STARRY FLAG SERIES
FREAKS OF FORTUNE;
HALF ROUND THE WORLD.
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD," "THE ARMY AND NAVY STORIES," "THE WOODVILLE STORIES," "THE BOAT-CLUB STORIES," "THE RIVERDALE STORIES," ETC.
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by WILLIAM T. ADAMS, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY WILLIAM T. ADAMS, All rights reserved.
FREAKS OF FORTUNE.
MY YOUNG FRIEND,
THOMAS POWELL, JR.
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
"FREAKS OF FORTUNE" is the fourth of the serial stories published in "OUR BOYS AND GIRLS." It was written in response to a great number of calls for a sequel to "THE STARRY FLAG." The author was pleased to learn that Levi Fairfield had made so pleasant an impression upon his young friends, and the gratifying reception extended to him in the present story, as it appeared in the Magazine, was quite as flattering to the writer as to Levi himself. When a good boy, like the hero of "The Starry Flag," is regarded with so much kindly interest by our boys and girls, it is convincing evidence that they have the capacity to appreciate noble conduct, daring deeds, and a true life.
The author is not disposed to apologize for the "exciting" element—as some have been pleased to denominate it—of this and others of his stories. If goodness and truth have been cast down, if vice and sin have been raised up, in the story, an explanation would not, and ought not to, atone for the crime. The writer degrades no saints, he canonizes no villains. He believes that his young friends admire and love the youthful heroes of the story because they are good and true, because they are noble and self-sacrificing, and because they are generous and courageous, and not merely because they engage in stirring adventures. Exciting the youthful mind in the right direction is one thing; exciting it in the wrong direction is quite another thing.
Once more it becomes the writer's pleasant duty to acknowledge the kindness of his young friends, as well as of very many parents and guardians, who have so often and so freely expressed their approbation of his efforts to please his readers. He has been continually cheered by their kind letters, and by their constant favor, however manifested; and he cannot help wondering that one who deserves so little should receive so much.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
HARRISON SQUARE, MASS.,
July 27, 1868.
CHAPTER I. THREE YEARS AFTER. 11
CHAPTER II. FIRE. 21
CHAPTER III. THE HOLE IN THE WALL. 31
CHAPTER IV. THE PLANK OVER THE CHASM. 42
CHAPTER V. AN INDUCTIVE ARGUMENT. 53
CHAPTER VI. THE STARRY FLAG. 64
CHAPTER VII. GRAVE CHARGES. 75
CHAPTER VIII. CONSTABLE COOKE. 86
CHAPTER IX. THE EXAMINATION. 97
CHAPTER X. MR. C. AUGUSTUS EBENIER. 108
CHAPTER XI. THE RESULT OF THE EXAMINATION. 119
CHAPTER XII. HOTEL DE POISSON. 130
CHAPTER XIII. "OFT FROM APPARENT ILLS." 141
CHAPTER XIV. "LOSE HIS OWN SOUL." 151
CHAPTER XV. ANOTHER LITTLE PLAN. 161
CHAPTER XVI. PISTOLS FOR TWO. 173
CHAPTER XVII. THE GOLD RESTORED. 184
CHAPTER XVIII. MAT MOGMORE. 195
CHAPTER XIX. THE CARIBBEE. 207
CHAPTER XX. DOCK VINCENT'S LETTER. 219
CHAPTER XXI. THE CARIBBEE SAILS FOR AUSTRALIA. 230
CHAPTER XXII. THE TRAVELLER WHO LOST HIS WAY. 241
CHAPTER XXIII. OFF SANDY HOOK. 253
CHAPTER XXIV. HALF ROUND THE WORLD. 264
CHAPTER XXV. A HAPPY REUNION. 275
CHAPTER XXVI. CONCLUSION. 287
FREAKS OF FORTUNE;
HALF ROUND THE WORLD.
THREE YEARS AFTER.
"This is the spot, Bessie," said Levi Fairfield, as he paused on the bank of the brook which flows into the bay near Mike's Point.
"But what was the thing you made?" asked Bessie Watson, as she looked with interest at the place indicated, though she could not see anything very remarkable, or even strange.
"It was a young saw-mill," laughed Levi. "It rested on those flat stones you see there; but the dam is entirely washed away. I made it in Mr. Mogmore's carpenter's shop, near uncle Nathan's house. After a deal of fussing and tinkering, I got it so that it sawed through a board two feet long from one end to the other. It was the proudest day of my life when I showed Mr. Mogmore the two parts, separated by my machine; and he declared I should make a good machinist."
"Where is the saw-mill now?" inquired Bessie, interested in the machine because it had been made by Levi, rather than because she had a taste for mechanics.
"It is up in the attic of uncle Nathan's house; at least it was there three years ago, when I went to live with Mr. Gayles."
"I should really like to see it."
"Should you? Well, you shall, if the thing is still in being. I will go down to uncle Nathan's and get it, and then I will set it up, and you shall see it go," answered Levi, as he led the way towards the house of his uncle.
The water privilege which Levi Fairfield, as a boy of thirteen, had improved, was located on the brook behind the cottage of Mr. Mogmore. Bessie did not care to meet uncle Nathan; so she decided to call upon the carpenter's family; for, having spent three seasons at Rockport, she was well acquainted in several families near her father's new house, which was on the shore, not far from Mike's Point.
Bessie—or, as we ought to call her now, Miss Watson, though it does not sound half so pleasant to the ear, and Levi had been several times reproved for addressing her in this formal manner—Miss Watson was "sweet sixteen," or so near it that we give her the full benefit of the majority fraction. If she was pretty at twelve, she was beautiful at sixteen. She was rather tall for her age, but exceedingly well formed. She had spent much of her time in the open air, and on her cheeks glowed the roses of health.
Mrs. McGilvery, a widowed sister of Mr. Watson, who had been the principal of a young ladies' seminary before her marriage, was intrusted with the care of her niece's education. Though Bessie attended school while in the city, yet she was absent four months in the year, during three of which she studied with her governess, on the sea-shore. Fortunately for Bessie, Mrs. McGilvery was an amphibious lady, and was always ready for a trip in The Starry Flag, Levi Fairfield's well-tried craft. She had a taste for yachts, not only in pleasant weather, and on a smooth sea, but when the wind blew anything short of a gale, and the white caps whipped over the gunwale of the boat. Bessie, therefore, was frequently on the salt water with her duenna, and her constitution had been wonderfully strengthened by this healthful exercise.
Levi Fairfield and The Starry Flag were in demand almost every day; and we need not add that the young skipper did not regard himself as a martyr in the cause. Though the excursions to Halibut Point, Straitsmouth, the Selvages, and other places in the vicinity, were frequently repeated, he was never happier than when at the helm with Bessie and Mrs. McGilvery on board; not particularly on account of the latter, though he was quite a favorite with her.
Levi left Miss Watson at the door of Mr. Mogmore's cottage, and walked over to uncle Nathan's house. Three years had not improved the appearance of the miser's house, for he spent no money upon it in paint and repairs. When anything about the building caved in, as it frequently did, he tinkered it himself. If time had not improved uncle Nathan or his house, it had improved Levi. He was nearly eighteen, was "man grown," strong as a lion, and agile as a deer. Within the preceding three years he had made two fishing trips, though most of his time had been spent at the academy.
He entered his uncle's house. Though his visits, like angels', had been few and far between, they were not so because Levi cherished any ill will towards his former guardian, but because he had been made to feel that he was not a welcome guest. Uncle Nathan never felt right after his removal from the position of guardian of his nephew. The care of the money was taken from him, and he was deprived of the profits he derived from boarding and clothing his ward. He realized that money had been taken out of his pocket by the spirited conduct of Levi; and taking money out of the miser's pocket was the sorest injury that could be inflicted upon him.
But Levi behaved like a Christian. He did not forget that his uncle and aunt lived in that old and dilapidated house, and he did his best to keep the peace with them. In the most literal manner he returned good for evil. It is true he could not respect his uncle, or get up a very warm regard for him,—he was too mean, selfish, and unprincipled to win the respect and regard of any decent person,—but he could treat him with Christian kindness.
Mr. Gayles, since he had been Levi's guardian, had, by the advice of Mr. Watson, given his ward a regular allowance of five dollars a week for pocket money, independent of his actual expenses for clothing himself. This money was spent in books, in improvements on The Starry Flag, in charity, and for other proper purposes. Not a cent of it ever went to the keeper of a grog-shop, billiard-saloon, or other place which a young man should avoid; but not a little of it, in one way and another, found its way into the comfortless abode of uncle Nathan.
Though his aunt, by the force of circumstances, had become almost as mean as her husband, she was not a bad woman in other respects, and Levi had considerable regard for her. She had but few joys in this world, and one of them was reading the newspaper, when she was so fortunate as to procure one, which was but seldom. Levi subscribed for the Boston Journal for her, which came every day, and for a weekly religious newspaper. The old lady had a splendid time every afternoon reading her paper, and enjoyed a "rich season" every "Sabba' day" over her Sunday paper.
Levi did more than this. He not only carried to the house a great many fish he caught himself, but a leg of veal or lamb, a roasting-piece of beef, a pair of chickens, or a turkey was not unfrequently laid upon the kitchen table by him. Uncle Nathan ate the roast beef, the turkeys, and the chickens, but he hated the giver none the less. It was a shameful waste of money to buy such things; and these delicacies reminded him of the dollars and half dollars that had slipped away from him when he lost Levi, rather than the kindness and Christian charity of the young man in presenting them.
It was not so with Mrs. Fairfield, though the savage flings and unkind allusions of her husband to his nephew were not without their influence upon her. She could not help feeling a great regard for the donor of the newspapers, and the substantials which gave the table such an unwonted attractiveness. As far as her dull nature would permit, she appreciated the kindness and good will of Levi. It is true that on several occasions uncle Nathan had sold the turkeys, chickens, and roasting-pieces his late ward had given him; yet it had never been without a protest on the part of aunt Susan. It was an awful waste for him to eat these luxuries; but selling the gifts of Levi was monstrous to her, and her protest was so energetic that she carried her point, and the miser was compelled to eat food which was so costly that it almost choked him.
Uncle Nathan did not get fat on the bounty of his liberal nephew. He had too many corroding cares, too many financial terrors, too many fears that the banks would break, his creditors fail, his stocks depreciate, to eat and sleep like a Christian. Misers never grow liberal as they grow old, and he was no exception to the rule. A financial panic had just swept over the land, and though he had lost nothing by it, it caused him more anguish than thousands who had lost their all. He was afraid of banks, afraid of men, afraid even of good mortgages on productive real estate. He dreaded some calamity he could not define, which would wrest from him every dollar he had in the world.
To guard against this horrible event, he had actually converted some of the less reliable of his securities into gold, and concealed it in his house, preferring to sacrifice the interest to the safety of the principal, bitter as the necessity seemed to be.
For two months uncle Nathan had kept four thousand dollars in gold in the house, groaning at the loss of sixty-six and two thirds cents a day in interest; but a bank somewhere in the state had failed, and he dared not trust the money out of his own possession. It had been hidden in the cellar, hidden in the parlor, hidden in the kitchen, and hidden in his chamber; but no place seemed to be safe, and the miser trembled when awake, and trembled when asleep, in his dreams, lest the figurative description of riches should be realized, and his gold should take to itself wings and fly away.
Ruin and decay had invaded the sleeping-room of the miser, as it had every other part of his house. There was many a hole in the plastering, and many a hole in the floor; but there was one particular hole in the wall, about a foot above the floor, in a corner behind the bed. This particular hole was selected as the receptacle for the gold. He had cut away the laths, so that he could thrust his arm down into the aperture, and deposit the bag on the sill of the house.
He had begged a piece of board of Mr. Mogmore to cover this hole, and had fastened it over the plastering with four screws. While he was thus engaged, Mat Mogmore, the carpenter's son, had come for the screw-driver uncle Nathan had borrowed at the shop. Mrs. Fairfield, not knowing what her husband was doing, sent him into the chamber for it.
"Stoppin' up the cracks to keep the cold out," whined the miser. "I cal'late I got the rheumatiz out of this hole."
Mat wanted the screw-driver, but he helped fasten up the board before he took it, and wondered what the old man had cut away the laths for. The board was put up, and the money was safe; but the miser hardly dared to go out of sight of the house.
Levi entered the house. Uncle Nathan was not at home, but he was probably somewhere in the vicinity. Aunt Susan was in the kitchen baking her weekly batch of brown bread, the staple article of food in the family, because it was cheaper than white bread.
"Aunt, I want to go up in the garret and get that little saw-mill I made four or five years ago," said Levi.
"Well, I s'pose you can," replied she, filling up the old brick oven with pine wood, which cracked and snapped furiously in the fierce flames.
"It's up there now—isn't it?"
"I s'pose 'tis, if you put it there; I hain't teched it."
"Will you give me a little piece of candle, too, if you please?"
"You can take that piece in the candlestick on the mantel-tree piece, if it's long enough."
"That will do just as well as if it were a foot long," replied Levi, taking the piece of candle, and rolling it up in a bit of newspaper.
He went up into the attic, found the saw-mill just as he had left it, though it was covered with half an inch of dust and cobwebs. When he came down, he heard uncle Nathan's voice in the kitchen. He was growling because his wife used so much wood to heat the oven, and Levi concluded not to see him that day, for he seemed to be in a more than usually unamiable frame of mind. He went out at the front door, and Bessie joined him as he passed Mr. Mogmore's house. The saw-mill was taken to the spot where it had stood before. The dam was reconstructed much more readily than the rebel states.
Taking the candle from his pocket, Levi greased the running parts of the machine, hoisted the gate, and away went the saw as briskly as a bee after its years of rest in the attic, to the intense delight of Bessie, who was quite ready to vote another feather for the cap of the hero. A piece of board was adjusted on the carriage, and the saw began to whisk, whisk, whisk through it, when a series of yells in the direction of the road attracted the attention of the engineer of the structure.
"Why, what's that smoke?" exclaimed Bessie.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" shouted several persons in the road.
"It's uncle Nathan's house," said Levi; and, without waiting to extend any further courtesies to his fair companion, he bounded through the field, and over the fence, to the imperilled dwelling.
Around the north chimney the smoke was pouring out in a dense volume. Uncle Nathan had raised a ladder to the roof, and was drawing up pails of water to throw on the fire. Aunt Susan and Mat Mogmore were assisting him, and in a few moments several other persons arrived at the house. Levi ran up the ladder, and went to work with a decision and vigor which promised the best results.
"I'm ruined! I'm ruined, as true as you live!" groaned the miser. "The house will burn up!"
"No, it won't, uncle Nathan. We can put the fire out if we stick to it," replied Levi, in encouraging tones, as he dashed a bucket of water on a volume of flame that rushed up at the side of the chimney.
"Tain't no use! It's jest my luck."
"Pass up the buckets, uncle Nathan, and we shall be all right in a few minutes. We are gaining on it."
"O, my money!" groaned the miser, as he dropped the empty bucket he was carrying.
Levi glanced at him. His uncle was as pale as a sheet, and seemed to have wilted as though the flames had blasted him. He sank down upon the roof, and would have rolled off if the strong arm of his nephew had not saved him. His eyes were closed, his lips were blue and ashy, and his frame was motionless. Levi was alarmed by his appearance. He was either dead or had fainted, and the young man saw that he must be removed. Lying down by the side of the senseless form, he clasped his arms around it, and rose to his feet with the burden on his back. Like all misers, uncle Nathan was nothing but skin and bones, which do not weigh heavily, and Levi walked along the ridge-pole to the other end of the house with the nerveless body on his back.
It was not an easy matter to descend the ladder with such a load, though Levi would have carried his uncle down alone if no help had arrived. Before he reached the ladder, two men had mounted the roof, and while one of them was directed to pour water on the fire, the other assisted in bearing the miser down the ladder. He was carried to Mr. Mogmore's house, and aunt Susan followed, having satisfied herself that her husband was not dead, but had fainted.
Having deposited the form of the miser on the bed, Levi hastened back to assist in saving the house. His post was in the midst of danger, and he went up on the roof. A plentiful supply of water soon drowned out the fire, and before the engine arrived the last spark had been extinguished.
"O, my money!" had been the last words of Mr. Fairfield before he fainted. Levi did not understand the force of this expression, for he was not aware that his uncle had four thousand dollars in gold concealed in the house. The miser had worked with the energy of desperation to put out the fire, until the flames appeared to be gaining upon him, and then he was in despair. At this point the thought of his gold flashed upon him with such stunning force that it had taken away his senses. Doubtless the smoke and the heat, as well as the violence of his exertions, had contributed in some measure to this result.
The house would be burned, and the four thousand dollars would be lost! This was the reflection which overwhelmed the miser. Even death seemed preferable to losing such a vast sum of money. His god appeared to be riven from him, and the revulsion in his mind was terrible. If his hair had not already been gray, the shock was heavy enough to have bleached it out in a single instant.
When the fire had been put out, Levi hastened over to the carpenter's house to ascertain the condition of his uncle. The patient, under the skilful treatment of the old ladies who had ministered to him, was just regaining his consciousness, but had not yet sufficiently recovered to know what had happened to him. The house was not much injured. A hole in the roof, about six feet in diameter, had been burned out, and the water poured upon the fire had found its way into the rooms below.
The neighbors had worked with energy in extinguishing the fire, and some of them had gone into the house, and were removing the bedding and other furniture, so that the water should not drip down upon it from above. When Levi came back, he found Dock Vincent and Mat Mogmore removing the bed from his uncle's chamber. Others were carrying out the bureau and chairs. The work was about finished, and he joined Bessie in the road, where she had been observing the exciting scene.
"How did it take fire, Levi?" she asked.
"I don't know. Aunt had a tremendous fire in the oven."
"There comes your uncle," added Bessie, pointing to the poor old man, as he reeled up the road in his weakness, like a drunken man. "How awful he looks!"
"He feels badly about it, I suppose," replied Levi.
Uncle Nathan's face did indeed present an aspect which was almost hideous. It was still as pale and ghastly as death itself; and upon it there was an expression of the most intense agony. His wife was following him, hardly able to keep pace with the long strides he made.
"It's all right, uncle Nathan; we saved the house, and not much damage has been done to it," said Levi, as the old man passed him.
Uncle Nathan took no notice of him; perhaps he did not even hear him, so deeply was he absorbed in thinking about the gold. Levi and Bessie followed him into the house. The wretched miser rushed into his chamber. Mat Mogmore was there, and seemed to be busy in wiping the water from the floor. Dock Vincent was in the next room, apparently as busy as the carpenter's son.
The miser, with all the powers of his being concentrated in his eyes, gazed tremblingly at the board which covered the hiding-place of his money. That dark hole was the temple of his god, and all his hopes seemed to be shrouded in its gloom. But the board was where he left it, and as he left it, and the miser breathed a little easier.
"It was rather hard on you, Mr. Fairfield; but it's lucky it ain't no worse," said Dock Vincent.
"It's bad enough," groaned the miser.
"That's so; but 'tain't so bad as it might be. I was just coming down from the ledges when I saw the smoke; and I've been to work like a good one ever since," added Dock.
"If I can do anything more for you, I'm willing to help as much as I can," said Mat Mogmore.
"There ain't nothing more to do," replied Mr. Fairfield, who only desired that the neighbors would leave, so that he could assure himself of the safety of his gold.
They did go, without even the thanks of the miser. Levi was in the kitchen with Mrs. Fairfield, trying to make out how the fire had caught.
"Sech a piece of work, massy knows!" exclaimed the old lady, as she looked about her in dismay at the water which was still dripping down from above. "It'll take a whole month to put things to rights agin. I can't tell, for the life of me, how it ketched."
"You had a large fire in the oven, aunt," suggested Levi.
"But the fire in the oven didn't set the ruff afire! Sunthin was the matter with that chimbly, and your uncle fixed it e'enamost a month ago. I don't know nothin' what he did to it. Mebbe there was a hole in that chimbly—For massy sake! What's comin' now!"
This exclamation had been brought from her by a loud, despairing howl from her husband, who at this moment rushed into the kitchen, with such a look of anguish on his face that it frightened Bessie.
"O, my money!" groaned the wretched man.
"For pity's sake, husband, what's the matter?" cried Mrs. Fairfield.
"It's all gone!" gasped uncle Nathan.
"What's all gone?"
"The money!" he replied in a whisper.
His nature could endure no more. He tottered on his legs, and Levi sprang to his assistance just as he dropped senseless on the floor.
THE HOLE IN THE WALL.
As soon as Dock Vincent and Mat Mogmore had left the house, Mr. Fairfield procured a case-knife,—for he was not the owner of so useful an implement as a screw-driver,—and, with trembling anxiety, removed the board that covered the hole in the wall. Thrusting his hand down into the aperture, a cold chill swept through his frame when he failed to touch the bags in which the gold was contained. With convulsive energy, he felt in every part of the cavity; but the money had surely taken to itself wings and flown away.
Had all the human beings upon the earth been suddenly destroyed before his eyes, the effect upon the miser could not have been more deplorable. He loved his money; he did not love his fellow-beings. His heart almost ceased to beat beneath the shock, his lip quivered, and the tears started in his eyes. His brain began to reel before the blow; he uttered a prolonged howl, and rushed out into the kitchen rather from impulse than because he desired or expected human sympathy.
Bessie Watson was terrified by the fearful aspect of Mr. Fairfield when he entered the room, and for weeks the awful expression upon his face haunted her like the vision of a midnight ghost. Levi was startled, and Mrs. Fairfield, accustomed as she was to the ways of her husband, was deeply moved by his singular conduct. When he was ailing, he was subject to fainting fits; but he had never appeared so badly as on the present occasion.
The miser trusted no person, had no confidence in any one, not even in his wife. He had not told her that he had four thousand dollars in gold in the house, for he feared that she might be tempted to rob him of his treasure. Mrs. Fairfield, therefore, did not comprehend his despairing utterances when he announced the loss of his money.
Levi and his aunt conveyed the senseless form to the front room, and after working over him nearly half an hour, he came out of the fit, but only to suffer the most intense agonies at the loss of his money.
"What on airth is the matter with you, Nathan?" asked his wife, when, after another examination of the hole in the wall, he appeared in the kitchen again.
Bessie had gone home; but Levi remained, to render any assistance in his power in putting the house to rights.
"O!" groaned the miser, heavily, as he paced the room with furious strides.
"Can't you tell what ails you?" continued Mrs. Fairfield.
"It's all gone," gasped he, with a prolonged sigh.
"What is it? What's all gone? Why don't you tell a body what has happened?"
"My money is all gone! Somebody has stolen it—robbed me, ruined me!"
"Who on airth stole it?"
"I donno," replied Mr. Fairfield, glancing at Levi.
"How much was stole?"
"Four thousand dollars," sighed the miser.
"For massy sake!" exclaimed Mrs. Fairfield; and it was a question whether she would not faint, for such a sum of money was beyond her comprehension.
"Where was it, uncle Nathan?" asked Levi, who pitied the sufferings of the old man.
The miser looked at his nephew. People always suspect those whom they hate. If any wicked deed is done, they charge it upon those they love the least, regardless of circumstances.
"Levi Fairfield, you stole my money!" continued the old man, fiercely.
"Nonsense, Nathan!" interposed Mrs. Fairfield. "Levi didn't do nothin' of the sort."
"Didn't you tell me he went up in the attic before the fire? Didn't you tell me you gave him a piece of candle?" demanded Mr. Fairfield, earnestly; and doubtless he felt that Levi was guilty, for his impulsive charge was made on the strength of a course of reasoning he had followed out.
"What if I did tell you so? Levi didn't steal no four thousand dollars. There's no sense nor reason in sayin' so," added aunt Susan.
"I say he did steal it. I know he did now," persisted the miser. "He set the house afire, and then took the money. That boy hates me, and he's bad enough to do anything, if he is go'n' to jine the church."
"Levi has money enough," argued Mrs. Fairfield. "Why should he steal your money?"
"Cause he hates me."
"Uncle Nathan, I don't hate you, and I didn't steal your money," said Levi, who had calmly listened to the debate between his uncle and aunt.
"Yes, you did; you set the house afire, so's to git a chance to git the money. It's all plain enough to me," continued the old man, striding up and down the room more rapidly than before.
"I suppose it will be useless for me to say anything," added Levi, more in pity than in anger. "I am willing to do anything I can to help you find the money, if it is lost, or catch the thief, if it was stolen."
"'Tain't no use for you to talk no more, Levi Fairfield," said the old man, stopping in front of him. "You know all about it, and you took the money. If you're a mind to give it all back to me, I won't say a word to nobody about it."
"I did not take it, and I know nothing about it. I was not aware that you had so much money in the house," replied Levi.
"What did you want of the candle, then, if you didn't steal the money?"
"I wanted it to grease the saw-mill, and the candle lies on a rock by the brook now."
"Didn't you set the house afire when you went up in the garret?"
"I did not. I had no light, and not even a match in my pocket."
"Who did steal it, then, if you didn't?"
"I don't know. Where did you keep the money?"
The old man led the way to his chamber, and pointed out the hole.
"That's a bad place to keep money," said Levi.
"'Tain't no use to keep money in the bank now; they're all failin', and folks is failin'; and a man that's got a little money is wus off than them that hain't got none."
Levi asked a great many questions about the money, and the hole, which uncle Nathan, hoping to find his money, answered. There was no evidence to fasten the crime upon any one. The facts that appeared were, that the money, in four bags, had been deposited in the cavity; that an hour before the fire, the miser had assured himself the gold was safe; that, after the fire, the board had been found in its place as before, but the gold was gone. A dozen of the neighbors, at least, had been into the room, and Dock Vincent and Mat Mogmore had been the last to leave. Mr. Fairfield was sure that neither Dock nor Mat knew he had any money in the house. There was no good reason for supposing they, any more than any other of the neighbors, had taken the gold.
After a long and careful examination of the premises, and a patient inquiry into all the circumstances, nothing could be brought forward to implicate any person in the robbery. Levi was not willing to believe yet that the gold had been stolen. He went down cellar, and surveyed the timbers under the hole, hoping that the bags had dropped through; but he could not find them. He could not determine whether or not there was any connection between the fire and the robbery; but Mr. Fairfield insisted that some one—he did not say Levi now—intended to burn the house, so as to cover up the crime, or at least afford an opportunity to commit the theft.
"How could any one set the fire in the roof?" asked Levi.
"They might have gone up there, as you did," replied the old man, rather malignantly.
"Let us go up and see how the fire took," added Levi. "Aunt Susan had a big fire in the oven."
"It couldn't ketch afire up there if she did," replied uncle Nathan, as he followed his nephew up the ladder.
Some of the boards and shingles had been burned through, but the rafters were only charred. Levi went up to the chimney and examined the woodwork near it. The house was a very old one, and had been built upon until its present proportions had been reached. The chimney, where the fire had taken, was in the most ancient part, and the bricks were laid in clay. Levi found that three or four of them, on one of the inside corners, had dropped out. This was the defect which the owner had repaired.
"There is a great hole in the chimney," said Levi.
"I know there is; but I stopped that up a month ago. I hadn't no mortar nor nothin', and I just nailed a board over the hole."
"That's the way the fire took," added Levi, wondering at the carelessness of his uncle.
"I didn't suppose there was any heat up here, twenty foot from the fire," replied the old man, sheepishly.
"Aunt Susan had a rousing fire in the oven. The wind was pretty fresh, and I suppose the sparks caught on the dry board. It is clear enough to me that no one set the house on fire."
"I suppose they didn't, then; but somebody stole my money. Mebbe you'll prove that nobody didn't steal it."
"I am willing to take your word for that;" and the miser's visible sufferings were all-sufficient to convince any person that the money was gone, whether any one had stolen it or not.
Levi tried in vain to obtain a clew to the lost treasure. He knew of no one that had visited the house during the fire who was bad enough to steal, unless it was Dock Vincent; but it was not right to suspect even him of the crime without some evidence. Neither Levi nor his uncle saw how Dock could have taken off the board, removed the bags, and then restored the covering, while there were so many people in the house.
Dock Vincent, after his discharge from the state prison, had gone to New York, where he had been employed as the mate of a steamer. Six months before the story opens, his brother, residing in Boston, had died, and as the deceased had no family, his property, amounting to twenty-one thousand dollars, had been equally divided among his two brothers and one sister. Dock fully believed that seven thousand dollars on Cape Ann would entirely wipe out the disgrace of having served a term in the state prison, and he returned to Rockport, dressed in a nice suit of black.
Dock was mistaken; seven thousand dollars would not varnish his character so that good men would associate with him. He blustered and swelled, and declared that he had been taken up for nothing; that this was not a free country; and that he was a better man than thousands in town who had never been to the state prison. He never forgave Levi for thwarting his plans, and swore roundly that he would be the ruin of him and of Mr. Watson.
The best friend Dock had was Nathan Fairfield, and the miser was not willing to believe that Dock had robbed him of his gold. After Levi went home that day, his uncle persisted that he had stolen the money.
THE PLANK OVER THE CHASM.
A week of indescribable misery to Nathan Fairfield passed away; but no trace of the robber or the money had been obtained. The constables and the deputy sheriff had visited the premises, and carefully considered all the facts, without affording the miserable man a particle of consolation. He groaned from morning till night, forlorn and desolate, declaring that he should come to want, and die in the poorhouse.
Probably the money the wretch had lost was not a fifth part of his fortune, and he was in no more danger of coming to want than the sea was of being dried up. But he felt as though he had lost all; and if he had been stripped of everything, he could hardly have suffered more. He felt poor, and wanted to earn money in some way. The dog-fish season had opened favorably, and he was actually preparing to go into the business of catching them. Dock Vincent had promised him the use of a dory,—for he could not afford to buy one,—and he had taken Levi's old lines and repaired them for use.
Mr. Fairfield groaned and sighed all day long while he worked upon his fishing-lines and his trolls. He could not tell who had stolen his money, and in his hatred of his nephew, he still persisted in suspecting him. There was no proof, and he could do nothing but believe that Levi was the thief. It was useless to say anything or do anything, for Levi was so popular that justice could not be had.
The lines, the troll, and the bait were all ready, and the old man carried them down to the landing-place where Dock had left the dory. Along the shore of this part of Cape Ann there is a succession of rocky peninsulas, extending out into the sea. Between these are the beaches, stretching in semicircles from bluff to bluff, as they have been fashioned by the mighty waves which roll in from the open ocean. On these sandy shores the billows chant their solemn melody all day and all night long, and break with sharper pitch and fiercer swell upon the jagged rocks that form the headlands.
On the road, but a few rods from Mr. Fairfield's, and near one of these peninsulas, was the house of Dock Vincent, where his family had always lived, even when he was in New York. The end of the headland curved round so as to leave a portion of the water behind it protected from the force of the sea, thus forming a sheltered landing-place. Off this point lay The Starry Flag, and on the rocks where the boatmen usually embarked were several skiffs, and among them Dock Vincent's dory, which Mr. Fairfield was to use.
Across the end of the headland, a few rods from the extreme point, was a natural chasm in the rocks, through which the water flowed at high tide. It was about ten feet wide, and rather more than this in depth. Across it a plank had been placed for the convenience of fishermen and others.
On the next headland, which terminated in Mike's Point, was the new summer residence of Mr. Watson. He had made a landing-pier, which was available at half tide; but Levi kept his boat at the old moorings, because the place was sheltered from the violence of the north-east winds, and it was less than half a mile across to the house where he usually took in his passengers.
Mr. Fairfield went down to the dory, and put his fishing-gear on board. He did it as a man goes to a funeral. He had been a fisherman in his younger days, but it was a bitter necessity, in his view, which now compelled him to resume it when he was old and stiff. While he was stowing the bait and lines in the skiff, Dock Vincent came down to see him. He had laid aside his suit of black, and now wore a full seaman's rig.
"Well, Squire Fairfield, have you heard anything from your money yet?" demanded Dock, as he seated himself on a rock.
"Not a thing; and 'tain't likely I ever shall, nuther," replied Mr. Fairfield, with a most distressing expression on his face.
"Haven't you any idea what has become of it?"
"Not the leastest grain in the world. It's gone, and that's all I know about it. I did think Levi took it, and I hain't got done thinkin' so yet."
"What made you think he took it?" asked Dock, with no little interest manifested on his ugly face.
"Well, he come to the house when I wan't in, though I was close by and see him go in. He went up garret and got a little saw-mill he made. I went up to the house, and was just goin' to see where he was; but I stopped a minute in the kitchen to tell my wife she was wastin' the wood, and Levi went out afore I see him. A little while arter, the fire bruk out, and arter that my money was gone. Levi's most eighteen, and it stands to reason he don't want no little saw-mill to play with."
"Of course he don't," added Dock, encouragingly.
"He said arterwards that he wanted to show it to the Watson gal. But what does a city gal like her keer about a saw-mill? and nuther on 'em hain't been near it sence."
"That shows how much they care about it," said Dock, who was evidently prepared to indorse the old man's philosophy.
"I can't help thinkin' Levi set the house afire, and then took the money," continued Mr. Fairfield, ignoring the current explanation of the cause of the fire. "My wife says 'tain't so, because the boy has all the money he wants, and don't have no occasion to steal; but Levi hain't no more idee of the vally of money than he has of flyin', and he throws it away as reckless as a sailor arter he comes home from a Cape Horn v'y'ge."
"I know he does; if he had to earn it, he wouldn't be quite so free with it."
"Levi hates me, 'f I am his uncle, and never did nothing but take good keer of his money for him—he hates me like destruction; and that's what makes me think he done it. He's a bad boy, if he is go'n' to jine the church. Folks will find him out one of these days, and then they'll know I told the truth about him."
"Could anybody else have taken the money? That's the p'int."
"Not's I know on—least ways nobody but you and Mat Mogmore."
"You don't think I took it—do you?"
"I hain't been able to think so," replied the miser, looking up into the face of Dock. "I allers thought you set too much by me to sarve me sech a trick as that. I've lent you a good deal of money one time 'n another."
"But I paid you ten per cent. for it. I didn't take your money, and I know Mat Mogmore didn't. I was with him all the time he was in the house. We worked together."
"It stands to reason, then, that Levi took it; I can't help thinkin' so."
"They say he carries a good many things to your house," suggested Dock.
"Kerries a good many things to my house!" repeated the miser with a sneer. "Mebbe he does. What sort of things does he kerry there? Chickens and turkeys, and surlines and ribs of beef, and sech truck! He knows I don't want sech things, and he does it jest to aggravate me. If he wants to do anything for me, why don't he gim me the money he pays out for 'em? That's what I want to know."
"I don't think you've hit the nail on the head this time, Mr. Fairfield," added Dock, who evidently had a theory of his own to propose. "They say you are worth some thirty or forty thousand dollars, Mr. Fairfield."
"Bless ye! I ain't wuth no sech money. I've got a little or sunthin, but I expect to lose it all."
"Well, call it twenty thousand, then."
"I ain't wuth that," added Mr. Fairfield, testily; for, like all misers, he desired to conceal his possessions, as much to blind the assessors as to avoid the peril of robbery.
"Well, you are worth something."
"A little or sunthin," answered Mr. Fairfield, conceding this for the sake of argument.
"Have you made a will, Squire Fairfield?"
"No, I hain't made no will. I hain't got nothin' to leave wuth makin' a will for."
Dock did not believe this statement, but he took no notice of it.
"You haven't any children, and if you should die, half of your money would go to Levi, and half to your wife. If you should die, Levi would make ten or fifteen thousand dollars by it. Don't you see now what he gives you chickens and turkeys for? He means to keep things smooth till you step out. If you shouldn't come back, when you go out after dog-fish to-morrow morning, Levi wouldn't feel half so bad about it as I should."
This was a disagreeable topic to the miser, and he cut it short; but the idea that Levi was ready to have him die took fast hold of his shattered mind. Dock Vincent had produced the impression he desired; he had added fresh fuel to the flame of the old man's hatred; and he was content to let the subject drop for the present.
Dock, finding himself a person of no consequence at the Cape, had already announced his intention to emigrate to Australia with his family; and he appeared to be waiting only to wreak his vengeance upon Levi Fairfield, who had defeated his plan to swindle Mr. Watson out of twenty thousand dollars. The young man had exposed and ruined him, in his estimation—not the crime; and he could not leave the country till he had "paid him off," though he was not so particular about his honest debts.
The next morning Dock went down to the landing-place. When he reached the chasm, he saw Levi coming across the beach. His eyes glowed with hatred, as they always did when he looked upon the author of his misfortunes, the one whose testimony had sent him to the state prison. He did not care to meet him, and it was evident that Levi was coming for his boat. Stooping down, he adjusted the plank over the chasm in such a way that his victim would be pitched down upon the sharp rocks beneath, the instant he stepped upon it. The fall would not kill him—it would only bruise and maim him. Levi was beneath the rocky precipice, and could not see him.
There was a smile on the villain's countenance as he retreated to a place of concealment near the spot, to wait for the disaster that should lay his victim upon the bed of pain and suffering.
He waited ten minutes for the crash of the falling plank; but it did not come. Rising from his seat, he moved to a position where, looking through the chasm, he saw The Starry Flag standing over towards Mr. Watson's house. Levi had walked on the shelving rocks, and reached the landing without crossing the bridge. Dock was disappointed, and began to climb the rocks to readjust the plank. As he ascended, he discovered Mr. Fairfield, just stepping on the bridge. He shouted, but it was too late; the end of the plank slipped off, the old man danced upon nothing, and sank in the abyss below.
AN INDUCTIVE ARGUMENT.
Dock Vincent was appalled to find that he had tumbled Mr. Fairfield into the chasm; not that he was disturbed by any compunctions of conscience, but because he wished to keep on the right side of the old man, from prudential motives. He was in doubt whether to exhibit himself to the injured man or not. If he showed himself, he might be suspected of setting the trap into which the miser had fallen.
The old man might be dead, and curiosity, if no stronger motive, induced him to inquire into his condition; but he took the precaution to reach the path by a roundabout way, and approach the chasm as though he had just come from his house. When he reached the abyss, he found Mr. Fairfield had risen, and was trying to climb up the rocks. He was groaning and taking on as though he had been badly hurt.
"What's the matter, Squire Fairfield?" demanded Dock. "What you doing down there?"
"O! O!" groaned the miser.
"Looking for your money in there?"
"O! No! O! I fell in," said the sufferer, in gasps.
"Fell in! Why, how did that happen?" asked Dock, with well-feigned astonishment.
"I donno. O! that plank gin away, O, and let me down."
"Are you hurt?"
"Most killed," replied Mr. Fairfield, holding his breath, and then exploding the words.
Dock walked down the shelving bank above the water, and then entered the chasm.
"Where are you hurt?" he asked.
"My hips is both broke, and I'm jarred e'enamost to pieces."
"I guess your hips aren't broke; you couldn't stand up if they were," suggested Dock.
"Sunthin's broke, I know."
"Sit down on this rock, and let me see what is broke."
Mr. Fairfield complied, and Dock, who, as the master of a vessel, had had some experience with sickness and injuries, carefully examined the old man's limbs. He was badly bruised in several places, on the legs and arms, but no bones appeared to be broken, so far as Dock's surgical skill could discern. The jar of the fall had doubtless racked his frame severely; but the miser was still a strong man, physically, and could bear a pretty hard rap.
After resting a while, and rubbing his limbs, the sufferer was able, with the assistance of Dock, to walk home. He went to bed, and his wife bathed his limbs, and dressed the bruises on his legs and arms.
"Shall I go for the doctor, Squire Fairfield?" asked Dock, when he had assisted the patient into his bed.
"The doctor? No; he charges a dollar a visit," replied the old man, fearfully; for the idea of paying a physician's bill filled him with horror. "You say there ain't no bones broke; so I don't need no doctor."
"He don't need no doctor," added Mrs. Fairfield.
"I don't think you do myself. I've had worse cases than this aboard my vessel, and I got along without any doctors. You'll be all right in a week or two, Squire Fairfield."
"It's jest my luck," sighed the miser. "Everything's goin' wrong with me. I shouldn't be a grain surprised if the house burned down over my head afore I got out agin. I shan't ketch no dog-fish to-day, that's sartain. There's ten dollars out o' my pocket, as sure's you live!"
Dock was a rough comforter; but he spoke such words of consolation as the occasion required and his vocabulary contained.
"It's jest my luck," repeated the miser. "Every other man in town might have walked over that plank, and it wouldn't gin away. I walked over that plank last night, and airly this morning. I see, when I stepped on to it, that somebody had been a movin' on it; but I didn't know the 'tother eend was only just ketched on to the rock."
"Who moved it?" asked Dock, rather disturbed by this suggestion of a suspicion.
"I don't know nothin' about it; but somebody's been a movin' on it, or it wouldn't a gin away under me, and let me down."
"But who could have moved the plank?" persisted Dock.
"I donno; the eend I stepped on was kinder hauled up."
"You say the plank was all right in the morning, when you went down?"
"Sartin it was. I went over it, and fixed the dory, ready to go arter dog-fish, arter breakfast."
"Well, the question is, Who has been down to the P'int since you went?"
"I donno; but I believe somebody's tryin' to kill me—that's what I believe."
"O, nonsense! who should want to kill you?"
"I donno," replied Mr. Fairfield, hastily, and in a tone which implied that he knew very well who intended to kill him, but he did not wish to name the person. "If I hadn't been as tough as an old black-fish, it would have killed me, as sure as fate; that's the whole truth on't!"
"But who could have set such a trap?" persisted Dock.
"You didn't—did you?" added the old man, innocently.
"Of course I didn't. You don't think I'd do such a thing as that," said Dock, laughing.
"My wife didn't—did she?"
"Massy sakes! What's got into your head, Nathan?" interposed the old lady. "Goodness knows I didn't do no sech thing."
Mrs. Fairfield was a simple-minded woman, and she did not comprehend that her disabled lord was only reasoning by an interrogatory and inductive method.
"Certainly Mrs. Fairfield didn't meddle with the plank," added Dock.
"'Twan't Mr. Watson—was it? nor the Watson gal, nuther?"
"No," answered Dock.
"Who was it, then—don't you see?"
Dock did not choose to see yet, though his mental visuals had perceived from the beginning what the old man was driving at; and he was greatly rejoiced to have the suspicion turned away from himself.
"Who else goes down on to that P'int, almost every day of the week, 'cept Sunday?—and he don't go then 'cause he's go'n' to jine the church," continued the miser, excited by the topic he was discussing.
"You don't mean Levi—do you?" said Dock, opening his eyes as wide as the hawse-holes of a man-of-war.
"I see The Starry Flag a standin' over to Mr. Watson's new house when I was goin' down to the P'int."
"Did you?" asked Dock, when the old man paused to note the effect of the climax of the inductive argument upon the listener.
"I sartainly did. That proves that Levi went down to the P'int afore I did—don't it?"
"Well—yes; he went down there, of course," added Dock, in rather deprecating tones. "He couldn't have got his boat if he hadn't gone down there."
"Then of course Levi done it!" exclaimed the old man. "'Tain't no use o' beating round the bush no more. Levi done it, and he meant to kill me."
"'Tain't so!" protested Mrs. Fairfield, warmly. "There ain't no sense nor reason in sayin' Levi done it. Levi wouldn't do sech a thing."
"He may jine all the churches in town, but I tell you he's a bad boy, and he's go'n' as straight to the gallows as a chicken goes to her dough. Don't you know how he used me? how he fit me, and found fault with his victuals; and then got all the property took away from me, jest because I wouldn't let him spend it all? Don't tell me! I know what Levi Fairfield is better 'n any other man."
"What on airth should the boy wan't to break your bones for, let alone killin' on you?" demanded Mrs. Fairfield.
"O, well, Susan, you're nothin' but a woman; and we can't expect women folks to see through everything—can we, Dock?"
"Your wife has excellent judgment about things in general, Squire Fairfield," replied Dock, smoothly.
"There now! Tell me I don't know!" retorted the irate helpmate, somewhat appeased by the delicate compliment. "'Tain't in reason that boy meant to do sech a thing."
Mr. Fairfield groaned, and changed his position in the bed. His bones ached, and his bruises smarted; but the task of showing that Levi was wicked enough even to plan a deliberate murder was too pleasing a one to be abandoned, though the twinges of pain that darted through the miser's limbs indicated rest both for body and mind. The sufferer rehearsed all the points bearing against his nephew in the heinous act under consideration, and he succeeded in satisfying himself and his visitor that the young man intended to shorten his uncle's life. Mrs. Fairfield,—grateful for the newspapers, which had given her a new joy in the desolate world, and for the chickens, turkeys, and roasting-pieces, which afforded her an occasional respite from salt fish and fresh fish,—Mrs. Fairfield was obstinate, and refused to believe that Levi—who, by the way, had just added the "Cape Ann Light" to his aunt's sum total of earthly joys—was capable of doing a wicked act.
"Women folks don't see through things," said Mr. Fairfield, disgusted at his wife's want of perception. "I've been thinkin' o' what you said last night," he added, turning to Dock. "I never thought of sech a thing before; but, I vow, it's just as you said."
"Well, Squire Fairfield, I didn't say that to set you against the boy; only to have you keep your eyes open," replied Dock.
"When I fell into that hole, it opened my eyes so wide, I shan't shet 'em agin very soon."
Mrs. Fairfield wanted to know "what on airth all this talk meant;" and the relations of Levi to his uncle's post-mortem estate were explained, so that "women folks" could understand them. She did not believe Levi cared for the property, what there was of it, and she was not yet willing to believe that he set the trap to destroy his uncle.
"I believe it; and what's more, I know it," persisted the miser. "But I'll cheat him out of it; I'll make a will this very day! I'll give what little I have to Susan—I will, by gracious!"
"It's very proper for you to do so," replied Dock, mildly.
"Can't you write a will, Dock?"
"Me! No. I don't know how. You must make it strong, or they'll break it, you know. Better send for Squire Saunders, and have it done right."
"Squire Saunders!" exclaimed the invalid. "What'll he charge?"
"O, five dollars, perhaps."
"Five dollars! What jest for writin' a little or sunthin?"
"Perhaps he won't charge you more than three."
"I shan't give no three dollars, nuther. I can't afford it. I'm e'enamost stripped of everything now."
The will was not made, and Dock left the house, promising to call again in the afternoon.
THE STARRY FLAG.
Levi Fairfield, in happy ignorance of the misfortune which had befallen his uncle, headed The Starry Flag towards the mansion of Mr. Watson. This was to be a great day with him, and he was filled with hope and exultation.
The Starry Flag was a capital boat, but Levi had long been beset by an ambition to sail something larger. This desire was about to be realized, for Mr. Watson, always a lover of the sea, had contracted for a yacht of eighty tons, at the establishment of a celebrated builder in the city. She was to be ready by the 1st of June, but she was not completely stored and furnished till the 10th.
Mr. Watson had remained in the city over night, and was to sail in the yacht for his summer home the next morning—on the day that Levi missed falling into the chasm. As the wind was fair, and tolerably fresh, the young skipper thought she would arrive by noon, and he was to take the ladies round as far as Eastern Point, to give her a welcome to the waters of the Cape.
Levi was to be the commander of the yacht, and he was every way qualified for the position. He had studied navigation, could take an observation, and do all the problems required of a thorough sailing master. On the deck of a vessel he was in his element, and there was not a point in navigation or seamanship with which he was not familiar. He could not only hand, reef, and steer, but he could knot and splice, parcel and serve, as neatly and as skilfully as a veteran man-of-war's man. He was interested in such matters, and had spent hours and hours in making short and long splices, eye splices, Turk's heads, and other parts of rigging, until he was an adept in the art.
Bessie had been the prime mover in this enterprise. She insisted upon having a craft in which the whole family could go off for a month, and be almost as comfortable as in their own home. She prevailed in this, as she did in nearly everything which involved only the will of her father to gratify her.
Bessie and Mrs. McGilvery were handed into the boat at the pier behind the house, and The Starry Flag was soon dancing over the long waves that roll into Sandy Bay from the broad ocean. All the party were excited; for to see a splendid, new yacht, in which they hoped to have many good times, was enough to kindle a glowing enthusiasm in such lovers of the art of boating.
"You don't know her name yet—do you, Levi?" said Bessie, in a kind of taunting tone.
"I do not, but I shall soon find out if this breeze holds," replied the skipper, who had been wilfully kept in ignorance on this important matter.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" added Bessie, teasing him.
"Of course I would; but I am willing to wait a few hours longer."
"Why don't you manifest a little impatience about it?" pouted she.
"It wouldn't do any good; besides, I am a Yankee, and I think I can guess what her name is. Indeed, I feel almost sure I know it."
"What do you think it is?"
"That's telling," laughed Levi.
"But won't you tell me?" said Bessie, assuming an imploring look.
"I think I will pay you off by keeping still."
"Do tell me what you think it is. I shall not like it if you don't."
Levi would have dived down among the fishes if such had been her will, and he was compelled to answer,—
"Of course there is only one name for her, and your father must have chosen that."
"Perhaps not. But why don't you say what you think the name is?"
"Will you tell me if I guess right?"
"I will if you guess right the first time."
"Very well; here goes, then! Her name is the Bessie Watson, to be sure. There is no other name fit for her."
"No! How absurd you are, Levi Fairfield!" replied Bessie, blushing up to the eyes.
"No? Why, that ought to be her name, if it isn't. It's the Bessie, the Bessie Watson, or something of that kind. I know it is. Of course your father wouldn't think of calling her by any other name."
"It isn't anything of the kind, Levi. I am willing to confess that father wanted to name her after me, but I wouldn't let him. I wanted another name."
"I'm sorry you did, for I wanted that name; and I shall not enjoy her half so much as I should if she had been called after you," replied Levi, not at all in the tones of gallantly, but in those of simple truth and sincerity.
"It is very kind of you to say so, and to think so, Levi; but I believe she has received a better name," added Bessie, not unmoved by the devotion of the gallant skipper.
"There isn't any better name. I'm really disappointed."
"You will not be when you read her name."
"But what is the name?" asked Levi, seriously.
"The—why, I almost told you!" laughed Bessie.
"I hope it is not a hard name, for sailors make such a fuss about jaw-breaking words. An old coaster meant to name his vessel the Amphitrite, but he gave the name of Anthracite to the painter, and it was duly lettered upon the stern. However, it answered just as well, as the craft went into the coal trade."
"It isn't a long name, nor a hard one, and I know it will suit you."
"Well, Bessie, if it suits you, it will suit me," added Levi; "though I did hope she would be called the Bessie."
The Starry Flag sped on her way, and before noon was off Eastern Point. There were several coasters approaching, but Levi could not make out the yacht till he examined every craft with the spy-glass.
"I see her!" exclaimed he, as he headed his boat so as to intercept her.
"Is she handsome?" asked Bessie.
"I can't make her out very well at this distance; but we shall be up with her in half an hour or so."
Bessie looked through the glass, and so did Mrs. McGilvery, but they did not obtain much satisfaction. The yacht was making her ten knots, and in the time Levi had named they were within hailing distance of her.
"She is a beauty, and no mistake!" exclaimed the skipper, warmly. "She is pretty enough to be called the Bessie Watson."
"You mustn't say such things, Levi. They are not pretty," said Bessie, very seriously.
"The yacht is pretty enough, and so is the one she ought to have been named after," persisted the gallant skipper.
"There it is again! You are real naughty, Levi," pouted she; and probably, like all pretty girls, she had a distaste for compliments.
"Yacht ahoy!" shouted Levi.
But Mr. Watson had already recognized The Starry Flag, and the yacht was thrown up into the wind. Levi hauled in his sheet, and sailed in a graceful curve around the stern of the vessel, intent upon reading the secret which had been so persistently kept from him.
"Now you will know!" exclaimed Bessie, gazing anxiously into his face to observe the effect of the discovery upon him.
"Dog-fish and dunderfunk!" ejaculated Levi, as he read the name, "THE STARRY FLAG!"
"There now, Mr. Skipper! Isn't that the name of all names for her?"
"The Starry Flag!" repeated Levi, as he gazed at the golden letters on the stern of the yacht.
"Why don't you say something, you absurd skipper? I'm dying to know what you think of it, and you don't say a word."
"I like it first-rate; but if I had read 'Bessie' there, I should have liked it better, much as I like it now."
"I couldn't have her named after me! How ridiculous! I'm sorry you don't like the name."
"But I do like it, Bessie; though you couldn't expect me to like any other name as well as yours."
"Why, how absurd you are!" replied Bessie, as Levi ran the boat up to the yacht.
The gangway had been rigged so that the passage from one craft to the other was an easy matter, even for ladies. Mr. Watson assisted them on board. One of the hands, who knew the coast, was deputed to take charge of The Starry Flag, and Levi went on board of the beautiful vessel he was to command.
"Well, Levi, what do you think of her?" asked Mr. Watson, after they had walked around the deck, and inspected the cabin and cook-room of the yacht.
"She is magnificent, sir!" replied Levi. "She is, without exception, the finest yacht I ever saw, and I have examined a great many."
"I am glad she suits you. How do you like the name?"
"Very much, sir, though if it had been the Bessie, I should have liked it better."
"I intended to give her that name, but Bessie was contrary, and insisted that she should be called The Starry Flag, in grateful remembrance of her trip from the Penobscot. I really appreciate her motives, and both of us desire to perpetuate the name of your boat by giving it to the finest yacht that could be built."
"Since it pleases both you and her, I ought to be satisfied with it—and I am. We have two Starry Flags now, and we may get them mixed."
"The name of your boat shall henceforth be The Starry Flag, Jr.," laughed Mr. Watson. "When we say The Starry Flag, we mean the yacht, and when we say The Starry Flag, Jr., we mean your boat."
The Starry Flag, then, cut her way through the long billows at a rate which was highly gratifying to the embryo captain, who, prompt to his instincts, had taken the helm, when he had examined her. He declared that she steered splendidly, and he was sure she would prove to be a good sea-boat. In a short time she came to anchor off Mike's Point. The steward had prepared a lunch for the party, and they sat down at the table as soon as the yacht swung round to her cable.
"Now, Levi, you must get a crew for your vessel. These men, with the exception of the cook and steward, will return to Boston this afternoon," said Mr. Watson.
"Are the crew to leave her?"
"I only engaged them to bring her down, for I thought that you would prefer to select your own hands."
"I should," replied Levi, thinking what young men he could procure.
"We shall be ready to start on our cruise to the eastward in three or four days," added Mr. Watson.
"I will be ready, sir."
By the time the lunch was disposed of, The Starry Flag, Jr. had arrived, and Levi landed the party. He was anxious to engage his crew, and he ran the boat over to her moorings. On the rocks he found Dock Vincent, who had been observing the yacht.
"What vessel's that, Levi?" asked Dock Vincent, as the young skipper landed on the rocks.
"It's The Starry Flag," replied Levi, smiling.
"No, I mean the large yacht, off the Point."
"So do I."
"You don't mean to tell me that vessel's called The Starry Flag!"
"Yes, I do; that's her name. My boat is now called The Starry Flag, Jr.," answered Levi, beginning to move off, for he was not disposed to hold any intercourse with such a person as Dock Vincent.
"Hold on a minute, Levi; tell us about her," said Dock. "What is she for?"
"A yacht; but I am in a hurry now."
"Wait a minute. I have some bad news to tell you."
"Your uncle had an ugly fall this morning, just after you went off in the boat," added Dock.
"Where did he fall?" asked the young skipper, interested now, and troubled by the information.
"He fell into the cut, where the plank crosses it," replied Dock, pointing to the place where the accident had occurred.
"Is he much hurt?"
"Yes; I think the old man is putty badly damaged in his timbers. He has taken to his bed, and I shouldn't wonder if he had to stay there a month."
"I am sorry for it," said Levi, with entire sincerity. "How did it happen?"
Dock explained how it happened, taking care to locate himself at a considerable distance from the scene of the catastrophe.
"The old man thinks somebody fixed the plank so as to make him fall," added he, finishing his narrative.
"To make him fall!" exclaimed the attentive listener. "Who does he think did it?"
"Well, Levi, he thinks you did it," answered Dock, softening his tones, so as not to commit himself to this view.
"The old man thinks so, but that don't make it so, you know."
"What makes him think I did it?"
"Because you were the last person that went down to the P'int before he did. You were running over to Watson's new house, in the Flag, when the thing happened."
"I haven't been over the plank to-day," said Levi.
"You went to your boat just before the old man come down here; and he don't see who else could have done it."
"I did not cross on the plank; I went along on the rocks, as I always do when I come across the second beach," protested the young skipper.
"Well, I don't know anything about it, you see, Levi," added Dock, in deprecatory tones. "I only tell you what the old man told me. He knows you hate him."
"But I don't hate him."
"Don't you?" asked Dock, with a sceptical grin.
"I'm sure I do not," answered Levi, with emphasis.
"Perhaps you don't; but after all the trouble there's been between you and the old man, it wouldn't be strange if you hated him and he hated you."
Probably Dock was as sincere as Levi; for there was not a Christian idea in his head, or a Christian purpose in his heart. He had no keener perception of the sublime doctrine of forgiving one's enemies, than the beasts of the field or the fowls of the air. In his view it was the most natural thing in the world for the uncle to hate the nephew, and for the nephew to hate the uncle; and he did not believe it possible for either of them to banish the foul impulse from his heart.
"I don't hate my uncle; I would do anything in the world for him," continued Levi, earnestly, but thoughtfully, for he was deeply pained by the suspicions of his uncle.
"I'm going up to see the old man, by and by, and I'll tell him what you say about it," added Dock.
"I have a great deal to do, but I shall go and see him myself," said Levi, as he began to move up the rocks again.
"What's your hurry, Levi? I want to talk with you about that vessel. She is a fine schooner."
"She is all that. I have to find a crew for her, for we are going off on a cruise in three or four days. Do you know of any young fellows who want to make good wages without working very hard?"
"Yes; there's Mat Mogmore," replied Dock, after a little reflection. "He'll make a first-rate hand for you. I rather think he'll go off to Australia with me in the Caribbee."
"In the what?"
"In the Caribbee—that's my vessel. She's a schooner, rather larger than that yacht, and she'll outsail anything of her inches that ever floated. If you want Mat Mogmore, he'll be glad of a lay in that yacht, for I shan't get off for three weeks yet. I'll speak to him about it."
Levi preferred to do his own speaking, not wishing to place himself under any obligation, however slight, to a man of Dock's character and antecedents. He decided to visit his uncle at once, and call at Mr. Mogmore's house on his way home. With some difficulty he escaped from his ancient enemy, and crossing the plank, which had been placed in its original position by Dock after the accident, he walked up the tongue of land, dreading the scene at his uncle's which the information he had received led him to expect.
He found his aunt in the kitchen, and inquired particularly into the condition of uncle Nathan. She thought he was "a leetle more comfortable," and told Levi to go in and see him if he wanted to, for she was confident that the young man could clear himself from the grave charge preferred against him.
"How do you feel, uncle Nathan?" asked Levi, kindly, as he entered the bed-room.
The old man looked at him with a savage stare, but made no reply.
"I am sorry you have had such a fall," continued Levi.
"No, you ain't sorry, nuther! What do you want to say that for, Levi Fairfield? It's all your work, and 'tain't likely you keer how much I suffer," growled the injured man, his words interspersed with many a groan.
"What is my work, uncle?" asked Levi, mildly.
"Didn't you fix that plank over the cut so's to gim me this fall?"
"No, sir, I'm sure I did not," protested Levi.
"Don't tell me!" groaned the old man, suffering as much from passion as from pain.
"I can only say, uncle, that I have not touched the plank; and I did not go near it this morning."
"'Tain't no use; I know you did! You went down to your boat afore I did, for I see you standin' over to Watson's new house jest afore I fell. You want to kill me—that's what you're tryin' to do; and you e'enamost done it this mornin'."
"I'm sorry you have such an opinion of me, uncle," replied Levi, more in sorrow and pity than in anger.
"You've got most of my money afore I'm dead, and you mean to have the rest on't arter I'm gone," continued the old man, in angry, whining tones.
"Do you still think I took the gold, uncle Nathan?"
"Do I think so! I know you did! Nobody else took it, and nobody could done it but you! What have you done with it?"
"I know nothing about it, uncle. I am sorry you think so hard of me. I'm ready and willing to do anything I can for you."
"Then gim me back my money!"
"I haven't it."
"Yes, you have!"
It was useless to talk with the sufferer, and Levi's presence only excited him. After repeating, in the gentlest of tones, his desire to serve him, the young skipper turned to depart.
"You'll be found out, Levi Fairfield, and you'll have to give that money up. 'Tain't no use to try to git red on me, for I'm go'n' to make a will, and leave what little I've got to your aunt," said Mr. Fairfield.
"Uncle Nathan, do you really think I want your money?" asked Levi, beginning to be indignant at the foul suspicious of the old man.
"That's what you want to kill me for," whined the miser.
"I don't want to kill you, or hurt you."
"I'm go'n' to make a will; so 'tain't no use to try to git red of me any more."
Levi pitied the sufferer, as much for his moral as his mental obtuseness, and fearful that his indignation might get the better of his pity, he left the room. His uncle threatened him with all the terrors of the courts and the prisons as he withdrew. In the kitchen he found Dock Vincent, who had come to make his promised afternoon visit. Levi left immediately, and called at the house of the carpenter. Mat Mogmore, after some haggling, consented to become one of the crew of the yacht. He was a young man of eighteen, who had made two or three fishing voyages, and was a smart, active fellow. He had been rather intimate with Dock since the return of the latter; and this was all Levi had against him. Before night, the young captain of The Starry Flag had engaged three other hands. The crew were to go on board the next morning, when Levi intended to start on a trial trip, for the purpose of training his men, and becoming more familiar himself with the working of the yacht.
Dock Vincent entered the chamber of Mr. Fairfield. He found the old man agitated, and almost crying with anger and vexation.
"So Levi's been to see you," said the visitor, seating himself at the bedside.
"Yes, he has! Sunthin must be done, Cap'n Vincent," replied the old man, trying to rise on the bed, but sinking back with a groan.
"Don't try to git up; keep still, Squire Fairfield, and don't hurt yourself," interposed Dock.
"I can't stand this no longer!" howled the miserable man, the tears starting in his eyes. "Sunthin must be done."
"What shall it be, squire?" asked the comforter, coolly.
"I can't stand it no longer, and I won't, nuther," repeated the sufferer. "Somebody's got my money, and I must git it back, or it'll kill me. That boy must be took up, and sarched till the money's found. I know he's got it. Nobody else couldn't have took it. He must have kerried it off in that little saw-mill. That's what he come arter the saw-mill for—to kerry off the money in."
"Do you want to have Levi arrested?" asked Dock, musing.
"Yes; he must be took up. As soon as he sees I'm in airnest, he'll git scared, and give up the money."
"Musn't be too hasty, squire. If you be, it'll damage you."
"No 'twon't; nothin' can damage me now. I'll resk it. Git a constable; but don't git Gayles."
Dock counselled moderation, and thought it would be better to wait till they had more proof, before taking any decisive steps. He finally quieted the old man by promising to "hunt up the evidence," and have Levi arrested as soon as there was any proof to work with.
Levi went on his experimental trip in The Starry Flag the next day. The wind was very fresh, and he had an excellent opportunity to test the weatherly qualities of the yacht, and she proved to be all he had anticipated or desired. She would sail almost into the wind's eye, and went through a chop sea as steadily as a judge through a trial. Captain Fairfield, as all hands on board called him, was proud and happy in his new situation. He was in his element; and it was not likely that the possession of any sum of money could long keep him from the position he was born to fill—the command of a vessel.
The yacht was fitted up below with special reference to the wants of her owner's family and friends. Her trunk extended nearly the whole length of her, affording a high and spacious cabin for a vessel of her size. On each side of the companion-way, leading down from the cockpit, or standing-room, was a small state-room, one of which was appropriated to the use of the captain. It contained a single berth, a writing-desk, a plentiful supply of lockers, drawers, shelves, and brackets for clothing, charts, and nautical instruments. Levi had installed himself in this little apartment, and felt like a lord, as he sat in its cushioned arm-chair at the desk, glancing at his tasty and convenient surroundings.
This state-room, and its fellow on the opposite side of the ladder, opened into the main cabin, which contained four berths, with curtains extending out in front, so as to form an enclosure for each occupant, securing entire privacy. Opening from the forward part of the cabin were two large and airy rooms, each having two berths, for the accommodation of Mr. Watson's family. They contained every convenience belonging to a first-class hotel, with a curious economy of space, which would have excited the admiration of those who have a taste for overcoming impossibilities.
Between these state-rooms was a narrow passageway leading to the forecastle, which occupied about half the length of the vessel, and contained the pantry, ice-house, cook-room, store-room, and six berths in the forward part for the hands.
The cook and steward were colored men. The former had served for years in a packet ship, and the latter was a steamboat waiter, who never failed to put on a white jacket at meal times. The four hands who had been employed on the Cape were young men, the oldest not over twenty, all of whom had made several fishing voyages, and were hardy, active, and accomplished seamen for a small craft.
On her trial trip Levi took the yacht as far as Boone Island, on the coast of Maine. He dined in state, all alone in the cabin,—he had no passengers on this cruise,—and Augustus, the cabin steward, wore his white jacket, and stood behind his chair. In fact, Levi was Captain Fairfield on this occasion; and he wore his dignity with becoming modesty and grace.
In the evening, after his return, he made a full and enthusiastic report to Mr. Watson and the ladies of the good behavior of the yacht, and declared that he was ready at once to go round the world in her.
"We don't care about going round the world in her, Levi," laughed Mr. Watson; "but on Monday morning we will start for Mount Desert, if you are ready at that time."
"I am ready now, sir."
"I cannot leave before Monday. If we enjoy this trip, we will spend the whole of the month of August on board of The Starry Flag. I should like to go as far as the Bermudas, if you think it is safe to take so long a voyage in her."
"Safe!" exclaimed Levi. "You can cross the Atlantic in her as safely as in a steamship. For my part, I should feel safer in her than in any steamer that ever went to sea. She would shake you up more, perhaps, but she will take you through all right if she is well handled."
"No doubt of it. I told the builder to have her as strong as wood and iron could make her. My directions were, first, strength, second, comfort, and third, speed."
"I think he has got the speed in first, for we logged twelve knots to-day, with the wind free in a chopping sea. But she can't be excelled for comfort and safety. I know by the feeling of her in a sea just how she would behave in a gale."
"Have you seen Mr. Gayles since your return, Levi?" asked Mr. Watson, suddenly changing the subject, and wearing a look of anxiety.
"No, sir; he was not at home when I went to supper," replied Levi, satisfied something unpleasant had occurred; and he had not much difficulty in surmising its nature.
"Have you heard anything about a search-warrant?"
"Not a word, sir; but I almost expected something of the kind. My uncle charged me with taking the money he lost; but I did not even know that he had any money in his house," answered Levi, grieved and mortified at the necessity of again defending himself from such an assault.
"Mr. Gayles told me that your room at his house, and indeed all his premises, had been searched by Constable Cooke, in your absence, to-day, for the missing gold."
"Of course they did not find anything," replied Levi, blushing.
"No, they did not; but perhaps they would if your affairs had been managed by a less discreet person than Mr. Gayles. It seems that Dock Vincent went to the house, with the constable, about dinner time. Your uncle appears to have employed Vincent to look up the money for him. Mr. Gayles was willing to admit the officer, but he positively refused to allow Vincent to enter his house. Levi, that villain is the worst enemy a man ever had. You must beware of him; have nothing to do with him, and nothing to say to him."
"I do not, any more than I can help."
"The story now is, that you took your uncle's money, and set a trap to kill or severely injure him at the cut, because you are his legal heir."
"How absurd!" interposed Bessie, indignantly, as she rose from her chair, and seated herself by the side of Levi on the sofa, her mild eyes beaming with unwonted fire.
"Very absurd, my dear; but there are people who are foolish enough to believe such absurd stories even of their own minister. Of course, Levi, there is no real danger, but you may be seriously annoyed."
Levi was smart. He had done great deeds. He was known to be worth thirty-five or forty thousand dollars, in the hands of his guardian; and his intimate relations with the family of Mr. Watson rendered it exceedingly probable that he would eventually roll in wealth, to be counted by hundreds of thousands. Most of the people were generous enough to congratulate the young man, in their hearts, on his brilliant prospects, especially as he did not put on any airs, or cut any of his old friends.
But there were weak and evil-minded men and women who envied his good fortune, and were ready to seize upon any rumor which tended to bring discredit upon him. Among these was Constable Cooke, whom Dock Vincent had employed to search for Mr. Fairfield's money. He could not help thinking that, if he had been intrusted with the warrant for the arrest of Levi, on the charge, three years before, of purloining Ruel Belcher's money, instead of Mr. Gayles, he would have done precisely as that worthy man had, and in the end would have been appointed the young man's guardian, making a few hundred dollars every year in commissions on the care of the property. He could not exactly forgive Mr. Gayles for being so fortunate; nor was he so exclusive as to confine his dislike to the guardian, but extended it to the ward.
Constable Cooke, therefore, was a fit person to do the dirty work of Nathan Fairfield and his coadjutor. He adopted the miser's theory in full, that Levi had set the house on fire with the candle, in order to cover up the loss of the money, which he had conveyed from the house in the little saw-mill. Since the arrival of the yacht, it had even been conjectured that she was the property of Levi, who had paid for her with the ill-gotten gold. This theory, explained and bolstered up with specious argument and sophistical evidence by the constable, rather staggered many people who believed in Levi. If the young man's character had been doubtful, the theory would have been plausible; for, after all, a person's good character is the best testimony in his favor.
Mr. Watson and Levi discussed the situation coolly, though the ladies, with their warmer sympathies, were indignant, and disposed to be violent in their measures. Nothing could be done but to wait the issue of events; and Levi walked as proudly as ever through the streets of the town. The next day he took the ladies out to sail in the yacht; but before he went he called at his uncle's house, carrying a nice tenderloin steak and a jar of jelly for the sufferer, who was improving, in spite of the heat and excitement to which he agitated himself.
"Don't tell him, aunt Susan, that I brought these, things," said Levi. "I pity him, and I don't hate him. I shall try to be a Christian towards him now, whatever he does."
The old lady burst into tears. Such a spirit amazed and overwhelmed her. The reading of her religious paper had prepared her, in some measure, to appreciate such conduct. The next day, which was Sunday, Levi carried some other luxuries for the invalid; but he did not venture to see his uncle after the violent scene which had attended his first visit to the sick room.
On Monday morning Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Mrs. McGilvery, and Bessie were conveyed on board of The Starry Flag. The foresail and the mainsail had been hoisted, and the hands were heaving up the anchor, when a boat from the shore was discovered approaching the yacht.
"Hold on!" shouted Constable Cooke; when the boat came nearer, and was found to contain, besides the officer, Dock Vincent and two other men.
"Belay, all!" said Captain Fairfield; and the operations at the cable were suspended.
"I've come to search this vessel," said Constable Cooke, when he and his party had reached the deck. "I have a warrant."
"I will afford you every facility for the discharge of your duty," replied Levi, as he led the way to the cabin.
"Don't let Vincent go into the cabin," said Mr. Watson, in a whisper.
Levi promptly informed the officer that Captain Vincent must not go below.
"I want him to help me," persisted Constable Cooke.
"Captain Vincent can't go into my cabin. If he attempts to do so, I'll throw him overboard!" added Levi, rolling up his coat sleeves.
"I've a right to call in aid accordin' to law," said the officer, angrily.
"You shall not call him in," protested Levi.
Mr. Watson spoke,—he had money, and the constable was afraid of him,—and the matter was compromised. One of the other men went with the officer, who proceeded directly to Levi's state-room. The desk was opened, the lockers examined, and the drawers searched. In one of the latter, a shot-bag, With ten half eagles in it, was found.
"That's one of the bags!" almost yelled the constable, in the fury of his malignity.
"I never saw it before," said Levi, quietly, "nor the gold it contains."
"I have a warrant for your arrest, Levi Fairfield; and sence you showed fight on deck, I shall put the handcuffs on you."
Mr. Watson and the ladies were shocked and alarmed; but not one of them for a moment doubted the innocence of Levi, who suffered himself to be ironed without resistance.
Constable Cooke put the irons on the wrists of Levi Fairfield, not from a sense of duty, but with a keen relish for the act itself. It is but justice to the officer, prejudiced though he was, to say that he was entirely sincere in the belief that his prisoner had stolen the miser's gold. He was needlessly rough and severe in the discharge of his duty, and the irons were a gratuitous indignity. Mr. Watson protested vigorously against the constable's useless display of authority. Bessie was frightened and terribly grieved by the harsh treatment bestowed upon her ideal of a hero.
Levi himself was the only person in the cabin who was calm. His quiet dignity was unruffled by the insults heaped upon him, and he looked proudly conscious of his innocence.