Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht/Chapter 3

CHAPTER III


DICK'S STEAM YACHT


Entering the front hall of his home, some hours later, with Grit leaping joyfully about at his heels, Dick was greeted by Gibbs, the butler, with a warmth warranted by many years of service in the Hamilton family.

"Is my father at home, Gibbs?" asked Dick.

"He's in the library, Mr. Dick. Your uncle is with him."

"My uncle? You mean——?"

"Mr. Larabee," finished the butler.

"Oh!" exclaimed Dick, regretfully. "Uncle Ezra here!" he murmured. "I wonder what's wrong at Dankville? Or, maybe there's some new plan afoot, and that I have, after all, to go and live with him." There was dismay on Dick's face.

For Uncle Ezra Larabee was not a very pleasant individual. He was quite wealthy, but he did not enjoy his money. He had a fine place at Dankville, a village about a hundred miles from Hamilton Corners, but the house, which was gloomy in itself, was hidden in the midst of a grove of dark fir trees, that made it more gloomy than ever. Inside scarcely a room was open to the sunlight, and once, when on his trial-visit, Dick had opened the parlor to look at some pictures, his Aunt Samanthy exclaimed in horror that the apartment was never used save for funerals.

Dick's Uncle Ezra was a curious, crabbed sort of a man, who doubtless meant well, but who had a queer way of showing it. He liked order and neatness to extreme, and there was not a misplaced stick or a stone about his farm and house. He even disliked to have persons step on the gravel walks, for fear of dislodging some of the small stones, and spoiling the trim symmetry of the paths.

Mr. Larabee was very fond of money—too fond, Mr. Hamilton used to think, for the millionaire was of a generous disposition. Uncle Ezra never could reconcile himself to Dick having such a fortune in his own right. More than once he and his nephew had quarreled over what Uncle Ezra called the "foolishness" of Mrs. Hamilton, his sister, leaving so much money to a mere youth. Of a sour disposition, hating to spend a cent unnecessarily, somewhat bitter against Dick's habit of making his money bring him pleasure, and helping others with his wealth, it is no wonder that when Uncle Ezra came to Hamilton Corners Dick was not happy. Mr. Hamilton himself was not overly-fond of his brother-in-law, but he always treated him well.

"I suppose I may as well go in the library, say how d'ye do to my respected relative, and get a bad job over with," remarked Dick, in no pleasant frame of mind at the information Gibbs furnished. "Uncle Ezra will be sure to scold me for 'wasting my time,' as he calls it, at the military school, and he's positive to make a fuss about Grit. He always does. Grit, old man, I guess you'd better stay out in the hall, until we get this business over with. You remember Uncle Ezra, don't you?"

Grit whined, and growled. Evidently he did remember. It was no easy matter to make him stay away from Dick, and out in the hall, but he knew when to mind, and, with a sort of reproachful look on his ugly but honest face, the bulldog stretched out on a rug, as much as to say:

"Don't be any longer than you can help, Dick."

Dick could hear the voices of his father and uncle in the big, handsome library, where our hero had spent many pleasant hours with his favorite books. Mr. Larabee was speaking.

"I tell you what it is, Mortimer," he remarked to his brother-in-law. "It's all a sinful waste of money, and the sooner you find it out the better. Why it's the most crazy idea of any that my sister ever got into her head! Don't let Dick do it!"

"They're talking about me," thought the young millionaire, and he hardly knew whether to go in, or wait for another time. But, before he could move away from the door, he heard his father's voice.

"Well, Ezra, I don't agree with you, but that's not strange, since I seldom do."

"It would be a lot better if you did," snarled Uncle Ezra.

"There are two opinions about that. At any rate, I shall carry out the wishes of my wife. She wished Dick to be brought up in a certain way, and I shall do my best to fulfil her plans. She would have done it herself had she lived. So Dick shall make the experiment. I know it will do him good. He needs change after a hard winter in school."

"But, Mortimer, think of the cost! It's going to be awful!" and there was agony in the crabbed old man's voice.

"Oh, it won't cost such a pile, Ezra. Besides, Dick can afford it, and if he can't I can. The money couldn't be put to better use."

"Yes it could, Mortimer. There's where you're mistaken. It could be invested in tenement houses, and made to pay big interest. You could——"

"I'll never build tenements with any of my money, nor wath Dick's, either!" interrupted Mr. Hamilton. "I don't want to make a profit out of the poor."

"Then invest it in stocks or bonds," went on Mr. Larabee, eagerly. "They pay well."

"I have enough investments as it is, and so has Dick," answered the millionaire. "No, Ezra, I have made up my mind. Dick shall have a chance to see the world—or, at least, part of it. As soon as he comes home I'll tell him of his mother's plan——"

Dick thought it time to make his presence known. He rattled the knob of the library door, and heard a start of surprise from within. Then he entered.

"Hello, dad!" he exclaimed, fairly rushing up to Mr. Hamilton, and clasping his two hands in an eager grip. "How are you. Uncle Ezra?"

"Why, Dick, my boy!" cried the rich man, heartily, "I didn't expect you so soon. Oh, but I am glad to see you! It's like old times to have you back! Where's Grit?" And he clapped his son on the back more like some fellow-cadet than a father.

"I—I left Grit outside, dad."

"Have you got that miserable dog yet?" demanded Uncle Ezra, giving Dick one finger to shake, and that rather grudgingly.

"Grit is outside, Uncle. I knew you didn't like him, and——"

"Like him? I should say not! Why that critter eats as much as a horse, and doesn't do a stroke of work to pay for his keep."

"Well, Dick, how are you?" asked his father, holding him off at arm's length, to get a better view. "My, but you've grown, though you're a little pale."

"Yes, there wasn't much chance to tan up in the winter. But I'm glad to get home. How's everybody? You're looking well yourself, dad. Oh, Uncle Ezra," spoke Dick quickly, as he thought of something, "how's Aunt Samanthy?"

"Oh, she ain't as well as she might be. She has something the matter with her stomach, and the medicine she has to take is very expensive—very! Besides, she's had the doctor real frequent of late, and that runs up an expense; not that I mind it so much, but it seems doctors charge more than they used to. No, your Aunt Samanthy ain't as well as she might be."

"I'm sorry to hear that," murmured Dick, as sympathetically as he could.

"Everything go off well at school?" asked Mr. Hamilton.

"Yes, dad; and my company took first prize."

"Good! Glad to hear it."

"I treated the boys to a good feed on the strength of it, too, last night."

"That's right."

"Did it cost much?" asked Uncle Ezra, putting his hand into his pocket, doubtless to see if his purse were safe.

"Oh, not so very much; but it was worth all it cost."

"A sinful waste of money!" murmured the crabbed old man. "You could have given them coffee and sandwiches, just as well as an elaborate supper, Richard."

"Well, we're glad to have you back, Dick," went on Mr. Hamilton, hoping to change the subject. "Didn't expect you until this evening. We were just talking about you—your uncle and I."

"Yes—I—er—I overheard some of it," said Dick.

"Then I hope you'll profit by it!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra, quickly. "For of all the foolish, nonsensical, wasteful, extravagant ideas, the one your father has got into his head now is the worst I ever heard."

Dick looked questioningly at his parent.

"Your Uncle Ezra doesn't agree with what I am going to propose, Dick," said the millionaire with a laugh, "but I hope you will. I did not intend telling you this until to-morrow, but it will do no harm to mention it now.

"Dick, your mother, as you know, had very advanced ideas as to what a young man with considerable wealth ought to do with it. Some of her plans for you have already been carried out. There are others which are mere suggestions, communicated to me before she—before she left us," and Mr. Hamilton spoke softly, while Dick felt a lump come into his own throat.

"Dick, my boy, your mother wanted to have you see the world, when you got old enough to appreciate the beauties of it, and I think you are at about the right age to begin now. She suggested to me that, when I thought it wise, I should let you have a well-equipped steam yacht, and cruise about during an entire summer."

"A steam yacht, dad!" cried the youth, his eyes sparkling.

"That's it, Dick. How do you like the idea?"

"Like it? Why, dad, it's immense! Great! Fine! When can I have it, and where can I go?"

"You may have it as soon as you like, and go where you please—that is, except to cross the ocean. I hardly think I'd like to have you venture as far as that on your first voyage. Otherwise you're unrestricted; though I have a suggestion to make later."

"Oh, dad! Do you really mean it? A steam yacht all for myself?"

"Certainly, and you can take along as many of your friends as you please. Perhaps Uncle Ezra would like to go."

"Who, me? Are you crazy, Mortimer? I wouldn't go in one for a thousand dollars, and besides, I can't spare the time from my business and farm. My hired man would be sure to burn the barn down, and I'd lose more money than I could make in a year. No sea voyages for me!"

"Am I going to have a yacht made to order?" asked Dick. "Because if I am, it will take so long that I can't get started this summer."

"That's right," agreed Mr. Hamilton. "So you had better look around for a good boat that has been slightly used. I think you can find one in New York. There, the news is out, Dick, and I hope you are pleased."

"Pleased? I can't begin to thank you! I wonder where I shall go?"

"I may have something to suggest on that score later," went on Mr. Hamilton. "Just now, suppose we have a little lunch. Come, Ezra."

"Not for me, Mortimer!" exclaimed Mr. Larabee. "It's bad for the digestion to eat between meals, and besides, it's a wasteful habit. But, Nephew Richard, I want to protest against this idea of you buying a steam yacht, and squandering money on travel. There is no sense in it! You had much better put the money out at interest. I can sell you some shares in a woolen mill I own, and you could spend your summer vacation in the factory, learning a useful trade."

"No, thank you, Uncle Ezra, I think I'll do as my mother wished me to, and travel," said Dick.

"Oh, the wastefulness of this rising generation!" murmured the old man. "It is terrible! Terrible!"

Dick and his father turned to leave the library.

"A steam yacht! A steam yacht all for myself and friends! It's too good to be true!" cried Dick enthusiastically, as he linked his arm in his father's. "Can't you come along, dad?"

"I'm afraid not. But now let's discuss some details. You haven't any too much time. Come along, Ezra, and have a cup of coffee, anyhow."

Mr. Ezra Larabee declined and lingered behind as his nephew and brother-in-law left the handsome room.

"A steam yacht," murmured the old man. "A sinful waste of money! It's time I took a hand in this! Mortimer Hamilton is crazy to let his son do this. It will be the ruination of the boy. I—I must stop this waste of money in some way, even if I have to prevent him—but no, I mustn't even whisper it. But I have a plan—I have a plan! Perhaps, after all, I can keep Richard from becoming a spendthrift. That would be terrible! I must try! I must try!" and, rubbing his gnarled hands together, the old man sat down in an easy chair. There was a look of cunning and craftiness on Mr. Larabee's face, and, as he thought of something, a smile spread itself over his wrinkled features, and the little tuft of white whiskers on his chin moved up and down as he mumbled to himself:

"I must prevent it! I must prevent it! I can think of some scheme. The Hamilton fortune shan't be squandered if I can help it, for it will come to me and my wife when they—when they are both gone, and I'm going to live a good while yet—a good while," and Uncle Ezra rubbed his dry hands together, and chuckled in a mirthless fashion.

Meanwhile Dick and his father talking over the scheme of purchasing a steam yacht, were all unconscious of the plot that Mr. Larabee was planning against them.