A TWO-HUNDRED-DOLLAR PEARL

“I tell you, she looks natural!” exclaimed Bob, as a few swift strokes
with the oars brought him alongside the schooner. “I believe I’ll hold
out in the bay for a little while. Mr. Oakes, can you go?”

“No; I have got to fix up my nets for to-morrow’s fishing,” replied the
fisherman. “There’s a stiff breeze blowing, and she will take you out
all right. There’s the cabin,” he added, as he unlocked the doors; “step
in and see if there’s anything missing.”

Bob laughed and went in, declaring that it would be a mighty slick thief
who could take anything out of that cabin while it was under such care.
The cabin needed airing, so the windows were opened; after that the
sails were cast loose, Mr. Oakes stepped into his boat and wished them a
pleasant voyage, Hank undid the fastenings, Bob seated himself in the
stern, and as soon as the canvas felt the full force of the wind she
took a big bone in her teeth and went bowling along toward the entrance
of the bay. Bob thought of the many times his father had sat in that
boat, giving him instructions in regard to sailing her, or telling him
some stories of the sea, and a mist gathered in front of his eyes.

“I don’t wonder that you feel lonely,” said Hank, who readily divined
the thoughts that were passing in Bob’s mind. “Did your father not leave
you anything besides the schooner?”

“I can’t tell whether or not he left me the schooner until I see the
codicil,” said Bob, sadly. “The way it looks now he has left me out in
the cold. I am taking this without saying a word to my uncle about it.
But I don’t mean to give it up. Father gave me the money to buy the
boat, and I had it made to order.”

“Then it is yours,” said Hank.

“I expect Gus will come after it as soon as he finds out that I have it,
and how I shall keep him from getting it I don’t know,” said Bob. “I
wish I could get my ponies.”

“So do I. I tell you it made me mad to see him driving around with those
kid gloves and going to that saloon. What did he go there for?”

“He had some business with Barlow, I suppose,” said Bob, who had not yet
got into the way of telling Hank everything he wanted to know. “Now,
Hank, what have you been doing since I have been gone? Have you made
your fortune?”

“No, I haven’t,” said Hank, looking out over the sea. “Father goes
sometimes for a month without doing any work at all, and then he wants
some money and he goes to mother for it. If I had a hundred dollars he
would soon get it away.”

“What makes your mother let him know she has any money?”

“She can’t help it. He looks at what comes on the table and makes his
calculations from that. I tell you father is a sharp one. But I have
something I want to show you,” said Hank, thrusting his hand into his
pocket and hauling out a parcel carefully wrapped up in several pieces
of paper. “I carried it loose in my pocket until I went hunting with a
man from Baltimore, and I showed it to him. He offered me five dollars
for it, and furthermore he seemed so determined to have it that it was
all I could do to take it away from him. That made me think that if it
was worth five dollars it was worth more, and so I wrapped it up, being
resolved to show it to you and Leon Sprague. Now tell me if I made a
mistake in not taking five dollars for it.”

Bob gave up the wheel to Hank, took the parcel, and found inside of it a
fresh-water pearl about the size of a pea. Bob didn’t know anything
about pearls. He was acquainted with the fact that where they were found
it was necessary to dry the oysters in order to discover them, and that
a teacupful of them was worth a hundred thousand dollars, and he didn’t
think this pearl of Hank’s was worth much.

“It is as clear as crystal, isn’t it?” said Bob, holding it up to the
light. “Where did you find it?”

“On a little stream up here,” replied Hank; “and there are more of them
there, too. But I see very plainly by your looks that I made a mistake
in not accepting five dollars for it.”

“You mustn’t judge anything by me,” replied Bob, hastily, “because I
don’t know what it is worth. Let me have it and I will ask the jeweller.
He will know something about it.”

“Oh, he will laugh at me. The idea of asking him what a fresh-water
pearl is worth!”

“He needn’t know that you found it at all. I will say that I found it
and want to know what it is worth.”

“Well, under those circumstances you may take it; but you may make up
your mind to be laughed at.”

Bob folded up the pearl and put it into his pocket, and told himself
that unless he had shot wide of the mark Hank’s find was worth ten or
fifteen dollars at least. He had never heard of pearls being found so
far south. He knew that there were some in New Jersey, and some others
in Wisconsin, that they were being worked at the rate of twenty-five
thousand dollars each year, and he didn’t see why it was that pearls
were not found further south. In that case Hank’s fortune was made, for
he was the only one who knew where the pearls were, provided some one
else did not suspect him—his father, for instance—and watch him to see
where he went and what he did to increase his income.

“You say there are plenty more pearls where this one came from?” said
Bob at length.

“Why, I have seen as many as twenty-five or thirty scattered along the
banks of that creek, but I never thought to look at them, for I did not
think they were worth any money,” replied Hank. “This one was found out
in plain sight, and so I took it up and put it into my pocket.”

“Well, I just want to tell you that you had better keep mum in regard to
these pearls. If they turn out valuable you want them all yourself,
don’t you?”

“I should say so. There’s nobody needs them worse than I do.”

“You just keep still until I see the jeweller,” said Bob. “It may be
that your fortune is made.”

“Oh, I don’t hope for that. If I can make ten dollars out of that one
you have in your pocket, well and good. I don’t know that I can find the
others, anyway.”

“Well, you can try, can’t you?”

Yes, Hank was satisfied that he could do that, and he wouldn’t take
anybody with him to show them where the pearls were except Leon Sprague
and Bob Nellis.

In half an hour Bob had enjoyed as much of a sail as he wanted to, so he
brought the Curlew about and headed her toward the low wooden pier that
had been there when Ben bought the place. The man who lived in that
house had a sailboat, with buoy and anchor all complete, and Ben, who
stood upon the bank and saw Bob coming, stepped into this light skiff
and pulled out to where the buoy was. He waved his hands to Bob to show
him that he was near the anchorage, and in a few minutes the schooner
rounded to with her sails shaking in the wind. The boat drew so much
water that of course she had to ride where she would be free of every
obstacle. If a storm had come up she would have pounded herself to
pieces on the wharf.

“I’ve got her, Ben!” shouted Bob. “Now we’ll see what sort of work Gus
will go through to get her back. Mr. Oakes said he shouldn’t have her,
anyway.”

“Gus will not try to get her back,” said Ben, pulling up to the bow to
be in readiness to take the anchor-rope when Hank passed it down to him,
“and I guess he will give up the ponies as well. What did Mr. Gibbons
say about the codicil?”

“Father is dead, Ben. There are no two ways about that.”

“Did you tell him what Barlow said—that it was no concern of his what he
saw on that stormy morning?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well, why didn’t you? You ain’t worth a cent to go to see a lawyer. The
next time I send you on such an errand I’ll go myself.”

“I really wish you would, Ben. He knocked everything out of my head by
saying that father was dead, and so I didn’t think of half I wanted to
say to him. Now, Hank, make the sails fast, as they were before. I don’t
believe that Gus will be willing to leave the boat here, and I’ll just
take the tiller ashore with me.”

Ben had by this time climbed aboard the schooner, and under his skilful
management the sails were neatly stowed away, after which he closed and
fastened the cabin windows, locked the door, and gave the key to Bob.
The schooner was all right now for anything that might come up, and they
got into Ben’s skiff, and in a few minutes were put safely on the wharf.
Hank took leave of them and was about to go away when Bob called to him.

“Here, Hank, I don’t want you to do this for nothing,” he said, putting
his hand into his pocket.

“Do you suppose I am going to take pay for the first sailboat ride I
have had for many a day?” said Hank. “Keep that until the first time I
go fishing with you. Good-bye.”

“I didn’t tell him that we have had nothing but bread and tea for the
last four or five days, and that I am getting awful tired of that style
of living. But then Bob isn’t worth as much as he used to be, and I
don’t believe in bothering him. Dear me, I wish that pearl would be
worth fifteen dollars at least. I tell you, it wouldn’t take me long to
get something for mother to eat,” he said to himself as he closed the
gate behind him and started for the place he called home. “But I shall
have no such luck as that. I’ve got to work for every cent I get.”

“Now, Ben,” said Bob, when Hank had passed out of hearing, “I am going
down town.”

“I guess you had better keep away from there,” said Ben, slowly shaking
his head. “A boy who will go to town as you did—”

“I know all about that; but then I can speak to Mr. Gibbons about it
to-morrow. You can go with me, if you like.”

“No; I believe I’ll stay and work in the garden. I’ve been neglecting it
of late, and now that I have got two to provide for I think I had better
bestow some attention on it. You’re sure you ain’t a-going to see that
lawyer again?”

“Not until to-morrow. Good-bye!”

“I am going as straight to that jeweller as I can go,” he soliloquized.
“I have been thinking a good deal about this pearl, and I don’t see why
it shouldn’t be worth money, seeing that they make so much out of them
in Wisconsin. At any rate, I’m going to ask him.”

Bob met many friends he knew on the street, and was obliged to stop and
shake hands with them, but in due time he reached the jeweller’s store.
He found the jeweller there, but he was engaged in waiting upon somebody
who was a stranger to him; but he shook hands with Bob, and said he
would attend to him in a few minutes, so Bob had nothing to do but look
around the store. The stranger was satisfied at last, and then the man
turned to him and wanted to know when he had returned.

“I came this morning,” said Bob. “But that isn’t what I came to see you
about. Here’s a fresh-water pearl that came from a little stream, and I
would like to know what it is worth.”

“It isn’t worth much,” said the jeweller, as he watched Bob undoing the
parcel. “I’ve had to pass upon a heap of such things as that, and the
best of them are not worth more than a dollar or two. Why, Bob,” he
added, as he took the pearl and held it up to the light, “where did you
get this? I tell you, that is a beauty!”

“Is that worth more than a dollar or two?” asked Bob.

“Well, I should say so!” exclaimed the jeweller. “It is worth two
hundred dollars at least.”

Bob was amazed.

“You never found this,” said the jeweller, looking at Bob in surprise.
“Where did you get it?”

“No, I didn’t find it, that’s a fact,” said Bob; who then went on, under
a pledge of secrecy, to repeat everything that Hank had said to him. “I
brought it here because he was afraid you would laugh at him, and Hank
don’t like to be laughed at.”

“Well, I guess I shouldn’t have laughed at him. Are there any more where
this came from?”

“Hank says there are from twenty-five to thirty there, but he didn’t
suppose they were worth any money, and so he never stopped to pick them
up. Two hundred dollars! You are sure you haven’t made a mistake?”

“No, indeed. It is worth more than that, but I can’t tell how much more
until I send it away. That boy’s fortune is made. Twenty-five more at
two hundred dollars! His father can loaf now just as long as he pleases.
He will never have to work again. You don’t know the stream where this
came from?”

“No, and if I did I shouldn’t tell.”

“That’s all right. I don’t ask you to go back on Hank, for he is too
good a boy; but you can tell him for me that he needn’t go shooting any
more. Do you want to sell this?”

“Of course I do. It is of no use to me.”

“I will give you two hundred dollars, cash money, for it. Mind, I do not
say that is all it’s worth. I shall have to send this to New York, and
if they pay me any more for it I will give him half what I get.”

“That is very kind of you, Mr. Vollar,” said Bob. “If you will give me
the money I will take it and give it to Hank. I wish you could go with
me. You will see an astonished fellow when I give him the proceeds.”

“I’d like to, but I can’t leave just now, for I am very busy. You bring
him here, and I’ll see how he acts.”

“I will. I’ll bring him here to thank you. He didn’t think that pearl of
his was worth more than fifteen dollars. But two hundred dollars! I
believe it will take his breath away.”

The jeweller was busy with his safe, during which he counted out the
money, which he handed over to Bob. The latter took it, and left the
store with a much lighter heart than when he had gone into it. He felt
rich, for Hank was a particular friend of his, and he was interested in
everything he did.

“Now the next question is, how am I going to keep his father from
knowing anything about it?” said Bob, as he hurried along. “Of course he
has the right to take every cent Hank earns, but I don’t mean that he
shall know he has earned this much. He would go to that stream and
gather every pearl there was to be found, and then what would Hank do?
If the old man is at home I will pull Hank off on one side.”

It was quite a long walk to Hank’s house, and when he reached it Bob
could not help saying to himself what a nice place it could have been
made if Hank’s father had been possessed of a little more energy; for
Mr. Lufkin had been better off in the world, but the war left him
penniless, and he was too lazy to go to work and earn more. If it had
not been for his wife he would have gone supperless to bed many a night.
She washed clothes and did mending for neighbors who were better off;
and some days, when she got home with her money in her pocket, it all
went to buy that ragamuffin a pair of new trousers or a new shirt. Hank
never asked for any. He made what he earned by the hardest of knocks;
and more than once, when he told his mother that he had supper, he
hadn’t had a bite since morning. While he was thinking of all these
things Bob arrived at Mr. Lufkin’s gate. Hank was sitting there on the
porch with his father, and his face was as long as your arm. He
brightened up when he saw Bob approaching, and straight-way came down to
the gate to meet him.

“Halloo, Hank!” exclaimed Bob. “I want you to go fishing with me
to-morrow. How do you do, Mr. Lufkin.”




The latter took his pipe from his mouth long enough to say “Howdy,” and
went on with his smoking. He was the only one about the village that
didn’t think enough of Bob to shake his hand.

“Come on down the road apiece,” continued Bob, “and I will talk to you
about what I want you to do to-morrow.”

“Your lines are all up at your father’s, I suppose,” said Hank. “I can
furnish you with some—”

“Oh, bother the fish-lines,” said Bob, sinking his voice to a whisper.
“I didn’t come here to talk to you about them. I have been down to the
jeweller’s.”

“And did you take that pearl along?” inquired Hank.

Bob winked his eye.

“How much did he give you for it?”

“Guess,” said Bob.

“Ten dollars.”

“Good gracious, man. You must think your find is valuable. Guess again.”

“Didn’t he give you but five? Well, I might have known it. I don’t meet
with any such luck as some folks do.”

“You’re doing so good at guessing suppose you guess again,” said Bob,
smiling; and there was something in the way he spoke that made Hank open
his eyes. “You began at ten dollars; now suppose you begin there and go
the other way.”

“Did he give you twenty dollars for it?”

“He came down a little heavier than that,” said Bob.

“Did he give you forty?” said Hank.

“Well, no. He gave me more than that.”

“Look here, Bob, I want to know how much that man gave you. Did he give
you a hundred?”

“Yes, he gave me more than that,” said Bob, paying no attention to
Hank’s expression of bewilderment. “Let’s go into the bushes here,
beside the road. No one can see us there, and I will give you the
money.”

Hank was so excited that he could scarcely stand still. He followed Bob
into the bushes, and the latter drew out the money and handed it to him.
It was all in small bills, and made a pretty tolerable-sized package.
Hank took it in amazement. He ran his fingers over the bills, and when
he saw the fives and tens scattered through the bundle he couldn’t talk.

“It’s all yours,” said Bob, heartily enjoying the sight; “and he said
that if there are more of them up there your fortune is made.”

“Did—did he give you all this?” faltered Hank.

“He certainly did, and it did not take him two minutes to decide upon
the worth of the thing. He said it is worth more than that, but he
couldn’t tell until he had sent it to New York; and whatever they give
him in advance of that he will give you half. I tell you, old fellow,
your shooting is about over.”

“Well, I am beaten!” said Hank, when he had in some measure recovered
his wits. “Ever since father came home from the Confederate army we have
been living from hand to mouth, you may say, and I never supposed my
luck would take such a turn as this. Bob, I am ever so much obliged to
you, and you must come around some time, when father isn’t here, to let
mother thank you.”

“That’s all right,” said Bob. “But you looked awful downhearted when I
went to your house just now. What was the trouble?”

“Father was scolding me because I didn’t ask some money of you when I
went out to take that sailboat ride,” answered Hank, looking down at the
ground. “I told him that you were as hard up as we were, and he wouldn’t
listen to it.”

“I am, and that’s a fact.”

“You see he is hard pressed for a pair of shoes, the ones he now wears
being so far gone that they let his feet out on the ground.”

“Then let him go to work. The idea of his laying around and doing
nothing! I will find him a job of sawing wood to-morrow morning.”

“But he don’t want that. He wants to have money coming in when he isn’t
doing anything to earn it.”

“Oh, that’s the trouble, is it? Well, he’ll wait a long time before he
finds that day. Now, Hank, you want to put that money where he won’t get
it.”

“I know it, and I want you to take charge of it. Give me ten dollars to
buy a good supper for mother, and do what you please with the balance.”

“Well, suppose you come around to Ben’s house in the morning, and I will
go to the bank with you and put it there. It is too late now, for the
bank is closed. You can trust your mother that far, can’t you?”

“Oh, yes. As long as she has not got the money in her possession it is
all right. It is all mine, isn’t it? I never thought I should have so
much money of my own.”

“It is all yours if you don’t let your father get it away from you,”
said Bob, handing out the bill which Hank had asked for. “You must keep
it away from him, at all events.”

“And that is going to be a harder job than you imagine,” said Hank, as
he walked with Bob toward town. “He watches everything that comes on the
table, and he knows in a minute when I have got any money.”

“Tell him I gave you this to pay you for going fishing with me. I hope I
shall be somewhere one of these days where I will not have to tell so
many lies. Good-bye. Remember and come in the morning about nine
o’clock. In the afternoon I have to see a lawyer.”

Hank promised to be on hand, and the two separated, one to go in and
throw old Ben Watson into an ecstacy of bewilderment and delight when he
heard of Hank’s lucky find, and the other to pass on to town to purchase
a good supper for his mother.