LEON'S WAR RECORD

Everybody in town knew Hank, and everybody felt sorry for him, too. He
and his mother were obliged to work so hard, and his father, presuming
on his war record, did nothing but loaf. He had been wounded three times
while in the service, but that did not hurt him any, and Mr. Sprague had
threatened to arrest him and put him where he would be obliged to do
something; but his wife and Hank always stood in the way. It would have
mortified them beyond measure to have Mr. Lufkin sent to the workhouse,
and Mr. Sprague didn’t know what else to do with him.
It took Hank a long time to purchase his supply of provisions, there
were so many things he wanted which he was obliged to let alone; but at
last he started homeward with a full basket on each arm. Among other
things he had purchased a pair of new shoes for his mother—she needed
shoes almost as badly as her husband—and he had two dollars left. He
knew right where they would go.
“Father is bound to have what is left, and I can’t hinder him from
taking it,” he said, as he put his baskets down in a doorway to rest. “I
shan’t resist at all when he asks for it. If I was satisfied that this
would be the last time he would ask me for it, he could take it and
welcome; but it won’t be. He’ll be after me for some plug-tobacco, and I
have already spent as much money for that as I can afford. But two
hundred dollars! I’m going to take mother’s breath away when I tell her
that.”
When Hank drew near to his home he couldn’t see anybody, but the sound
of a loud voice coming from the inside, his father’s voice, told him
that his mother had returned from her day’s washing. His father was
angry about something, for his stentorian voice was raised so high in
his excitement that it could have been heard across the street, while
his mother answered in a mild tone, which seemed to increase the man’s
fury.
“Why didn’t you get it?” he heard his father ask, as he unlatched the
gate. “Here I am going around barefooted, and you are making a sight of
money by washing. I tell you I don’t want to go around this way any
longer.”
“The woman was not at home when I left,” said Mrs. Lufkin. “And
supposing I do get the money, what good will it do you? It amounts to
only one dollar, and you can’t get a pair of shoes for less than two.”
“Well, if you ain’t got any money how am I to get things to eat? I can’t
live on nothing.”
“I am sure I don’t know. The tea is gone, the bread is pretty nearly
gone, and what we are to do I don’t know. There was a man inquiring
about you to-day. He says he can easily give you a job in the hay-field,
if you are willing to go to work.”
“But I tell you I can’t work. This wound in my side bothers me more than
I can tell. I wish that fellow had it. I tell you he would give that
hay-field a wide berth.”
This was all that Hank heard of the confab between husband and wife, for
just then the gate clicked and he went merrily up the porch with his two
baskets on his arm. He walked into the room and placed them on the
table.
“There, mother,” said he. “You’ll find grub enough in those baskets to
last you three or four days. When that is gone I can easily get more.”
“Why, Henry, how did you make so much money?” exclaimed his mother in
surprise.
“Bob Nellis gave it to me,” replied Hank.
“How much did he give you?” asked his father.
“Ten dollars.”
“And all for doing nothing!” exclaimed Mr. Lufkin. “I think I heard you
say that Bob is about as hard up as we are. His giving away ten to you
looks like it.”
“Well, he gave it to me, anyway,” said Hank. “I suppose he has a right
to do what he pleases with his own. The money was in his hands, and so
he gave it to me.”
“I would have gone with him for five, and I could show him some places
where he could catch fish,” snarled Mr. Lufkin, who did not see that
Hank was trying to get around the question without telling a lie. “You
always seem to be making money, and I never see you do anything. You
must have some of this ten dollars left?”
“Yes, sir, and there it is.”
Hank felt in his pocket and drew out the two dollars, which he placed in
his father’s palm. Mr. Lufkin was surprised, and so was his mother. They
had never seen Hank so willing to part with money before.
“Is this all you have got?” asked Mr. Lufkin.
“Yes, sir, that’s all. If you don’t believe me you can search me.”
This little incident will suffice to show that his father was not above
going through his son’s clothes to find his money. Hank had seen him do
it often, and he knew that his father had searched his mother’s clothing
also.
“I’ll take your word for it,” said his father; “but it beats me how you
can make so much money catching fish when you never catch any. I reckon
I had best go down town now. You’ll have supper ready by the time I get
back, Molly?”
“Oh, yes, I’ll have supper by that time,” said his wife, who, when she
had got through admiring her new shoes, turned her attention to the
other things in the baskets. “Henry has a good many things here that
don’t need cooking.”
Mr. Lufkin put on his hat and walked out of the house with the air of a
man who had a million dollars in his pocket. It always made him feel big
to know that he had some money, even though he did not make it himself.
Hank watched him go through the gate, and finally went out and leaned
over it to make sure that he had gone, and at last he went back to his
mother.
“He is safely out of sight now, and I want you to come here and listen
to me for a few minutes,” said Hank, taking the groceries out of her
hand and laying them on the table. “Oh, I haven’t been doing any harm,
you can rest assured of that; but that pearl you saw me have was worth
two hundred dollars.”
Paying no attention to his mother’s expressions of astonishment, Hank
went on and gave her a full history of the pearl and of his interview
with Bob Nellis, and ended with Bob’s offering to take it and sell it.
“He disposed of it just before he came up here,” said Hank, “but he saw
father about the house, and so took me off on one side to talk to me
about going fishing. He showed me the money, and I got ten dollars of
him to buy groceries with.”
“Do you think there are more pearls up there?” asked his mother.
“I am sure of it. I may not find them again, but they are there. I found
this one lying around loose. I was just wading across the creek to get a
shot at some quails I had marked down there, and saw this stone and put
it into my pocket. But, goodness me! I didn’t think I had made so much
out of it.”
“Where is the rest of the money? You will have to take mighty good care
that your father don’t find it out.”
“Let him. The money is given into Bob’s hands, and to-morrow I am going
down to put it in the bank. But here is another thing that I have just
thought of. If I put it in in your name or mine, and father should find
it out, then what?”
“I don’t know,” replied Mrs. Lufkin. “Your father would make us draw it,
whether we wanted to or not.”
“That’s just what I was thinking of. Suppose I put it in in Bob’s name?
Of course I would have to go to him every time I wanted to draw any
money.”
“It would be better so. Bob is honest, and you could get the money from
him as readily as if it was in your own name.”
“And father couldn’t get it. That’s what I am thinking the most of. Now,
mother, what shall I spend it for—a boat?”
“I don’t think I would draw on this money for anything,” said his
mother. “You had better wait until you find some more pearls.”
It was astonishing what an effect the word “money” had upon the two
inmates of the house. Mrs. Lufkin, who had been so down-hearted a little
while before because the tea and bread were gone, went about getting
supper as she had done in the days gone by, when Joe first came back
from the army, and Hank sat in the doorway, where he could keep watch of
his father, nursed his left leg, and talked of what those two hundred
dollars might bring them, until he saw Lufkin coming briskly along the
road. He felt better, for he had a pair of new shoes on.
“Halloo!” he exclaimed, when he came into the house. “Supper is ready,
ain’t it? I am in just the right humor to tackle it. I haven’t had
anything fit to eat since I came back from the army, nor before, either,
I might say. Just before we surrendered up there to Richmond we didn’t
have nothing but corn to eat, and a man mighty soon gets tired of that.
Grant furnished us with rations, and I never felt so good as I did when
I filled out on them.”
Joe seated himself at the table without waiting for an invitation to do
so, and straightway helped himself to two of the slices of salmon, which
he proceeded to eat as though he was still serving in the army under
Lee. When the supply of salmon was gone he called for more, and when the
two platesful had disappeared he got up feeling that he had enjoyed a
good meal. Hank had seen the time when he was rather opposed to his
father’s ravenous eating, but he didn’t mind it now. He filled a
cob-pipe with some tobacco, unwrapped his old shoes, threw them down on
the floor for his wife to pick up, and seated himself in the doorway,
prepared to enjoy a paper which was a week old. He read the
advertisements and everything else that was in print, until his eyes
rested on an article that instantly riveted his attention. He read it
over several times, and then rested his paper on his knee, leaned back
against the side of the house, and went off into a brown study. The
article referred to ran as follows:
“A PIRATICAL PROGNOSIS.
“A tramp is represented as musing thus at Elberon: ‘I suppose that in
the cottages between here and the West End, a distance of maybe a mile,
there’s a million dollars’ worth of easily portable stuff, such as
money, jewelry, silverware, fine wearing apparel and household
decorations. Two policemen are on duty along that stretch of seashore.
Well, now, suppose that on some dark night a small vessel should anchor
off the place, and a band of well-armed men should land in row-boats,
gag the inmates, pack up the valuables, and sail away with the cargo?
Doesn’t it seem to you that such a raid might be made successfully? It
does to me, upon my word.’ The listener says he thought of this when, in
a hotel parlor, he saw thousands upon thousands of dollars scintillating
upon fair dancers—in their ears and hair, at their wrists, and among the
trimmings of their dresses. Even in the presence of many men he thinks a
gang of active and reckless robbers might have dashed into the
assemblage, surprised and cowed everybody into submission by a few
pistol-shots, picked handsful of precious stones like berries from a
bush, and scooted away before the most quickly valiant of the lazy
loungers could make any effort at resistance.”
This was the article that drew Joe’s attention, and it impressed him so
much that he pulled out his knife, cut out the piece and put it into his
pocket. Then he got up and strolled down to the gate, leaned upon it,
and thought about it some more.
“I don’t know where Elberon is, but there’s a place just like it about
five miles down the bay,” soliloquized Mr. Lufkin, “and if it could be
worked at Elberon, what’s the reason it couldn’t be worked at
Middletown? There’s a heap of these big Southern planters who go there
to escape the hot weather, and once, when I was down there with a load
of fish, I saw a woman with so much jewelry on I just wish I could have
got hold of it. This is news to me, and I tell you I have got to think
of it. I wonder if Bob Nellis has his boat? Hank,” he added, turning
about and speaking so loud that they could hear him in the house, “did
Bob leave his schooner up there for Gus to take charge of?”
“No, sir. Bob’s got her, and he never said nothing to his uncle about
it.”
“Is that the one you are going fishing in to-morrow?”
“If we go at all we shall go in her.”
“Well,” said Joe, who knew he ought to say something, “you won’t catch
any fish. I’d have gone with Bob for half what he gave you, and I’d had
some beauties to show when I came back. So Bob has got his schooner,”
added Joe, facing about and going on with his soliloquy. “Now, if I
could only find some determined men to help me steal that schooner some
dark night, and run down to Middletown and pick off those precious
stones like you was pulling berries from a bush, I tell you I wouldn’t
do any more work. I’ve got something to think of now, and who knows
that—by George! I believe I can do it. I’ll just go down to Middletown
and see how things look.”
Joe Lufkin didn’t sleep much that night, for he was thinking about his
new scheme, and it was long after midnight before he went to bed.
Whenever he stumbled upon any new thing, and it looked well to him, he
was accustomed to build air-castles; and this idea of his formed the
foundation for many an airy building. Hank slept soundly, and when he
awoke, the first thing he thought of was his good fortune. He thought he
would speak to his mother about it. She had labored long and
industriously to keep the family in food and to supply her lazy husband
with wearing-apparel, and now Hank thought it about time she was taking
a good long rest. He waited until his father had disposed of two men’s
share of the breakfast and started off, no one knew where, and Hank was
busy with the dishes, when he said to his mother:
“Where are you going to-day?”
“I haven’t got any place to go to,” said Mrs. Lufkin. “I thought that,
seeing that we had so much money, I could take a breathing spell for a
week.”
“Take two weeks,” said Hank. “It won’t be any too long to enable you to
get your breath. I don’t see why father won’t go to work. He can make as
much as I can, and he wouldn’t have to keep bothering me for money. I
wonder if all fathers are like him?”
“No, they are not. There’s Captain Nellis, for instance.”
“I tell you he was a father worth having. That boy had nothing to do but
go to school, and when he came home his father was always glad to see
him. What a pity it is that Bob is so low down in the world as to have
to depend on his uncle for money.”
“Does his uncle give him any money?”
“I don’t know, but I think he does. He is living now with old Ben
Watson, and they are just as happy as two bugs in a rug. Say, mother, I
guess I will put on my good clothes to-day.”


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His mother did not raise any objection, and when the breakfast dishes
had been washed and things put to rights about the house Hank
disappeared, and when he came out again he looked very unlike the ragged
boy who had gone into the bedroom a few minutes before. To have taken a
single look at him, a stranger would have thought he was the son of a
well-to-do man.
“I remember that I saved my money for six months to buy this suit of
clothes,” said Hank to himself, surveying as much of his person as he
could in the little seven-by-nine looking-glass that stood in his
mother’s room. “How mad father was! I thought he was going to take the
clothes away and pawn them; but thank goodness he has not got so low in
the world as that comes to. If he should get into the way of pawning
things it would be all over with us. He would have to go to the
work-house, sure.”
When Hank arrived at Ben’s house he found the old sailor there on the
porch, together with Bob Nellis and a new-comer, Leon Sprague, whom he
had not seen before since his return from school. Leon was sitting with
Captain Nellis’s sword unsheathed in his lap, and appeared to be
listening to something old Ben was telling him, but he jumped up and
greeted Hank very cordially.
“Hank, I congratulate you on your streak of good luck,” said Leon. “I
suppose you don’t care if Bob has told me about it?”
“No, indeed. I intended to show you the pearl before it was sold, but
Bob received a good price for it. I tell you, it beats me.”
“It is always darkest just before daylight,” said Leon. “It has been
very dark with you, but now you are in a fair way to make a man of
yourself. But how did you keep your father from knowing it?”
“I told him Bob had given me ten dollars to go fishing with him, and he
said it was all humbug. He would have gone with him for five, and showed
him where he could catch some beauties, too.”
An audible smile ran around the group as Hank said this, and Bob wanted
to know why it was that Joe didn’t hire a boat and catch some of those
beauties. He could sell them at Middletown as fast as he could haul them
in. Hank didn’t answer, and Bob continued:
“We have been listening to some stories Leon was telling us about the
war.”
“I didn’t know that Leon had been in the war,” said Hank.
“Oh, yes; I was in it from the time the first gun cracked. It was only
two years ago that the war closed, and I am now almost twenty-two.”
“Then you have been through the same mill that father has.”
“Well—no. I was in the Confederacy, but I wasn’t on the Confederate
side. You see, Jones county, in Mississippi, was rather a hard place to
raise soldiers for the rebellion. We were most all lumbermen, and we
weren’t in favor of the South seceding; so when the South withdrew from
the Union we held a meeting in Ellisville and got up a series of
resolutions seceding from the Southern Confederacy.”
“Why, would they let you do that?” exclaimed Hank, who was greatly
astonished.
“They couldn’t help themselves. And it was in Jeff Davis’s own State,
too.”
“Did you have any fighting?”
“Well, we saw more than we wanted,” said Leon, with a smile. “We stole
wagons that were loaded down with provisions, and the deserters came in
from Union and rebel sides until there were twenty thousand of us, all
hid away in the swamps.”
“Where did you get your money?” said old Ben, bluntly.
“I found it.”
“Well, where did you find it?”
“It all came about through an old bachelor, Smith by name, who belonged
to our regiment, and who seemed to take a liking to me ever since I was
a little fellow,” said Leon. “When he was shot he revived long enough to
tell me where I would find this money, so I went there with father, when
the war was over, and dug it up.”
“Didn’t he have any relatives to share it with him?”
“None at all. We got every cent of it—one hundred thousand dollars.”
“Whew!” whistled Bob.
“Oh, we got more than that, for gold was worth something in those days.
We went there one dark and stormy night,” continued Leon, growing
enthusiastic when he thought of it; “but, dark as it was, we found
somebody there waiting for us. These lumbermen were just as poor as they
could be, and although they were brave men when fighting for the Union,
they didn’t mean to stand by and let a hundred thousand dollars go out
of their county if they could help it, and I tell you we had a race with
them. But we got away.”
“I declare, you have had some experience,” said Bob, “and one of these
days I want to hear your story from beginning to end; but just now I
have to go to the bank. Are you all ready, Hank?”
Hank was all ready, and after the Captain’s sword had been put away, the
three boys put on their hats and started for town.