“Join me in the ladies’ parlor in fifteen minutes, Ben. I have something to say to you.”
Ben looked around him with considerable satisfaction. He had only left home that morning; he had met with a severe disappointment, and yet he was now fortunate beyond his most sanguine hopes. He had heard a great deal of the Astor House, which in Hampton and throughout the country was regarded at that time as the most aristocratic hotel in New York, and now he was actually a guest in it. Moreover, he was booked for a first-class passage to California.
“It’s like the Arabian Nights,” thought Ben, “and Miss Sinclair must be a fairy.”
He took out his scanty wardrobe from the carpetbag, and put it away in one of the drawers of the bureau.
“I might just as well enjoy all the privileges of the hotel,” he said to himself.
He took out his brush and comb, and brushed his hair. Then he locked the door of No. 66 and went down-stairs to the ladies’ parlor.
He did not have to wait long. In five minutes Miss Sinclair made her appearance.
“Ben,” she said, “here is the check for my trunk. You may take it down to the office and ask them to send for it. Then come back and I will acquaint you with some things I wish you to know.”
Ben speedily reappeared, and at Miss Sinclair’s request sat down beside her on a sofa.
“You must know, Ben,” she commenced, “that I am flying from my guardian.”
“I hope it’s all right,” said Ben, rather frightened. He was not sure but he was making himself liable to arrest for aiding and abetting Miss Sinclair’s flight.
“You have no cause for alarm. He has no legal control over me, though by the terms of my father’s will he retains charge of my property till I attain my twenty-fifth year. Before this, fourteen months must elapse. Meanwhile he is exerting all his influence to induce me to marry his son, so that the large property of which I am possessed may accrue to the benefit of his family.”
“He couldn’t force you to marry his son, could he?” asked Ben.
“No, but he has made it very disagreeable to me to oppose him, and has even gone so far as to threaten me with imprisonment in a madhouse if I do not yield to his persuasions.”
“He must be a rascal!” said our hero indignantly.
“He is,” said Miss Sinclair quietly.
“I don’t see how he can do such things in a free country.”
“He has only to buy over two unscrupulous physicians, and in a large city that can easily be done. On their certificate of my insanity I might any day be dragged to a private asylum and confined there.”
“I don’t wonder you ran away, Ida.”
“I feel perfectly justified in doing so. Liberty and the control of my own person are dear to me, and I mean to struggle for them.”
“What makes you think of going to California? is it because it is so far off?”