SAM IS DISCHARGED

“So far so good,” said Sam Houston, as he finished his dinner at his
boarding-house and stood on the front steps picking his teeth. “Now, if
Gus speaks to his old man about the codicil, and the father wants to
know what I know about it, what shall I tell him? That, and what I am
going to tell Hank about that pearl, will require a little study.
However, it is all in a lifetime.”

Sam Houston went down to the store again, and shortly afterward the
proprietor went to his dinner. He was gone about an hour, and then Hank
Lufkin came into the store very soon after he did. Mr. Vollar was busy
at something behind the board partition and Sam stepped quickly forward
to wait upon him; but before he could lift a finger or utter a sound
Hank broke in with:

“Now, Mr. Houston, what have you to tell me about that pearl? If Mr.
Vollar has paid me too much for it, it is only right that I should give
the money back. I’ll do it just as soon as Bob comes.”

These words operated very differently upon the two men who heard them.
Sam’s face grew as red as fire, and the jeweller stepped around the
board partition looking his astonishment.

“What is that you had to say about that pearl, Hank?” he asked.

The boy repeated the same request he had made of Sam, adding:

“I gave the whole of my money into Bob’s hands, and he has gone away and
left my funds in the bank so that I can’t get them; but I will make it
all right as soon as he comes.”

“Who told you that I had given you too much?” asked the jeweller,
fastening his angry eyes upon Sam.

“No one told me so, but I couldn’t think what else you had to tell me
about it, and so I came to find out,” said Hank, looking first at Sam
Houston and then at the jeweller. He could not imagine what had happened
to make the latter so angry at the clerk.

“Well, Hank, you can go home again, and every time you think of that
pearl you can tell yourself that it is worth every cent of two hundred
dollars,” said Mr. Vollar. “I knew what I was talking about when I gave
Bob Nellis the money.”

“I am glad to hear you say so,” said Hank, who was greatly relieved.
“You are sure it is worth two hundred dollars?”

“Not only that, but it is worth ten or fifteen dollars more. I shall
surely have that much to divide with you.”

“I don’t know what Mr. Houston could have to tell me about it,” began
Hank.

“That’s all right. He had nothing to tell you. You know the place where
you found the pearl, and if you are wise you will keep still about it.
Nobody has any right to find out where it is.”

“I’ll keep still about it,” said Hank with a laugh. “I don’t know that I
can find others like it, but I can find out. Good-bye.”

Hank opened the door and went out, and the jeweller leaned on the
counter and looked at Sam.

“What did you have to tell him about that pearl?” said he.

“I was going to ask him where he got it,” replied the clerk.

“And then what did you intend to do?” continued Mr. Vollar. “You were
going to become a pearl-hunter, were you?”

“Yes, I was. I think it is mighty queer that a boy who does nothing can
stumble onto a lot of money like that. I think I have as much right to
it as he has.”

“Well, if you want that berth you can give up the one you hold here in
the store,” said the jeweller, straightening up and putting his hands
into his pockets. “You won’t make a cent at it, I can tell you that
much. But I believe you will make as much as you do here.”

“Are you not satisfied with my work?” asked Sam.

“No, I am not. You don’t do half that you ought to.”

“Very well. Then I will leave the store.”

“All right. Make out your account, whatever it is, and I will pay you
off.”

This was all that passed between Mr. Vollar and his clerk, but it showed
that they were of the same opinion regarding Sam seeking another branch
of business. The proprietor was perfectly willing to let him go, and Sam
was willing to be released from the shackles he had worn for so long
without any promise of promotion. Once out of the store he was his own
master. He need not get up until he felt like it; and, besides, wasn’t
there a pearl-mine all ready for him to work? It is true he didn’t know
where that pearl-mine was, but—by George! Come to think of it, he still
had two strings to his bow. He would seek an interview with Joe Lufkin
before the sun set, tell him what Hank had discovered, and depend upon
getting it out of him.

“That’s my best hold,” he muttered, as he took down the book and turned
to his account. “Of course he can’t get the money out of the bank, for
Bob’s got that shut up until he comes back, but he can demand to know
where that pearl-stream is. I tell you, that is worth thinking of.”

In a few minutes the clerk had his account made out and presented it to
Mr. Vollar with a receipt made out in full. It was a mighty small sum of
money that he had due him, not more than three dollars and a half, but
he was certain that by the time that was gone he would have a hundred
times that sum in his pocket.

“There’s your money, Sam,” said the jeweller, picking up the receipt and
looking at it. “I should be much better satisfied if you were going to
leave me to go into some honorable business.”

“You are not satisfied with me, and so I quit,” replied Sam.

“That’s all nonsense,” replied Mr. Vollar, who felt some anxiety in
regard to his clerk. Sam had been with him so long that he hated to have
him go on such a wild-goose chase as pearl-hunting. “I know that you
never would have thought of going if you hadn’t been here when Bob
Nellis came in.”

“I must say that it gave me a show,” said Sam, who thought he might as
well tell the truth and be done with it. “I know I don’t stand much
chance, but at the same time I may come to you with as much money as I
could earn here in six months. I needn’t ask you to keep this still?”

“No, indeed,” said the jeweller, as if the very thought of such a thing
was foreign to him. “I ain’t a-going to let anybody know that you left
me to go pearl-hunting. Good luck to you and good-bye.”

Sam Houston left the store feeling much as a school-boy does who has
been released from a long siege of study. He was a free man, and he
could go where he pleased, and it pleased him just then to turn his
steps toward Joe Lufkin’s house. He thought he might as well make hay
while the sun shone; but suppose anything should happen so that he could
not get Joe to go in search of that mine? He would have to go after it
himself, and he almost dreaded the experiment. He knew that the streams,
as he remembered them, were all tangled up with brush and drift-wood,
and he lacked a pair of boots that would resist water and dirt; so what
would he do if he came to a body of water that had to be explored while
wading up to his knees?

“I’ll get Joe to do that,” said Sam, as he came within sight of the
house. “Ah! There he is, sitting on the porch. Now, how am I going to
get him away from there?”

Joe Lufkin was sitting in front of the door smoking his pipe. He looked
surprised and alarmed when he saw Sam approaching, pulled his pipe from
his mouth and partly got upon his feet, and when Sam touched his hat and
said “Good day, Mr. Lufkin,” the man hardly knew what reply to make. He
hadn’t expected to meet Sam up there, and he might know something about
that kidnapping scheme and came there to talk to him about it.

“Howdy,” said Joe.

“Are you very busy just now?” said Sam, although he could see for
himself that Joe wasn’t doing anything. “If you are not, come out here a
minute.”

“What do you reckon you want of me?” asked Joe. “You might as well tell
me here.”

“Come here to the gate so that I can speak to you,” he added. “I declare
if the man hasn’t been up to something,” he said to himself. “I wonder
what it is?”

Joe very reluctantly got upon his feet and came down the steps, but he
did not neglect each step of the way to cast his eyes up and down the
road to assure himself that Sam was alone.

“You have been doing something, that’s what’s the matter with you,” said
Sam.

“Look a-here, Houston, I don’t allow anybody to talk to me that a-way,”
said Joe, growing angry.

“I am not going to talk to you about that,” Sam hastened to explain. “Is
Hank in the house?”

“No; there ain’t nobody here but me. What do you want?”

“Do you know,” added Sam, lowering his voice, “that Hank has discovered
a pearl worth two hundred dollars?”

“Aw! Go on.”

“Don’t talk so loud. He certainly has, and Bob brought it to Vollar to
say how much it was worth.”

“Be you telling me the exact truth?” said Joe, who did not know whether
to believe this strange story or not.

“I am, and I got discharged from the store on the strength of it. He
gave the money to Bob, and Bob has gone off to sea, with nobody here to
get the money.”

“I’ll get it,” answered Joe, who grew mad in a minute that anybody
should try to conceal matters from him. “I’ll go up and tell ’em it’s
mine and I have got to have it. But how did you happen to find out all
about this?”

“You can’t get the money, for it is in Bob’s name. I found out all about
it while listening in the store. I was making out some bills, and heard
every word that passed between my employer and Bob.”

“Then Bob didn’t give him ten dollars to go fishing with him?” asked
Joe.

“Not that I know of.”

“Then the little fool has been lying to me. He came home with two
basketfuls of truck he purchased at the store, and said he got the money
by agreeing to go fishing with Bob. Bob must have given him some of that
money to buy the grub with.”

“Of course he did. And I will tell you another thing: The reason why Bob
took the money and put it into the bank was so as to keep it from you.
Vollar says you would raise heaven and earth to get it all.”

“What right has Vollar to stick his fingers in this pie?” asked Joe, who
was about as mad as a fellow could well be. “Of course I’ll raise things
fit to split if I don’t get some of that money. You’re sure you’re
telling me the truth?”

“I am not in the habit of lying to gain my points,” said Sam, loftily,
“and I am ready to prove it to you by going in search of that stream at
once.”

“Not much I won’t go in search of that stream,” replied Joe, who had by
this time got so angry that he was walking up and down on the other side
of the fence. “I know a trick worth two of that. When Hank comes home
I’ll just bounce him for that money.”

“You can’t get it, I tell you,” answered Sam. “Hank himself can’t get
it, for it is not in the bank in his name. Or else,” added Sam, a bright
idea striking him, “you might go to Gibbons and get some of it from
him.”

“What has Gibbons got to do with it?”

“He is Bob’s lawyer, you know. By telling him that your wife is ill—”

“That wouldn’t do at all. He would see her on the street every day.”

“Well, put yourself in some old clothes and go up there. Tell him that
you are mighty hard up for some raiment, and that you’ve got to have it.
I will bet that you could get some money out of him in that way.”

“The idea that that boy should earn so much money and then put it in the
bank and keep me from getting it! That’s what beats me,” said Joe,
pounding the top of the gate with his fist. “Why didn’t he give it to me
in the first place? Here I need new shirts and a new pair of breeches,
and I hain’t got no money to get them with. I tell you, that boy is
going to give me some of that money.”

“I tell you he can’t do it,” said Sam. “The funds are in the bank in Bob
Nellis’s name, and Bob has got to get it. You had better try Hank or Mr.
Gibbons first.”

“Well, I’ll think about it,” said Joe.

“That’s all right. Now, Joe, since I have told you about this money you
must give some of it to me.”

“You?” ejaculated Joe.

“Yes, me. You wouldn’t have known anything about it if it hadn’t been
for me.”

“How much do you want?”

“I want half of what you get. That’s nothing more than fair.”

“Well, I don’t know but I will give you half. Now you had best run away,
for Hank and his mother will be along directly.”

Joe emphasized the order by turning about and going up the steps, and
Sam stood and looked at him as if he did not know whether to take him in
earnest or not. Finally he said:

“You must remember and give me half, or I will stop it all on you. I’ll
go to Hank and Gibbons and tell them that you want the money to spend.”




“You just wait till I get that money in my hands and I’ll give you half.
You ought to have it, for I shouldn’t have known a thing about it.”

“Then you think you won’t go and look for that stream now?” said the
clerk, who was much disappointed in going back to the village as
empty-handed as he was when he came out.

“No. I’ll try Hank and Gibbons first.”

Joe went into the house and walked once or twice across the floor, and
when he looked out again Sam Houston was gone. Then he lighted his pipe
and sat down in his old, accustomed place. He took a few pulls before he
could bring his mind to bear upon the story he had heard.

“_That_ for giving you half!” said Joe, snapping his fingers in the air.
“The money is mine, and if I get hold of any portion of it it will all
be mine. The idea that that boy should find a pearl worth two hundred
dollars and then go and hide it from me! I wish the boy wasn’t so big;
I’d like to lick him!”

Joe was so uneasy that he could not remain long in one position, and
after a little while he got up, went to the gate, and looked for Hank
and his mother. Joe did not know it, but the truth of the matter was
Mrs. Lufkin and her son had gone off for a walk on purpose to be out of
hearing of Mr. Lufkin. They wanted to exchange ideas in regard to Bob
Nellis’s disappearance, and consequently they took a longer time for
their stroll than Joe approved of. After leaning over the gate for some
time Joe opened it and went out.

“I don’t know where they were going, but it seems to me that they are
taking a long time for it,” said Joe, impatiently. “I can stay here and
starve, for all they would do to hurry up. I’m bound to have some of
that money.”

Before he had taken many steps down the road Joe saw the objects of his
search, and then for the first time he began to feel his courage
forsaking him. It was only the knowledge of the fact that Hank was not
yet of age that kept him up, and then he braced himself and walked
forward as though he had something on his mind.

“See how father walks!” said Hank. “He has found out something, or I
shall miss my guess.”

And he was not long in finding out what it was. His father paid no
attention to their civil greetings, but placed himself by Hank’s side.

“Look a-here, son,” said he, and when Joe addressed him in that way the
boy knew that something was coming, “what about that pearl that you
found the other day?”

Hank was thunderstruck. His father knew all about it in spite of his
efforts to keep it from him. He couldn’t say a word.

“Because if you have found one, it isn’t natural in you to hide it from
me,” said Joe. “You see how I want new clothes, and you had oughter give
me some of the money. How much did you get for it?”

“Two hundred dollars,” said Hank, who had been allowed a little time to
recover his wits.

“And how much have you used?”

“Ten dollars.”

“And the rest is shut up in the bank where nobody but Bob Nellis can get
it?”

“Yes, sir, that is just where it is. And Bob has gone off to sea and I
can’t get it till he comes back.”

“I don’t know what makes you think that Bob’s coming back,” said Joe,
uneasily. “If he can come back from sea his father will come, too.”

“That’s what I look for,” said Hank. “I expect to see Bob and his father
walking along these streets.”

“Mebbe he will, and mebbe he won’t. But that’s neither here nor there.
Now, Hank, I want you to give me some of the money.”

“I can’t. Nobody can get it except Bob.”

“And does the law allow you to take any money you may find and give it
to another to take charge of for you?”

“I don’t know whether it does or not. I did it, anyhow.”

“Well, Hank,” said Joe, with a sigh of resignation, “you have undone all
the good that I have done you for years. When you was a little fellow I
took care of you and sent you to school, and this is the way you repay
me. I hope that money will bring anything but blessings to you as often
as you touch it.”

So saying, Joe turned on his heel and walked away toward the village,
and Hank and his mother kept on toward home. When they reached the gate
they turned and looked after Joe. He was walking along with his head
down, and one would think he had lost the last friend he had upon earth.
They went into the house, and Hank sat down in his father’s accustomed
place on the porch.

“Well, mother, what do you think of it?” asked Hank. When his father
began to talk about what he had done for him the boy felt repentant, and
almost wished that he had the money in his pocket to give him.

“You told the truth,” said Mrs. Lufkin. “And you can see right where
your money would go if you were to surrender it.”

“But, mother, I have an idea in my head that he is going to work at
something else. Why didn’t he rant and swear, and go on as he usually
does when he asks money of you?”

“I looked to see him do it, but fortunately he did not.”

“And that’s what makes me think he is up to something. I do not know
what it is, but I believe I will keep watch of him.”

With the words Hank jumped off the porch and followed down the road
after his father. In a few minutes he came within sight of him. There
was Joe Lufkin, walking along with his head up, and acting for all the
world like a man who was going somewhere on business. He had got out of
reach of his wife and son, and consequently was able to conduct himself
as he always did. There was nothing at all the matter with him.

“I guess father is all right,” said Hank, as he turned toward the house.
“He won’t get any money in going down there, for everybody is on the
lookout for him. Now, I must get my nerve up against he comes back. He
may have something more decided to say then.”