"If you see the man who paid you the bill, point him out, if you please, but don't say anything about it," said Mr. Brooks, as the gang plank of the steamer was run out.
"There he is!" exclaimed Mr. Gordon, as Captain Chinks walked from the boat to the wharf.
The deputy sheriff and Mr. Hines kept out of sight. Bobtail had been sent away in the Skylark, that she might not attract the attention of the smuggler, and was standing off and on a mile or more from the shore.
As soon as Captain Chinks landed, he was greeted by Ben, his nephew, who was doubtless glad to see him.
"I s'pose you are tired of waiting—ain't you, Ben?" asked the captain, who wore a troubled expression.
"Not a bit on't. I've been makin' five dollars a day, right along, takin' parties out to sail," replied Ben, with a cheerful grin; "but I had to pay a boy half a dollar a day to help me."
"That's pretty well."
"Why didn't you come down afore?"
"Because I didn't hear anything from St. John; and things are a little mixed up to Camden."
"Mixed! Why, I thought everything had come out fust rate. You got the Skylark and the stuff back as slick as a whistle."
"Who told you so?" demanded the captain, with a startled look.
"Why, Little Bobtail. He's here in the Skylark, and said you sent him."
Bobtail certainly had not said any such thing. Ben had inferred it from what Mr. Hines had stated. It was not prudent to talk of these matters in the midst of so many people, and the captain and his nephew hastened on board of the Eagle.
"I didn't send him," said Captain Chinks, very much perplexed.
"No; the young villain picked up the boat, but I couldn't do anything with him."
"Sho!" exclaimed Ben, who began to be worried himself. "Bobtail's here, and that other man with him."
"What other man!" demanded the captain, savagely.
"That man that took the stuff off your hands."
"Why, the liquor that was in the Skylark."
"What do you mean, Ben?"
"Didn't Bob pick up the Skylark and land the stuff in the night; and didn't you sell it to that other man? and didn't he move it out of Bob's house in the night?"
"No!" roared Captain Chinks.
"That's what they said, anyhow," added Ben, stoutly.
"Who said so?"
"Why, the man that took the stuff off your hands."
"Who is he?"
"Well, don't you know?"
"No, I don't," gasped Captain Chinks.
"I'm sure I don't, then. He wouldn't tell me his name. He came down in the Skylark with Bobtail yesterday."
The gentleman with a doubtful reputation uttered an exceedingly hard and naughty expletive, and he did so with much emphasis. His face was very red, and his lips quivered with wrath.
"Have you been talking with any one about this business, Ben Chinks?" demanded the smuggler, shaking his clinched fist in the face of his nephew.
"I didn't tell him nothin'; he told me, and he said he took that stuff off your hands, and was goin' to have the next lot; he said you oughtn't to land the stuff on that island, and wanted to know how we happened to let the boat go adrift."
"And you told him?" gasped the captain.
"What was the use of my tellin' on him, when he knowed all about it? O, he said you and I had both been takin' too much. He was kind o' jokin', but I stuck to it that we was as sober as he was. I did tell him how the boat got adrift; but he told me all the rest."
"Ben, you are a fool!"
"I tell you he knowed all about it," whined the nephew.
"You've made a pretty mess of it."
"I didn't do it. He knowed all about it afore, and I s'posed you told him."
"I told him nothing. I never said a word to him. Don't you know the man's name?"
"No, I don't. He wouldn't tell me, nor Bob nuther."
"Well, I know who he is," groaned Captain Chinks, pounding the trunk of the cabin with his fist, and grating his teeth with rage.
"Who is he?"
"He's a custom-house officer."
"Sho! you don't say so!" cried Ben, with horror, for he regarded a custom-house officer in about the same light that he did a hangman.
"You've told him all about it," added the Captain.
"I didn't tell him nothin'; he knowed it all before.'
"All we can do now is to get out of the way. Where is this man?"
"I don'no; I hain't seen him to-day. There's the Skylark," replied Ben, pointing to the yacht.
"Is he on board of her?"
"Are you sure of it?"
"Sartain, I am. I see Bobtail start off in her alone."
"We must get out of the way, but I don't know where to go to," groaned the captain. "I cal'late you've ruined me, Ben."
"I didn't do it," protested the nephew. "I keep a tellin' on you, he knowed all about it in the fust on't."
"Get up your fore'n mainsail. We must get out of this as quick as we can."
"You can't kerry the foresail. It blows like Sam Hill, and squally, too."
"Hist the mainsail then."
This sail was set, but the moment they began to hoist it, Mr. Hines made the signal agreed upon, by waving his handkerchief on the wharf, for the return of the Skylark. The steamer had gone, and most of the people had left the wharf by this time. Bobtail, who was on the lookout for the signal, saw it immediately, and headed the yacht for the pier. As Ben Chinks had remarked, it blew hard, and the wind came in heavy flaws. The Skylark had a single reef in her mainsail, and the jib was furled, but even with this short canvas she flew like a bird.
"There goes the Eagle," shouted Monkey from the forecastle.
"Who's on board of her?" asked Bobtail.
"I reckon it's Captain Chinks; it looks like him."
The skipper looked at the boat through the spy-glass, and identified the captain.
"He's trying to get away," said he.
"What for?" asked Monkey, who was in blissful ignorance of the smuggling operation of the captain.
"You will soon know," replied Bobtail.
The Eagle, under jib and mainsail, was standing out of the harbor, and the Skylark had to pass her on her way to the wharf. Captain Chinks was at the helm himself, and at that moment, as he gazed at Little Bobtail, he was the maddest man on the waters of Maine. Both boats were going free, and when they were nearly abreast of each other, and not a hundred feet apart, the captain suddenly put up his helm, and the Eagle darted towards the Skylark, as if she shared the spite of her skipper, and as an eagle would pounce upon a skylark.
"Down with your helm!" shouted Bobtail, full of excitement, for the danger of a collision was imminent.
If the Skylark had held on her course, she would have been struck amidships by the bow of the Eagle; but Bobtail jammed his helm hard down, the result of which was to throw the yacht up into the wind, and bring her alongside the other craft. As it was, the Eagle's bow grated along the quarter of the Skylark. Bobtail supposed that Captain Chinks intended to board the yacht, and he instantly seized the spare tiller, which he always carried in the standing-room when it blew hard, and stood ready to "repel boarders." But the captain did not intend to capture the Skylark. Probably he intended to sink her; but his purposes were only known to himself. The sails of the Eagle were still full, and she continued on her course.
"Keep out of the way next time!" shouted Captain Chinks.
Bobtail made no reply, but filled away again, and in a few minutes was at the wharf. Mr. Hines and Mr. Brooks leaped on board.
"After him, Bobtail," cried the detective, earnestly, as he shoved off the bow of the boat.
"He has heard all about it from Ben, and is going to run away. Hurry up."
The Skylark was clear of the wharf, and coming about, was headed towards the Eagle.
"Is Captain Chinks's boat fast?" asked Mr. Hines.
"Yes, sir; but it blows too hard for her to-day. She don't carry sail worth a cent," replied Bobtail.
"How is it with the Skylark?"
"She is the ablest boat I know."
"Good! Then we have the advantage."
"Hoist the jib, Monkey," shouted the skipper.
"Are you sure she will carry it? It blows heavy outside, and the wind comes in flaws," added Mr. Hines.
"I know her like a book. She will carry her jib and mainsail to-day, but we have one reef in. The Eagle has two miles or more the start of us; but we will give her a sweat," said Bobtail.
"She is hoisting her foresail now."
"She will have to take it in again when she gets clear of the land."
With her jib set, the Skylark occasionally put her scuppers under, but she was as stiff as Mount Desert itself, and only heeled over just so far, under any flaw that came.
"I didn't think the captain would run for it so soon," said Mr. Hines. "He didn't even go to the hotel, where a letter is waiting for him. It has the St. John postmark upon it, and I know what that means without opening it."
"He tried to run me down," added Bobtail.
"I saw him do it. His game is nearly up. I intended to arrest him when he came down from the hotel, but he took the alarm from what Ben told him."
As the Eagle ran out from the land, it was evident that she could not long carry her foresail. It was taken in very soon, but she sailed faster without it than with it. The Skylark gained rapidly upon her. The water—Frenchman's Bay—was studded with islands, but Mr. Hines, who had taken the helm, was perfectly familiar with the navigation. As the race began to be a desperate one for Captain Chinks, he dodged in among the islands, tempting his pursuer to make short cuts over sunken ledges; but in all these expedients he failed. The Eagle was a keel boat, and drew more water than the Skylark, so that wherever the former went the latter need not fear to follow. At last Captain Chinks appeared to have given up the race, and Mr. Hines surmised that he was running for a landing-place on one of the islands. But the Skylark was still gaining, and was now almost abreast of the Eagle.
"All ready, Mr. Brooks," said the detective, as the bowsprit of the sloop came up with the quarter of the schooner.
"I'm ready," replied the deputy sheriff, as he went forward to the bow of the yacht.
"Stand by the sheets, Bobtail, for I don't know what he will do next."
"Ay, ay, sir!" responded the skipper. "Have a fender ready, Monkey."
In a moment more, the forecastle of the Skylark was abreast, on the weather side, of the Eagle, taking the wind out of her mainsail in part.
"Hard down," shouted Mr. Brooks, as he saw Captain Clunks jam down the helm of the schooner.
Both boats came up into the wind alongside each other, and Monkey was busy with his fender. The deputy sheriff leaped upon the deck of the Eagle, and Mr. Hines, giving the helm to Bobtail, followed him. The skipper permitted the yacht to come about, and she went clear of the other boat.
"You are my prisoner, Captain Chinks," said Mr. Brooks.
"What for?" gasped the captain.
"For stealing that letter."
"I didn't steal it."
"That remains to be proved."
"We ain't in Knox County now."
"Never mind; I will take you for violating the revenue laws," added Mr. Hines, as he took the helm of the schooner.
"I hain't done nothing," protested Captain Chinks.
"We will go over to Camden, and settle that point some other time."
The captain was obliged to give it up, and he groaned in bitterness of spirit. To be charged with stealing the letter, and with violating the revenue laws at the same time, was more than he had anticipated. On the first, if convicted, he would be sentenced to imprisonment, and on the other, to pay a heavy fine. His crimes brought loss of liberty and loss of property.
Bobtail eased off his mainsheet, and waited for the Eagle to come up. Mr. Hines had already decided to return to Camden in Captain Chinks's boat, and when he had announced his purpose, the Skylark filled away again. It was now about noon, and as the wind was contrary for at least half the way back to Camden, the skipper hardly expected to reach his destination that night. The yacht very soon ran away from the schooner, and at six o'clock had made half the distance. She had come up with the point which forms the south-eastern point of the town of Brooklyn, where she started her sheets, and ran through the channel between Deer Island and Sedgwick.
The wind was still unsteady, coming in heavy flaws; but now it was beginning to haul more to the southward. This change was favorable, for it enabled the Skylark to lay her course for Camden. But an awful sea was rolling in from the ocean, and the yacht jumped like a galloping horse. The wind freshened into a gale with the change, and the gusts were more fitful and violent. The jib was taken in, and Monkey was thoroughly ducked in the operation, for the Skylark occasionally slapped the waves with her bowsprit. Great black clouds were rolling up off to seaward, but Bobtail was confident that the yacht was equal to anything. Under the lee of an island, the mainsail was close-reefed; but she flew over the waves, and the skipper hoped to reach his destination by nine in the evening. At eight o'clock, while it was still light, he discovered a schooner working down the bay under jib and reefed mainsail which he recognized as the Penobscot.
THE WRECK OF THE PENOBSCOT.
"That's the Penobscot!" exclaimed Bobtail, as soon as he identified her.
"She is taking a nasty night to go to sea," added Monkey.
"She will put into Rockland or Camden. I suppose the colonel is in a hurry to get to Newport for some race. He told me yesterday he should sail to-day."
"She ain't going into Camden. If she was, she wouldn't be out there. She's right off the ledges, and if she don't tack soon, she'll be on 'em," said the Darwinian.
"I think she's going into Rockland. She can make it in one more stretch."
"She can get in behind Owl's Head, and lay as easy as if she was in a mill pond."
"That's an awful sea out there, Monkey," said Bobtail. "See the breakers on that lower ledge. If I was the captain of the Penobscot, I should go in stays. There she goes!"
At this moment the sails of the large yacht shook, as her head came up to the wind. But the next instant she fell off, heeled over, and drove ahead again. Bobtail distinctly heard a shout from her, though she was a mile distant. He watched her with his heart in his mouth, and his worst fears were realized when he saw her lift her bow high up in the water. She had run upon the ledge.
"By gracious! she is on the rocks!" cried Bobtail, wild with excitement and anxiety.
"So she is!" gasped Monkey.
Then came a shriek in the tones of a woman's voice, whose piercing note was heard above the roaring of the billows.
"That's Mrs. Montague," said Bobtail. "Get your warp-line out, Monkey. We have got something to do to-night."
The Skylark flew on her mission of rescue, and her skipper watched the Penobscot with intense interest. Her bow rose and fell at every sea, and it was evident that she was crashing her timbers at every motion. In five minutes from the time she struck, the smaller yacht came up with her. She had gone upon the last ledge of the series that extends to the southward from Islesboro'. Bobtail ran to the west of the ledges, and, going entirely round to avoid gybing, he came up into the wind close under the stern of the Penobscot. He heard her planks and timbers grinding on the rocks. Monkey heaved the warp-line, which was caught by the sailors on board of the wreck. The mainsail of the Skylark was lowered.
By this time, though the waves still beat over the bow of the Penobscot, she ceased to grind upon the rocks. The tide was going out, and less of the weight of the vessel was supported by the water, and as the volume of the waves diminished, their power lessened. In two or three hours the yacht would be high and dry. She had gone upon the ledge in a direction diagonal with the wind, so that under one of her quarters the water was comparatively smooth. Bobtail and Monkey heaved on the warp-line till they brought the Skylark alongside this lee quarter.
"No time to lose, sir!" shouted Bobtail to Colonel Montague, who was supporting his wife and daughter on deck, for the cabin was flooded with water. "I shall be aground in half an hour."
"Can your boat weather this blow?" asked the colonel, anxiously.
"Yes, sir; she can stand anything that any boat can."
Mrs. Montague and Grace were assisted on board of the Skylark, which, even in this sheltered place, rolled, pitched, and tugged furiously at the warp-line. The colonel and another gentleman, whom Bobtail had not seen before, helped old Mr. Montague down to the rail of the Penobscot.
"You go first, Tom, and help him down," said Colonel Montague.
The sailing master of the Penobscot also took the old gentleman's arm. The Hon. Mr. Montague seemed to be very feeble, and he was certainly very much terrified.
"Put your arm around that shroud, Mr. Barkesdale," said the captain to the person whom the colonel called Tom.
Tom Barkesdale stood upon the rail then, with his left arm around one of the shrouds of the Skylark. The stern of the Penobscot was down so low in the water, that it was not a long step down from the rail to that of the smaller yacht. Tom took the hand of the old gentleman as he stepped down; but at that instant the warp-line, which held the bow of the Skylark, snapped in twain, and her head swung off. His son and the skipper had just let go of the old gentleman, and Tom's hold was wrenched away by a jerk of the boat. Mr. Montague went down between the two craft.
"Merciful Heaven!" cried the colonel. "Father is overboard!"
"Throw me a rope," yelled the sailing-master, as he dropped into the water and caught the old gentleman as he rose after sinking once.
Several lines were thrown to him, and with so many ready hands available, they were both drawn on board of the yacht in a moment. Though the venerable gentleman had received a terrible shock, he was not rendered insensible. The bow of the Skylark was again hauled up to the quarter of the Penobscot, and Mr. Montague was safety transferred to the cabin of the small yacht "What will you do, captain?" asked the colonel of the sailing-master.
"I will stick by her with the crew. At low tide we will take the ballast out of her, and float her off the next tide."
"Are your men willing to stay?"
"They must stay; they are as safe here as on shore; at least till the next tide, and I shall be ready to float her off by that time."
Colonel Montague went on board of the Skylark. A couple of men from the Penobscot were sent to assist in working her, though Bobtail protested that he had not the least need of them. The close-reefed mainsail was hoisted, and the Skylark went off on her course. By this time it was quite dark, but the light-house on Negro Island was a sufficient guide to the skipper. The yacht rolled fearfully, and to keep out of the trough of the sea Bobtail headed her to a point south of his destination. In an hour he was as near the main land as it was prudent to venture in the night, and then he put the Skylark before the wind. Before eleven o'clock he was at the wharf. He had not seen his passengers since they came on board.
"My father has suffered severely from his mishap," said Colonel Montague, after the boat was made fast.
"I'm sorry for it, sir. I didn't think of such a thing as that warp-line breaking," replied Bobtail.
"Of course it was not your fault. You have done well for us, and I have no fault to find with you. I want some one to go to the hotel, and tell the landlord to send a coach, for my father cannot walk up."
"Monkey will go;" and the Darwinian was on his way in a moment.
The Hon. Mr. Montague was apparently very ill. The cold bath and the shock had severely shaken his frame. He was trembling with cold when Bobtail went below, and Mrs. Montague was holding his head. He was wrapped up in shawls, coats, and all the clothing available. The lady and her daughter spoke very kindly to the young skipper; but they were too much disturbed by the condition of the old gentleman to say much.
"I think you ought to have a doctor, Ned," said Tom Barkesdale.
"Send for one at once, then," said the colonel.
"What are you going to do, Edward?" asked the old gentleman, in feeble tones.
"I have sent for a coach, to take you to the hotel."
"I want to go home. Can't I go in this boat?"
"It blows too hard to-night, father."
"A boat is easier than a carriage. Let me go home in this boat, when the wind goes down."
"Then we had better not take him on shore," said Tom. "We can make up a good bed in this cabin for him."
"Do, Edward," groaned the old gentleman.
"I will go to the hotel, and get everything we need," added Tom, "and Bobtail shall go for the doctor."
In half an hour the skipper returned with Dr. Estabrook, and the coach came with an abundant supply of beds and bedding. Mrs. Montague and her daughter went up to the Bay View, while the gentleman took off the wet clothes of the sufferer, and put him to bed. A fire was made in the cook-room, which heated the cabin when the door was open. The doctor prescribed for his patient, and he was soon made more comfortable. About midnight the rain began to fall in torrents, and the wind howled fearfully. But the storm lasted only a couple of hours, and at three o'clock in the morning the wind came fresh from the westward, and the sky was clear. The change knocked down the sea, and made a fair wind for Belfast. Tom Barkesdale went to the hotel for Mrs. Montague and Grace, and at four o'clock the Skylark sailed. She made a comfortable passage of it, and reached the town in three hours.
Mr. Montague's clothes had been dried, and he was dressed. His carriage was sent for, and he was conveyed to his elegant mansion. His family physician superintended his removal. He had hardly entered the house, when he was taken with the most alarming symptoms. In less than half an hour he breathed his last, and there were weeping and wailing in the elegant mansion. Death comes alike to the rich and the poor, and invades the palace as well as the hovel.
Colonel Montague wept like a child; the strong man was shaken by the throes of grief. He felt that he would have given all he had for the consciousness that he had never deceived that kind and indulgent father who lay silent in death before him. An hour after the sad event, Tom Barkesdale tried to comfort his friend.
"I would give the world if I had never deceived him," moaned the grief-stricken son.
"It was all for the best. Your father has passed away full of years and honors. It is well as it is."
"No, no, Tom! It was all wrong."
"You have only saved him from misery, which might have killed him years ago, for the doctor says he had a disease of the heart. Don't reproach yourself, Ned."
"Where is the boy—Robert?" he asked suddenly. "I have wronged him still more. Where is he?"
"I don't know. I haven't seen him since we left the boat."
"Go for him, Tom. Bring him back. He shall not suffer this wrong another hour. He is a noble little fellow, and I am proud of him. Bring him back."
Tom went to the wharf in the carriage, but the Skylark was three miles down the bay, on her way to Camden. It was of no use to chase that boat, and the messenger returned to his weeping friend.
"Go to him, Tom; tell him all, and bring him back," said Colonel Montague; and his friend took the next steamer for Camden.
Little Bobtail had sailed as soon as the invalid was landed, for he was anxious to be at home when the Eagle arrived. He had been up all night, while Monkey had slept in the cook-room; and as soon as the Skylark was clear of the harbor, the skipper gave the helm to the Darwinian, and turned in. He was sleeping heavily in the cabin of the yacht, while the telegraph wires were flashing all over the state the intelligence of the death of the Hon. Mr. Montague. The wind was light, so that the Skylark made a long passage: and Monkey did not wake the skipper till the yacht was off North-east Point. He had slept five hours, and felt like a new man. He went on shore as soon as the boat came up to the wharf, and ascertained that the Eagle had not yet arrived. Walking up to the cottage, he found his mother sitting on the front doorstep, in the shade, sewing.
"Why, Robert, where did you come from?"
"From Belfast last."
"Did he die before you got there?"
"Why, old Mr. Montague."
"He isn't dead."
"Yes, he is. The telegram came this forenoon."
"But I helped him on shore myself at seven o'clock this morning."
"He died at half past seven, the despatch says. And you didn't know it?"
"No, I didn't. That's strange. But I started for home as soon as I saw him in the carriage, and slept all the way down."
Mrs. Taylor had not seen her son since the examination at the office of Squire Norwood, but she had heard that he returned from Mount Desert late at night, and had gone to Belfast early in the morning. Bobtail had begun to relate his adventures at Mount Desert, when Squire Gilfilian presented himself at the door. It was known now that the Skylark had been to Bar Harbor, with Mr. Hines and the deputy sheriff as passengers. The young skipper had told this the night before, but nothing more—not even that his passengers had not returned with him. The squire had heard this report, and he was anxious to know the result of the visit.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Taylor," said the lawyer. "I am glad to find your son here, for I want to talk with him. But I wish to say to you, in the first place, that I don't consider that mortgage fairly cancelled."
"Why not? Didn't I pay you the money?" asked Mrs. Taylor, very much alarmed.
"You did, but that bill was already mine. Mr. Slipwing sent me five hundred dollars, and I have received it—the very bill he sent. From you and from him I ought to have a thousand dollars, but I have only half that amount."
"Am I to lose that money?" demanded the poor woman.
"Well, am I?" echoed the squire, with a bland smile. "If my horse is stolen, I take him wherever I find him, and whoever has bought or sold him."
The lawyer was talking to a woman knowing but little of law and business, and he was doubtful himself whether he could claim that bill after it had passed, in good faith, through the hands of several persons.
"I don't think it's right," protested Mrs. Taylor.
"Nor I, either," added Bobtail. "My mother didn't steal it, and I didn't steal it."
"No one knows who did steal it," said the squire. "Captain Chinks still contends that you took the letter, my boy; and he has gone down to Bar Harbor to ascertain how the bill got there. He thinks you heard of that boat, and sent some one down to buy her. He means to look up the case."
"He'll look it up with a vengeance," replied Bobtail. "It is already looked up."
"What do you mean? I hear that you have been to Bar Harbor."
"Did you see Captain Chinks?"
"I haven't anything to say about it," answered Bobtail.
"Can't you tell me whether you saw him or not?" asked the squire, in his cross-examination style.
"I can, but I would rather not. Mr. Brooks told me to keep still about it, and I'm going to do so."
The squire coaxed and threatened, but without effect.
"You will know all about it to-day or to-morrow. There comes the Eagle,—Captain Chinks's boat, Squire Gilfilian. He's in her, and he will tell you all you want to know, and more too, perhaps."
The lawyer was not in good humor, though he was, in the main, a very good sort of man. He did not like to have a boy like Little Bobtail say no to him.
"I must say, Mrs. Taylor, it looks rather black for your son. Colonel Montague testifies that the bill which was stolen with the letter was paid for a boat to a gentleman at Bar Harbor. Your son comes home one night with a boat, and no one knows where he got it," said Squire Gilfilian, sharply.
"He told where he got it, and he was discharged at the examination yesterday," replied Mrs. Taylor, smartly.
"We shall see when Captain Chinks gets back."
"I think you will see," added Bobtail.
"In the mean time, Mrs. Taylor, I shall expect you to pay the mortgage note," said the squire, as he walked towards the railroad wharf, where the Eagle appeared to be headed.
Bobtail soon followed him, and was at the wharf when the Eagle came up at the steps.
"So you have arrived, Bobtail," said Mr. Hines.
"I got in at eleven o'clock last night, and should have been here sooner if I hadn't stopped to pick up the Penobscot's people," replied the skipper of the Skylark, as he proceeded to describe his cruise, and tell the news of the wreck, and of the death of the Hon. Mr. Montague.
"And so you have been to Belfast since?"
"Yes; and been back some time. Where's Captain Chinks? Squire Gilfilian wants to see him," added Bobtail, as the lawyer came down the steps.
"The captain is below. He is all used up, and willing to confess everything. But we must take him down to Rockland at once, and we will go in the Skylark. For we want her there."
"She's all ready, sir."
"Where's Captain Chinks?" demanded the squire.
The captain came on deck when he heard the lawyer's voice. He was pale and dejected. The Eagle had anchored under the lee of an island during the storm, and Mr. Hines had explained to him both the law and the nature of the testimony. The detective told him he would probably get off easier if he pleaded guilty, and made all the restitution in his power. The captain had about concluded to do so, but he desired to consult his counsel.
"It's a light wind, and we must be off at once," said Mr. Hines, impatiently. "You can go with us, if you like, Squire Gilfilian, but I can't wait for you to discuss the case."
The squire was willing to go to Rockland, and in half an hour the Skylark was standing down the bay.
ROBERT BARKESDALE MONTAGUE.
"Well, Captain Chinks, did you find the man who paid that five hundred dollar bill to Colonel Montague?" asked Squire Gilfilian, as he seated himself in the standing-room, opposite his client.
"I didn't look for him," replied the captain, studying the seams in the deck.
"I thought that was what you went down there for. You told me that, in your opinion, Bobtail here had sent some one down to Bar Harbor to buy this boat with the money taken from the letter," added the squire, whose "fine judicial mind" had not yet grasped the truth. "I don't see any other way that this bill could have got to Bar Harbor."
"Mr. Hines and I saw the man that received the bill for the boat," added the deputy sheriff.
Captain Chinks looked up at the speaker, as if to entreat him to deal gently.
"Well, who gave him the bill?" demanded the squire, impatiently.
"The captain can tell you."
"How can he tell me? He didn't see the man. Why didn't you see him, captain?"
"I had something else to think of," replied the culprit, with the most woe-begone expression that ever darkened the face of man. "It's no use for me to try to beat to windward any more. I gave him the bill myself, Squire Gilfilian. That's the truth."
"You!" gasped the lawyer.
"I gave it to him."
"That can be proved, for Mr. Gordon identified him as he came off the steamer at Bar Harbor," added Mr. Brooks.
"I don't deny it," said the captain, meekly.
"But where did you get the bill?" asked the squire.
Captain Chinks did not answer immediately. It was too humiliating to tell the whole truth, and the lawyer seemed to be very slow to comprehend it.
"I had no more notion of opening that letter than I had of flying," he said, at last, after the squire had repeated his question.
"Did you open it?"
"I'll tell you just how it was; but, upon my word, I didn't mean to open it. Bobtail came into your office that day with the two letters in his hand, one for you and one for me. He gave me one of them, and I tore it open without looking at the address."
"Did I give you the wrong one?" asked the skipper.
"You did; and that was what made all the mischief," answered the captain, wishing to lessen his guilt if possible.
"I didn't know I gave you the wrong one. I had no reason for doing so. I put the other on the desk, as you told me to do," explained Bobtail.
"Yes; you tossed it on the desk, and it fell with the address down. You went out then, and I found the letter I had opened was for Squire Gilfilian, and had a five hundred dollar bill in it."
"There was no harm done even then," said the lawyer. "If you had given it to me and explained the mistake, it would have been all right."
"That's where I made my mistake, squire. I was afraid you would think I meant to steal your money, or pry into your business, and I put the letter into my pocket. It came from the bank robbers, and I didn't suppose you would believe any such letter had been sent to you."
"I didn't till the man identified the bill," replied the squire. "Mrs. Taylor gave me the bill in the morning, and while I was writing her release, Mr. Slipwing came into the office. When the woman paid me the money, I couldn't help wondering where she got so large a bill. Happening to think of her son's connection with the letter, it occurred to me that he had opened that letter. Slipwing described the bill before he saw it, so as fully to identify it. Of course I was entirely satisfied then that Bobtail had stolen the letter."
"I don't blame you for thinking so," said the skipper.
"It looked like a plain case; but it is singular how that bill came back to me. You went off to Mount Desert that day, Captain Chinks."
"Yes; I expected a lot of stuff from the provinces. I went to Bar Harbor, and bought the boat."
"And you paid the bill from the letter for the boat? Now, that brings up another question. The bill belonged to me, and I claim it. What Mrs. Taylor paid me amounts to nothing."
"I don't believe you can make that go, Squire Gilfilian," said Mr. Hines. "If I mistake not, there's a decision the other way."
"I shall try it, at any rate," added the squire.
"No, you needn't," interposed Captain Chinks. "I will make it good myself."
"That will settle the case," replied the squire, who knew that his client had the means to do so.
"If Mrs. Taylor must make good the loss to you, then Colonel Montague must make it good to her, and Mr. Gordon to the colonel. If the payment in stolen money was not legal, there was no sale of the boat, and she still belongs to Mr. Gordon," continued Mr. Hines. "In the mean time the government has seized her for violation of the revenue laws, and the case is decidedly mixed."
"I will pay the squire the five hundred dollars," added the smuggler.
"And lose your boat besides?" queried the squire.
"What's the use? You can't fight against the government. The custom-house officers have the boat and the stuff."
"What stuff?" asked the squire.
"A lot of brandy that I could have sold for over a thousand dollars, which didn't cost me four hundred. It would bring fifteen hundred at retail."
"O ho!" said the squire, opening his eyes.
"I'm caught, and I may as well make the best of it. I used to think this sort of business paid, but I don't think so now. I shall lose my boat, the money I paid for the stuff, and have to pay a fine of a thousand dollars besides. That makes me about two thousand out—half of all I'm worth, besides my farm; and all because Little Bobtail wouldn't make a trade with me. I as good as offered to give him the boat, if he would return the stuff; and I reckon he'll wish he had when you take the boat away from him, for he has been making money with her."
"No, he won't," said Mr. Hines, decidedly. "He gave the information that led to the seizure of the goods, and his share of the fine and forfeiture will be at least five hundred dollars, and he can buy the boat."
"Is that so?" exclaimed the skipper, opening his eyes. "I had no idea I was to make anything out of this business. But I am in love with this boat; and if I get her, I shall be the happiest fellow on Penobscot Bay."
"You will have her; and we'll manage it so that you shall have the use of her till she is sold," added Mr. Hines.
Captain Chinks was no longer a man of doubtful reputation. His contraband operations were capable of proof without his confession, and his reputation as a dishonest man was now fully established. The Skylark arrived at Rockland in a couple of hours. The United States deputy marshal arrested Captain Chinks; but he was liberated on bail furnished by Squire Gilfilian. The Skylark was seized, and Mr. Hines appointed keeper; and, on his own responsibility, he permitted Bobtail to have the use of her.
The detective had fully sifted the captain's method of operating. He was in company with a "Blue Nose" fisherman, who used to run the goods down to the coast of Maine, where his partner took them into his boat, usually in the night, or under the lee of some uninhabited island. Another lot was on its way, but the captain concluded to have them properly entered, and paid the duties.
When Bobtail returned from the custom-house in Rockland to the Skylark, he found Mr. Tom Barkesdale on board of her, waiting for him. This gentleman had come down to Camden in the steamer, and finding that the boy had gone to Rockland, he obtained a team, and drove to that place, where he found the Skylark at the wharf. Monkey did not know where the skipper had gone; but he soon appeared with all his passengers, for the business had not detained them more than an hour. But Mr. Barkesdale was not inclined to "tell him all" in the presence of so many persons. He finally, after much persuasion, induced Bobtail to return with him in his buggy, while Mr. Hines sailed the Skylark back to Camden. Nothing but the assurance that the business was of the utmost importance could prevail upon the skipper to leave the yacht; and much he wondered what that business could be. They walked up to the hotel together, but, as yet, Mr. Barkesdale said nothing.
"I think you have worn that bobtail coat about long enough," said the gentleman, when they came to Main Street.
"I have a better suit at home."
"What color is it?"
"That will hardly answer. You must go up to Belfast with me, and attend the funeral of Mr. Montague."
"Yes; the family are all very much interested in you. You need a black suit, and we will get one here," added Mr. Barkesdale, as they entered the best clothing store on the street.
The finest suit that could be obtained was purchased; and it was supplemented, at other stores, with a cap, nice shoes, black kid gloves, and other furnishing goods. Bobtail protested against the gloves; he did not want any gloves in summer; never wore them, except in winter. But Mr. Barkesdale said he must wear them at the funeral, if he never did again.
"I don't see why I should be rigged up in all these togs, to go to the funeral of a man I never saw but twice in my life," said Bobtail, as they seated themselves in the buggy.
"You don't know much," laughed Mr. Barkesdale.
"I know I don't."
"You don't even know your own name."
"Everybody calls me Little Bobtail, and it wouldn't be strange if I forgot my own name," replied the boy.
"I'm told your father's habits are not very good."
"Zeke Taylor's? He isn't my father; he is my mother's second husband; and my father died when I was small."
"Your mother must have a hard time of it with a drunken husband."
"That's so; I wish she would leave him; and I think she will, for he don't do much, and spends all he gets for rum. He's ugly, too, and tries to get her money away from her."
"Then your mother has money of her own?"
"I don't know; there's something strange about it," replied Bobtail, looking into the face of his companion, and wondering what he was "driving at." "Zeke says she has money hid away from him."
"Then you have thought of the matter?"
"Well, I can't see, for the life of me, how she supports the family."
"Well you don't know much—not even your own name," laughed Mr. Barkesdale again.
"I know that my father's name was Wayland, and by rights mine ought to be Wayland."
"Are you quite sure of that?"
"Of course I am. I know what my mother told me. I was born in the Island of Cuba."
"That's true, but not the rest of it."
"What do you mean?"
"Your name is not Wayland."
"What is it, then?" asked Bobtail, amazed beyond expression.
"Your name is Robert Barkesdale Montague—the middle name after me."
"You don't mean so!"
"I do; and when you see your mother, as you call her, she will tell you the same thing."
"Isn't she my mother?" asked Bobtail,—or rather Robert, as we shall insist upon calling him now,—with a gasp of astonishment.
"She is not; she is a very worthy woman, but she is not your mother."
"Well, who is my mother?"
"The first Mrs. Montague, of course; she died in Cuba when you were only a few months old. Mrs. Wayland—as she was then—was your nurse. She has brought you up, and brought you up very well too, for it appears that you are an honest, good boy, noble, brave, and intelligent."
"But what's the reason I never knew anything about this before?" asked the puzzled youth.
"I'll tell you;" and Mr. Barkesdale told the story which is related in the first two chapters.
"I supposed I had a mother, but no father. It turns out just the other way," said Robert, rubbing his throbbing head.
"And your father is one of the best men in the world."
"Mrs. Taylor is one of the best women in the world; and I shall be sorry to leave her. I don't like to believe she is not my mother, after all she has done for me. I don't believe she ever spoke a cross word to me in her life;" and the tears started in the boy's eyes.
"I don't think you will have to leave her. Your father will take her up to Belfast."
"And all the money came from my father?"
"Yes; I have carried a great deal to her myself."
Robert Montague continued to ask questions till the buggy stopped before the door of the cottage in Camden. Mrs. Taylor wept, and the boy wept, as they met. He wished that the truth had not been revealed to him. Mr. Barkesdale went to the hotel, and Robert spent the evening with Mrs. Taylor. Ezekiel was at home, and sober. He was permitted to know where the money which had perplexed him so much came from; and, as the son of Colonel Montague, he regarded Robert with respect and deference.
Mrs. Taylor and Robert took the steamer for Belfast the next morning, with Mr. Barkesdale. The boy was dressed in his black suit, and looked like another person. Colonel Montague's carriage was waiting for them when the steamer arrived. As Robert entered the elegant mansion, now "the house of mourning," he could hardly control his violent emotion. Mr. Barkesdale conducted him and Mrs. Taylor to the library, where the colonel was alone. As they entered, he walked towards his son, grasped him by the hand, and turning away his face, wept bitterly. Robert could not help weeping in sympathy.
"You know now that you are my son," said he, when he was able to speak.
"Mr. Barkesdale told me all about it."
"You are my son, and I am proud of you; but I have been a coward, Robert," added the colonel, with anguish. "I have wronged my father, who lies dead in the house; and I have wronged you, my son."
"No, sir; you haven't wronged me," protested Robert.
"I have kept you out of your birthright for sixteen years."
"I couldn't have been any better off than I was with Mrs. Taylor," replied the boy, turning to the woman.
The colonel took her hand, and expressed his gratitude to her for all she had done.
"He is a good boy, and I wish he was my son," said Mrs. Taylor. "I can't bear to think of losing him."
"You shall not be separated, and he and I both will see that you never want for anything while you live."
Mrs. Montague and Grace were sent for, and presently appeared.
"I am glad to see you, my boy," said the lady, as she took both his hands. "You are my son now."
"And did you know I was Colonel Montague's son before?" asked Robert.
"I knew it before I was married to him," she replied. "My husband always reproached himself—and now more than ever—because he concealed his first marriage from his father; but my brother and I always thought it right for him to do so."
"I know it was wrong," added the colonel, bitterly.
"Undoubtedly it was wrong in the abstract, but it was the least of two evils," said Mr. Barkesdale.
"Now you are my brother, I shall kiss you again," was the greeting of Grace, as she suited the action to the word.
The rest of the day was spent in talking over the events of the past, and Robert Montague was duly installed as a member of the household. The funeral took place the next day, and hundreds of people stared at the boy who rode with the other members of the family in the first carriage, and wondered why he was there. In a few days the strange story was fully circulated both in Belfast and in Camden.
On the day after the funeral Robert returned to his former home with Mrs. Taylor. He was greeted by his friends with a deference which made him feel very awkward; and when he went on board of the Skylark, Monkey hardly dared to speak to him. But he soon convinced all that his altered fortunes had not changed his heart. He was more amazed himself than other people were to find himself the son of one of the richest and most distinguished men in the state. He returned to his new home in the Skylark on the same day, and arrived soon enough to give Grace a sail in the yacht before dark.
In due time Robert attended the trial of Captain Chinks, who pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for opening the letter and stealing the money. The yacht and the liquor were condemned and sold. The captain was fined a thousand dollars; and it was said that he got off easy because he pleaded guilty. Colonel Montague bought the Skylark when she was sold, with his son's share of "the moiety of the penalty and forfeiture." With his father as a passenger, Robert sailed the yacht home.
The Penobscot was got off by the sailing-master and crew at the next tide after she went on the ledge. Buoyed up with casks she was towed to Belfast, where she was put on the ways, and made as good as new.
"I thought your sailing-master was rather reckless that night," said Robert, one day, as they passed the Penobscot on the ways, and were discussing the mishap.
"It was not his fault. The wheel broke down," replied the colonel.
"I didn't know the wheel broke."
"Yes; that was the trouble; but if it had been the sailing-master's fault, I wouldn't have said a word, after he saved my father. He's a brave fellow; he is like you, my son. If you had been less brave, Robert, Grace would certainly have been drowned, or killed on the rocks."
Colonel Montague shuddered as he thought of such a calamity, and then gazed with admiration upon his son.
"I would have done that any time for the fun of it," laughed Robert.
"It was hard for me, when we met on the deck of the Penobscot, to keep from telling you the truth—that you were my son."
"It's all right now."
The conversation turned to Mrs. Taylor. Colonel Montague wanted to take her into his family, but her drunken husband was in the way of such a step. On one of her trips down the bay the Skylark put into Camden, and Robert and his father called upon her.
"I'm all alone now," said Mrs. Taylor, after she had exchanged greetings with her visitors.
"Why, where is Ezekiel?" asked Robert.
"He went off a-fishing yesterday in Prince's boat, and caught a great fare of mackerel. He sold them for nine dollars, and of course he has been intoxicated ever since. This afternoon he got into a quarrel with Moses Pitkins, and struck him with a club. Both of them were drunk, and they say Moses is so badly hurt that he may die. Ezekiel was taken up, and sent over to Rockland."
"Then you had better go with us to Belfast, Mrs. Taylor," added Colonel Montague.
Robert begged her to do so, and she consented. Squire Simonton was engaged to defend Ezekiel when his trial came off. Mrs. Taylor went to Belfast in the Skylark, and was kindly welcomed at the elegant mansion.
Moses Pitkins did not die, but Ezekiel was sentenced to two months' imprisonment. Squire Simonton labored diligently with him to abandon his cups; but the two months' abstinence did him more good than the arguments, able and kind as they were. When he was discharged he returned to Camden to find his home deserted. Squire Simonton renewed his efforts to secure the reform of the toper. He assured Ezekiel that his wife would not live with him if he continued to be intemperate. He promised faithfully never to drink a drop, and the squire kept an eye on him. He let the house to Prince, and boarded with him. He went to work at his trade, and people said Ezekiel Taylor was a new man since he came out of prison. Mrs. Taylor heard of his good behavior, and came down to see him. He promised her faithfully that he would never drink another drop. Colonel Montague had given her a beautiful little cottage near his own house, handsomely furnished, when the reports indicated that Ezekiel had actually reformed. Having satisfied herself of the truth of the report, she invited him to his new home. Thus far he has kept his promise, and both are happy in their new residence, which Robert visits every day, and sometimes oftener.
Mr. Walker and his family spent a week with the Montagues, in September, after Mr. Barkesdale had gone. Though picnics and pleasure parties were not in order so soon after the death of the Hon. Mr. Montague, Robert took Grace and Emily out to sail every day in the Skylark; and up to this date, he thinks Miss Walker is the prettiest girl in the State of Maine. He may change his mind within ten years; but if he does not, she will probably have an opportunity to accept or refuse his hand.
Monkey was retained for service in the Skylark during the rest of the season. He still thinks his friend, the skipper, is the greatest man in the world. He sends a portion of his wages to his mother, and in the fall moved her up to Belfast. Robert goes to Camden occasionally, and always calls upon Mr. Simonton, who invariably gives him a cheerful welcome. His views in regard to smuggling are very definite now, and, as Robert Barkesdale Montague, he believes that fidelity to principle is the only safe rule of life, whether it brings worldly prosperity or adversity, as did LITTLE BOBTAIL.
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