Joe the Hotel Boy/Chapter X
|←Chapter IX: An Unfortunate Outing||Joe the Hotel Boy by
Chapter X: David Ball from Montana
|Chapter XI: A Fruitless Chase→|
Finding that Joe could be depended upon, Mr. Mallison put him in charge of all of the boats at the hotel, so that our hero had almost as much work ashore as on the lake.
During the week following, the events just narrated, many visitors left the hotel and others came in. Among those to go were Felix Gussing and the two young ladies. The dude bid our hero a cordial good-bye, for he now knew Joe quite well.
"Good-bye, Mr. Gussing," said Joe. "I hope we meet again."
"Perhaps we shall, although I generally go to a different place each summer."
"Well, I don't expect to stay in Riverside all my life."
"I see. If you make a move, I hope you do well," returned Felix.
On the day after the dude left, a man came to the hotel who, somehow, looked familiar to our hero. He came dressed in a light overcoat and a slouch hat, and carried a valise and a suit case.
"I've seen him before, but where?" Joe asked himself not once but several times.
The man registered as David Ball, and put down his address as Butte, Montana. He said he was a mining expert, but added that he was sick and the doctors had ordered him to come East for a rest.
"'ve heard of Riverside being a nice place," said he, "so I came on right after striking Pittsburg."
"We shall do all we can to make your stay a pleasant one," said the hotel proprietor, politely.
"All I want is a nice sunny room, where I can get fresh air and take it easy," said the man.
He was willing to pay a good price, and so obtained one of the best rooms in the house, one overlooking the river and the lake. He ate one meal in the dining room, but after that he had his meals sent to his apartment.
"Is he sick?" asked Joe, after watching the man one day.
"He certainly doesn't seem to be well," answered Andrew Mallison.
"It runs in my mind that I have seen him before, but I can't place him," went on our hero.
"You must be mistaken, Joe. I questioned him and he says this is his first trip to the East, although he has frequently visited St. Louis and Chicago."
On the following day the man called for a physician and Doctor Gardner was sent for.
"I've got pains here," said the man from the West, and pointed to his chest. "Do you think I am getting consumption?"
The Riverside physician made a careful examination and then said the man had probably strained himself.
"Reckon I did," was the ready answer. "I was in the mine and a big rock came down on me. I had to hold it up for ten minutes before anybody came to my aid. I thought I was a dead one sure."
"I will give you some medicine and a liniment," said the doctor. "Perhaps you'll feel better after a good rest." And then he left.
That afternoon Joe had to go up into the hotel for something and passed the room of the new boarder. He saw the man standing by the window, gazing out on the water.
"I'm dead certain I've seen him before," mused our hero. "It is queer I can't think where."
Doctor Gardner wanted to be taken across the lake and Joe himself did the job. As he was rowing he asked about the man who had signed the hotel register as David Ball from Montana."
"Is he very sick, doctor?"
"No, I can't say that he is," was the physician's answer. "He looks to be as healthy as you or I."
"It's queer he keeps to his room."
"Perhaps something happened out at his mine to unsettle his nerves. He told me of some sort of an accident."
"Is he a miner?"
"He is a mine owner, so Mr. Mallison told me, but he never heard of the man before."
The stranger received several letters the next day and then a telegram. Shortly after that he took to his bed.
"I am feeling worse," said he to the bell boy who answered his ring. "I want you to send for that doctor again. Ask him to call about noon."
"Yes, sir," answered the boy, and Doctor Gardner was sent for without delay. He came and made another examination and left some medicine.
"I'll take the medicine regularly," said the stranger, who was in bed. But when the doctor had left he quietly poured half of the contents of the bottle into the wash bowl, where it speedily drained from sight!
"Don't catch me drinking such rot," he muttered to himself. "I'd rather have some good liquor any day," and he took a long pull from a black bottle he had in his valise.
About noon a carriage drove up to the hotel and two men alighted.
One led the way into the hotel and asked to see the register.
"I'd like to see Mr. David Ball," said he to the clerk.
"Mr. Ball is sick."
"So I have heard and that is why I wish to see him."
"I'll send up your card."
"I don't happen to have a card. Tell him Mr. Anderson is here, from Philadelphia, with a friend of his."
The message was sent to the sick man's room, and word came down that he would see the visitors in a few minutes.
"He says he is pretty sick and he can't talk business very long," said the bell boy.
"We won't bother him very much," answered the man who had given his name as Anderson.
Joe happened to be close by during this conversation and he looked the man called Anderson over with care.
"I've seen that man, too!" he declared to himself. "But where? I declare he is as much of a mystery as the sick one!"
Our hero's curiosity was now aroused to the highest pitch, and when the two men walked up to David Ball's room he followed to the very doorway.
"Come in," came from the room, and a deep groan followed. On the bed lay the man from Montana, wrapped in several blankets and with a look of anguish on his features.
"Feeling pretty bad, eh?" said Anderson, as he stalked in. "I am downright sorry for you."
"I'm afraid I am going to die," groaned the man in bed. "The doctor says I am in bad shape. He wants me to take a trip to Europe, or somewhere else."
"This is Mr. Maurice Vane," went on Anderson. "We won't trouble you any more than is necessary, Mr. Ball."
"I am sorry to disturb you," said Maurice Vane. He was a kindly looking gentleman. "Perhaps we had better defer this business until some other time."
"Oh, no, one time is as bad as another," came with another groan from the bed. "Besides, I admit I need money badly. If it wasn't for that--". The man in bed began to cough. "Say, shut the door," he went on, to the first man who had come in.
The door was closed, and for the time being Joe heard no more of the conversation.
It must be admitted that our hero was perplexed, and with good reason. He felt certain that the man in bed was shamming, that he was hardly sick at all. If so, what was his game?
"Something is surely wrong somewhere," he reasoned. "I wish I could get to the bottom of it."
The room next to the one occupied by David Ball was empty and he slipped into this. The room contained a closet, and on the other side was another closet, opening into the room the men were in. The partition between was of boards, and as the other door stood wide open, Joe, by placing his head to the boards, could hear fairly well.
"You have the stock?" he heard Maurice Vane ask.
"Yes, in my valise. Hand me the bag and I'll show you," answered the man in bed. "Oh, how weak I feel!" he sighed.
There was a silence and then the rustling of papers.
"And what is your bottom price for these?" went on Maurice Vane.
"Thirty thousand dollars."
"I told Mr. Vane you might possibly take twenty-five thousand," came from the man called Anderson.
"They ought to be worth face value--fifty thousand dollars," said the man in bed.
A talk in a lower tone followed, and then more rustling of papers.
"I will call to-morrow with the cash," said Maurice Vane, as he prepared to leave. "In the meantime, you promise to keep these shares for me?"
"I'll keep them until noon. I've got another offer," said the man in bed.
"We'll be back," put in the man called Anderson. "So don't you sell to anybody else."
Then the two visitors left and went downstairs. Five minutes later they were driving away in the direction of the railroad station.
"This certainly beats anything I ever met before," said Joe, to himself as he watched them go. "I'll wager all I am worth that I've met that Anderson before, and that he is a bad man. I do wish I could get at the bottom of what is going on."
In the evening he had occasion to go upstairs in the hotel once more. To his surprise he saw Mr. David Ball sitting in a rocking-chair, calmly smoking a cigar and reading a paper.
"He isn't as sick as he was this morning," he mused. "In fact, I don't think he is sick at all."
He wished to be on hand the following morning, when the strangers came back, but an errand took him up the lake. He had to stop at several places, and did not start on the return until four in the afternoon.
On his way back Joe went ashore close to where the old lodge was located, and something, he could not tell what, made him run over and take a look at the spot that had proved a shelter for Ned and himself during the heavy storm. How many things had occurred since that fatal day!
As our hero looked into one of the rooms he remembered the strange men he had seen there --the fellows who had talked about mining stocks. Then, of a sudden, a revelation came to him, like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky.
"I've got it! I've got it!" he cried. "Mr. David Ball is that fellow who called himself Malone, and Anderson is the man named Caven! They are both imposters!"