Chapter XII. On the Search.
 

Richard was dismayed and disheartened by the discovery which he had just made. He went through his clothing a dozen times to convince himself that he was not mistaken--that the slip, money and letters were really gone. But it was assuredly a fact, and groaning in spirit, he leaned up against a post, utterly overcome.

To tell the truth, however, much as he needed money, he did not think of the bills that had been taken. His mind ran altogether on Doc Linyard's property.

"What will he say when I tell him of it?" was Richard's mental comment. "He won't want to trust me any more. Perhaps those letters were worth hundreds of dollars. What a fool I've been! I ought to be sent back to Mossvale at once. I'm not fit to stay in New York."

Then came the thought that possibly he had dropped the things, and he hastily retraced his steps, scrutinizing every inch of the way as he went.

But, as we know, such an effort was fruitless, and by the time he had reached the newspaper-office Richard was convinced that it was a plain case of robbery and nothing else.

"But when did it happen? I had the letters when I reached the street--hold up; that boy. I'm sure he's the one!" he exclaimed to himself. "I remember now feeling something at my pocket when I put my hand up to my collar. That bug business was only a ruse! Well, I am a fool! And after all Mr. Joyce and Doc Linyard told me, too!"

The thought of how he had been taken in made Richard fairly sick, and the tears of vexation sprang into his eyes as he stood deliberating upon what to do next.

Just then a burly policeman came lounging along. Richard touched him on the arm.

"I have been robbed," he said.

"Robbed? Where? When?" exclaimed the officer, all attention.

Richard told him all he knew of his case.

"I think I know the chap," said the officer. "But I can do nothing now. He is likely a mile away by this time."

"Will you watch out for him?" asked Richard.

"I don't care so much for the money as I do for the letters."

"Better come over to the station and make a complaint."

"Is it far? I've got an engagement at three o'clock that I don't want to miss."

"Won't take ten minutes. Come on."

At the station Richard was required to leave his full name and address, describe what had been stolen, and give a full description of the person he suspected was the thief.

"I can't give you much hopes of recovery," said the officer in charge. "Dollar bills are very much alike, and if the thief finds that he cannot put the letters to account he will probably destroy them. As to his getting other letters on the strength of the stolen slip, you had better go to the office and have the delivery stopped."

"Thank you, I will," replied Richard.

He was soon on his way back to Park Row.

"Do you remember me?" he asked of the clerk who had previously waited on him.

"Yes; what is it? Anything wrong with your letters?"

Richard told his story.

"Will you hold the letters?" he added.

"Certainly. And if there is a call for them, I'll send out for an officer and have the party detained."

When Richard was again on the street he hardly knew what to do. He had no appetite for dinner, and there seemed now no use of returning to the Watch Below.

He had a fancy that the urchin who had robbed him had run across into the post-office. True, it was only a fancy, but Richard had some time to spare yet before he was due at Mr. Joyce's office, and he determined to take a walk in that direction.

Going through the post-office he walked over to Warren Street and thence down to College Place. There was a coffee-stand upon the corner, and here he bought two doughnuts for a cent each, and began munching them, noticing at the same time that they were not of the best, being dry, and that the flavor wasn't to be compared to that of those Grace was in the habit of turning out at home.

Under the Elevated Road it was not as light as could be wished, and Richard could not see very well. But presently he beheld a figure at the end of the block--a figure that looked familiar.

Richard quickened his pace and soon reached the spot, yet only in time to see the figure turn the next corner. But this time his view had been better, and Richard was tolerably certain that it was the thief he was pursuing.

He broke into a run instantly, and being light of foot, gained rapidly upon the boy.

A glance around the next corner, and Richard just caught a glimpse of the urchin's head as it disappeared down a cellar way. Rushing to the spot, he was compelled to pause. He was far down on a side street that was little better than an alley-way. The building before him was dirty and old, evidently a storehouse, and the open stone steps led down to a steep cellar from which not a ray of light came up.

Should he enter? For an instant Richard paused, and then slowly descended.

"They shall not say that I was a coward," he said to himself. "And I can easily handle that chap if it comes to a hand to hand affair."

The moldy smell of the cellar was nearly unbearable, and in several spots upon the brick floor the scum lay an inch deep. Presently the boy's eyes became accustomed to the darkness, and then he saw it was not so gloomy, after all.

At the back there appeared to be several windows, and, though covered with dust and cobwebs, they still admitted some light. The place was packed with wooden cases and barrels, and Richard had not a little difficulty in picking his way among them.

Evidently the street Arab had not calculated upon being followed into such a place, for Richard heard him boldly making his way to the rear.

He hurried after the urchin, making as little noise as possible. But unfortunately his foot at that moment struck against an empty case, and made known his presence.

Instantly the street boy realized the situation, and diving behind a pile of barrels, remained perfectly quiet.

Richard's blood was now up, and he did not intend to be outwitted. He hurried to the spot, in his eagerness nearly stumbling over the boy.

But the latter was alert. Visions of the Tombs probably floated through his mind; and tripping Richard over he sprang away.

Richard was on his feet in a second, but it was too late. In that second, the street Arab had sprung to the top of a pile of cases that stood directly under an opening in the floor above.

The next instant he had disappeared through the hole, and was gone.

But in mounting the stack of cases he had dislodged several and these now tumbled down, making a lively racket. The noise was followed by several exclamations, and the sound of hasty feet upon a stairway.

"Hey, you, vat you do here?" cried a voice; and Richard felt his arm grasped by a tall and savage looking German workman.