Chapter XXXII. A Night at the Hotel
 

"Duncan Woodward!" I exclaimed. "Is it possible?"

He gave me a quick look of wonder. "Roger Strong!" he gasped. Oh, save me, Roger! These rowdies want to kill me!"

Even as he spoke he received a cruel blow in the side.

"I'll help you all I can," I replied promptly.

I knew it would be a waste of words to try to argue with the gang of toughs, so I simply went at them in a physical way.

I hit out right and left with all my might, and as quickly as I could, repeated the blows.

The suddenness of my attack disconcerted the three footpads, and when Duncan recovered sufficiently to lend a hand, one of them took to his heels and disappeared up the alley.

The two remaining ones stood their ground, and called on their companions to come back and bring "Noxy an' de rest."

I received a blow in the shoulder that nearly threw me over on my back. But I straightened up, and in return gave my assailant a hard one in the nose that drew blood.

"Duncan, you clear out to the street," I whispered. "I'll come after."

The young man followed my advice, first, however, stopping to pick up several things he had dropped or that had been taken from him.

When he was twenty or thirty feet away I started after him. As I did so, I noticed he had left a large note-book lying on the ground. I took it up, and hurried on. For a moment more we were safe upon the street again, and the two toughs slunk away up the alley.

Then, for the first time, I noted something about Duncan that I thought shameful beyond words.

He had been drinking heavily. The smell of liquor was in his breath, and it was with difficulty that he kept from staggering.

"You're my best, friend," he mumbled. "My enemy and my friend."

"What are you doing in New York, Duncan?" I asked.

"Come on important business, Roger. Say, take me to the hotel, will you? That's a good fellow."

"Where are you staying?"

"Staying? Nowhere."

"Then why don't you take the train to Newville and go home?"

"Can't do that."

"Why not?"

"The old gent would kill me. He says I spend too much money. Well, maybe I do."

"You've bean drinking, Duncan."

"So I have, Roger. Take me to a hotel."

"Will you promise to go to bed and not to drink any more if I do?"

"Yes. I've had enough."

"Then brace up and come with me."

Not without a good deal of difficulty did I manage to make him walk several blocks to a good though not stylish hotel. Here I took him into the office and explained the situation to the clerk in charge, who promptly assigned us to a room on the third floor.

The charge was three dollars, which Duncan with some difficulty managed to pay; and then we took the elevator to the third floor.

The room was a good one, with a soft bed. No sooner did Duncan reach it than he sank down, and in five minutes he was fast asleep.

I was in a quandary as to what to do. I did not care to leave him in his present state, and at the same time I was anxious to find Mr. Harrison and visit Mrs. Agatha Mitts in Brooklyn.

I wondered if my kind friend from Chicago had gone on without me, until I suddenly remembered that the Brooklyn address was in my pocket, and that he probably did not remember the street and number.

This being the case, he had no doubt returned to the hotel and was awaiting me.

I looked at Duncan, and made up my mind that he would sleep several hours, if not longer, without awaking.

Making him as comfortable as possible on the bed, I left the room, locking the door behind me.

Down in the office I explained the situation to the clerk when I left the key, and he promised to attend to matters if anything unusual happened.

I was not very well acquainted with New York City, and in trying to find my way to the hotel at which Mr. Harrison was stopping, I nearly lost my way.

But several inquiries, made here and there, set me right, and at length I reached the large, open corridor.

As I was about to step into the office, a well-known voice hailed me.

"Well, here you are at last." Of course it was Mr. Harrison.

"Yes, sir."

"Did I lose you, or vice versa?" he went on.

"I don't know. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, anyway."

"Have you been over to Brooklyn?" he continued curiously.

"No, sir."

"I thought you had; it is so long since we parted."

"I've had quite an adventure in the meantime."

"Indeed? You didn't meet Chris Holtzmann or this Aaron Woodward, did you?"

"I met Mr. Woodward's son," I replied, and in a brief way I related my adventures. Mr. Harrison listened with deep interest.

"It is too bad that the son has started in such a wrong path," he said. "I trust it teaches him a lesson to let liquor alone. What do you intend to do now?"

"I suppose I had better go back and stay all night with him. It is now too late to go to Brooklyn."

"I think you are right. I can call for you at, say, eight o'clock in the morning."

This was agreed upon, and as it was then after nine o'clock, I hurried back to Duncan at once. I found him still sleeping, and I did not disturb him. There was a lounge in the room, and throwing off my coat, vest, and shoes, I made my bed upon this.

For once I found it difficult to sleep. It seemed to me that my adventures must soon come to an end. Was it the foreshadowing of coming events that disturbed me? I could not tell. I wondered how all were at home; my sister Kate, Uncle Enos, and the Widow Canby, and I prayed God that I might be permitted to bring good news to them.

About midnight I fell into a light doze. Half an hour later I awoke with a start. Some one was talking in the room. Sitting up, I listened intently. It was Duncan, muttering in his sleep.

"Lift the spring, Pultzer," he said in a whisper. "Hist! don't make so much noise, the old gent may hear you." He paused for a moment. "There wasn't any money. But I've got the papers, yes, I've got the papers, and when I find out their true value the old gent shall pay me to keep quiet."

I could not help but start at Duncan's words. Like a flash of lightning came the revelation to me. He had entered his father's library and taken the papers which Mr. Woodward had accused me of stealing.

It was as clear as day. It explained why Pultzer, accompanied by another, who must have been of the party, had been out so late the night of the robbery. They had helped Duncan in his nefarious work, hoping they would be rewarded by the finding of a sum of money. Evidently the Models were a bad set, and I was thoroughly glad Dick Blair had turned his back upon them.

I waited with bated breath for Duncan to continue his speaking, but was disappointed. He turned over on his side and dreamed on, without a word.

At length I fell asleep. When I awoke it was daylight. I jumped up and looked at Duncan. He was just stirring, and a moment later he opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked, with a puzzled look at me.

"You're all right, Duncan," I replied. "Don't you remember?"

"Oh, yes, I do now. How my head hurts. Is there any water around?"

I went over to the faucet and drew him a glass. He sat up and gulped it down.

"Have we been here all night?"

"Yes."

"You saved me from those toughs that wanted to rob me last night?"

"Yes."

"I'm not dreaming?"

"No, you're not," I laughed. "I was just in the nick of time."

"I know it all. You saved me, brought me to this place, and put me to bed. Roger, you're a better fellow than I thought you were. You're a better fellow than I am."

"You ought to turn over a new leaf," I said.

"Don't preach, Roger."

"I'm not preaching. I'm only telling you something for your own good."

"I know it. I don't blame you. I've been doing wrong-- sowing my wild oats. But they're all gone now. Just let me get straightened out and I'll be a different fellow, see if I'm not."

"I hope so with all my heart. What brought you to New York?"

He started.

"I-- I came-- I don't care to tell," he stammered.

"Were you going to Brooklyn?" I questioned, struck by a sudden idea.

"Why, how did you know?" he exclaimed.

"You have certain papers," I continued.

"Yes, I--" he felt in his pockets. "Why, where are they?"

"Are they in this?" I asked, suddenly remembering the note-book I had picked up, and producing it.

"Yes, yes, give them to me."

"I think I had better keep them," I replied decidedly.