23. On The East Side
 

If Royce began to cry there must have been something radically wrong with him," declared Tom. "Dora, do you think he had been drinking? Sometimes when men drink they break down and cry, you know."

"I don't know anything about that, Tom; but I do know that he acted the strangest. I asked him if he was working, and he said no-- that he had been unable to get a job of any kind. Then I questioned him about why he had left Hope, and he said it was because he could not get along with some of the hired help and with Miss Harrow."

"Say!" cried Sam. "Did he say anything about that four-hundred-dollar diamond ring that was missing?"

"Why, no, Sam. I didn't mention it, and he didn't say anything about it either. Perhaps he didn't know it was missing."

"Oh, he must know about it," broke in Tom. "It was talked about all over the place."

"Well, what happened next?" questioned Dick.

"I talked to him for awhile, and I found out that he was out of work and also out of money. I felt sorry for him, and I offered to lend him ten dollars," answered Dora. "I hope you don't think I did wrong," she went on, anxiously.

"You meant well, Dora, I'm sure of that," was Dick's quick reply, "but whether the money will do this fellow Royce any good or not, is a question. If he is a drinking man, he'll drink it up very quickly and that will be the end of it."

"Did he tell you where he was staying?" asked Tom.

"Why, yes, he gave me a slip of paper with his name and address written on it," answered Dora. "You see, I asked him to do that because I felt so sorry for him, and I thought that possibly you might be able to get him something to do;" and she handed the slip of paper over to her husband.

"'The Golden Oak House,'" read Dick from the slip. "I suppose it is one of those cheap lodging houses on the East Side," he added. "I'll keep this, although I don't see how we can help Royce. And besides that I am not certain that he deserves help. If he had remained strictly sober he might have kept his job at the seminary. But I'll think it over," he added, hastily, as he saw that Dora was much distressed.

"Did you see the moving picture again?" questioned Tom, as all prepared to go downstairs for dinner.

"Oh, yes!" and the young wife brightened a little. "It certainly is splendid, Tom! All of you ought to go and see it before they take it away."

"All right, we'll do it!" said Tom. "That is, Sam and I will go. How about it, Dick?"

"Oh, I don't know," hesitated the older brother, with a look at Dora.

"You just go, Dick," she cried, quickly. am going to stay here and write some letters. You go with Tom and Sam and enjoy yourself;" and so it was arranged.

The boys found the moving picture theater pretty well crowded, and they had to take seats almost in the rear. Tom and Sam were once more enjoying the spectacle of looking at themselves when they suddenly heard a young man behind them utter an exclamation.

"Hello, I know those two fellows!"

They looked around and saw sitting there Barton Pelter. He was gazing at the play on the screen with great interest.

"Come to see us in the movies, did you?" questioned Tom, as he leaned back and touched Barton Pelter on the arm. "What do you think of it?"

"Oh, so you are here!" was the reply. "Say, I didn't know you were movies' actors."

"We are not. We got into that picture quite accidentally," explained Tom. And then, as the scenes of the drama progressed, he and his brothers turned their attention to what was going on.

At the end of the photo drama there was a short intermission, during which a number of persons went out and an even larger number came in. There was a seat vacated beside the Rovers, and Barton Pelter took this.

"How are you fellows making out at your offices?" asked the young man.

"Oh, we are doing as well as can be expected," answered Dick. "You know this sort of thing is rather new to us."

"How about those missing bonds; have you located them yet?"

"No."

"That's too bad," and the young man's face showed his concern. "Have you any idea where they went to?"

"Not the slightest in the world, Pelter. It is a complete mystery," answered Tom.

"The loss of such an amount must hurt you a whole lot," ventured Barton Pelter, after a slight pause. "It would ruin some folks."

"It does hurt us a whole lot," broke in Sam. "Unless we get those bonds back-- or at least a part of them-- we are going to have pretty hard sledding to pull through."

"It's a shame! I wish I could do something to help you, for what you did for me," returned Barton Pelter; and his voice had a rather wistful ring in it. Then the theater was darkened and the next photo drama began.

"Are you doing anything as yet?" questioned Tom, when, at the end of this play, he saw Jesse Pelter's nephew prepare to leave.

"I've got something of an offer to go on the road as a traveling salesman for the Consolidated Cream Cracker Company," was the answer. "It won't pay very much, but it will be better than nothing;" and then the young man left.

Several days went by and the Rover boys put in all their time at business. There was a great deal to do in the way of protecting a number of rather uncertain investments which Pelter, Japson & Company had made for Mr. Anderson Rover while they were his brokers.

"It's a mighty good thing that we got after Pelter, Japson & Company when we did," was Erick's comment. "If we hadn't, they would have put us in the worst kind of a hole, even if they had remained honest. They had no more conception of what constitutes a good business risk than has a baby."

"I do hope, Dick, that we make a success of this," returned Tom.

"Oh, don't say we're going to make a fizzle of, it!" cried Sam. "We've just got to win out, that is all there is to it!"

"Right you are!"

On the following Monday afternoon there was but little for Tom and Sam to do at the offices, and the former suggested to his younger brother that they walk over to the East Side and visit The Golden Oak House.

"I've always wanted to see how things look over in that part of New York," declared Tom, "and if we run into that Andy Royce I'm going to question him and see if he knows anything about that diamond ring."

"How would he know anything about that, Tom? He wasn't near the house when the ring was lost. And besides, if he had taken the ring, he wouldn't be so poverty- stricken. He could pawn a four-hundred-dollar ring for quite some money."

"I didn't say that he might have taken the ring, Sam. But he was around the place, and he might have heard something said that would give us a clew."

"Oh, that might be possible. Anyway, we can question him, just as you said."

The walk to the East Side was quite a revelation to the Rover boys. Never had they seen such a congestion of humanity. The stores, the houses and the sidewalks seemed to be overflowing with people, while the streets were a jumble of wagons, trucks and push-carts. Every conceivable sort of a thing seemed to be on sale, and they were solicited to buy at almost every step.

"They seem to be mostly foreigners over here," was Sam's comment. "I don't know as I would care to come through here alone at night, Tom."

"Oh, you'd be as safe here as on Broadway," was the reply. "These people are poor, but you'll find them just as honest as anybody."

The boys had with them the card that Andy Royce had given to Dora, and it did not take them long to find The Golden Oak House. It was an old-fashioned, frame building located on the corner of a narrow and exceedingly dirty alleyway. Downstairs there were a saloon and a pawnshop. The so-styled office and the sleeping apartments were on the three floors above.

"Not a very inviting place," were Sam's words, as he looked the resort over. "Tom, do you think we had better go in?"

"Oh, I don't think it will hurt us," was the answer. "Come ahead!"

Ascending the narrow and exceedingly dirty stairs, the boys passed through a dingy hall to where a glass door was marked "Office." Inside they found a small counter and rail, behind which a man in shirt-sleeves sat smoking a cigar and reading a sporting paper.

"Is there a man stopping here named Andy Royce?" asked Tom, as the man dropped his paper to look up at the newcomers.

"I think there is, but I don't believe he's in now," was the answer. "Want to leave any word for him?"

Tom thought for a moment. "Yes," he answered. "I will leave a message." And taking out one of his cards, he wrote on it: "I'll call here Tuesday afternoon at about five o'clock to see you."

"Hope you've got work for that fellow. He needs a job the worst way," said the hotel man, as he took the card.

"I don't know about a job for him, but perhaps I can help him," answered Tom. And then he and Sam left the place.

They had just reached the sidewalk when they beheld Andy Royce coming towards them. The former gardener of Hope Seminary was partly under the influence of liquor, and several children were annoying him by pulling at his coat and calling him names.

"You go 'way an' leave me alone," mumbled the man. And then, as he caught sight of the Rovers, he tried to brace up.

"Hello, you here!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, we want to talk to you, Royce," answered Tom. Then he motioned the children away, and led the former gardener of the seminary towards the alleyway beside the hotel.