The crew instantly levelled their oars, feathering the blades. Not one of them was permitted to touch the water. This manoeuvre was executed quite as well as the others had been, and the boys were praised without stint by the venerable instructor.
"Give way!" said Frank, always prompted by the old sailor at his side in a low tone, so that most of the oarsmen believed that the coxswain acted on his own responsibility.
"Stand by to toss!" he continued. "Toss!"
The oars all went up as one, the handles resting on the bottom of the boat.
"Let fall!" Frank proceeded with the drill, and with only a very short pause between the two commands; but the oars all dropped into the water, and were shipped with entire unity. "Give way!" he added; for the 'together' is used as a rule only when the boat starts from the shore or another craft.
"Stand by to hold water!" said Frank a little later. "Oars!"
At this command the oarsmen levelled and feathered their oars.
"Hold water!" and the boat began to slow down.
"Right here comes in another command," said Uncle Ben. "You hain't heard it before; but it is often needed to keep you from runnin' into a boat, a wharf, a rock, or anything else. The command is, 'Starn all!' When you get it, you must pull backwards. It comes arter 'Hold water!' as you are doin' now. All ready! The command, Frank."
"Stern all!" said the coxswain in vigorous tones, for this order is likely to be given in an emergency.
The boys made rather bad work of rowing backwards at first, and it was necessary for Uncle Ben to drill them for half an hour before they could do it as well as their other work. But they were attentive and patient; and at the end of the lesson they could pick up the stroke as readily as the forward movement, even when the manoeuvres were executed in a hurry, for it is generally used when there is need for haste.
"How many more things are there to learn, Uncle Ben?" asked number five, who was Charles Hardy.
The old salt removed his tarpaulin, scratched his bald head, and said only two. The boys lay on their oars, as it is called when they are levelled.
"Starboard oars—back!" said Frank. "Port oars—ahead! Give way!"
Some began to put the oars as directed in the first command, and Ben stopped them, telling them to wait for the second; and it was done over again two or three times. Of course the Zephyr whirled round like a top, and was left headed down the lake.
"The next new thing is to trail your oars, which is sometimes needed when the boat has to go through a narrow place. Sometimes trail-lines are used. They are bits of cord, say two feet long, one end made fast to the loom of the oar, and the other to the gunwale of the boat. If you let go the handle of the oar it will be dragged alongside the boat in the water; but we don't need trail-lines. To trail, the commands are, 'Stand by to trail!' and 'Trail!' At the second you will throw the loom of the oar out of the rowlock, and let it drag in the water; but you mustn't let go, or you will lose it. Now go ahead, Frank, and when the boat is making five knots give the commands to trail."
"Five knots?" repeated the coxswain.
"A knot is a sea-mile; but I mean when she is going along at fair speed."
Frank gave the orders to go ahead in proper form, and the Zephyr was soon making more than six knots an hour.
"Stand by to trail!" said the coxswain. "Trail!"
This was a simple manoeuvre, and the oarsmen did it right the first time trying; but to make sure of it, the movement was again executed.
"Come about, and go up the lake again," said Uncle Ben.
"Ship your oars! Starboard oars, back! Port oars, ahead!" Frank commanded; but no one moved an oar. "Give way!" and the boat came about, the rowers laying on their oars.
"Very well done!" exclaimed Uncle Ben.
The coxswain gave the commands, and the boat went ahead again up the lake. Near the mouth of the river was a small island, on the north side of which (the lake extending east and west) was a long, flat rock, like the one where they had embarked.
"Now, my boys, I have come to my last lesson; and it will be making a landing on that flat rock. When the coxswain is ready to stop the boat, the command is 'Way enough!' When you get it, you will cease rowing, and toss the oars without any command. Here the coxswain comes to the end of his rope, and the stroke oarsman picks it up. Fred Harper may say 'Toss!' or wave his right hand, and you will all boat your oars, or put them in place on the thwarts, in good time with him. Now try it on, Frank."
The young officer of the boat had headed her to the island as soon as it was mentioned.
"Way enough!" said he, when he thought the boat was' near enough.
The oars all went up as one, and Fred waved his hand as he deposited his oar on the thwarts in concert with the other eleven. Ben said it was well done, but might be better done, and it was repeated.
"If you were going into a boat-house, which you will soon have, or alongside another vessel, the coxswain should give the command, 'In bows!' Then the two bowmen will boat their oars, and take the boat-hook. You may give that command next time, Frank," said Uncle Ben.
The boat backed away a considerable distance from the island, and then went through the manoeuvre again. The teacher said it was perfect; and Tony fended off with the boat-hook as the boat came to the rock, and Fred stood ready to haul in the stern.
"Now, boys, you may land and rest yourselves," said the instructor.
The rowers were not tired they protested, but they went on shore. They did not stay a quarter of an hour on the island; and as soon as they had embarked, the old sailor took the American flag from the socket, and waved it above his head as soon as the boys were seated.
"Now, my lads, three cheers for the American flag. One!"
"And long may it wave!" added Uncle Ben heartily, as he put the flag back in its place. "Boys, can't you sing?"
"We sing in school," replied several.
"Sing me a song, then, before we get under way."
"What shall we sing?"
"Anything you please."
"'Canadian Boat Song,'" suggested Frank.
"Ay, ay, give us that."
Fred Harper was a good singer, and started the song. The boys all joined in; and Uncle Ben was so pleased when they had finished it, that he begged them to sing it again. They cheerfully complied, and the old man listened to the repetition with the most intense delight.
"Now, boys, I will sing you a sea song."
"Hurrah! do, Uncle Ben," exclaimed Charles.
Uncle Ben's voice was somewhat cracked; but he rendered with tolerable effect the song,—
"'Twas in the good ship Rover, I sailed the world around; For twenty years and over, I ne'er touched British ground."
"Bravo, Uncle Ben. Fred Harper, can't you give us Ben Bolt and Sweet Alice? I am sure Uncle Ben will like it."
"I will try," replied Fred.
"We will join the chorus."
The song was sung, and the old sailor shed a tear over "Sweet Alice, so young and so fair."
"Here comes father in the sailboat," cried Frank, as he discovered Captain Sedley approaching in his pleasure yacht.
"Ay, beating up agin the wind."
"Can't we have a race with him?" asked Charles Hardy.
"Sartin, if you like. There is a fresh breeze springing up."
The boys waited patiently until Captain Sedley reached the spot.
"How do you like your craft, boys?" asked he, as he threw his boat up into the wind, alongside the Zephyr.
"First-rate!" they exclaimed with one voice.
"Three cheers for Captain Sedley," cried Tony Weston, taking off his cap and swinging it round above his head. "One!"
"Hurrah!" and the boys all clapped their hands for several moments.
Captain Sedley took off his hat, and politely returned his acknowledgments. When boys get to cheering, they hardly know where to stop; and when Fred Harper proposed three for Uncle Ben, there was a prompt and hearty response to the call.
"I'm much obleeged to you, boys, for the compliment," said the veteran, pulling off his tarpaulin.
"Now for the race," cried Charles.
Uncle Ben explained the wishes of the boys to Captain Sedley; and he readily agreed to a trial of speed, with the remark that he should expect to be beaten.
"Let me get my boat under good headway before you start," continued he, as he hauled aft his jib-sheet, and brought the boat before the wind.
The boat's crew waited till he had got nearly the eighth of a mile from them, and then, with all the forms, the Zephyr got under way. Uncle Ben had taught them to keep time in rowing by the swaying back and forth of the coxswain's body.
"Don't get excited, boys; the wind is freshening," said Uncle Ben. "Steady, now."
The Zephyr darted like an arrow through the water under the impetus of the twelve oars. Frank, in his anxiety to win the race, began to sway to and fro so rapidly that Uncle Ben was obliged to caution him several times to keep cool.
"We are overhauling him very rapidly," said he; "if you pull regular, and save your strength, you will pass him before you get half way to the beach. Steady, Frank; don't hurry them."
The boys pulled steadily; and, as the old sailor had predicted, they passed Captain Sedley's boat long before they came to the beach. As the Zephyr shot past him, a long, loud cheer burst from her crew.
"Isn't this fun!" exclaimed Charles Hardy.
"Glorious!" replied Phil Barker, who was at the next oar before him.
"What do you think the Bunkers would say if they should see us about this time?"
"Wouldn't they stare!"
"Way enough!" said Frank; and the boys ceased rowing, while the boat continued to shoot through the water with scarcely diminished velocity.
"There are the Bunkers on their raft," said Tony Weston, pointing down the lake.
All eyes were turned in the direction indicated by the speaker.
"You can pull down by them, if you like," added Uncle Ben.
"Give way!" said Frank.
The Zephyr darted down the lake, and in a few moments was within hail of the raft.
"Not a word to them," said Uncle Ben.
"Can't we cheer them once?" asked Charles.
"Yes, if you can keep good-natur'd about it."
The club boat shot by the raft, on which the wondering Bunkers stood like so many statues.
"Way enough!" said Frank. "Now for three cheers."
They were given; but the Bunkers were too much bewildered by the appearance of the gorgeous boat, with its silken flags and bright colors, its gilded name and its graceful shape, to heed the cheers of the club.
"Give way!" said Frank; and under the direction of Uncle Ben, he managed the helm so as to make the Zephyr describe a graceful semicircle round the raft.
"Five o'clock," said the old sailor; "we must go ashore."
Frank steered for the rock, and they came alongside in due form; Tony "fended off" with the boat-hook when they reached it, and the club separated for the night, leaving the boat in charge of Uncle Ben.
THE STOLEN WALLET
At school the next day, the club boat was the principal topic of conversation among the boys. Those who had been invited to join the club were regarded as especially fortunate. Frank Sedley was a distinguished personage, and even Tim Bunker unbent himself in some measure from his ferocious dignity in his attempts to conciliate him.
"I say, Frank, you will give me a sail in your boat, won't you?" said Tim.
"I should be very glad to accommodate you, but I don't think my father will let me take any boys who do not belong to the club."
"Can't I join the club?"
"It is full now."
"You can just make room for one more if you have a mind to."
"There are only twelve oars."
The school-bell rang then, and Frank was glad to escape further importunity on the subject. Tim Bunker was dissatisfied with himself and everybody else. He had seen the magnificent boat which Frank owned, and in which he and his companions had had such a glorious time on the preceding afternoon. He envied them the possession of the Zephyr, and he would have given anything to be permitted to join the club. Perhaps he would even have promised to become a better boy, for he keenly felt the weight of those moral obliquities which excluded him from the society of Frank and his friends.
But more especially did he envy Tony Weston his good luck in getting into the club; for Tony's admission was abundant evidence that the social standing of the boys had not been taken into consideration. There was no rich and poor about it; it was good and evil entirely. And Tim had always cherished a strong feeling of dislike, and even hatred, towards the poor widow's son, undoubtedly because he was a good boy, and everybody liked him. He had not forgotten Tony's interference on the island, when he was about to thrash Frank Sedley; and among the Bunkers he expressed his intention to be fully revenged.
At recess Frank, Charles, and Tony went up to a neighbor's house close by to get some water. When they had drunk, and were passing through the wood-house to return, Charles observed an old wallet lying on a bench.
"Twig!" said he in his peculiar style.
"That must be Farmer Whipple's," replied Tony.
"Probably the farmer laid it down when he was paying somebody some money," added Frank.
"I will carry it to him," said Charles. "He is out in the garden."
"Don't meddle with it," answered Tony. "We will see him, and tell him it is here."
"But somebody might steal it in the meantime."
"Nobody will; I wouldn't meddle with it."
The boys walked off towards the schoolhouse, but they did not find the farmer in the garden.
"He was here when we came up," said Tony. "I will find him;" and he walked towards the barn, while Charles and Frank continued on their way.
Tony looked all about the premises, but he did not find the farmer. Returning to the wood-house, he found that the wallet was gone.
"Hello, Tony," said Tim Bunker, at this moment entering the wood-house, and going to the well for a drink.
"Have you seen Farmer Whipple, Tim?"
"Yes; he just went into the house," replied the chief of the Bunkers.
"Which way did he go in?"
"Right through this way. He was just ahead of you when you came from the barn."
"Oh, was he?" said Tony, much relieved.
The farmer had taken his wallet then as he passed through, and he was satisfied it was all right.
"I say, Tony, what were you doing out to the barn? Hooking eggs, eh?"
"I was not," answered Tony indignantly.
"I am not a thief."
"I'll bet you ain't," drawled Tim, placing his thumb against his nose, and wagging his four fingers back and forth.
Tony heard the school-bell ring, and waiting for no more, ran off with all his speed. Tim was so late that Mr. Hyde, the master, gave him a sharp reproof for loitering by the way.
Tim Bunker's seat was next to Tony's; and though the former persisted in annoying him, whispering in his ear something about "sucking eggs," he tried to be patient and good-natured. But at last, when he could endure it no more, he informed against him.
"What do you mean by 'sucking eggs,' Tim?" asked Mr. Hyde, after he had called him on the platform.
"I saw Tony skulking round Farmer Whipple's barn at recess."
"Did you see him have an egg?"
"No, sir; but I thought he had been eating something."
Mr. Hyde investigated the case fully, and Tim got punished for his conduct in annoying his schoolmate.
School was dismissed as usual, and the boys went home. In the afternoon Tony had some work to do, and did not come.
A few minutes after two, when the boys were all in, Farmer Whipple entered the room, apparently in a high state of excitement.
"Where is Tony Weston?" said he.
"He is absent this afternoon," replied Mr. Hyde.
"I lost my pocket-book this morning."
"I saw Tony Weston and the Bunker boy in the woodshed a little before."
"It was Tim Bunker, then," added Mr. Hyde in a low tone.
"I think's likely," continued Farmer Whipple; "but Tony was there too."
"I will state the case, and see if the boys know anything about it," said the master.
Mr. Hyde called the attention of the boys by ringing a little bell on his desk, and then mentioned the loss which Farmer Whipple had met with.
"If any scholar knows anything about it, let him signify it."
Frank and Charles raised their hands.
"I saw a black wallet lying on the bench when we went up after some water."
"Who were with you?"
"Tony and Charles."
"Any one else?"
"Why did you not take charge of it, and give it to Mr. Whipple?"
"Tony thought we had better not touch it, and we decided to tell Mr. Whipple it was there as we went through the garden."
"But you didn't tell me," said the farmer.
"No, sir; we didn't find you in the garden when we came back, and Tony went to look for you while we continued on our way."
"Has Tony said anything to you about it since?" asked Mr. Hyde.
"Yes, sir; he told us after school that he didn't find Mr. Whipple, and when he went back to the wood-house, the wallet was gone. He met Tim Bunker there, who told him the owner had just gone in that way."
"Now I think on't, I paid a little bill, and I recollect of laying the wallet down on the wash-bench," said Farmer Whipple.
"And Tim Bunker was there?" asked the master.
"Not while we were," replied Charles.
"Sir," answered the chief of the Bunkers promptly.
"Do you know anything about this wallet?"
"Don't know nothing about it."
"Were you up there?"
"You saw Tony there?"
"Yes, sir; when I was going up, I saw him come out of the barn and go into the wood-house."
"Did you see Mr. Whipple?"
Frank and Charles looked at each other. Tim's story differed from Tony's.
"You saw Tony in the woodshed?"
"When I went in, he was tucking away something in his pocket."
Tony's friends were utterly confounded by this bold statement.
"You didn't see what it was, did you?" inquired Mr. Hyde, pained by the turn the affair was taking.
"I didn't. I thought it was an egg at first. He was kind of struck up when I entered, and asked me if I had seen Farmer Whipple. I told him I hadn't. The bell rang then, and he cut away to school."
Tim's story seemed plausible, but the master could not harbor a suspicion that Tony was guilty of theft.
"Which pocket was it, Tim?" asked Farmer Whipple.
"The side pocket of his linen sack."
"The left-hand side."
"That will do," said Mr. Hyde; and he and Mr. Whipple conferred on the subject.
Frank was amazed. Tony steal the wallet! Impossible! He never could do such a thing.
The conference ended, and Farmer Whipple left the schoolroom. Returning to his house, he harnessed his horse, and drove down to Squire Murdock's, the magistrate, to procure a warrant for the arrest of Tony. This he obtained; and after getting a constable to serve it, he drove to the widow Weston's.
Tony was in the garden picking some currants to sell the following morning. He was hard at work, and his coat lay upon a bush near him.
Farmer Whipple and the constable jumped over the fence and approached him.
"How do you do, Mr. Whipple?" said Tony, suspending his occupation. "How do you do, Mr. Headley?"
"I am sorry to trouble you, Tony; but we've got some suspicions agin you," began Farmer Whipple.
"Against me!" exclaimed Tony, with a glance at the constable.
"Sorry for it, but it looks bad agin you."
"What have I done?" asked the poor boy, alarmed by the words of the farmer.
"I lost my wallet this morning, and Tim Bunker says he saw you tucking something into your pocket," replied Farmer Whipple, proceeding to detail all the circumstances.
"I am innocent!" pleaded Tony.
"But you were there?"
"I was there;" and Tony told his story just as he had related it to Frank Sedley.
"All that may be; but you see, Tony, things are against you. Tim's story is as straight as can be. This is your coat, ain't it?"
"Yes; you can examine that, and search the house if you like."
The constable took the coat. The pockets were filled with various articles known in the vocabulary of a schoolboy. Mr. Headley thrust his hand in, and Tony confidently waited the result. Several things were taken out and returned. It was not in that pocket.
But the first thing the constable drew out of the other pocket was Farmer Whipple's wallet!
"No use, Tony," said Mr. Headley.
"I did not know it was there; I did not put it there!" protested the poor boy, whose face was as white as a sheet.
"You must come with me, Tony; I never would have believed it," said the constable.
The widow Weston was called, and a statement of the case made to her. Poor, loving, devoted mother! her heart was wrung with agony. But there was a consolation for her. Tony could not be a thief. He was innocent, she was sure, however strong appearances might point to his guilt.
The constable took him into the wagon; and Farmer Whipple drove off to the Rippleton jail, which was located in the village. Tony had never in his life been so utterly cast down as when he looked into the cell to which he was conducted. But he realized that he was not guilty, and this feeling made the prison less terrible to him.
No one of all Tony's numerous friends was more surprised at the accusation made against him than Captain Sedley. Like all who were familiar with the past life of the brave little fellow, he was incredulous. The very fact that Tim Bunker was near at the time of the alleged theft seemed to be sufficient to clear him. The finding of the wallet in his pocket was the most unaccountable piece of testimony that had been adduced against him. It did not seem probable that it would have remained so long in his pocket unknown to him, if any one had been so wicked as to place it there.
As soon as the wagon which bore Tony a prisoner to the Rippleton jail had gone, Mrs. Weston put on her bonnet, and hastened over to Captain Sedley's house. She was sure of finding assistance there. She was so confident of Tony's innocence, that the thought of proving it for the satisfaction of the public seemed superfluous.
"I am sure he never could do such a thing in the world, Captain Sedley," said she, wiping away her tears, and gazing with earnestness into the face of her benevolent patron.
"Tony always was honest," replied Captain Sedley.
"Honest! He would not steal the value of a pin from anybody."
"I think he would not."
"I know he wouldn't!"
"But it seems very strange that the wallet should have been found in his pocket."
"Tim Bunker put it there, you may depend upon it."
"Very likely; but, Mrs. Weston, you know that all these things must be proved. As the affair stands now, I am afraid the testimony against him, notwithstanding his good character, will be quite sufficient to convict him."
"O Captain Sedley, I know he is innocent!" exclaimed the poor widow, her eyes filling with tears again.
"But it must be proved, you see. The finding of the wallet upon him, and the testimony of Tim Bunker that he saw him putting something in his pocket, in the very place where the lost property was alleged to have been left, will leave scarcely a doubt in the minds of judge and jury."
"Tim Bunker did it, I know!"
Captain Sedley shook his head. Though he had the fullest confidence in Tony's innocence, he desired to give his mother a perfect understanding of the difficulties of the case. After all, there was a remote possibility that poor Tony had been led to take the wallet; and if such should finally prove to be the fact, it was better for the widow to be prepared for the worst.
"I do not think Tony is guilty, Mrs. Weston; but you must consider that appearances are very strong against him," said he.
"I know it, sir. Poor Tony! must he spend the night in jail? Is there no way to get him out?" sobbed the widow.
"He shall not want for a friend, Mrs. Weston. Farmer Whipple must have returned by this time, and I will go up and see him. But I do not think we can get him out to-day."
"Thank you, sir; you are very good. If I could only see him, and tell him that I feel sure he is innocent, the cold walls would seem less dreary to him. I know what the poor fellow is thinking about."
Mrs. Weston cried like a child when she thought of her darling boy shut up within the narrow walls of a prison cell.
"He will be thinking of his home," continued she. "He will think of me."
"He has been a good son, Mrs. Weston."
"That he has, sir. Tony steal? No, sir. He thinks too much of his mother and his home to do such a thing. But don't you suppose I could see him?"
"I will see him myself; won't that do as well?"
"I don't know."
"I will tell him just how you feel about it,—that you are confident he is innocent."
"Thank you, sir; he will be so comforted by it."
"And to-morrow he will probably be examined before the magistrate."
"Then he will discharge him, I know!"
"I fear not; if there are reasonable grounds for supposing him guilty, he will be committed to await the action of the grand jury."
"Then it will be weeks and months before they prove his innocence," interposed the widow.
"The grand jury is in session now; all they will do, if they find a bill against him, will be to commit him for trial."
"That makes three times they will try him," said Mrs. Weston, perplexed by the complications of the law. "Must he stay in prison till all these trials are finished?"
"He can be bailed out to-morrow, after his examination."
"I must give bonds for him, must I?"
"I will do that, Mrs. Weston. Probably he can come home before to-morrow noon."
"God bless you, Captain Sedley. You have always been very good to me in my troubles."
"Ben," said Captain Sedley, going to the window, and calling the old sailor who was at work in the garden, "Ben, put the bay horse into the chaise."
"This is a world of trouble, Captain Sedley," said the widow, with a deep sigh.
"But from trouble and affliction come forth our purest aspirations. God is good to us, even when he sends us trials and sorrows."
"I will not complain; I have much to be thankful for."
In a few moments the horse and chaise were ready.
"I am going over to see Farmer Whipple, Mrs. Weston, and then I shall ride down to Rippleton. Keep your spirits up, and be assured everything shall be done to comfort your son, and to prove his innocence. I shall engage Squire Benson to defend him."
"Heaven bless you, Captain Sedley," said the poor widow, wiping away her tears, as her benevolent friend got into his chaise.
Farmer Whipple was fortunately at home when he arrived at his house, and Captain Sedley immediately opened his business.
"I don't much think that Tony did it," said the farmer; "but things were agin him, you see."
"How much money was there in the wallet?" asked Captain Sedley.
"More'n I can afford to lose, Cap'n. It was a careless trick of mine."
"What was the amount?"
"There was forty-six dollars in bills, besides some odd change."
"Do you remember what banks the bills were on?"
"Most on 'em. There was a twenty dollar bill on the Rippleton Bank, a ten on the Village Bank, and some small bills, mostly on Boston Banks."
"Where is the wallet now?"
"I got it; Squire Little said I might take it agin."
"Was the money all right?"
"Bless you, no! If it had been, I wouldn't say a word. All the small bills were there, but the big ones were gone."
"That's the wo'st on't."
"Have you any description of the lost bills?"
"Well, yes; I reckon I should know the twenty agin, if I saw it."
"Well, it happens rather lucky. Arter we came from the jail, I went into Doolittle's store to git some tea. When I went in there, he was fixin' some kind of a plate, with his name on't; a pencil plate, I believe he called it."
"A stencil plate," said Captain Sedley.
"Jest so; he was marking his name on the back of some bank bills with it. I telled him about the robbery, and that the twenty dollar bill he give me the day before was gone with the rest. Then he telled me that that twenty dollar bill was marked with his 'pencil plate,' d'ye see?"
"He might have marked a dozen others with it," added Captain Sedley.
"No, he didn't. You see, he didn't git the plate till jest afore he paid me that bill, and he is sartin that is the only twenty dollar bill he has marked."
"Did you see the mark yourself?"
"I saw sunthin' on it, but I couldn't read it without puttin' my glasses on; so I didn't mind what it was."
Captain Sedley considered this important information. If the twenty dollar bill, thus marked, should ever appear in the village, it might furnish a clew by which to trace out the thief.
On his arrival at Rippleton village, he went to Doolittle's store, and ascertained that he had marked no more bills; that he was sure he had marked no other twenty dollar bill than the one he paid to Farmer Whipple. Requesting him not to mark any more, he went over to the jail.
Tony was in much better spirits than he expected to find him. His only trouble was in relation to his mother, and he cried bitterly when he spoke of her. Captain Sedley comforted him, assuring him his mother and his friends were satisfied that he was innocent, and that he should have the best lawyer in the county to defend him.
"I don't want any lawyer, Captain Sedley," said Tony stoutly; "I am as innocent of this crime as though I had never been born."
"But, Tony, who do you think stole the wallet?"
"I have no idea, unless Tim Bunker did; and he has laid it to me to clear himself."
"Tim is one of the witnesses, and a good lawyer may be able to get the truth out of him."
"I don't believe he could," replied Tony with a faint smile.
"I shall engage Squire Benson to defend you; and to-morrow, before the examination, he will come in to see you. If you have anything to say, you can say it to him."
"I can only say I am innocent."
"He will want to know all the circumstances."
"I will tell him all I know about it."
After some further conversation, Captain Sedley took his leave, and hastened to the office of Squire Benson, who was the most distinguished lawyer in that county.
The legal gentleman readily engaged to defend Tony, and arrangements were made for the examination. The marked bank bill was an important matter for consideration, though there was no present hope of finding it. But there was a prospect that it would eventually come to light.
On his arrival at his house, Captain Sedley found the widow Weston waiting his return. She was much comforted when she heard that Tony was in good spirits. She listened with attention to all her kind friend said, and went home with a lighter heart than when she came. The interest which Captain Sedley manifested in the case inspired her with hope. He was an influential man, and his assistance would enable her to do all that could be done.
On the following morning the examination of Tony took place at the office of Squire Little. Mrs. Weston had an interview with her son when he was brought in by the officer. Both wept, but there was hope in the consciousness that he was innocent. Frank, Charles, and Tim Bunker were there as witnesses, as well as Farmer Whipple and Mr. Hyde.
The examination proceeded, but it was only a repetition of the facts already given. Squire Benson, in his cross examination, pressed Tim Bunker severely; but though there were several trifling inconsistencies in his answers, his testimony was generally accurate. He denied having told Tony that he saw Farmer Whipple pass through the wood-house.
Captain Sedley had prepared Mrs. Weston for the result; and when Tony was bound over to await the action of the grand jury, she heard the decision with tolerable calmness. Her benevolent friend became his bail; he was liberated, and they all went home together.
The boat-house for the Zephyr had been begun on Wednesday, the day following her arrival. All the carpenters that could work upon it were engaged by Captain Sedley, so that by Saturday it was nearly finished.
Its location was at one end of the beach, near the flat rock, and not far from the moorings of the sailboat. It was sixty feet long, and extended out over the waters of the lake. It was built on piles, driven into the sand on the bottom. The club hall was at the land end of the building, and was about twenty feet square. From this apartment the boys passed into the boat-house proper, which was so arranged that they could all take their places in the boat, and push out into the lake without confusion or inconvenience.
But as my young friends undoubtedly feel a great desire to obtain an accurate idea of the situation and arrangements of the boat-house, I have drawn a plan of it, which is here subjoined.
If my young readers carefully examine the plan, and refer to the explanations, they can understand the position of the rooms, and the situation of everything connected with the boat-house.
Around the platform a railing was constructed with a gate at the bow, and one on each side of the boat, so that the members of the club could get into it only at these three places.
Frank and Charles protested against this railing at first, and maintained that there was not the least danger of their falling into the water; but Captain Sedley, knowing how prone boys are to scuffle and be careless, insisted upon having it.
The boys watched the progress the carpenters made in erecting the boat-house with the deepest interest, and Uncle Ben got almost out of patience answering the innumerable questions they put to him in regard to what everything was for. Morning, noon, and night they visited the building, and longed for Saturday afternoon, when they were to make another excursion in the Zephyr.
Poor Tony's misfortunes had excited all their sympathy, and divided their attention with the club. Some of them ventured to doubt the innocence of their companion, though a large majority felt quite sure he would be cleared at the trial.
Early on Saturday afternoon, Frank and Charles met at the boat-house.
"Will Tony come, do you think?" asked the latter.
"I told him this morning to be sure and come. I hope he will."
"Do you think your father will let him continue to belong to the club?" asked Charles.
"Certainly he will! Why not?"
"Only think of it—taken up for stealing!"
"Do you believe he is guilty?"
"They wouldn't put him in jail if he wasn't, it isn't likely."
"But he hasn't been tried yet."
"No; but then to think that the wallet was found in his pocket."
"I don't believe he is guilty any more than I believe I am," replied Frank warmly.
"Nor I; but——"
"But what, Charley?"
"Things look so against him."
"I am afraid Tim Bunker knows more about it than he chooses to tell."
"Don't you remember Tony didn't want us to meddle with it, and said we had better tell Farmer Whipple it was there rather than touch it ourselves?" added Charles, looking earnestly into the face of his companion.
"I know Tony wouldn't steal it."
"I am surprised to hear you say so, Charley," said Frank, hurt by the doubts of his friend.
"He might have thought that Farmer Whipple would never find him out."
"That wouldn't have made any difference with Tony."
"He might have thought, too, how much good the money would do his mother."
"Tony never could have thought that stolen money would do his mother any good."
"Perhaps he did not think anything about the wickedness of the act."
"Is it possible, Charley, that you have so poor an opinion of Tony as that? I shouldn't think you would wish to associate with him now."
"I don't know," said Charles, apparently absorbed by his own thoughts. "Do you think we ought to have him in the club till after this thing is settled?"
"Why, Charley! You can't think how it hurts my feelings to hear you talk so."
"What do you suppose your father will say about it?"
"I know what he will say; he believes Tony is entirely innocent."
"Oh, if he does, we ought not to say a word," replied Charles promptly. "Only, you know, he said so much about the club being a means of improvement as well as amusement."
Frank could not understand the thoughts of his friend; but his father, who had been instructing the workmen in regard to the boat-house, joined them soon after, and the question was referred to him, with a statement of Charles's views.
Captain Sedley looked into Charles's eye searchingly.
"You think Tony ought to be excluded from the club, do you?" asked he.
"No, sir; I don't think so; but I didn't know but you might think so," replied Charles, confused by the earnestness of Captain Sedley's glance.
"Charles, I am afraid you have not made your mind up in regard to the question. You are willing to believe anything that will please those whom you wish to conciliate."
"I want to believe the truth."
"You are not so particular about the truth as you are about suiting your friends."
Captain Sedley had had a great deal of experience in reading the characters of men; and he readily perceived that Charles desired to be foremost in condemning evil, for the purpose of getting the good will of others. It was a dangerous state of mind, for with the Bunkers he would probably have been just as forward in a bad cause. His motive was not a worthy one. It was the same as that which sometimes induces men and women to go to church, to give money to the poor, or to assume a virtue they do not possess,—for the reputation it would give them. It was the same motive which had urged him to give his money to the widow Weston.
Perhaps he was not fully conscious of his motive in thus being the foremost to condemn poor Tony; but Captain Sedley read his character rightly, and understood the workings of his mind.
"I am sure I feel kindly towards Tony; as kindly as any other fellow in the club," said Charles.
"I do not doubt it, but we must watch all our thoughts and actions."
Captain Sedley returned to the boat-house to give further directions concerning the building. Before two o'clock all the boys, with the exception of Tony Weston, were gathered on the beach.
"I hope he will come," said Frank, much concerned at the absence of his friend.
"I hope so," added Charles.
"Here is Uncle Ben. Hurrah!" shouted several of the boys.
"I arn't goin' with you this afternoon," said the veteran, as he laid an armful of oars, boat-hooks, and other furniture belonging to the Zephyr, which had been carried to the house for safe keeping, upon the beach.
"Not going with us, Uncle Ben?" asked Frank.
"Your father is going," replied the old sailor, as he drew the boat in shore, and put the oars and other articles in their places on board.
"Here he comes," added Frank.
"Where is Tony?" asked Captain Sedley, as he discovered the absence of the widow's son.
"He has not come."
"I am sorry for that. We will go up and see where he is. Ben, take the boat over to the flat rock."
"Ay, ay, sir."
The boys scampered over to the place of embarkation, followed by Captain Sedley.
"Frank, you may take Tony's place," said his father when they had reached the rock, "and I will steer."
Frank leaped into the bow of the boat, and took the boat-hook. Steadying her, he called the numbers, and the club all took their places in excellent order, and sat waiting for further commands.
"Very well, boys; your discipline is most excellent," said Captain Sedley. "Push off, Frank. Ready with the oars."
"Up oars!" said Uncle Ben, who stood on the rock.
The manoeuvre was executed with admirable precision.
"Shove off!" which was done by the bow and stroke oarsmen.
"Let fall!" said Ben.
The oars fell altogether on the water, and the boys shipped them.
"Give way together!" added Ben; and away went the Zephyr with the first stroke of the oars.
Captain Sedley steered up the lake in the direction of the widow Weston's cottage. The Zephyr darted like an arrow through the water, her sharp bow cutting the tiny waves like a knife, making a most musical ripple as it dashed a clear jet of white foam as high as the gunwale.
It was scarcely three minutes before Captain Sedley gave the command "Way enough!" The boat darted into a cove by the widow's house, and Frank and his father landed.
Tony, it seemed, wished to join the club; but his mother, fearful lest some of the boys should taunt him with the occurrences of the past few days, desired him to remain at home. Captain Sedley's request, however, was quite sufficient, and Tony followed Frank down to the boat.
"Three cheers for Tony Weston!" exclaimed Charles Hardy, as they came in sight.
The cheers were given, but Captain Sedley could not but question the motives of him who had proposed them.
"Now, Frank, you are coxswain again," said Captain Sedley. "You will do better than I can; for I am not posted on man-of-war-boat tactics, and Ben has trained you to naval discipline."
Tony took his place at the bow oar, and Frank in the stern-sheets. The former was received with sympathy and kindness by the club, and the poor boy felt how pleasant it was to have the good will of his companions in the midst of his trials.
"Up oars!" said Frank, when all was ready for a start. "Let fall! Give way!"
"Down the lake, Frank, towards the village," added Captain Sedley.
Again the beautiful Zephyr bounded over the waters; but after pulling a few minutes, Captain Sedley directed Frank to cease rowing.
"Boys, we are going to have a uniform for the club," said he.
"A uniform!" repeated several of the boys.
"Hurrah!" shouted Charles Hardy.
"I have already spoken to Mr. Burlap, the tailor; and now we are going down to have him take your measures."
"What will the uniform be, father?" asked Frank.
"White sailors' trousers, a blue jacket, and a white shirt trimmed with blue. The hat will be a tarpaulin, with 'Zephyr' in gilt letters on the front."
The boys all clapped their hands, as the only means in their power to express their gratification.
"Now pull for Rippleton."
"Stand by! Give way!"
The Zephyr parted the waters before her graceful bow, and sped like a rocket on her way. The beautiful boat excited a great deal of attention at the village; and when the boys returned from the tailor's, hundreds had collected on the bank to see them row.
Captain Sedley gratified the curiosity of the people by requiring Frank to exercise the club for some time near the spot where they stood. After a row across the lake, they returned, and the Zephyr was moored in her new house, much to the delight of her enthusiastic crew.
THE FIRST MEETING IN ZEPHYR HALL
In another fortnight the boat-house was entirely completed, furnished, and ready for the occupancy of the club. School had closed for the season, and the summer vacation had begun; but most of the boys, in anticipation of the pleasure which the boat club promised them, preferred to stay at home rather than go to the seashore or the mountains, or visit their friends at a distance.
Mr. Burlap, the tailor, had exerted himself to the utmost; and the new dress of the boat club was soon ready for use. The tarpaulins had been purchased and lettered, and the uniforms had been hung up in the little closets in the club-room of the boat-house. One was appropriated to each member, whose number was painted upon the door.
Uncle Ben had given the boys several extra lessons in rowing in the meantime, and the discipline of the club and the rowing were pronounced perfect. The first meeting in the new hall was appointed to take place on Monday morning, and punctually to the hour the members were all assembled.
The hall had been tastefully furnished and decorated, under the direction of Captain Sedley. On the floor was a very pretty carpet with bright colors; on the walls hung several large maps and engravings in frames, illustrative of various boat-scenes; and over the door leading to the boat-house proper was painted in blue letters,—
ZEPHYR BOAT CLUB.
On the window-curtains the name of the club was also painted. In the middle of the room was placed a long table, around which were arranged thirteen chairs for the members. The library cases were filled with books, which had been selected with great care by Mr. and Mrs. Sedley. On the table were placed various pamphlets and periodicals; and when the club assembled, Uncle Ben was there, seated in the coxswain's armchair, poring over the pages of the Sailor's Magazine.
The boys all came in and took their chairs, each of which was numbered; and Uncle Ben cheerfully resigned his place to the coxswain.
"Order!" said Frank, rapping on the table.
Captain Sedley had instructed Frank in some of the forms of conducting a public meeting; and the matter had been made the topic of conversation among the others, so that they had a tolerable idea of parliamentary usage. They were all enthusiastic and eager to learn; and some of them had attended a special town meeting a few days before, for the purpose, as they expressed it, of "seeing how the thing was done." And when Captain Sedley came in to breakfast on the morning of that eventful day, he found Frank intently perusing the pages of Cushing's "Manual."
When, therefore, the coxswain called the meeting to order, all noise and conversation immediately ceased; and the members of the club seemed determined to conduct themselves with more propriety than the "legal voters" of Rippleton had at the town meeting they had attended.
Frank, in the words of the newspaper reporters, "made a neat and appropriate speech," on the occasion of taking possession of the new hall. After this important matter had been disposed of, the coxswain remarked that the first business of the club would be to select a name for the hall.
"Mr. Chairman," said Charles Hardy, rising with the utmost gravity and decorum.
Uncle Ben laughed outright; but immediately apologized for his unseemly mirth, and fearful lest he should disturb the dignified body again, he withdrew from the hall, and busied himself in polishing up the brass work of the boat.
"Charles Hardy," said the young chairman, bowing to the member who had obtained the floor.
"I move that this hall, hereafter, henceforward, and for all time to come, be called Sedley Hall," said Charles, who, in the absence of any work on parliamentary tactics in his father's library, had carefully studied the "Business Man's Assistant," from which he had stored his memory with a variety of legal and technical phrases. He had the jingle of them in his head, and did not mind much about the substance.
Captain Sedley entered the hall just as he made his motion.
"Second the motion," said Fred Harper.
"It is moved and seconded that this room be called Sedley Hall," continued the coxswain, rising from the chair. "The question is open for discussion."
"Mr. Chairman," said Captain Sedley, scarcely able to control his inclination to indulge in a hearty laugh at the dignity and formality of the proceedings, "though not, strictly speaking, a member of the club, perhaps you will indulge me in a few remarks on the question before the house. I am very grateful to you for the honor to my name and family which is contemplated by the excellent member on the other side of the table; but for reasons of my own, I must beg the gentleman to withdraw his motion."
"He cannot withdraw without the consent of the house—of the club, I mean," said Frank, blushing at his blunder.
"It is customary when no objection is made," replied Captain Sedley gravely, "to permit a motion to be withdrawn."
"Mr. Chairman," said Charles, rising, "for the obvious reasons mentioned by the honorable and distinguished gentleman, I withdraw my motion."
At the risk of disturbing the dignity of the meeting, Captain Sedley remarked that he had stated no reasons.
"I move that the room be called Zephyr Hall," said Tony Weston.
"Second the motion," said Charles.
Frank stated the question, and observed that it was open for any remarks. But the members, not feeling disposed to indulge in any flights of eloquence before Captain Sedley, maintained an obstinate silence for full five minutes. The chairman, impressed with the idea that some speeches must be made, anyhow, did not interrupt the dignified quiet by putting the question.
At last the silence was broken by a hearty laugh on the part of Captain Sedley.
"Why don't you put the question, Frank?" asked he.
"The debate has not taken place yet."
"There are some questions which it is not necessary to debate."
"Question!" said Fred Harper, who had been to town meeting.
"Those in favor of calling the room Zephyr Hall, please manifest it by raising the right hand."
"All up!" cried Fred Harper.
"It is a unanimous vote," added the chairman.
"Let the clerk record the vote," whispered Captain Sedley to his son.
"We have no clerk yet."
"Doing business without a clerk!" laughed his father.
"The next business will be to choose a clerk," continued Frank, laughing. "Please to bring in your ballots for a clerk."
There were paper and pens at the other end of the table; and Fred Harper, who seemed to have a very good idea of "the manner in which the public business is transacted," commenced writing votes. In a few moments they were all supplied.
"I move that a committee of three be appointed by the chair to collect, sort, and count the votes, and report to the meeting," said Fred.
"Second the motion," added Tom Greene.
The motion was put and carried.
"The chair appoints Frederic Harper, Thomas Greene, and Mark Leman."
The votes were collected and reported.
"Whole number of votes, thirteen," repeated Frank; "necessary for a choice, seven; Frederic Harper has one; Anthony Weston has twelve, and is elected."
Captain Sedley clapped his hands at this evidence of good will on the part of the members, and the club all joined heartily in the demonstration. Three days before, the grand jury had found a bill against Tony; but his friends still continued to regard and treat him as an innocent person.
"I thank you for your kindness," said Tony, rising; "I am sure, I—" but the poor fellow choked up, and could say no more.
His heart was full, and the great tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Never mind it, Tony; here is the record-book," said Fred Harper, taking it from the library case.
Tony wiped away his tears, and seated himself at the foot of the table, where a small desk had been placed for the use of the clerk.
"Mr. Chairman," said Charles Hardy.
Frank nodded to him to indicate that he had the floor.
"I move that a committee of three be appointed to draft and report a constitution for the club."
"Second the motion," added Sam Harper.
The motion prevailed. Charles Hardy, Tony Weston, and Fred Harper were nominated "at large," and chosen to serve on this committee. Leaving the hall, they retired to the boat-room for deliberation; but the constitution had already been prepared by Frank and Charles, with the assistance of Captain Sedley. To make the business look more important and dignified, Charles insisted on remaining out a few moments, during which time they talked over the matter with Uncle Ben.
When they returned, the constitution was duly reported, and adopted article by article.
Perhaps my young readers would not readily appreciate the moral of my story without reading this important document; therefore I add, in full, the
This association shall be called the Zephyr Boat Club.
The objects of the association shall be the instruction and amusement of the members, and the acquiring of good morals, good manners, and good habits in general.
The officers of the club shall consist of a coxswain, as president, and a clerk.
It shall be the duty of the coxswain to command the boat, to preside at the meetings of the club, and to exercise a general supervision over its affairs. He shall hold his office for two weeks.
The clerk shall keep a record of the meetings, and of all business pertaining to the club, and shall hold his office for four weeks.
No member of this club shall use profane language at any time. No member shall neglect his school, or his duties at home. No member shall use vulgar or indecent language. No member shall provoke a quarrel with another person, but shall do all he can to prevent fighting and unkindly feelings one towards another. No member shall use tobacco, or ardent spirits as a beverage, in any form. All members shall obey the coxswain while in the boat. Any member offending against either of the requirements of this article shall be liable to suspension, and if incorrigible, to expulsion from the club.
In order the more perfectly to carry out the beneficent and reformatory purposes of the founder of the club, to whose bounty we are indebted for the opportunities of instruction and amusement the association affords us, we appoint him our Director. All violations of Article VI., and all violations of the spirit of our organization set forth in Article II., whether in word or in deed, shall be reported to our Director, and the delinquent shall be subject to such penalty as he shall determine.
The hall and library shall be open every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, at such other times as the Director or coxswain may order, and every evening except Sunday till nine o'clock.
This constitution may be altered or amended by a vote of two-thirds of the members.
This constitution was transferred to the record book, and duly signed. Some other business was transacted, and the meeting adjourned.
"Put on your uniforms," said Frank, as he rose from his chair, "and we will make our first appearance."
"At twelve o'clock there will be a collation ready for you on Centre Island, to which you are all invited," said Captain Sedley.
"Hurrah!" shouted Charles Hardy, as he rushed into the boat-room.
The appearance of the Zephyr Club in uniform was unique and pleasing, and each of the members was "every inch a sailor." Uncle Ben was delighted with the change; "they looked so much more shipshape than in their shore togs."
"Come, Uncle Ben, we are all ready," said Frank.
"I arn't goin' with you this time."
"You must go without him to-day, Frank," added Captain Sedley. "Uncle Ben must take the things over to the island for the collation."
"Are we to go alone?"
"Hurrah!" cried Charles, who always used this word to express his gratification.
"But, boys, you must preserve good discipline. According to the constitution you must all obey the coxswain. And, Frank, be very careful; don't get aground on the rocks at the north shore, and if you go down the river, don't go too near the dam."
"I will not, father," replied Frank, who was fully impressed by the responsibility of his position as commander of the Zephyr. "Take your places in the boat. Tony, number them."
The doors which gave egress from the boat-house to the lake were thrown open by Uncle Ben.
"Now, back her steady," continued Frank, standing up in the stern-sheets. "Don't let her rub, Tony. Steady; one hard push; now she goes;" and the Zephyr shot out into the lake.
"The flags, Frank," said Charles.
"Ay, ay; Tony, hoist yours;" and at the same time Frank raised the American flag at the stern.
"Ready; now for the oars. Up oars!"
"Give way together!"
Frank felt like a prince as the Zephyr darted away.
"Where are you going, Frank?" asked Charles.
"I don't know; anywhere that the club wish to go."
"Up to Squaw Rock," suggested one.
"Down to Rippleton," said another.
"Over to the sawmill," added a third.
"Way enough!" cried Frank. "Lay on your oars, and we will decide it."
"What do you say to circumnavigating the lake?" said Fred Harper.
"So I say," cried several.
"Those in favor of going round the lake say 'Ay.'"
"Ay," shouted a large majority.
"Round it is," said Frank. "Give way!"
Taking a course in the direction of Rippleton village, Frank kept the boat as near the shore as her safety would permit. The boys rowed with remarkable precision, but with a very slow and measured stroke, so as to reserve their strength for the long pull before them.
"I wonder where the Bunkers are," said Charles.
"They haven't been seen on their raft for several days."
"I suppose they got sick of it when they saw the Zephyr," suggested Fred Harper.
"Very likely; their old raft didn't look much like our craft when we went round them the other day," added Mark Leman.
Charles laughed at the contrast.
"What do you say to landing at Rippleton?" suggested he, as they approached the outlet of the lake.
"What for?" asked Frank.
"They haven't seen our new uniform down here," replied Charles.
"I think we had better not," said the coxswain.
"Why not, Frank? Let us march through the streets, and get up a sensation."
"I would rather not. Some accident might happen to the boat while we are gone."
"Suppose the Bunkers should happen to see it?" suggested Frank.
"They wouldn't dare to touch it," replied Charles.
"I am afraid they would."
"If I were coxswain, I would let you land," said Charles sulkily.
"That isn't fair," said Tony.
"Humph!" sneered Charles.
"Don't get cross, Charley," interposed Frank.
"Who's cross?" said Charles, throwing down his oar.
"Mutiny!" laughed Fred Harper.
"Well, I ain't a-going to be snubbed round in that way."
"Charley, I haven't said a word that you need take offence at," said Frank in a conciliatory tone.
"That he hasn't," interposed several.
"Yes, you have; and you needn't think you are going to tyrannize over me in that way," persisted Hardy.
"Pull steady," said Frank calmly, as he put the helm hard up.
The boat came round in a graceful circle; and to the surprise of all, the coxswain headed her directly for the boat-house.
"I thought you were going round the lake," said Sam Harper.
"Not now," replied Frank quietly.
The boys pulled in silence for several minutes, and Charles Hardy leaned over the gunwale and moodily watched the ripples on the side of the boat. He was conscious that he was introducing dissension into the club; but it seemed to him that Frank was ill-natured in not gratifying him when he proposed to land at Rippleton.
The Zephyr was rapidly approaching the boat-house, and Frank was sweeping her round so as to run her into the slip. The consequences of his behavior occurred to him. The provisions of article six of the constitution, and the penalty, came to his mind with appalling force. His conduct would be immediately reported to the Director, and probably he would be suspended, or expelled from the club. He could not bear to think of such a thing.
The boat in a minute more would shoot into the boat-house, and it would be too late to apologize. He could not endure the idea of "giving up," and owning that he was in the wrong, but to be suspended or expelled was a more bitter reflection.
"Frank," said he in a gentle, insinuating tone.
"Way enough!" cried the coxswain promptly. "Stern all!"
"Forgive me, Frank," said the rebellious oarsman.
"You are rather late, Charley; but better late than never. We are almost into the boat-house."
"I won't give you any more trouble, I solemnly promise it, if you won't say anything about it this time."
"According to the constitution your conduct must be reported."
"Let him slide this time," interposed Fred Harper.
"I freely forgive the offence, so far as I am concerned."
"Your father won't say anything."
"He must know it," insisted Frank firmly.
"What is the matter, boys?" called Captain Sedley from the shore.
"Now we are in for it!" added Fred.
Charles Hardy hung his head with shame. Gladly would he have recalled his hasty words of anger, but it was too late. They had been spoken, and he must abide the consequences.
"Give way!" said Frank sadly, for he would fain have avoided the explanation which his father demanded.
The oarsmen pulled, and the boat was run into the house.
"Keep your places," said Frank, as he leaped out of the boat, and hastened to meet his father.
Captain Sedley was much astonished when he heard the story of Charles's sulkiness, and insisted that he should come ashore; but Frank pleaded for him, and the Director finally consented, as it was the first offence under the new constitution, to pardon it.
Frank, delighted with his success, returned to the boat. Giving the necessary orders, the Zephyr shot out from her berth; and he steered, as before, towards Rippleton. Charles was deeply mortified when he reflected upon his quarrelsome behavior, and mentally resolved never to be guilty of such conduct again. But he was anxious to know what disposition Captain Sedley had made of his case, and whether he should be held to answer for his disobedience when they went ashore. He did not like to say anything about it, though, at first; but after more reflection, his better nature overcame his pride.
"Frank," said he with a smile.
"I am sorry for what I did."
"I knew you were; and for that reason I begged my father to excuse it, and have nothing more said about it."
"You are too generous, Frank; I don't deserve it of you."
"It was an offence against the club more than against me," replied Frank. "I am glad you think better of it."
"I never will do it again."
"I hope not, Charley. You know the constitution provides for a new coxswain every two weeks; when you are chosen, I shall obey your orders."
"I don't deserve to be coxswain."
"Well, never mind it. It is all right now."
Good feeling was again restored, and the boys once more began to enjoy themselves. The Zephyr worked admirably, and Frank deported himself with so much dignity and firmness that the boys rendered the most unqualified obedience to all his orders. But he was not tyrannical nor overbearing. When there was a difference of opinion, he was always ready to yield his own inclination to the wishes of the majority.
The boat passed round the lower end of the lake, and was approaching its upper extremity.
"What's that?" exclaimed Frank, rising from his seat, as he discovered a boat lying near the shore full of boys.
"Way enough!" said he.
"It is the Bunkers!" exclaimed Tony. "I see Tim in the stern."
"It is Joe Braman's boat," added Fred Harper. "Here they come."
"Twig the flags!" cried Charles Hardy.
"In imitation of the Zephyr," said Frank, laughing heartily.
The boat approached near enough for them to examine her. It was, as Fred had declared, Joe Braman's boat; but she had been very much altered. Apparently she had been sawed in two and lengthened out. She had been painted bright yellow, with a red streak round her; and on the bows, after the manner of the Zephyr, was inscribed, in black letters, the name "Thunderbolt," which was in accordance with Tim Bunker's taste. She was pulled by eight oars, and the redoubtable leader of the gang sat in the stern-sheets as coxswain. Forward floated a blue cotton rag, with the letter "T" daubed upon it in white paint, and surrounded by half a dozen ill-shaped stars. At the stern was a ragged piece of bunting, which had once been the flag of the Republic, but which had been curtailed of nine of its stripes and a part of its stars.
The Bunkers evidently had not practised rowing much; for their stroke was irregular, and they splashed the water about like so many porpoises. Occasionally one of them got hit in the back by his neighbor's oar, which produced a great deal of swearing and wrangling among them. They made but slow progress through the water, and the Zephyrs could scarcely refrain from laughing at the singular spectacle.
Joe Braman, the alleged proprietor of the Thunderbolt, was an idle, dissolute fellow, who employed his time in gunning, fishing, and loitering about the dramshops of Rippleton. He lived on the north shore. How he obtained his living, it would have been difficult to determine.
Tim Bunker was an especial favorite with Braman, and people said it was because there was a natural sympathy between them. Joe's boat was a long, flat-bottomed affair, not very graceful in its form or construction. With the exception of Captain Sedley's sailboat and the club boat, it was, perhaps, the only boat on the lake; and small parties occasionally engaged Joe to take them out fishing in it.
The history of its present appearance was sufficiently plain to the Zephyrs. It had been lengthened out, a sharp, false bow attached to it, painted, and such other improvements made as would fit it for the purposes of a club boat.
"Isn't she one of the boats?" laughed Charles.
"Silence, forward!" said Frank, shaking his head as a gesture of warning to the boys not to provoke any ill nature.
"Who yer lookin' at?" cried Tim Bunker, as the Thunderbolt came near the Zephyr.
"Good-morning, Tim," said Frank pleasantly.
"Why don't yer pull, yer lubbers?" shouted Tim.
"You have a new boat, I see."
"I'll bet we have," replied Tim, bringing the Thunderbolt round the stern of the Zephyr.
"Isn't that Joe Braman's boat?" asked Charles.
"No, sir-ee! It's my boat," answered Tim.
"Did you buy it off him?"
"Didn't do nothin' else."
"What did you give?"
"Ten dollars, and five for fixin' her up," replied Tim with a great deal of importance.
"She looks very well," continued Charles.
"She'll go some, you better believe."
Tony Weston could not help smiling at this conversation, and Tim Bunker unfortunately perceived the funny expression on his face. It roused his anger.
"Who stole the wallet?" said he.
This taunt roused a feeling of indignation in the soul of Fred Harper; and he so far forgot the requirements of the constitution as to reply,—
"Le's lick 'em," said one of the Bunkers.
"Give way!" exclaimed Frank with energy, when he saw the storm brewing.
Mindful of the discipline of the club, every member obeyed the order, and the Zephyr darted away from the belligerent Thunderbolts.
"Pooh! Frank, I wouldn't run away from them," said Charles.
"I have no desire to quarrel with such fellows," replied Frank; "and I hope none of you will say anything to provoke them. That was very thoughtless of you, Fred."
"I know it; but somehow I couldn't help it; the taunt was so mean and contemptible. If I had been on shore, I should have knocked him over."
"Article six," said Frank.
"Here they come after us," added Tony.
The boys all laughed involuntarily at the idea of the old "gundelow," as Fred called it, chasing them.
"They can't catch us," continued Frank.
"I guess not," said Charles.
"But I am sorry we provoked them, for I had a little plan in my head."
"What is it, Frank?"
"Way enough! Never mind it now; we are a quarter of a mile from them, and we can easily keep out of their way."
"Frank, we are running too near the shore," interposed Tony. "The water is shoal here, you know."
"Stern all! Give way!" exclaimed the coxswain. "I was watching the Bunkers so closely that I did not mind where we were going."
But it was too late. The Zephyr had not lost her headway, and darted forward, burying her keel in the mud-bank at the bottom of the lake, off the mouth of a brook.
"By gracious!" exclaimed Charles Hardy; "we are in for it now."
"And the Bunkers are upon us," added Frank, very much perplexed by the difficulties which suddenly surrounded them.
"What shall be done?" asked Tony.
"Let them come on," replied Fred. "We can't get rid of them now."
"I don't want to fight with them," added Frank.
The Thunderbolt was approaching them, not very rapidly, it was true; but a few minutes would involve them in a quarrel, which Frank and a large majority of the club were very anxious to avoid. Tim Bunker was standing up in the stern-sheets of his boat, watching them with malignant interest.
"Hurrah! they are aground!" cried Tim, as soon as he understood the nature of the calamity which had befallen the Zephyr. "We have them now; they can't run away, the cowardly long faces!"
"Come aft, some of you," said Frank, when he heard these threatening words. "The water is deep enough under the stern. We have only run into a mud-bank."
On the starboard side of the boat there was plenty of water, and if they could move her back a rod they could easily escape.
The boys obeyed the order of the coxswain; but the Zephyr had been forced so deeply into the mud that her bow still stuck fast.
"Half a dozen of you set your oars in the mud, and push!" continued Frank, highly excited by the danger that menaced them.
But it was of no use, they could not start her.
"They are upon us," said Tony.
"What shall we do?" asked Frank, sadly perplexed.
"We must fight," said Fred.
"No; I am not willing to do that."
"Shall we sit here and let them pound us as much as they have a mind to?" demanded Fred. "But you are coxswain, Frank; and I, for one, shall do just what you say."
"So shall I!" said another.
And so they all said.
Frank was more and more embarrassed as the circumstances multiplied the difficulties around him. He was charged with the direction of the whole club, and the responsibility of his position rested heavily upon his mind. He had been taught at the fireside of his pious home to avoid a quarrel at almost any sacrifice; and he was painfully conscious that the indiscreet words of Fred Harper had provoked the anger of the Bunkers. Poor fellow! What could he do? He was not willing to order them to fight, even in self-defence; and he knew that their foes would whip them severely if they did not. The Thunderbolt was within a few rods of them, and five minutes more would decide the question.
"We are in a bad fix!" said Charles nervously. "What are you going to do, Frank?"
"Tony, take your boat-hook, and see how deep the water is on the mud-bank."
"Only about a foot," replied Tony, as he obeyed the order.
"Is the mud deep?"
"Not very," replied Tony, pushing the boat-hook down.
"I want two volunteers," said Frank hurriedly.
"I!" cried Tony.
"I!" repeated half a dozen others.
"Tony and Fred, roll up your trousers, and jump into the water. You can easily push her off."
"Agreed!" cried the two volunteers, as they hastened to execute the order.
"Six of you take your oars; back her as they push; the other four stay in the stern-sheets to settle her down aft."
"Ay, ay!" exclaimed the boys.
"Now for it! Stern all! Give way!"
The effect was instantly perceived; the boat was moved back about a foot.
"Once more, all together!" said Frank.
Another effort backed her about two feet more, and the case began to look hopeful.
"Again, quick! they are upon us! Leap in, Tony and Fred, when she is free."
"Heave again!" said Tony.
Their exertions were now crowned with entire success, and the Zephyr darted back into deep water; but an unfortunate occurrence rendered all their labor futile. As the boat slid off the mud-bank, Tony and Fred, in their attempt to spring on board, embarrassed each other's movements, so that the former lost his hold, and remained standing in the mud and water.
At this instant the Thunderbolt reached the spot; and Tim steered directly for poor Tony, whose situation he discovered the moment the Zephyr was free.
"Hit him!" screamed Tim. "Pound him with yer oars! Drownd him!"
Frank's blood seemed to freeze in his veins, as he perceived the imminent peril of his friend. He knew the Bunkers would not spare him, and that his life was even in danger.
Fortunately the Thunderbolt grounded, or Tony would inevitably have been borne under her bottom. Tim seized an oar, and with the ferocity of a madman sprang forward to execute his vengeance on the helpless boy.
"Let him alone!" shouted Frank with frantic earnestness. "Up oars! Let fall! Give way!"
Frank was fully roused, and his orders were delivered with rapidity and energy. Seizing the tiller-ropes, he steered the boat as she gathered headway, so that her sharp bow struck the Thunderbolt on her broadside, staving in her gunwale, and upsetting her.
The Bunkers thought this was rather sharp practice, as they floundered about in the water. They had not given Frank Sedley credit for half so much determination. They had never seen anything in him that indicated "grit" before. He was a peaceable boy, always avoiding a quarrel; but when the very life of his friend was in peril, he was found to be as bold and courageous as the best of them.
The bow of the Zephyr was swung round so that Tony could get in. Washing off the mud from his legs, he adjusted his trousers.
In the meantime the Bunkers had righted their boat, and resumed their places. The bath they had had quite cooled their belligerent heat; though, if it had not, Frank had taken the precaution to back the Zephyr out of their reach.
"You'll catch it for this!" exclaimed Tim Bunker, as his crew were bailing out the Thunderbolt with their hats.
"I am sorry for what has happened, Tim," replied Frank, "but I could not help it."
"Couldn't help it, yer——" I will not soil the pages of my book by writing the expression that Tim made use of. "Yes, yer could help it. What d'yer run inter me for?"
"You threatened to drown Tony, and if your boat had not got aground you would have run him down."
"That I would, long face! If ever I catch either of yer, I will lick yer within an inch of yer life—mind that!"
"I am sorry for it, Tim."
"Yer lie, yer ain't!"
"It was all my fault, Tim," interposed Fred; "and I will pay for the damage done your boat."
"I guess yer better."
"How much will you take, and call it square?"
"Dollar and a half," growled Tim, glancing at the fractured gunwale.
Fred had not so much money with him, but the sum was immediately raised in the club.
"Now, Tim, we will forgive and forget; what do you say?" asked Fred.
"I don't want nothin' on yer; give me the money, and I don't care what yer do."
Frank ordered the crew to pull up to the Thunderbolt, and Fred handed Tim the money.
"I'll pay yer for this; see 'f I don't," said the unforgiving Bunker as the Zephyr backed away.
Frank Sedley was very much disturbed by the events of the forenoon. His conscience assured him, however, that he had done nothing wrong. He had not tried to provoke a quarrel with the Bunkers, and the unpleasant occurrences of the past hour were wholly owing to their misfortune in getting aground. He would not have been justified, he felt, in leaving Tony at the mercy of his relentless foes.
Fred Harper had done wrong in replying to the taunt of Tim, and this would make a case for the decision of their Director.
"We must keep away from them hereafter," said he, as the Zephyr came about, and the crew gave way again.
"That will be the best way," added Tony.
"So I think," said Charles; "we shall be all the time getting into scrapes if we go near them."
"We can go near them without meddling," interposed Fred Harper.
"But, Fred, you remember what made all the fuss."
"It was my fault, I know."
"I don't want to be hard with you while I am coxswain; but if any member says or does anything while we are on the lake to get us into a scrape, I shall consider it my duty to land him immediately at the boat-house. What do you say to that?"
No boy spoke for a moment; but at last Tony said,—
"That would be perfectly fair."
"I want to have it understood," continued Frank. "My father will not let us come out alone again if we are likely to have such a time as this has been."
"Why need you tell him anything about it, Frank?" asked Charles.
"Because it is right that he should know it. Suppose we should conceal it, and then he should find it out?"
"That would only make a bad matter worse," replied Tony.
"For one, I am satisfied to have any fellow that tries to get us into a scrape put ashore," said Fred Harper.
"So am I," added Tony.
All the rest of the club expressed themselves willing to comply with this arrangement.
"Now, be careful, all of you," continued Frank, "and we shall have no more trouble."
"But while the Bunkers are on the lake, we can't help meeting them," said Sam Harper.
"We need not say anything to them."
"But that would not be civil."
"We can answer them kindly if they say anything to us," replied Phil Barker.
"They won't forget the smash-up," suggested Mark Leman.
"We can easily keep out of their way," added Fred.
"Where are you going now, Frank?" asked Charles Hardy.
"Isn't it almost twelve?" inquired the coxswain.
"Half-past eleven," returned Fred Harper, who carried a watch. "You said you had a plan, Frank."
"I was thinking of asking Mrs. Weston and Mary to take a sail with us."
"Good!" replied half a dozen voices.
"We will take them over to the island."
The proposition was agreed to, and Frank steered the boat into the little cove near the widow Weston's cottage.
"Tony and Charles shall be a committee to go and invite them," said Frank, as the bow of the Zephyr touched the land.
The two jumped ashore to discharge the duty assigned them.
"Where's the Thunderbolt?" asked Fred, rising from his seat.
"There she goes over to the north shore."
"Putting in to repair damages."
"Where do you suppose Tim got the money to buy that boat with?" asked Fred, looking seriously at Frank.
"I don't know," replied the latter; but a gleam of intelligence penetrated his mind. "I hadn't thought of it before."
"I don't know either, but I can guess," said Fred.
"You might guess wrong."
"Fifteen dollars is a great deal of money for a boy like him to have. His father works in one of the mills at Rippleton."
"Here comes Tony with his sister!"
"Where is your mother, Tony?"
"She couldn't go, but she said Mary might."
"Stop a moment, Tony, and we will bring the stern round by that rock," said Frank. "Stern all! Give way! Way enough! That will do; now pull on the larboard and back the starboard oars. Give way!"
The stern of the Zephyr came up to the rock, and the gallant coxswain assisted Mary to a seat by his side. Tony and Charles resumed their places at the oars.
"How pretty your boat is!" exclaimed Mary, delighted with the appearance of the Zephyr.
"Very pretty indeed. Give way!"
"But won't it tip over?" cried Mary, as the boat darted out of the cove.
"Oh, no; there is not the least danger."
"And you guide it with those strings?" asked the wondering girl.
"Yes; they are fastened to that crosspiece, you see; and when I pull them, it moves the rudder."
"What is the rudder, Frank?"
"You can see only the upper end of it; but it is a flat piece of wood, which acts upon the water, and turns the boat," replied the obliging coxswain, illustrating his explanation by means of his hands.
"Oh, my! how swift it goes!"
"Not very fast now."
"Why, it goes like a racehorse."
The boys smiled at Mary's enthusiasm.
"Let her drive a little, Frank," suggested Fred Harper.
Frank commenced swaying his body back and forth, increasing in rapidity till the boys put forth their utmost exertion. Mary held on to the gunwale of the boat, as her speed augmented, and she seemed almost to fly through the water.
"Isn't it beautiful!" exclaimed Mary.
Frank was so intent upon the movements of the excited crew that he scarcely noticed they had nearly reached the north shore.
"Way enough!" said he.
"I should think they would be very tired," added Mary.
"Perhaps they are; we came over very quick; the distance is more than a mile."
"Twig the Bunkers!" said Charles.
The Zephyr was within a short distance of the landing in front of Joe Braman's house. The Thunderbolt had just put in there, and as they approached Joe and Tim were examining the nature of the damages the boat had sustained.
"What does he say, Tony?" asked Fred.
"He says he can easily fix it."
"Give way!" said Frank, giving the rowers slow time.
Steering the boat round by Joe Braman's landing, they saw Joe go into the house, and return with a hammer and some nails, with which he proceeded to nail a piece of board over the fracture in the side of the Thunderbolt.
"I can't fix it any better to-day; I'm going to Boston in the two-o'clock train."
"Will that hold?" asked Tim.
"Yes; she won't leak. Now just row me over to Rippleton."
"There is the villains of long faces," said Tim, pointing at the Zephyr. "Jump in, fellers, and just throw some of them stones into the boat. We'll give it to 'em yet."
"Joe's going to Boston," said Fred.
"So he says."
The Bunkers threw the stones into their boat, and then got in themselves. In imitation of the discipline of the Zephyr, the oars were first placed in a perpendicular position, and then dropped into the water.
"Pull," said Tim, steering directly towards the Zephyr.
"Most twelve," suggested Fred Harper, with a significant glance at Frank.
"Give way!" replied the latter, smiling.
"Want to race?" shouted Tim.
"With the greatest pleasure."
"Come alongside, then, and we will take a fair start."
"No, you don't!" said Frank in a low tone, apprehending an attack from his quarrelsome rival. "I will give you twenty rods the start," continued he aloud.
"You darssent come," sneered Tim.
Joe Braman was seen to speak to Tim, and instantly the Thunderbolt was headed towards the Zephyr.
"Pull with all your might!" cried Tim Bunker.
"Drive 'em into that 'ere cove, and then you can fix 'em," said Joe.
But Frank gave the cove a "wide berth." A very little exertion on the part of the club was sufficient to keep them out of the reach of the Bunkers, and they continued their course leisurely towards Centre Island.
Joe Braman saw that the chase was hopeless; and at his suggestion the Thunderbolt abandoned the pursuit, and steered towards Rippleton.
"Those are dreadful bad boys," said Mary Weston, when, to her intense relief, she saw them give up the chase.
"That they are; but our boat is so much swifter than theirs that we can easily keep out of their way."
"Do you suppose they really meant to stone you?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"Nearly twelve," said Fred Harper, looking at his watch.
"Give way, my lads; we will be there in time."
The clock on the distant church was striking twelve when they touched at the island. The Zephyr was turned round and backed in shore, so that Mary could land conveniently.
"How do you do, Mary? I am glad to see you," said Captain Sedley, as he helped her on shore. "And, Frank, your mother is coming over. The wind was so light, we could not sail. Will you row her over?"
"Oh, yes, father."
"I suppose you are more ready and willing than the boys who pull the boat."
"We are all ready and willing," shouted the boys.
"Hurrah! so we are," added Charles Hardy.
"She is waiting in the boat-house."
The Zephyr pushed off again, and in a very few minutes returned with Mrs. Sedley as passenger. Frank was delighted to show his mother how skilful the club had become, and she was much pleased with her excursion.
Uncle Ben secured the boat to a tree, and the boys all landed. Everything was ready for their reception. The table, which was covered with every description of "nice things," was laid under the shade of a tall oak in the miniature forest.
Captain Sedley sat at one end, and Uncle Ben at the other. Mrs. Sedley and Mary were on the right. The Director prefaced the entertainment with a few remarks, and then invited them to do justice to the feast that was set before them.
"All ready!" exclaimed Captain Sedley with a loud voice.
The boys all wondered what made him speak so very loud; and Frank perceived a mysterious smile on the lips of his mother, and he was quite sure it meant something.
Suddenly, and to the intense surprise of all the boys, a band, which had been stationed in the grove near them, struck up "Hail Columbia."
"Hurrah!" cried Charles Hardy in a burst of enthusiastic delight.
The music was an unexpected treat; and as the Rippleton Brass Band poured forth its most inspiring strains, there were no bounds to the delight of the boys. But the music did not prevent their doing ample justice to the viands set before them.
After the collation was finished, Frank told his father all the circumstances of their morning excursion. Captain Sedley did not blame Fred very much for the taunt he had used, considering the provocation. He was satisfied that the boat club organization would correct such indiscretions in due time. He decided, however, that Fred should submit to some penalty, to be affixed at another time, and that Frank was right in not leaving Tony at the mercy of the Bunkers.
Frank continued his story, and incidentally remarked that the Bunkers had just rowed Joe Braman to Rippleton, where he intended to take the cars for Boston.
Captain Sedley mused a moment.
"The cars start at two o'clock," said he, consulting his watch. "Boys, I must go to Boston, and you must row me down to the village as quickly as you can."
"Zephyrs, ahoy!" shouted Frank.
The club were in their seats in a moment, and the Zephyr darted away towards Rippleton.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF WOOD LAKE
Captain Sedley reached the depot just in time to take the two-o'clock train; and the club returned to Centre Island, where another hour was spent very pleasantly in listening to the music of the band, and in such amusements as the ingenuity of boys can devise.
But at last they grew tired of the land. The beautiful Zephyr, resting so lightly and gracefully on the water, seemed to invite them to more congenial sports.
"Mother, won't you let us row you round the lake?" asked Frank. "We want to go on an exploring voyage."
"With pleasure; but the band is engaged for all the afternoon."
"Can't we take them in the boat?"
"I'm afraid it is not large enough; there are thirteen musicians."
"That would be first-rate—music on the water!" exclaimed Charles Hardy.
"What do you think, Uncle Ben?" asked Mrs. Sedley.
"I don't think it would be safe, marm."
"I am afraid not."
"Oh, yes, it would!" cried Charles, disappointed at the thought of resigning the plan.
"There is not room enough in the Zephyr for them. But there's a little breeze springing up, and I'll take them in the sailboat."
"That will do just as well," replied Mrs. Sedley.
"But you can't keep up with us, Uncle Ben," said Charles.
"Then you must go slower."
"Zephyrs, ahoy!" cried Frank.
The club hastened to the boat, and seated themselves. The musicians found ample room in the large sailboat.
"Stop a minute, mother, till we go about and bring the stern in shore," said Frank, as he gave the word to elevate the oars.
Uncle Ben and his party had already got under way, and the band commenced playing "Wood Up," as the sailboat slowly gathered headway.
The Zephyr backed in, and Mrs. Sedley and Mary Weston were assisted to their seats by the gallant young coxswain.
"Give way!" said Frank; and the club boat shot out from the land.
"How fine the music sounds on the water!" said Mary.
"Beautiful," replied Mrs. Sedley. "I am sorry your mother is not with us, Mary."
"She could not come before dinner."
"Would she join us now, do you think?"
"I guess she would."
"We can go and see, at any rate," said Frank. "Uncle Ben is steering that way."
"Do, Frank; I have something I wish to say to her."
"Bunkers!" exclaimed Fred Harper.
"Coming up from Rippleton."
"I hope they will keep away from us," added Frank, whose forenoon experience was still remembered.
"They will want to hear the music."
"You must keep near Uncle Ben, Frank."
The Zephyr was rapidly approaching the Sylph, as the sailboat was called.
"I wish they would play 'Old Folks at Home,'" said Charles.
"We can ask them to do so."
Suddenly Frank stood up in his place.
"Way enough!" said he with a smile.
"What are you going to do?" asked his mother.
"I am going to execute a manoeuvre; and, boys, I want you to be prompt in your movements."
"Ay, ay!" shouted the club.
"Now, then, give way!"
Frank swayed his body for a few moments with great rapidity, and of course the stroke of the rowers corresponded to his motions. The Zephyr darted forward with a speed which surprised Mrs. Sedley.
"Way enough!" cried Frank, when the boat came within a few rods of the Sylph.
"Be careful, my son; you will run against her," interposed Mrs. Sedley, as she involuntarily grasped the gunwale of the boat.
The dripping oars were all extended at the same height from the water, at the command of the coxswain.
"Up oars!" continued he.
"You will certainly run against them, Frank," repeated Mrs. Sedley. "Pray don't be careless."
"There is nothing to fear, mother."
Indeed, the Zephyr was approaching fearfully near the Sylph, and even Uncle Ben began to feel a little uneasy.
"Port your helm, Frank!" shouted the veteran.
"Keep her steady, Uncle Ben."
Frank, looking through the two rows of perpendicular oars, steered the Zephyr alongside her companion, and passed within a very few inches of her.
"Play 'Old Folks at Home,' if you please," said he, as the boat darted by the sluggish Sylph.
"That was a little too close, my son," said Mrs. Sedley.
"We are perfectly safe, mother, are we not?"
"We are; but, Frank, you should never expose yourself, and especially not others, to needless peril."
"We were in no danger."
"I think you were."
"The Zephyr is under perfect control; she feels the slightest turn of the rudder."
"Suppose Uncle Ben's boat had swerved a little from her course?"
"There was no fear of that."
"You do not know. If it had, we might have been drowned, many of us at least."
Frank looked serious.
"Ask Uncle Ben what he thinks about it."
"Let fall," said Frank.
The boys began to pull again, and the coxswain steered so as to bring the Zephyr in a circle round the Sylph.
"Now we will keep alongside, but at a safe distance," said he, as he laid her course parallel with that of his companion.
The band was preparing to play the tune which Frank had requested. The Sylph was making very good progress through the water, and the rowers kept pulling with a very slow stroke.
"You were careless, Frank," said Uncle Ben, when the band stopped playing.
"Do you think so, Uncle Ben?"
"Very careless; in the navy they would have put you in irons for it. There arn't no need of risking the lives of your crew in that way. If it had been to save the life of a feller-creter, or anything of that sort, there would have been some sense in it."
"I didn't think there was any danger," returned Frank, not a little troubled by the veteran's censure.
"I'm sailin' right afore the wind, you see, and the boat swings fore and aft, like a French dancing-master. If she had a swayed only a leetle grain, we might all have gone to the bottom."
"I never will be so careless again."
"You were all-fired careless, Frank," said Charles Hardy.
Fred Harper could not help turning round and looking the speaker full in the face to reprove him for his interference.
Frank felt the rebuke of his friend, and was not a little hurt by the reproach, coming as it did from one whom he had used with so much lenity—for whom he had so strenuously interceded with his father.
"Hush up! Charley," said Fred in a low tone. "Don't you know any better than that?"
The band now struck up "Old Folks at Home."
"Let us sing," said Frank.
"So I say," replied Tony.
"Wait till they come to the chorus," added Fred.
At the right moment the boys commenced the chorus, and the effect was very pleasing. Mrs. Sedley and Mary's voices were heard with the others, and all were delighted.
"Here's the cove," said Frank, when the band ceased playing. "We were going on a voyage of discovery this afternoon, to name the bays and points of land. What shall we call this cove?"
"Weston Bay," suggested Fred.
"Agreed!" answered a dozen members.
"And that mud-bank over there, where we got aground this morning, we will call Bunker's Shoal," continued Fred.
"I think not," said Mrs. Sedley. "That would be casting a reflection upon those boys."
"What shall we call it?"
"Black Shoal," replied Tony. "The mud on it, I know from personal experience, is very black."
"Black Shoal it is," replied Frank, directing the boat into the little bay.
The invitation of Mrs. Sedley was quite sufficient to induce Mrs. Weston to join the "exploring expedition;" and the committee that had been deputed to wait upon her soon returned, escorting her to the boat.
"Dear me! won't it tip over?" exclaimed the poor woman, when she had placed one foot in the boat.
"She is perfectly safe," replied Frank, assisting her to a seat.
The boat pushed off again, and joined the Sylph. The band commenced playing a popular march; and all the party, with the exception of Mrs. Weston, who had her suspicions as to the stability of the beautiful Zephyr, were in the highest state of enjoyment.
Farther up the lake there was a projecting headland, at the end of which, separated from the shore by a narrow passage of water, not more than ten feet in width, was a small, rocky island. This island and its vicinity were the next points of interest deserving the attention of the voyagers, and thither Frank steered the boat.
"Boys, you all study geography, do you not?" asked Mrs. Sedley.
"All of us, mother," replied Frank.
"Did it ever occur to you that all the natural divisions of water, on a small scale, could be seen in Wood Lake?"
"Can they?" asked Charles. "I would not have believed it."
"I never thought of it before," added Frank.
"Years ago, before I was married, I used to teach school," continued Mrs. Sedley; "and my scholars always found it difficult to remember the definitions of the natural divisions of the earth. What do you think the reason was?"
"I suppose they did not half learn them," replied Fred.
"They did not understand them. When we spoke of a gulf, for example, they thought of something a great way off—as far as the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of St. Lawrence."
"I am sure I never thought of them as anything that I had ever seen, or was ever likely to see," added Charles, who always had something to say, and who tried to get the good will of others by appearing to be humble and teachable.
The other boys were equally tractable, but from another motive. Mrs. Sedley's geography lesson was full of interest to them; and as they pulled slowly, they gave all their attention to what she said.
"I took them out one day to a pond near the school-house, where I pointed out almost all the divisions of water, and then on a hill, to show them the divisions of land."
"But you could not find them all."
"All but one or two; there was no volcano."
"Was there a desert?"
"A small one."
"Hurrah! we can find them all," cried Charles. "I missed just such a question last week in school."
"I made a volcano on the Fourth of July," said Fred Harper.
"I took a handful of powder, wet it, and then placed it on a board. Then I covered it over with a coat of wet clay, leaving a little hole at the top, with some dry powder on it."
"That was the crater," added Charles.
"Yes; and then I touched it off. It was in the evening, and it looked just like Mount Vesuvius in the panorama."
"Now, boys," continued Mrs. Sedley, "who can tell me what an ocean is?"
"The largest body of water," replied several.
"What shall represent the ocean here?"
"Very well; what is a sea?"
"A portion of water smaller than an ocean, and nearly surrounded by land."
"We are in one now," said Frank.
He had steered the Zephyr into a corner of the lake which was partly enclosed by the projecting headland and island and the main shore.
"What sea shall we call it?" said Fred.
The boys looked around them for some object that would suggest a name.
There was no visible object which seemed to suggest a name for the miniature sea; but just then the band began to play "Washington's March."
"Call it Washington Sea, boys," said Mrs. Sedley.
The name was given, but the geography lesson could not proceed while the music continued.
"Stand by to lay on your oars!" Frank commanded. "Oars!"
The oarsmen levelled their oars, feathering the blades, and listening to the march. The Bunkers, attracted by the music of the band, followed the Sylph at a respectful distance. The presence of Uncle Ben and Mrs. Sedley was a restraint upon them, and they conducted themselves with tolerable decorum. The band ceased playing, and Mrs. Sedley continued her instructions.
"What is a gulf or bay?"
"A portion of the sea extending into the land."
"Can you give me an example?"
"Weston Bay," replied Fred, laughing.
"And perhaps, before the expedition concludes its voyage, we shall find something which may be called a gulf."
"I know where there is a gulf," said Charles.
"Now, Frank, you may go through the strait," said Fred.
"Is it safe? I don't know how deep the water is."
"I am glad to see you are careful," said Mrs. Sedley. "You can ask Uncle Ben."
"Sylph, ahoy!" shouted Frank, rising.
"What boat's that?" roared Uncle Ben, in reply.
"The Zephyr, of and from Rippleton," returned the coxswain. "Can you tell me what depth of water there is in this passage?"
"Where's your chart?"
"We must have a chart of the lake," suggested Fred.
"That we must. Who shall draw it?"
"We have no chart. Will you give me the depth of water inside the island?" continued Frank.
"Short fathom," replied Uncle Ben.
"We are none the wiser," interposed Charles. "How much is a fathom?"
"Six feet," answered Tony.
"But he don't say how much short."
"Can we go through in safety, Uncle Ben?"
"Ay, ay; but trail your oars."
Frank let the crew pull several smart strokes, and then ordered them to trail. The Zephyr darted through the narrow passage.
"Now for the name of the strait," said Frank.
"You seem to be at a loss for names; I think you had better call these divisions after the members of the club," suggested Mrs. Sedley.
"So we can; the memory of great travellers and navigators has been handed down to their posterity by geographical names,—Hudson Bay, Mount Franklin, Cook's Straits, for example," said Fred Harper, laughing heartily.
The proposition received a ready assent; and the strait was called Graham Strait, after the boy who pulled the second oar.