Chapter X. Ben Receives a Call.
 

Ben had scarcely left the room when it occurred to him that he ought to send home for the remainder of his clothes. He did not like to do so, however, without first consulting Miss Sinclair.

"Well, Ben?" said the young lady inquiringly.

"I would like to write home for my clothes, if you have no objection."

"Certainly; but don't say anything about me."

"All right."

Ben went to the reading-room, and, procuring writing-materials, penned the following letter to his uncle:

"ASTOR HOUSE, NEW YORK.

"DEAR UNCLE JOB: Will you send me the rest of my clothes at once, by express? You may direct to this hotel, where I am now staying. The firm that I came to see turned out to be swindlers, and I was at first quite disappointed; but I have made other friends, and am to sail for California next Saturday. This may seem sudden to you. At any rate it does to me, and I don't expect to realize it till I am fairly at sea. It will be some time before I can write you, but I will send you a line from Panama, if possible. You needn't send me any more of my money, for I have with me all I shall need at present.

"Give my love to aunt and Cousin Jenny. I should like to see you all again before I start, but I cannot spare the time. I am in good health and spirits, and I think my prospects are good. Your affectionate nephew, BEN."

This letter excited considerable surprise in Hampton.

"I'm afraid Ben's gettin' extravagant," said Uncle Job. "I've always heerd that the Astor House is a fashionable hotel where they charge big prices. Ben ought to have gone to a cheap place, and saved his money."

"He says he's got money enough with him, father," said Mrs. Stanton. "How much did he take away with him?"

"Seventy-five dollars."

"And he had to pay his passage to California out of that?"

"Of course."

"He won't have much left when he gets to California, then." "No, he won't."

"Don't you think you'd better send him some?" "No, wife. Ben says no, and I'm goin' accordin' to his directions. I suppose he knows best what he wants."

Sam Sturgis did not often condescend to notice Job Stanton, but his curiosity got the better of his pride, and, meeting the old man a short time afterward, he asked: "Have you heard anythiug from Ben?"

"Yes, he writ me a letter from New York. I got it this mornin'?"

"Has he got a chance to black boots?" asked Sam, with a sneer.

"He's stayin' at the Astor House," said Job, enjoying Sam's surprise.

"Staying at the Astor House!" exclaimed the young aristocrat in astonishment. "Why, that is a tip-top hotel."

"I always heerd it was," returned Job. "How can he afford to stay there?" "He didn't say."

"Oh, I understand," said Sam, with an air of relief. "He's got a place to black boots, or clean knives. That must be the way of it."

"I don't think it is, for he has engaged passage to Californy."

"Is that so? When does he sail?"

"On Saturday. We're goin' to send him his clothes. Do you want to send him any word or message?"

"No; why should I?"

"I thought you was one of his friends."

"Yes, I will send him a message," said Sam. "Just tell him that when he has spent all his money, I'll give him the place I offered him before he left Hampton."

"You're very kind," said Job, concealing his amusement; "but I don't think Ben will need to take up with your offer."

"I think he will," said Sam.

"I wonder whether Ben is really staying at the Astor House, and paying his expenses there," he said to himself. "If he is, he's a fool. I've a great mind to ask father if I may go up to New York, and see. Maybe he's only humbugging his uncle."

So when Sam got home he preferred a request to visit New York, and obtained permission.

We now return to the Astor House.

Miss Sinclair and Ben went in to supper together. The young lady had scarcely taken her place, and looked around her, when she started, and turned pale.

"Ben," she said hurriedly, "I must leave the table. Do you see that tall man sitting by the window?"

"Yes, Cousin Ida."

"It is my guardian. He has not seen me yet, but I must be cautious. Direct a servant to bring me some supper in my room, and come up there yourself when you are through."

"All right!"

Miss Sinclair left the room, but Ben maintained his place. He took particular notice of the gentleman who had been pointed out to him. He was a tall, slender man, with iron-gray hair, and a stern, unpleasant look. Ben judged that her guardian had not seen Miss Sinclair, for he seemed wholly intent upon his supper.

"I don't wonder she wanted to run away from him," thought our hero. Ben smiled as it flashed upon him that this young lady was running away with him.

"I didn't expect, when I left home, to meet with any such adventure as this," he said to himself. "But I do mean to help Miss Sinclair all I possibly can. It doesn't seem quite natural to call her Ida, but I will do as she wants me to."

Meanwhile Mr. Campbell had made inquiries at the office if a young lady from Albany was staying at the hotel.

"No," said the clerk.

It will be remembered that Miss Sinclair had registered from Philadelphia, or, rather, Ben had done so for her.

"Have you any young lady here without escort?" asked Mr. Campbell.

"No, sir. There is a young lady from Philadelphia, but she arrived with her cousin, a lad of fifteen or sixteen."

"That cannot be the one I am in search of," said the unsuspecting guardian.

Of course, as the reader will readily surmise, Ida Sinclair was not the young lady's real name, but it is the name by which we shall know her for the present.

After supper Ben went to Miss Sinclair's room, as directed.

"I think, Ben," she said, "it will be best for me to take all my meals in my room during the short time I stay here. Should my guardian catch sight of me he might give me some trouble, and that I wish to avoid."

"I guess you're right," said Ben.

"I shall wish you to come to my room two or three times a day, as I may have some errands for you to do."

"All right, Miss Sinclair."

"You had better call me 'Cousin Ida,' so as to get used to it."

The next day as Ben was standing on the steps of the hotel he saw, with surprise, Sam Sturgis approaching. It did not occur to him, however, that he was responsible for Sam's presence in the city. He was glad to see a familiar Hampton face, and he said cordially: "How are you, Sam?"

Sam nodded.

"You don't mean to say that you are stopping here, do you?"

"Yes, I do," said Ben, smiling. "Why not?"

"Because it's a first-class hotel."

"Why shouldn't I stay at a first-class hotel, Sam?"

"Because you are a poor boy. Maybe you've got some relations among the servants?"

"If I have I don't know it."

"Your uncle told me you were stopping here, but I didn't believe it."

"Do you believe it now?" asked Ben.

"Perhaps you just stay round here to make people believe you are a guest of the house."

"Why should I care what people think? Nobody knows me here. However, Sam, if you want to be convinced, just come up to my room with me."

Sam concluded to accept the invitation, and accompanied Ben to the desk.

"Please give me the key to number sixty-six," said Ben.

"Here it is, sir."

Sam began to think Ben's statement was true, after all. There was no room for doubt when Ben ushered him into the handsome chamber which he occupied.

"Make yourself at home, Sam," said Ben, enjoying his companion's surprise.

"It's very queer," thought Sam. "I wonder whether he won't run off without paying his bill."

Sam rather hoped that this might be the case, as it would involve Ben in disgrace.

"Your uncle tells me you are going to sail for California on Saturday."

"Yes, Sam."

"Have you bought your ticket?"

"Yes."

"How much did you pay?"

"Excuse me. I would rather not tell just now."

"I suppose he goes in the steerage," thought Sam.

As he could learn nothing more from our hero, Sam soon left him.

It was certainly remarkable that the boy to whom he had recently offered the position of his bootblack should be a guest of a fashionable New York hotel.