JOE AND HIS FATHER
“How ’s that?” cried
’Frisco Kid, as he finished making the Dazzler
fast fore and aft, and sat down on the stringpiece
of the tiny wharf. “What ’ll we do
Joe looked up in quick surprise.
“Why I what ’s the
“Well, ain’t you captain
now? Have n’t we reached land? I ’m
crew from now on, ain’t I? What ’s
Joe caught the spirit of it.
“Pipe all hands for breakfast that
is wait a minute.”
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
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 interesting paragraph:
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 great
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 information.
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 there.”
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
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 stronger.
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
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
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 hundred
“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 office-boy.”