Chapter XVIII. The Rover Boys in Chicago
 

"Chicago! Change cars for St. Louis and the West!"

The long express had rolled into the great depot and the porters were busy brushing up the passengers in the parlor cars and gathering together their baggage -- and incidentally, the tips which were forthcoming.

The Rover boys were soon out on the platform and making for the street.

"Cab, sir; coupe?"

"Mornin' papers! All de news! Have a paper, boss?"

The crowd of newsboys and hackmen made Dick smile. "It's a good deal like New York, isn't it?" he observed.

"Yes, indeed," replied Sam. "Where shall we go -- to the Western Palace?"

"We might as well. The sooner we find this Jack Wumble the better."

At that moment the burly man who had talked to Tom in the dining car brushed up to them.

"Good-morning, my young friend," he said to Tom. "Can I be of any assistance to you?"

"It I don't know as you can," replied Tom coldly. "I guess we can find our way around."

"Glad to help you if I can," went on the man.

"We want to get to the Western Palace," put in Sam, before his brothers could stop him.

"That is quite a distance from here." The man hesitated a moment. "I was going there myself. If you don't mind riding on a street car I'll show you the way."

"A street car is good enough for us," returned Sam. He was anxious to see more of the stranger, for he wished if possible to recollect where he had seen the fellow before.

A passing car was hailed and they all got on board, each carrying a valise, for the Rover boys had decided that trunks would be too cumbersome for the trip. They sat close together, and during the ride the stranger endeavored to make himself as agreeable as possible.

"My name is Henry Bradner," he said, introducing himself. "Out in the mines they used to call me Lucky Harry, and a good many of my friends call me that still. May I ask your names?"

"My name is Sam Rover," said the boy. "This is my brother Dick, and this my brother Tom."

There were handshakings all around. "Glad to know you," said Bradner." I hope you find Jack Wumble and that he locates your mine for you."

"I've been thinking that I've seen you before," said Sam bluntly. "But for the life of me I can't place you."

"Perhaps we've met somewhere in the East -- New York, for instance. Have any of you been in Chicago before?"

"No."

"It's a great city and there are many sights worth seeing. If you wished I wouldn't mind showing you around a bit this afternoon or tomorrow."

"Thanks, but we won't have time," said Dick shortly. This off-handed invitation made him more suspicious than ever.

The talking continued until at last Henry Bradner stopped the car.

"Here we are," he said. "The Palace of the West is one block down yonder side street."

"The Palace of the West?" repeated Tom. "I thought it was called the Western Palace."

"Well, it's all the same," laughed the man. But it was not the same by any means. While the Western Palace was a first-class hotel in every respect, the Palace of the West was a weak imitation, run by a man who had once been a notorious San Francisco blackleg.

The hotel was soon reached and Bradner led the way into the office, which was filled with rather rough-looking sports, all smoking and talking loudly.

"I know the clerk," said Bradner. "I'll ask him about your friend." And before Dick could stop him he had pushed his way to the desk and was talking in a low tone to the clerk. Dick tried to catch what was said, but was unable to do so.

"You are in luck," said Bradner, on coming back. "The clerk says Jack Wumble has gone off for the day, but said he would be back by to-night sure."

"I'm glad of that," said Tom, and he and his brothers felt much relieved.

"The clerk cautioned me to keep quiet about Wumble," went on Bradner confidentially. "It seems Wumble and another man had a row over a game of cards, and Wumble wants the other man to clear out before he shows up again. The other man is booked for Denver on the afternoon train."

As this statement about cards fitted in with what Mr. Rover had said concerning Jack Wumble, the boys swallowed it without hesitation, and they were inclined to believe that Henry Bradner was all right, after all.

"Will you register here?" went on the man.

"No, I don't like the looks of the place," answered Dick promptly. "We are not of the drinking kind," he added.

The burly man looked dark and disappointed.

"It's a good hotel, when once you get used to it," he said.

But Dick shook his head and said he would go elsewhere, and motioning to Tom and Sam he led the way to the sidewalk once more. Henry Bradner followed them.

"If I see Wumble shall I get him to wait for you?" he said.

"If you wish. We will be around to-night and also to-morrow morning to see him."

"All right."

The boys walked off and around the corner into the street where the cars were running.

"I don't like him at all," exclaimed Dick. "I believe he is tip to some game."

"Oh, you may be too suspicious," declared Sam. "What game can he be up to? He was kind enough to help us hunt up this Jack Wumble."

"I don't care -- his manner doesn't suit me at all. He's a sneak, if ever there was one."

The boys walked on for a distance of several blocks, and then coming to a nice-looking restaurant went in for dinner.

While they were eating Dick happened to glance out of the show window of the place and gave a low cry.

"What is it, Dick?" asked Tom.

"I thought as much. That man is watching us."

Sam and Tom gave a look, but by this time Henry Bradner had disappeared from view.

"You are sure that you saw him, Dick?" asked Sam.

"I am positive. Boys, do you know what I think? I think he is a sharper, and imagines he has three green country boys with money to deal with."

"Well, if he thinks that he is much mistaken," was Tom's comment. "In the first place we are not so very green, and in the second our cash account is rather limited."

"We spoke about a mine, and he may imagine that we carry several thousands of dollars with us."

"If he's a sharper why did he try to find Wumble for us?" asked Sam.

This was a poser and Dick did not pretend to answer it.

The dinner finished, they walked forth once more and down into the heart of the city.

They soon found what looked to be a fairly good hotel, and engaged a large room with two beds for the night.

"Now we can take a look around," said Tom.

The best part of the afternoon was spent in sight-seeing, and the boys visited Lincoln Park, Jackson Park, the museum, menagerie, Masonic Temple, and numerous other points of interest.

They were returning to the hotel at which they had registered for the night when suddenly Tom caught his brothers by the arm.

"Well, I never!" he gasped. "What do you think of that?"

They saw he was gazing across the way, and looking in the direction saw an elegant hotel, over the broad doorway of which was stretched the sign:

WESTERN PALACE
GEORGE- LAVELLE, Proprietor.
Established 1871.

"By jinks! That Bradner deceived us!" gasped Dick. "This must be the hotel father mentioned."

"But what about Jack Wumble?" began Sam. "He was registered at the other place."

"Did you see the register?" demanded Dick.

"No, but --"

"We'll soon learn the truth," went on the elder Rover. "Come on." And he made his way through the mass of moving wagons and trucks to the opposite side of the thoroughfare.

All entered the broad hallway together. The floor was of marble, and big mirrors lined every wall. Certainly the place was in sharp contrast to that known as the "Palace of the West."

Walking up to the office counter Dick inspected the register. On the third page from the last written upon he found the entry:

"Jack Wumble, Denver; Room 144."

"There, what do you think of that?" he demanded, as he showed his brothers the entry.

Both were dumfounded, and for the moment knew not what to say. Dick turned to one of the clerks.

"Is Mr. Jack Wumble in?" he asked.

The clerk looked at the row of keys behind him.

"No, sir; he's out."

"Have you any idea when he will be back?"

"I have not. Perhaps he is back already and over in the smoking room."

"I don't know him personally, but I am very anxious to see him."

"I'll have a boy look for him," returned the clerk, and called up a bell-boy, who took Dick's card and went off with it to the smoking room and the dining hall, calling softly as he passed one man and another, "Number 144! Number 144!"

Presently the bell-boy came back, followed by a tall, thin, and pleasant-faced man of sixty, wearing a light-checked suit and a broad-brimmed slouch hat.

"This is the gentleman, sir," he said to Dick.

"Are you Mr. Jack Wumble?" asked Dick curiously.

"That's my handle, lad," was the answer, in a broad, musical voice. "And I see your card reads Richard Rover. Any relation to Andy Rover, as used to be a mining expert?"

"I am his son."

"Well, well! His son, eh? Glad to know you, downright glad!" And Jack Wumble nearly wrung Dick's hand off. Then Tom and Dick were introduced, and more handshaking followed, and the boys felt that they had found a true friend beyond a doubt.