E-text prepared by Al Haines
BOB THE CASTAWAY
Or, The Wreck of the Eagle
FRANK V. WEBSTER
AUTHOR OF “ONLY A FARM BOY,” “THE BOY FROM THE RANCH,” “THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS,” “THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER,” ETC.
Books for Boys by FRANK V. WEBSTER
12mo. Illustrated. Bound in cloth.
ONLY A FARM BOY, Or Dan Hardy’s Rise in Life TOM THE TELEPHONE BOY, Or The Mystery of a Message THE BOY FROM THE RANCH, Or Roy Bradner’s City Experiences THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER, Or Fred Stanley’s Trip to Alaska BOB THE CASTAWAY, Or The Wreck of the Eagle THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE, Or Herbert Dare’s Pluck THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS, Or Who Was Dick Box? THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES, Or Nat Morton’s Perils TWO BOY GOLD MINERS, Or Lost in the Mountains JACK THE RUNAWAY, Or On the Road with a Circus
Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York
I BOB MAKES TROUBLE
II ANOTHER PRANK
III A STRANGE PROPOSITION
IV TALKING IT OVER
V A JOKE THAT WENT WRONG
VI MRS. HENDERSON’S DECISION
VII BOB IS DELIGHTED
VIII GETTING READY
IX BOB’S LAST LAND JOKE
X OFF ON THE TRIP
XI THE “EAGLE” SAILS
XII SOME JOKES ON BOB
XIII BOB TRIES A PRANK
XIV MR. TARBILL GETS A SHOCK
XV THE STORM
XVI WRECK OP THE SHIP
XVII ADRIFT IN SMALL BOATS
XVIII BOB ON AN ISLAND
XIX FINDING MR. TARBILL
XX MAKING THE BEST OF IT
XXI MORE ARRIVALS
XXII AFLOAT ONCE MORE
XXIII A SERIOUS LOSS
XXIV DAYS OF HOPELESSNESS
XXV HOMEWARD BOUND–CONCLUSION
BOB MAKES TROUBLE
“Bob! Bob!” called a woman in loud tones, as she came to the kitchen door, her arms, with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, covered with flour. “Bob, I want you to go to the store for me. I need some more lard for this pie-crust.”
There was no answer, and the woman looked across the big yard at one side of the cottage.
“Where can that boy be?” Mrs. Henderson murmured. “I saw him here a little while ago. He’s never around when I want him. I shouldn’t be surprised but what he was planning some joke. Oh, dear! I wish he was more steady, and wasn’t always up to some mischief. Still, he’s a good boy at heart, and perhaps he’ll grow better when he gets older.”
She rubbed her left cheek with the back of her hand, leaving a big patch of flour under one eye. Then she called once more.
“Bob! Bob Henderson! Where are you? I want you to go to the store.”
“Here I am, mother. Were you calling me?” asked a boy, emerging from behind a big apple tree.
He was not a bad-looking lad, even if his nose did turn up a bit, though his hair was tinged with red, and his face covered with freckles. His blue eyes, however, seemed to sparkle with mischief.
“Did I call you?” repeated Mrs. Henderson. “I’m hoarse after the way I had to shout–and you within hearing distance all the while! Why didn’t you answer me?”
“I guess I was so busy thinking, mom, that I didn’t hear you.”
“Thinking? More likely thinking of some trick! What’s that you’ve got?”
“Nothing,” and Bob tried to stuff pieces of paper into a basket that was already filled to overflowing.
“Yes, ’tis too something. You’re making some more of those paper snappers that the teacher kept you in after school for the other night. Bob, can’t you settle down and not be always up to some trick?”
“I wasn’t making these for myself, mom, honest I wasn’t,” expostulated Bob, with an innocent look that did not seem in accord with the mischief in his blue eyes. “I was making ’em for Jimmy Smith.”
“Yes, and Jimmy Smith would pop ’em off in school, and when he got caught he’d say you gave ’em to him, and you’d both be kept in. Oh, Bob, I don’t know what will happen to you next!”
“Why, I wasn’t doing anything, honest I wasn’t, mom. Oh, how funny you look with that patch of flour on your cheek! Just like a clown in a circus, only he has white stuff all over his face.”
“Well, I must say, Bob Henderson, you’re not very complimentary to your mother, telling her she looks like a circus clown.”
“I didn’t say you did, mom. You only look like half a clown.”
“That’s just as bad.”
Bob took advantage of this little diversion to hide the paper snappers behind the tree while his mother was wiping the flour off her face. The snappers were oblong pieces of stout wrapping paper, folded in such a way that when swung through the air they went off like a bag blown up and crushed between the hands. Bob was an expert in their manufacture.
“Come,” went on Mrs. Henderson, when she was satisfied that her face was no longer adorned with flour, “I want you to go to the store for some lard. Tell Mr. Hodge you want the best. Here’s the money.”
“All right, mom, I’ll go right away. Do you want anything else?”
Now Bob usually made more of a protest than this when asked to go to the store, which was at the other end of the village of Moreville, where he lived. He generally wanted to stay at his play, or was on the point of going off with some boy of his acquaintance.
But this time he prepared to go without making any complaint, and had his mother not been so preoccupied thinking of her housework, she might have suspected that the lad had some mischief afoot–some scheme that he wanted to carry out, and which going to the store would further.
“No, I guess the lard is all I need now,” she said. “Now do hurry, Bob. Don’t stop on the way, for I want to get these pies baked before supper.”
“I’ll hurry, mom.”
There was a curious smile on Bob’s face, and as he got his hat from the ground before setting off on the errand he looked in his pocket to see if he had a certain long, stout piece of cord.
“I guess that will do the trick,” murmured the boy to himself. “Oh, yes, I’ll hurry back all right! Guess I’ll have to if I don’t want Bill Hodge to catch me.”
There was a cunning look on Bob’s face, and the twinkle in his eyes increased as he set off down the village street.
“I hope he doesn’t get into mischief,” murmured Mrs. Henderson, as she went back to her work in the kitchen. “If he wasn’t such an honest boy, I would be more worried than I am about him. But I guess he will outgrow it,” she added hopefully.
Bob Henderson, who is to be the hero of our Story, was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Enos Henderson. They lived in Moreville, a thriving New England town, and Bob’s father was employed in a large woolen mill in the place.
Bob attended the local school, and he was a sort of leader among a certain class of boys. They were all manly chaps, but perhaps were inclined more to mischief than they should be. And none of them was any more inclined that way than Bob. He was rather wild, and some of the things he did were unkind and harmful to those on whom he played jokes.
Bob was always the first to acknowledge he had been in the wrong, and when it was pointed out to him that he had not done what was right he always apologized. Only this was always after the mischief had been done, and he was just as ready half an hour later to indulge in another prank.
Nearly every one In Moreville knew Bob, some to their sorrow. But in spite of his tricks he was well liked, even though some nervous women predicted that he would land in jail before he got to be much older.
It was a pleasant afternoon In June, and Bob had not been home from school long when his mother sent him after the lard. As it happened, this just suited the youth’s purpose, for he contemplated putting into operation a trick he had long planned against William Hodge, the proprietor of the village grocery store.
So Bob trudged along, whistling a merry tune and jingling in his pocket the money his mother had given him.
“He’ll be as mad as hops,” he murmured, “but it can’t do much harm. He’ll turn it off before much runs out.”
This may seem rather a puzzle to my young readers, but if you have patience you will soon understand what Bob meant, though I hope none of you will follow his example.
As Bob walked along he met another lad about his own age.
“Hello, Bob,” greeted Ted Neefus. “Where you goin’?”
“Want me t’ go ‘long?”
“If you want to,” and there was a half smile on Bob’s face. Ted knew the meaning of that smile. He had more than once been associated with Bob in his tricks.
“Kin I watch ye?” he asked eagerly.
“What for?” asked Bob with an air of assumed indignation. “What do you think I’m going to do?”
“Oh, that’s all right,” returned Ted. “I won’t say anythin’. Let me watch, will yer?”
“I don’t s’pose I can stop you,” replied Bob, with an appearance of lofty virtue. “The street’s public property. I haven’t any right to say you shan’t stand in front of Bill’s store until I come out. You can if you want to.”
“Maybe I won’t then!” exclaimed Ted.
“Better not walk along with me,” advised Bob. “Folks might think we were up to something.”
“That’s so. Like when we burned some feathers under the church when they were having prayer meeting.”
“Don’t speak so loud,” cautioned Bob. “You’ll give things away.”
Thus admonished, Ted took a position well to his chum’s rear. Meanwhile Bob continued on and was soon at the grocery store.
“Good-afternoon, Mr. Hodge,” he said politely.
“Arternoon,” replied Mr. Hodge, for he was not fond of boys, least of all Bob Henderson. “What d’ you want?”
He had an air as if he was saying:
“Now none of your tricks, you young rapscallion! If you play any jokes on me you’ll smart for it!”
“Mother wants a pound of lard–the best lard, Mr. Hodge,” said Bob.
“I don’t keep any but the best.”
“Then I want a pound. It’s a fine day, isn’t it?”
“I don’t see nothin’ the matter with it. ‘Tain’t rainin’ anyhow. Now don’t you upset anything while I go fer the lard. I have t’ keep it down cellar, it’s so hot up here.”
Bob knew this. In fact, he counted on it for what he was about to do. No sooner had the storekeeper started down the cellar stairs than Bob pulled from his pocket a long, stout piece of cord. He quickly fastened one end of it to the spigot of a molasses barrel, which stood about half way back in the store. Then he ran the cord forward and across the doorway, about six inches from the floor, and fastened the other end to a barrel of flour as a sort of anchor.
By this time Mr. Hodge was coming upstairs with the lard in a thin wooden dish, a piece of paper being over the top. Bob stood near the counter piling the scale weights up in a regular pyramid.
“Here, let them alone,” growled the storekeeper. “Fust thing you know they’ll fall an’ mebby crack.”
“I wouldn’t have that happen,” said Bob earnestly, but with a lurking smile on his lips. “How much is the lard, Mr. Hodge?”
“Fourteen cents. It’s gone up.”
“Something else will be going down soon,” murmured Bob.
He paid over the money, took the lard and started out. As soon as he reached the front stoop of the store he gave a hasty look around. He saw Ted dodging behind a tree across the street. Suddenly Bob opened his mouth and let out a yell like that which an Indian might have given when on the warpath. It was a shriek as if some one had been hurt. Then he jumped off the porch and hid underneath it, one end being open.
An instant later Mr. Hodge, thinking some accident had happened, rushed to the front door of his store. But just as he reached it he went down in a heap, tripped by the string Bob had stretched across the opening.
The storekeeper was more surprised than hurt, for he was quite stout and his fat protected him. As he got up, muttering vengeance on whatever had upset him, he went to the door to look out. There was not a person in sight.
“It must have been that pesky Bob Henderson!” he exclaimed. “He’s always yellin’ an’ shoutin’.”
He turned back into the store, rubbing his shins. As he did so he uttered an exclamation of dismay. And well he might, for the spigot of the molasses barrel was wide open, and the sticky brown fluid was running all over the floor.
“Drat that boy!” cried Mr. Hodge. “I’ll make him suffer fer this. I’ll have him arrested fer malicious mischief, an’ I’ll sue his father. I’ll see if I can’t put a stop to sech nonsense.”
He did not waste time in words, however, but hastened to shut the spigot of the molasses barrel to stop the wasteful flow. However, two gallons or more had run all over, the floor, making a sticky pool.
Meanwhile Bob had crawled out from under the stoop and had crossed the street to Join Ted.
“Did you see anything?” he asked.
“Did I?” asked Ted. “Well, I should say I did. It was great. How’d ye think of it?”
“Did I do anything?” asked Bob innocently. “I thought Bill Hodge stubbed his toe and fell. Probably he slipped in some molasses.”
“Did you pull the spigot open?”
“Me? No, I didn’t, but maybe the string did. I guess I’ve got to hurry home with this lard. Mom wants to make some pies.”
Bob got home much sooner than his mother expected he would. He gave her the lard, and then went out under the apple tree where he had left the paper snappers.
“He’s back quick,” mused Mrs. Henderson. “I don’t see how he had time to do any mischief. Perhaps he didn’t play any tricks on any one this time,” for Bob seldom went through the village but what he did so. However, Mrs. Henderson was mistaken, as we know.
During this time Mr. Hodge was busy wiping as much of the molasses off the floor as he could with old cloths and pieces of newspaper. While he was doing this a customer came in and inquired:
“What’s the matter? Molasses barrel spring a leak, Bill?”
“Leak? No, it was that pesky Bob Henderson. Wait till I git hold of him! I’ll make him smart. An’ I’m goin’ to sue his father.”
“What did he do? Why, Bill, you walk lame. What’s the matter, got rheumatiz?”
“It’s all on account of Bob.”
“What did he do?”
“Came here for some lard. When I was down cellar gittin’ it he tied a string to the molasses barrel spigot and stretched it across the doorway.”
“What, the spigot?”
“No, the string. Ye know what I mean. Then he went out on the stoop an’ yelled like sin. I thought somebody was killed an’ I run out. I tripped over the string an’ it pulled the spigot open. I barked my shins, an’ when I looked in the store, after seein’ nobody was hurt, the molasses was runnin’ all over. Oh, wait till I git hold of that pesky boy!”
“I s’pose if you hadn’t been so curious to see who was killed it wouldn’t have happened,” observed Adiran Meelik.
“Curious! Ain’t I got a right to run an’ see who’s killed in front of my store?”
“I s’pose so. But there wasn’t anybody killed; only you came near being.”
“That’s so. I’ll bring an action against Bob Henderson’s father for damages for personal injuries, that’s what I’ll do. Then there’s the wasted molasses.”
“That boy plays too many tricks,” observed Mr. Meelik as he took the brown sugar he had come in to purchase and walked out. “Altogether too many tricks. Still,” he added with a smile, “I would like to have seen Bill stumble and watched his face when he seen that molasses runnin’ to waste.”
The storekeeper lost no time in putting his plan into action. But as he was a cautious man, and did not want to waste money hiring a lawyer to bring suit if he could collect damages without doing so, he decided to call on Mr. Henderson himself.
A short time after Mr. Hodge had succeeded in cleaning up as much of the molasses as possible his wife came in to relieve him of tending the store, as was her custom. She had had an early supper, and was to remain in the place until Mr. Hodge had also satisfied his appetite. By this arrangement there was no need of hiring a clerk. They lived in some rooms over the store.
“Your supper’s ready, William,” she said.
“I guess supper’ll have to wait to-night.”
“‘Cause I’m goin’ to see if I can’t collect damages from Enos Henderson fer what his son done.”
Mr. Hodge explained, and his wife agreed with him that it would be wise first to try what a personal demand would do.
It was about six o’clock when Mr. Hodge reached the Henderson home. Mr. Henderson stopped work at five, and he was at supper when the storekeeper entered. Bob knew the object of the visit, and, making an excuse that he wanted to see one of his boy chums, was about to leave the table.
“My business is with him, too,” said Mr. Hodge in rather surly tones.
“With Bob?” asked Mr. Henderson, and his heart sank. He realized that his son must have been up to some prank in which the storekeeper was involved, for Mr. Hodge was not a person to pay friendly calls.
“Yes. I’ve come t’ see if ye’ll settle my claim fer damages without a lawsuit.”
“A lawsuit?” inquired Mr. Henderson, now becoming quite alarmed, while Bob’s mother grew pale. Bob himself, not a little frightened as the result of his joke, sank down in a chair,
“I want damages fer personal injuries, as well as fer five gallons of molasses that run to waste.”
“It couldn’t have been more than three gallons,” interrupted Bob. “Molasses runs awful slow, and the spigot wasn’t open more than three minutes.”
“It runs fast in hot weather,” observed the storekeeper.
“What is it all about?” asked Mr. Henderson.
Then Mr. Hodge explained, dwelling on the pain he had suffered as a result of the fall from the string that tripped him and on the loss of the molasses.
“I want ten dollars damage,” he concluded. “A dollar fer the molasses an’ the rest fer personal injuries.”
“I am afraid I cannot afford to pay so much,” said Mr. Henderson, who, while he made good wages, was trying to save up enough to pay for his home.
“Then I’ll sue ye.”
“I would not like you to do that, but I cannot afford to pay ten dollars–at least not now. I have some interest to meet this week.”
“Well, maybe I might take a little less,” said Mr. Hodge, as he saw a prospect of Bob’s father coming to a settlement. “I’ll make it eight dollars, an’ ye can pay me in installments.”
“I suppose that will be fair,” admitted Mr. Henderson. He spoke very quietly, but he was much exercised over what had happened.
“Can ye pay me anythin’ now?” asked Mr. Hodge eagerly, rubbing his shins, which, to tell the truth, were only slightly bruised and did not hurt him in the least now.
“I could give you two dollars. But first I want to ask Bob if he is responsible for this.”
To his sorrow Mr. Henderson did not have much doubt of it.
“Oh, I guess he won’t deny it,” said the storekeeper.
“Did you do this, Bob?” inquired his father.
“I–I guess so, but I didn’t mean anything.”
Bob was not so happy over his prank as he had been at first.
Mr. Henderson said nothing. He took two dollars from his wallet–a wallet that did not have any too much money in it–and handed the bills to the storekeeper, who eagerly pocketed them.
“When kin ye give me some more?” he asked.
“Next week. I am sorry, Mr. Hodge, that my son did this.”
“So am I. But I s’pose boys will be boys.”
Mr. Hodge seemed in better mood. The truth was, he had not expected to receive any money, and as he was a sort of miser, it made him feel better to think he was going to get damages without having to pay a lawyer. In reality, not more than fifty cents’ worth of molasses had run to waste.
When the storekeeper had left Mr. Henderson further questioned Bob, getting all the particulars of the trick.
“I’m sorry, dad,” said Bob when he had finished his recital.
“That is what you say every time, my son. You said it after you frightened Mrs. Anderson’s cow and they had to have the veterinarian for the animal, but that did not pay his bill. I had to settle for it,”
“I know, dad. I’ll not do it again.”
“And that’s another thing you always say, Bob. Now this is getting serious. You must mend your ways. This will be quite a heavy expense to me. I was going to spend that two dollars for a new pair of shoes. Now I will have to wait.”
“I’m sorry, dad.”
“But that doesn’t give me my shoes,”
Mr. Henderson spoke gravely, and Bob felt quite badly over what he had done, for he loved his father and mother very much, and would not intentionally pain them. The trouble was he was, like many other boys, thoughtless. He did not count the consequences when indulging in pranks.
A little later, after giving his son quite a severe lecture, and obtaining his promise to be better in the future, Mr. Henderson prepared to go to bed. Bob also retired to his room, for he felt in no mood to go out with the village boys that night.
“I’m sure I don’t know what to do with Bob,” said Mrs. Henderson to her husband when she was locking up the house. “I’m afraid he’ll get into serious trouble.”
“I hope not. I think I must punish him severely the next time he plays any tricks.”
“He is too big to whip.”
“I know it. I must think of some other method.”
Bob fell asleep, resolving to mend his ways, or at least to play in the future only harmless tricks to which no one would object. But in the morning his good resolutions had lost some of their power, like many others made during the night.
That day in school Bob snapped several of the paper crackers, and in consequence was kept in. However, his mother was visiting a neighbor, and when he came home late that afternoon she did not see him.
That evening Ted Neefus called for Bob. They were chums of long standing.
“Let’s take a walk,” suggested Ted.
“Aw, that’s no fun.”
“What’ll we do then?”
Bob thought a few seconds.
“I’ll tell you,” he said. “We’ll put a tic-tac on Mrs. Mooney’s window. She lives all alone, and she’ll think it’s a ghost rapping.”
“Good! Come on. Have you got some string?”
So you see how poorly Bob remembered his promise of the night before, and with what thoughtlessness he again started to indulge in a prank–a prank which might throw a nervous woman into hysterics. Yet in this Bob was just like thousands of other boys–he “didn’t mean anything.” The trouble was he did not think.
So the two boys, their heads full of the project of making a tic-tac, stole quietly through the village streets toward the cottage of the Widow Mooney.
A STRANGE PROPOSITION
Perhaps some of my readers may not know what the contrivance known as a “tic-tac” is like. Those of you who have made them, of course, do not need to be told. If you ever put them on any person’s window, I hope you selected a house where there were only boys and girls or young people to be startled by the tic-tac. It is no joke, though at first it may seem like one, to scare an old person with the affair. So if any boy or girl makes a tic-tac after the description given here, I trust he or she will be careful on whom the prank is played.
To make a tic-tac a long string, a pin and a small nail are all that is required. A short piece of string is broken from the larger piece, and to one end of this latter the pin is fastened by being thrust through a knot.
To the other end or the short cord is attached the nail. Then the long string is tied to the short string a little distance above the nail.
With this contrivance all made ready Bob and Ted sneaked up under the front window of the widow’s house. It was the work of but a moment for Bob to stick the point of the pin in the wooden part of the window-frame so that the nail dangled against the glass. Then, holding the free end of the long string, he and Ted withdrew to the shadow of some lilac bushes.
“All ready?” asked Ted.
“Sure. Here she goes!”
Bob then gently jerked the string. This swung the nail to and fro, and it tapped on the window-pane as if some one was throwing pebbles against the glass. This was kept up for several seconds.
The widow, who was reading in the dining-room, heard the tapping at the glass. It startled her at first, and then, thinking some one might be at the door, she conquered her nervousness and opened the portal. Of course she saw no one, and the string was not observed. Neither were the boys, hidden in the bushes.
“We fooled her,” chuckled Ted, for they could see all that happened.
“Sure we did,” added Bob. “Wait till she goes in and we’ll do it some more.”
Somewhat puzzled, the Widow Mooney closed the door. No sooner was she back in the dining-room than the tapping at the pane was resumed. This time it was louder. The widow, who was quite timid and nervous, felt frightened. She had years before believed in spirits, and she had not altogether gotten over this.
Once more she went to the door, the boys observing her from their hiding-place. They were so delighted with their prank, which they thought a fine “joke,” that they laughed heartily, having to hold their hands over their mouths so as not to betray themselves.
“She don’t know what it is,” whispered Ted.
“Maybe she thinks it’s night-hawks pecking at the window,” suggested Bob.
“Go ahead. Tap some more. She’s going in.”
Much puzzled by the queer noises, for no one had ever before put a tic-tac on her window, Mrs. Mooney went back to her dining-room. But she could not read.
“I must find out what that is,” she said to herself. “If it’s burglars, I’m going to call for help. Suppose it should be thieves trying to cut one of the window-panes? I’ve read of such doings.”
Now, the widow was less afraid of something bodily, like burglars, than she was of “spirits,” so she resolved the next time she heard the queer tapping to run out and call for help.
In a little while Bob pulled the string again, and the dangling nail went tap! tap! tap! against the pane.
“Here she comes!” exclaimed Ted in a whisper as the door opened.
And this time, instead of contenting herself by merely looking about, Mrs. Mooney came out on the porch. Then she started down the front walk toward the lilac bushes, though she did not know the boys were there.
“She’s comin’ after us,” whispered Ted. “Come on, Bob.”
Bob was aware of the danger of getting caught. He prepared to run.
Now there is this advantage to a tic-tac. Once you want to escape you can take it with you by the simple process of pulling on the long string, when the pin is jerked from the window-frame, and you can drag the nail and all with you, thus leaving no evidence behind. This was what Bob did.
Quickly winding up die string as he pulled the pin and nail toward him, he and Ted started to run, crouching down low so as not to be seen. But Ted, unfortunately for the success of their plan, stumbled and fell, making so much noise that Mrs. Mooney heard t.
“Thieves! Burglars! Police!” she screamed.
“Come on!” cried Bob desperately. “We’ll be caught!”
Mrs. Mooney ran back into the house, slammed the front door, shut and locked it. She believed she had surprised thieves at work, for she saw two dim forms running toward the street.
“Leg it!” whispered Bob.
“I am,” replied Ted.
They reached the gate together, but that was as far as they got, for just as they arrived at it they collided with a large man who was running toward the house. He was so large that the combined impact of Bob and Ted against him never staggered him, but it almost threw them off their feet. They were running, head down, and had not seen him.
“Hold hard there, my hearties!” exclaimed the man in a gruff but not unpleasant voice. “What are you trying to cross my bows for in this fashion? That’s no way to run, not showing a masthead light or even blowing a whistle. Avast and belay! You might have sunk me if I didn’t happen to be a heavier craft than you.”
As the man spoke he instinctively grasped the two boys, preventing them from continuing their flight.
“What’s the trouble?” he went on. “I heard a female crying–sounding a distress signal like. Where are the burglars? Are you going for the police?”
“No, sir. It was us, playing tic-tac,” explained Bob, thinking it best to make a clean breast of the affair.
“Tic-tac, eh? I haven’t heard that since I was a boy. On whose window?”
“The Widow Mooney’s, sir.”
“And it was the widow, I presume, who was signaling for aid. Well, I’ll stand by and see what’s wanted. You’d better come back also.”
“Aw, we don’t want to,” spoke Ted.
“No, I suppose not. Still you’re coming.”
The man had both boys firmly by their arms, and he turned in the gateway with them. As he did so, Mrs. Mooney, hearing voices, ventured to open her door. The light streamed out and showed the face of the man. At the sight of it Bob uttered an exclamation.
“Why, it’s Captain Spark!” he cried.
“That’s what. You read my signals right, my lad, and if I’m not mistaken, you’re Bob Henderson.”
Captain Jeremiah Spark was an old seafaring man. He was a distant relative of Bob’s mother, and, in fact, he was on his way to call on her, having just returned from a long voyage, when he ran into the boys, or, rather, they collided with him.
“So you’re playing tricks on a poor, lone widow woman, are you?” asked the captain in no very pleasant tones.
“We–we didn’t mean any harm,” said Bob.
“No, I suppose not. Boys never do, but the harm comes. Now I’m going to march you two lads right up before the mast; and you’re going to apologize to the widow. If you don’t, why, I reckon a cat-o’-nine-tails will fit the case pretty well.”
Mrs. Mooney was standing in her door as the captain led the two boys up to her.
“Here’s the burglars you were shouting about, ma’am,” he said. “One of ’em a relative of mine, I’m sorry to say. They’ve come to beg your pardon. Go ahead, boys.”
“I’m sorry about the tic-tac,” said Bob in a low voice.
“We didn’t mean nothin’,” added Ted.
“Was it you boys?” asked the widow. “I was so frightened. I thought burglars were trying to cut out a pane of glass.”
“I don’t believe they’ll do it again,” remarked Captain Spark. “Will you, boys?”
“No, sir,” they chorused.
“That’s right. Now come on, Bob. I’m going to your house.”
The captain was warmly welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Henderson a little later. Bob was wondering whether the captain would say anything about the recent prank, but the old seaman said nothing, though his eyes twinkled when, in response to a question from Mr. Henderson as to where the captain had met Bob, the former replied that there had been a collision in the dark.
That night, after Bob had gone to bed, Mrs. Henderson had a talk with her relative.
“I don’t know what to do with Bob,” she said. “He is always getting into mischief. He is not a bad boy at heart, but he is thoughtless.”
“Yes, that he is,” agreed Captain Spark.
“I am almost sure he was up to some prank tonight,” went on Bob’s mother. “I shall probably hear about it in the morning, when some of the neighbors call to make a complaint. Oh, dear, I wish I knew what to do!”
“I’ll tell you what,” suddenly exclaimed the captain, banging his fist down on the table with emphasis. “Let me take him to sea with me aboard the Eagle.”
“Take him to sea? Take Bob on a voyage?” asked Mrs. Henderson.
“That’s it! You let me take him, and I’ll guarantee I’ll make a man of him. The land is no place for a boy, anyhow. He needs a bit of ocean travel to broaden his views.”
“That is a strange proposition,” said Mr. Henderson. “We must think it over.”
TALKING IT OVER
Captain Spark was invited to spend a week or more at the Henderson home. He was up bright and early the next morning–in fact, before any one else, and Bob, hearing some one moving around downstairs, and knowing his father and mother were not in the habit of having such an early breakfast, descended to see who it was.
“Good-morning, my lad,” greeted the mariner. “I suppose you are going to take the morning watch and holystone the decks. Nothing like being active when you’re young. It will keep you from getting old.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Bob, for he did not know what else to say.
“Haven’t got any more tic-tacs, have you?” and there was a twinkle in the captain’s eyes.
“That’s right. If you’ve got to play tricks, do it on somebody your size. Then it’s fair. Don’t scare lone widows.”
“I won’t do it again,” promised Bob, who felt a little ashamed of his prank of the previous night.
Soon Mrs. Henderson came downstairs to get breakfast, and when the meal was over Bob got ready for school, Mr. Henderson leaving for his work in the woolen mill.
When Bob was safely out of the way Captain Spark once more brought up before Mrs. Henderson the proposition he had made the night before.
“Well, Lucy,” he said, for he called Mrs. Henderson by her first name, “have you thought over what I said about taking Bob to sea?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And what do you think of it?”
“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t like the idea.”
“Why not? I’m sure it would be good for him.”
“It might. I’m sure you mean it well, but I couldn’t bear to have him go.”
“It will make a man of him–cure him of some of his foolish ways, I’m sure.”
“Perhaps it would. Bob is very wild, I know, but I think I have more influence over him than any one else. He will do anything for me, or for his father, either, for that matter. I am afraid if Bob got away from our influence he would be worse than he is now.”
“Oh, we have a few good influences aboard the Eagle” said the captain with a grim smile. “Only we don’t call ’em influences. We call ’em ropes’ ends, or cat-o’-nine-tails, or a belaying-pin. I’ve known a limber rope’s end, applied in the right place, do more good to a boy than lots of medicine.”
“Oh, but, captain, I couldn’t have Bob beaten!”
“No, of course not, I was only joking. Not that it doesn’t do a boy good, though, once in a while, to have a good tanning. But I don’t recommend it for a steady diet.”
“Bob’s father has never whipped him since he was a small lad,” went on Mrs. Henderson. “Not that he doesn’t seem to deserve it sometimes even now, but Mr. Henderson believes in talking to him and showing him how wrong he has acted.”
“Yes, talk is good,” admitted the mariner, “but if there’s a rope’s end handy, it sometimes makes the talk a little more effective–just a little bit.”
“I suppose life aboard a sailing ship is very hard now-a-days,” ventured Mrs. Henderson. Somehow she dwelt on the plan of having the captain take Bob, though she felt she could not consent to it.
“No harder than it ever was. In fact, it’s easier than when I was a boy and ran away to sea. Those were hard days, and I’ve never forgot ’em. That’s why I try to treat all my sailors and cabin boys as if they were human beings. Now you’d better think my plan over. It would do Bob a world of good to go to sea. You’d hardly know him when he got back.”
“Oh, I don’t know what to do,” said Bob’s mother. “No, I don’t think I can consent. He might be drowned, and I would never forgive myself. I don’t believe his father would consent either.”
“Well, think it over,” advised the captain. “I’m going to be in this port for some time. We’re loading for a trip around Cape Horn, and it will take two weeks or more to get in shape. There’s time enough to decide between now and then.”
“I don’t believe I could ever consent,” declared Mrs. Henderson. “I think Bob will settle down pretty soon and give up playing pranks.”
“I don’t,” said the captain to himself. “That boy is too full of mischief. He needs a sea voyage to soak some of it out of him. But that’s the way with mothers. Well, I’ll wait a while. I think something may happen to make her change her mind before I sail.”
The captain did not know what a good prophet he was.
When Bob came home from school that noon-time he was surprised to see his mother and Captain Spark in earnest conversation. At first Bob thought the mariner might be telling of the escapade of the tic-tac, but when his mother made a warning gesture of silence to Captain Spark on beholding Bob the boy was puzzled.
“They must have been talking about me,” he decided; “but what could it be? I don’t think he would tell about the tic-tac, but there’s certainly something queer afoot.”
The truth was that the captain was renewing his plan of taking Bob to sea. Had the boy known of it he would have been much surprised, for he never dreamed of such a thing.
“How did you get along at school to-day?” asked Captain Spark, as Mrs. Henderson went out to get dinner.
“Didn’t put any bent pins in the teacher’s chair, did you?”
The boy hoped the captain would not ask him what other prank he had been up to, for the truth was that Bob had that morning taken a live mouse to the classroom, releasing it during a study period, and nearly sending the woman teacher and the girl pupils into hysterics. His part had not been discovered, but the teacher had threatened to keep the whole class of boys in that night until the guilty one confessed, and Bob knew he would have to tell sooner or later, if some of his companions did not “squeal” on him, in order that they might be released from suspicion.
“That’s right,” went on the mariner. “Never put bent pins in the teacher’s chair.”
As Bob feared, some one during the afternoon session told of his part in the mouse episode, and he was the only one kept in. The teacher made him stay while she corrected a lot of examination papers, and in the silent schoolroom the boy began to wish he had not been so fond of a “joke.”
The teacher, who was a kind-hearted woman, talked seriously to her rather wild pupil, pointing out that it was a cowardly thing for a boy to frighten girls. Bob had never looked at it in just that light, and he was pretty well ashamed of himself when he was allowed to go home, with an admonition that he must mend his ways or be liable to expulsion.
“I’ll bet he’s been up to some mischief, Lucy,” said Captain Spark when Bob came home quite late that afternoon.
“Perhaps he has. I hope it was nothing serious.”
“Shall I ask him what it was?”
“No, we’ll find it out sooner or later, and I don’t want his father to worry more than he has to. He has hard work at the mill, and I like his evenings to be as free from care as possible.”
“That’s just like a woman,” growled the mariner to himself. “They take more than their share of the burdens that the men and boys ought to bear. But never mind. I’ll get Bob yet, and when I do I’ll make a man of him or know the reason why. He’ll find it much different on board ship from what he has it here in this quiet little village.”
Bob was all unconscious of what fate had in store for him.
A JOKE THAT WENT WRONG
For several days after the prank with the mouse Bob did not play any jokes. The teacher ascribed that fact to the lecture she had given him. Bob’s mother, who also noticed that he was much more quiet than usual, feared he was going to be sick.
“I never knew him to be so subdued,” she thought. “I think I must give him some sulphur and molasses. Perhaps he is getting some disease.”
She mentioned it to the captain.
“Nonsense,” said the mariner. “He’s hatching up some trick, that’s what he’s doing. You want to look out.”
“Oh, captain, I don’t think so!”
“Well, I do. Now you mark my words. It’s down on the chart that Bob is up to some mischief. He’s hauled down his colors for a while, but that’s only to fool the enemy. First thing you know he’ll hoist the Jolly Roger, and then there’ll be some queer doings in these waters.”
“Hoist the Jolly Roger?”
“I mean turn pirate, so to speak. You keep your eye on that boy, Lucy. Something’s going to break loose or I’m a Dutchman.”
Bob’s father thought his son’s subdued behavior on the few days following the captain’s arrival was due to a hint Bob had obtained, that, unless he mended his ways, he might be sent on a long voyage to work his passage.
Now the truth was that Bob was merely waiting for a good chance to play a trick. He was not particular what sort of a trick it was so long as it created a laugh. The consequences never gave him a thought or worry.
So, as he could think of nothing sufficiently “funny” to do, he remained quiet. But all the while he was looking about to see if he and his boon companion, Ted Neefus, could not perpetrate some prank that would be “worth while.”
“Things are awful slow,” complained Ted one afternoon as he and Bob walked home from school.
“That’s right,” agreed Bob. “But wait. I’ve got a plan.”
“What is it?”
Bob looked carefully up and down the street. Then he glanced behind him. Next he drew Ted into some bushes that lined the thoroughfare on which they were walking.
“You know what’s going to happen Friday night, don’t you?” Bob asked.
“The annual donation party for the minister.”
“Well, what of it?”
“That’s nothing. Don’t you generally go? So do I, though I don’t see much fun in it. Ma makes me. She says it saves gittin’ a meal at home, but I don’t like the stuff they have there.”
“I don’t either–not much–but I’m going this time and so are you. Because, listen, something’s going to happen.”
Bob nodded vigorously several times. There was a bright twinkle in his eyes.
“Don’t say a word to anybody,” he cautioned Ted, “but just you be on hand. This is going to be the best joke yet.”
“Maybe he’ll get mad.”
“What if he does? He won’t know who did it. You and I will be up in the gallery, or somewhere, and no one will see us. I’ll bet there’ll be some fun.”
The chief trouble was, as I have pointed out before, that Bob’s ideas of fun and those of other persons did not always agree. Boys and older folks seldom think the same on any subject, and so how can they be expected to about “jokes”?
The minister’s donation party was an annual affair in Moreville. Rev. Daniel Blackton, who had charge of the only church in the village, did not receive a very large salary, and it was the custom to give him a “donation party” once a year to help pay him.
This usually took the form of a supper, held in the church parlors. The women of the congregation provided the food, and a small price was charged for the meal. Nearly every one, including the “men folks” and the children, attended, and sometimes quite a fair sum was realized in this way.
In addition, every one who could afford to was expected to bring some “donation” for the minister. The women would knit him mittens, or slippers, or socks, they would crochet articles for the minister’s wife, or bring jars of preserves, which were very welcome at the parsonage.
The men would donate wood, garden products, or whatever they could best afford. In this way, while the reverend gentleman’s salary was not large, he managed to obtain a comfortable living.
It was to this donation party, or supper, that Bob and Ted were going, and as they crouched in the shadow of the bushes they perfected Bob’s plan for some fun.
Mrs. Henderson was usually on the committee of arrangements for the supper, and this occasion was no exception. For a week before she was busy making pies and cakes and getting great pans of baked beans ready, for the supper victuals were of a plain but very wholesome sort.
As Captain Spark was a guest at the Henderson home at the time the supper was to be held, he, of course, was invited to attend, an invitation he quickly accepted, for he was fond of hearty eating, and he was not ashore often enough so that such affairs as donation suppers were distasteful to him, as they are to some persons.
At last the eventful evening came. Bob, dressed in his best suit, prepared to accompany his parents and Captain Spark to the church.
Such a thing as their son attempting a joke at the donation supper never occurred to Mr. or Mrs. Henderson. It is true that at the affair there was more or less jollity and good-natured fun after the formal function of supper was over and the minister had asked the blessing. But no one had ever dared play such a joke as Bob contemplated. If his mother had in the least suspected him of even dreaming of it she would have made him stay at home.
There was a good-sized throng in the church when the Henderson party arrived. Long tables had been set in the parlors, which were back of the church proper. Women in long white aprons were hurrying to and fro, getting ready to serve the meal. Bob followed his parents and the captain into the edifice.
“Is everything all ready?” asked Ted Neefus in a whisper as he approached Bob.
“Don’t come near me,” was the cautious answer. “Folks’ll suspect if they see us together.”
So Ted quickly glided away and was lost in the crowd.
The tables were all set, the victuals put on, and nearly every one had arrived.
“I guess we’d better get the chairs up now,” proposed Mrs. Olney, who with Mrs. Henderson was superintending things. “Some of the boys can do it.”
“I will, mom,” volunteered Bob, who stood near his mother. “I’ll get some of the fellows to help me.”
“That’s good,” said Mrs. Henderson.
Bob hurried away, and soon he, Ted Neefus, Will Merton, Sam Shoop and some other chums were placing the chairs at the long tables.
“Is it all ready?” asked Ted in a hoarse whisper.
“Hush, can’t you!” cautioned Bob. “Do you want to give it away?”
All was in readiness for the grown folks to sit down. They would eat first, then the tables would be set anew and the young people would have their turn. There was always more fun at the second table, and Bob and his chums would take their meals there.
Some one told Rev. Daniel Blackton that supper was ready, and he moved up to the head of the table, prepared to say grace. In honor of Mrs. Henderson, who was one of the chief workers in the church, her relative, Captain Spark, had been accorded a place next to the minister,
“Come on up in the gallery now,” said Bob to Ted. “We can see the fun from there.” Bob had been busy straightening the chairs near the head of the table.
Just as the boys reached the gallery, the assembled diners took their seats. The reverend gentleman stood up to say grace, and then sat down.
“How long before it works ?” asked Ted.
“It’s working now,” replied Bob, “but you won’t see the full effect until he gets up.”
“Think he’ll make much of a fuss?”
“Naw. He’s too good-natured. He’ll only laugh.”
The meal progressed. To and fro went the women with big plates of food. Every one seemed to have a good appetite, and some young people, who were hungry, began to think the grown folks would never get done.
But at last there was a general scraping of chairs as they were pushed back.
“Watch now!” called Bob to several of his cronies who were with him in the gallery that overlooked the room where supper was being served. “He’s getting up.”
In fact nearly every one was leaving the table. The tall form of Rev. Daniel Blackton was seen to rise. Something else arose also. It was the minister’s chair. He felt that something was wrong, and half turned around. What he saw caused a deep flush to spread over his pale face.
His chair was glued fast to him, and wherever he moved the chair went too!
“Oh!” exclaimed Bob in a hoarse and horrified whisper. “I put the stuff on the wrong chair! I wanted Captain Spark to stick fast, and I put it on the minister’s chair by mistake!”
By this time the dominie was endeavoring to pull the chair loose from the seat of his trousers. But the glue Bob had spread was very sticky. Pull and tug as he did, the minister could not free himself.
First there was a murmur, then some one laughed. In a moment the whole room was in an uproar.
“You’ll catch it!” prophesied Ted, in an awestruck whisper.
“I won’t unless some of you squeal on me,” declared Bob.
He looked over the balcony railing at the struggling minister, who was trying in vain to get free from the chair.
“Nobody’ll squeal,” declared Will Merton.
“Of course not,” added Sam Shoop.
MRS. HENDERSON’S DECISION
The minister, very much embarrassed, was doing his best to get rid of the chair. It was hard work, for if he turned around to one side to grasp it, the chair, naturally, swung away from him. It was several seconds before any one thought to aid him. Then Captain Spark came to his relief.
“Guess I’ll have to give you a hand, dominie,” he said. “You’re anchored pretty hard and fast on a shoal, and you’ll need help to break loose. How did it happen? Did you sit down on an egg?”
“Some one put glue in the chair. I did not notice it until I tried to get up.”
The captain’s eyes had a queer look in them.
“Yes. I suppose some of the boys did it for a joke.”
“Pretty poor sort of a joke,” remarked Mrs. Olney. “I could almost put my hand on the boy that did it, too.”
She looked to see if Mrs. Henderson had heard her, but Bob’s mother was on the other side of the room and was not fully aware of what had happened.
Captain Spark tried to pull the chair loose from the minister, but the glue had taken a firm hold, and the only result of his efforts was to drag the reverend gentleman about the room.
[Illustration: “Captain Spark tried to pull the chair loose.”]
All this while the people were trying hard not to laugh. But it was impossible. Men were chuckling and endeavoring to suppress their mirth, and nearly all the women were red in the face from holding in their laughter.
“Guess you’d better sit down, dominie,” advised the captain.
“If I do, I’ll stick faster than before.”
“Well, if you do I’ll put my feet on the rounds of the chair and hold it down while you get up. Maybe you can pull loose.”
“I’m afraid,” said Rev. Mr. Blackton.
“Afraid of what?”
“I might tear my trousers, and,” he added in a whisper to the captain, “they’re the best pair I have.”
“Might as well be killed for a sheep as a goat,” replied the mariner. “They’re spoiled anyhow, by this glue. Better try to pull loose. Go on. I’ll hold your chair down.”
Thus advised, the minister sat down. The crowd watched with anxiety, not unmixed with mirth. Even the clergyman himself could not help smiling, though it was quite an embarrassing position for a dignified gentleman.
“Would you mind putting your feet on the rounds on the other side?” asked the captain of Mr. Henderson. “Between us both I guess we can hold him down.”
The two men bore heavily on the chair-rounds, and Mr. Blackton strained to rise. There was a pulling, ripping sound, and he hesitated. Then, feeling that he must get loose no matter what happened, he gave a mighty tug and was free. But his trousers, though only slightly torn, were covered with glue.
Now that it was over, and the excitement was beginning to cool down, the minister began to feel a little natural anger at the perpetrator of the “Joke.” His best trousers were spoiled, and the donation supper had been thrown into confusion.
“Who did it?” was the question asked on every side.
The boys came slowly down from the gallery and mingled unnoticed with the throng. Bob was a little worried. He had not meant to humiliate the minister, but had counted on Captain Spark getting stuck to the chair. The captain, he knew, would make light of the prank. But it was no small matter to have done this thing to the clergyman.
“Going to supper?” asked Ted of Bob.
“No. I don’t feel like eating. Guess I’ll go home.”
But Bob’s plan was frustrated. His mother, who had been looking for her son, caught sight of him.
“Oh, Bob!” she exclaimed. “I hope none of the boys that you go with played that horrid trick on the minister! It was a very mean thing to do! But you had better have your supper. The table will soon be ready again.”
Bob did not have much appetite. He was afraid of being discovered.
The chair, with the glue on it, had been taken to the cellar, and the minister had gone home to change his trousers. Captain Spark, who had begun to turn certain things over in his mind, approached Bob. He had a sharp eye, had the mariner, and, in looking closely at his relative’s son, he saw a bit of evidence that Bob had not counted on. This was nothing more nor less than a big spot of glue on the lad’s coat sleeve.
“What’s this?” asked the seaman, pointing to the sticky place.
“I don’t know. Glue–I guess,” replied Bob, turning pale.
“Glue, eh? Seems to be about as sticky as that on the minister’s chair.”
At the mention of glue several persons about Bob and the captain looked curiously at them. Mrs. Henderson, who was just then passing, carrying a big platter of baked beans, stopped to listen to what the seaman was saying.
“Yes, it’s glue,” remarked the mariner. “Just like that on the chair. Bob,” he asked suddenly, “did you put that glue there?”
Now, with all his faults, Bob would never tell a lie. He regarded that as cowardly, and he was always willing to take whatever punishment was coming to him for his “jokes.”
“Yes, captain,” he said in a low voice. “I did it.”
“Ha! I thought so.”
“Bob Henderson!” exclaimed his mother, her face flushing red with mortification. “Did you play that horrid joke on the minister?”
“Yes, but I didn’t mean to.”
“You didn’t mean to?”
“No. I thought some one else was going to sit on that chair.”
“You thought some one else was? Why, that’s just as bad–almost. Who did you think would sit there?”
“You young rascal!” exclaimed the commander of the _Eagle_, but he did not seem very angry. “So that was intended to anchor me down, eh? Well, I must look into this.”
“I thought you’d sit there,” went on Bob.
“So I was going to, but the minister made me change, as he’s a little deaf on one side, and he wanted to ask me some questions about the Fiji Islanders.”
There was now quite a crowd around Bob, his mother, and the captain. Mrs. Henderson did not know what to do. Up to now Bob’s pranks had been bad enough, but to play this trick on the minister, and at the annual donation supper, where nearly every person in the village was present, was the climax. She felt that she had been much humiliated.
Bob’s father heard what had happened, and came up to his son.
“Bob,” he said, in a curiously quiet voice, “you must go home at once. I shall have to punish you severely for this.”
Bob knew what that meant. He wished, most heartily, that he had not played this last prank. But it was too late now.
“I told you I thought he was up to something,” whispered the captain to Mrs. Henderson.
“Yes, you were right,” she admitted. “Now my mind is made up. Captain, I wish you would take him to sea with you at once! I can stand his foolishness no longer!”
Bob was out of the room by this time and did not hear his mother’s decision.
“Do you mean that, Lucy?” asked Captain Spark eagerly.
“Yes, I do. I am determined. Bob shall go to sea. Perhaps it will teach him a lesson, and he will mend his ways.”
“It will be the making of him,” declared the captain heartily. “I’m glad you decided this. I’ll make arrangements at once.”
BOB IS DELIGHTED
The excitement caused by Bob’s prank had somewhat quieted down, and the preparations went on for giving the young people their supper. Several of Bob’s chums, however, fearful that they might be suspected of having taken part in the trick, left the church.
As a matter of fact, though, Bob alone was concerned. He had thought of the trick, procured a bottle of liquid glue from the drug store, and, watching his chance, had poured it on the chair. Then he had told his chums of it, and they had withdrawn with him to the gallery to watch events, which came quickly enough.
At the supper-table of the young people, little was talked of but Bob’s prank, and opinion was pretty evenly divided as to what would happen.
“Maybe the minister will have him arrested,” suggested one girl.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” was the opinion of another. “Mr. Blackton is a kind-hearted man, and he likes Bob.”
“But I don’t believe he’ll like him after tonight.”
“Maybe not. It was a mean thing to do, but I couldn’t help laughing when the minister stood up and the chair went with him, swinging around every time he moved, the legs hitting everybody.”
“Yes, it was odd. I had to laugh, too.”
The girls and several of their companions indulged in merriment at the recollection. The minister soon returned to the church parlors, wearing a different pair of trousers, and he seemed to have regained his good humor.
“Who was the boy who wanted me to remain seated all the evening, and perhaps longer?” he asked.
“It was Bob Henderson,” volunteered several.
“Yes, Mr. Blackton,” said Mrs. Henderson. “I am sorry to have to admit that it was my son who played that prank. But he is going to be punished for it. His father has sent him home and has followed after him.”
“I hope he will not punish Bob too severely. It was a boyish prank, due more to thoughtlessness than to malice.”
“I suppose it was, but Bob plays altogether too many such pranks. I think this will be the last.”
“Well, tell Bob I forgive him, though my trousers are ruined.”
“Mr. Henderson will arrange with you about that.”
“What–er–what chastisement does he contemplate administering to Bob?” asked the minister. He and Mrs. Henderson were conversing off to one side, in a corner of the room. “I hope he will not whip him. Bob is too big a boy to be whipped.”
“Still, parson, you know what the Good Book says: ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.'”
“Yes, Mrs. Henderson, I know. Chastisement is all right in many cases, but there are other means.”
“And it is my plan to take them,” went on Bob’s mother. “I have just made arrangements with Captain Spark to take Bob with him on a long sea voyage.”
“A sea voyage? That ought to be fine. Yes, I think that will be better than whipping Bob. Tell your husband I said so.”
“I shall. Now, if you will excuse me, I must see that these young people have plenty to eat. They are a hungry lot.”
“Indeed they are. Don’t forget to tell Bob I forgive him. I don’t want him to worry. Tell him, also, that he must be a little more thoughtful.”
When Captain Spark and Mrs. Henderson went home from the donation supper that night they discussed on the way the further plans of sending Bob to sea.
“We must consult Mr. Henderson about it,” said the captain.
“I shall, this very night. I will put up with Bob’s nonsense no longer.”
Mr. Henderson was found sitting in the dining-room, reading a paper. He had sent Bob to bed on arriving at the house, for Mr. Henderson was a man who did not believe in inflicting punishment in the heat of passion. He wanted to calm down before he decided how his son ought to be made to realize the wrong he had done. To tell the truth, he was quite at a loss just what punishment to inflict.
He had thought of a sound whipping, but he realized, as had the minister, that Bob was too old for this. Nothing so breaks the proud spirit of a boy as personal chastisement, after he has reached a certain age.
And, as yet, Mr. Henderson was not aware of the proposition Captain Spark had made to Bob’s mother, and her practical acceptance of it. Of course, Mr. Henderson had heard the first talk of sending Bob to sea, but after his wife’s refusal to consider it he had thought no more about it.
“Well, Enos,” asked Mrs. Henderson, as she and the captain entered, “have you considered what to do with Bob?”
“I have, Lucy, but I have reached no conclusion.”
“You have? What is it?”
“I am going to send him on a voyage with Captain Spark. That is, if you consent.”
“I will agree to anything you think best. But I think you will find it hard work to get Bob to go. I fear he will dislike the idea very much.”
“Why so?” inquired the captain.
“Well, Bob has many friends in the village–many boy-chums–and I think he would object very strongly to leaving them, and going off among a lot of strange men in a ship.”
“I wouldn’t be a stranger to him.”
“No, you would not, but the others would be. And I think he would be somewhat afraid.”
“Afraid? What’s there to be afraid of on the ocean, with a stout deck beneath your feet? The ocean is the safest place in the world. I’m frightened half out of my wits every time I come on land. There are so many chances of accidents. The train may run off the track, steam-boilers may blow up, there may be an earthquake, a wild bull may chase you, you may fall down a coal-hole and break your neck, or a building may topple over on you while you’re walking peacefully along the street. No such things as those can happen to you on the ocean.”
“No, perhaps not, but there are others as bad, or worse, captain.”
“Nonsense! It may blow a bit, now and then, but all you’ve got to do is mind your helm and you’ll come out all right.”
“I am glad you think so. I should be very glad to have Bob make a trip with you. I think it would do him good, but I fear he will object to it.”
“I don’t think so. We’ll propose it to him in the morning.”
Bob came down to breakfast feeling rather sheepish. He had been wondering, during the time he was not sleeping, what form of punishment his father would inflict.
The lad had an uneasy feeling that he might have to make a public apology before the whole church congregation. This he felt would be very embarrassing. He also had an idea that his father might take him from school and put him to work in the mill. Mr. Henderson had once threatened this when Bob had played some particularly annoying prank. And Bob liked his school very much, in spite of the tricks he played,
“Well, my son,” said Mr. Henderson, more solemnly than he usually spoke, “I trust you have a proper feeling of regret for what you did last night.”
“Yes. I wish I hadn’t done it,” said Bob. “I didn’t think it would make so much trouble. I didn’t mean to use so much glue.”
“Well, there is no use in discussing that now. The thing is done. You remember I told you I would have to punish you?”
“I have talked it over with your mother and Captain Spark, and we have made up our minds what to do. You are going to be sent on a long sea voyage with Captain Spark, in the _Eagle_. You will be away from home a long time, and, when you return, I trust you will have mended your ways.”
For a few seconds Bob did not speak. The proposition was so sudden to him that he did not exactly comprehend it.
“I’m to go to sea with Captain Spark?” he asked slowly.
“That is the punishment we have decided on, my son.”
“Where are you going, captain?” asked Bob.
“I’m bound for ’round Cape Horn this trip. Oh, you’ll get all the ocean you want, but it will make a man of you.”
“When are you going to sail?” asked Bob in a quiet voice.
“Good!” exclaimed the youth suddenly. “I’ll be ready. Oh, I always wanted to make a sea voyage, and now I have the chance. This is the best ever! Hurrah! That’s the stuff! ‘A life on, the ocean wave, a home on the bounding deep!’ Avast and belay, my hearties! Shiver my timbers! All hands on deck to take in sail! There she blows!”
Bob had not read sea stories for nothing.
“That’s the way to talk!” exclaimed the captain. “I knew he’d like the idea!”
Mr. Henderson seemed somewhat amazed. He had expected Bob to make strong objections. Instead the boy was delighted.
“I am sorry to see you leave home, Bob,” said his mother, with just the hint of tears in her eyes, “but I think it will be the best thing for you.”
“So do I, mom. Hurrah! This is the best ever!”
Then Bob began to dance a sailor’s hornpipe.
“It seems to me,” said Mr. Henderson to himself, as he started for the mill, “that Bob’s punishment is more of a pleasure than anything else. Still, if it does him good, I’ll not regret it.”
Captain Spark’s ship, the _Eagle_, was a large craft, and in her he had made many voyages. At present the vessel was docked at a seaport town not many miles from Moreville.
The day it was announced to Bob that he was to make a sea voyage, the captain left the village to visit the _Eagle_ at the dock and see how the loading of the cargo was progressing.
“I want to sail as soon as possible,” he said, “and though I left a good mate in charge, still I like to look after certain matters myself. I’ll be back in a few days and let you know, Bob, the exact date for sailing. In the meanwhile you can be getting ready.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” answered the boy, trying, as he had read of sailors doing, to pull a lock of his reddish hair, but finding it too short. He had decided to adopt all the sea practices he had ever read about.
“Get your bag ready,” went on the captain, “have your mother put some needles and thread in, for you’ll have to mend your own clothes at sea, and I’ll look it over when I get back.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
The captain laughed at Bob’s sudden enthusiasm for the sea and ship terms, but he was not displeased.
As for Bob, he thought the time would never pass until he would find himself aboard the _Eagle_. That very day he began to sort over his clothes, trying to decide which he should take, and he had such a miscellaneous collection of garments that, when his mother saw them, she laughed.
“Bob!” she exclaimed. “It would take three trunks to hold them, and I don’t believe sailors are ever allowed more than one. At least, in all the pictures I ever saw of sailors going on board a ship they only had a small box or bag on their shoulder, and, of course, that must have contained all their clothes.”
“I guess you’re right, mother. I’ll have to sort out some of these.”
“Never mind. I’ll do that. But what in the world are you doing with those rubber boots?”
“I was going to take them along.”
“Sailors seldom wear rubber boots. They go barefoot when it’s wet on deck.” For Mrs. Henderson knew something about seafaring men, from her long acquaintance with Captain Spark.
“Another mistake,” admitted Bob, good-naturedly. “Guess I’ve got lots to learn about the ocean and ships.”
“Yes indeed, Bob. And I hope you will profit by it. It is no place to play pranks, either, on board a ship.”
“But I’ve read that when the ship crosses the equator the sailors cut up all kinds of high jinks.”
“Yes, I suppose they do, but that is not very often. I have no doubt Captain Spark will permit fun on that occasion.”
“If we go down around Cape Horn and up the west coast of North and South America we’ll cross the equator twice,” went on Bob. “We can have fun both times.”
“I’m afraid you’re thinking more of the fun you are going to have than the real reason for this voyage, Bob. It is a punishment for your prank on the minister.”
“I know it, but, mom, I can’t seem to feel that way about it.”
“And I don’t know as I blame you, Bob, though of course it was very wrong to put glue on the reverend gentleman’s chair.”
Bob felt he must tell the news of his prospective voyage to his chums. Leaving his mother to sort out his clothes, he went out in the street. It was Saturday and there was no school. In fact, the term would close in another week, so Bob would miss little instruction by taking the cruise.
The first lad Bob met was Ted Neefus. His chum hurried up to him and Inquired:
“Did he hurt you very much?”
“My father? What do you mean?”
“Didn’t he give you a good walloping for that joke?”
“No. Not a bit of it. I’m going on a sea voyage with Captain Spark.”
“Cross my heart,” and Bob went through a rapid motion with his hands somewhere over the region of his stomach.
“Around Cape Horn.”
“Of course not. But that’s nothing. Captain Spark has been all over the world.”
Bob spoke as though doubling the Horn was the easiest thing a mariner meets with.
“I wonder if he doesn’t want another boy,” mused Ted wistfully.
“Don’t believe so.”
“Wish he did. We could have jolly times together.”
“I’m going out to learn how to sail a ship, not to have fun,” replied Bob, with an air of lofty virtue. He had said nothing about this voyage being a sort of discipline as punishment for his prank. He did not think that necessary.
“When are you goin’?”
“Next week.” And then the two boys fell to discussing the trip in all its aspects. Soon other boys joined Bob and Ted, but the perpetrator of the glue-joke was the center of attraction.
In fact, Bob was regarded as a sort of village hero. There was more interest manifested in geography at school the following week than ever before. Everybody knew, without telling, where Cape Horn was, and as for the Straits of Magellan, they could have pointed them out in the dark.
The prospect of the trip, too, had a certain effect on Bob. His mind was so filled with the thought of it, that he actually forgot about planning any jokes. Nor would he take part in any with the other village boys.
“Let’s go down past old Mary Bounder’s house and throw stones at the door. Then she’ll come out and chase us and one of us can go in and get her pet cat and tie a can to its tail,” proposed Ted the following Monday. Mary Bounder was a curious old woman, who lived all alone in a cabin near the woods, and was the mark for many a joke on the part of the boys.
“Nope,” said Bob firmly.
“What’s the matter? Sick?” asked Ted in surprise.
“No, but I’ve got to do some studying.”
“Studying? Why, there’s only a little more school.”
“I don’t mean that kind of studying. I’m learning the different parts of a ship, so I’ll know ’em when I get to sea.”
Ted had momentarily forgotten about Bob’s voyage.
“That’s so,” he said. “You’ll be going away soon. Say, we ought to have some fun before you go.”
“Guess I’ve played enough jokes for a while.”
“But we ought to have one more. Come down to Mary Bounder’s. Sam Shoop will go. He’ll catch the cat.”
“Nope. I’m going home. I got a new book on sea terms, and I want to look at it.”
“All right. Then Sam and I’ll go. You’ll wish you’d come. We’ll have some fun.”
But Bob could not be persuaded. His mother and father noticed the change in him, and they were delighted.
“I believe we made no mistake when we consented to the captain’s plan,” said Mr. Henderson.
“If it will only last,” added his wife.
That day a letter came from Captain Spark saying he would be detained a few days longer and would not reach Moreville until Wednesday.
“The ship will sail the following Saturday,” he stated in his note. “I could sail Friday, but I don’t want to take any chances. Some of my sailors are superstitious, and I want them all to be in good humor. I trust Bob has not changed his mind about going.”
“No indeed,” said the boy, when the letter was shown to him.
That afternoon as Bob was coming back from the store, he met, on the main street of the village, an old man who lived on the outskirts of the town. His name was Captain Obediah Hickson and he had once been a sailor, though he told so many different versions of his life at sea, that it was hard to say where truth began and fiction left off. Still he might not have meant to deceive any one, for he was rather simple-minded.
“What’s this I hear about you going to take a long sea voyage?” he asked of Bob.
“It’s true, Captain Obed,” which was what every one called the aged man. “I’m going around Cape Horn with Captain Spark. We start soon.”
“Around Cape Horn, eh? Then you’ll strike the Southern Pacific.”
“I expect so.”
A curious change seemed to come over the old man. He looked carefully up and down the street to see that no one was in sight, and then, approaching quite closely to Bob, he whispered:
“Bob, come to my house to-night.”
“Hush! Not so loud. I’ve a great secret to disclose.”
“What about?” asked Bob with a smile, thinking to humor the old captain.
“About buried treasure. It’s on a lonely island in the Southern Pacific Ocean. I’m the only living man who knows where it is. If I wasn’t so old I’d go along and help find it. But I’m too old. It needs some one young and strong. You’ll dig it up for me, won’t you?”
“If I could find it,” replied Bob, believing the aged man was speaking of some delusion.
“Oh, you can find it. I have the secret map. I’ll give it to you. Come to my house to-night, but after dark–after dark, mind.” And, once more looking around to see that no one had observed him, Captain Obed shuffled on down the street. Bob did not know what to think.
BOB’S LAST LAND JOKE
Returning home, Bob said nothing to his mother about what Captain Obed had said. The boy wanted to think more about it. If he could combine a treasure hunt with his sea voyage it would be a fine thing. Besides, why should not the old man know something of hidden treasure? He had sailed in many waters and been on many ships. Bob decided he would visit him that night.
Accordingly, when it grew dusk, he set off for the lonely house where the old sailor lived. It was quite a walk, but in his eagerness Bob covered the ground in short time. As he was passing a clump of bushes, not far from his destination, he was surprised to hear a voice calling sharply from the darkness:
“Who is it?” asked Bob.