Chapter X. Dick Becomes a Prisoner
 

The Sunrise Hotel had seen better days. It was a five story brick building, blackened by age and had numerous small windows, down in front of which ran an iron fire escape. The lower floor was used as a drinking place, to one side of which ran a narrow stairs, leading to an office and a parlor above.

Looking in over the short doors of the drinking place, Dick saw that Cuffer was not there. He rightly surmised that the fellow had gone upstairs, to a room he was occupying.

"Perhaps that fellow Shelley is with him," mused Dick. "If so, I'd like to collar them both."

Several men were coming and going and nobody paid particular attention to the youth until he gained the dingy office, where two men were smoking and talking over the merits of some race horses.

"What can I do for you?" asked one of the men abruptly, as Dick looked around.

"Is a man named Cuffer stopping here?"

The hotel clerk shook his head.

"Perhaps I have the name wrong. I mean a man who came in a minute or two ago--fellow with a soft hat, knocked in on the side."

"Oh, that chap! Yes, he's here--room eighteen, next floor," and the clerk pointed up the stairs, for the hotel had no elevator.

Dick walked up the stairs slowly, revolving in his mind what he should do if he met Cuffer face to face. If he had the man arrested it might lead to legal complications, and the voyage in search of Treasure Isle might be delayed. It would be hard to prove that the rascal had done any actual wrong.

Reaching the upper hallway, Dick looked at the dingy numbers on the still more dingy doors. Eighteen proved to be at the rear, where it was so dark he could scarcely see.

As the youth approached the door he heard a murmur of voices in the room beyond. He listened, and made out Cuffer speaking, and then he recognized the voice of Shelley.

"And so I dusted out before I had a chance to get any money from Sobber," Cuffer was saying.

"Well, did the Rovers catch the young fellow?" questioned Shelley.

"That I don't know. If he didn't know enough to run away he is a fool."

"You say one of the Rovers followed you from the train?"

"Yes, but I gave him the slip as soon as I reached the Bowery," answered Cuffer with a chuckle.

"Well, what are we to do next?" asked Shelley, after a pause.

"There is nothing to do but to wait until tomorrow, when Merrick arrives."

"Have you any faith in this treasure hunt of his?"

"I have so long as he pays the bills. I wouldn't put a cent of my own money in it."

"Has he got enough money to see the thing through?"

"So he says. He met the captain of that tramp vessel somewhere and got him interested in the hunt by promising him a share of the find. He says as soon as he can get hold of a Spaniard who knows the exact location of the island he'll set sail."

"And take the Spaniard along?"

"Of course. The Spaniard was one of the chaps who originally took the treasure to the island."

"Well, where do we come in?"

"He wants us along because he is afraid the fellows on the vessel will make a fight for the gold and jewels when they are found. Some of those sailors are pretty bloodthirsty, you know. He says he is going to take at least four strong men whom he can trust."

Dick listened with keen interest to this talk, which revealed a great deal. Sid Merrick had made an arrangement to go on a voyage after the treasure! How soon he would start there was no telling, but probably as quickly as he could get ready. More than this, he expected to have with him the Spaniard, Doranez, the fellow who had said he was going to Spain to visit his relatives. More than likely Merrick and Doranez were in league with each other and would do all in their power to keep the treasure out of the hands of the rightful owners.

"If only Tom and Sam were here," thought Dick. "Or if only Tom has captured Tad Sobber. This is getting lively, to say the least."

The men were now speaking in a lower tone and he put his ear to the keyhole, to catch what they might say. Then, of a sudden, the door opened and he found himself confronted by Shelley.

"Thought I heard somebody in the hall!" cried that individual, and grabbed Dick by the arm.

"Let go!" answered the youth and tried to break away. But Cuffer came to Shelley's assistance, and between them the two men dragged the boy into the room and shut the door after him. Dick struggled vigorously even when in the apartment until Cuffer caught up an empty water pitcher and flourished it over his head.

"Make another move and I'll knock you senseless with this!" he exclaimed and the look on his face showed he meant what he said. Seeing his captors were too powerful for him, Dick subsided and was forced into a chair in a corner.

"Been listening to all our talk, I suppose," said Cuffer, uglily. He was angry to think that Dick had been able to follow him after all.

"I have," was the youth's bold reply. He felt nothing was to be gained by beating around the bush.

"It's a nice business to be in!"

"It is better than the business you are in."

"I don't think so."

"I do. You fellows are in league with Sid Merrick, and you know what sort he is."

"See here," interrupted Shelley. "Now we have him in here, what are we going to do with him?"

"You are going to let me out," said Dick.

"Perhaps we are," said Cuffer, and gave Shelley a significant look.

"Let us see if he's got any papers with him," suggested Shelley, and returned the look given to him by his companion.

The look meant that they would go through Dick's pockets and rob him. The men were thorough rascals and if the youth had anything worth taking they meant to have it.

"You keep out of my pockets!" cried Dick and started to rise from the chair in which he was sitting. Instantly both men grabbed him, and while Cuffer held him tightly from the rear, Shelley caught up a towel and gagged him. Then a bed sheet was used to tie Dick inside of a closet in a corner of the room.

"Listen, I think somebody is coming!" cried Cuffer, in sudden alarm.

"Keep the boy quiet!" answered Shelley and ran to the hall door just as a knock sounded upon it.

"What's the racket up here?" demanded the voice of the hotel clerk.

"Oh, we were only trying a vaudeville turn," answered Shelley, coolly. "We have an engagement for next week."

"Well, stop that noise and don't break any of the furniture, or you'll pay for it," growled the clerk and went away. It chanced that actors occasionally stopped at the hotel and practised their parts. Shelley knew of this, hence the excuse he gave for the noise made in rendering Dick a prisoner.

As soon as the clerk had retired Cuffer and Shelley both paid their attention to Dick, and with great rapidity they went through his pockets, stripping him of his watch and chain, and twenty four dollars and a quarter in money. They also took a small diamond scarf pin and a ring set with a valuable ruby. In one pocket Cuffer found several letters and he likewise appropriated these.

"Not such a bad haul," was the thief's comment.

Of course, Dick did not submit willingly, but with a gag in his mouth, and his hands and feet tied tightly, he could do but little. As soon as the men had taken his things from him, they shut the closet door upon him and locked it. A few minutes later all became quiet, showing that they had left the room.

The closet was small and stuffy and in this warm weather made Dick perspire freely. But without waiting to make certain that the men were really gone, he commenced to work upon his bonds and the gag in his mouth.

It was no light task and it was a good quarter of an hour before he got one hand loose.

Then he freed his other hand and undid the troublesome gag, which had all but smothered him, and then unfastened his feet.

He was still a prisoner in the closet, the door of which was an old fashioned one and thick. But by bracing his feet against the back wall, Dick got a firm hold and soon his shoulder on the barrier caused it to bend and creak. Then the lock gave way and the door flew open with a bang.

A glance around the room showed that the men had flown, and for good, for two valises which had stood in a corner were missing.

Dick leaped to the hall door, only to find it locked from the outside.

"They must have gone that way," he reasoned, after a look out of the window, and then he rapped on the door loudly.

It was several minutes before anybody answered his summons. Then an ignorant looking chambermaid appeared.

"Phot does yez want?" she demanded, in a strong Irish brogue.

"I am locked in. Let me out," answered Dick.

After some fumbling, the chambermaid found her key and unlocked the door. She gazed at Dick in some surprise, for she saw that he was excited.

"Sure, I didn't know yez had that room," she said.

"Did you see the two men who had this room?" demanded the youth.

"I did not."

"They robbed me and ran away."

"Saints preserve us! Robbed ye? Of phat?"

"Of everything I had. Sure you didn't see 'em?"

"Not since this marnin'."

"Well, they must have just gone out," said Dick, and ran down the stairs and to the office. Here he found the place deserted, the clerk having gone down to the dining room for his supper, and nobody else being on duty. The clerk listened to his story with small interest and shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't see what I can do," he said. "We ain't responsible for our guests. You had better go and see the police. I hope you catch them, for such rascals give hotels bad reputations."

"Do you know the men at all?"

"No, never set eyes on 'em until a couple of days ago. Then they came in, hired that room, and came and went to suit themselves. One was named Brown and the other Smith--at least that's the names on the register."

"Those were fake names. Then you won't help me to catch them?"

"I don't see what I can do," answered the clerk, calmly. "We are not to blame for this, you can see that for yourself."

Dick could see, and after a few words more, he left the hotel, feeling very depressed in spirits. He spent an hour in looking up and down the Bowery for Cuffer and Shelley, but without success. Then, as it was getting late, he returned to the hotel at which he and the rest of his family were putting up.