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   Chapter 23 SALVAGE

The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 15362

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Mr. Anthony T. Hyatt, attorney-at-law, leaned smilingly back in a swivel-chair, matched ten pudgy fingers together and smiled expansively at his clients. There was a great deal of Mr. Hyatt, and much of it lay directly behind his clasped hands. He had a large, round face in the centre of which a small, sharp nose surmounted a wide mouth and was flanked by a pair of pale brown eyes at once innocent and shrewd. Steve counted three chins and was not certain there wasn't another tucked away behind the collar of the huge shirt. Mr. Hyatt had a deep and mellow voice, and his words rolled and rumbled out like the reverberations of a good-natured thunder storm. From the windows of the bright, breeze-swept office the boys could look far out to sea, and it was possible that the faintly nautical atmosphere that appertained both to the office and its occupant was due to the sight and smell of the salt water. While Steve told his story the lawyer's expression slowly changed from jovial amusement to surprise, and when the narrative was ended he drew himself ponderously from the chair and rolled to a window.

"You say you've got her tied up to Sawyer's Wharf, eh?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"I want to know! Well! Well! Where'd you say you came across her?" Steve told him again. "And you brought her in yourself, eh?"

"The lot of us did. Now what we want to know is what claim have we got against the owners, Mr. Hyatt?"

The lawyer heaved himself back to his chair and lowered himself into it with what the boys thought was a most reckless disregard of the article's capacity and strength. But the chair only creaked dismally. "Of course you do! Of course you do!" he rumbled smilingly. "But s'posing I was to tell you you hadn't any claim at all on 'em?"

"What! No claim at all?" exclaimed Steve.

The man laughed and shook. "I only said s'posing," he protested. He weaved his fingers together again over his ample stomach. "As a matter of law, young gentlemen, you have an excellent claim, a steel-bound, double-riveted claim. Whether it's against the owners or some insurance company is what you'll have to find out first. Most likely that ship and cargo were insured. As to just what amount you are entitled to, the law doesn't state. That's a matter generally agreed on between the salvors and the owners. When no agreement can be reached the case goes to the Admiralty Court."

"Oh," said Steve. "The first thing to do-"

"I guess the first thing to do is find out who the owners are and see what they have to say. If they make you a fair offer, well and good. Now, do you want me to take this case for you?"

"Why, yes, sir, I think so," replied Steve, glancing inquiringly at the others, who nodded assent. "How much-that is, what-"

"What would I charge you for my services?" boomed the lawyer. "Nothing at all, boys, unless you get a settlement. If we don't have to go to court you may pay me a hundred dollars. If we do, we'll make another arrangement later. That satisfactory?"

"Yes, indeed," answered Steve heartily, and the rest murmured agreement. "How long will it take to find out, sir?"

"I'll have the owner's name in half an hour. Then I'll send them a wire. You drop in tomorrow at this time and I dare say I'll have something to tell you. I'll have a look at the boat this afternoon and get an idea of her value as a bottom. Then we'll get someone to give an estimate on her cargo. Would you be willing to pay ten dollars for an appraisement?"

"Yes, sir, if that's advisable."

"Well, I think it is. We'd better know what we've got, eh? All right, gentlemen. You leave it to me. Where are you stopping?"

"We're staying aboard our boats, sir, the Adventurer and the Follow Me."

"I want to know! Regular mariners, ain't ye? Well! Well! Guess you're having a fine time, too, eh?"

"Yes, sir, we've had a pretty good time. About-about how much do you think we ought to get for the boat, Mr. Hyatt?"

"Including cargo? Well, now, I don't know, Mister-What did you say your name is?"

"Stephen Chapman."

"Mr. Stephen Chapman, eh?" The lawyer wrote it on a scrap of paper and thrust it carelessly into a pigeon-hole of the old walnut desk. "Well, there ought to be a tidy sum coming to you, sir; yes, sir, a tidy sum. Lumber is fetching money just now, and you tell me the Catspaw is loaded high."

"Yes, sir, she's loaded up to her rails. Do you suppose we'll get a thousand dollars?"

"A thousand dollars, eh?" Mr. Hyatt beamed broadly and nodded until all his chins in sight shook. "Yes, you might look for a thousand dollars, boys. It isn't sense to get your expectations too high, but I guess you can safely bank on a thousand. Oh, yes, a thousand isn't unreasonable. Well, you drop around tomorrow and maybe there'll be something to report. I'll get right to work, gentlemen. Good afternoon!"

"Funny old whale, isn't he?" commented Joe when they were once more on the street. "Suppose he knows what he's talking about?"

"Why not?" asked Wink. "He struck me as being rather a canny customer."

"Well, he said a thousand dollars," replied Joe. "That's a lot of money, isn't it, for an old schooner like the Catspaw?"

"It isn't much for the schooner and the cargo, too," said Steve. "I'm wondering if it oughtn't to be a lot more; say fifteen hundred. You see, a schooner like that costs quite a lot of money when it's new. And then, as Mr. Hyatt said, lumber is high right now, and there's a pile of it on board."

"A thousand will suit me all right," said Joe. "A twelfth of a thousand is-is-"

"A thirteenth you mean," corrected Steve. "Don't forget Neil."

"And don't count your chickens until they're hatched," Wink advised. "It's unlucky, Joe."

They found the other members of the expedition in various states of coma induced by a hearty dinner and lack of sleep, but they were all wide awake when Steve announced the result of the visit to the lawyer.

"Gee!" exclaimed "Brownie." "A thousand dollars! He's fooling, isn't he? Why, I thought we'd get maybe three hundred!"

"A thousand isn't a cent too much," said Perry. "Come to think of it, fellows, I earned that much myself!"

"Just a minute, fellows," said Steve, interrupting the jeers that greeted Perry's statement. "What are we going to do with the money when we get it?"

There was a moment of silence. Then Tom Corwin inquired: "Do with it? How do you mean, do with it, Steve? I thought it would be divided up pro rata."

"Of course," agreed Cas and Ossie in unison.

"Wait a minute," said Phil. "Steve's got something on his mind. Let's hear it."

Steve swung himself to the porch rail and faced the half-circle of boys. "It's just an idea," he began, "and if you don't like it you've only got to say so. As I look at it, fellows, this club has been a good deal of a success. If we haven't had any whopping big adventures, we've had some mild ones-"

"Great Jumping Jehoshaphat!" muttered Han. "What do you call adventures?"

Steve smiled and went on, "At any rate, we've had a whole lot of fun. At least, I have." He looked about him inquiringly.

"You bet we have!" answered Joe heartily, and the rest echoed him.

"Of course, we got the club up just for this Summer, I suppose, but I don't see any reason why we shouldn't make it a-a permanent affair."

"Bully!" exclaimed Perry. "Second the motion!"

"Sit down!" growled Wink.

"There's next Summer coming, fellows. We could do something like this again if we wanted to. We needn't make a trip in motor-boats, but we could do something just as good. Well, now, why not take this money when we get it and stow it away in the Club treasur

y instead of spending it? Then we'd have enough to do almost anything we liked next year. If we each got our seventy-seven dollars, or whatever the shares might be, we'd have it spent in a month and never know where it got to. But if we put it in the bank at interest we'd-we'd have something. If you don't like the scheme, just say so. I'm willing to do whatever the rest of you say, only I thought-"

"It's a corking idea," declared Harry Corwin enthusiastically. "You're dead right, Steve, too. Seventy-seven dollars would last about two weeks with me. Why hang it, I've had it spent ten times already, and each time for some fool thing I didn't really want! I say, let's keep the Club going, fellows, and put the money in the treasury. And let Phil deposit it in a bank. At four per cent, or whatever it is banks pay you, it would come to nearly-nearly thirty dollars by next Summer. And thirty dollars would buy us gasoline for a month!"

"Right you are," agreed Wink. "We'll make a real club of it."

"How about the rest of you?" asked Steve.

The others were all in favour, although Perry couldn't quite smother a sigh of regret for the cash in hand he had dreamed of, and there followed an enthusiastic discussion of plans for next Summer, and Bert Alley echoed the sentiment of all when he remarked regretfully that next Summer was an awfully long way off! Ossie made the suggestion that it might be a good plan to reimburse the members from the salvage money for what sums they had expended on the present cruise, explaining, however, that he wasn't particular on his own account. The question was argued and finally decided in the negative. As Phil put it, what they had spent would have been spent in any case, whether they had gone on the cruise or stayed at home, and they had all received full value for their contributions. Still planning, they went back to the boats and spent the rest of the afternoon in cleaning them up inside and out, for both the Adventurer and the Follow Me had been sadly neglected for the past forty-eight hours.

Being persons of wealth, they supped ashore and went to a moving picture show, and afterwards, since no one had had his full allowance of sleep for the past two nights, "hit the hay," in Perry's phraseology, in short order and slept like so many logs until sun-up.

"I wish," remarked Han at breakfast the next morning, "that we were just starting out instead of going home."

"Me too," agreed Perry. "It'll be all over in two or three days, and I'll have to go back to school again. I suppose," he added sadly, "I shan't see any of you fellows again until next Summer; no one but Ossie, that is."

"You don't have to look at me if you don't want to," said Ossie, reaching backward into the galley for the coffee-pot. "I'm not particular."

"You'll see us before Summer," replied Steve. "I've been thinking."

"So that's it," murmured Joe. "I thought maybe you just-um-hadn't slept well."

"If we're going to keep the Club together," continued Steve, treating the interruption disdainfully, "we've got to keep in touch with each other. Suppose now we have a meeting about Christmas time, during vacation."

"Good scheme!" applauded Phil.

"I think so. My idea is to keep out about thirty dollars of that money, or take it out later, I suppose, and have a feed somewhere, a sort of Annual Banquet of the Adventure Club of America, not Incorporated. We could hold a business meeting first and then feed our faces and talk over this Summer's fun and have a jolly old time. What do you say! Pass the sugar, Han."

"They offer you-" Mr. Hyatt leaned forward in the protesting chair

They said many things, but they were all in praise of the idea, and later the Follow Me's contingent was quite as enthusiastic, and Steve, in his official capacity of Number One, finally found a calendar and solemnly announced that Saturday, the twenty-third day of December, was the date, that the hour was six o'clock, post meredian, and that the place would be decided on later. After which they all went ashore and passed the time until dinner in various ways. And at a little before two Steve, Joe and Wink once more climbed the narrow stairway to Lawyer Hyatt's office.

"I have here," said Mr. Hyatt, when they had seated themselves and greetings had been exchanged and the weather duly and thoroughly disposed of, "a telegram from Barrows and Leland, of Norfolk, Virginia, agents for the owners of the schooner Catspaw. In it they make an offer of settlement of your claim, subject, of course, to the facts and conditions being as stated in my telegram to them."

He paused impressively and the boys shuffled their feet in silent expectancy.

"Hm. Now I'm not going to advise you to accept their offer and I'm not going to advise you not to," he rumbled. "Only, I do say this, gentlemen. If you take your case to the Admiralty Court it will cost you a good deal of money and you won't get a final judgment for a long time. Of course, you might, in the end, get a better figure. I'd almost be willing to guarantee that you would. But you want to remember that the costs of a trial aren't small and that they might eat a big hole in the difference between the present offer and the court's award."

"What-what do they offer us?" asked Steve as the lawyer paused to clear his throat.

"There's no doubt that the value of the Catspaw and her cargo is a sight more than these fellows offer us," resumed Mr. Hyatt, quite as though he had not heard the question. "But there's the old adage about a bird on toast being worth more than a bird on the telegraph wire." He chuckled deeply. "And, of course, no owner ever thinks of paying the full value of salvaged property. Nor does the court expect him to. Something like an equable division is what they try to award."

"Yes, sir," murmured Steve nervously. "Yes, sir. Would you mind-"

"You said something yesterday about a thousand dollars, and I told you you might expect that much, didn't I?"

Steve nodded silently.

"Well-" The lawyer took up a sheet of creased yellow paper from the desk and ran his eyes along the message thereon. "Well, I've got to tell you they don't offer you a thousand, boys."

"Oh!" murmured Steve.

"Don't they?" gasped Joe weakly.

"Then what-" began Wink dejectedly.

"They offer you-" Mr. Hyatt leaned forward in the protesting chair and held the telegram toward Steve-"they offer you four thousand, seven hundred and sixty-one dollars, young gentlemen."

* * *

Isn't this a good place to end our story? I might tell how they wired the good news to Neil, and how they set forth that afternoon for New York, and how, after a jolly but uneventful trip, the two boats parted company off Bay Shore, and how the Adventurer, having done her best to deserve the name she bore, at last sidled up to a slip in the yacht basin and discharged her crew. And I might depict the awed delight with which, two days later, Steve, Joe and Phil gazed upon a narrow strip of green paper bearing the wonderful legend "Four Thousand Seven Hundred Sixty-one Dollars." But we set out in search of adventures, and we have reached the last of them, and so the chronicle should end. And since it began with a remark from Perry let us end it so. Perry's closing remark was made from the platform of the train for Philadelphia.

"Good-bye, you fellows," said Perry, smiling widely to show that he didn't mind leaving the others the least bit in the world. "We had a corking good time, didn't we? But just let me tell you something. It isn't a patch on the fun we're going to have on the next trip of the Adventure Club!"

* * *

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