Robert Coverdale's Struggle Part 38

Robert Coverdale's Struggle -

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This was on the morning after his arrival, and as the steamboat train did not start till afternoon, this afforded him a chance to spend several hours in seeing the city.

First he went to the Common and walked across it, surveying with interest the large and noble trees which add so much beauty to a park which, in size, is insignificant compared with the great parks of New York and Philadelphia, but appears older and more finished than either.

He rode in various directions in the cars and enjoyed the varied sights that passed under his notice.

At half-past four he paid his bill at the hotel and took a car which passed the depot from which the steamboat train for New York starts.

The train was an express, and in little more than an hour he boarded the beautiful Sound steamer.

He was astonished at its magnificence as he went upstairs to the main saloon. As he was looking about him in rather a bewildered way a colored man employed on the boat inquired:

"What are you looking for, young man?"

"Where shall I get a key to my stateroom?"

He was told, and, opening the door, he found himself in a comfortable little room with two berths.

"I can pass the night here very pleasantly," he thought. "There is some difference between sleeping here and on a sailboat."

Once, in company with his uncle, he had been compelled to pass the night on the ocean in a small sailboat used for fishing purposes.

Robert left his valise in the stateroom and went into the saloon.

A gong was heard, which he found was the announcement of supper. It was now past seven o'clock and he felt hungry. He accordingly followed the crowd downstairs and ate a hearty meal.

When he went upstairs again the band soon began to play and helped to while away the time. Some of the passengers read papers, others read books and magazines, while others from the outer decks watched the progress of the large boat as it swiftly coursed over the waves. In this last company was Robert.

Without being aware of it, our hero attracted the notice of one of his fellow passengers, a man possibly of thirty-five, tall and thin and dressed in black. Finally he accosted Robert.

"A fine evening!" he remarked.

"Yes, sir, very fine."

"You are going to New York, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you tarry there?"

"Not long. I am going to Ohio."

"You seem young to travel alone. Perhaps, however, you have company?"

"No, sir," Robert answered. "I am traveling alone."

There was a look of satisfaction on the man's face, which Robert did not see. Even if he had he would not have known how to interpret it.

"It is pleasant to go to New York by boat," said the stranger. "I prefer it to the cars; that is, when I can get a stateroom. Did you secure one?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are more fortunate than I. I found they had all been taken. I would not care so much if I were not suffering from fever and ague."

"I suppose you have a berth?" said Robert.

"Yes, but the berths are exposed to draughts and are not as desirable as staterooms."

Robert did not know that, so far from this being the case, the great fault of the ordinary berths was a lack of air.

"I suppose your stateroom contains two berths?" said the stranger.

"Yes, I believe so."

"I may be taking a liberty, but I have a proposal to make. If you will allow me to occupy one of them I will pay half the cost of your room. It would oblige me very much, but I would not ask if I were not sick."

Robert did not entirely like this proposal. He preferred to be alone.

Still he was naturally obliging, and he hardly knew how to refuse this favor to a sick man.

"I see you hesitate," said the stranger. "Pray think no more of my request. I would not mind paying the entire cost of the room, if you will take me in. It cost you a dollar, did it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then," said the man, drawing a dollar bill from his pocketbook, "allow me to pay for it and share it with you."

"I ought not to be selfish," thought Robert. "I would rather be alone, but if this man is sick I think I will let him come in with me."

He so expressed himself, and the other thanked him warmly and pressed the dollar upon him.

"No," said Robert, "I can't take so much. You may pay for your share--fifty cents."

"You are very kind," murmured the other.

And, replacing the bill in his pocketbook, he took out a half dollar and tendered it to our hero.

Half an hour later both repaired to stateroom No. 56.

As they entered the room the stranger glanced at the two berths and said:

"It is only fair that you should occupy the best berth."

"Which is the best berth?" asked Robert.

"The lower one is generally so considered," said the other. "It is a little wider and it is less trouble to get into it. I will take the upper one."

"No," said Robert generously. "You are sick and ought to have the best.

I am perfectly well, and I shan't mind climbing into the upper one."

"But it seems so selfish in me," protested the stranger, "to step into your stateroom and take the best accommodations."

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