JOE SUCCESSFUL AGAIN

“Well, Hank, I made it. I am to have my ponies and boat, and Uncle
Layton can’t take them away from me, no matter how much he dislikes to
see me have them.”

It was Bob Nellis who spoke. He had come down the stairs and looked all
around for Hank, and finally found him standing in front of a store,
waiting for him.

“There he goes now,” continued Bob, gazing toward the opposite side of
the street, where Mr. Gibbons was moving along with his swinging stride.
“In a few minutes he will be coming back this way with the ponies. Now,
I will go up to Jones’s livery-stable and see what they are going to
charge me a week for keeping the two horses. Of course Watson will have
to fix a place for the barn before we can build it. The schooner is
mine, too.”

Hank was highly delighted to know that his friend had got all he asked
for, and told himself that he wished he was as well off in the world.
With a span of ponies and a fine sailing boat and a hundred dollars a
month he was certain that he would be pretty well contented. He walked
with Bob until they reached the livery-stable, and there they found the
proprietor, who smiled all over when he saw Bob.

“Want a horse?” said he, shaking hands with Bob. “I have just the nicest
little—”

“No, sir, I don’t want a horse, but I have come to ask you what you will
take to board a couple for me—my ponies, you know,” said Bob. “It will
be some time before Ben can build a barn to keep them in, and I want to
know how much you will charge me, say by the month.”

“Why, those ponies are not yours!” said the liveryman. “They belong to
Gus Layton.”

“The codicil says they are mine,” said Bob. “Anyway, I shall bring them
around here for you to keep.”

“Bob,” said Mr. Jones, extending his hand again, “I am glad you have got
your horses. I saw Gus Layton driving them around, and he didn’t look to
me like the right fellow behind them. Well, I have always got fifteen
dollars a month for boarding horses, but as yours are so much smaller it
won’t take much to feed them and clean them, and so I will keep them for
thirteen dollars; and that includes everything except shoeing.”

A bargain was soon struck, and Bob pulled out his hundred dollars and
paid the livery-stable keeper twenty-six of them, for which he was
promptly given a receipt. After that the boys turned and left the
stable. They wanted to get as far toward Uncle Layton’s as they could,
to meet Mr. Gibbons when coming back with the ponies.

“I don’t doubt that Bob’s ponies will make just as much trouble as big
horses, but somehow I couldn’t find it in my heart to charge him full
price,” said Mr. Jones to one of his men. “I’ve seen the time when I
would charge him fifteen dollars a month and think nothing of it; but
now he is short of money. I guess I treated him all right.”

In a few minutes Bob and Hank reached the street on which was located
the house that Uncle Layton called his own, and just as they arrived
within sight of the gate it swung open, and Mr. Gibbons and the ponies
came out. He had got everything that belonged to Bob, the dog-cart as
well as the top buggy.

“I tell you, Mr. Gibbons is the man to do things!” said Hank. “If he was
in your place he would have that money back.”

“I don’t care about the money,” said Bob. “I wish he would bring my
father back. I wouldn’t ask anything else. But that is something he
can’t do, although I really think that Mr. Gibbons believes he is
alive.”

“Halloo! there. You see I’ve got your ponies for you,” exclaimed the
lawyer, at the same time wrapping the reins around the whip and getting
out of the buggy. “Now you take charge of them.”

“Mr. Gibbons, you don’t know how grateful I am to you,” said Bob.

“That’s all right,” said the lawyer. “I just told him that the ponies
were willed to you, and that settled it. He said that Gus had taken a
powerful shine to the horses, and he thought he would buy them.”

He didn’t make any remark about the other things on which Mr. Layton had
committed himself, for he wanted time to work them up. He had just as
good as told him that he knew where the other man—that is, Captain
Nellis—was, and he wanted to be sure of it before he went any further.

The boys got into the buggy, Hank took the thills of the dog-cart under
his arm, and the two set off for the livery-stable, and after that they
started out for a drive. What was it that impelled Bob to turn away from
his home instead of going to it as fast as he could? He would have
arrived there in time to catch Joe Lufkin in the act of pulling out of
the bay with Ben Watson stowed away under the tarpaulin, and that would
have saved him an immense amount of trouble. He turned away and went out
into the country, and no boy ever enjoyed himself as Bob did during that
ride.

“Uncle Layton said that Gus had taken a powerful shine to the ponies,
and that he would have to buy them,” said Bob. “He hasn’t got money
enough to buy them. They are mine, and nobody but myself or a friend
shall ever hold a line over them again.”

The boys were gone almost all day, until they and the ponies began to
get tired of their ride, and then turned toward the livery-stable. The
ponies were turned over to those who had a right to care for them, and
then they went to the post-office, and continued on their way home. Bob
had made it up with Hank that he was to go fishing with him in the
morning, and the next day they were to pay a visit to the place where
Hank had found the pearls.

“I expect we’ll get rich when we go up there,” said Bob. “We’ll find the
pearls so thick that we won’t know which one to take first.”

“I don’t know that I can find any of them,” said Hank. “All I know is
that I have seen an abundance of them there. And suppose we do find a
pocketful of them, there isn’t one chance in ten that we shall find
another one worth two hundred dollars.”

“Well, come over early to-morrow morning, and we’ll go fishing. We
certainly will not get rich at that. Good-bye.”

Bob kept on to the house, which he found with the doors and windows wide
open, but could discover no signs of Ben. He went from room to room,
calling out Ben’s name, but no answer was returned. He found the hoe
beside the wood-shed, showing that Ben had been at work in the garden,
and even went down the path that led to the beach. There was Ben’s boat
tied to its staple, and his schooner riding at anchor just as he had
left it; so Ben could not have gone to town.

“Well, I don’t see what has become of the old fellow,” said Bob. He was
not at all alarmed, for Ben was big enough to take care of himself, but
he was provoked at being treated that way. “I’ll bet I’ll give him a
piece of my mind when he comes back. And now I’ll go and get supper for
him. There’s no fire in the stove, and he must have gone without his
dinner.”

To build the fire and put the tea-kettle on was but the work of a few
minutes, and to search the cupboard to find the remnants of the food
that had been put away from their breakfast was easily done, for Ben had
been on board a man-of-war before he began sailing with Captain Nellis,
and had learned to do everything up in ship-shape. All the while he
listened for the return of Ben Watson, but he listened in vain. Finally,
when six o’clock came, his supper was ready, and Bob sat down to it
feeling a little uneasy.

“I declare it beats the world where Ben has gone to,” said he. “I never
knew him to wander off like this, and I’ll just put the toast and tea
over to keep them warm for him, and then I’ll wash up the things that
are left. Perhaps by that time he will be here.”

In process of time this work was completed, the food on the table
covered and the lamps lighted, and then Bob strolled out to the gate to
see if he could see any signs of the missing one. The only man he saw
was Joe Lufkin, who walked leisurely along, as if he was not going
anywhere in particular. It wasn’t at all likely that he had met Ben,
seeing that he had just come from home, but Bob was anxious to tell
somebody, and so he appealed to Joe.

“Good evening, Mr. Lufkin,” said he. “Have you met Ben Watson, lately?”

“Howdy! Ben Watson? No, I haven’t seen him since twelve o’clock this
morning. He was down at the dock then. Has he gone back on you?”

“No, he hasn’t gone back on me, but he’s gone, and I don’t know where to
look for him,” said Bob. “He has gone afoot, too, for the schooner and
the skiff are in their places. I wish, if you meet him down town, you
would tell him to hurry up. I am getting tired of waiting for him.”

“Well, I will,” said Joe. “But there is one thing I would like to speak
to you about,” said the man, gazing up and down the street to make sure
that there was no one within sight. “Let’s go back to the house. It is
something I don’t like to speak to you about, but I have got it to do,”
he added, unlatching the gate and walking in.

“Something you don’t like to speak about?” repeated Bob. “By George! I
wonder if he could have found out about that pearl?” he added, mentally.
“He won’t get any money out of me on the strength of it.”

Wondering what excuse he could make to Joe for having Hank’s money
deposited in his name, Bob turned and walked toward the house, never
suspecting treachery from the man who had known him since he was born.
He noticed that Joe kept a little way behind him, instead of walking up
beside him, but he paid no attention to that, although he often
afterward thought of it. Arriving at a place where the path turned and
the bushes effectually concealed him from the gate, Joe was all ready
for him. His sinewy right arm was drawn back, and Bob sank down beneath
a blow as strong as that which felled Ben Watson a few hours before. He
had just time to gasp “Joe Lufkin!” and then all was blank to him.

“Yes, sir; it’s Joe Lufkin that wants you,” said the man, picking up
Bob’s inanimate form and carrying him with all speed toward the house.
“I’ve got fifty dollars, and that’s a heap more money than I have had
since General Lee’s paymaster paid me a whole pocketful of worthless
paper for my share in the service. It’s good money, too.”

Joe conveyed his prisoner to the open door of the wood-shed and laid him
down until he could get some cloth and ropes with which to confine him.
He had kept his eyes open when he was there before, and knew right where
the articles lay. He secured them without any trouble at all, and in a
few seconds Bob was helpless. As there was no danger that any one would
discover him—it was now pitch-dark—Joe worked with more confidence than
he did a while before, and in less than half an hour Bob was lying
insensible in the boat under the wharf, and Joe was making good time
toward Barlow’s saloon. He found the man in front of his house, where he
had kept himself ever since Joe began his work, and a very slight sign
made him lead the way to his back room. When he had closed and locked
the door Joe said:

“I’ve got the other one.”

“Bully for you!” exclaimed Barlow. “Where is he?”

“He’s under Scotter’s wharf, where I left Ben. You want to be quick in
getting him aboard the vessel. He may come to, you know.”

“All right. I’ll have him there in a jiffy. Now, you stay around here
and I’ll have that other twenty-five dollars to hand you. You have made
a pretty good haul. Fifty dollars for one afternoon’s work is more than
you can make very day.”

Barlow went after his hat, and Joe went out of the side door to the
front of the saloon, where he met Samson, the barkeeper. He ought to
have been warned by the evil look in that man’s eye; but Joe was
thinking only of the money that was to come to him and how much pleasure
he would take in it, and to know that he had earned it all.

“You are a pretty fellow, I must say,” said Samson, in a low tone.

“Why, I didn’t do any more than you would have done,” said Joe.

“To go around and take twenty-five dollars out of my pocket!” continued
Samson. “I was to get something for helping you. Never mind—I will be
even with you yet.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Joe. He thought of the two blows he
had struck Ben Watson and Bob Nellis, and made up his mind that if
Samson got one of them he would be a long time in getting even with him.

“I’ll ship you off to sea—that’s what I’ll do,” said Samson, in savage
tones; “and I’ll get twenty-five dollars for that. So be careful what
you do.”

Joe was thunderstruck. He looked at Samson in a frightened sort of way
and then continued on his walk up the street.

“I never thought of that!” said he, with a dazed looked on his face.
“The only thing I can do now is to get my money and steer clear of
Barlow in the future, for he could ship me off to sea as well as not.”

Joe was uneasy after that; and to show that he was terribly frightened
he kept in the light of the stores as much as possible. At the end of an
hour, when he thought Barlow had been allowed time to go to the vessel
and return, he started toward Scotter’s wharf; but he did not walk along
as a man would who had great confidence in himself. Every two or three
steps he would turn and look behind him, as if he was afraid that
somebody would slip up and give him one of those deadly blows.

“I’ll tell you what’s a fact: I’ve gone and put my foot in it,”
soliloquized Joe, turning once more to make sure that there was no one
dogging his footsteps. “I’ve got to keep in my house after nightfall as
sure as the world. Ah! there you are. Did you make it?”

“I did,” replied Barlow, “and here’s your boat ready for you to take
back. Here’s your money.”

He had reached the dock just in time to catch Barlow on his return. He
handed him the painter with one hand and with the other produced a roll
of bills.

“You are all right for one year at least,” said he. “They won’t be back
before that time, and when they come you will have to make up some story
to tell them.”

“Well, say, Barlow, Samson is awful mad.”

“Well, he was going to get a little something for helping you capture
them men,” replied Barlow, indifferently. “Wouldn’t you be mad, too, if
somebody bad taken twenty-five dollars out of your pocket?”

“But he says he is going to get even with me. He is going to ship me off
to sea.”




“Aw! don’t you let that bother you. He told you that just to frighten
you.”

“But you won’t stand by and see him do that?”

“In course I won’t. I may want you to help me again.”

“‘Cause, Barlow, I don’t know anything about a vessel,” said Joe,
earnestly. “I am too old to learn.”

“Course you are. A man has to learn that business when he is young. Now
you go home with the boat—be sure and leave everything there just as it
was—and if anybody says anything to you about this night’s work, you may
bet that I didn’t tell ’em.”

“No doubt you will want me to help you again,” soliloquized Joe, as he
climbed down into the boat with the painter in his hand, “but it’s a
long time before you’ll get Joe Lufkin. I tell you I am well out of this
scrape now, and if I ever get into it again you can shoot me! Let
somebody else try their hand, and see how they will come out.”

Somehow Joe Lufkin experienced a desire he had never known before, and
that was to be safe at home. He always felt safer when at his wife’s
side than he did when alone. He pulled with all his might, and in due
time arrived at the wooden wharf and made the boat fast where she
belonged. Everything was placed just as it was before, and then he
walked rapidly toward the path which ran by the house. The doors and
windows stood invitingly open, but Joe did not want to go in there.
Everything seemed to tell him of the inmates he had torn from their
home, and whether or not they would ever come back again was a mystery.
When he reached the gate he looked up and down the road, and seeing no
one in sight, he went out and closed it behind him.

“Whether they ever come back again or not, I’ve got fifty dollars,” said
he, with a chuckle, taking the two rolls of bills from his pocket and
folding them into one. “Now when I get time I am a-going to think up
some story to tell them, as Barlow suggested. But Samson’s shipping _me_
off to sea—that’s what bangs me! Howsomever, I am safe from him so long
as I stay here at my house.”

Joe’s first thought was to get a candle and go over the bills one by
one, and see if Barlow had cheated him; but he soon came to the
conclusion that it would be safer to do that when his wife and son were
in bed. He entered the door without saying anything to anybody, threw
off his hat and coat, filled his pipe, and sat in his usual place in the
doorway and smoked and meditated. All of a sudden he thought of
something.

“Say, Hank, you ain’t got nothing to do, and I propose that you stay
around and watch me,” said he.

“Stay around and watch you do nothing?” exclaimed Hank. He had been
engaged in an earnest conversation with his mother, but it was cut short
when his father unlatched the gate. He was now looking up a book, to put
in the hours until bedtime arrived. “Father, I can’t do it. I am engaged
to go fishing with Bob Nellis to-morrow, and the next day I am going
hunting with him.”

He didn’t say anything about the pearls he expected to find. He was well
enough acquainted with his father to know that he would haunt that
stream night and day as long as a single pearl remained.

“Bob Nellis!” said Joe, in disgust.

It was right on the point of his tongue to tell Hank that by the time he
got ready to go fishing with him Bob would be a long ways from there;
but he didn’t say it. He must keep that with the utmost secrecy. His
family did not know that he had anything to do with Barlow, and the
longer they could remain in ignorance of it the better it would be for
him.

“Yes, Bob Nellis,” said Hank. “I don’t see what you have against that
fellow since he has lost his money.”

“I hain’t got anything against him,” said Joe, as if he were profoundly
surprised. “I never said a word against him.”

“I know you haven’t, but you always sneer whenever his name is
mentioned. What do you want me to keep watch of you for?”

“To see that Barlow’s barkeeper doesn’t ship me off to sea,” said Joe,
impressively.

“When did he say that?” asked Hank, who did not know whether to believe
it or not.

“A little while ago. I was coming by his saloon, and Barlow and his
barkeeper were sitting out in front, just getting ready to go to bed, I
believe, and Samson said it would be a nice thing to ship me off on
board a vessel. I tell you, the way he spoke it made me afraid of him.”

“I tell you, I guess he has got enough of sending men to sea,” said
Hank. “He tried his best to capture Ben Watson, but Ben whipped them
all.”

“Well, I’ll bet he didn’t lick—”

Joe was about to let the cat out of the bag, but caught his breath just
in time. He hid his confusion under a paroxysm of coughing.

“You will bet he didn’t lick whom?” asked Hank, with no suspicion of the
truth.

“I’ll bet he wouldn’t have licked me if I had been there,” said Joe. “I
am down on all such worthless fellers as Samson is.”

“So is every white man. Did he say he had got his plans already laid to
send you to sea?”

“No, he didn’t say that, but he said it would be nice if he could do it.
But I suppose you would rather go a-fishing with Bob Nellis than to
watch me and see that I ain’t carried off?”

“I tell you, father, I can’t do it. I want to make some money, don’t I?
I make all there is that is coming into the house.”

“Mighty clear of you’re making all the money that comes into the house,”
said Joe Lufkin to himself as he thrust his hand into his pocket and
grasped the roll of bills he had made that day. “I’ve got fifty dollars
that you don’t know anything about.”

“Bob gives me something every time I go fishing with him, and I tell
you, a little comes handy sometimes,” continued Hank. “You can look out
for yourself. I have got other fish to fry.”

“Well, then, go and fry them. I guess by the time you see your paw sent
off to sea you’ll wish you had paid more attention to him and less to
that Bob Nellis.”

Mrs. Lufkin took no part in this conversation because she saw that Hank
was able to defend himself. After that there was silence in the house.
Mrs. Lufkin went on with her sewing, Hank pored over his book, and Joe
sat in his place and smoked and meditated. Finally the clock struck
nine, and as Hank had an early start to make he bade his father and
mother good-night and went to his room. Mrs. Lufkin sewed a little while
longer, and then she, too, retired, and then Joe got up and began to
bestir himself. He took a seat by the lamp, pulled his roll of bills
from his pocket, and went over them one by one, to see that Barlow had
not cheated him. They were all there.

“It’s good money, too,” said Joe, holding them in one hand and slapping
the other over them. “Fifty dollars is a heap of money for me, now I
tell you. I wonder where Bob and Ben are by this time? They’re out on
the ocean, and I am free from them for at least a year. Now, I guess I
will go to sleep.”

Without removing his clothes, Joe lay down on the lounge in the
sitting-room; but slumber was quite out of the question. The immense
amount of money he had in his pocket prevented that.