Part 3 out of 3
Diving below, he possessed himself of the money he had stowed away in his
bundle when he came aboard. Then he locked the cabin door, and they went
uptown in search of a restaurant. Over the breakfast Joe planned the next
move, and, when they had done, communicated it to 'Frisco Kid.
In response to his inquiry, the cashier told him when the morning train
started for San Francisco. He glanced at the clock.
"Just time to catch it," he said to 'Frisco Kid. "Keep the cabin doors
locked, and don't let anybody come aboard. Here 's money. Eat at the
restaurants. Dry your blankets and sleep in the cockpit. I 'll be back
to-morrow. And don't let anybody into that cabin. Good-by."
With a hasty hand-grip, he sped down the street to the depot. The conductor
looked at him with surprise when he punched his ticket. And well he might,
for it was not the custom of his passengers to travel in sea-boots and
sou'westers. But Joe did not mind. He did not even notice. He had bought
a paper and was absorbed in its contents. Before long his eyes caught an
SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN LOST
The tug _Sea Queen_, chartered by Bronson & Tate,
has returned from a fruitless cruise outside the
Heads. No news of value could be obtained
concerning the pirates who so daringly carried
off their safe at San Andreas last Tuesday night.
The lighthouse-keeper at the Farralones mentions
having sighted the two sloops Wednesday morning,
clawing offshore in the teeth of the gale. It is
supposed by shipping men that they perished in
the storm with, their ill-gotten treasure. Rumor
has it that, in addition to the ten thousand
dollars in gold, the safe contained papers of
When Joe had read this he felt a great relief. It was evident no one had
been killed at San Andreas the night of the robbery, else there would
have been some comment on it in the paper. Nor, if they had had any clue
to his own whereabouts, would they have omitted such a striking bit of
At the depot in San Francisco the curious onlookers were surprised to see
a boy clad conspicuously in sea-boots and sou'wester hail a cab and dash
away. But Joe was in a hurry. He knew his father's hours, and was fearful
lest he should not catch him before he went to lunch.
The office-boy scowled at him when he pushed open the door and asked to see
Mr. Bronson; nor could the head clerk, when summoned by this disreputable
intruder, recognize him.
"Don't you know me, Mr. Willis?"
Mr. Willis looked a second time. "Why, it 's Joe Bronson! Of all things
under the sun, where did you drop from? Go right in. Your father 's in
Mr. Bronson stopped dictating to his stenographer and looked up. "Hello!
Where have you been?" he said.
"To sea," Joe answered demurely, not sure of just what kind of a reception
he was to get, and fingering his sou'wester nervously.
"Short trip, eh? How did you make out?"
"Oh, so-so." He had caught the twinkle in his father's eye and knew that
it was all clear sailing. "Not so bad--er--that is, considering."
"Well, not exactly that; rather, it might have been worse, while it
could n't have been better."
"That 's interesting. Sit down." Then, turning to the stenographer:
"You may go, Mr. Brown, and--hum!--I won't need you any more to-day."
It was all Joe could do to keep from crying, so kindly and naturally had
his father received him, making him feel at once as if not the slightest
thing uncommon had occurred. It seemed as if he had just returned from
a vacation, or, man-grown, had come back from some business trip.
"Now go ahead, Joe. You were speaking to me a moment ago in conundrums,
and you have aroused my curiosity to a most uncomfortable degree."
Whereupon Joe sat down and told what had happened--all that had
happened--from Monday night to that very moment. Each little incident
he related,--every detail,--not forgetting his conversations with
'Frisco Kid nor his plans concerning him. His face flushed and he was
carried away with the excitement of the narrative, while Mr. Bronson
was almost as eager, urging him on whenever he slackened his pace,
but otherwise remaining silent.
"So you see," Joe concluded, "it could n't possibly have turned out
"Ah, well," Mr. Bronson deliberated judiciously, "it may be so, and then
again it may not."
"I don't see it." Joe felt sharp disappointment at his father's qualified
approval. It seemed to him that the return of the safe merited something
That Mr. Bronson fully comprehended the way Joe felt about it was clearly
in evidence, for he went on: "As to the matter of the safe, all hail to
you, Joe! Credit, and plenty of it, is your due. Mr. Tate and myself have
already spent five hundred dollars in attempting to recover it. So
important was it that we have also offered five thousand dollars reward,
and but this morning were considering the advisability of increasing the
amount. But, my son,"--Mr. Bronson stood up, resting a hand affectionately
on his boy's shoulder,--"there are certain things in this world which are
of still greater importance than gold, or papers which represent what gold
may buy. How about _yourself_? That 's the point. Will you sell the best
possibilities of your life right now for a million dollars?"
Joe shook his head.
"As I said, that 's the point. A human life the money of the world cannot
buy; nor can it redeem one which is misspent; nor can it make full and
complete and beautiful a life which is dwarfed and warped and ugly. How
about yourself? What is to be the effect of all these strange adventures
on your life--_your_ life, Joe? Are you going to pick yourself up to-morrow
and try it over again? or the next day? or the day after? Do you
understand? Why, Joe, do you think for one moment that I would place
against the best value of my son's life the paltry value of a safe? And
_can_ I say, until time has told me, whether this trip of yours could not
possibly have been better? Such an experience is as potent for evil as
for good. One dollar is exactly like another--there are many in the world:
but no Joe is like my Joe, nor can there be any others in the world to
take his place. Don't you see, Joe? Don't you understand?"
Mr. Bronson's voice broke slightly, and the next instant Joe was sobbing
as though his heart would break. He had never understood this father of
his before, and he knew now the pain he must have caused him, to say
nothing of his mother and sister. But the four stirring days he had
lived had given him a clearer view of the world and humanity, and he
had always possessed the power of putting his thoughts into speech; so
he spoke of these things and the lessons he had learned--the conclusions
he had drawn from his conversations with 'Frisco Kid, from his intercourse
with French Pete, from the graphic picture he retained of the _Reindeer_
and Red Nelson as they wallowed in the trough beneath him. And Mr. Bronson
listened and, in turn, understood.
"But what of 'Frisco Kid, father?" Joe asked when he had finished.
"Hum! there seems to be a great deal of promise in the boy, from what
you say of him." Mr. Bronson hid the twinkle in his eye this time. "And,
I must confess, he seems perfectly capable of shifting for himself."
"Sir?" Joe could not believe his ears.
"Let us see, then. He is at present entitled to the half of five
thousand dollars, the other half of which belongs to you. It was
you two who preserved the safe from the bottom of the Pacific, and
if you only had waited a little longer, Mr. Tate and myself would
have increased the reward."
"Oh!" Joe caught a glimmering of the light. "Part of that is easily
arranged. I simply refuse to take my half. As to the other--that is n't
exactly what 'Frisco Kid desires. He wants friends--and--and--though
you did n't say so, they are far higher than money, nor can money buy
them. He wants friends and a chance for an education, not twenty-five
"Don't you think it would be better for him to choose for himself?"
"Ah, no. That 's all arranged."
"Yes, sir. He 's captain on sea, and I 'm captain on land. So he 's under
my charge now."
"Then you have the power of attorney for him in the present negotiations?
Good. I 'll make you a proposition. The twenty-five hundred dollars shall
be held in trust by me, on his demand at any time. We 'll settle about
yours afterward. Then he shall be put on probation for, say, a year--in
our office. You can either coach him in his studies, for I am confident
now that you will be up in yours hereafter, or he can attend night-school.
And after that, if he comes through his period of probation with flying
colors, I 'll give him the same opportunities for an education that you
possess. It all depends on himself. And now, Mr. Attorney, what have you
to say to my offer in the interests of your client?"
"That I close with it at once."
Father and son shook hands.
"And what are you going to do now, Joe?"
"Send a telegram to 'Frisco Kid first, and then hurry home."
"Then wait a minute till I call up San Andreas and tell Mr. Tate the
good news, and then I 'll go with you."
"Mr. Willis," Mr. Bronson said as they left the outer office, "the
San Andreas safe is recovered, and we 'll all take a holiday. Kindly
tell the clerks that they are free for the rest of the day. And I
say," he called back as they entered the elevator, "don't forget the