Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 10

CHAPTER X


UNCLE EZRA'S OFFER


Simon Scardale and Guy Fletcher had heard something of Dick's Uncle Ezra. They knew of liis dislike for spending money, and they were not a little surprised, therefore, when he led them toward a restaurant, shortly after the young millionaire had gone to the depot in his auto.

"I believe he's going to treat us to a dinner," remarked Simon, in a low voice to his companion.

"Don't be too sure," was the guarded response. "He's one of those fellows who squeeze a dollar so hard that he gets enough feathers off the eagle to make a sofa cushion."

"Well, boys," remarked Mr. Larabee, as he paused in front of the eating place, "I got up early this morning, to take the first train here from Dankville, and I didn't eat much breakfast. So I think I'll go in here for a cup of coffee. You wait outside, and when I get through I guess I can put you in the way of making a few dollars."

"Do you want us to wait outside?" asked Simon, suggestively.

"Yes; why not? You had your breakfast; ain't you?"

"We also ate early," spoke Guy, with a grin at his companion; "didn't we, Simon?"

"Sure," answered the other. "Besides, if Mr. Larabee has anything to say to us it's more private in the restaurant than out in the street. Some one might see us here."

Uncle Ezra made a wry face. He had outlined a certain plan of procedure for himself, along the lines of what he considered was his duty, and he had made up his mind that it would cost him some money. Yet, when the time came to begin spending, he was averse to it. But he did not see how he could get out of it.

"It's bad to eat in between meals," he remarked, still pausing on the threshold of the restaurant. "I wouldn't do it myself, only I'm quite hungry."

"So are we," said Guy boldly, and he added: "If you want us to play any game on Dick Hamilton, you've got to pay us well for it. He doesn't like us, and he wouldn't hesitate to do us some harm. So if you want us to help you——"

"Hush!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra, nervously looking around, and taking a tighter grip of his purse. "Some one might hear you. Come on in, but, mind you, I'm not going to pay for a whole breakfast for you boys. A cup of coffee, and a sandwich, is all you can have. I'm only going to take coffee, and very weak at that. Maybe I can get a weak cup for three cents. They charge awful for coffee in some of these places."

The boys had gained their point, however, which was to be invited inside the restaurant, and soon the three were seated at a table in a secluded corner of the room.

"A cup of weak coffee," ordered Mr. Larabee, as the waitress came to the table.

"Strong coffee and griddle cakes to start with, and then ham and eggs," ordered Simon.

"I'll take the same," spoke Guy.

Mr. Larabee turned pale and cried out:

"Here! Hold on! I thought you boys were going to——"

  • T guess, Guy, we'd better be going," interrupted Simon, gravely, as he got up and reached for his hat. "Mr. Larabee doesn't want to do business with us."

"Yes, I do. Sit down!" cried the miserly old man. "Oh, dear! boys have such terrible appetites. You may bring me a very small cup of weak coffee," he said to the waitress, who seemed amused at something.

"It's all the same price," she stated.

"What? Haven't you any cheap cups—any at half price?"

"No."

Uncle Ezra groaned, and, while he sipped his beverage, he kept a watchful eye on the well-filled plates of Simon and Guy. They were doing hearty justice to the meal they ordered.

"Pretty good cakes they have here; eh, Guy?" mumbled Simon, pouring some maple syrup over the last brown one on his plate.

"Fine! yes," agreed his crony.

"What do you say to another helping before we tackle the ham and eggs?"

"I don't mind."

Simon raised his finger to summon the waitress.

"We'll have some more cakes," he ordered grandly, "and be sure to have the ham and eggs kept hot. Two more plates of cakes."

"No—no!" gasped Uncle Ezra, almost overturning his cup of coffee.

"Do you want three plates?" asked the girl, turning to him.

"I—er—no—of course, not," stammered the old man. "I never eat 'em. They give me indigestion, and then I have to pay a doctor's bill. I was just going to say——"

He looked appealingly from Guy to Simon and from Simon to Guy. The lads winked at each other.

"Queer what an appetite I've got," murmured Simon. "I didn't know I was so hungry."

"Me either," added Guy. "Do you think another plate of cakes will be enough?"

"Well, I don't know——"

"It's all you'll git!" snapped Uncle Ezra, quickly. "Do you think I'm going to pay—I mean you'll have indigestion something terrible," he finished, for he saw that the pretty waitress was looking sharply at him.

"Oh, well, I guess wath one more stack of the buckwheats and with the ham and eggs and another cup of coffee we can make out," conceded Simon, and the second plates of cakes were brought.

Uncle Ezra sat in gloomy silence during the remainder of the meal. Simon and Guy ate the last of the ham and eggs, and drained their coffee cups.

"I would like a cigar," began Simon, in a reflective sort of tone.

"Then, you'll buy it yourself," fairly growled Mr. Larabee. "Boys shouldn't smoke, nor men neither. Now, if you've finished, and the land knows you've eaten enough for two days, we'll talk business. I have some work I think you can do for me, but it must be kept quiet. I'll pay this bill, though probably it'll be terrible high, and then we can go to some private room. Is there a secluded room here?" the old man asked the waitress. "Yes," she assented, as she handed Mr. Larabee a slip with the amount of the charge on it.

"As much as that?" he gasped. "Can't you make it a little less?"

"Those are the regular prices," she answered with scornfully curling lip, as she handed him the bill of fare. He scanned it carefully through his spectacles, and, finding that the waitress was right, slowly counted out the change. He wanted the girl to accept, with the other money, a quarter with a hole in it, which piece he had vainly tried to pass several times before, but without success. She took it to the proprietor, who offered to accept it at fifteen cents.

"No, I won't take less than twenty-three for it." said Uncle Ezra. "It's a very small hole," and he put the quarter back in his pocket, to save for a future occasion.

Carefully closing the door of the private room, to which the waitress showed him, Mr. Larabee had a long talk with Guy and Simon. That there were differences of opinion was evident from the loud voices which came from the apartment at times. Finally the old man was heard to say:

"Well, that's my offer; take it or leave it."

"It's very small pay, considering the risk we run, and counting that the boat might sink in a storm," said Guy.

"Hush!" begged Mr. Larabee, "not so loudf Some one might hear you. Will you do the work, or not? I only want you to help the two men I've engaged."

"Guess we might as well," assented Simon. "It will be a good trip for us. And you want us to help get Dick——"

"Will you be quiet?" pleaded Mr. Larabee. "Now it's settled, and you can meet me in New York, say, in two days."

"Then leave us the money for our railroad fares," demanded Guy, and with many a wry face, and after some hesitation, Uncle Ezra took out his wallet, removed a leather strap and several wrappings of cord from around it, and counted out some bills. With crafty smiles on their unpleasant faces, Guy and Simon pocketed the cash.

"Now, Dick Hamilton can look out for himself," said Guy, as the three left the room. "I'll get even for the way he once treated me."

"So will I," added Simon. "Only I hope Grit, his dog, isn't around when the thing comes off."