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.
“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?”