BEN WATSON DREAMED IT ALL.

When the boys arrived at the post-office Leon found some mail there for
his father, so he took leave of Bob, promising to see him again that
afternoon.

“Don’t you forget that I told you if you wanted help to come to our
house for it,” said Leon. “You seem to be as happy as you want to be,
living there with old Ben Watson, but there’s no telling what will
happen.”

“I will remember, and I thank you for the assurance,” said Bob. “I don’t
think I shall be in any danger so long as I have Ben to back me up.”

Bob and Hank’s first care was to go to Mr. Vollar and thank him for his
kindness in regard to that pearl—paying two hundred dollars for it when
he might just as well have had it for a fourth of that sum—and their
next to call at the bank and deposit Hank’s money. When Bob joined his
companion again he had the bank-book, with his name written across the
top, which he put into his pocket.

“There!” said Hank, with a long-drawn sigh of relief. “I’d like to see
father get that money.”

“He won’t, unless you draw it for him,” said Bob.

“And mighty clear of my doing that. I think that five dollars a week
will be about all that I shall ask of you.”

“You can have it. Just give me a little notice, and your money will be
ready for you. Now I am going up to see Mr. Gibbons. You just hang
around here on the street, and I will see you when I come down.”

“May good luck attend you,” said Hank.

Bob ascended the stairs that led to the lawyer’s office, and found that
gentleman there alone. He sat in his usual way, with his feet perched on
the desk, and he had a legal document in his hand; but he was looking
out of the window when Bob came in.

“Halloo!” he exclaimed, in his usual cheery manner. “You are on hand,
ain’t you? There’s the will and the codicil. I got a copy of them after
you went home last night. I’m afraid it is no go. You have got your
little things, such as your ponies and boat, and other articles that you
can carry away with you; but as for the rest—well, read it yourself. You
can get a better idea of it.”

Bob took the document, and first devoted himself entirely to the reading
of the will. He found that, with the exception of several sums that were
made payable to the servants, the residue of the property was bequeathed
to him. Even Ben Watson came in for a thousand dollars.

“Have you heard of Uncle Layton paying these amounts to the servants?”
said Bob.

“I never heard a word of it,” said the lawyer.

“Well, he is a mighty mean man to cheat the servants in that way. Father
thought the world of the men who waited on him. Do you know where they
are now?”

“Gone off to sea, I suppose. Go on and read further. You will find that
in the codicil he revokes all wills and testaments by him made, and that
he speaks only of you. I declare, it makes me mad to read it.”

The codicil was something our hero did not like to see. The writer
referred to Bob, and said he was glad to leave him to the care of such a
guardian and protector as his Uncle Layton, who would do everything in
the world that was best for him.

“Uncle Layton is not my guardian at all,” said Bob, astonished beyond
measure. “If he is, what did he turn me away for? He just as good as
told me that I had my own living to make, and that I could not stay
around his house any longer.”

“I expect he did not want you around,” said the lawyer. “I know I should
not have wanted you in sight if I had treated you so meanly.”

“I never heard of such a thing. But father says I am to have my ponies
and boat. He can’t take them away from me.”

“No; he can’t take them away, no matter how much he dislikes to see you
have them. I confess that codicil bothers me more than a little,” said
the lawyer, who was at times so nervous that he could scarcely sit
still. “It is written with a sputtering pen, such as your father always
used, and I find not a letter in it that I can’t find in the body of the
will.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Bob.

“Why, I did not know but he had practiced on your father’s hand until he
got so that he could copy it exactly. Such things have been done before
now.”

“By George! I never thought of that! I wonder if he has been imitating
my father’s writing?”

“There is only one way in which you can prove it.”

“And that is by bringing my father back here.”

“Yes, sir, that is the way; but, Bob, I tell you that thing is not
possible. Your father is dead, and we will never see him again. I wish
to goodness I could tell you otherwise, but I can’t.”

“By the way, that reminds me of something Barlow said. He declared that
it was no concern of his what he saw, but he can prove that my father
isn’t dead. He saw some things on that stormy morning that he won’t tell
to anybody.”

“Do you know what they were?” demanded Mr. Gibbons, greatly astonished.

“He said he wouldn’t tell them to anybody, much less to me. Now, I think
if he were brought before a court of law he would have to tell it; don’t
it look that way to you?”

“Well, I guess it does. But don’t you think it was a blind? He may have
said a good many things that he can’t prove.”

“No, I don’t think it was. He told it to my cousin. I don’t mind telling
you, Mr. Gibbons, that Barlow had a scheme made up to kidnap Ben and me,
and send us to sea on board the Smart.”

“Why, you don’t tell me!” exclaimed the lawyer, growing more amazed.

“Yes, sir; that’s his way of doing business. It is his way of making up
a crew. He was in a fair way to make a prisoner of Ben. He set his
bull-dog and his barkeeper at him, but Ben laid them both out; and just
as Barlow grabbed a chair and stepped up to hit Ben with it, Mr. Sprague
came in and put a stop to it.”

“Well, that beats me! Why didn’t he have them arrested?”

“His son urged him not to do it. He evidently thought it best to consult
a lawyer first. But I wish I could have my ponies. Mr. Gibbons, suppose
you go up there and get them for me.”

“Well, I’ll do it; and perhaps I shall be able to tell whether or not
your Uncle Layton has had any hand in this business. If he has, I think
he will show it. Now, Bob, you must give me plenty of time to look into
this matter. Do you want any money?”

“Why, no, sir, since I get a hundred dollars a month from Uncle Layton
for keeping away from his house. That sounds as though you expected my
father to come back.”

“I don’t know whether I do or not,” said Mr. Gibbons, shaking his head.
“I don’t know what to make of his way of kidnapping you. If the will is
all right, why should he be so anxious to be rid of you? So your uncle
gives you a hundred dollars a month. I suppose you take it?”

“Of course I do. It is mine.”

“Well, it looks suspicious.”

“To my mind there are many things that look suspicious, and that is one
of them. You may take all the time you want. I won’t come near you again
until I get notice from you,” said Bob, putting on his hat. “You will go
up now and get those ponies?”

“I’ll not delay a moment,” said the lawyer, rising to his feet and
feeling in his pocket for his keys. “When I see you again, in the course
of an hour, I will have your horses ready for you, and you can go and
take a ride. It does not take long to get through an interview with
Bob,” he added, as the door closed behind his client. “That kidnapping
is what bothers me, and I am going to speak to old Layton about it. I
guess I will take a copy of this will along, so as to be ready to
refresh the old scamp’s memory.”

After a few moments of rapid walking, such as the lawyer indulged in,
the ponderous iron gate clanged behind him, and he mounted the steps and
rang the bell. It was answered in due time by Sam, who held the door
open and peeped through a crack at the visitor.

“Mr. Layton isn’t in, sah,” said he.

“How did you know that I wanted to see him?” asked the lawyer.

“‘Cause everybody that comes hyar wants to see him, and he’s gone away
boat-riding,” replied Sam.

“Who’s boat has he got?”

“Sah? Oh, he’s got Mr. Gus’s boat, and don’t allow to be back before
to-morrow morning.”

“Well, I guess you had better give him that card and tell him I must see
him,” said Mr. Gibbons. “I am Bob’s attorney, and if I don’t see him now
I shall see him before a justice’s court. Tell him that.”

Sam reluctantly took the card and disappeared, and in process of time
the lawyer heard Mr. Layton coming along the hall. He did not open the
door as Sam had done, but opened it wide and greeted Mr. Gibbons with
great warmth.

“I never was more surprised in my life than I was when Sam told me that
he said I was out boat-riding, and that I wouldn’t be back until
to-morrow morning,” said Mr. Layton, extending his hand to Mr. Gibbons,
and at the same time ignoring the fact that he had told Sam to deliver
that message not five minutes before. “I did intend to go boat-riding,
but something happened to prevent. Come in.”

The lawyer wanted to smile, but did not. He knew why it was that Mr.
Layton came out to see him. The knowledge that he would be summoned
before a justice of the peace to answer the questions that were to be
propounded to him had quickened his perceptions wonderfully. He followed
Mr. Layton along the hall to the library, and the door was closed upon
him.

“Sit down,” said his host, who seemed to think that by rapid talking he
could put off the questions a little longer. “Let me take your hat.”

“Thank you. I can put it here on the table just as well,” said Mr.
Gibbons. “I shall not be able to stop long.”

“You see,” added Mr. Layton, “Gus has lately come into possession of a
new boat, and is anxious to try her. I don’t know anything about
sailing—”

“The new boat you speak of belongs to Bob,” interrupted the lawyer, who
knew he was going to listen to a lie. “It is moored back of old Ben
Watson’s place.”

“Why—why, what has he got it there for?” asked Mr. Layton. “The schooner
doesn’t belong to Bob.”

“Yes, I think it does, together with his ponies also. I came up here to
speak about them,” said Mr. Gibbons, when he noticed Mr. Layton changing
color.

“Well, Gus has taken quite a fancy to those ponies, and I think it best
to keep them for him,” replied Mr. Layton. “Anything else he wants he
can take. I don’t believe in being hard on the boy, for goodness knows
he has enough to contend with. If he is so awfully bent on having those
ponies I will purchase them.”

“Bob is not bent on having anything but what is his by right,” said the
lawyer, drawing a copy of the will from his pocket. “The ponies were the
last things his father gave him, and he went off to school and never saw
his father afterward. It won’t do for you to buy them. Bob wants the
ponies, and nothing else.”

“Well, of course if you put it that way he’ll have to have them,” said
Mr. Layton, who did not want to hear the codicil read. He touched a
little bell that stood on the table and went to the door to meet Sam.
“Go to the stable and tell the hostler to hitch up the ponies. Will you
have the covered buggy or the dog-cart?” he added, turning to the
lawyer.

“I will take them both. Bob wants everything that belongs to him.”

Mr. Layton gave the necessary order, and then came back and plumped into
his chair. He was trembling, but he was mad, too.

“It seems to me that this is a very queer will,” said he. “What did he
bequeath all Bob’s things to my son for, and then go to work and take
them away?”

“I have the authority for doing it right here,” said Mr. Gibbons,
tapping the will as he spoke. “Do you want to hear it read?”

“No!” exclaimed Mr. Layton, hotly. “I have heard more about that codicil
than it is worth.”

“I think myself that you made a slight mistake in drawing it up,” said
the lawyer; and out of the corner of his eye he watched the effect of
his words upon Mr. Layton. “You did not expect that your son was going
to take such a fancy to the boat and the ponies, and so you willed them
to Bob. Now, I am going to tell you one thing before I leave: You know
where that man is.”




“What man do you mean?” stammered Mr. Layton.

“Captain Nellis,” replied the lawyer.

“Why, do you think that man is alive? He is dead. His boat came in the
next morning—”

“You may think so, but I don’t,” said Mr. Gibbons, who had of late
changed his ideas on that subject. “Then think of the two worthless men
you brought up to sign that codicil. When Captain Nellis made his will
he got two of the best men in town to witness his signature, and men,
too, that you could find every day in the week. Where are those men you
got to sign for you?”

“Look here, Mr. Gibbons,” began Mr. Layton.

“Just answer my question, please.”

“They have gone to sea, I suppose. That’s their way of making a living.”

“Yes; and I suppose you had some hand in sending them there, too.”

“Look here!” said Mr. Layton, arising and placing his hand upon the
signal-bell, “I don’t propose to be insulted this way any longer!”

“Ring that bell, if you please, and I will summon you where you will
answer not only these, but numerous other questions which I shall ask
you,” said the lawyer, firmly. “I am bound to get at the root of this
matter sooner or later. Sit down. Now,” he added, as Mr. Layton sank
back in his chair, “what is this story I hear about Barlow kidnapping
Bob and Watson?”

“Old Watson was fast asleep in the saloon and dreamed it all,” said Mr.
Layton, confidently. “There was not a word said about kidnapping him, or
Bob either.”

“I expected that would be your excuse, but it seems that he got up a
lively fight on the strength of it,” said the lawyer, putting on his
hat. “These questions are mere feelers. I think you will be obliged to
answer some others.”

“Whenever I am brought before a court and asked questions by somebody
who has a right to an answer, I assure you that I shall be on hand,”
replied Mr. Layton, taking no note of the fact that he had answered
every one of Mr. Gibbons’s questions without thinking to inquire if _he_
had a right to a reply. “I have nothing that I wish to conceal.”

“This old villain is certainly responsible for Captain Nellis’s
disappearance,” thought Mr. Gibbons, as he stood at the table pulling on
his gloves. “Now, if I could only fasten it upon him!” Then aloud he
said: “This Captain Johnson, who took Captain Nellis to sea against his
will, had a miscellaneous cargo aboard, and he was to use it in trading
among the savages in the South Sea Islands; consequently Captain Nellis
must be there.”

“Don’t I tell you that he is dead? His boat—”

“I don’t care to hear about his boat any more. I was there, and I know
all about it. As everybody in town is interested in this matter it will
pay to hunt up Captain Nellis. Good-morning!”

“When you get ready to make the move, just call on me. I will pay my
share most willingly. Good-morning!”

Mr. Gibbons went out at the door and around the house toward the
stables, and Mr. Layton, as soon as he had seen him go, carefully locked
the door and flung himself into a chair as if he hadn’t a particle of
strength left. At the same time a curtain that covered one of the
windows was pushed aside, and Gus stepped into the room. He had been
engaged in a consultation with his father when the coming of the lawyer
was announced, and instead of going up stairs to his room he went into
the window, so he could hear what the men had to talk about. Gus was
fully as pale as his father, but he did not tremble so much. He was mad,
too—so mad that when he took a chair he caught up a heavy paper-weight
and slammed it down on the table.

“Now, father, you have done it!” he exclaimed. “I wondered where that
schooner had gone, but the man who had charge of it was so cross and
ugly that I didn’t care to question him; and now Bob has got it without
saying so much as by your leave. And now my horses are gone, too! I
don’t see what made you let that man insult you. Why didn’t you ring the
bell and call for Sam to show him the door?”

“Oh, Gus, it is all out on—” He was about to say that it was all out on
him, but checked himself in time, and springing to his feet he walked up
and down the room, wringing his hands until there didn’t seem to be a
drop of blood in them. “Gus, I have been bothered so many times since I
came into this property that sometimes I feel like giving it all up. I
feel as though it wasn’t mine.”

“Yes; and a pretty sight you would be, giving up all that money just to
please a little cub who has done nothing but insult and abuse me ever
since I have been at school!” said Gus, in a disgusted tone. “But,
father, is the will all right?”

“The will is all right. I defy him or any lawyer to find a thing in it
that isn’t just as it should be.”

“Then it is yours, and I don’t see why you should give it up. But I am
sorry that little cub has got those horses. You will have to buy me
another pair.”

“I can easily do that, but first I must wait until this will case is
settled. I don’t know what to do. At times, when I go down town, there
isn’t a person on the streets who will notice me. You heard what Mr.
Gibbons said about everybody being in favor of hunting up Captain
Nellis?”

“What do you care for that? All you have to do is to jingle some dollars
in your pocket, and think how much better off you are. I bet any of them
would gladly change places with you.”

“I don’t know of anybody who would change places with me,” moaned his
father. “He’s got a mighty slim chance to work on.”

“Who has?”

“That man Gibbons. You heard what he said about arresting Captain
Johnson the next time he comes back here, didn’t you?”

“Yes; and I reckon he’ll have a lively time doing it. He won’t be back
under two or three years, and I’ll watch my chance and send word to him.
He shall not come back here if I can help it. There goes Mr. Gibbons
now, and he’s got the dog-cart behind him,” said Gus, throwing as much
contempt into his tones as he could. “I wish those ponies would run away
with Bob the first time he goes out riding, and spill him out and break
his neck!”

“So do I,” said Mr. Layton, mentally. “So do I. It would be a heap of
bother off my shoulders. The amount of it is, I must do something. I
can’t stand this way of living any longer.”