"Certainly, my lad. If you miss stay in this law business, there's always a lee shore to drift on to, and no room to wear round."
"Captain Chinks," interposed the lawyer, who did not so clearly comprehend the nautical view of the case, "I lost a letter the day you went away."
"And Bobtail found it," suggested the captain.
"Not exactly. I never received it."
"Then I don't see how you lost it."
"Little Bobtail and the post-master agree perfectly on one point—that two letters were given him, one to carry to you and the other to me, on the day you went away."
"And I perfectly agree with Little Bobtail and the post-master. He gave me my letter in your front office, only two minutes after you told me that I was certain to be arrested in less than twenty-four hours for being concerned in that smuggling case, when it was as plain as the nose on a man's face that I had nothing whatever to do with it. He gave me that letter, and that letter called me on business down to Mount Desert. You see, squire, when a man is innocent—"
"Exactly so," interposed Squire Gilfilian. "We will grant that you are entirely innocent. But the smuggling case is not before the court just now. We were speaking of the letters. We will grant that Bobtail delivered your letter to you all right. Do you happen to know anything about the other letter?"
The squire glanced at Little Bobtail, to discover any evidences of guilt or confusion in his face. Certainly he was deeply interested, and even anxious; but, being young and inexperienced, he had an undoubting confidence in the ultimate triumph of truth and innocence.
"I do happen to know all about it," replied Captain Chinks, after he also had glanced at the boy.
"Well, what do you know about it?" demanded the lawyer, rather impatiently, as the captain paused, and looked again at the alleged culprit.
"Bobtail gave me my letter, and I opened it at once, for I was expecting that letter, and had asked for it at the post-office, for it was getting rather late for the steamer, and I had some business in Rockland. I was expecting to meet a man down to Bar Harbor."
"We will grant that your letter was all right, captain. We were speaking of the other letter."
"I thought we were speaking of both of them," laughed the captain.
"It is all settled in regard to your letter; and you have been to Rockland, Bar Harbor, and down into the provinces, for aught I know."
"No, I haven't. I was in St. John—let me see—two years ago; and I haven't been there since. You seem to think I have business down in the provinces, squire."
"I don't know anything at all about your business, captain. But they say that a great deal of brandy finds its way into the States without paying any duties," chuckled the squire.
"You don't mean to say that I have anything to do with bringing it in—do you, Squire Gilfilian?" demanded the captain, who seemed to be damaged in his feelings by the lawyer's thrust.
"Because you have just proved that I have not."
"Hardly; only failed to prove that you have. But the letter, captain. Bobtail says you were here when he brought it into the office."
"I was here, squire," answered the captain, dropping into an arm-chair.
"I asked you, Captain Chinks—" Little Bobtail began.
"Never mind what you asked him," interposed the squire, sharply. "I have heard your story, and now I want to hear the captain's, without any leading questions."
"Don't be so snappy with the boy, squire. I'll tell you all about the letter without any questions at all," added Captain Chinks.
"Well, I really wish you would. I have been trying for some time to get at the facts, and you have talked about everything except the one thing I wish to know," said the lawyer, impatiently.
"Steady as she is, squire, and I'll tell you all about it. When I came out of this office, the day I went away, I met Little Bobtail coming into the front one with two letters in his hand, he gave me mine, and then asked where you were, squire. I told him you were in this office, and that you were busy. Then Bobtail said he had a letter for you, and I told him to put it on your desk. He tossed it on your desk, and then left. I can tell you just where it lay on the cover."
"So can I," said the boy, as cheerful as a lark now, for the captain had precisely confirmed all his story.
"Can you? Come and show me, then.—Stay here a moment, captain," said the squire, as he conducted the boy to the front office, closing the door behind him.
Little Bobtail indicated the precise spot where the letter lay when he had thrown it upon the desk. Captain Chinks was called in, and pointed to exactly the same place. There was not a variation of two inches between them.
"I can swear that the letter lay on the desk after Bobtail went out of the office," said Captain Chinks, decidedly.
"I am willing to grant that Little Bobtail has told the truth, and that he is entirely exculpated from the charge; for if either or both of you have been lying, your testimony would have conflicted in some point, as it does not now."
"That's handsome, squire," added the captain.
"By the way, when did you see Bobtail last, captain?" asked the lawyer.
"I haven't seen him since the day I went away."
"You may go, Bobtail," added the squire.
"I'm in no hurry, sir. Perhaps you will want to ask me some more questions," replied the boy.
"If the letter was left on my desk, I ought to have found it there," continued the lawyer.
"That's so. But you don't always find things where you put them," said Captain Chinks, sagely.
A long conversation about the missing letter followed; but no clew to it was obtained. The ill-visaged man, who wished to save the Buckingham Bank robbers from a long term in the state prison, thought it was very hard that his friends should suffer because somebody had stolen the letter, or the squire had lost it by his carelessness. But the lawyer thought his correspondent was to blame for not sending a check or draft; to which the ill-visaged replied that a check or draft would have been lost in the same manner the money had been.
Finally Squire Gilfilian agreed to defend the bank robbers, and their friend agreed to raise the money to pay him before the trial came on. He did defend them; but even he was not smart enough to save them from a long term in the state prison.
Little Bobtail was entirely satisfied with the result of the examination, so far as he was personally concerned, though, as the squire seemed to be very fair about it, he was sorry that he should lose so large a sum of money. More than this, he had more respect than ever before for Captain Chinks, who, he was quite sure, had told the truth in this instance. He might have given him a world of trouble if he had simply declined to tell the truth, or had distorted it even a little. Bobtail was, therefore, very grateful to him for doing what it was plainly his duty to do. Still our hero could not help wondering, as hundreds of others wondered, whether or not the captain really smuggled goods into the state. Perhaps he would not have thought much the worse of him if he had known that such was the fact; for, as we have before stated, Bobtail's views of smuggling were not very definite. He had never considered the subject enough to have any fixed opinions.
Captain Chinks was a thriving, driving, enterprising man, who did any kind of business which promised an adequate remuneration. He went a fishing, he traded horses, traded boats, traded vehicles. He had been in the salmon business, importing it from the provinces, and sending it to Boston; he had been in the pogy oil business; he had been in the staging business; he had been in the hotel business in a small way. He owned a farm, and was a mechanic besides. He sometimes built a boat during the winter season, and ran it during the summer, or sold it, if an opportunity presented. If there was a camp-meeting, he carried passengers in his craft to and from the grounds. He was, or had been, in all these occupations. They were visible and tangible; and some people insisted that he was engaged in other occupations which were not so visible and tangible.
Little Bobtail left Captain Chinks in the lawyer's office, and walked down the shore road to the cottage. He went in and found Ezekiel drunk on the bed. He did not disturb him, but went up stairs to see if the boxes he had removed from the Skylark were still securely hidden from the observation of any one who might visit the upper part of the house. He adjusted the rubbish which covered them, and then left the cottage. Monkey was paddling about the harbor in the old dory, which he had borrowed at the head of the bay. The moment his grateful friend saw him, he pulled to the rocks where he stood, and they went on board of the yacht together. Little Bobtail looked her over again, and began to wonder that no one appeared to claim her. He could not help asking if any one would ever appear to claim her. Whoever did so would have to account for the presence of those cases of brandy in her cabin. If the owner had any regard for his reputation, he might choose rather to sacrifice the boat and her cargo, than to subject himself to the penalty of his transgression. If he claimed the boat, he was reasonably sure that both would be confiscated, and he would make nothing by doing so, pecuniarily, and was liable to punishment besides. Bobtail thought it would be a fine thing to own the Skylark, or even to have the use of her for a season or two; and hoped the legal owner of her would have a proper regard for his reputation, and not risk it by putting forward his claim to her.
Certainly for the present Bobtail was in charge of her, and there was no one to dictate what he should or should not do with her. He was willing that everybody should see the boat; and, to enable any one who might possibly throw light upon her ownership to do so, he thought it best to sail her about the harbor. The tide was up now, and, with the assistance of Monkey, he hoisted the mainsail and got up the anchor.
"Now, stand by the jib-halyards, Monkey," shouted the skipper, as he took the helm.
"All clear, Bob," replied the hand before the mast.
"Hoist the jib."
Monkey knew all about a boat, and did his work well. The Skylark went off with the fresh breeze on her quarter, and Bobtail felt like a lord at the helm.
"Don't she spin!" said Monkey, as he seated himself in the standing-room, and fixed his gaze on the swelling sails.
"She goes it like a locomotive," replied the skipper. "Now haul in on the main sheet, and we will run up the harbor."
The Skylark, close-hauled, ran up to the head of the little bay, and coming about, stood over close to the wharf, at the head of which the fish market and several stores were located.
"Hollo, Bobtail!" shouted the skipper of the Islesboro' packet, which had come in that morning, and lay alongside the wharf. "What boat's that?"
"The Skylark," replied the skipper.
"Where did she come from?"
"I don't know. I picked her up yesterday, and want to find the owner," replied Bobtail, who, while he was looking for an owner, did not really wish to find one, though he was prepared to do all that was fair and right in the premises.
"Where did you pick her up?" asked the skipper of the packet.
As the Skylark was now almost out of hailing distance, Bobtail came about, and ran up alongside the packet, skilfully spilling the sail at the right moment, so that she hardly bumped against the other vessel, though Monkey stood ready with the fenders.
"I picked her up near Blank Island," replied Bobtail.
"I seen a boat like her just about sundown last night. I couldn't make her out, but I cal'late that's the craft I see," added the skipper. "But how on airth came she adrift?"
"That's more than I know."
"Don't Captain Chinks know nothin' about her? He come over with me from Isleboro' this mornin'."
"I saw him up in town this morning, but he didn't say anything about her," answered Bobtail.
"I don't know's he knows anything about her; but he's pooty well acquainted with all the boats in these parts. Was there anything on board of her?"
"She's a pleasure craft. Come on board and look at her," replied Bobtail, evasively.
The skipper of the packet accepted the invitation, and looked over the Skylark. He was critical in his observations, and did not believe that any of these fancy craft amounted to much in heavy weather. She was "fixed up smart," and was "handsome's a picture;" but "he'd rather have his homely boat when it blowed than a thousand sech highflyers." They could "chalk a line up in to the wind in light weather, but they wan't nothin' in a sea."
Bobtail did not indorse these critical remarks, for he had tried the Skylark in a sea, and knew that she was equal to anything.
"I hope you'll find the owner, and I ca'late you'll make somethin' out of the job," said the skipper, as he returned to his vessel.
Bobtail did not particularly hope so, for even if he made something out of the job, he was afraid he should never be satisfied with the old tub in which he had sailed the day before, if he bought her, now that he had realized the glories of the Skylark.
"Shove her off, Monkey," said he, as he resumed his place at the helm.
Running along close to the wharves, he answered several hails of persons who wished to know about the boat. It would soon be all over town that he had picked up the yacht; and having in this manner sufficiently advertised her, he stood off towards the open bay, passing between the Spindles off the point.
"Where are you going to now, Bob?" asked Monkey.
"We will take a little sail, just to see how the boat works."
"She works fust rate, and no mistake," added Monkey, with admiration.
"I'd give more to own this boat than I would to be one of the selectmen," continued Bobtail. "She's a tip-top sea boat. Take the helm, Monkey, and see how nice she steers."
The Darwinian opened his mouth from ear to ear with pleasure as he complied with the request. Of course he fully agreed with all the skipper said. Bobtail walked forward, and then went below. It was about time to be thinking of dinner, though he was not very hungry yet. He looked over the stores of the yacht, to see if there was anything besides bacon for the meal. In a small tub he found some salt pork. One of the lockers under the transom was half full of potatoes; but he discovered no other meat. After this survey he concluded to dine on fish, for he had his lines and salt clams on deck. Returning to the helm, he put the yacht about, and stood up to one of the best of the fishing-grounds.
"Lower the jib," he called to his crew; and when this was done, he directed him to throw over the anchor. "Now, Monkey, catch some fish while I go below and make a fire."
In a few moments Bobtail had a fire in the stove. Washing some potatoes, he pared and sliced them. Three big slices of salt pork in the pan soon produced fat enough to fry them. By this time there was a movement on deck. The Darwinian was pulling in a fish.
"A cod!" shouted Monkey. "He's a nice one, too."
"How big is he?" asked Bobtail.
"Five or six pounds."
"That's enough. Dress him, and cut him up to fry."
By the time the potatoes were cooked the fish was ready for the pan. The cook covered the pieces with Indian meal, and the dinner was soon ready. Bobtail had already set the table. He had put on plates, knives and forks, and glasses for two, a pitcher of water, a plate of pickles, and a dish of hard bread. The fish was placed on the casing of the centre-board, in the middle of the table, consisting of two leaves, which could be dropped down when not in use. Monkey was called, and the dinner proceeded in due form. The Darwinian did not seem to be quite so enthusiastic as at breakfast, perhaps because his table at home was oftener garnished with fish and salt pork than with any other food. However, he did ample justice to the bill of fare, and liberally praised the cook for his skill in the art.
While they were thus pleasantly engaged, they heard a slight bump against the side of the yacht, followed by the sound of voices. With the instinct of a genuine boatman, Bobtail rushed upon deck to assure himself that no harm befell the Skylark, when the other boat came alongside. He found that Prince, in the white sloop, had just put Captain Chinks on board, and had already shoved off. Bobtail looked at the captain, and thought he had taken a great deal of trouble to pay him this visit, for Prince had come about, and was standing up to the village. He felt as though he should now be called upon to give up the Skylark to her rightful owner.
"I'm glad to see you, Captain Chinks," exclaimed he; but what he said was rather complimentary than strictly true—a society fib.
"Won't you come below, and take some dinner with us?"
The captain had been to dinner, for it was now two o'clock in the afternoon, and he began to ask about the Skylark.
IN THE CABIN OF THE SKYLARK.
Little Bobtail was not particularly glad to see Captain Chinks when he boarded the Skylark, at her anchorage on the fishing-grounds. It seemed as though the captain had taken a great deal of trouble to come down several miles from the village, probably hiring Prince to put him alongside the yacht. Yet he could not help thinking that the slight uneasiness which disturbed him was very absurd. He had permitted himself to hope that the owner of the Skylark would not claim her, or, at least, would not claim her till he had the use of her for a season, the longer the better; but he felt that he had no right to hope any such thing. The yacht was a beautiful craft, and it was in the very height of the boating season. All his hopes, however, had been very vague, and were not founded on any reasonable basis. He had been considering the remotest of possibilities, rather than the slightest probabilities.
When Captain Chinks came on board, Bobtail felt that he had come to claim the yacht. According to the general "speech of people," this man of a doubtful reputation was, more likely than any other person in Camden, the owner of the twenty cases of brandy. If he claimed the yacht, he must claim the smuggled goods at the same time. Of course Bobtail would be expected to keep the secret, and thereby become a party to the fraud. He was not prepared for this issue. He did not want the confidence of any smuggler. Whatever his own views of the contraband trade, he would not break any law of the land himself, however leniently he was disposed to regard others who neglected to pay duties to the custom-house. He had always tried to be honest and upright, and he had a perfect horror of being anything else.
"How's this, Bobtail?" said Captain Chinks, casting his eyes about him, as if to examine the parts of the yacht. "This is a fine boat!"
"Tip-top, sir," replied the skipper, with proper enthusiasm.
"Some one up in the village said you picked her up adrift. Is that so?"
"That's so, Captain Chinks. I found her drifting out to sea, over near Blank Island. Does she belong to you, sir?"
"To me?" exclaimed the visitor, with a slight start, which did not escape the observation of Little Bobtail. "What makes you think she belongs to me?"
"I didn't say I thought so. I only asked you if she did. Captain Flipper, of the Islesboro' packet, said you might know something about her."
"What made him think I knew anything about her?"
"I don't know that he did think so; only he said you came over from Islesboro' with him this morning," Bobtail explained.
"What has that to do with it?"
"Nothing, that I know of. Captain Flipper said you knew about all the boats in these parts."
"O, that's the reason he said I might know about her?" added Captain Chinks, apparently relieved by the explanation.
"Yes, sir, I suppose so. Now, do you know anything about her?" asked the young skipper, forcing the question home.
"Possibly I have seen her. I don't know."
"Then she don't belong to you?"
"Why do you keep asking me that question, Bobtail? Do you think I own her?" demanded the captain, rather sharply.
"I don't think anything at all about it. I don't know. I can't tell by the looks of a man whether he owns this boat or not. I'm looking for her owner, and so I asked you the question."
"Well, I don't own her," said Captain Chinks, with more earnestness than Bobtail thought the occasion required; but he could not help suspecting, from his manner, that Captain Chinks knew something about the Skylark.
"Do you happen to know who does own her?" continued Bobtail.
"No, I don't know anything at all about her."
The Darwinian had left his dinner when Bobtail did, and had come as far as the companion-way, where he stood listening to the conversation which took place while the parties stood on deck. Captain Chinks had discovered Monkey's presence only a moment before, and it was possible that his decided answers were called forth by the fact that a third person was near.
"Won't you take a bite with us?" continued Bobtail, when he happened to remember that he had not finished his dinner.
"No; I had my dinner just before I came from home; but I will go below with you," replied Captain Chinks, following Bobtail into the cabin.
The skipper and Monkey resumed their places at the table, and finished the meal. While he was eating, Bobtail related all the particulars of the finding of the Skylark, so far as the boat was concerned, but prudently repressed all allusion to the twenty cases of brandy. Captain Chinks appeared to be nervous and uneasy, though, as he did not own the boat, and knew nothing at all about her, Bobtail could not see why he should be so. The dishes were cleared away, washed, and carefully deposited in the lockers. The cook-room was put in order, the cabin floor swept, and every article of furniture put in its place. Bobtail seated himself on the transom, opposite Captain Chinks, and wondered more than ever why he had taken so much trouble to visit the Skylark when she lay so far from the town.
"What do you suppose this boat is worth, Bobtail?" asked Captain Chinks, as he glanced forward and then aft, as if to survey the quality and capacity of the yacht.
"I'm sure I have no idea," replied the young skipper.
"They asked me twelve hundred dollars for one about this size in Newport last year," added the captain.
"That's a big price for a boat."
"But it was three hundred dollars less than she cost her owner two years before. This don't look like an old boat."
"No, she's nearly new. I looked into the run this morning, and the timbers and plank are as fresh as though she had just been built."
"I reckon she is a year or two old," added the captain. "She isn't worth less than a thousand dollars, though you may buy such a boat sometimes for half that money."
"Five hundred dollars is about all any boat of this size is worth down here."
"By the way, Bobtail, did she have any sort of a cargo in her when you picked her up?" asked Captain Chinks, in a careless way, as he raised and lowered the table-leaf in front of him, just as though he was more intent on ascertaining how the leaf worked than in obtaining an answer to his question.
This was a very important interrogatory on the part of the visitor, notwithstanding the indifference with which it had apparently been propounded; and Bobtail had been expecting it. In spite of all the captain had said, and in spite of the fact that he had declared he knew nothing about the Skylark, our hero could not help connecting his visitor with the contraband cargo; perhaps because the captain was the only man in Camden who had the reputation of being concerned in this sort of business.
"This is a pleasure craft, and wasn't built to carry cargo," replied Bobtail, who had already decided how to meet the question.
"That may be; but such boats do sometimes carry a small cargo. For instance, you could put many thousand dollars' worth of some kinds of goods in this cabin," added the captain, still fumbling over the table-leaf, which seemed to be an inexplicable mystery to him, though it may be added in defence of a man of his intelligence, and a boat-builder, too, that he always built keel-boats, while the Skylark was a centre-board.
"I dare say she could carry a million dollars' worth of gold or diamonds," added Bobtail, cheerfully, for he felt that his wily visitor was not getting much ahead of him.
"Yes; but she might carry heavier goods, such as cigars, liquors, silks, and things of that sort, for it don't take a great lot to be worth a thousand dollars. Did she have anything of this kind in her when you picked her up, Bobtail?"
"Why should any one think of carrying cigars and liquors in such a craft as this?" asked the skipper, laughing.
"That wan't exactly the question. I say, Monkey, won't you go on deck, and see which way the wind is," added the captain, turning suddenly upon the Darwinian, who was listening to the conversation with his mouth wide open, and trying with, all his might to discover what Chinks was driving at. "I reckon it's hauling more to the southward."
"Sartin; I'll see," replied Monkey, hastening on deck through the cook-room.
"You don't answer the question, Bobtail," said the captain.
"What makes you think there was any cargo in her?" demanded the skipper.
"I didn't say I thought there was any; I only asked you if there was."
In spite of Little Bobtail's indefinite opinions in regard to the moral turpitude of smuggling, he had very decided views on the subject of lying. He believed in telling the truth, though, like most other boys, I am afraid he did not invariably do so; but he always felt mean and guilty when he told anything in the shape of a lie. In the present instance he had made up his mind either to tell the truth or to keep still, not only because it was wicked to tell a lie, but because, in a smuggling case in which the government officers might soon have a hand, it might prove extremely dangerous.
"Well, captain, I didn't say there was any cargo in her," answered Bobtail, cautiously.
"I know you didn't; but I want you to tell me squarely whether there was or not."
"Why do you want me to tell you?"
"No matter why. I want you to tell me: that's all."
"The wind's about nor'-west, Captain Chinks," said Monkey, crawling into the cabin from the cook-room.
"It hasn't changed, then," added the visitor, vexed at the return of the Darwinian, who seated himself near Bobtail, intent upon hearing the rest of the conversation.
"No, sir, not a bit; it's been nor'-west all day, and I don't believe its goin' to change afore night."
"I say, Monkey, I want some fish for breakfast. If you will catch me two or three, and dress them, I'll make it all right with you."
Monkey did not like to lose any of the conversation about the boat; but he reluctantly went on deck in the hope of making a trifle by the job.
"I want you to answer my question squarely, Bobtail," continued Captain Chinks, returning vigorously to the charge, so vigorously that the skipper was almost confirmed in his suspicion connecting his visitor with the contraband cargo.
"I don't say there was or was not any cargo in her," replied Bobtail.
"But I want you to say," persisted the captain, sharply and sternly.
"Do you own this yacht, Captain Chinks?"
"I don't say whether I own her or not."
"And I don't say whether there was any cargo in her or not."
"What do you mean, Bobtail?"
"That depends upon what you mean, Captain Chinks."
"I don't understand you, Bobtail," said the visitor, struggling to suppress his anger.
"That's just my trouble; I don't understand you," laughed the skipper. "I reckon we don't understand each other at all."
"I asked you a question, Bobtail, and I want an answer," added the captain, bringing his fist down upon the table-leaf, whose mysterious mechanism he had by this time fully mastered.
"I asked you a question, Captain Chinks, and I want an answer," replied Bobtail.
"I don't want any of your impudence, and I won't take any of it."
"I didn't mean to be impudent, sir."
"But you talk to me just as though I was a boy like yourself. Now, answer my question."
"I hope you will excuse me, sir, when I say I can't answer it. I mean to be respectful, sir."
"You can answer it, Bobtail."
"I mean that, for certain reasons, I must decline to answer it."
"You must, eh?"
"I didn't think this of you, Bobtail. This morning I got you out of a bad scrape. If I hadn't done so, you would have been taken up for stealing that letter, which contained five hundred dollars. Now, you go back on me the same day," added the captain, more gently.
"I don't go back on you, sir. If you own this boat, I'll tell you all I know about her."
"I don't say that I own her."
"I know you don't say so; and for that reason I can't say anything more about her. You only told the truth about the letter."
"But I might have held my tongue, and I'm sorry now I didn't."
After this speech, Little Bobtail had no doubt that Captain Chinks was a bad man, and he felt the necessity of extreme caution in dealing with him.
"I don't see how you could keep still when Squire Gilfilian asked you the question," added Bobtail, in his simplicity.
"If I had done by you as you are doing by me when I ask you a question, I should have kept still, as you do."
"But I don't want to get any one into a scrape," pleaded the skipper.
"What do you mean by that? I only ask you to tell the truth, as I did for you this morning," said the captain, in a coaxing tone.
"Squire Gilfilian owned that letter, and he had a right to ask about it. If you say you own this boat, I shall feel that I am perfectly safe in answering your questions."
"Perfectly safe! Then of course there was a cargo in her," added the visitor.
"I don't say there was. Have you lost a cargo, Captain Chinks?"
The captain mused. To say that he had lost a cargo would be to acknowledge that he was a smuggler, and he could not trust the secret to a boy like Little Bobtail, who had the reputation of being an honest and truthful boy. If called upon to give evidence, the boy would tell the whole truth. He would rather lose both the cargo and the boat than be convicted of smuggling.
"If there was no cargo in her, you would say so, Bobtail; so I have no doubt there was a cargo in her," continued Captain Clunks, after a silence of a few moments. "I take it for granted there was some sort of goods in her."
"What makes you think so, sir?"
"I have a notion of my own on that subject. If I'm not greatly mistaken, I saw this boat down to Bar Harbor. My idea is, that she went out to sea somewhere, and took a lot of goods from some fishing vessel, and tried to run them up to Camden, or some other port. I don't say it is so, but it might be. Very likely some of those custom-house officers got wind of the affair, and were on the lookout for the boat. Very likely the men in charge of her abandoned her, and cleared out to save themselves."
"I wonder if they went over to Camden in the Islesboro' packet this morning," suggested Bobtail, innocently.
"What do you mean, you young villain!" cried Captain Chinks, springing forward over the table, and seizing the skipper by the throat. "Do you mean to say I'm one of them?"
"Let me alone!" yelled Bobtail, struggling to shake off the hard gripe of the visitor.
Our hero had a hard fist, if it was a small one, and he used it vigorously upon the head and face of his assailant. He pounded so hard that the captain, holding him at a disadvantage across the table and centre-board, was compelled to release his hold.
"I am not to be trifled with," gasped Captain Chinks, panting from his exertions, and smarting from the heavy blows which Bobtail had inflicted upon his face.
"Nor I, either!" yelled the skipper, seizing a spare tiller which lay on the transom. "If you put your finger on me again, I'll break your head!"
"What's the row?" shouted Monkey, rushing down into the cabin, his round eyes distended to their utmost.
"I don't let anybody take me by the throat," replied Bobtail, shaking his head, and adjusting his shirt collar at the same time.
"It's all right now, Monkey, go and catch your fish," added Captain Chinks, mildly, feeling that his wrath had got the better of him, and induced him to commit an imprudent act.
"It won't be all right if you put your hand on me again," said Bobtail, still holding the spare tiller in his hand.
"You knew that I came over in the Islesboro' packet this morning."
"I wasn't thinking of you when I spoke," muttered Bobtail, who for the first time saw the force of the suggestion he had made.
"I was only supposing a case," said the captain.
"What? when you caught me by the throat? I don't want you to suppose any more cases, then."
"I won't, Bobtail. Perhaps the men had run the boat ashore, and were looking for a place to hide the goods, when the wind blew her off, and sent her adrift."
"Perhaps it was so; I don't know," answered the skipper, coldly.
"If she had a cargo in her, what have you done with it?"
"I didn't say she had any cargo, and I'm not going to say anything more about it till the owner claims the boat. That's the end of it."
Little Bobtail rose from the transom, and walked towards the companion-way. Captain Chinks looked very savage. He was evidently in a dilemma, from which he could not extricate himself.
"One minute more, my lad," called the captain. "I may possibly come across the person who lost this boat."
"If you do, send him to me, and he shall have his boat, and—and—everything that belongs to her," replied Bobtail, who was still full of wrath towards his late assailant.
"But, you see, if she had any smuggled goods on board of her—"
"I didn't say she had."
"You won't understand me! I say if she had. Now, perhaps I can make a trade with the owner for you."
"I don't want you to make any trade for me. Send him to me, and he shall have his boat. That's all."
"But he will be afraid to expose himself. Now, suppose he should offer to let you keep the boat, if you would give up the goods, if you found any goods in her. If I should happen to find him, or to hear of him, shall I tell him you will make this sort of a trade with him?"
"No! Tell him he can have his boat and everything that belongs to her. I've learned more about smugglers to-day than I ever knew before, and I wouldn't touch one with a ten-foot pole; and I wouldn't make a trade with him to cheat the government. I don't want to talk any more about it. I've got a sore throat now."
Having thus delivered himself, Bobtail went on deck, and ordered the crew to help him get up the anchor. In a few minutes the Skylark was headed towards the town. Captain Chinks remained in the cabin, full of wrath and disappointment.
A CHANCE FOR BUSINESS.
Possibly, if Captain Chinks had not resorted to violent argument in carrying his point, he might have succeeded better. As Little Bobtail sat at the helm of the Skylark, he thought of the proposition which the captain had made to him. It simply meant that, if he would give up the cases of brandy, he might keep the boat. It was a very tempting offer, and if he had not been smarting under the double injury to his throat and his feelings, inflicted by his visitor, he might have considered it. As it was, his only impulse was to have nothing further to do with such a bad man, a man who could be sorry that he had spoken the simple truth, and thus saved him from arrest for purloining the valuable letter.
Though Captain Chinks had resolutely denied the ownership of the Skylark, and all knowledge of her cargo, Little Bobtail could not help believing that the captain was the owner of both. He began to think that he had not acted wisely in removing the cargo to the garret of the cottage. His interview with the "gentleman of doubtful reputation" convinced him that it was dangerous for him to have anything to do with such men. He wished that he had handed both boat and cargo over to the deputy collector of the port. Perhaps it was not too late to do so now.
The wind was north-west, and the skipper had to beat up the harbor. As the yacht approached the wharf near the fish market, Captain Chinks came on deck. He seated himself on the trunk of the cabin, and seemed to be very much disturbed. Occasionally he cast a glance at Bobtail, as though he wanted to say something more to him. The bow of the boat was run up to the wharf, and Monkey was directed to "catch a turn" with the warp line on a post, which he did, and the skipper waited for his dangerous passenger to disembark.
"Well, Bobtail, have you thought over what I said to you?" said Captain Chinks, as he rose from his seat.
"I have thought it over, but—"
"This is a fine boat, and if you will only give up the cargo, you will own her, for nobody will ever claim her," interrupted the passenger.
"I haven't said there was any cargo in her," added Bobtail. "You seem to know all about it. If you claim—"
"I don't claim anything," protested the captain, zealously.
"Then it's no use to say anything more about her. I'm not going to get myself into any scrape, and I won't make any trade of any kind."
"You are making a mistake, Bobtail. In my opinion, there's something about this business that don't appear on the face of it."
"That's just my idea."
"I don't know but you can make folks believe that you picked up this boat, but I don't think you can," added the captain, with his teeth set, and with difficulty keeping down his anger.
"It don't make any difference to me whether they believe it or not," replied Bobtail. "That's the truth."
"You'll find it will make a difference to you," said the captain, as he stepped upon the wharf.
"Didn't you go back to Squire Gilfilian's office, after you left the letter there?"
"No, I didn't."
"I'm not sure of that," replied Captain Chinks, shaking his head in a threatening manner. "You overtook me down by the lime-kiln; so you got behind me somehow or other."
Captain Chinks went off muttering and shaking his head, and Bobtail could not imagine what he meant. So far as the lost letter was concerned, he felt that he had done his whole duty, and he was not disposed to worry about it; he wished his record in regard to the boxes was as clean.
"Cast off, Monkey," said he; and putting the Skylark about, he ran down to the deep water off the Portland Pier, where he anchored her.
Monkey's old dory had been towing astern during the trip, and after putting everything in order on board of the yacht, the two boys went on shore. Bobtail hastened to the cottage, hoping to find his mother there, for he wanted to tell her all about the situation, and obtain her advice. She had not yet returned. Ezekiel was just coming out of his spree, for he had drank all his liquor. He was ugly as sin itself, and began to abuse the boy again for "destroying his property." It was not comfortable to stay in the house under such circumstances, and Little Bobtail walked up to the village. The Bay View House was at this time full of guests—people from other parts of Maine and elsewhere, spending a few days or a few weeks at the sea-shore. Camden has lakes, and mountains, and delightful drives, in addition to the attractions of the sea, and people who went there once were very likely to go there again. Bobtail walked up to the hotel, for the stage from Rockland, by which his mother would return, stopped there.
"What boat's that you have, Bobtail?" asked Mr. Philbrook, the landlord of the hotel.
"They say you picked her up."
"Yes; I got blown off yesterday, and I found her adrift near Blank Island."
"I see you are using her. There is a party here from Augusta that want a nice boat for to-morrow," added the landlord. "Can't you take them out?"
"I don't know; the owner of the boat may claim her."
"But you ought to have the use of her for taking care of her, and you can make six or eight dollars a day with her, just as well as not."
"She isn't my boat, and I don't know's I ought to let her; but I will see, and let you know in the morning," replied Bobtail, as the Rockland stage drove up to the door.
Mrs. Taylor was one of the passengers, and her son assisted her to alight. She wanted to know how her husband was, and Bobtail gave her the information. As they walked towards the cottage he told her all about the Skylark, and her suspicious cargo. Of course his mother was astonished; but fortunately her views in regard to smuggling were more clearly defined than Bobtail's, and she gave him excellent advice. She declared that she could not sleep a wink with all those boxes in the house.
"You must go to Squire Simonton right off, tell him all about it, and let him take them away," said she, warmly. "Why, we are liable to be sent to prison!"
"All right, mother; I will do just as you say," replied Bobtail.
"Besides, Robert, if your father should find the boxes, you know what he would do," added Mrs. Taylor.
"I will attend to the matter right off, mother."
They reached the cottage, and after Bobtail had carried his mother's carpet-bag into the house, he hastened to find Squire Simonton, who was the deputy collector of the port. On his way up the street, he met this gentleman, with another, whom he had often seen at the hotel.
"We want to see that boat you picked up, Little Bobtail," said Squire Simonton, with the pleasant smile which his face always wore.
"I was just going up to see you about her," replied Bobtail. "I want to ask you what I shall do with her."
"I don't know that you can do anything with her. Perhaps you had better advertise her in the Camden and Rockland papers," replied the squire.
Bobtail did not like to say anything about the boxes before the other gentleman; so he did not allude to them. At the steamboat wharf he borrowed a small boat, and conveyed them on board of the Skylark.
"She is a fine boat—isn't she, Hines?" said the deputy collector, as they stepped into the standing-room.
Mr. Hines agreed that she was a fine boat; and then he commented upon her build, rig, and accommodations, as one who was perfectly familiar with boats and boating. He looked her over with a critical eye, and then expressed a desire to have a little sail in her, which the squire seconded; and Bobtail was always ready for a sail. In a few moments they were under way, with Mr. Hines at the helm. As they sailed down the bay towards Rockland, Bobtail related the whole story of the finding of the Skylark, and both the gentlemen suggested various theories in regard to her being adrift; but the hero of the adventure said nothing about the contraband boxes. He did not know that it was proper to do so before Mr. Hines, though he was a jolly, good-natured gentleman.
"You didn't look into the cook-room—did you, Squire Simonton?" asked Bobtail, who was very anxious to tell the rest of the story.
"I did not," replied the deputy collector. "I will do so now."
Bobtail conducted him through the cabin, which was rather low for a gentleman of his eminent dignity, to the cook-room, where they seated themselves on the lockers.
"I should want a little more room in my yacht," laughed the squire, as he tried to put on his hat, which the height of the apartment would not permit.
"I didn't tell you but half the story on deck, sir," said Bobtail. "I didn't like to speak out before Mr. Hines; but you are the deputy collector."
"And Mr. Hines is a custom-house officer," added Mr. Simonton.
"O, is he? I didn't know it. Well, sir, I think there's something wrong about this boat, and I want to tell you the rest of the story."
"What do you mean by something wrong, Bobtail?"
"In the smuggling line."
"Then I think we had better let Mr. Hines hear the story, for it is part of his duty to look up cases of this kind," replied Squire Simonton, as he rose from his seat, and bumped his head against a deck-beam.
When they were seated on the cork cushions of the standing-room, the deputy collector intimated that Little Bobtail had something to say, and the boy rose to explain.
"When I picked this boat up, her cabin was half full of boxes," said he.
"Cigars?" said Mr. Hines.
"No, sir, I don't know's I had any business to open one of the boxes, but I did. It was full of bottles," added Bobtail.
"Brandy?" said the inspector.
"The bottles were labelled 'JAMES HENNESSY & CO.—COGNAC.'"
"Just so; that's brandy. How many were there?" asked Mr. Hines.
"Twenty boxes, and each box contained two dozen. The bottles were in kind of straw casing."
"I know," nodded the inspector. "What have you done with them?"
"I didn't know what to do with them. I meant to be on the safe side; so I hid them in my father's garret."
"That's a bad place for them," said Squire Simonton, who was an earnest and consistent temperance man, and had labored diligently to reform Ezekiel Taylor.
"My father don't know anything at all about the matter."
"We must get them out of his way at once. I don't know but it would have been just as well if you had emptied all the bottles into the bay," laughed the deputy collector.
"I thought of that, but I didn't think the fishes would like it."
"Of course this brandy is smuggled," added Mr. Hines. "Don't Captain Chinks know anything about it?"
Bobtail related the particulars of his interview with the "gentleman of doubtful reputation."
"But the captain don't claim the boat?" said Squire Simonton.
"He says she don't belong to him, and he knows nothing about the cargo."
The two custom-house officials discussed the case at considerable length. As no one but Bobtail and his mother knew anything about the boxes, it was thought best to keep all knowledge of them from the public. The officers, in tracing out the guilty parties, could work better in the dark than in the light. The following out of this case might expose a dozen others. Captain Chinks was very sly, and what was now suspected might be ultimately proved. The brandy must be seized, and removed to a safe place.
"But what shall be done with the yacht," asked Little Bobtail.
"Nothing at present," replied Mr. Hines. "If we seize her, the game will be up at once. You may keep her and use her, Bobtail. I will appoint you her keeper, but you must not let any one steal her. The rascals may go on board of her at night, and sail her out of the harbor."
"O, I will sleep on board of her every night," replied Bobtail, delighted with the decision of the inspector.
"If any one claims her, let me know at once, and don't give her up without an order from me or Mr. Simonton."
"I will not."
The Skylark returned to her anchorage, and the gentlemen were landed on the wharf. Bobtail went home. An arrangement had been made for the removal of the boxes, but the presence of Ezekiel Taylor seemed to interfere with its execution. He was at home, sullen and ugly, and nothing could be done while he was in the house. But after supper he went out, shaking in every fibre of his frame, and hankering for a dram to quiet his nerves.
After dark, Bobtail and his mother brought the boxes from their hiding-place, and put them behind a row of currant bushes, in the garden. Having informed the deputy collector where he could find them, he went on board of the yacht to sleep. After midnight the boxes were removed to the storehouse. No one was the wiser, and Bobtail was glad to get them off his hands.
No one attempted to steal the yacht that night, and the next morning Little Bobtail informed the landlord of the Bay View House that the Skylark was at the service of the party who desired to sail. With Monkey "before the mast," he gave entire satisfaction to the ladies and gentlemen who went with them. He placed them where they caught an abundance of fish, and then landed them upon Blank Island, while he made a chowder, and fried fish and potatoes for their dinner. The party took their meal in the cabin, and generously commended the cook. Before dark he landed them at the wharf. He charged seven dollars for boat and crew, by the advice of Mr. Hines, which was cheap enough for a yacht of her size.
"Now, Monkey, you have worked first rate to-day," said Bobtail, when the party had gone. "Of course I mean to pay you."
"I don't ask any pay for helpin' you, Bob," grinned the Darwinian.
"I want you every day when I have a job, and I shall pay you a dollar a day," added the skipper; and he handed him the money.
"A dollar a day!" exclaimed Monkey, who had never possessed a dollar in cash of his own in his life.
"Isn't it enough?"
"By gracious! I should think it was!" exclaimed Monkey, gazing with wonder at the bill.
"Put it in your pocket then, and call it square for this day's work."
Before the Skylark left the wharf Mr. Philbrook appeared, and engaged the yacht for the next day for another party. Bobtail went up to the store at the head of the wharf, and expended a portion of his receipts for coffee, sugar, and other supplies for the yacht. It seemed to him, just then, that a great business was opening to him, and he was very anxious to give satisfaction to those who employed him. The bow-line was cast off, and the Skylark dropped down to her anchorage. The deck was washed down, and everything put in the nicest order for the next day.
"Don't you think I ought to sleep on board with you, Bob?" asked the Darwinian, as they pulled to the landing-steps at the railroad pier.
"What for?" asked Bobtail.
"To help you if anything should happen. You might break adrift, or some vessel might run into you, and then there would be work to do."
"I should like your company very well; but don't your mother want you in the house at night?"
"The old woman don't care where I am."
"Don't call your mother the old woman, Monkey. If you do I can't respect you."
"Well, I won't, then," replied the crew, opening his mouth from ear to ear in one of his cheerful smiles. "She calls me Monkey, jest as other folks do. When I give her this dollar she'll be satisfied. Won't she open her eyes some!"
"You shall take her another to-morrow."
"I'll come right back when I give it to her. I s'pose you'll have some of that bacon for breakfast in the morning—won't you?"
"Yes, if you like," laughed Bobtail, who now understood that his crew wanted to sleep on board in order to get a better breakfast than he would have at home.
They parted at the cottage, and Bobtail went in to see his mother and take his supper with her. For some reason which the son could not understand, Mrs. Taylor was unusually sad and moody. Ezekiel was sober, for a wonder, and did not appear to be so cross and ugly as he generally was when recovering from his debauches. Neither of them said much, and Bobtail wondered what had happened. After supper he went out and split up the wood for the fire, and did other chores.
"What can be done about it?" he heard Ezekiel say, as he paused at the door, after he had done his work.
"I don't know's anything can be done," replied Mrs. Taylor, gloomily.
Then there was a silence, and Bobtail went in.
"What's the matter, mother?" asked he, now satisfied that some calamity impended.
"I'm afraid we shall lose the house, Robert," replied Mrs. Taylor.
"Lose the house? How can you lose it?"
"You know there's a mortgage upon it for five hundred dollars. Squire Gilfilian wants the money, and says he must sell the place if it isn't paid. He has been threatening to do it for a good while, and to-day he has foreclosed the mortgage."
"I've been all over town to get somebody else to take the mortgage," added Ezekiel, "but I can't find nobody. The place is wuth a thousand dollars of any man's money; but business is dull, and money's hard, and I don't believe 'twill bring more'n the mortgage under the hammer. I don't know what I'm goin' to do about it. I don't see's I can help myself."
Probably just then Ezekiel Taylor reproached himself for his idle and dissolute life, and realized that, if he had been industrious, and had saved his money, he might have owned the place with no encumbrance at the present time. It was about sunset, and Mrs. Taylor and her son seated themselves on the front doorstep to talk over the impending calamity.
"What vessel is that?" asked Mrs. Taylor, as a cloud of white canvas emerged from behind Negro Island.
"It's a yacht!" exclaimed Bobtail. "There's a P in her burgee. It's the Penobscot, of Belfast. She belongs to Colonel Montague. I saw her go down the other day. She's the finest yacht in these waters. I must go and see her."
Little Bobtail suddenly forgot all about the mortgage and the prospective loss of the cottage as he gazed upon the white sails and the beautiful hull of the Penobscot. She was a magnificent yacht, of about a hundred tons. She had created a decided sensation in the bay, and our young skipper had heard glowing accounts of her, which made him anxious to see her with his own eyes. Her crew were hauling down her gaff-topsails and her jib-topsail, and it was evident that she intended to anchor in the harbor. Her foresail was lowered, and then her jib. As she lost her headway, the anchor went overboard near where the Skylark lay. Bobtail began to move off.
"I should like to see her, too, Robert. Can't you take me out to her?" said Mrs. Taylor.
"Certainly, mother; come along," replied Little Bobtail; "but perhaps they won't let us go on board of her, for I see some ladies on her deck."
At the landing-steps they took a boat, and Bobtail pulled off to the yacht.
Little Bobtail could not help looking behind him occasionally, as he pulled the boat, to observe the beautiful proportions, and the comely, tapering spars of the yacht. Beside the Penobscot, even the Skylark was nowhere.
"Well that's the finest yacht I ever saw!" said he, lying upon his oars, when he was near enough to take in the whole idea of the vessel. "She's big enough to go around the world in, too."
"She's as nice as anything need be," replied Mrs. Taylor, with an indifference which was very provoking to the young skipper.
She was looking at the people on the quarter-deck of the Penobscot, rather than at the symmetrical hull and the graceful spars. There were two ladies and two gentlemen. The old gentleman, seated near the wheel, with long silver locks, and of grave and dignified mien, was the Hon. Mr. Montague. His son, Colonel Montague, who had commanded a Maine regiment during a portion of the war of the rebellion, was planking the deck, dressed in the uniform of the New York Yacht Club. He was quite as dignified as his father, though he was not forty yet. His wife was the elegant lady who sat on a camp-stool gazing at the outline of the ragged mountain which rises near the village. The young lady of twelve or thirteen was Miss Grace Montague, the daughter of the colonel. She was quite tall for her age, and looked very much like her mother. Mrs. Taylor was gazing earnestly at these people.
Little Bobtail swung his boat about, and backed her up to the accommodation-steps. The sailing-master, who also wore the Yacht Club uniform, walked quietly to the ladder, shaking his head to intimate that no visitors would be allowed on board. As Bobtail, who was not good at taking a hint, especially when it did not agree with his inclination, did not suspend his movements, the sailing-master walked down the steps to the little platform.
"We don't allow any one to come on board to-night," said he, shoving off the boat with his foot.
"Is this Colonel Montague's yacht?" asked Mrs. Taylor.
"Well, I want to see him."
"O, if you wish to see the owner, you can come on board."
Just at that moment a steward in a white jacket called the party on deck to supper. The old gentleman, Mrs. Montague, and her daughter descended the companion-way first. As the colonel was about to follow them, the sailing-master told him that the woman in the boat wished to see him. He stepped over to the rail as Bobtail helped his mother upon the platform.
"Do you wish to see me, madam?" demanded the colonel, rather haughtily.
"My son wants to see this yacht very much. He's very fond of boats; and I thought I'd make bold to ask you if he might," replied Mrs. Taylor; and Bobtail thought then that his mother had more "cheek" than he had.
"You may come on board," replied the colonel, very much to the astonishment of the young skipper, and apparently to the equal astonishment of the sailing-master.
Bobtail went forward on the instant the permission was granted, leaving his mother to follow at her leisure; but she stood for a moment talking with the colonel. The young boatman examined the Penobscot in every part except the cabin, which he was not permitted to enter while the family were at supper. It would take all the exclamation marks in a fount of type adequately to express his views of the Penobscot and her appurtenances. The sailing-master followed him in his perambulations above and below, and when the family had finished their meal, he conducted him to the cabin, and permitted him to look into the state-rooms. Bobtail had never seen anything half so magnificent, and he expressed his delight and astonishment in the strongest language his vocabulary afforded.
"Well, Robert, have you seen enough?" said his mother, when he returned to the deck.
"I believe I've seen her through. I thought the Skylark was a big thing before, but she's nothing but skim-milk compared with this yacht," replied he. "If I had such a yacht as this, I wouldn't go ashore at all."
"Our people don't go on shore much," said the sailing-master, pleased with the enthusiasm of the boy.
"I suppose she'll sail some—won't she?" added Bobtail.
"She has logged fifteen knots in a fresh breeze."
"How far have you been in her?"
"We have been down to Eastport and Mount Desert. We left Bar Harbor this morning, and shall run up to Belfast to-morrow evening. Next week we go to Newport, and up Long Island Sound."
"That's the life that suits me!" exclaimed Bobtail, with enthusiasm, as he walked aft to the accommodation-steps.
Colonel Montague was smoking his cigar, and Little Bobtail thought he was gazing very earnestly at him; but when he returned the gaze, the dignified gentleman was looking some other way. He helped his mother into the boat, and pulled her to the landing-steps.
"Do you know Colonel Montague, mother?" asked Bobtail.
"I used to work for him before you was born," replied Mrs. Taylor, looking over the water at the Penobscot.
"He didn't seem to know you," added Bobtail.
"I haven't seen him before for years."
"I didn't think he'd let us go on board."
"I knew he would, if he recognized me."
"If he did recognize you, he was awful stiff about it. He hardly spoke to you, if you did work for him before I was born."
"That's his way, Robert. He is a great man now, and I s'pose he don't make much of folks beneath him. But he's a fine man, and I always liked him."
"He may be a fine man, but he has a very awkward way of showing it. Why didn't he shake hands with you, and look as though he had seen you before?"
"That isn't his way, Robert; and he is rich enough to do just as he pleases."
"I don't believe he is rich enough to be hoggish," added Bobtail, whose impressions of Colonel Montague were not altogether favorable.
"But he is a good man, and has a very kind heart. He will do almost anything for poor people."
"I should like to sail in that yacht first rate; but I would rather go with somebody that isn't so stiff as Colonel Montague. That sailing-master seems to be afraid of him, and daresn't say his soul's his own."
"Did you expect Colonel Montague to take off his hat to you, and treat you like a nabob?" asked Mrs. Taylor, indignantly.
"I didn't expect him to say anything to me; but if you used to work for him, I should think he would have spoken a civil word or two to you."
"And so he did. He spoke to me when you were looking at the vessel; and he spoke very kindly to me, too."
"He went below in two minutes after you reached the deck."
"Well, his supper was waiting for him. I was only his servant, and I don't expect great folks to take much notice of me; and you won't after you have lived to be half as old as I am."
Mrs. Taylor seemed to be entirely satisfied with Colonel Montague, and she walked home, while her son, who was not so well satisfied with the owner of the Penobscot, went off to the Skylark, where he was soon joined by the Darwinian. At an early hour the captain and the crew retired, and doubtless slept very well, for they were up at sunrise in the morning. Monkey gorged himself with bacon at their early breakfast; and long before the hour appointed for the party to come on board, the Skylark was ready for their reception, with mainsail set, flags flying, and the anchor hove up to a short stay.
Monkey had a great deal to say about the Penobscot, and Bobtail described her cabin, state-rooms, kitchen, and forecastle while they were waiting. She lay only a cable's length from the Skylark, and they could see all that was going on upon her deck.
"That's Colonel Montague getting into that boat," said Bobtail, as the owner of the Penobscot stepped into his barge.
The boat was manned by two sailors, each of whom pulled two oars. The colonel seated himself in the stern-sheets, which were cushioned with crimson velvet, and took the tiller-lines in his hand.
"She's coming this way," added Monkey, as the barge moved towards the Skylark.
In a moment she was alongside, and Colonel Montague, to the surprise of the skipper, stepped on board. He wondered greatly what had procured him the honor of a visit from such a distinguished man.
"Good morning, my lad," said the colonel, with a pleasant smile, which seemed to belie his conduct the evening before.
"Good morning, sir," replied Bobtail.
"Good morning, sir," added Monkey, exhibiting all the teeth in his head.
Colonel Montague glanced at the Darwinian, and possibly debated in his own mind whether the crew of the Skylark was man or monkey.
"You have a fine little boat here," added the visitor.
"She's a first-rate boat; but she ain't much side of yours," replied Bobtail, whose impressions in regard to the owner of the Penobscot were undergoing a rapid change. "She'll sail some, and she's good when it blows."
"And you take parties out in her?" added the visitor.
"Yes, sir; I have one to-day."
"I'm afraid not, Captain Bobtail," said the colonel, with a smile.
"I'm engaged, at any rate," added Bobtail, who, if the colonel had not smiled, would have thought he was impudent to doubt his word.
"You must thank me for taking your party away from you. I found that some friends of mine at the Bay View House were to go in your boat to-day; but I invited them to go with me."
"Well, sir, I don't thank you for it," said Bobtail, rather pertly.
"Wait a minute, my lad. They told me they had engaged your boat; and I promised to make it all right with you. They were to pay you seven dollars for the day. Here is seven dollars;" and the colonel handed him this sum. "I suppose that will make it all right."
"Yes, sir; that's handsome, and I'm very much obliged to you," answered Bobtail, warmly; and by this time he thought that the owner of the Penobscot was a prince.
"Now, Captain Bobtail, if you would like to take a sail in the Penobscot, you may go with us, as you have lost your job for the day," added Colonel Montague.
"Thank you, sir; I should like to go first rate!" exclaimed Bobtail, delighted with the idea.
"You may go on board with me," continued the colonel.
"I will, sir.—Monkey, you will lower the sail, and take care of the Skylark. Don't let any one have her; and I will pay you just the same as yesterday."
The Darwinian was very well satisfied with this arrangement, and immediately began to consider what he should have for dinner, since the choice was left with him. The barge returned to the Penobscot, and Bobtail followed her owner on deck. Though the young skipper of the Skylark was very democratic in his ideas, he did not presume to take a place upon the quarter-deck with the family, but went forward and fraternized with the sailors, all of whom, except the mates, were young men. Presently the order was given to set the mainsail, and Bobtail took hold of the peak-halyard to lend a hand. He worked well, and by his activity won the favor of his new companions. He did his full share of all the work, because he was not fond of idleness. The party came on board, and the order was given to get under way.
"Clear away the jib and flying-jib," said the sailing-master.
Bobtail ran out on the bowsprit, and, dropping down upon the foot-rope, was at the outer end of the flying-jib boom in an instant, clearing away the sail.
"How smart you are!" said Miss Grace Montague, who was standing with another young lady of the party near the foremast, when he returned to the deck.
Little Bobtail blushed like a girl, for he was not accustomed to talking with such nice young ladies.
"Thank you, miss; but it don't take more than half a day to loose a flying-jib," he replied.
"But aren't you afraid of falling into the water?" she asked.
"O, no. I'm used to vessels. I sail the Skylark, which you see there," replied Bobtail, pointing to the little yacht.
"That's the boat we were going in," added the other young lady. "Then you are Captain Bobtail?"
"Folks call me Little Bobtail; but I'm not captain," answered the young skipper, blushing again.
"Run up the jib!" shouted the sailing-master.
Bobtail sprang to the halyard, ungallantly turning his back to the young ladies. They looked at the short skirts of his coat, and he heard a silvery laugh, as he took in the slack of the rope. Miss Montague and Miss Walker were very much amused when they discovered the origin of his name.
The wind was fresh; the Penobscot went off like "a thing of life," and Bobtail enjoyed the sail exceedingly. She ran down as far as Owl's Head, and then stood over towards the eastern shore of the bay. At one of the best places she lay to, and the party caught cod and haddock till they were tired of the sport, and then the yacht anchored under the lee of an island. The day was fine, and the excursionists desired to visit some of the islands in the vicinity. Both boats were manned, and went off in different directions, according to the fancy of those on board of them. Bobtail was permitted to occupy the fore-sheets of the one which carried Mrs. Montague and the two young ladies, for somehow he took great pleasure in looking at the latter, and wished they would be a little more sociable. This boat went to Blank Island, which has a high bluff on the east side of it, and all the party landed. The ladies and gentlemen ascended the steep side of the island, and reached the cliff which overhangs the sea.
Bobtail followed them at a respectful distance, while the sailors remained near the boat. From the bluff he looked down into the little bay, where he had anchored the Skylark the night he picked her up. The cliff was about thirty feet high, and rose abruptly from the water, which was very deep at the foot of it, so that a large ship might have floated alongside the rocks. The party seated themselves near the cliff, and were observing the rolling sea beneath them, for a south-easterly wind was driving the huge waves into the little bay. It was a grand sight, and the two young ladies sat on the very edge of the precipice, watching the surges which beat and broke against the wall of rocks.
"Don't go too near, Grace," said Mrs. Montague.
"I'm not afraid, mother," replied the young lady.
"These rocks crumble off sometimes, Miss Montague," added Bobtail, timidly approaching the spot.
"There isn't any danger," answered the wilful miss.
"Do you know what they call this place?" asked Bobtail.
"I'm sure I don't."
"Lover's Leap," laughed the young skipper. "The story is, that an Indian girl came to this island, and jumped off this cliff, because her father wouldn't let her marry the man she wanted."
"Where did she come from?" asked Miss Walker.
"I'm sure I don't know."
"Pooh! I don't believe any Indian girl leaped off these rocks. It wouldn't hurt her any if she did," sneered Miss Montague.
"But she would drown in the water," suggested Bobtail.
"Well, I don't believe the story, because I think there are a thousand just such cliffs, and some Indian girl leaped off every one of them," persisted Grace Montague. "I have seen ever so many 'Lover's Leaps' myself, and the stories about them are nothing but stories."
"Perhaps this story is true," said Miss Walker, who was perchance more sentimental than her companion.
"I don't believe a word of it. If the Indian girl wanted to drown herself, why should she come way out here, when she could find deep water enough near the shore?"
"Perhaps it was to get away from her friends," suggested Miss Walker.
"Perhaps it was, but I don't believe it. If I wanted to drown myself, I could find a better place than this," said Grace, rising, and standing on a loose stone close to the edge of the precipice. "If it were not for getting wet, I should just as lief jump off here as not;" and she swung her arms just as though she intended to take the leap.
"Grace! Grace!" shrieked her mother, in frantic tones, as she saw her daughter demonstrating in this dangerous manner.
The young lady was evidently startled by the shrill tones of her mother. She swung her arms back, as if she had lost her balance, and then went head first over the cliff. The loose stone on which she stood rolled back, and it was plain now that her foothold had been very insecure.
"O, mercy, mercy!" screamed Mrs. Montague, as Grace disappeared over the precipice.
The poor mother rushed towards the cliff, and in her agony would have thrown herself off, if the ladies with her had not held her. Little Bobtail was appalled as he saw Grace go over; but he believed in action rather than words. Kicking off his shoes, and divesting himself of his bobtail coat, he made a graceful and scientific dive into the depths below. He was celebrated as a diver and swimmer, and really felt almost as much at home in the water as on the land. And this was not the first time he had dived over this very cliff. He had done so several times before for sport and bravado, and therefore we are not disposed to magnify his conduct on the present occasion.
Miss Grace Montague had not added to her other accomplishments that of swimming, which would have been a very useful attainment to one of such strong aquatic tastes and tendencies. She could not swim, and she did not attempt to do so. She only floundered and flounced about in the water, struggling madly and purposelessly in the waves. Our hero went deep down into the depths of the little bay, and when he rose he saw Miss Grace borne by the waves towards the wall of rocks. If she was not drowned, she would be mangled to death against the rocks. He struck out for her, and in a moment she was in his arms, or, rather, in one of his arms, for he threw only his left around her, in such a manner as to confine her hands in his grasp. With his head above the water, he swam towards the open bay, fearing the rocks more than the waves.
With his heavy burden he found it impossible to make any headway against the waves, which drove him fiercely towards the rocks. Grace struggled violently, and this added to the difficulty of saving her. He buffeted the waves till his strength seemed to be all gone, and he feared that he should be obliged to abandon the poor girl to her fate. But the screams of Mrs. Montague on the rock above induced him to renew the struggle with new vigor; but his feet touched the wall of rocks behind him. He rose and fell with the waves, but still he held his charge firmly under his arm.
Little Bobtail was not making any headway with his burden. The waves threw him back until his feet touched the wall of rocks. He had struggled and labored, and Miss Grace had struggled and labored, as if intent upon defeating his beneficent efforts, until his strength was nearly exhausted. But he treated himself as he did a boat in heavy weather; he kept his head to the sea, well knowing that if he got into the trough, the waves would roll him over, and render him helpless. When his feet touched the rock, he "shoved off" vigorously. Fortunately for him, the young lady in his grasp was even more exhausted than he was, and by this time she was content to keep reasonably quiet. Bobtail only endeavored to keep her head out of the water, which he was not always able to do when the great waves surged in upon him. He no longer attempted to make any headway, but by occasionally pushing his feet against the rocks he saved himself from being disabled against them.
One of the gentlemen on the island had shouted to the boatmen to pull around to the little bay. The sailors, thrilled by the screams of Mrs. Montague, were straining every muscle, and their oars bent like reeds before their vigorous strokes. The other boat, with Colonel Montague in the stern-sheets, was also hastening to the spot, the half frantic father urging the men forward with wild gestures. On the rock above, the party watched the struggling swimmer as he bravely supported his helpless burden.
Two of the ladies held the agonized mother, to prevent her from leaping over the cliff. The gentlemen were shouting to the men in the boat to hasten their speed, for there was nothing else they could do. Bobtail saw the boat, and heard the rapid thumps of the oars in the rowlocks. The sight and the sound inspired him with new courage. He had ceased to struggle any more than was necessary to keep his distance from the rock.
"Hold on a few seconds more," shouted one of the gentlemen on the rock above.
Bobtail tried to speak, but he could not, though he felt that for a short time longer he was master of the situation.
"Way enough!" said one of the men in the boat. "Toss him an oar, Bill."
The stroke oarsman threw one of his oars to Bobtail, who grasped it, and supported himself with it.
"Back her," said the man in the bow, as he reached forward, and seized one of Miss Grace's arms, while the other man kept the boat in position with his oars.
The stout sailor lifted the young lady into the boat, and Bobtail laid hold of the bow with his released hand. A shout of joy rose from the rock when Grace was safely drawn into the boat.
"Back her!" gasped Little Bobtail, still clinging to the bow with one hand, while he held the oar with the other.
Grace was exhausted and panting violently, but she was not insensible. She was even able to sit up; and when the boat had backed clear of the rocks, she was placed on the velvet cushions at the stern. In another moment the second boat dashed alongside, and Colonel Montague leaped into the stern-sheets, and folded his daughter in his arms. He wiped the salt water from her face, and did all he could to improve her situation.
"Pull for the yacht!" said he, nervously.
All this time Bobtail had been clinging to the bow of the barge, recovering his breath. The sailor assisted him into the boat, and he dropped down into the fore-sheets, breathing heavily from exhaustion. The stroke-oarsman picked up his oar, and the two men pulled with all their might for the yacht, while the other boat went around to the landing-place on Blank Island to bring off the party there.
"How do you feel, Grace?" asked Colonel Montague, as he laid his daughter's head upon his breast.
"Better, father," she replied, faintly. "I'm cold."
"Give way, lively, my lads," added the colonel, to whom minutes seemed like hours.
When the barge came alongside the accommodation-steps, Colonel Montague bore Grace in his arms to the deck of the Penobscot.
"Let me sit down here in the sun, father," said she.
"But you must remove your wet clothes."
"Not yet. Let me rest a few moments. I shall be all well in a little while."
"What's the matter, Edward?" asked the Hon. Mr. Montague, who had remained on board of the Penobscot, being too old to scramble about the rocks.
"I have been overboard, grandfather," replied Grace, with a faint smile; and it was evident that her condition was rapidly improving.
"Overboard, child!" exclaimed the old gentleman. "How did it happen?"
"I don't know. I was not with her," replied the colonel. "But where is that boy?"
"That boy" has just come on deck, and had seated himself in the waist. He had recovered his wind, and was now nearly as good as new. He felt that he had done a big thing, and he wondered that no one said anything to him. The boat that brought him to the yacht had gone for the party which had been left on the island; and no one but the colonel knew anything about the part he had borne in the affair. But he was not long neglected, for the instant Colonel Montague thought of him he hastened to the waist, and with tears in his eyes, grasped him by the hand. Doubtless he betrayed more emotion than the occasion seemed to warrant—emotion which was not all gratitude.
"My lad, you have done me a service which I can never forget," said he, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"It's all right, sir. I feel better than if I hadn't done it," replied Bobtail.
"But come aft, and see Grace," added the colonel.
"No, sir, I think I won't bother her now. She must feel pretty bad after the ducking she got."
Just at this moment the barge from Blank Island dashed up to the steps. Mrs. Montague was a demonstrative woman, and she had not even yet ceased to scream.
"O, where is she? where is she, Edward?" cried the poor mother, as she rose in the stern of the boat.
"Here I am, mother," exclaimed Grace, hastening to the rail on the quarter-deck. "I am not drowned or hurt."
Mrs. Montague was assisted up the steps, and in another moment she was sobbing over her child in her arms. While this scene was transpiring on the quarter-deck, the rest of the party went to Little Bobtail, and took him by the hand, as they expressed their admiration of his heroic conduct.
"That wan't anything," replied Bobtail. "I have dived off that rock twenty times before."
"But Grace would have drowned if you hadn't done it."
"Well, I don't know. I suppose, if I hadn't gone for her, some of the rest of you would."
"I don't know about that," said one of them, shaking his head. "I might have gone into the water, but I couldn't have done much."
Mrs. Montague hurried Grace into the cabin as soon as the violence of her emotions had in a measure subsided.
"But I haven't seen Captain Bobtail yet," said the daughter.
"You shall see him; but you must take off your wet clothes first," replied her mother.
"Not yet, mother. I must see him this instant. Tell him to come down here."
"I'll go for him," said Emily Walker, as she rushed up the companion-way.
Perhaps Miss Walker was more sentimental than Miss Montague; at any rate, she flew to the spot where Bobtail was seated, threw her arms around his neck, and actually kissed him before he had a chance to repel the assault, if he desired to do so.
"What a dear, good fellow you are!" exclaimed she. "But you must come right down into the cabin this instant. Grace wants to see you."
"I'm all wet, and I guess I won't go down now," replied Bobtail, blushing like a red cabbage in the dews of the morning.
"But you must come. Grace is dying to see you;" and Miss Walker took him by the arm, and tugged at it till she dragged him to his feet.
"I don't like to go down into the cabin. I haven't got my coat and shoes yet."
"Never mind your coat, Mr. Bobtail. Grace won't change her wet clothes till she sees you."
Of course Miss Walker carried the day, and Little Bobtail was dragged into the cabin. Grace seized him by both hands, and warmly expressed her gratitude. Emily wondered that she did not kiss him. If he had saved her, she would have kissed him twenty times. Mrs. Montague pressed his hand, and thanked him over and over again. Then Colonel Montague took his hand again, and expressed himself even more fully than before. The Hon. Mr. Montague followed him, and every lady and gentleman of the party took him by the hand, and said something exceedingly handsome; and Bobtail began to think they were overdoing it.
"But come, my lad; you are in your wet clothes, while we are talking to you," interposed the colonel. "You must have a dry suit."
"Never mind me, sir. I'm used to it," laughed Bobtail.
"You will catch cold."
"Catch a weasel asleep! I don't catch cold."
Colonel Montague insisted, and the sailing-master lent him a shirt and a pair of trousers twice too big for him, and Bobtail put himself inside of them. His bobtail coat and shoes, which had been brought from the island, were dry, and he was in presentable condition. Grace soon appeared, her hair nicely dried and dressed anew, wearing a white dress and a blue sacque. She looked very pretty; but Bobtail thought that Emily Walker was the prettier of the two. By this time dinner was ready, and the skipper of the Skylark was invited to dine in the cabin. He did not exactly like the idea, for he felt that he was not sufficiently posted in the ways of genteel society to sit at the table with such grand people.
"I'll take my grub with the hands forward, sir," said he, laughing. "I shall feel more at home with them."
"But we shall not feel at home without you, my lad," replied Colonel Montague. "Besides, when everybody gets cooled off, we want to talk over the affair on the island, for I haven't even heard how Grace happened to be in the water."
The owner of the Penobscot would not "let him up," as Bobtail expressed it when he told his mother the story, and he was placed at the table between Grace and Emily Walker. Chowder was served first. Bobtail kept his "weather eye" open to see how the rest of the party did, and adjusted his conduct by theirs. He wondered what "those towels were stuck into the tumblers for;" but when little Miss Walker unrolled her napkin, and placed it in her lap, and the gentlemen of the party did the same, he followed their example.
"Now, Grace, tell me how you got overboard," said Colonel Montague, when the soup plates were removed.
Mrs. Montague shuddered, for the scene was too terrible to be recalled with anything but anguish.
"Captain Bobtail had just told Emily and me a story about an Indian girl who jumped off that same cliff; but I didn't believe a word of it," Grace began. "I stood up on a stone near the edge, and swung my arms, for I was thinking just how the Indian girl looked, if she really did jump off that cliff. Just then mother screamed, and frightened me. I started back; but the stone I was standing on rolled over, and threw me forward, so that I went down into the water head first."
"I thought the child was going to jump overboard," added Mrs. Montague, with a strong tremor passing through her frame.
The details of the affair were repeated, and then all eyes were directed at Little Bobtail, who was more concerned about the propriety of his conduct at the table than about his deeds at Blank Island; but probably, if he had fed himself with his knife, his admiring friends would cheerfully have forgiven him. He found it more difficult to transfer mashed potato from his plate to his mouth with the silver fork than it was to dive off that cliff into the sea. When the pastry came on, it was absolutely appalling to think of eating custard pie with a fork, and he would rather have undertaken the feat of swimming around Blank Island.
"You know I always shovel in custard pie with my knife," said he, afterwards, in telling his mother about it; "but everybody else used a fork, and so I had to."
But Bobtail magnified the trials and tribulations of that grand dinner in the cabin of the Penobscot, for, by keeping his "weather eye" open, he hardly sinned against any of the proprieties of polite society, and some of the ladies even remarked how well he behaved for a poor boy. The dinner was finished at last, and "it was a tip-top dinner, too," for besides chowder and fried fish, there were roast beef and roast chicken, boiled salmon, puddings, pies, and ice-cream. Perhaps Bobtail ate too much for strict gentility, but he excused himself by declaring that not only the stewards, but all the party, "kept making him eat more of the fixins."
"When I got through that dinner, mother," said he, "I was just like a foot-ball blown up for a game; and if the captain's trousers that I wore hadn't been a mile too big for me, I couldn't have put myself outside of half that feed."
After the dinner, which Bobtail will remember as long as he lives, the party went on deck. Grace was as bright and fresh as ever. She and Emily walked up and down the deck. The young skipper went forward to talk with the crew, for he did not wish them to think that he was putting on airs because he "took his grub in the cabin." The men congratulated him on his good fortune, and assured him he had made a rich and powerful friend, and that he would get a pile of money by the operation. Bobtail thought that a hundred dollars was "a pile of money," and, if any one claimed the Skylark, this sum would enable him to purchase a better boat than Prince's old tub. But he did not think much about this matter; in fact, he was gazing at Miss Grace and Miss Emily, as they walked so gracefully on the deck. He was not sentimental, romantic, or very visionary; but these two young ladies were so pretty, and so elegant, and so finely dressed, that he could not help looking at them; besides, they were as sociable now as he could wish. Bobtail joined them in their promenade on the deck, and was admitted to the privilege with distinguished consideration.
"I should like to have you take a sail with me in the Skylark," said he.
"O, I should like to go ever so much," replied Miss Walker.
"And if you get overboard, I will pull you out."
"I don't mean to get overboard, if I can help it," laughed the little miss, though, from her conversation with Grace, one would have thought she considered it rather a nice thing, if she could only be rescued by a young gentleman.
"You must sail up to Belfast, Captain Bobtail, and come to our house," added Grace. "I have lots of things to show you. We have ever so many boats; and you may ride my pony."
"Thank you, Miss Montague. You are very kind; but you know I'm not one of the grand folks, and I shouldn't know how to behave myself in your fine parlors."
"Pooh! You behave just as well as any of the young men that come to our house," said Grace, pouting her lips. "You are just as good as any of them, and a great deal better than most of them. I hope you will come, Captain Bobtail; I shall be so glad to see you!"