TOGETHER ONCE MORE—CONCLUSION
"And now that business is finished, an' I'm most awfully glad on it; yes, I am!"
It was Job Dowling who spoke. The uncle and guardian of the three Russell boys was sitting by the side window of his home in Buffalo. In his lap lay a small, flat package, which had been wrapped in heavy brown paper and well sealed. In his hand was an open letter which he had just finished reading.
"It was a dreadful price to pay thet detective," he resumed. "But I couldn't git them hairlooms back no other way, and I'm afraid the boys would raise the roof ef I didn't git 'em back. It's a comfort to know thet thief was caught and is going to be tried for even a wuss crime than stealin' them rings an' the watch an' the Australian diamond. I hope they give him about twenty years in prison." He paused to put the package away in his dilapidated secretary. "So Ben is coming home this week? I wonder what he'll have to say when he faces me? Somehow, I don't know wot I'm going to say myself." And he dropped into his chair again.
Job Dowling was a different man from what he had been. The determined stand taken by Larry, Walter, and Ben had opened his eyes to the knowledge that he had no mere children to deal with, but boys who were almost men, and who were fully capable of taking care of themselves. His visit to New York, when he was robbed of the Russell heirlooms, had caused him considerable loss of self-confidence, and the trip to Boston after the thief had awakened him to the fact that, after all, he was of but little importance in this world. His efforts to help the police recover the heirlooms had been laughed at, and even the detective had shown him plainly that he was hindering more than he was helping. Finally he had returned home in disgust, and the detective had finished the work on the case alone, recovered everything, and sent Deck Mumpers to jail to stand trial on half a dozen charges. The detective's bill had been over two hundred dollars, a sum the paying of which had nearly given Job Dowling a fit; but now the whole thing was settled and he was awaiting Ben's return, for the gallant young volunteer had been shot in the left arm on the day before Santiago surrendered, and was coming home on sick leave.
Ding! ding! it was a double ring at the front-door bell, and before Mrs. Graham, the new housekeeper, and a great improvement on the tartar-like Mrs. Rafferty, could get to the door, Job Dowling was there himself.
"Ben an' Walter!" he exclaimed, as he found himself confronted by two nephews instead of one, as expected. "Well—er, how is this?"
"How do you do, Uncle Job!" exclaimed Ben, extending his hand.
"Aren't you glad to see me too, Uncle Job?" put in Walter.
"Why—er—of course, of course!" came with a stammer; and Job Dowling held out both of his bony hands. "Come right in. This is Mrs. Graham, my new workwoman." And the lady of the house, dressed in a neat wrapper and with a clean kitchen apron on, came forward and bowed. "Knows a sight more than Mrs. Rafferty did," went on the uncle, in a whisper.
"I didn't know Walter was coming on till day before yesterday," continued Ben. "We met quite by accident in New York, and we made up to come on together and surprise you."
"I see—I see." Job Dowling was still very nervous, and he could hardly tell why. At one instant he thought he ought to quarrel with them, the next that it would be quite proper to embrace them and tell them they were forgiven and could henceforth do as they saw proper. But he chose a middle course and did neither. "Sit down and make yourselves to hum, and, Mrs. Graham, you had best get a few extry chops—three won't be enough. Tell Boggs to send me the best on the stand."
At this order Walter nudged Ben, and both looked at each other and smiled. "He's reforming," whispered the young sailor. "Only give him time, and he'll be all right."
"Yes, Mr. Dowling," put in the housekeeper. "And you said something about pie yesterday, when Master Ben should come. What of that?"
"Ah, yes, so I did, so I did." The former miser wrinkled his brow. "How much does a pie cost?"
"Ten and twenty cents."
"Boys, do you think you could eat a twenty-cent pie?"
"Do we?" cried Walter. "Just try us and see, Uncle Job." And now he clasped his guardian half affectionately by the shoulder.
"Then get the twenty-cent pie, Mrs. Graham, and be sure an pick out the best. You—er—have the other things?"
"Yes, sir—potatoes, green corn, and coffee."
"Very good." And as the housekeeper retired, Job Dowling turned to the boys again. "And how is your arm, Ben? Not seriously hurt, I trust?"
"It's only a scratch," was the answer.
"And you, Walter?"
"I'm all right. But how have you been, Uncle Job, and what of that stolen stuff?"
"Oh, I'm only tolerable—got quite some rheumatism. The hairlooms is all safe but they cost me two hundred and twenty-seven dollars an' a half to git 'em!" And the guardian nodded to emphasize his words.
"Well, they re worth it," answered Ben, promptly; and Job Dowling did not dare dispute the assertion. "Where are they?"
"In the desk. I'll show 'em to you, and then ye can both tell me all about yer adventures on the water and in Cuby."
The heirlooms had just been brought out, and Ben was examining the watch, when a form darkened the window opening,—the form of a boy dressed in a natty sailor suit. All looked up in wonder, and all cried out in unison:—
"Ben, Walter, and Uncle Job!" came from the youth who had fought so gallantly under Dewey at Manila. "Here's a family gathering, for sure!" And with a light leap he cleared the window-sill and actually fell into his brothers' arms, while Job Dowling looked on with a half smile on his wrinkled face.
"I couldn't remain away from the United States any longer," explained Larry, when, an hour after, all sat down to the really excellent dinner Job Dowling had provided. "While I was at Hong Kong I got a good chance to ship on a steamer for San Francisco, and we came home on the double-quick, for the government had chartered the vessel to carry troops to the Philippines. Maybe I'll go back under Dewey some time, but not just yet. I've got some prize money coming to me, I don t know yet how much, and I'll lie off to see."
"And I've got prize money coming, too," added Walter. "I like the navy first-rate, and shall stick to it for the present, even if I have a chance of being mustered out."
"I haven't any prize money coming, but I am to be a second lieutenant of volunteers," put in Ben. "Our regiment is to be mustered out very soon, and then I'm going to try for something else in the same line."
"And what is that, Ben?" asked Job Dowling and the other boys together.
"I'm going to try for a commission in the regular army."
"Hurrah! that's the talk!" came from Larry. "And if you stay in the army, I'll see what I can do toward working my way up in the navy."
Then both lads looked toward their guardian. Job Dowling scratched his chin in perplexity, and cleared his throat.
"All right, boys—I should say young men, fer ye ain't none o' ye boys no more—go an' do as ye please, I ain't got nothin' agin' it. You have all done yer duty to Uncle Sam, an' thet bein' so, it stands to reason ye are capable o' doin' yer duty to yerselves an' to me. To look back it 'pears to me thet I made some kind of a mistake at the start with ye, an' so I say, you willin' an' me willin', we'll take a fresh start,—an' there's my hand on't."
"Uncle Job, you're a—a brick!" came from Walter, and a general handshaking followed, and then, as Mrs. Graham came on with a coffee-pot and the dessert, Ben arose with the cup in his hand.
"Boys, let us drink Uncle Job's health in a cup of coffee!"
"We will!" came from his brothers.
"And eat it, too, in a piece of that pie!" concluded the ever-lighthearted Larry.
Here we will bring to a close the story of Walter Russell's adventures while "Fighting in Cuban Waters," which has taken us through a thrilling naval campaign and shown us what true American pluck can accomplish even under the most trying circumstances.
As my readers know, the Russell boys had a large inheritance coming to them, and now that Job Dowling had come to his senses regarding a proper treatment of them, it was to be hoped that matters would move much more smoothly for all concerned.
Through Larry it was learned that his old-time friend, Luke Striker, was still with Dewey in Philippine waters and had been promoted to the position of first gun-captain on board the Olympia, much to the old Yankee s credit and delight.
Frank Bulkley, Ben's soldier chum, was still sick with the fever, but was at his home in the metropolis, and was out of danger, which was much to be thankful for, considering what awful havoc that fever had made with the army of invasion.
Walter's friends were all on the Brooklyn, and it was not long before the lad was anxious to get back to them, for he had become very much attached to the noble flagship that had rendered such a good account of herself in the mighty conflict with Cervera's fleet.
Gilbert Pennington, Ben's friend of the Rough Riders, was in Cuba, but expected to come north shortly. Gilbert had an offer of a position as bookkeeper with an importing firm in New York, but was destined to see a good deal more of fighting ere he settled to work behind a desk.
When Ben spoke of trying for a commission, and Larry said he should remain in the navy, both thought that fighting for the American army and navy was at an end. This supposition was correct so far as Spain was concerned, but the insurgents in the Philippines under General Aguinaldo refused to recognize Uncle Sam's authority, and it was not long before a large army had to be sent to Manila and other points, to cooperate with Dewey in restoring peace and order. Ben could not resist the temptation to join these soldiers in a distant clime, and with more fighting in view, Larry hastened to rejoin the Olympia. In another volume, to be entitled, "Under Otis in the Philippines; Or, A Young Officer in the Tropics," we shall follow the future adventures of these two brothers, and shall also see more of Gilbert Pennington, Luke Striker, and several others of our old acquaintances.
And now, for the time being, good-by to all our friends, and especially to Walter Russell, the American lad who made such a record for pluck while, "Fighting in Cuban Waters."