For long hours Joe Lufkin lay there upon the lounge, with his left hand
thrust deep into his pocket, so that he could feel the bills, and all
the while he was wondering how he was going to spend his money. He
wanted a boat more than anything else, and he wished more than once that
he had stuck out for a hundred dollars. Nobody could buy a boat worth
anything for fifty dollars; and suppose he paid the cash for it, the
inquiry would naturally rise, where did he get so much money?
“I declare it seems as though I have got to keep my money, now that I
have got it,” said Joe, getting so nervous that he could scarcely lie
still. “I never thought of the way I was going to spend it, and here I
am no better off than I was before. But I’ve got fifty dollars, and
that’s more than every man can say.”
Finally the cat-birds and the robins began to sing, and that admonished
him that morning was coming; and in a few minutes more Hank’s door
opened and the boy came out. He was surprised to find his father lying
there on the lounge with his clothes on, as if he hadn’t been to bed at
“Why, father, when did you get up?” he asked.
“I’ve been this way all night,” said Joe. “I didn’t shut my eyes in
sleep last night.”
“Were you sick?”
“No; I have been worrying about myself. Here you are making all the
money that comes into the house and I ain’t making a thing. I get that
way sometimes,” said Joe, drawing on his imagination, “and I don’t sleep
for three or four nights.”
“But, father, if you would only try to get work we could get along a
great deal better,” said Hank.
“I can’t find any work to suit me. This wound in my side bothers me
Hank didn’t say any more. When he got to talking about the wound in his
side, which he wouldn’t have known he had there if he did not look at
the scar now and then, it shut off all argument. He went into the
kitchen and started the fire, after which he came out with his hat on.
“I guess I’ll go now,” said he. “Bob always has a cup of coffee waiting
for me. Good-bye.”
“I reckon all the fishing you do with Bob Nellis to-day won’t hurt you
much,” said Joe, with a chuckle. “If the J. W. Smart is as swift as they
say she is, she’s a hundred miles at sea. I will go and hide this money
while I am about it, for if anything should get out on me I’d be in a
He sat up on the lounge, yawned and stretched himself, and went out
behind the house. He found a hoe there, where it had remained in all
sorts of weather—ever since, in fact, he had got through hoeing a
half-row of peas—and with it in his hand he vanished behind some
currant-bushes. Joe was a worker if he set about it, and in five minutes
he had a hole dug and his roll of bills covered up. When his wife called
him to breakfast he was busy in pulling the weeds from some
“I have been working at that just to see if I could stand it in the
hay-field,” said Joe, placing his hand on his side and sinking down on
the lounge, “but I find that I can’t. Halloo, Hank! What brought you
back to the house all on a sudden? Your face is pale, too.”
“Father,” said Hank, in a trembling voice, “where did you say you saw
Samson last night?”
“Out in front of his saloon,” replied Joe. “He and Barlow were out there
the whole evening. Why do you ask that question?”
“They have been up to something, and I wish I could prove it on them,”
said Hank, seating himself in the nearest chair and resting his elbows
on his knees. “Bob and Ben Watson have not been home since last night.”
“Well, what of that? They have gone off a-fishing, likely.”
“But their beds haven’t been slept in. The doors of the house are all
open and the lamp burning, just as it was when Bob left there.”
“Why, what do you think has become of them?” asked Mrs. Lufkin, who
stood by holding a dish of fried potatoes in her hand.
“They have been shipped off to sea; that’s what’s the matter with them.
The J. W. Smart isn’t in her berth, either. She’s gone.”
Mrs. Lufkin was overcome with astonishment, while Joe drew his chair up
to the table and sat down to his breakfast as if nothing had happened.
“You mark my words: They have gone off somewhere, and of course there
wasn’t anybody to leave word with where they had gone. They’ll be around
all right in the course of the day.”
“Where are you going?” asked Mrs. Lufkin, as Hank arose to his feet.
“I am going down to see Mr. Gibbons about it,” said Hank.
“Better sit up and have some breakfast first,” said his father.
“No, sir. It is too serious a matter to waste time eating breakfast. If
Mr. Gibbons thinks they have gone, all right. I am going to see him the
first thing I do.”
“Why, Gibbons don’t know any more about it than you,” said his father.
“They went off—”
But Hank was already on his way toward the gate. Having made up his mind
that the lawyer was the one to see, he lost no time in getting there;
but when, after half an hour’s rapid running, he rang the bell and Mr.
Gibbons came to the door, he saw by the blank look on the gentleman’s
face that he did not comprehend the matter any better than he did.
“Why, I can’t imagine what sent them away,” said Mr. Gibbons. “I did not
know that they intended to go anywhere.”
“But, Mr. Gibbons, they have been shipped on board some vessel that they
never signed articles for,” said Hank, earnestly. “They would never go
off in this way without letting me know it, for I agreed to go fishing
with Bob to-day.”
Mr. Gibbons started as if he had been shot. He got his hat and started
toward Ben Watson’s house (all the while he moved so fast that Hank had
to trot to keep pace with him), and during the walk he inquired closely
in regard to what Barlow and Samson had been doing the night before.
“They did not have any hand in doing it, Mr. Gibbons,” said Hank.
“Father saw them when he came by the saloon about ten o’clock, and
Samson said how nice it would be if he could capture _him_ and send him
off to sea. Barlow and Samson were around their saloon all the evening.”
Being thus baffled at the very outset, Mr. Gibbons did not come to any
conclusion regarding the mysterious disappearance of his two friends.
When he reached the house with Hank he went all over it, but not the
smallest thing did he find in the shape of a clue. Remember, the two men
had been captured out of doors, and consequently there was not the first
thing in the house disturbed. He put out the lamp and went down to the
beach, to where the boats lay. Not a thing had been disturbed there,
either; but, looking in the direction that Hank pointed, he saw that the
J. W. Smart had left her moorings. There was one thing about it, he told
himself: “Ben and Bob were aboard that vessel; but who was to blame for
putting them there?”
“This beats me!” said he, in an undertone. “I wish I knew who is at
fault in this.”
“So do I,” said Hank, his eyes filling with tears. “Bob wanted to let
every fellow alone, and they wouldn’t let him. They had to interfere
with him and send him off to sea. There’s no knowing whether he will
come back or not.”
“Let us hope that he will,” said the lawyer, fervently. “Now, the next
thing is something else.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I am going to lock the house up and take the key with me,” said Mr.
Gibbons, “and then I am going around to the livery-stable to inquire if
he has been there. If his horses are still in the stable, I shall get
out a warrant for Barlow’s and Samson’s arrest. I am going to make them
tell, under oath, where they were last night.”
Hank did not say a word to Mr. Gibbons about it, but he determined to
keep near him until he found out what had become of Bob Nellis. He
accompanied him toward the livery-stable, and was not much surprised to
hear the proprietor say that he hadn’t seen Bob since he brought his
ponies there to be taken care of. There was something on Hank’s face
that made the livery-stable keeper inquire:
“What’s wrong about Bob? Has he gone off?”
“I should say he has,” replied Mr. Gibbons. “He has gone off, and nobody
seems to know where he is. His house was open and the lamp was lighted,
just as it would be if Bob was going to come back to it in the dark.”
“He’s aboard the Smart; that’s where he is,” said Hank. “And he did not
sign articles, neither.”
“The Smart?” echoed the proprietor. “I’ll bet there’s just where he is,
for yesterday the captain came to me and asked me, in a joking sort of
way, if I could find a man to help him out. He had a man or two less
than he wanted, and he would be short-handed even then.”
“I guess Barlow and Samson can tell all about it,” said the lawyer. “At
any rate, I am going to try them.”
“Are you going to arrest them? I think that will be a good plan. I will
go with you. Those pestiferous men have been a heap of mischief in this
town, and I should be glad to see them swept out of it.”
The three left the livery-stable, and in due course reached ‘Squire
Sprague’s office. There were half a dozen persons in the room, one of
whom was a constable. Mr. Gibbons stated his grievance, to which all
present listened with interest, and finally asked for a warrant for
Barlow and Samson.
“I reckon you’ve got them this time,” said ‘Squire Sprague, during which
he drew a sheet of paper toward him. “I ought to have arrested them when
I went in to stop a fight, but my boy thought that a lawyer had better
be consulted first. We will have them up here in short order.”
The warrant was speedily made out, and the constable took it and
disappeared down the stairs. While he was gone, Mr. Gibbons explained
that he was arresting them merely on supposition; that Bob and Ben
Watson were gone, and that Barlow’s conduct was such that they naturally
connected him with it. He wanted him to state positively where he had
been the night before. While he was talking about it the constable and
his prisoners came up; and this was not all of them, either. All the
hangers-on about his saloon accompanied them—some as witnesses, and some
merely to look on. Barlow was mad, there was no two ways about that,
while his barkeeper was as indifferent as you please.
“Look a-here, ‘squire,” said Barlow, in a gruff voice, “I’d like to know
what I have been arrested for now.”
“Take off your hat and sit down, and in a few minutes you will find
out,” said the ‘squire. “Do you want a lawyer?”
“No, I don’t. I am innocent of any wrong, and I am able to defend
myself. I ain’t had a fuss in my house since you was there.”
After a few preliminaries had been gone through Mr. Gibbons took up the
questioning, and informed him that Bob and Ben Watson had been missing
ever since the night before, and Barlow was supposed to know where they
were. He had threatened to kidnap Ben Watson and send him aboard ship—
“I didn’t, neither,” interrupted Barlow. “Ben was asleep and dreamed it
—”Send him aboard a ship,” continued the lawyer, paying no heed to the
breaking of his speech; and they wanted to know right where he had kept
himself when Bob and Watson were captured. Where was he the night
before? Barlow listened attentively to all the lawyer had to say, as if
the news was quite new to him, and more than one in the courtroom
believed that he had heard it for the first time. When Mr. Gibbons asked
him this question he said:
“I don’t know where the boy is any more than the man in the moon. I was
around my house the whole evening except about an hour, when I went into
the back room to take a short nap; and my man Samson knows it. Just
’cause ole Ben Watson fell asleep and dreamed that we were going to
kidnap him and send him off to sea, you suspect me when anything turns
“You are strongly blamed for everything that has happened in regard to
men going off to sea,” said Mr. Gibbons.
“But that ain’t the kind of proof you want here,” said Barlow. “You want
to know I did it. You can’t put your thumb on a man that I have
kidnapped and sent off to sea.”
That was just the trouble with Mr. Gibbons. He could not prove anything,
although he was like hundreds of others in the village—he suspected
Barlow had a hand in most of it.
“You ask any of these men around here,” continued Barlow. “They were all
around my saloon last night.”
The lawyer tried by every means in his power to get Barlow to confess
where he was during the hour he was absent from his saloon, but all he
could gain was that he was in the back room and fast asleep. He hadn’t
any idea what had become of Bob Nellis. As he paused a moment in his
questioning, Mr. Sprague arose from his seat and moved into a remote
corner of the room, and Mr. Gibbons followed him. The two gentlemen
engaged in an earnest whisper, and finally the lawyer said:
“I haven’t got to that case yet. He is easily frightened, I know, but I
want to get the dead wood on him, sure.”
Mr. Sprague was speaking of Captain Nellis, and of the scenes Barlow had
witnessed on the stormy morning, which he wouldn’t tell to anybody. Mr.
Sprague wanted Mr. Gibbons to take that up and question Barlow, but the
lawyer was not ready to do it yet. He didn’t expect Barlow would tell
the truth (he knew that he had told him a pack of lies during this
examination); and although Mr. Layton was the man who was easily
frightened, he was anxious to confront him with the strongest testimony.
“Well, Barlow,” said the lawyer, coming back to his seat, “you can go. I
have got done with you.”
“All right, sir,” returned Barlow, putting on his hat. “I knew you would
let me go when you knew the facts of the case. I don’t like the
reputation I have got of kidnapping men and sending them off to sea. It
will take me years to get out of it.”
“It will probably stay with you as long as you remain in this village,”
said ‘Squire Sprague. “And understand, Barlow, this isn’t the last of
it. You may be summoned to appear before me again at any time.”
“Very good, sir. Whenever you want me you know where to find me.”
The lawyer had not taken more than an hour with his examination, but the
court-room was crowded, not only with Barlow’s friends, but with those
who were anxious to know what had become of Bob Nellis and Ben Watson.
Barlow crowded his way through them without receiving a smile from
anybody, and in a few minutes gained the street.
“I hope that man, ole Ben Watson, is where he will get his pay for
dreaming that thing about me,” said Barlow. “I may be summoned to appear
again at any time, may I? Well, he can’t hear any different story from
me than what he has heard already. If I knew where Bob Nellis was I’d
tell him in a minute.”
Among those who heard about Bob Nellis’s and Ben Watson’s disappearance
was one who was utterly confounded, and did not know whether he stood on
his head or his heels when he listened to it. It was Gus Layton, who had
come down to the post-office for his mail, his father having taken a
good deal to staying around the house of late. It was told to him by one
who was as mean as himself—a boy who could not keep a secret if he
tried. He was to the village what Simpson was to the academy.
“Ah! Gus, good-morning to you,” said he. “You have been back some time,
but I haven’t seen you before. Clifton is in an uproar this morning,
isn’t it?”
“I noticed that something was up,” replied Gus, “and everyone looks at
me as though I had some hand in it. What’s up?”
“You didn’t have a hand in it, did you?”
“In what?”
“In sending Bob and Ben off to sea.”
“Why, I don’t understand you.”
“Didn’t you know that those two men had gone to sea? Well, they have.
They went last night, and never said good-night to anybody. They have
had Barlow down to the ‘squire’s, examining him, but I’ll bet they
didn’t get at the truth of the story. You are all right now, ain’t you?”
Gus was thunderstruck at first, but as he listened to the story—some
meagre outlines were all the boy could tell him—he felt like yelling and
dancing a hornpipe; but knowing that that wouldn’t do, he held his peace
and gazed down at the ground very solemnly. He said he was sorry, for
Bob was not cut out for a sailor, expressed himself as being glad that
his father and mother were gone, so that they couldn’t hear of it, and
then got his mail and turned his steps homeward.

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“And this will be my home, now, forever,” said Gus, hardly able to
control himself. “Bob and Ben are gone, and there will be no one to
interfere with me. I guess I had better go and get those ponies the
first thing I do. He probably left them at the livery-stable, and they
won’t want to take care of them, now that there is no one to pay for
them. Hoop-pe! I am in luck.”
He kept up a slow and dignified tread, and walked with his head down as
long as he remained on the street, for fear that somebody was watching
him; but the moment the gate closed behind him, and the bushes shut him
off from all pedestrians on the road, he broke into a run, made his way
up the steps and into the hall. Giving his hat a fling at the hat-rack,
he went into the library, the door of which he closed and fastened.
“Why, Augustus, have you taken leave of your senses?” asked his father.
“I have got the best news you have had for many a day,” whispered Gus,
drawing a chair up beside his father. “No more hard work for either of
us. Bob Nellis and old Ben Watson were kidnapped last night and sent to
Mr. Layton, who had been in the act of unfolding a paper, dropped it
into his lap and turned paler than usual. He gazed at Gus, but had
nothing to say.
“They have had Barlow before the ‘squire’s court, but didn’t make
anything out of him,” added Gus.
“Augustus, are you crazy?” said his father.
“I never was more sane than I am at this minute,” replied Gus. “I feel
as though I should fly. Here’s just the way it happened.”
Gus went on and told the story just as he heard it from the boy in the
post-office. There wasn’t much to tell, of course, but it was enough to
make Mr. Layton see that his troubles were ended for the time being. He
even smiled, and that was the first effort Gus had seen him make in that
line since he came home.
“I am very sorry to hear that about Bob,” said Mr. Layton, with a
long-drawn sigh.
“So am I,” said Gus. “They will treat him dreadful. But Barlow is
true-blue,” he added to himself. “If he had told what happened there in
his house before Mr. Sprague came in he would have got father and me in
a dreadful fix.” Then he said aloud: “But, father, there are those
ponies. There will be nobody to pay for their board, and I might as well
have them as anybody else.”
“Where do you suppose he left them?”
“At the livery-stable.”
“Well, let us wait a little while. We mustn’t be too quick to take
advantage of Bob’s absence. Now, Gus, suppose you leave me alone for a
short time. I am sure I can’t get over this. You’re sure they are gone?”
“As certain as I can be,” replied Gus, earnestly. “The whole village is
in an uproar, and I couldn’t make out what it was until this boy told
me. I declare, that Bob Nellis has got more friends than I ever had. I’d
like to see how many he’ll get on shipboard.”
“Augustus, I am surprised at you,” said his father.
“Well, father, if you had been in my place, and taken all the abuse I
have, you would say the same thing,” replied Gus. “Of course he will
have more enemies than he’s had here, and there won’t be anybody to
toady to him because he is the son of the wealthiest captain in Clifton.
Well, if you want to be alone I’ll go away for a little while. I know
what you want,” he added, in an undertone. “You want to be alone, so
that you can gloat over Bob’s disappearance. Now, I will go down and see
about those ponies the first thing I do.”
Gus found his hat on the hall floor, put it on and struck up a lively
whistle as he bent his steps toward the gate; but as soon as the gate
closed behind him and he began to meet the pedestrians on the street he
cut short his whistle and walked along with his gaze fastened on the
ground. It seemed as if everybody he met looked at him with a sidelong
glance, as if to say that they knew he was in some way responsible for
Bob’s disappearance. Probably his guilty conscience had something to do
with it. After a few minutes he reached the stable, and he knew by the
looks of the men that the news had got around there also. They were all
angry about something, he could see that plainly enough.
“Halloo, Gus!” exclaimed the proprietor as he came in. “You are clear of
your cousin now, at any rate.”
“So I have heard,” said Gus. “He has gone off to sea and never said a
word about it. Do you know where he is?”
“Do I? I guess you had better go aboard the J. W. Smart, and you will
find him there.”
It was plain that Gus did not want to talk to the livery-stable keeper
too much. It was evident that he had something back of it.
“Did Bob bring some horses here yesterday for you to take care of?” he
asked, going into his business at once.
“He did,” replied the proprietor.
“Well, now, there isn’t anybody to pay for their keeping—”
“Oh, yes, there is. Bob paid for them for a whole month.”
“A whole month! Then he must have known that he was going away.”
“No, I don’t reckon he did. Did you want to take the ponies and take
care of them? You will have to see Mr. Gibbons about that. He is the man
who stands closer to Bob than anybody else. Besides, Bob will be back
some day, and I want to turn his horses over to him in just as good
condition as when they were received.”
“Then I had better get an order for them.”
“Exactly. That’s the way for you to do.”
“It beats the world, but you can’t throw a stone in any direction
without hitting one of Bob’s friends,” said Gus, as he turned and left
the stable. “Everybody is friendly to him. Mighty clear of my going to
Gibbons for that order. The ponies can stay there until they die of old
age before I try to get them out. But he says Bob was going to come back
some day. That bothers me worse than anything else.”
Gus walked briskly away, as if he were going to the lawyer’s office, but
when he had turned three or four corners and got out of sight of the
stable he bent his steps toward home.