, I can’t say. It seemed about the same as usual – that is, the number of customers did.”
“So it seemed to me.”
“Perhaps they ordered less. Now I think of it, I feel sure that they did.”
“That might explain it partially, but not so large a falling off.”
“I suppose you haven’t thought of any other solution of the question?” said Benton, slowly scrutinizing the face of his employer.
“Well, sir, I have, but I don’t like to mention it.”
“Out with it!”
“I don’t know anything, sir.”
“If you suspect anything, it’s your duty to tell me.”
“Well, perhaps it is, but I might be doing injustice to Grant.”
“Ha! what has Grant to do with it?”
“Nothing that I know of.”
“Good Heavens, man, don’t tantalize me in this way. What do you suspect?”
“Well, sir, the boy always appears to have money.”
“He seems to be economical, and I pay him well. That counts for nothing.”
“No, sir, but – some one told me that he had seen him entering a gambling-house on the street.”
“Ha! that would account for his needing a good deal of money. By the way, do you ever enter such places?”
“I have entered out of curiosity, sir,” answered Benton, with a burst of candor. “I wanted to see what they were like.”
“Better keep out of them altogether.”
“No doubt you are right, sir.”
“But about the boy – have you ever seen him take anything from the drawer?”
“I couldn’t be sure of it, but once when he was alone I entered suddenly, and saw him near the drawer. He flushed up and came away in a hurry. I couldn’t swear that he took anything.”
However, Benton’s tone implied that he felt sure of it all the same, and so it impressed Mr. Smithson.
“Did you have any recommendations with Grant?” inquired Benton, in an insinuating tone.
“No; but, then, I had none with you, either.”
“That is true. Still, I hope you have confidence in me.”
“I know of no reason why I should not. Do you know if Grant drinks?”
“I don’t think he drinks much.”
“Does he drink at all?” asked Smithson curtly.
“One evening I saw him coming out of a drinking saloon pretty well loaded. That is the only time, however.”
“It was once too often. Benton, I have been greatly deceived in that fellow. I thought him a model boy.”
“So did I, sir, and I don’t think he is very bad now. Perhaps he has been a little indiscreet.”
“It is very kind of you to excuse him; but if what you say is true, I shall not be able to retain him in my employment.”
“Give him a little more time. Remember that I know nothing positive to his discredit. He may not have taken the money.”
This half-hearted defence of Grant led Mr. Smithson to think that Benton was his friend and spoke against him unwillingly. It never occurred to him that his senior waiter was only seeking to divert suspicion from himself.
“Very well,” he said. “I’ll keep him on a week longer. Perhaps something may occur in that time to confirm my suspicions or discredit them.”
The result of this conversation was that the restaurant keeper was all but convinced that Grant was a sly young villain and was secretly robbing him. He had a friend, however, who had once been a detective in St. Louis, though now engaged in a different business in Sacramento.
He sought him out and told him the story.
Vincent listened attentively.
“It looks bad for the boy; don’t you think so?” Smithson asked.
“Yes, if all is true that is said against him. But who says it?”
“The old waiter?”
“You have never yourself seen the boy drunk, or coming out of a gambling-house?”
“Then all the testimony to that effect is that of the man Benton?”
“May not Benton have an object in slandering the boy?”
“He seemed very reluctant to say anything against him.”
“That may be all artfulness, and to divert suspicion from himself.”
“You surely don’t think he would rob me?”
“He has been in my employ for a year.”
“Then he ought by this time to have a good deal of money saved up – that is, if his habits are good.”
“I am sure he has not.”
“What evidence have you on the subject?”
“At one time, three months since, I thought of selling out the restaurant, and asked Benton if he didn’t want to buy it.”
“Well, what did he say?”
“That he hadn’t got fifty dollars in the world.”
“How much do you pay him?”
“Five dollars a day and his board.”
“Whew! and he spends all that?”
“He seems to.”
“Look here, Smithson, you are on the wrong tack. He is the thief, and not the boy.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Leave the matter in my hands, and I will prove it to you.”
“I shall follow Benton in the evening, and see how he spends his time and money. But you must be careful not to let him know that he is suspected. If anything is said of the disappearance of money, tell him that you attribute it to decrease in trade.”
“All right; I will do as you suggest.”
“He doesn’t know me, and will not imagine that I am watching him.”
Two days later Albert Benton, a little anxious to know whether he had himself eluded suspicion, asked his employer: “Have you found out anything about the lost money?”
“I am not sure that any has been lost,” answered Smithson carelessly.
“Have you watched the boy?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t look to me like a thief. It may be, after all, that we are doing less business.”
“Yes, sir; that’s very likely,” responded Benton, glad that his employer was disposed to regard the matter from this point of view.
“I don’t like to think that any one in my employ would rob me.”
“Very true, sir. It would be a great shame.”
“It’s all right!” thought Benton complacently. “It is better so. I don’t care to have the boy discharged. Some one might succeed him whom I couldn’t hoodwink so easily.”
BENTON IS TRAPPED
Judging that his employer’s suspicions were allayed, Benton ventured to take two five-dollar bills from the till before he went out in the evening. Currency was at that time mixed, and bills, as well as gold and silver, were in circulation.
He left the restaurant at the usual time. It so happened that Grant had something to do and did not go out with him. Benton, therefore, went at once to the gambling-house which he was in the habit of frequenting.
“I’m getting tired of being cooped up in the restaurant day after day,” he said impatiently. “Why can’t I make a strike? If I could scoop in four hundred dollars to-night I would leave Sacramento and go to the mines. Then I might strike it rich and carry home ten thousand dollars, as Grant’s friend did.”
Grant had told him the story of John Heywood’s good fortune, and it had impressed him.
“If a clodhopper like that can make a fortune, why shouldn’t I?” he asked himself.
So his purpose to go to the mines and try his luck was strengthened. If he had begun six months before to save money, he would have had enough to start before this, but Albert Benton was one of those who despised small and steady savings, and are always on the lookout to “make a strike,” as he termed it.
“That boy won’t spy on me to-night,” he said to himself. “I must be careful. If the old man knew where I spent my evenings he would smell a rat. I wonder how much I’ve taken from the drawer in the last three months. Fully as much as my wages, I expect. Well, he can stand it. He’s making plenty of money, anyhow.”
It was in this way that he excused his thefts. Yet he felt that he would like to leave the restaurant and put himself in the way of making that fortune for which he yearned.
Though Grant was not in the street to see where he went, there was another who quietly noticed his movements and followed his steps. This was John Vincent, the ex-detective. From the first he had suspected Benton and doubted Grant’s guilt. He was a man skilled in physiognomy, and he had studied Benton’s face and formed a pretty accurate estimation of his real character.
“If Benton hasn’t robbed my friend Smithson’s till, then I lose my guess,” he said to himself.
He did not, however, say much of his suspicions to the keeper of the restaurant, who, he saw, was disposed to consider Grant the guilty party. He waited till he had some evidence to offer in confirmation of his theory.
When Benton entered the gambling-house Vincent followed close behind him. Benton saw him, but did not know that he was a special friend of Mr. Smithson.
Vincent placed himself at a neighboring table in such a position that he could watch Benton. He saw him take out one of the bills which he had abstracted from the till, and stake it.
“What do you put down paper for?” asked a man beside him. “Gold is better.”
“Bills are just as good,” said Benton.
“I will give you gold for bills,” said Vincent. “I want to send some money to the East.”
“All right, and thank you,” said Benton. “Here are two fives.”
“And here are two gold pieces,” said Vincent.
There was a secret look of elation on his face as he received the bills, and furtively noticed a red cross on the back of each. They had been secretly marked by himself as a trap to catch the thief, whoever he might be.
“Now I have you, my man,” he thought. “This is the evidence I have been looking for. It settles the question of Benton’s guilt and Grant’s innocence.”
Vincent played two or three times for slight stakes, and rose from the table after a while neither a loser nor a winner.
He did not go immediately, but stayed, like many others, simply as a looker on.
“Won’t you join us?” asked Benton.
“No; I must go away soon. I want to write a letter. I only dropped in for a few minutes.”
Albert Benton played with unusual good fortune. He had been in the habit of bewailing his poor luck, but to-night the fates seemed to favor him. The little pile of gold before him gradually increased, until he had four hundred and seventy-five dollars.
“Twenty-five dollars more, and then I will stop,” he said. “To-morrow I will give notice to Smithson and get ready to leave Sacramento.”
But instead of winning the sum desired, he began to lose. He lost twenty-five dollars, and in desperation staked fifty. Should he win he would still have five hundred dollars, and then he would leave off. Upon that he was quite determined. But again he lost. He bit his lips, his face flushed, his hands trembled, and there was a gleam of excitement in his eye. He had no thought of leaving off now. It must be five hundred dollars or nothing!
There is no need to follow him through his mutations of luck. At the end of an hour he rose from the table without a dollar. He had enough, however, to buy a glass of whiskey, which he gulped down, and then staggered out of the gambling-house.
“I was so near, and yet I lost!” he said to himself bitterly. “Why didn’t I keep the four hundred and seventy-five dollars when I had it, and get the other from the restaurant? I have been a fool – a besotted fool!”
He pulled down his hat over his eyes and bent his steps homeward, where he tossed all night, unable to sleep.
But in the morning his courage returned.
“After all,” he reflected, “I am only ten dollars worse off than when I entered the gambling house, and that was money I took from Smithson. I’ve had a pretty good lesson. The next time fortune smiles upon me I’ll make sure of what I have won, and leave off in time.”
Vincent went straight from the gambling-house to the house of his friend Smithson. The latter came down stairs half dressed and let him in.
“What brought you here so late?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Because I have some news for you.”
“What is it? Nothing bad, I hope.”
“Oh, no; it is only that I have found the thief who has been robbing you.”
“It is the boy, then, as I thought,” said Smithson eagerly.
“No, it isn’t the boy.”
“Who else is there? It is Albert Benton.”
“Are you sure of this?” asked Smithson, dumfounded.
“Yes; there is no doubt of it.”
“Come in and tell me how you found out.” Vincent entered and sat down on a chair in the front room.
“I will tell you,” he answered. “I took the liberty to go to your money drawer and mark four bills this afternoon. I marked them with a red cross on the right-hand corner of the reverse side. Well, Benton took two of those bills with him this evening when he stopped work.”
“How do you know?”
“I was near by when he left the restaurant. I followed him at a distance, and saw him enter Poole’s gambling-house.”
“I entered too, and took my place at a neighboring table. He produced a five-dollar bill, when some one suggested that gold was preferable. Upon that I offered to give him gold for bills. He produced two fives, and I gave him two gold pieces for them.”
“Here they are.”
The detective drew from his wallet two bank-notes, and showed Smithson the red cross on the reverse side of each.
ALBERT BENTON IS UNMASKED
“That’s pretty conclusive evidence, isn’t it?” said John Vincent, tapping the marked bills.
“I didn’t dream of it,” said the restaurant keeper.
“I did. I suspected him as soon as you told me he was trying to fasten suspicion upon Grant Colburn.”
“You don’t think the boy had anything to do with the theft?”
“I feel sure of it. The boy is an honest boy. You have only to look in his face to see that. I haven’t been a detective for nothing. I may be mistaken at times, but I can generally judge a man or boy by his face.”
“Does Benton know that you suspect him?”
“No. I wasn’t going to give myself away. By the way, he had quite a stroke of luck tonight.”
“At the gambling-house?”
“Yes. At one time he was a winner of nearly or quite five hundred dollars.”
“Then he will be able to make up to me the amount he has taken.”
“Don’t flatter yourself! I said he was a winner of that amount at one time. I didn’t say he went out with that sum. As a matter of fact, he lost it all, and left the place probably without a dollar.”
Smithson looked disappointed.
“Then,” he said, “I shan’t get my money back.”
“I am afraid not.”
“He must have taken hundreds of dollars.”
“The villain!” exclaimed the restaurant keeper. “And I have paid him so liberally, too!”
“Well, Smithson, it might have been worse. I suspect you have a pretty tidy sum laid by.”
Smithson’s face changed, and he looked complacent.
“Yes, Vincent,” he said. “I’m worth a little money.”
“Good! Look upon this as a little set-back that won’t materially affect you, and put it down to the account of profit and loss.”
“Very, good! I will do so. But to-morrow I will give Mr. Benton his walking ticket.”
Albert Benton came to work as usual in the morning. His employer came in half an hour late. By this time the waiter had become resigned to his disappointment of the night previous. He recognized his folly in not making sure of the large sum he had at one time won, and determined to act more wisely in future.
Presently, when he chanced to be unemployed, Smithson beckoned to him.
“Benton,” he said, “you remember my speaking to you about missing money from the till?”
“Yes, sir; but I thought you decided that it was only a falling off in receipts.”
“Yes, I said that; but it seems to me that the deficiency is too great to be accounted for in that way.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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