BOB CALLS ON A LAWYER

“There!” said Bob, when his uncle’s gates had closed behind him and the
carriage was fairly under way for his new home; “I hope I shall never go
inside those grounds again unless my father is here to go with me. Now,
Ben, I would like to know what you mean by going inside that saloon? You
wouldn’t have done so when my father was here.”

“No indeed, I wouldn’t,” said Ben, with a hearty shake of his head. “But
the truth was I didn’t have a heart for any work, and somehow I wanted
to be near where I could see the ships come in. But I don’t owe him no
twenty dollars for grub and lodging.”

“Did you ever spend a cent in his house?”

“Yes, sir. I have treated some of my old mates, but I paid him right
down. As for lodging, you will say, when you see my little house, that I
don’t need to go to the saloon to find a bed.”

“Then I wouldn’t pay him a cent. Don’t you go near him again. He is
worse than I ever thought him. He’s a land-shark. But, Ben, I don’t
believe that Barlow had anything to do with my father’s disappearance.”

“No more do I; but the question is, who did? If it hadn’t been for what
Barlow said when he thought I was asleep I should think the cap’n was
dead; but he says he is liable to come back when nobody isn’t expecting
him. I tell you, that proves something.”

“It certainly does,” said Bob, becoming excited. “I will see Mr. Gibbons
about it this afternoon.”

“That’s what I say. That man can see through it, if anybody can. Barlow
says it is no concern of his; but I’ll bet if he is brought up before a
court of law he’ll have to tell something he don’t want to.”

Bob became all life and animation now. The idea that Barlow might tell
something that was no concern of his made him impatient to see a lawyer
and find out what he thought about it. The Mr. Gibbons of whom Bob had
spoken was an old-time friend of his father’s, and he was sure that if
there was a flaw in the will that gentleman would find it out.

Meanwhile the carriage sped on, and in a few moments drew up in front of
Ben’s house. It was a small place, surrounded by about half an acre of
ground, and so hemmed in by bushes and trees that one could scarcely see
it from the road. The garden occupied almost all Ben’s attention. It was
only when he grew lonesome and longed for his old captain that he went
down to Barlow’s, to be where he could see the vessels come in, and he
never spent any money there except what he was able to “pay right down.”
His story that Ben was indebted to him was made up all out of his own
head.

“So this is where you live?” said Bob, after the trunks had been carried
in on the porch and the hackman discharged. “It seems to me that you
ought to be contented here.”

“I am,” replied Ben. “I call this my ‘ordinary,’ for I have never been
satisfied to live here only until my cap’n comes back. I believe now
that he is alive, and that some day I’ll see his old gray head coming in
here. My gracious! wouldn’t that be fine?”

“I tell you it would,” said Bob, seating himself in the nearest chair,
“but I am most afraid of it. Any way, we’ll make Barlow tell what he
knows. Now, what have you got for dinner? I have not had a bite to eat
since I have been at my uncle’s.”

“Well, you go in and start a fire in the stove and I’ll soon have dinner
ready for you. You will find everything arranged there as it used to be
in the Anchorage.”

Bob went into the house, and Ben bent his steps for the garden to gather
some fresh vegetables for dinner. The Anchorage was the name Watson had
applied to the house Captain Nellis had given him because he thought he
wasn’t going to move any more. He thought he was going to live and die
under that roof. When Mr. Layton told the old fellow that he was done
with his services, Ben was almost heart-broken. He tried to argue the
point with that gentleman, but when the latter told him that he had
hired negroes to take the places of all the house-servants, Ben had
nothing more to say.

“Niggers!” he said in disgust. “I can remember the time, and it was not
so very long ago, when the niggers were slaves and glad to take what
they could get, and now they come around and crowd a white man out of
his place. This house won’t stand a great while.”

Bob started a fire in the stove, and that was easy enough, for
everything was handy, and then went into the bedroom to examine things
there. His bunk was nicely made up on the side opposite Ben’s, as if the
old fellow had been expecting him that very night. All the war relics
were there, too, which Bob had not been able to find room for in his
apartments at home, including a model of the rebel iron-clad Atlanta,
just as she appeared on the day that Ben helped sink her.

“I almost believe I am in the old room at the Anchorage,” said Bob.
“There is one thing sure: Barlow will have a time getting at me here to
shanghai me. I’d like to see him try it. And to think that my cousin
should uphold him in such a trick! I tell you, that beats me.”

Bob put some more wood on the fire and then went out on the porch to
wait for Ben. He was so long in coming that finally Bob got impatient
and strolled through the bushes to meet him. The way he took led him to
the beach, and almost the first thing he saw was the ten-ton schooner in
which he had taken so much delight in going fishing and exploring the
inlets of the bay. He had so many things to think of that he had
forgotten all about her until he caught sight of her. It did not seem
possible that his father would have taken his schooner away from him,
even if he had made a codicil to his will, and he determined to speak to
Mr. Gibbons about it that very afternoon.

“It is bad enough to have taken my horses without saying a word to me,
but I didn’t believe he would so far forget himself as to take my
schooner,” said Bob, seating himself upon the grass. “If he had only
left me that and the ponies I should have been satisfied—that is, if he
is dead; but that is something I won’t believe until I receive proof of
it. Now, then, what has become of Ben?”

Barlow’s chance words, that it was no concern of his what he had seen on
that stormy morning, had put Bob on his mettle, but for all that, he was
not inclined to put faith in anything that man said or did; consequently
he was disposed to make the best of a bad bargain. He had all along
supposed that his father was dead, but the hint Barlow had thrown out
that he might turn up again when nobody was expecting him worked a
change in Bob in spite of all he could do to prevent it. But he intended
to wait until he could see Mr. Gibbons about it.

“I won’t put any confidence in what that old land-shark said,”
soliloquized Bob, stretching himself out flat on the grass. “If Mr.
Gibbons says he is alive I will believe it; and if he says he is dead, I
shall believe that, too. I will think no more about it. I am ready for
anything that happens. There’s Ben; he has been to town. I object to his
going on in this way in regard to me; but first I am going to speak
about that boat. Say,” he added, rising to his feet and taking some of
the parcels from the old sailor, “do you see that boat over there?”

“Yes; and I know it’s your’n.”

“It ought not to have been taken away from me, ought it?”

“No; nor your ponies, either.”

“That’s all right. I shall speak to Mr. Gibbons about it this afternoon.
Now, Ben, what made you go to town? Don’t you know that I can live on
the grub that you do?”

“Say, Bob,” replied the sailor, who did not care to argue this point,
“you haven’t had any scouse or dough-boy lately, have you? Well, now,
you just sit down in that chair and watch me get them ready for you.
I’ll have them ready while you are thinking about it.”

Ben enforced the order by pushing Bob into the nearest chair, while he
went on dishing up the scouse and dough-boy. While Ben worked he talked
about almost everything else than the subject that was upper-most in
Bob’s mind, and when at last the dinner was ready they sat down to it
with most ravenous appetites. They took their time, and it was nearly an
hour before they had got all they wanted, and when the dishes had been
washed and put away, Bob announced that he was going to see a lawyer.

“You don’t want to let grass grow under your feet,” said Ben. “Go and
see him at once and have the matter settled. It’s my opinion that there
is something in that codicil that will benefit you.”

Bob closed the gate behind him, and with long and earnest strides took
his way to the lawyer’s office. Of course he met many persons along the
road who had not seen him before, and they all wanted to stop and shake
him by the hand; but Bob thought there was a little sadness mixed with
it all. They would have felt a great deal better if they knew that he
was the heir to his father’s property.

“Everybody in town seems to feel that way,” soliloquized Bob, as he ran
up the steps that led to the lawyer’s office. “I don’t know but I am the
heir, after all.”

Pushing open the door of the lawyer’s office, he found the gentleman of
whom he was in search alone. He had his feet elevated upon his desk and
was examining some legal documents. When he saw who his visitor was he
got up from his chair and greeted him with cordiality.

“Why, Bob, how are you?” he exclaimed. “I heard you had come home, but I
didn’t expect to see you. Sit down.”

“Are you quite alone?” inquired Bob, accepting the proffered hand.

“I am all alone. Did you want to see me?”

“Yes. And I wish you would lock your door, so that no one can come in to
bother us. I wish to have a few moments’ conversation with you.”

The lawyer’s face fell. He knew that Bob had come there to see him about
the will. He locked the door and sat down and looked at Bob without
speaking.

“You used to have a good deal to do with my father’s business during his
lifetime, Mr. Gibbons?” began Bob.

“I had a great deal to do with it until he got that rascally
brother-in-law of his to take my place,” replied Mr. Gibbons.

“Do you call him rascally?” inquired Bob.

“Yes; and so would anybody else. You ought to be the heir to the
property your father left, and I know it.”

“Well, is he dead? That’s what I want to know.”

“I am sorry to say that there’s no doubt about that,” said Mr. Gibbons,
gazing thoughtfully out of the window. “Everything goes to prove it. It
was an awful stormy night on the bay, and the next morning in came his
boat, half-filled with water. His hat was lying loose in the boat, and
two or three days afterward his fish-pole was picked up. Oh, there’s no
doubt about his being dead.”

“Did they find the body?”

“Why, no. It was probably swept out to sea.”

“Is there any way in which I can contest the will?”

“Did you sign a paper?” asked the lawyer.

“Yes, I signed some sort of a paper, but I was in such a flurry that I
didn’t take time to examine it. The lawyer that was with him told me
that it was just a form.”

“Who was it?”

“I don’t know who it was. He was a stranger to me.”

The lawyer got up and searched his desk for some paper that he was
anxious to find. Presently he brought out a document entitled, “Notice
for Probate of Will.” Holding the paper in his hand he pointed to a note
printed in smaller letters, and said:

“Did you sign such a thing as this: ‘I hereby accept full service and
waive all time of Notice of the within Citation.’ Did you sign that?”

“It seems to me that I did; but I would not be positive.”

“And the lawyer told you that it was a mere form? And when he got you
back at school your uncle put these papers in to probate, and after that
he had you just where he wanted you.”

“That is just about the way of it, I guess.”

“Bob, you are the most confiding boy I ever saw. You ought not to have
signed that citation. You have put it out of your power to contest the
will. You ought to have a guardian appointed for you.”

This was a very unwelcome piece of news to Bob, but he did not rebel
against it. He knew that the lawyer was in a situation to understand
such matters better than he was.

“I am sorry, but I can see no other way than for you to accept the
situation,” said Mr. Gibbons. “By the way, what sort of a penman is that
uncle of yours?”

“He writes a very poor hand, but I can make out to read it. Why do you
ask?”

“Oh, nothing, but I just happened to think of it. You haven’t seen a
copy of the will, have you? Well, I will have a copy here to-morrow, and
you can see what your father says in that codicil. I know he didn’t
intend to take away everything you had.”

“Then he wouldn’t have taken away my boat?”

“Certainly not. Nor your ponies, either.”

“Do you think I would be doing wrong if I should go down there and run
my boat up to Ben’s house, where I am living now?”

“Of course not,” replied the lawyer, glad to bring the interview to a
close. “I will go with you.”




Mr. Gibbons put on his hat, and together they started toward the place
where the boat was moored. It was on the beach opposite an old
fisherman’s shanty, and when they arrived there they were gratified to
find the man sitting on the bench beside the door, enjoying his pipe. He
was delighted to see Bob. He remembered that, just before he started to
school, he had given the old fisherman a few pieces of silver, with
instructions to keep an eye on his schooner, and had always found
everything all right about her when he returned.

“The top of the morning to you, Mister Bob,” said the man, extending his
hand. “The schooner is all right and tight. Be you wanting her this
morning?”

“There hasn’t been anybody aboard of her since I left?” said Bob.

“Nary soul,” answered the man. “She’s yours, and Gus Layton ain’t got no
business with her.”

“I guess it’s all right, Bob,” said Mr. Gibbons, turning away. “You can
take her home with you. Remember, I shall have a copy of that will
to-morrow. Good-bye.”

“Say, Mister Bob, is it true that old Layton has got all of your
property?” said the old fisherman, whose name was Oakes. “I think it’s a
mighty mean piece of business. Do you want to go off to her? Jump into
my boat. I’ll get the key to the cabin.”

“I don’t think I am doing right until I see the codicil,” said Bob,
hesitatingly. “If father thought I could have her, well and good; if he
didn’t, I wouldn’t touch her.”

“Who’s going to have her, then?” exclaimed Oakes. “Not your cousin, I
bet you. I’ve seen him since he come back, driving your ponies around,
and I tell you I wanted to take them away from him. Get into the boat
and I will soon set you aboard. Where are you living now; up to Ben’s?
Then there’s nothing to hinder you from taking her right up there.”

Mr. Oakes got the key to the cabin, and, seizing Bob by the arm, was
gently forcing him into the boat when a loud shout came to their ears.
The two looked up and saw Hank Lufkin coming toward them. He was a boy
who stood well in that community, although he was nothing but a
market-shooter. His clothes were patched, but aside from that he looked
as neat as a new pin. Rumor said he didn’t get along very smoothly when
he was at home, and perhaps you will know the reason when we say that
his father was a lazy, do-nothing sort of fellow, and every cent Hank
made he had to hide, for fear his father would get hold of it. His
mother kept an account of all his earnings, while his father was obliged
to live from hand to mouth, spending such sums as he could make by
sawing wood about the village. If he had owned a boat he would have been
all right, for then he would have gone a-fishing; but every day he was
obliged to stand on shore and watch other men when they returned with
the cargoes which they had gathered from their nets—men no better than
he was, he often declared—and of course he did not feel very jubilant
over it. And right there was what was the matter with Mr. Lufkin; he was
jealous of anybody who held a position he could not hold himself, but he
never thought of going to work to better his own condition.

“I am just as good as they are,” said Mr. Lufkin to his wife, “and I’ll
bet you that nobody gives me a boat.”

“Why, those men had to earn their boats,” said his wife. “If you would
just throw off your coat and go to work you could soon have one.”

“Work! I might work till I am gray-headed, and I wouldn’t be nearer a
boat than I am now. Mark my words: I’ll have a boat before another year
passes over my head.”

This was the kind of a man that Hank Lufkin lived with, and of course
his life was not a happy one. Hank did not own a boat, but he had an
old-fashioned single-barreled gun with which he managed to kill a few
squirrels and quails, and by sitting for long hours on the end of the
pier he often succeeded in catching a string of flounders which the
neighbors were always willing to buy; but Hank was not satisfied. He
wanted a boat as bad as his father did, but he was willing to work to
earn it. Just now his prospects were rather dim. There hadn’t been much
shooting lately, and the fish seemed to have gone somewhere else; so
Hank didn’t have much to do, and he was ready to go with Bob anywhere he
wanted to sail, for Hank knew Bob well. He always made some money when
he went fishing with him.

“Halloo, Hank!” exclaimed Bob, as he came up. “Are you very busy? Then
get in with me and help me navigate this schooner up the bay.”

Hank was just waiting for this invitation, and, besides, he had
something he wanted to show to Bob and ask him what he thought about it.
He shook hands with him and got into the boat, picked up an oar and
pulled off to the Curlew, for that was the name by which Bob’s ten-ton
schooner was known.