ONE DISPOSED OF

Joe Lufkin having eaten his breakfast had started away on one of his
useless errands—at least that was what Hank and his mother thought about
it; but the truth was he had set out for Middletown, to see how his new
scheme would work. He hadn’t done much sleeping the night before, for
his plan seemed to have banished slumber from his eyes. Of course, he
indulged in building some gorgeous air-castles on the strength of it.
After he got a little way from home he stopped and took the clipping out
of his pocket.

“Like pulling berries off the bushes,” he soliloquized, as he put the
clipping back, having finished reading it, and went on with his walk.
“That would hit me, I tell you. I wonder what men I can get to help me.”

While Joe was revolving this problem in his mind he came within sight of
Barlow’s saloon. There were two men standing there, and they were
engaged in earnest conversation. The one was Barlow, and the stranger in
the light suit he took to be the captain of the Smart. It was hard work
to raise a crew at that time of the year, and the captain had come in to
see what Barlow could do to assist him. As he approached them he heard
the one-legged man say to him:

“Captain, you just go on board your boat and never mind it. I’ll have
the men there ready for you to-night.”

He didn’t hesitate to talk this way before Joe Lufkin, for the latter
was a man who could be hired to keep his mouth shut. As the captain
moved away Barlow turned and gave Joe a sign, who followed him into his
saloon and into a little back room, the door of which was closed and
bolted.

“Well, Joe, where are you going to-day?” said Barlow, seating himself on
the table. “I don’t generally see you move so fast.”

“Read that,” said Lufkin, handing him the article he had cut from the
paper the night before. “It seems to me that if such a thing could be
worked at one place it could be at another. Don’t it to you?”

Barlow read the clipping and then ejaculated, “By George!” and crossed
his uninjured leg over the stump and read it again.

“Where did you get this?” he asked.

“It came around my shoes last night,” answered Joe. “Do you think I can
get anybody to help me?”

“Why, in course you can’t, although such people have no right to have
diamonds and rubies. You’ll have to get away out of this country, and
never come in it again. If such a thing could be thought of, and men got
together to help, what’s the reason that them fellers up about New York
haven’t tried it before?”

“We’ll go masked,” said Joe.

“Whose boat are you going to get?”

“I think Bob Nellis’s boat would be about right.”

“It will come out on you, as sure as the world. Suppos’n somebody pulls
your mask off! Joe, you had better let that thing out.”

This decision was a great disappointment to Joe. The very first man he
had applied to for assistance had thrown cold water upon it.

“But I have something better for you than that, and you won’t have to go
away, either,” continued Barlow. “You know the Captain of the J. W.
Smart is finding it hard work to raise a crew. I’ve got two men on my
mind, and will give you fifty dollars if you will get them for me.”

“Fifty dollars is a heap of money, but it ain’t a patching to what I
could make out of the other thing,” said Joe. “Who are the men?”

“They are Bob Nellis and ole Ben Watson,” said Barlow in an earnest
whisper. “I know you don’t like either of them any better than I do.”

“That there’s a fact, and I am glad that ole Cap’n Nellis is played out.
Why don’t you go and get ’em yourself?”

“Well, you see, I have had a fuss here in the house, thanks to that ole
Watson, and Mr. Sprague told me that the next row I raised here he would
shut me up. Now, I don’t want to be shut up. I want to raise a crew for
that vessel, and at the same time I want to be right here in my saloon,
so that I can prove it.”

“And you want me to do the work for you?”

“In course I do. If you would go up there and get ’em, why I should be
just that much ahead.”

“But it is impossible to get those two men,” said Joe, after thinking a
moment. “They are there, right together, and how are you going to get
them apart?”

“I don’t ask you to go up there alone; my barkeeper will go with you,
and after he captures Watson you mustn’t be surprised if he gives him a
lick or two to pay him off for the punching he gave Samson in my saloon
yesterday. Samson is awful mad about that.”

“I don’t care how often he punches him, so long as he lets me alone. But
there’s one thing that bothers me: Suppos’n Cap’n Nellis should come
back; wouldn’t I get fits to pay me for the part I took in carrying it
out? You see, I have got to look out for things.”

“You don’t suppose, because they took a different ship, that they are
going to meet Captain Nellis, who left this port six months ago!” said
Barlow, with a laugh. “Such a thing isn’t to be thought of. You see, you
don’t know how badly the mates will treat them. They are mighty soft and
easy around here, but when they get them afloat and draw near to some
port at which they can ship cheaper hands, then you want to look out.
They’ll haze ’em till they are ready to jump overboard. It will be a
year or two before they get back, even if they live so long, and by that
time you can easily make up some sort of a story to tell them. Fifty
dollars is a heap of money for a man like you. You needn’t do any work
as long as it lasts.”

“You are certain you won’t tell anybody of it?”

“Good land of Goshen! Ain’t I as deep in the mud as you are? You don’t
imagine that I am going to split on myself? If the folks around here
don’t find out who shipped ’em till I tell ’em, they’ll never find it
out.”

Joe rested his elbows on his knees and thought about it. Fifty dollars
was a heap of money for him to make by one night’s work, and he wished
there had not been so much danger in it. Aside from Captain Nellis
coming back, he wasn’t so certain that he could make a prisoner of old
Ben Watson. He was afraid that Ben might see through the plot and go to
work and whip him and Samson both; then there would be the very mischief
to pay. But fifty dollars! That was worth trying for.

“You see, I am down on everyone who bears that name,” said Barlow,
hitting the table a sounding whack with his fist. “His ole pap laid me
up in ordinary when I might to-day have been the master of as fine a
ship as ever sailed, and I have been waiting for an opportunity to get
even with him; but he has gone off to sea, although I had no hand in
sending him there—more’s the pity—and so I must take revenge on somebody
else.”

“That Bob of his always was stuck up,” said Joe.

“Did you ever see the like? I never did. He won’t come near my house,
although he knows that I used to be one of his father’s best hands. And
yet the ole feller had to go and pop me over when there wasn’t no need
of it.”

“Well, let me out, and I’ll go somewhere and think it over,” said Joe.
“There’s most too much risk in it.”

“Well, be in a hurry,” said Barlow, “for you have got till dark to make
up your mind. I wish I had two good legs, and I wouldn’t ask anybody to
go for me. I’d go myself, and be glad of the chance.”

Barlow did not unlock the entrance which gave admission into the saloon,
for he heard voices in there, but a side door, which opened into an
alley; and Joe Lufkin, after sticking his head out and making sure that
there was no one in sight, slipped out and took his way down the street.

“And so Barlow thinks I had better let that job out,” said he, pulling
off his hat and digging his fingers into his hair to stir up his ideas.
“I just won’t do it. Fifty dollars ain’t a patching to what I could make
if I could only get somebody to help me. And suppos’n I did have to go
away—I guess I’d have money enough to last me all my lifetime. I’ll just
think about it. And now, what am I to do in regard to those two men? I
tell you, there’s a heap of risk in it; but fifty dollars! That’s a
power of money.”

Almost unconsciously Joe Lufkin turned his steps toward Ben Watson’s
house, and by the time he got through thinking about it he found himself
in front of the gate. He thought he would go in and see how matters lay,
and perhaps when the time for action arrived something would suggest
itself to him; so he unlatched the gate and went up the gravelled walk
that led to Watson’s domicile. Old Ben did not happen to be in the
house. He had been neglecting his garden of late, and was now busy with
the weeds that choked his tomato-plants. He heard Joe coming, and
stopped and leaned upon his hoe.

“Howdy,” said Joe.

Ben did not answer. He simply nodded his head; and as he stood there,
with his sleeves rolled up and showing all the muscles on his arms,
which looked as solid as iron, Joe came to the conclusion that he would
need somebody stronger than Samson to help secure him.

“I just thought I would come in here to see how you are getting on,”
said Joe, who thought he ought to make some apology for his appearance.
“Where’s Bob, this fine morning?”

“He’s just gone down to a lawyer’s,” said Ben. “I tell you, he ain’t
a-going to let this thing rest till he gets his money.”

The sailor went on with his hoeing, and Joe strolled up until he came
quite close to him. How big and strong he looked, as Joe thought of
knocking him down! Once down, with his hands bound and a gag thrust into
his mouth, he would be all right. There was Ben’s boat, with a tarpaulin
buttoned over it to keep the waves out; and if Ben were laid away in
that boat, with the tarpaulin thrown over him, Joe could easily row him
down to the city. Something prompted him to make the attempt. There was
nobody in sight. With all the strength he had he drew his right arm
back, and with the speed of a thunderbolt shot it straight out from the
shoulder. It was a deadly blow, and Ben dropped on the instant.

“There!” said Joe, trembling all over with excitement, “I reckon you
will lay there until I can get some ropes to tie you with. I’ve hit
enough of them blows during my experience in the army to know that you
won’t get over it for ten or fifteen minutes.”

Joe gathered his victim up and made all haste to carry him into the
bushes, out of sight, and there he laid him down while he went back
toward the house to place things to rights. He first picked up the hoe,
and with it destroyed all the footprints that he had made in the garden;
and after that he put the hoe up against the side of the house, as Ben
might have done when he got through using it. Then he went into the
wood-shed to find a piece of cloth for a gag, and some pieces of rope
with which to confine Ben when he came to himself. The rope and the gag
were quickly made use of, and even Ben, strong as he was, would have
found himself powerless.

The next thing was the boat. There was still no one in sight, and Joe
walked out on the wharf as though he had a right there. He unbuttoned
the tarpaulin, got in and got out the oars and pulled up a little way,
where he knew there was no prospect of anyone seeing him. It was but the
work of a few minutes to carry Ben down to the boat, put him in, and
draw the tarpaulin over him, and then Joe began his ride to the village.
All this while he was uneasy, for he feared that Bob might return; but
he succeeded in reaching the upper wharf and pulling under it without
attracting anybody’s attention. If anyone saw him rowing in the boat,
they probably thought he had a load of fish. Ben lay perfectly still;
and, after examining his bonds to make sure that he could not get away,
Joe fastened the boat, got out, and bent his steps toward Barlow’s
saloon. There was no one in except the proprietor, and Joe leaned over
the counter and whispered to him.

“I’ve got one,” said he.

“What?” exclaimed Barlow.

“I say I’ve got one, and he is now bound and gagged in a boat under a
wharf a little ways from here,” repeated Joe. “It’s Watson; and I tell
you I wouldn’t make a prisoner of him again for four times fifty
dollars. I hit him a blow right behind the ear, and he fell as if he had
been shot.”

“And in broad daylight, too?” said Barlow, who was utterly confounded.
“Are you sure no one saw you?”

“As sartin as I can be. I kept a watch out for Bob, for fear that he
would come back, but he never came. Now, you want to go down there and
be ready to take him off to the vessel.”

Joe went one way and Barlow the other—Joe to walk around and get over
some of his excitement, and Barlow to hunt up his barkeeper and get him
to attend to the saloon during his absence, and in a few minutes he was
making good time toward the wharf. Samson was mad about it. He fully
expected to give the unconscious Watson “a whack or two” in payment for
the drubbing he had administered a day before, and he didn’t like the
idea of having him captured by anybody else. He came into the saloon and
looked all around for Joe, but he had gone.




Barlow went under the wharf, and there he found the boat with a
tarpaulin spread out in the bow. He lifted it, and underneath lay Ben,
so white and still that Barlow began to think he was dead.

“You know too much for me,” said he, grimly. “I guess if you are out of
the way for a year or two I will stand a chance of making some money.
I’ll teach you to punch my barkeeper up, as you did yesterday.”

Everything depended on getting Ben aboard the vessel before he came to,
and Barlow lost no time in going about it. He replaced the tarpaulin
again, backed the boat out from under the wharf, and pulled down the
middle of the harbor to reach the ship, which was anchored a short
distance from shore, waiting for the tide to turn. But Barlow knew that
the tide had little to do with the ship’s movements. She had a crew,
ready to sail, with the exception of two men, and the captain, being
anxious to keep them, resolved to put a little clear water between him
and the shore. They couldn’t desert without being seen by somebody.

Barlow put out all his strength on the oars, and at the end of half an
hour ran his boat under the vessel’s bow, where he laid hold of a
bobstay and waited for some one to hail him. He was not obliged to wait
long, for in a few minutes the first mate stuck his head over the rail.

“Halloo, Barlow! What have you got there?” he asked.

The man laid hold of the tarpaulin and threw it aside, so that the mate
could see the form of Ben Watson.

“That’s one I have brought for you,” said he. “He’s a sailor-man, too.
I’ll have the other ready for you to-night.”

“Are you certain that no one saw you?” asked the mate, who was
profoundly astonished. He saw that Ben Watson had been overpowered, but
that made no difference to him. During the years he had followed the
water he had seen many a man brought aboard the ship dead drunk, and if
he were questioned in regard to Ben he could easily say that he had come
aboard in the same way.

“There was nobody hailed me, and no one came near me while I was coming
up here,” said Barlow. “I guess he is all right. Now, you want a whip to
get him up there.”

“He isn’t dead, is he?”

“Dead! No. Throw two or three buckets of water over him and he will come
around—though, to my mind, he’ll have a headache. You had better let him
sleep it off.”

“Lay for’ard, a couple of you fellers, with a rope!” shouted the mate.
“Bring a long one, mind.”

In a few minutes a couple of sailors appeared beside the mate, and two
ends of a rope were passed down to Barlow. One end he made fast under
Ben’s arms, the other was tied around his knees, and presently the
unconscious sailor was hoisted to the vessel’s deck and laid down with
as much ceremony as if he had been a log of wood. Then Barlow breathed
easier. Ben was disposed of for a year at least, and by the time he got
back he hoped to be doing business somewhere else.

“Is the captain aboard?” asked Barlow.

“No, he’s ashore. You’ll get your advance when you bring off the other
one.”

Barlow lost no time in shoving off and pulling back to the wharf where
he had found the boat. The only person he saw was Joe Lufkin, who was
loafing about in the rear of his saloon. No doubt he would have given
the world, had he possessed it, to be able to undo the work of the last
hour; but he had gone too far to back out.

“It’s all right,” said Barlow. “I wasn’t hailed at all. You are sure you
can get the other one?”

Joe said he was certain of it. He had already accomplished the hardest
part of the work in securing Ben Watson.

“Because, if you don’t, I can’t pay you the money I promised you,” said
Barlow. “The captain’s ashore, and I can’t get any advance until I take
the other one up there.”

Joe’s countenance fell on hearing this. He supposed he was going to have
twenty-five dollars to jingle around in his pockets.

“Now, you take the boat and place it where it was before,” continued
Barlow. “I haven’t been gone more’n an hour, have I? Then you can easily
get it back before Bob comes. Good luck to you. But remember this, Joe:
don’t capture him in broad daylight; there’s too much risk in it.”

“Look here,” said Joe, when Barlow was about to move away; “I want half
that money you promised me. I have done half the work, and the man you
all feared is now aboard the vessel. I’ve got some things to get before
I go home.”

“But I can’t pay you,” said Barlow. “If I find the captain ashore I can
get it.”

“Well, you have some of your own money that you can pay me with, haven’t
you?”

Barlow looked at Joe as if he was more than half-inclined to get angry,
but he thought better of it. There was a sullen look in Joe’s eyes which
he did not like to see. It would be very easy for him to knock the whole
thing in the head.

“Oh, well, if you put it that way, of course I have money that I can pay
you. You stay here a minute and I will go in and get it. You mean to
have every cent that is due you—don’t you?” muttered Barlow, as he
opened the side door and disappeared in the saloon. “You want to watch
out, or some day I will ship _you_ off to sea.”

Barlow was gone not more than five minutes, and when he returned he held
a package of bills in his hand, which he gave to Joe. Joe ran his eyes
over them to make sure that they were all right, and when he
straightened up and put them into his pocket he felt he was almost, if
not quite, a millionaire. It was a long time since he had so large a sum
of money before. Did he want to buy anything for the house? He wanted
them in his pocket, so that he could feel them and congratulate himself
on his success, for it was a long time since anybody had got away with
old Ben single-handed; and, since Barlow would not praise him for it, he
felt more like applauding himself.

“I know that they all feared that man, and here I went and captured him
alone,” said Joe, as he retraced his steps to the boat. “So he punched
Samson, yesterday! Well, he didn’t punch me!”

As Joe drew near the wharf to which the boat belonged he became uneasy
again for fear that Bob had already come back from the lawyer’s; but Bob
was waiting on the street for his ponies, intending to take a ride, if
Mr. Gibbons succeeded in his object. He reached the staple to which the
boat was confined, fastened it just as it was before, placed the oars
where they belonged, and buttoned down the tarpaulin just as Ben had
left it. Then he walked along the wooden pier until he came to the
bushes, into which he plunged, and never came out until he was opposite
his own house.