WHO WROTE THE CODICIL?

“By the great horn-spoon!” It was Mr. Vollar’s clerk who uttered the
above ejaculation. The time was when Bob Nellis brought the valuable
pearl there for his employer to pass judgment upon. If we were to say
that the man was astonished we should but hardly express his feelings.
He was in the back part of the store, making out some accounts against
his customers, and of course he heard all that passed between Mr. Vollar
and the boy who had come there to see him. When Bob was offered two
hundred dollars for his pearl and the jeweller opened the safe to take
out the money, he laid his pen upon his desk and settled back in his
chair in speechless amazement. He could not see what passed between
them, for he was at work behind a board partition; but his ears told him
just what happened at the counter. He knew when Bob received the money,
heard him say that Hank Lufkin would be almost overcome, and then go
out.

“By the great horn-spoon!” said the clerk. “If that worthless little
jackanapes hasn’t struck it at last, I’m a Dutchman. Who would have
thought that he could have found a pearl worth two hundred dollars! I
declare, it beats me.”

Sam Houston, for that was the clerk’s name, had a great desire to be
rich. He was getting only a dollar a day for his services in the store,
and that much money did not go very far toward relieving his actual
necessities, to say nothing of his getting a horse and buggy of Mr.
Jones every Sunday afternoon for the purpose of taking an airing in the
country. He had held that position for almost two years and he saw
little chance of promotion. It was the same thing over and over every
day, and although he kept a bright lookout for other chances outside of
the store, nothing seemed to present itself. He remembered how he used
to envy Bob Nellis, with his rich father, but when the report got around
town that Bob had been cast off, and that his cousin had taken his
place, then he used to cast envious eyes upon Gus Layton.

“That’s always the way it is with everybody,” said he; and one would
think that he had been cheated out of the money instead of Bob Nellis.
“All the fellows in the world can get rich instead of me. Don’t I wish I
had some rich uncle to die and leave me a pocketful of rocks? But then I
wouldn’t stay here, I bet you. I would go to New York, where I could put
on style.”

To make matters worse, Sam Houston had got in the way of going in debt.
Mr. Jones had hinted rather pointedly that he would be glad to have that
seven dollars and a half that he owed him the next time he came around
after a horse, and there were half a dozen other creditors who were
getting alarmed for their money; and by counting it all up on his
fingers Sam made it out that he owed fifty dollars there in Clifton, and
he did not know where in the world it was to come from. And here this
ragamuffin, this son of a man who was too lazy to go into the hay-field
on account of wounds which he must have forgotten long ago, was getting
rich in spite of him.

“Now, I say that that way of doing things isn’t right,” said the clerk,
with a good deal of petulance in his tones. “What I owe is a mere
pittance to what this boy is going to get for picking up a stone that
came in his way, and he will be so lordly that he won’t look at anybody
else; and here I am—”

He picked up his pen again and went to work at the accounts with
alacrity. He heard Mr. Vollar’s step, and that proved that he was coming
back to see how he got on with them.

“I guess I shall have to get some more money to carry on my business,”
said he with a smile.

“I should say you had,” replied Sam.

“Who would have supposed that boy, Hank Lufkin, would have struck it so
rich?” his employer continued. “I declare, it kind o’ takes the wind out
of my sails. Of course you heard what passed between Bob Nellis and
myself?”

“Of course I did, for I could not help it. I was as much astonished as
you were.”

“Well, you won’t say anything about it?”

“Oh, no, sir. Bob evidently wants to keep it still, and so would I if I
were in his place. Do you suppose that Bob will put that money in the
bank to his own account?”

“Certainly he will. Everything depends upon keeping it from the
knowledge of that lazy father of Hank’s. If he ever gets hold of it he
will raise heaven and earth but that he will have it all; and if he once
gets his hands on the money, that will be last of it.”

Mr. Vollar looked over some of the accounts that had been made out, put
them into his pocket, and left the store. When the door had closed
behind him the clerk put down his pen and once more settled back in his
chair, with his hands in his pockets.

“That is just what I was afraid of,” said he. “Bob is mighty sharp, and
he is going to take care of that money. Now, had I better see old Joe
about it, or what had I better do? For I want it understood that if
there are any more pearls to be found on that stream I am going to have
some of them. I can easily get Joe to bring them to me, for I can tell
him that Vollar doesn’t begin to pay him what they are worth. Two
hundred dollars! I believe if I knew there were any more pearls on that
stream I would throw up my present position and become a pearl-hunter.
Wouldn’t I feel big, going around with money, while no one else knew
where I got it?”

Here was something that Sam Houston could build air-castles on, and he
was engaged in this agreeable occupation when he heard Mr. Vollar coming
back. There was one question that Sam wanted to have answered, and he
asked it as soon as he had a fair chance.

“Did Bob Nellis say that there were any more of these pearls where this
one came from?” he inquired, as the jeweller was engaged in putting some
money into the safe.

“Why, Sam, are you going out pearl-hunting?” asked Mr. Vollar, with a
laugh.

“Oh, no; but I thought I would just like to know.”

“There must be, because I have often been called upon to pass judgment
on stones coming from there. At least I took it for granted that they
came from that stream, because I never heard of many pearls being found
about here. He says there are between twenty-five and thirty scattered
around, but of course he is mistaken in that. There is probably not
another pearl on that stream that is worth as much as the one Bob Nellis
sold me to-day. At any rate, it wouldn’t pay anybody to look for them.”

“And you don’t know where the stream is, either?”

“No, I don’t; and if I did I wouldn’t tell. Bob Nellis told me that Hank
didn’t even tell him where it was.”

“I don’t care for that,” said Sam to himself. “If Joe Lufkin is as
expert at trailing things as he claims to be he will soon find that
pearl-mine. If they are worth ten or fifteen dollars to Hank, as I think
I heard Bob remark, they are worth a fortune to me. At any rate, I am
going to try it early to-morrow morning, if I can find Joe Lufkin.”

Sam did not do much work that day. He shut up the store at ten o’clock
and took a stroll around the streets in the vain hope of meeting Joe,
and then went home and tumbled into bed. The more he thought of his
prospects the brighter they seemed to become to him, and when at last he
arose from his couch, after passing an almost sleepless night, he
resolved that his plan should prove successful.

“You see, I have not yet decided to possess myself of any portion of
Hank’s two hundred dollars, which he has doubtless given into Bob’s
keeping, but of the pearls that are left on the shores of that stream I
am determined to have my share,” he exclaimed, as he pulled on his
clothes. “The idea that that boy can go around all day doing nothing—I
don’t see it! Here I have to work and slave from morning until night,
and have done so for almost two years, and never a body has said to me,
‘Sam, here’s a little more money than I have thus far been able to offer
you. Take that, with my compliments.’ Has anybody said that to me? I am
done with the store now.”

Filled with such thoughts as these, and growing more and more angry the
oftener they came into his mind, Sam went down and opened the store, but
saw no signs of Joe Lufkin. He was getting his breakfast at home before
starting out to see how his piratical scheme would work, and Hank was
just about setting out for Bob Nellis’s to see about depositing his
money. So Sam saw nothing of them that day, not even when he closed the
store at night and took a walk around the streets. The next day was the
same, for Joe did not appear. He was at home building air-castles on the
strength of certain schemes he had worked the night before; but Sam saw
somebody else that was almost as good. It was Hank Lufkin, who was
hurrying along as if his very life depended upon the use he made of the
next few minutes. He was tired of running, and had settled into a rapid
walk toward Mr. Gibbons’s house.

“Halloo, Hank!” exclaimed Sam. “Where are you going in such haste? Hold
up a minute. I would like to talk to you.”

“You have not got anything interesting that I want to hear, unless you
can tell me what has become of Bob Nellis and Ben Watson,” replied Hank,
coming to a standstill in front of the clerk and fanning himself with
his hat. “Bob was to have gone fishing this morning, but now he has gone
off, and I can’t find a thing of them.”

“What has become of them?” asked Sam.

“That is just what I asked. The house is open, and the lamp is burning
as if it was waiting for them; but Ben and Bob don’t show up.”

“Why, where in the world are they?” said Sam, growing somewhat
interested.

“That is just what I want to know. I am going up to Mr. Gibbons’s house
to see about it.”

“Does Mr. Gibbons know where they are?”

“No; but he is Bob’s lawyer, and he will know about them if anybody
does. My idea is,” continued Hank, “that they have been kidnapped and
sent off to sea.”

“Well, if that don’t beat me!” said Sam, lost in wonder. “Who do you
suppose could have done it?”

“That is what I want to know. But I must go along, now, and see what
Bob’s lawyer thinks about it.”

“One minute before you go, Hank,” exclaimed Sam. “I want to speak to you
about something.”

“To-morrow will do just as well,” replied Hank, who, being rested a
little by his short pause, broke at once into a run toward Mr. Gibbons’s
house.

“But I want to talk to you about that pearl you found a few days ago,”
said Sam, desperately. “I know something about it that you had better
listen to.”

Hank was so amazed to find out that the discovery of his pearl, which he
had so carefully guarded from the knowledge of all persons in the
village, had become known, that for a moment he stopped; but remembering
that he was now looking for Bob Nellis, he kept on his way by replying
that to-morrow would do just as well. The clerk stood and looked at him,
and then turned about and went into the store and busied himself in
dusting off the counters.

“He thinks more of Bob than he does of that pearl,” said Sam to himself.
“I was in hopes he would come back when I told him that, and if he had,
what would I have said to him? I must make up something. So Bob has gone
off to sea, has he? I never heard of a fellow who was kidnapped coming
back again.”

Sam went on dusting the counters, and as he worked his thoughts were
busy with that pearl, and never once reverted to the news he had
concerning Bob. Any boy who lived on the sea-coast was liable to be
kidnapped and sent off, but it was not every day that a fellow found a
pearl worth two hundred dollars. For be it known that Sam had thought
and dreamed about this matter so much that he had about decided to leave
the store and go to hunting pearls. Any how, it did not take very much
to bring him to some conclusion on that point.

When his employer came down Sam told him about Bob, and was utterly
amazed to see the way he took it to heart. The jeweller could not
believe it at first, and required his clerk to go over it again until he
learned all about it.

“I am very glad indeed that his father isn’t here to know about it,”
said he, walking up and down the store. “He promised his father that he
would not by any means go to sea, and now he has become a sailor in
spite of himself. I’ll tell you what’s a fact, Sam: There is somebody in
this town that knows all about it.”

“That’s what I have said all along,” replied Sam, who at that moment
forgot that he had said nothing at all about it. “I believe Barlow knows
something about it.”

“I don’t know whether he does or not; but when Mr. Gibbons starts in he
is going to find something out. I tell you, lynching is too good for a
man who will slip upon another and send him to sea. My goodness, I think
I should die if such a trick were played upon me.”

Mr. Vollar put on his hat and went out to see what other folks thought
of it, and Sam was left alone. He was left alone for almost the
forenoon, in fact, for when the jeweller came back it was to report that
Barlow had been before the justice, and that all the attempts to gain
anything from him were useless.

“I’ve got the idea, from something Gibbons said, that he is going to
take Mr. Layton down there,” said Mr. Vollar.

“Before the justice?” asked Sam, in astonishment.

The jeweller nodded significantly.

“Why, what in the world has he got to do with it?”

“He may not have anything to do with it, but Mr. Gibbons is going to
make him tell what he knows about kidnapping people. He’s got an idea
that Captain Nellis was on board the Boston when she sailed, and he
wants to ask Layton something about it.”

“Why, the idea is ridiculous!” said Sam, more astonished than ever. “The
Boston sailed that morning, but that doesn’t prove that Captain Nellis
was aboard of her. To my mind, you will find that Captain Nellis is a
thousand fathoms deep in the sea.”




“Put this and that together and see what you make of it,” said Mr.
Vollar. “I will bet you that Captain Nellis will come back; and if he
does, it will go hard with somebody who wrote that codicil.”

“Didn’t he write it himself?”

“Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. I don’t want to say so out loud, but
that codicil is a glaring fraud on the face of it.”

“I declare, that beats me!” said Sam, so surprised that he could
scarcely get his breath. “There’s lots of little things in law that a
fellow doesn’t think about, isn’t there?”

Just then a customer came in and Mr. Vollar moved forward to wait upon
him. The topic of conversation of course was what happened to Bob, and
although Sam listened eagerly, he didn’t catch anything that could be of
use to him; for the clerk had resolved to use what he had learned about
the codicil to help him along with certain schemes he had suddenly laid
against Gus Layton. There might be something wrong with the
pearl-mine—perhaps there were not so many pearls scattered around there
as Hank had at first supposed—and if anything should happen to
disappoint his expectations, would it not be well to have that will
business to fall back upon?

“By George! that has only just occurred to me, but it is two strings to
my bow,” said Sam. “If one fails, the other will be sure to shoot
somewhere. Now I will go to dinner and see how it looks when I come
back.”

But Sam was not obliged to wait as long as that, for on his way he
overtook Gus Layton, who was just returning home after his visit to the
livery-stable. Gus had been there in the hope of obtaining the ponies to
take care of, but found that Bob had paid for them a month’s board in
advance, and that the only way he could secure them was by going to Mr.
Gibbons for an order. Gus was in a very bad humor, and when Sam stepped
up and touched his hat to him he mentally wished him by Bob’s side on
board the J. W. Smart.

“How are you, Gus?” said Sam, with a cheerful attempt at familiarity.

“How are you?” said Gus.

“Oh, now, you needn’t throw your head in that lofty manner,” said Sam.
“You will see the day when you will be glad to speak to me. I know
something about the will that you would be glad to know. I know who
wrote the codicil.”

Gus stopped and stared at Sam.

“Yes. That’s a clause added to the will, so that, in a few words, it
doesn’t make any difference how long the body of the instrument is, you
can undo everything that has been done. For example—”

“I do not care to hear anything about it,” interrupted Gus. “My father
is the man for you to see.”

“Well, I would just as soon see him as anybody, but as I thought I could
see you first, I had better speak to you before going to him. Now, Gus,
I know all about it—”

“Go and see my father about it,” returned Gus. “I have nothing whatever
to do with it.”

“Well, good-bye, if you call that going. But there is no need of his
knowing anything about it.”

“I tell you I have nothing to do with it.”

“All right. But when you speak to your father about it just remember
this: Mr. Gibbons is talking of bringing him before ‘Squire Sprague to
answer some questions he shall ask him. I’ll be there when he wants me,
and shall be ready to tell what I know about the codicil. Good-bye.”

Gus Layton was never more frightened than he was when he opened the iron
gate and started up the walk to see his father. He easily found his way
into the library, for the door was not locked. He discovered his father
pacing up and down the room.

“Why, Augustus, where have you been?” he demanded. “I have sent all
around the house and grounds for you.”

“I told you I was going to go up and see about those ponies, did I not?”
replied Gus. “Well, Bob has got the advantage of us. He has paid a
month’s board for them, and we can’t get them. He wanted me to go to
that old skinflint, Mr. Gibbons, for an order, but I could not see it.
We haven’t got quite so far down as that yet.”

“You did right and proper. We have no business to go to him for
anything,” said his father. “But, Augustus, you look sort of worried
about something. Has anything happened to disturb you?”

“Well, yes. While I was coming up here from the livery-stable,” said
Gus, fixing his eyes upon his father, “Sam Houston came up and asked me
if I knew who wrote that codicil.”

“Who is Sam Houston, and what does he know about the codicil?” asked Mr.
Layton, leaning one arm upon the mantel-piece and rubbing his hands
together. His face grew a shade paler, and Gus was sure he was on the
right track.

“He said you wrote it. And he said, further, that he could tell me
something about it that I wanted to know. I referred him to you.”

“That was all right. But what do you suppose he could have told you
about the will that I don’t know?”

“I don’t know; but Mr. Gibbons can.”

“Mr. Gibbons?”

“Yes; he is going to bring you before ‘Squire Sprague. But, father, you
didn’t touch that will, did you?”

“What an idea! Do you suppose it would have been admitted to probate if
it hadn’t been all right? Now, Gus, I am going to ask you to leave me
for a while. I have some business that needs attending to. I will call
you after a few minutes.”

Mr. Layton hardly waited for his son to take his leave when he threw
himself into a chair and covered his face with his hands. He remained
thus for a few minutes, and then got up and walked the floor.

“Oh, I wrote it! I wrote it!” he cried out in agony. “I forged Captain
Nellis’s name to it. What will become of me if it is found out?”