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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 21. Suspense
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Rufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 21. Suspense Post by :bobbond Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2535

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Rufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 21. Suspense

CHAPTER XXI. SUSPENSE

Rufus generally reached his boarding-house at half-past five o'clock. Sometimes Rose and her two young companions were playing in Washington Park at that time, and ran to meet him when he appeared in sight. But on the night of our hero's capture by Martin they waited for him in vain.

"Where can Rufie be?" thought Rose, as she heard six o'clock peal from a neighboring church-tower.

She thought he might have gone by without her seeing him, and with this idea, as it was already the hour for dinner, she went into the house. She ran upstairs two steps at a time, and opened the door of her own room.

"You should not have stayed out so late, Rose," said Miss Manning. "You will hardly have time to get ready for dinner."

"I was waiting for Rufie. Has he come?"

"No; he seems to be late to-night."

"I am afraid he's got run over," said Rose anxiously.

"Rufus is old enough to take care of himself. I've no doubt he's quite safe."

"Then what makes him so late?"

"He is probably detained by business. But there is the bell. We must go down to dinner."

"Can't we wait for Rufie?"

"No, my dear child; we cannot tell when he will be home."

"It don't seem a bit pleasant to eat dinner without Rufie," complained Rose.

"It isn't often he stays, Rose. He'll tell us all about it when he comes."

They went down and took their seats at the dinner-table.

"Where is your brother, Rose?" asked Mrs. Clifton.

"He hasn't got home," said Rose, rather disconsolately.

"I am sorry for that. He is a very agreeable young man. If I wasn't married," simpered Mrs. Clifton, "I should set my cap for him. But I mustn't say that, or Mr. Clifton will be jealous."

"Oh, don't mind me!" said Mr. Clifton, carelessly. "It won't spoil my appetite."

"I don't think there's anything that would spoil _your appetite," said his wife, rather sharply, for she would have been flattered by her husband's jealousy.

"Just so," said Mr. Clifton, coolly. "May I trouble you for some chicken, Mrs. Clayton?"

"You're a great deal too old for Rufie, Mrs. Clifton," said Rose, with more plainness than politeness.

"I'm not quite so young as you are, Rose," said Mrs. Clifton, somewhat annoyed. "How old do you think I am?"

"Most fifty," answered Rose, honestly.

"Mercy sake!" exclaimed Mrs. Clifton, horrified, "what a child you are! Why don't you say a hundred, and done with it?"

"How old are you, Mrs. Clifton?" persisted Rose.

"Well, if you must know, I shall be twenty-five next November."

Mrs. Clifton was considerably nearer thirty-five; but, then, some ladies are very apt to be forgetful of their age.

The dinner-hour passed, and Rose and Miss Manning left the table. They went upstairs hoping that Rufus might be there before them; but the room was empty. An hour and a half passed, and it was already beyond eight, the hour at which Rose usually went to bed.

"Can't I sit up a little later to-night, Miss Manning?" pleaded Rose. "I want to see Rufie."

"No, Rose, I think not. You'll see him in the morning."

So Rose unwillingly undressed and went to bed.

By this time Miss Manning began to wonder a little why Rufus did not appear. It seemed to her rather strange that he should be detained by business till after eight o'clock, and she thought that an accident might possibly have happened to him. Still Rufus was a strong, manly boy, well able to take care of himself, and this was not probable.

When ten o'clock came, and he had not yet made his appearance, she went downstairs. The door of the hall bedroom, which Rufus occupied, was open and empty. This she saw on the way. In the hall below she met Mrs. Clayton.

"Rufus has not yet come in?" she said, interrogatively.

"No, I have not seen him. I saved some dinner for him, thinking he might have been detained."

"I can't think why he doesn't come home. I think he must be here soon. Do you know if he has a latch-key?"

"Yes, he got a new one of me the other day. Perhaps he has gone to some place of amusement."

"He would not go without letting us know beforehand. He would know we would feel anxious."

"Yes, he is more considerate than most young men of his age. I don't think you need feel anxious about him."

Miss Manning went upstairs disappointed. She began to feel perplexed and anxious. Suppose something should happen to Rufus, what would they do? Rose would refuse to be comforted. She was glad the little girl was asleep, otherwise she would be asking questions which she would be unable to answer. It was now her hour for retiring, but she resolved to sit up a little longer. More than an hour passed, and still Rufus did not come. It seemed unlikely that he would return that night, and Miss Manning saw that it was useless to sit up longer. It was possible, however, that he might have come in, and gone at once to his room, thinking it too late to disturb them. But, on going down to the next floor, she saw that his room was still unoccupied.

Rose woke up early in the morning; Miss Manning was already awake.

"Did Rufie come last night?" asked the little girl.

"He had not come when I went to bed," was the answer. "Perhaps he came in afterwards."

"May I dress and go down and see?"

"Yes, if you would like to."

Rose dressed quicker than usual, and went downstairs. She came up again directly, with a look of disappointment.

"Miss Manning, he is not here," she said. "His chamber door is open, and I saw that he had not slept in his bed."

"Very likely Mr. Turner sent him out of the city on business," said Miss Manning, with an indifference which she did not feel.

"I wish he'd come," said Rose. "I shall give him a good scolding, when he gets home, for staying away so long."

"Has not Mr. Rushton come?" asked Mrs. Clayton, at the breakfast-table.

"Not yet. I suppose he is detained by business."

Just after breakfast, Miss Manning, as usual, took the three little girls out in the Park to play. It was their custom to come in about nine o'clock to study. This morning, however, their governess went to Mrs. Colman and said, "I should like to take this morning, if you have no objection. I am feeling a little anxious about Rufus, who did not come home last night. I would like to go to the office where he is employed, and inquire whether he has been sent out of town on any errand."

"Certainly, Miss Manning. The little girls can go out and play in the Park while you are gone."

"Thank you."

"Where are you going, Miss Manning?" asked Rose, seeing that the governess was preparing to go out.

"I am going to Rufie's office to see why he stayed away."

"May I go with you?" asked Rose, eagerly.

"No, Rose, you had better stay at home. The streets are very crowded down town, and I shouldn't like to venture to cross Broadway with you. You can go and play in the Park."

"And shan't we have any lessons?"

"Not this morning."

"That will be nice," said Rose, who, like most girls of her age, enjoyed a holiday.

Miss Manning walked to Broadway, and took a stage. That she knew would carry her as far as Wall Street, only a few rods from Mr. Turner's office. She had seldom been in a stage, the stage fare being higher than in the cars, and even four cents made a difference to her. She would have enjoyed the brilliant scene which Broadway always presents, with its gay shop-windows and hurrying multitudes, if her mind had not been preoccupied. At length Trinity spire came in sight. When they reached the great church which forms so prominent a landmark in the lower part of Broadway, she got out, and turned into Wall Street.

It did not take her long to find Mr. Turner's number. She had never been there before, and had never met Mr. Turner, and naturally felt a little diffident about going into the office. It was on the second floor. She went up the stairway, and timidly entered. She looked about her, but Rufus was not to be seen. At first no one noticed her; but finally a clerk, with a pen behind his ear, came out from behind the line of desks.

"What can I do for you, ma'am?" he asked.

"Is Rufus Rushton here?" she inquired.

"No, he is not."

"Was he here yesterday?"

"He's out of the office just now, on some business of Mr. Turner's. That's Mr. Turner, if you would like to speak to him."

Miss Manning turned, and saw Mr. Turner just entering the office. He was a pleasant-looking man, and this gave her courage to address him.

"Mr. Turner," she said, "I came to ask about Rufus Rushton. He did not come home last night, and I am feeling anxious about him."

"Indeed!" said the banker, "I am surprised to hear that. It leads me to think that he may have found a clue to the stolen box."

"The stolen box!" repeated Miss Manning, in surprise.

"Yes; did he not tell you of it?"

"No, sir."

Mr. Turner briefly related the particulars already known to the reader. "I think," he said, in conclusion, "Rufus must have tracked the man Martin, and--"

"Martin!" interrupted Miss Manning. "Was he the thief?"

"Yes, so Rufus tells me. Do you know him?"

"I have good reason to. He is a very bad man. I hope he has not got Rufus in his power."

"I don't think you need feel apprehensive. Rufus is a smart boy, and knows how to take care of himself. He'll come out right, I have no doubt."

"I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Turner. I will bid you good-morning, with thanks for your kindness."

"If Rufus comes in this morning, I will let him go home at once, that your anxiety may be relieved."

With this assurance Miss Manning departed. She had learned something, but, in spite of the banker's assurance, she felt troubled. She knew Martin was a bad man, and she was afraid Rufus would come to harm.

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