Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 2

CHAPTER II


MR. HAMILTON'S LETTER


Colonel Masterly's summons to the young millionaire was to give him the permission, asked for shortly after the parade, to have a spread in one of the unused rooms of the academy, and once that he was assured that everything was all right, Dick set to work to provide for the good time he anticipated.

He hurried into town, and gave orders to a caterer for a "spread" such as had seldom before been given at Kentfield. Then the lad had to arrange for various details, improvising tables from boards and saw-horses, seeing to the seating arrangements, sending out his verbal invitations, in which Paul Drew helped him, for, as it was impossible to have the entire student-body at the little dinner, Dick had to confine it to his closest friends, and the members of his prize company.

That he had many friends, those of you who have read the previous volumes of this series will testify, though at first, on coming to the military academy, Dick's millions had been a handicap to him. The son of Mortimer Hamilton, of Hamilton Corners, himself a millionaire many times, Dick had inherited a large fortune from his mother, who had been dead some years; but, as told in the first volume of this series, entitled "Dick Hamilton's Fortune," he was not to have the use of this money until he had complied with certain conditions of Mrs. Hamilton's will.

One stipulation was that Dick must make a paying investment of some of his funds within a year. If he did not do this he was to go and live with a crabbed old uncle, named Ezra Larabee, of Dankville, and attend a boarding school of that relative's selection

Dick had a taste of what he might expect of his uncle, when he paid a week's visit to Dankville, and he at once made up his mind that if hard work would accomplish it, he would make that paying investment, for he realized that he never could stand life with his uncle and aunt.

The young millionaire tried several schemes for making money, from buying real estate to purchasing shares in a gold mine, but, one after another, they all failed, and the lad was on the verge of having to go and dwell in the gloomy Dankville house, called "The Firs."

How Dick fulfilled the conditions of the will, most unexpectedly, from a small investment he made for a poor youth named Henry Darby, how Grit, the bulldog, routed Uncle Ezra when he came to take his nephew back home with him, is told in the first volume, as well as how Dick got the best of some sharpers who tried to swindle him.

Secure in the possession of the great fortune his mother had left to him, Dick began to enjoy life, and did much good with his money, while he gave not a little pleasure to those not so well off as himself.

In the second volume, "Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days," our hero was obliged to fulfill another condition of his mother's will. He was to attend a military academy, and win his way up, not only in studies, but in the affections of his classmates, without any influence from his wealth.

How he succeeded again heavy odds, how there were plots and counterplots against him, how he fought a duel with one of the cadets who disliked him, and how he solved the mystery of Corporal Handlee's identity is told in the second book.

Dick's first term ended with a glad surprise, just when it looked as if everything had turned against him, and he came back to Hamilton Corners to spend the summer vacation, having done more than was expected of him in the matter of winning his way.

Dick returned to Kentfield Academy in the fall, and remained there all that winter. He was promoted to a captaincy, and was more popular than ever, winning glory for himself and his mates on the gridiron, for he was one of the best football players who ever wore moleskin. When the present story opens the summer vacation was again at hand, and during it Dick was destined to have more stirring adventures than had yet fallen to his lot.

It took Dick all the afternoon to complete arrangements for his spread, even though several of his comrades helped him. There were many details, however, which he had to see to himself, but finally he had the assurance of the caterer that everything necessary would be sent out to the academy.

Dick gave his personal check for the cost, and it was not a small sum, but the young millionaire had plenty of money to his credit. Then he hurried home to dress for the affair.

"Oh, you look good enough; come on!" exclaimed Paul Drew to Dick, as the latter was surveying his uniform in a small glass in their room that night, just before the time set for the farewell supper. "This isn't a fancy dress ball, and there aren't going to be any girls at it. Don't primp!"

"I'm not primping, but the tailor made this coat too tight, and I'm afraid if I reach across the table I'll split it down the middle."

"Which, the table or the coat?"

"Both," retorted Dick, and then, to test the garment, he stretched out his arms. There was an ominous ripping sound, and he hastily threw back his shoulders in alarm.

"What did I tell you?" he asked, reproachfully. "Don't stretch; that's all," advised Paul. "But come on if you're coming."

They descended to the improvised banquet hall. The place was tastefully arranged, except that Toots had taken the cut flowers Dick had ordered—a mass of roses, pinks and smilax—and stuck them into a big water pitcher in the centre of the table.

"Oh, wow! See that!" cried Dick. "It looks like a boarding-house hash-foundry! Here, Paul, help me scatter the posies more artistically. They remind me of a cabbage-head at a county fair; but Toots meant all right."

The two cadets soon had made several bouquets of the flowers, and set them in different places on the table, producing a much more artistic effect. Then Dick stepped back to admire it.

"I smell grub!" cried a voice outside.

"Hash and baked beans!" added another.

"Pickled pigs' feet!" was a third contribution.

"If I can't have quail on toast, stuffed with horse chestnuts and snowballs I'll not play!" howled a fourth.

"Here they come," said Paul, significantly.

"I hear 'em," replied Dick, with a grin.

The door flew open, and in rushed a crowd of the cadets of Dick's company. At the sight of their captain, they stopped momentarily, and several hands rose in salute.

"Drop it!" cried Dick, warningly. "We're here to have fun. The book of rules and military tactics has been burned at the stake. We're all alike, now."

"That is, we're all hungry," added Perkins, with a laugh. "Say, but this is going some; eh, fellows?"

"Talk about a grand spread!" exclaimed Ball. "This puts it all over anything I've been to since my sister had a surprise party."

"Glad you like it," remarked Dick, simply. To do him credit the banquet was really quite an elaborate affair, and he had spared no money to have it just as his cultured taste told him it should be, even if it were an informal affair.

More cadets came piling in, laughing and shouting, until the room was filled.

"Sit down, fellows," invited Dick, and when they were in their chairs he gave orders to the caterer's men to serve the spread. From then on there was heard the clatter of knives, forks and spoons, the rattle of dishes mingling with the talk and laughter of the guests.

"Dick, you've got to make a speech!" shouted Perkins. "Tell us how we won the medal."

"No speeches," mumbled Dick, his mouth half full of roast chicken.

"Speech! Speech! Speech! Speech!" yelled a score of voices. They were not to be denied, and Dick, blushing in spite of his effort to remain cool, stood up.

"All I've got to say is that it was you fellows who won the prize—not me," he said. "I'm proud of you, proud of—er—and proud of—er—that is—Oh, hang it all! Go on eating. There's lots more when this is gone!" and Dick sat down, amid laughter and applause.

The banquet proceeded amid much merriment. There were songs and college yells, and the musicians hired by Dick added to the din.

"What are you going to do this summer?" asked Paul Drew, who, as first lieutenant, sat at the young captain's right hand.

"Don't know. Haven't exactly made up my mind yet. I want to travel, but I fancy dad has some plans for me. By Jove! that reminds me. I got a letter from him this morning, but I haven't had a chance to read it through and get the hang of it yet, though I've tried half a dozen times. It's something important, but I don't know just •what it is."

"Go ahead and read it now," advised Paul. "The bunch is singing the 'Cannon Song' and they won't notice."

"Guess I will," agreed the young millionaire, and he drew out the letter. It was filled with general news of Hamilton Corners, and Mr. Hamilton expressed the pleasure it would be to see his son again, when school closed. Then followed this:


"Now, Dick, I've got what may prove quite a task for you this summer. I don't know what your plans are, but I hope you will have time to give me a little assistance.

"You remember I once spoke to you of some valuable property your mother owned, and how I planned to form a syndicate and erect a large factory on it. Well, I started the syndicate, got a number of friends interested in it, and we were ready to go ahead when unexpected difficulties cropped up. We found it hard to interest outside capital because of a certain flaw in the title to the property, and, curiously enough, the flaw has to do with some distant relatives of your mother.

"These relatives have disappeared, and I have been unable to get a trace of them. It is very necessary that I find them, and I am in hopes that you can help me. So, Dick, there is work cut out for you this summer, if you wish to do it. Come home as soon as you can after the academy closes, and I will tell you more about this. It is very important, not alone to me, but to a number of comparatively poor persons who have invested money in this enterprise, and who may lose if the affair is not straightened out. I am depending on you to help me."


Dick folded up the letter and put it back in his pocket. His face wore a serious look.

"Any bad news?" asked Paul, anxiously.

"No; only it seems that I'm about to start off on a mysterious quest for missing relatives."

"That sounds good. Wish I had something like that to occupy me this summer. I hope you have luck."

"Thanks. I haven't the least idea where I'm to go, or how. But dad will explain when I get home."

"Come on, now, everybody! We're going to sing 'Farewell to Old Kentfield'!" cried Ed Watson. "Everybody!"

The cadets leaped to their feet, and soon the strains of the grand old song welled out of the banquet hall. Grit, the bulldog was hoisted to a place of honor on two chairs, beside Dick, and he looked on as if he understood it all.

The banquet was nearing an end, and at last, with a clasping of hands around the tables, and a rendering of another verse of the song, while cheers for Dick were mingled with the strains, the affair came to a close.

"What's your hurry?" asked Paul, as Dick walked toward his room in the barrack building.

"I'm going to pack up to-night, and take the first train for home in the morning. I'm anxious to find out what dad wants of me."

"That's so; you're going off to trail a fortysecond grand-aunt, or something like that. Well, I may see you this summer," and the two friends shook hands.

The next morning, after a prolonged series of farewells, Dick and his bulldog took a train for Hamilton Corners, a fair-sized town in one of our middle western states.

"I wonder where dad's quest will lead me?" mused Dick, as the train speeded him homeward. Little did he realize what perils were to follow his search for the missing relatives.