The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 2

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The boys were very curious concerning their old enemy, and on going below took a walk around several squares in the vicinity, in the hope of meeting the individual who had attracted Dick's attention.

But the search proved unsuccessful, and they returned to the hotel and went to dinner, with a larger appetite than ever.

"It would be queer if we met Dan Baxter out here," said Tom, while they were eating. "He seems to get on our heels, no matter where we go."

"If he came to San Francisco first, he'll think we have been following him up," said Sam.

"He must have come here before we did," said Dick. "Our arrival dates back but three hours," and he grinned.

The meal over the boys took it easy for a couple of hours, and then prepared to go out and visit half a dozen points of interest and also purchase tickets for a performance at one of the leading theaters in the evening.

As they crossed the lobby of the hotel they al most ran into a big, burly young fellow who was coming in the opposite direction.

"Dan Baxter!" ejaculated Dick. "Then I was right after all."

The burly young fellow stared first at Dick and then the others in blank amazement. He carried a dress-suit case, and this dropped from his hand to the floor.

"Whe—where did yo—you come from?" he stammered at last.

"I guess we can ask the same question," said Tom coldly.

"Been following me, have you?" sneered Dan Baxter, making an effort to recover his self-possession.

"No, we haven't been following you," said Sam.

"Supposing you tell us how it happens that you are here?"

"Suppose you tell us how it happens that you are here," came from Dick.

"That is my business."

"Our business is our own, too, Dan Baxter."

"You followed me," growled the big bully, his face darkening. "I know you and don't you forget it."

"Why should we follow you?" said Tom. "We got the best of you over that treasure in the Adirondacks."

"Oh, you needn't blow. Remember the old saying, 'He laughs best who laughs last.' I aint done with you yet—not by a long shot."

"Well, let me warn you to keep your distance," said Dick sternly. "If you don't, you'll regret it. We have been very easy with you in the past, but if you go too far, I, for one, will be for putting you where your father is, in prison."

"And I say the same," said Tom.

"Ditto here," came from Sam.

At these words a look of bitter hatred crossed Dan Baxter's face. He clenched his fists and breathed hard.

"You can brag when you are three to one," he cried fiercely. "But wait, that's all. My father would be a free man if it wasn't for you. Wait, and see what I do!"

And so speaking he caught up his dress-suit case, swung around on his heel, and left the hotel before anybody could stop him.

"He's the same old Baxter," said Tom, with a long sigh. "Always going to square up."

"I think he is more vindictive than he used to be," observed Sam. "When Dick spoke about his father being in prison he looked as if he would like to strangle the lot of us."

"Well, I admit it would be rough on any ordinary boy to mention the fact that his father was in prison," said Dick. "But we all know, and Dan Baxter himself knows, that one is about as wicked as the other. The only thing that makes Arnold Baxter's case worse is that he is old enough to know better."

"So is Dan old enough to know better," was Tom's comment.

"I believe he was coming here to get accom modations," said Dick.

"If he was, that would tend to prove that he had just arrived in San Francisco, Dick."

"True. But he may have been in this vicinity, perhaps in Oakland, Alameda, or some other nearby town."

"What do you suppose could have brought him here?"

"That's a conundrum. Maybe he thought the East was getting too hot to hold him."

"I wish we knew where he was going."

"Let us see if we can follow him up."

But to follow Dan Baxter up was out of the question, as they speedily discovered when they stepped out on the sidewalk. People were hurrying in all directions, and the bully had been completely swallowed up in the crowd.

"We must watch out," said Dick. "Now he knows we are here he will try to do us harm, mark my words."

The walk that afternoon proved full of interest, and in the evening they went to see a performance of a light opera at the Columbia Theater. The performance gave them a good deal of pleasure.

"Quarter past eleven!" exclaimed Dick, when they were coming away. "That's the time we got our money's worth."

"I thought it must be late," said Tom. "I was getting hungry. Let us get a bite of some thing before we go back to the hotel."

The others were willing, and they entered a nearby restaurant and seated themselves at one of the tables. As they did this, a person who had been following them stopped at the door to peer in after them. The person was Dan Baxter.

"They are going to dine before retiring," he muttered to himself. "The Old Nick take the luck! They have all the good times, while I have only the bad!"

Dan Baxter had followed the boys from the hotel to the theater and had also waited around for them to come out. He wanted to "square up" with them, but had no definite plan of action, and was trusting to luck for something to turn up in his favor.

He had drifted to the West for a double reason. The one was, as the boys had surmised, because the East seemed to be getting too hot to hold him. His second reason was that he hoped to get passage on some vessel bound for Sydney, Australia. He had a distant relative in Australia, and thought that if he could only see that relative personally he might be able to get some money. He was nearly out of funds, and so far the relative, although rich, had refused to send any money by, mail or express.

"They have everything they want, while I have nothing," he went on savagely. "And they don't deserve it, either. Oh, how I wish I could wring their necks for 'em!"

Suddenly an idea struck him and without waiting for the boys to come out of the restaurant he hopped on board of a street car running in the direction of the Oakland House. Entering the hotel office he asked to look at the register.

"Room 324," he said to himself. "That is on the third floor, I suppose, since they generally start a new hundred for every floor. Wonder if I can get up without being noticed?"

He watched his chance, and slipping past the bell boys, made his way up the stairs, which, on account of the elevators, were but little used. In a few minutes he was in front of the door to Room 324. He tried it cautiously, to find it locked.

"Now if only the keys will work," he muttered, breathing hard, and taking a bunch of keys from his pocket he tried them, one after another.

He had tried four keys without success, when he saw a waiter approaching with a trayful of good things for a late supper in a nearby apartment. At once he moved away down the hallway and did not return until the servant had disappeared from view.

He had five other keys and the third fitted the lock, although rather crudely; so crudely in fact that once the lock bolt was turned the key could not be withdrawn.

"That's bad," he thought. "But as it cannot be helped I'll have to make the best of it. I mustn't stay here too long," and going into the room he closed the door after him.

There was a faint light burning at one of the gas jets and this he turned up, and pulled down the shades of the windows. Then he gazed swiftly around the large room, noting the boys' trunks and traveling bags and several articles of wearing apparel scattered about.

"Oh, if only I can find what I am after," he muttered. "But more than likely they carry their money with them, or else they left it at the hotel office."

All of the trunks and traveling bags were locked, and to force the trunks open seemed at first impossible. One of the traveling bags was slit open with a sharp pocket-knife the bully car ried and the contents emptied on one of the beds.

"Not much that I want," muttered Dan Baxter, as he gazed at the collection. Then a jewel case caught his eye and he opened it. "A diamond stud and a diamond scarf pin! Not so bad, after all!" And he transferred the jewelry to his pocket.

A second later he came upon a bunch of keys. They proved to belong to the trunks and bags, and soon he had the trunks open and the contents scattered in all directions. Then he went down on his knees, examining everything brought to light.

It must be confessed that he was in a fever of excitement. The Rover boys might return at any moment, and he knew full well that to be caught would mean a term in prison. He kept his ears on the alert while his heart thumped loudly within his bosom.

"A pocketbook at last!" he cried softly, and snatched it up. One look showed him. a small pile of five-and ten-dollar bills, exactly two hundred and seventy-five dollars in all. Then he found another jewel case, and from it extracted a second diamond stud and a pair of very fine cuff buttons.

"That is all I guess I can get," he muttered, as he stood up. "But I might as well take a new outfit while I am at it," he added, and picked up several articles of wearing apparel. These he stuffed in one of the bags which had not been cut, and around it put a small strap.

Tiptoeing his way to the door, he opened it and listened. Nobody was within hearing or sight. But as he stepped out, the waiter he had before seen came once more into view, this time carrying a tray with some bottles and a box of cigars. The waiter eyed him curiously again, but said nothing.

"Too bad he saw me, but it can't be helped," thought Dan Baxter, and made his way down stairs with all possible speed. Once in the lower hall he lost no time in gaining the street. In another moment he was swallowed up in the darkness of the night.