“Fifty dollars for one evening’s work!” repeated Philip, his eyes sparkling.
“Oh, I have done much better than that,” said the professor. “I remember once at St. Louis I made for myself alone one hundred and eighty dollars net, and in Chicago a little more.”
“I didn’t think it was such a money-making business,” said Philip, elated.
“Yes, Mr. de Gray, the American people are willing to recognize talent, when it is genuine. You are on the threshold of a great career, my dear young friend.”
“And only a week since I was in the Norton Poorhouse,” thought Philip. “It is certainly a case of romance in real life.”
The two went to bed soon, being fatigued by their exertions. The apartment was large, and contained two beds, a larger and smaller one. The latter was occupied by our hero.
When he awoke in the morning, the sun was shining brightly into the room. Philip looked toward the opposite bed. It was empty.
“Professor Riccabocca must have got up early,” he thought. “Probably he did not wish to wake me.”
He dressed and went downstairs.
“Where is the professor?” he asked of the clerk.
“He started away two hours since—said he was going to take a walk. Went away without his breakfast, too. He must be fond of walking.”
Philip turned pale. He was disturbed by a terrible suspicion. Had the professor gone off for good, carrying all the money with him?
Beset by creditors.
Philip was still a boy, and though he had discovered that the professor was something of a humbug, and a good deal of a braggart, it had not for a moment occurred to him that he would prove dishonest. Even now he did not want to believe it, though he was nervously apprehensive that it might prove true.
“I will take my breakfast,” he said, as coolly as was possible, “and the professor will probably join me before I am through.”
The clerk and the landlord thought otherwise. They were pretty well convinced that Riccabocca was dishonest, and quietly sent for those to whom the “combination” was indebted: namely, the printer and publisher of the Daily Bulletin, the agent of the music-hall, and the bill-sticker who had posted notices of the entertainment. These parties arrived while Philip was at breakfast.
“Gentlemen,” said the landlord, “the boy is at breakfast. I think he is all right, but I don’t know. The professor, I fear, is a swindle.”
“The boy is liable for our debts,” said the agent. “He belongs to the combination.”
“I am afraid he is a victim as well as you,” said the landlord. “He seemed surprised to hear that the professor had gone out.”
“It may all be put on. Perhaps he is in the plot, and is to meet the old fraud at some place fixed upon, and divide the booty,” suggested the agent.