The Last Cruise of the Spitfire/Chapter 31
My uncle's deathbed revelation was a strange one. In brief, it was as follows:
At the time my father and mother were killed he was in a sore financial strait, and needed money to keep himself from failing and losing every dollar he possessed.
He had applied to my father for relief, and my parent was about to grant him considerable assistance when the fatal catastrophe occurred.
Mr. Stillwell had immediately taken a steamer for England, and on arriving there, took entire charge of my father's affairs, though not without some difficulty with the English bankers, who held my father's funds in trust.
On examining my father's private papers, my uncle was not a little chagrined to find that Mr. Banker was to be appointed my guardian, there being a will to that effect, a will that Mr. Mason and I afterwards found among Mr. Stillwell's papers.
Mr. Banker was not on good terms with my uncle, so the latter knew that if the former became my guardian the loan that my father had consented to make would most likely never be carried out. In this predicament my uncle had taken his first wrong step. He had hidden my father's will and brought forth an old one in which he himself was named as guardian.
This wrong step accomplished, the rest was easy enough. But my uncle's original intention had been to treat me fairly, just as if Mr. Banker had been my guardian.
Yet in the end the temptation to use the money for his own benefit was too strong for him, and he had ended by losing something like ten thousand dollars out of an estate worth fifty.
It was then that he had met Captain Hannock, who was an old school chum, and been persuaded to go into the scheme that had ended so disastrously. The remainder the reader already knows.
By a paper drawn up by Mr. Mason, Uncle Felix placed the charge of his affairs entirely in the lawyer's hands. Mr. Mason was to settle his estate, pay all that was due to me over to Mr. Banker, my new guardian, and then settle the remainder upon Gus and Lillian, taking out, of course, my aunt's share as his widow.
Although my uncle did not say so, I am pretty well satisfied that much of his wrongdoing was attributable to his wife, who was a very proud and extravagant woman. This, I think, is why he left her no more than he did.
The day before my uncle's funeral Mr. Banker came down to the city. He shook me warmly by the hand and slyly asked me if I had enough of the sea.
"Yes, indeed," I replied. "Life on shipboard is well enough to read about, but the city is good enough for me."
"And what do you propose to do now?" he asked.
"You are my guardian. I suppose I'll have to do as you wish me to."
"No, Luke; you are old enough to choose for yourself."
"Then let me say that I would like to go to college and finish the education my father intended I should have."
"So be it," replied Mr. Banker.
All this happened six years ago. During that time great changes have taken place.
Immediately after my uncle's death my aunt removed to her former home in Boston, taking Gus and Lillian with her. They never write to me or come to New York, and I am content to leave them go their own way.
Captain Hannock and Lowell are both in prison, the former with ten years to serve and the latter five. Crocker was discharged about a month ago. I have never seen any of them since the day they were sentenced in the Boston court-room, and I trust I never shall.
Mr. Oscar Ranson still spends his time between the "Hub" and the metropolis, and in him I have a true friend. Phil Jones has now a responsible position on the wharfs, at a good salary, and as the work just suits him, he will no doubt rise rapidly. His old aunt has become his guardian, and she holds in trust for him two thousand dollars which Captain Hannock was compelled to pay over because it belonged to the cabin boy's late father. Tony Dibble is at sea.
Two years ago, in company with Harry Banker, I finished my course at college, and now I am duly installed in Mr. Mason's office as his private clerk. Having a good home with my employer, I am happy, and that being so, what more is there to say?