THE YACHT CLUB SERIES.
THE WRECK OF THE PENOBSCOT.
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD," "THE ARMY AND NAVY STORIES," "THE WOODVILLE STORIES," "THE BOAT CLUB STORIES," "THE STARRY FLAG SERIES," "THE LAKE SHORE SERIES," ETC.
WITH THIRTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS.
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS.
NEW YORK: LEE, SHEPARD AND DILLINGHAM. 1875.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872,
By WILLIAM T. ADAMS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
ELECTROTYPED AT THE
BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY,
19 Spring Lane.
MY YOUNG FRIEND
OF BROOKLYN, N. Y.,
This Book is Affectionately Dedicated.
The Yacht Club Series.
1. LITTLE BOBTAIL; OR, THE WRECK OF THE PENOBSCOT.
2. THE YACHT CLUB; OR, THE YOUNG BOAT-BUILDER.
(Others in preparation.)
"LITTLE BOBTAIL" is the first volume of the YACHT CLUB SERIES, each book of which will contain an entirely independent story, with a hero of its own, and having no necessary connection with any other story. The author hopes that this plan will commend itself to those who do not care to follow a young gentleman through half a dozen volumes in order to know the issue of his adventures, or to learn whether or not he is faithful to himself, to God, and his fellow-beings to the end. God's truth is always the same, and good characters must be very much alike. Little Bobtail is not very different from any other hero, devoted to Truth and Duty, though the incidents of his life are various enough to satisfy any young person's craving for novelty.
The story was suggested by some actual incidents, which occurred during the brief summer residence of the writer at the locality of the principal events described. Though there was a "Little Bobtail" there, he was hardly the character who is the hero of this work. Penobscot Bay, its multitude of picturesque islands, and its beautiful shores, are the same in fact as in this fiction, and as for two seasons the author has lived upon the land and sailed upon the water, amid its beautiful scenery, he feels quite at home in the localities mentioned.
If Little Bobtail was loose in his ideas of "smuggling" at first, he was clear in all his other views of duty; and having corrected his wrong impressions, his example is worthy to be followed. The writer hopes that, while his stirring experience will be enjoyed by the reader, his excellent character will be appreciated and valued even more than the worldly fortune he obtains.
HARRISON SQUARE, BOSTON,
October 10, 1872.
CHAPTER I. SIXTEEN YEARS BEFORE 11
CHAPTER II. THE END OF A SAD STORY 29
CHAPTER III. LITTLE BOBTAIL 47
CHAPTER IV. THE JANTY YACHT 65
CHAPTER V. MONKEY 81
CHAPTER VI. CAPTAIN CHINKS 99
CHAPTER VII. IN THE CABIN OF THE SKYLARK 117
CHAPTER VIII. A CHANCE FOR BUSINESS 135
CHAPTER IX. THE PENOBSCOT 153
CHAPTER X. GRACE MONTAGUE 171
CHAPTER XI. THE FIVE HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL 189
CHAPTER XII. CAPTAIN CHIVES IS INDIFFERENT 207
CHAPTER XIII. THE EXAMINATION 225
CHAPTER XIV. THE DISCHARGE 243
CHAPTER XV. A TRIP TO BAR HARBOR 260
CHAPTER XVI. THE CHASE 278
CHAPTER XVII. THE WRECK OF THE PENOBSCOT 296
CHAPTER XVIII. ROBERT BARKESDALE MONTAGUE 313
THE WRECK OF THE PENOBSCOT.
SIXTEEN YEARS BEFORE.
"If you do, Edward, you are no son of mine," said the Honorable Peter Montague, wrathfully, to the young gentleman who stood before him with bowed head. "If you connect yourself in any manner with the family of Richard Medway, I will disown you; I will never speak to you; I will never permit you to come into my presence again!"
"I won't argue the matter," interposed the irate old gentleman. "You know that Medway and I are sworn foes; that he has injured me in my prospects, in my name, and reputation. I wouldn't forgive him if he went down on his knees and sued for my pardon. He has injured me in that manner and to that degree that there is no possibility of reconciliation."
"But Mr. Medway has no such feelings towards you. He respects you, in spite of your differences," added Edward Montague, in the gentlest of tones.
"I don't care what his feelings are towards me. After injuring me as he has, he can afford to be magnanimous. After robbing me of my hopes and my reputation, he can talk very flippantly about burying the hatchet. I tell you again there must be no relations of any kind between his family and mine. I am astonished and indignant, Edward, to think that you should allow yourself to be caught in any such trap."
"Trap, father!" exclaimed the young man, a slight flush of indignation spreading over his handsome face.
"Yes, a trap, Edward," stormed Mr. Montague. "I am a rich man,—all the world knows it,—and you are my only son. I am worth a million of dollars, at the least,—not in book accounts and bad debts, but in real estate, stocks, bonds, and mortgages. You are a prize in the lottery, Edward."
The old man looked at his son with a sneer on his face, which was called forth by the thought that any one, least of all his bitter personal enemy, should aspire to hold any relations with this paragon of wealth.
"I do not think that Sara Medway or her father covets your wealth," added Edward, in a very mildly deprecatory tone.
"You are nothing but a boy! you don't know the world. You have been at your books till you are twenty-one years old, and now you are as innocent of all knowledge of the ways of men as a child in its cradle."
"But, father, I know that Sara Medway is not an adventurer," added Edward, who was more anxious to defend the lady implicated than himself.
"You don't know anything about it," raved the old gentleman, angered anew by the protest of the son.
"She is as gentle as she is beautiful; and I am sure she is not capable of thinking a mercenary thought."
"Stuff! You talk like a baby, that knows nothing of the world—that's all."
"But you don't know her," suggested Edward, who was actually so simple as to believe that this consideration ought to have some influence upon the sentence of his father.
"I know her father, and that's enough. The chances are, that she is like him. But, whether she is like him or not, there can be no relations between his family and mine. Do you understand me, Edward?" demanded the Honorable Mr. Montague, sternly.
"I think I do, sir."
"You think you do, you puppy!" thundered the old gentleman.
"I was not aware that you were prejudiced against Miss Medway," added Edward, musing, as though he did not desire to understand his father.
"I hate the whole race of them, and I will have nothing to do or say to any of them; and you shall not, either."
The young man made no reply; and silence is sometimes more impudent, and sometimes expresses more firmness, than speech. At any rate, at this time and under these circumstances, it indicated that Edward Montague had a mind, a will of his own, and that, though he did not wish to provoke his father to wrath, he intended to follow his own inclination, rather than consult the unreasonable prejudices of his father. Whether this was a correct interpretation of the son's purposes or not, the father so regarded it, and his wrath increased accordingly.
"If I haven't spoken plainly enough, I will leave you no chance of misunderstanding me. If you marry the girl, I will disown you. Can you understand that? If you marry her, I will never see you or speak to you again. Do you think you can understand that? If you marry her, not a dollar of my property shall ever be yours. Do you fully comprehend me? I mean all I say, literally and exactly. I won't leave you even the hope of breaking my will when I am dead. I will give away every penny before I die. I will found a hospital, or an insane asylum for just such lunatics as you are, and every dollar I possess shall be in its coffers before I am put in the ground. I hope you understand me, Edward."
"I think I do, sir," replied the young man, sadly.
"You think you do!"
"It is not possible to misunderstand you, father; I fully understand your views."
"Well, what have you to say?" stormed the father.
"I do not see that anything can be said."
"Of course I can only submit."
"You begin to be sensible. You are my son, my only son, Edward," said the old gentleman, in a milder tone. "All my hopes are in you. I have never been hard with you."
"You have not, father."
"But I would rather lose every dollar I have in the world to-day, and begin life anew at the age of sixty, than see you the husband of Medway's daughter. I mean just what I say, and nothing less. It would break my heart."
The young man wanted to say that it would break his heart not to be the husband of Sara Medway; but he had learned to temporize and be insincere before the unreasonable wrath of his father, and he was silent.
"You are twenty-one now. You have gone through college, and have only to study your profession. You needn't make hard work of it, for you will not be obliged to drudge for a living; but you may wish to go into politics, and as a lawyer you will succeed better. You shall have all the money you want. I have already decided to give you an allowance of five thousand a year, and you can check it from the bank as you want it. Go to Europe for the next year or two, if you wish; travel in your own country first, if you like. Your health is somewhat shaken by your confinement in college, and a couple of years' recreation will do you good. You needn't hurry about your profession. Please yourself, Edward, in everything except this Medway matter; and don't let me hear another word about this girl; don't go near her; don't write to her."
The Honorable Mr. Montague, having delivered himself of his harsh threat, and having smoothed it over in the most gingerly manner he could, walked out of the library, where the conversation had taken place. He evidently felt relieved, and, perhaps, thought that he had bravely met a great responsibility, and had done his whole duty faithfully to his son. He honestly believed that the Honorable Mr. Medway was a villain of the blackest dye, not only politically, but morally and socially; and, this postulate admitted, it followed, by his narrow reasoning, that Mrs. Medway, Miss Medway, and all that related to the fountain Medway were, utterly vile and villanous. He hated the father, and he could not help hating the daughter.
Mr. Montague was a Whig, and Mr. Medway was a Democrat; or, Mr. Montague was a Democrat, and Mr. Medway was a Whig; we cannot tell just how this was; it is enough to say that they were on opposite sides in politics. Mr. Montague was a wealthy man, and Mr. Medway was not; and both of them were nominated for Congress in the same district, in the State of Maine. It was a close contest, and party rancor was very bitter. Not only the public acts, but the private lives of the candidates were criticised in the severest manner by the opposition; and an unbiassed spectator, believing all that was said, would have promptly concluded that both of them were unmitigated scoundrels. Mr. Montague had a skeleton in an almost forgotten closet, and, somehow, this skeleton stalked out into the political arena, and perhaps frightened away some of its owner's adherents. Perhaps it was a forgotten and repented sin; but Mr. Montague's opponents made the most of it. Now, this gentleman, from certain circumstances which need not be explained, was satisfied that Mr. Medway had trotted out this skeleton and held it up as a bugbear to the people, and he hated his rival with all his mind, heart, and soul.
The election came, and Mr. Montague was defeated by a very small majority. He had been sure that he should be chosen, and the result intensified his hatred of his successful opponent to a degree which made it little short of insanity. Years hardly moderated its fervor, though it ceased to find frequent expression. The hope of long years was frustrated; the crown of glory and success was denied him, he firmly believed, by the villany of his rival in exposing the skeleton in the closet. He was a defeated candidate. The prestige was against him; and, in the state of parties, he could not hope to be nominated again. His enemy had overwhelmed him once and for all.
It is fair to say that Mr. Medway knew nothing about the skeleton, had not brought it forward, and did not even believe in its existence.
The Honorable Mr. Medway went to Congress, and was once re-elected, though he did not particularly distinguish himself as an orator or a blackguard. He was a quiet, sensible man, who always voted on party lines. He had a wife and one daughter, who endured Washington life for one term, but after this preferred to spend the winters with Mrs. Medway's sister in Brunswick. This lady's husband was a professor in the college, and some of the students occasionally visited in his family. Edward Montague was one of this number.
Sara Medway was a beautiful girl of his own age; and the young man, having been absent during the political contest, and neither knowing nor caring anything about its merits or demerits, was stupid enough to fall in love with the professor's fair guest. He was very attentive to her, and the affair became town talk, as such affairs usually do. His father heard of it; but he had no opportunity to remonstrate with him in a very decided manner until after Edward was graduated. When he went home, the interview we have narrated occurred. The young man was confounded at the violence of his father, and astonished to find that the old gentleman, who had always been indulgent to the last degree, even to his follies and vices, could be so harsh and implacable. There could be no mistaking his father's meaning; and Edward was obliged to accept the issue.
Mr. Medway had finished his second congressional term, and come home with his family. Edward tried hard to obey his father, and travelled till October. When he returned he heard with dismay that Sara Medway was ill, and had some of the symptoms of incipient consumption. He had not seen her for three months. Though not engaged, he was confident that she reciprocated his affection; and his conscience smote him as he thought his abrupt termination of their acquaintance might have affected her health. But Edward dreaded his father's anger, while he could not wholly resist his impulses.
One evening he stealthily called at the house of Mr. Medway, and was cordially welcomed by all, and especially by Sara. More than ever before he realized the depth of her affection, and traced in her looks, her tones, and the blushes upon her pale cheek, the triumphal joy with which she again welcomed him to her presence. He could not tell her that he should come no more; but, while her mother left the room for a few moments, he spoke a whole volume in a few words, and she frankly declared her sentiments towards him. In a word, they were engaged.
Before he bade her adieu for the night, her father came home. Ho knew his daughter's preference,—not that she had in words betrayed the secret of her soul,—and was rejoiced to see the young man. He expressed his satisfaction without reserve. Edward was troubled, not alone at the prospect of losing his father's fortune, but with the fear of his father's wrath. He dreaded the rupture that would separate the only son from his father. Mr. Medway invited him to smoke a cigar in the library. Edward disclosed what had passed between himself and Sara, and detailed his interview with his father. Mr. Medway was astonished and shocked at the unreasonableness of his late rival. He knew that Mr. Montague disliked him, avoided him, and refused to take part in any enterprise with him; but he had no suspicion of the depth of his hatred. He was sorely troubled because his own presumed errors were visited upon his innocent daughter.
Sara was sad and moody after Edward ceased so suddenly to visit her, and her parents believed that her health had been impaired by her sorrow. Her father hoped and believed that the return of Edward would prove to be the panacea to restore her; and the young man's confession appalled him. He could not counsel him to forsake fortune and family for his daughter's sake, even while he feared that his refusal to do so would be fatal to her. He could give no advice, though the young man asked for it. He volunteered to conceal the fact of Edward's visit, which was several times repeated with the same privacy.
Sara's health improved as her cheerfulness returned; but her physician dreaded the long, cold winter. About this time appeared a volume entitled Gan-Eden, or Pictures of Cuba, which fell into Mr. Medway's hands. He read it, and was fully impressed with the desirableness of Cuba as a winter residence for consumptives. He suggested the thought to the doctor, and the result was, that Mr. Medway went to the island with his wife and daughter. Edward saw her before her departure, and their plighting was renewed, with the hope of meeting in the spring.
When she had gone, he was moody and discontented. A few weeks later Tom Barkesdale, his chum in college, who resided in New Orleans, came to his home to spend a few days. Edward and his father were courteous and munificent hosts, and did all that was possible to make the guest happy. He was happy, but he could not help seeing that his old college friend was not.
"What's the matter with you, Ned?" said Tom, as they sailed in a small yacht on the bright waters of Penobscot Bay, on one of the soft days of the Indian summer. "You are as blue as a Yankee whetstone."
"Am I? I was not aware of it," replied Edward, shaking off his moodiness for the moment.
"Yes, you are. If I stop talking for a moment, you sink away into a gloomy dream. You seem to me to be half muddled. What ails you?"
"I don't believe you. You haven't seemed at all natural since I came. I hope I'm not in the way of anything."
"Certainly not, Tom. You are never in the way."
"But, candidly and seriously, now, what ails you?"
"Nothing at all ails me, my dear fellow. If anything did, I would tell you sooner than I would my own father."
"Not in love—are you, Ned?" added Tom, straightening up, and looking full into the face of his friend. "By the way, where is the daughter of that member of Congress whom you used to be sweet upon?"
"She has gone to Cuba to spend the winter," replied Edward.
"I see just how the land lies now. She has gone to Cuba for her health, and you are pining away in solitude in the frozen north. But, Ned, didn't you write me that the affair had slipped up, fallen through, or something of that sort?"
"I thought it had; but I didn't know myself," replied the lover, with a sigh.
"O, ho! I see. She's a beautiful girl. Upon my word, I envy you, Ned. If you hadn't stepped in before me, my dear fellow, I should have fallen into that trap myself."
"Don't say anything about a trap, Tom. You make me shudder."
"What ails you, Ned? Isn't it all smooth—the course of true love, and all that sort of thing? Has she given you the mitten?"
"No, no. Everything is lovely so far as she is concerned."
"Is her father inimical? Does her mother dislike you, or her grandmother frown upon your hopes?"
"No. Her father and mother are entirely satisfied to let the affair take its course."
"Then what are you moping about?" demanded Tom.
"The opposition comes from my father," answered Edward, as he tacked the boat, and stood off on a long stretch, evidently with the intention of telling his friend all about it.
"What has your father to do with it?" asked Tom.
"He dislikes her father."
"But, if I understand you correctly, you don't purpose to marry her father."
"There is an old feud, a political affair, between them. The row occurred while I was away from home, fitting for college," added Edward, as he proceeded to disclose his present relations with Sara Medway, and to explain the nature and intensity of his father's opposition to the match.
"That's awkward, Ned," said Tom. "Your governor is a hard case on a feud."
"But in everything else he is as indulgent as he can be. I tried to be dutiful, even in a matter of this kind; and I did not see Miss Medway for three months. Then I heard she was ill, and my conscience reproached me. I called to see her. I shall never forget the expression of joy she bestowed upon me. She is as much attached to me as I am to her, and I know that if I desert her she will die of grief."
"You have a good opinion of yourself, Ned."
"I am in earnest. I think so. I made the first advances, not she."
"I should hope not," laughed Tom.
"And for that reason I feel a sense of responsibility, in addition to my devotion to Sara. Now you know all. What can I do?"
"Upon my word, Ned, that's a hard question; and a man must be a Solon to advise you."
"You are the sole un who can advise me, Tom," replied Edward, with a sickly smile.
"That's a lovesick pun. You are in a tight place. If you hold on, you will be frozen to death; if you let go, you will be burned to death. But I am inclined to think, my dear fellow, from what I have seen of you since I came here, that there is still a third consideration. If you obey your governor, the girl will die of grief; if you marry her, you lose fortune and father; but if you retain fortune and father, you may die of grief yourself. You are moping now; you look pale, and the situation is wearing upon you."
"But what can I do?"
"I'll tell you. I'm going to read law this winter with Colonel Bushnel, in New Orleans. Come with me, and we will read law together. Before spring we shall be able to solve the problem."
The boat returned to the town. Edward liked the plan, for Louisiana was nearer Cuba than Maine was. His father did not seriously object; and in another fortnight both the young men were in the Crescent City.
THE END OF A SAD STORY.
In New York Edward Montague mailed a letter to Sara Medway. Before he had been in New Orleans a week her answer came to him. She was better; her cough had entirely left her, and she slept well. Nothing was needed to make her happy but his presence.
"Go, Ned; go, by all means," said Tom Barkesdale.
"But my father—"
"Never mind your father," interposed Tom, whose impetuous southern temperament could hardly brook the cold caution of his friend.
"I promised to write to him at least once a month."
"Do so, then."
"But my letters will betray me."
"Date them at New Orleans, a day or two ahead, and send them to me under cover. I will mail them here, and your father will believe you are in this city all the time."
"That's a mean deception," said Edward, whose impulses were rather above such conduct.
"All is fair in love and war," laughed Tom. "Your letters from home will come here, and I will forward them to you."
Under the temptation that beset him Edward did not long consider this scheme before he adopted it; and he went to Havana in the steamer which had brought the letter from Sara. The Medways were still in the city, for the cottage at Limonar, which was to be their residence, was not yet ready for their reception. On his arrival Edward found father and daughter plunged in the deepest grief. However the climate agreed with Sara, it did not agree with her mother. She was taken sick in a sudden and violent manner, and in less than three days she breathed her last, though she was attended by the most skilful resident and foreign physicians.
Edward's office was now that of comforter, and his presence alone seemed to save the stricken ones from utter despair. Both father and daughter leaned upon him, and he faithfully discharged the duties which devolved upon him. After the funeral of Mrs. Medway, Edward conducted Mr. Medway and Sara to their new home at Limonar. In a few weeks the poignancy of their grief was abated; but Edward's presence seemed to be even more necessary than ever. Tom Barkesdale forwarded his letters and cashed his drafts in New Orleans; and the Honorable Mr. Montague in Maine had no suspicion that his son was not reading law in the Crescent City.
Two months after the death of Mrs. Medway, Edward Montague was privately married, by an English clergyman, to Sara Medway. The circumstances seemed to justify the breaking through of the ordinary proprieties which regulate the interval between a funeral and a wedding. This event seemed to sweep away all the clouds which lowered over the happiness of the young people.
Edward had made up his mind to face the wrath of his father, but he desired to postpone the tempest as long as possible. He wrote to Tom a full account of the step he had taken, and that worthy assured him he could conceal his marriage for an indefinite period. The young husband did not flatter himself that even a year could elapse before the momentous secret would be exposed. There were scores of invalids at Limonar, but, fortunately, none who recognized him or the Medways. He was very happy in his new relation, and the health of his wife appeared to be completely restored.
Letters came regularly from his father—brief, business-like epistles, in which the old gentleman, in his clumsy way, expressed his affection for his son. Edward used his spare time in reading law and studying the Spanish language.
In the spring Edward's letters, in accordance with a suggestion from Tom, began to hint at a trip to the Rocky Mountains, for it was hardly possible for the young couple to spend the summer in Cuba. In May Edward went to New Orleans with his wife, but was very careful to avoid public places. Two months later, attended by Tom, the party went up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and spent the summer in a quiet village. From this point Edward went home to pass a month with his father, in order to remove any suspicion in the old gentleman's mind, if any had been created; but the old gentleman had never received even a hint of the new relation of his son.
The news of Mrs. Medway's death had reached the town, and it was known that Sara and her father were spending the winter in the west. This intelligence had been communicated by Mr. Medway, who, of course, did not allude to the marriage of his daughter.
After spending a month at home, Edward departed for the west, saying that he was to meet Tom Barkesdale at St. Louis, and, after a trip to the Rocky Mountains, they would return to New Orleans, and resume their law studies. The young man wrote to his father from the place where he joined his wife and father-in-law. In the autumn the party went to the south, and, as soon as it was prudent to do so, Edward, his wife, and Mr. Medway returned to Cuba. The cottage at Limonar was just as they had left it, and they resumed their quiet domestic life as before. Edward had observed, with fear and trembling, that some of the consumptive symptoms of his wife appeared while she was at the north. Indeed, she had brought back with her a hacking cough, which, however, soon yielded to the softening influence of the climate.
Limonar is but a short distance from Matanzas, by railroad, and either Mr. Medway or Edward was obliged to visit the city occasionally, to procure the comforts and luxuries not to be had in a country village.
Sara's knowledge of Spanish was very limited, though by this time Edward spoke it quite fluently. Her Spanish servants were a constant perplexity to her, and she very much desired to obtain an English or American woman to perform the ordinary offices of the household. On one of his visits to the city Edward met an American woman in great distress. Her husband was a cooper, with whom she had come from a seaport town in Maine, to better their fortunes. High wages tempted him to remain through the summer; but as late as October he fell a victim to yellow fever. He had sent most of his surplus funds home, and his widow soon exhausted her scanty supply of money. Instead of applying to the American consul, she went to live with an English family as a nurse. But there she was taken sick herself, and was sent away from her comfortable home to a boarding-house, lest she should communicate some contagious disease to her employer's family. Here she had contracted a debt which she could not pay, and was seeking a friend to assist her, when she met Edward in a shop. Hearing him speak English, she addressed him.
Though Mrs. Wayland desired only to return to her home in Maine, Edward prevailed upon her to go with him to Limonar. He paid her debts, provided her with everything she needed, and offered her large wages. All were so kind and indulgent to her that she soon became much attached to her new friends. When she had been a month at the cottage, Edward Montague became the happy father of a fine boy.
But with this joy came the heaviest of sorrows. Sara's health began to fail, and the incipient malady which had been working upon her physical frame so silently for years rapidly developed itself. The delicious climate had lost its influence; and when the boy was only three months old, his mother breathed her last. Edward and Mr. Medway were stunned by the blow, and wept as those without hope. The young wife was buried by the side of the mother in the cemetery in the vicinity of Havana.
There was no longer any motive for the survivors to remain in Cuba. Limonar had lost all its glory now, and Edward could not endure the sight of the familiar localities which had been hallowed by the presence of his lost wife. Mr. Medway was alone in the world. His own health was feeble, and he desired only to return to his native land. His spirit was broken, and all this world seemed to have passed away. It was decided that Mr. Medway, with Mrs. Wayland and the child, should take the steamer for New York, and return to Maine, while Edward went home by the way of New Orleans.
Much as the young father had loved his boy before, he appeared to be in a measure indifferent to him now. His wife and child were a real joy; but the boy alone only reminded him of her whom he had lost.
When the steamer arrived at New York, Mr. Medway was too feeble to travel. Mrs. Wayland was a faithful nurse to him; but her charge died in a week after he landed. The last of the family was gone. His remains were sent home, and Mrs. Wayland and the child went with them. She knew the whole of the story we have related; and, in his last illness, Mr. Medway had impressed upon her mind, in the strongest manner, the necessity of entire secrecy in regard to his daughter's marriage and the paternity of the child. If Edward chose to acknowledge it, he would do so in due time.
Mrs. Wayland had no relations to trouble themselves about her affairs; and when she appeared in Camden, which had been the residence of her husband, no one thought of asking whether or not the child was her own. She volunteered no information on this subject; and, recovering the money which her husband had sent home, she was comfortably situated for the present. She found a good boarding-place, and devoted herself wholly to the little one, who already occupied a large place in her affections.
Edward Montague went to New Orleans, and when he presented himself before his college friend, he looked like another man, so severe had been the workings of his grief upon him. Tom Barkesdale pressed his hand in silence, for he had already been informed by letter of the sad event of the last month.
"It is all over with me now, Tom," said he, gloomily, as the tears gathered in his hollow eyes.
"Don't take it so hardly, Ned. Time softens the severest trials."
"Not mine. I am ready to die myself now."
"No you are not. Don't give up the battle so. Be a man."
"I can be nothing now. I shall go home, and let my life ebb out with my sorrows."
"Don't go home as you are now. You will only make your father miserable. You have no right to do that."
"I must tell him all."
"Don't do it, Ned."
"It will only vex and torment your governor to no purpose. He is an old man, and cannot live many years more. Don't disturb him with the reflection that you have disobeyed him."
"But my child!"
"Keep the child in the shade for a few years," said Tom; and Edward fully understood him. "One of these days you can acknowledge it, and all will be well. Out of regard to your father's happiness you ought to keep still."
"As my wife is dead now, I hope he will forgive me."
"Perhaps he would, perhaps not. What is the use of stirring up the waters and making a storm, when everything is quiet now?"
"But my father cannot help seeing that something has happened to me. I can never be as I was before."
"Wait and see," replied the more philosophic young man.
A letter came from Mr. Montague a few days later. It was in the usual quiet tone, with the gossip and news of the town. Edward dreaded the thought of disturbing the serenity of his father's life. He felt now that he ought not to have deceived the old gentleman; that it would have been better to face his wrath. He was sure that his own and Sara's happiness required that he should marry her; and he could not reproach himself for this step. But by this miserable deception—successful as it had been—he had stepped from the high plane of honor and truth. He was utterly dissatisfied with himself; and all the more so because he realized that his wife was worthy of all the sacrifice he could have made for her sake. Tom Barkesdale reasoned from a different point of view, and insisted that the matter was best as it was. Edward had done right in marrying Sara, and it was quite proper to save Mr. Montague from the pain and misery of a useless opposition.
Then came another letter from Mrs. Wayland, announcing her safe arrival in New York and the illness of Mr. Medway.
"I must go to New York at once," said Edward.
"Don't you do it. You will undo everything that has been done, if you do. Probably Mr. Medway has been seasick overmuch. He will be all right in a few days. Wait till you hear again, at least."
He did wait, and the next letter informed him of the death of his father-in-law, and that his remains had been sent to his friends in Maine. Mrs. Wayland added that she should go to Camden at once, where a letter from him would reach her.
"It is no use for you to go now, Ned," said Tom. "You can do no good."
"I ought to have gone before."
"As you didn't go before, it cannot be helped. Your father thinks you are diligently reading law in the office of Colonel Bushnell, in New Orleans. We can't help the past; but I advise you to deceive him no longer."
"What do you mean?"
"Go into the office and read law with all your might. Then you will be deceiving him no longer. You will be doing just what he thinks you are doing," replied Tom, lightly.
"And not tell him of the past?"
Edward felt the need of some occupation, and he accepted the counsel of his friend. He studied day and night, for he could not join in any of the pleasures of the city, or go into the gay society which Tom frequented. He wrote to Mrs. Wayland, enclosing a considerable sum of money; but he forbade her writing to him, lest the fact of a letter to him from Camden should connect him with the child. It was a groundless fear; but he had now fully resolved not to disturb his father's peace by acknowledging his own disobedience.
For four months he studied so diligently that his friend began to fear he would impair his health. Every day found him more cheerful than the last; and it was plain enough that youth and time were rapidly conquering his grief. He began to go into society again, and the presence of the ladies was not altogether repulsive to him. In June, with Tom as his companion, he went home to spend the summer.
His father commented upon his altered appearance, but Tom insisted that it was because he had studied so hard. He had not only read law, but had learned the Spanish language, so that he could converse fluently in it. The vacation wonderfully recruited his health, and in the autumn the students returned to their southern home. Edward studied as diligently as ever. Youth had wholly conquered his grief, and he was as before. He sent money regularly to Mrs. Wayland; but he expressed no desire to see his child, though he declared to Tom that the little one still had a place in his heart, and that he intended at some future time to acknowledge it.
Edward boarded with his friend's father, who had a daughter. She was but sixteen when Edward first became a member of the family. She was nineteen now, and the young northerner began to be tenderly impressed towards her, though his attentions did not begin till his wife had been dead over a year. The attraction was mutual, and Edward wrote to his father about it. The old gentleman was pleased, and facetiously remarked that he had all along supposed there was something or somebody in New Orleans, besides Tom or the law, that had drawn him there for three winters. He hadn't the slightest objection. Edward could now please himself in that respect, as in every other. The "now" was heavily underscored, and the son had no difficulty in understanding his meaning. It was known that all the Medways were dead, and the Honorable Mr. Montague could no longer object to any match his heir might choose to make.
The marriage was deferred till the next year, when Edward's father and mother made a winter tour to New Orleans. The great event was duly chronicled in the newspapers, and the young couple made a bridal tour to Europe, where they spent a year. On their return an elegant residence, next to the Honorable Mr. Montague's, in one of the finest towns on Penobscot Bay, awaited them.
Edward practised law in a mild way, but never made any great figure in his profession. He was an officer in the war, has been to the state legislature as a representative, and the honors of a senatorship are still before him. Like the other distinguished men we have introduced, he is the father of only one child by his second marriage, a pretty daughter, who is the idol of both parents, and particularly of the Honorable Mr. Montague.
Edward Montague has all of this world's goods which are required to make a man happy, he has a beautiful and loving wife, a beautiful and affectionate daughter, a kind and indulgent father still. All the world regards him as a happy man; but he is not entirely so, for he cannot be satisfied with his past life. He cannot help thinking of the deception he practised upon his father, and still fears that some unexpected event will disclose his misconduct. His wife shares his great secret, for, before he married her, a sense of honor compelled him to make her his confidante, which he did in the presence of her brother, who vouched for the truth of all he said. He can never be entirely at peace while his father lives.
Mrs. Wayland married again, but Edward continued to send her at the rate of ten dollars a week for the care of his son, who still passes as her own child. After this marriage of the nurse, the father of the boy was vexed by a new fear. He saw that it was possible for her husband to probe the secret through his letters and remittances; so he ceased to write letters, or to send money by mail as before. Once a year, when Tom Barkesdale came north to spend his summer vacation, he sent him with the money to deliver into her own hands.
Strange as it may seem, Edward has not seen his boy since he parted with him on board of the steamer at Havana. When he thinks of the little one he cannot but reproach himself for the past. He feels that he has wronged the boy, and fears that his own emotions might betray him in the presence of the child. He is vexed by a score of fears which he cannot define. The guide and standard of his life is honor rather than religious principle, which is the only safe guide and standard. His conscience reproaches him for what he has done and for what he has left undone. He feels that he has dishonored the memory of his lost wife, and that his conduct is a continued wrong to his child. Like thousands of others, he shuns that which might lead him into the path of truth and right. He pays liberally for the support of his boy, and tries to persuade himself that he is doing all that honor requires of him.
All this is but the introduction to our story; and with the next chapter we step over a period of more than a dozen years.
"What have you done with it, Robert?" demanded Ezekiel Taylor, a coarse, rough man of forty, who was partially intoxicated and very angry. "You and your mother've hid that jug of rum."
Robert looked at Mrs. Taylor, who was making bread at the table, but he did not deem it prudent to make any reply. That jug was the evil genius of the little household. It had transformed Ezekiel Taylor from an honest, industrious, and thriving man, into a mean, lazy, and thriftless drunkard. It had brought misery and contention into the little house which he had bought and paid for before his marriage. He was a cooper by trade, and had set up in business for himself; but his dissolute habit had robbed him of his shop, and reduced him first to a journeyman and then to a vagabond. He earned hardly enough to pay for the liquor he consumed; but, somehow,—and how was the mystery which perplexed everybody who knew the Taylors,—the family always had enough to eat and good clothes to wear. Years before, he had, under the pretence of buying a shop in which to set up in business again, mortgaged his house for five hundred dollars, and his wife had signed away her right of dower in the premises, without a suspicion of anything wrong. But the money was quickly squandered, and Squire Gilfilian, who had the mortgage, threatened to take the place, though the interest was paid with tolerable regularity by the wife.
Ezekiel worked a little when he was sober; but a day of industry was sure to be followed by a spree. He could procure a few drinks at the saloons; but as soon as he began to be tipsy, even the saloon keepers refused to furnish him more, for the public sentiment of the place fiercely condemned them. The cooper had worked a day and obtained a jug of rum. After breakfast he had gone into the village and drank two or three times, and when he could procure no more liquor there, he came home to continue his spree on the stock he had before laid in. The jug had been concealed in the wood-shed, where Robert had discovered it. It suggested evil to himself and his mother, abuse and even personal violence. As he afterwards explained it, he saw a storm brewing, and, like a prudent sailor, he had prepared for it, or prepared to avert it, by taking the jug down to the steamboat wharf and dropping it upon the rocks below, where the rising tide soon covered the pieces, and for a time concealed the evidences of the deed.
"What have you done with it, you villain?" repeated the angry head of the family, looking first at the boy and then at his wife.
"I haven't seen it, and didn't know you had any jug," replied Mrs. Taylor.
"Don't lie to me about it," stormed Ezekiel. "You can't fool me. I left that jug in the wood-shed, and 'tain't there now. It couldn't have gone off without any help."
"I haven't touched it," repeated Mrs. Taylor.
"Yes, you have; you know you have," added the tippler, demonstrating with a clinched fist towards her.
"I tell you I haven't seen it."
"I say you have," said Ezekiel, shaking his fist in her face; "you know you have; and if you don't tell me what you've done with it, it'll go hard with you."
"She hasn't seen it, and don't know anything at all about it," interposed Robert, in order to turn the wrath of the inebriate from his mother.
"Then you do, you villain," said Ezekiel, turning sharply upon the youth.
The boy did not make any reply.
"What have you done with it?" cried the angry cooper.
"Mother knows nothing at all about it; she hasn't touched it, and didn't know there was any jug there."
Mrs. Taylor suspended work and looked earnestly at the boy. She understood by his manner that he had removed the jug, and she dreaded the consequences of her husband's wrath. Ezekiel continued to repeat his question in his drunken frenzy, and to demonstrate violently with his fist at the youth. He turned again upon his wife, and accused her of being a party to the removal of the jug; but Robert's only object seemed to be to shield her from his wrath.
"I tell you again she don't know anything at all about it," said he, at last. "I did the business myself; and that jug has gone up. It won't hold any more rum."
"What did you do with it, you villain?" gasped Ezekiel.
"I dropped it off the railroad wharf upon the rocks; and there isn't a piece left of it big enough to stop a mouse hole."
"You did—did you?"
"I did," added Robert, desperately, as he braced himself to brave the consequences of his bold deed.
"What business had you to meddle with my property?" demanded Ezekiel, furiously.
"It was a kind of property that don't make any man the richer," replied the youth.
"Who told you to do it?" asked the inebriate, glancing at his wife.
"No one told me, and no one knew anything about it."
"Then I'll teach you to steal my property! I'll take it out of your hide, you rascal."
"There isn't any of it in my hide, and I don't mean there ever shall be."
Ezekiel took down a clothes-stick which was hanging against the wall, and with it he made a dive and a plunge at Robert. The boy was too active to be caught by a man whose footing was none too steady. He easily dodged the blows which were aimed at him, till the tippler, out of breath from his exertions, placed himself before the door to prevent the escape of the culprit, and there rested himself from the fatigue of the onslaught.
"Don't you strike that boy," said Mrs. Taylor, warmly; and she had before essayed to suspend the strife.
"Yes I will! I'll flog him within an inch of his life. I'll teach him to meddle with my property," gasped Ezekiel.
"If you do, I'll leave this house, and never come into it again. I won't have no such goings on where I am," said the woman, warmly and energetically.
"That's right, mother; you leave," added Robert, who had remained in the room only to turn the wrath of the husband from her to himself.
"He shan't hurt you, Robert. I'll stand up for you to the end," added Mrs. Taylor, as she passed into her chamber, which was next to the "living-room."
"I don't care who goes, nor who stays. I ain't a going to have any such works as this," continued Ezekiel, as he gathered himself up for another attack. "I ain't a going to have my property, that cost money, destroyed, and you won't want to do such a thing again, I can tell you."
The angry man rushed towards Robert, who stood near the door which opened into the front entry; but he knew that it was locked, and so he did not attempt to escape in that direction. Being in the corner, his furious assailant attempted to pin him there; but Robert, by a flank movement, reached the door which led to the wood-shed, and passed out. He was closely pursued by Ezekiel; but the tipsy man might as well have attempted to catch a wild antelope. The boy dodged around the wood-shed and other buildings till he had thrown his pursuer off the track; then he went to the back window of his mother's chamber to assure himself that she was still safe. She was putting on her bonnet and shawl, with the evident intention of leaving the house.
"Did he strike you, Robert?" she asked, through the open window, with more of indignation than terror in her manner.
"Not he," replied Robert. "I can keep out of his way easy enough."
"Don't go near him again—that's a good boy. There's no knowing what he may do. He's as ugly as sin when he has had two or three glasses and wants more."
"But where are you going, mother?" asked the boy.
"I don't know where to go yet; but I'm not going to stay here to-day. I can't bear it any longer. You will keep out of his way—won't you, Robert?"
"I'm not afraid of him; but I'm going out a fishing as soon as the tide makes enough to get the boat off."
"Well, I'll go up and spend the day with Mrs. Paine," added Mrs. Taylor. "I hope your father will get over it before night."
"I've got about enough of this, mother; and if it wasn't for you, I'd clear out this very day."
"Don't leave me yet, Robert," pleaded the poor woman. "I mean to leave him myself if he don't behave better. He shan't abuse you."
"I don't mean he shall. But I think I can take care of myself better than you can of yourself."
Mrs. Taylor did not think so; but she did not dispute the point. The approach of Ezekiel caused the youth to beat another retreat; but, from the other side of the street, he saw his mother leave the house and walk towards the village. Satisfied that she was safe from the wrath of her brutal husband, he soon followed her, though he did not overtake her, for his course, after a short distance, led him in another direction.
"I'm glad that man is not my father," muttered Robert to himself, as he walked towards the village.
A knowledge of this fact had come to him only a few days before, and it was a great relief to him, for certainly there was no meaner man in Camden than Ezekiel Taylor. He was sorry that he had ever been permitted even to bear his name. He was sixteen years old, though, for his age, he was rather short. But he was a stout, wiry, athletic little fellow. He was just as much puzzled as the rest of the town's people to know how his mother contrived to feed and clothe herself and him, when it was patent to everybody that her husband spent all that he earned for rum. She always had money enough to buy a beefsteak and to pay her store bill. When everything seemed to have "gone to the dogs," and his last suit of clothes was out at the elbows, she astonished him by getting a new suit. The coat had very brief skirts, after the fashion then prevailing. On his short, stubbed form, it gave him a peculiar appearance, which promptly attracted the attention of his companions, when he went to church and Sunday school, after a long absence caused by the want of suitable clothing. The boys called him "Bob Taylor;" but when this coat appeared, they cut off one syllable, and made his cognomen "Bobtail," which soon became "Little Bobtail," for he was often called little Bob Taylor before, by the larger boys.
Robert was disposed to resent all these liberties with his name; but as Squire Gilfilian, the hotel keeper, and the deputy collector of the port, good-naturedly adopted the fashion of the youngsters, he was compelled to acquiesce. After all, there was not much difference between Little Bobtail and little Bob Taylor, certainly not enough to quarrel about.
Robert went to the post-office, not because he expected any letters,—for he had no correspondence,—but because a great many people went there when the mail arrived. He was always ready to make a quarter when an opportunity presented. He spent half his time on the water in the summer, and knew all about a boat. Sometimes the strangers at the hotel wanted him to go out with them, and indicate the best places to catch cod, haddock, and mackerel, and sometimes there was an errand to be done.
"Little Bobtail!" shouted the post-master through his window, as Robert entered the office.
He went up to the window, and asked what was wanted.
"Here is a letter for Squire Gilfilian, who was in a desperate hurry to get it, if one came," added the post-master. "Will you carry it up to his office?"
"Yes, sir," replied Little Bobtail, promptly.
"Here is another for Captain Chinks. I think he is at the squire's office, for they just went up the street together. You may as well take it along."
Robert took the two letters, and hastened to the squire's office. As he entered, Captain Chinks came out of the rear apartment, where the lawyer held his private conferences with his clients.
"Here's a letter for you, sir," said Robert, as he handed one of them to the captain, who immediately tore it open.
"Thank you, Little Bobtail," said Captain Chinks, taking a quarter in scrip from his vest pocket, and giving it to him.
"I am very much obliged to you, Captain Chinks," replied Robert, glad to earn a quarter so easily. "Is Squire Gilfilian in that room?"
"Yes; but he's busy."
"I have a letter for him."
"Put it on the table, and he will find it when he comes out; on his writing desk there."
Little Bobtail tossed the letter on the desk, and left the office, thinking only of the quarter he had just made, and how he should invest it to the best advantage in provisioning the old boat with which he intended to go a fishing that day. A sheet of gingerbread and a "hunk of cheese," as he expressed it, seemed to suit the emergencies of the occasion; and after purchasing these articles, he walked down the road leading to the Portland steamboat wharf. He had gone but a short distance before he overtook Captain Chinks, who was reading the letter he just received as he walked along the plank sidewalk.
Captain Chinks, who was, possibly, a distant relative of him of the horse-marines, though his name had become corrupted, was a man of doubtful reputation. The officials of the custom-house kept a sharp eye upon him, and endeavored to connect him with certain irregular transactions, whereby sundry cases of brandy and sundry boxes of cigars had come into Camden without paying tribute to the majesty of the custom-house. The goods were seized, and duly confiscated; but there was a link wanting in the chain of testimony which connected Captain Chinks with the affair. Robert supposed he had been consulting Squire Gilfilian about the matter; and the youth judged from the angry look of the captain that the lawyer had not been able to afford him any satisfaction.
Captain Chinks read his letter, and made his way down to the steamboat wharf. As Bobtail ran his old boat by the end of the pier, he saw the man of doubtful reputation go on board of the steamer, and noticed him on her deck when she started.
That afternoon Robert sold a good mess of fish at the market, and went home to the cottage, which was on the road leading to the steamboat wharf. Ezekiel was not there, but his mother was. As the tippler could not obtain the liquor for a spree, he had become sober. He went to work the next day, and a temporary peace was patched up. He offered no violence to the boy while he was sober, but this was only for a brief period. In a few days he obtained another jug of rum, and Robert and his mother were obliged to abandon the house to him.
On this afternoon Robert went to the post-office as usual. He had not been on the water since the day he had carried the letters to Squire Gilfilian's office, for the reason that he could not obtain a boat, for he was not the owner of the old craft in which he generally sailed. She belonged to a boatman by the name of Prince, who managed a larger Newport boat, in which he conveyed passengers from the hotel, and others, upon excursions on the bay. Anybody who wanted the old boat took her, without the formality of asking the owner's leave, though Robert, being a boy, was not quite so independent as others; but Prince was a good fellow, and allowed him to use her whenever she was not taken by somebody else. But Robert had borrowed her for the day, and secured her near the cottage the night before, so that she could not be used till the tide served.
"Little Bobtail!" shouted the post-master.
"Didn't I give you a letter for Squire Gilfilian, about a week ago?"
"Yes, sir, you did."
"What did you do with it?"
"Laid it on the desk in his office," replied Robert, wondering what all these questions could mean.
"He never got it."
"Didn't he? Well, I put it on his desk," added the boy, startled and annoyed at the situation.
Just then the squire himself entered the office, and confirmed the statement of the post-master. The lawyer questioned Little Bobtail sharply, perhaps rather from his professional habit than because he suspected the youth of anything wrong.
"I put it on your desk, sir; and that is all I know about it. Captain Chinks was in your office at the time, and he told me to put it on the desk," said Robert, stoutly.
"Now I remember, I gave Bobtail a letter for Captain Chinks at the same time," added the post-master.
"Yes, sir; and I gave it to him in the squire's office."
"Well, we will look the matter up when Captain Chinks comes back. He has been away a week now," added the lawyer.
Robert was vexed. He was not directly accused of stealing the letter, but he did not like the sharp questions which the squire asked him. He left the office, and, after buying a sheet of gingerbread and some cheese, he hastened down to the old boat, which was now afloat. He had put a bucket of clams into her the night before, for bait, and otherwise prepared the boat for a cruise. The wind was pretty fresh from the westward, and he went off wing-and-wing before it. He tried the usual places, but the fish did not bite, and he kept sailing farther and farther out from the shore; but he caught hardly any fish. He was in no hurry to go home, for Ezekiel was in his tantrums, and his mother had gone to Rockport to spend two or three days. The wind, instead of subsiding as the day advanced, increased in force. The sea was heavy out in the bay, and it was utterly impossible to beat the old boat up to windward, for she made more leeway than headway.
"No matter; I'll make a night of it," said he to himself, when he realized that it was impossible for him to beat back to Camden.
The bay is full of islands, and Little Bobtail concluded to get under the lee of one of them, and wait for better weather. He took in his jib and mainsail, and the old boat went along very well, taking in very little water. The sun went down, and it was dark before he had made a harbor. He was approaching Blank Island, where he knew a good place to anchor for the night, when he discovered a large sail-boat, drifting down the bay. Her sails were all lowered, but had not been secured, and were flapping about in the wind.
"Boat, ahoy!" shouted Little Bobtail.
No answer came to his repeated hails; and, throwing the old craft up into the wind, he awaited the approach of the abandoned boat. Placing himself In the bow, with the painter in his hand, he leaped on board of the stranger, as she drifted upon his old craft. The abandoned boat was worthy to be called a yacht. She was about thirty-two feet in length, with eleven feet beam. Two thirds of her length was decked over, with a trunk cabin, in which were transoms large enough for four berths, with a cook-room forward. She was handsomely fitted up, and Little Bobtail wondered how she happened to be adrift. He hoisted the mainsail, and in a few moments ran her into a little bay under the lee of Blank Island, where he anchored her. As she had an anchor it was evident that she had not broken away from her anchorage. Having secured the old boat at a safe distance from the yacht, the young boatman had an opportunity to examine his prize, for such it proved to be.
THE JANTY YACHT.
It was very dark, and Little Bobtail was unable to obtain a very clear idea of the craft he had picked up; but he had brought her to a secure anchorage under the lee of Blank Island, and, quite exhausted with his energetic efforts, both in boarding the yacht and in mooring the boats, he was content to rest himself for a while on the cushioned seats of the standing-room. The fresh wind which had blown all day had not permitted him to pay much attention to the dietary department, which is always an important one in a boat; and, not being over sentimental, he was positively hungry. Even the half of his sheet of gingerbread and his "hunk of cheese" remained untouched.
Little Bobtail was an ingenious youth, and when he anchored the old boat he had taken a line from her stern to the yacht, so that he could haul the former alongside the latter at his pleasure. By this means he was enabled to recover his provision box and jug of cold water without any difficulty. He devoured the balance of what had been intended only for his dinner, which, expanded into both dinner and supper, did not half cover the needs of the occasion. He was still hungry, but he had recovered his breath, and was in condition to make another effort, if another were required of him.
We confess that we have written very coolly and composedly of the event in Little Bobtail's experience which had just transpired, hardly attempting to describe his wonder and exhilaration; but it is not to be supposed that he was unmoved by the discovery and recovery of the abandoned yacht. He was so tremendously excited, that he had worked all the breath out of his body, and had hardly an opportunity to consider the nature and extent of his achievement till he had regained his wind, and partially filled the vacuum in his stomach, which prudent Nature abhors.
We said he was ready for another effort; but before he put forth his strength again, he indulged in a series of speculations in regard to the immediate history of the yacht he had picked up under such singular circumstances. He had not been into the cabin yet to obtain whatever evidence might be available in solving the problem; he had not yet had time to do so. But people speculate and construct theories even before there are any premises on which to base them.
The yacht was fine enough to be a pleasure craft, and he leaped at once to the conclusion that some gay party had landed on an island to have a good time, and, having run the yacht aground, the fresh breeze had blown her off as the tide rose. Entirely satisfied with this solution, the history of the fair craft seemed to be no longer a mystery to him. In the morning he would run her over to Camden and anchor there. The owner would soon appear; and, as he was fairly entitled to salvage, he thought he could reasonably hope to receive as much as ten dollars for his services, for the yacht might have been thrown upon the rocks and utterly smashed, if he had not picked her up. Indeed, she was not three miles from Deer Island when he discovered her, and in an hour or two more nothing could have saved her from destruction.
To Little Bobtail ten dollars was a vast sum of money, and the very first thought of obtaining it suggested, as the next one, the use to which it should be applied. That old tub of a boat in which he had been sailing all day could be bought for thirty dollars. It is true she was not much of a boat; but it would afford Little Bobtail almost as much pleasure to repair her and put a proper keel upon her, so that he could beat to windward in her, as it would to sail her. Prince, who owned her, would take ten dollars as the first payment, and in time he could earn enough with her to pay the other twenty. Altogether the dream was a brilliant one to him, and as he gazed through the gloom of the night at the old tub, his fancy kindled with the glowing future. He wished the old thing was bigger, so that he could have a cabin and a place to sleep in her, when the drunken fury of Ezekiel drove him from the cottage.
Now, really, our hero did not think half so much of the janty yacht he had captured as he did of the old tub, and we do not know that he would have taken the trouble to enter her cabin before he wanted a place to sleep, if he had not been hungry. Half a sheet of gingerbread and "half a hunk of cheese" for supper were altogether insufficient for a growing boy. If the party which had lost the yacht had been on a pleasure excursion, of course they had brought provisions with them; for, to the imagination of a boy of sixteen, eating is one of the chief pleasures of existence, especially on the salt water. If the excursionists had gone on shore,—as they must have done, since they were not on board,—probably they had taken their provisions with them. It was a startling thought; but then perhaps the yacht had broken adrift before they were removed from the lockers. The alternative was very pleasant to Little Bobtail, though it suggested the miserable condition of the excursionists left on the island, perhaps to pass the night there, without food. Our hero thought they could stand it better without any supper than he could, for he had had only half a dinner, and besides, everybody thinks his own misfortunes are infinitely more trying than those of other people. But we must do our young skipper the justice to add that he sympathized with the excursionists in case they had no supper.
The doors of the cabin were closed, but they were not locked. Little Bobtail threw them open, and gazed down into the darkness. He could not see anything but the faint light through the round ports in the trunk. He descended the steps, and then stumbled against some boxes. Feeling his way overhead, he placed his hand upon a lantern suspended from above.
"All right!" exclaimed he. "That lantern is the right thing in the right place. We will have some light on the subject."
He was an early riser, and made the fire in the cook-stove every morning at home, which may account for the fact that he had a quantity of matches in his pocket. He always carried them with him, for he had been blown off once before, when he had a boat full of fish, and had to go hungry all night because he could not make a fire to cook one or two of them. Besides, when he sailed with strangers or with town's people, most of them smoked, and he often found that a match was the one thing needed in a boat. On account of this wise forecast and this prudent habit, Little Bobtail had plenty of matches in his pocket; and having them, he lighted one, and communicated the flame to the lamp in the lantern.
Excitedly he waited the revelations which the lamp was to make to him. It was a beautiful cabin. The transoms were all cushioned, and there was a table between them. Forward was the door which opened into the cook-room. Over the table was a rack for bottles and glasses, and there was a score of lockers filled with dishes and other table ware, with charts, books, compasses, and other nautical necessaries. A handsome spy-glass hung on a pair of brackets. At the end of the transoms were several cushions, used as pillows, and some robes to cover the sleepers.
After this general survey of the interior of the cabin, Little Bobtail turned his attention to the boxes upon which he had stumbled. All the cabin floor, except a small portion aft, was covered with these boxes, of which he counted twenty. The theory he had adopted that the yacht had been used for a pleasure excursion, crumbled away as he saw these boxes, for no party would go out sailing with the cabin lumbered up in this manner. He overhauled one of the boxes, without being any the wiser, and Little Bobtail was sorely puzzled. Taking the lantern in his hand, he crawled over the boxes to the cook-room. It was very small, but it was admirably fitted up, with a tiny stove and plenty of lockers. In one corner hung a log of bacon, from which a few slices had been out at some recent period.
"That suits my case exactly," said the explorer, as he took down the bacon. "I shall treat myself to a slice of fried ham before I bother my head any more about this craft or any other."
In a locker on which the cook sat while engaged in his duties was a supply of wood; and in five minutes Little Bobtail had a good fire in the stove. A frying-pan lay by the side of the locker. Indeed, our hero could want nothing which he did not immediately find ready for use, just as though a multitude of fairies stood at his elbows to meet his every wish. In another locker he found a kid of cold potatoes, and there was an abundance of hard-tack in a keg on the transom. The slice of bacon hissed and sizzled in the pan on the stove, and the odor was delightful to the hungry boy. It was soon "done to a turn," and the fried potatoes were as brown and nice as those prepared by his mother. He might have had tea or coffee, but he did not care for them. At his age they are not reckoned among the substantials for a good meal. Procuring a plate, knife, and fork from the cabin, he helped himself from the pan on the stove.
"That's what I call first rate!" exclaimed he, when he had duly tested the bacon and the potatoes. "I shall be ready to hire out as a cook after this. That's tip-top bacon, and I respect the pig that left this leg I see to me."
Little Bobtail glanced up at the leg of bacon in the corner, and thought he had made a good pun; but it was fearfully old and stale to be printed in a book, and we do so only out of deference to his feelings. No right-minded and highly moral person will make puns; and our hero is only excusable on the ground that he was alone, and did not force it upon other people. He ate all he wanted; nay, more—all he could. He devoured the entire slice he had cooked, leaving none for a lunch, in case he wanted one, when he had not time to cook. He was entirely satisfied, and that is saying a great deal of a boy of sixteen, growing, and sailing on the salt water, too. He could not eat any more, or he would; and, being too full for utterance, he made no more speeches to himself. Doubtless he had endangered the peace of his dreams by overloading his stomach at that hour in the evening, for by this time it was ten o'clock; but it so happened that he had time to digest his supper before he put himself in the way of dreaming.
Having satisfied his hunger, he felt entirely satisfied with himself, and especially with the person or persons who had fitted out the yacht in the commissary department. Taking his lantern, he crawled over the boxes to the after part of the cabin, where there was space enough for him to sit comfortably. He looked at the boxes, and wondered what was in them. We do not know that he had more curiosity than boys in general; but he felt that a knowledge of their contents might enable him to establish another theory in regard to the previous history of the yacht. He had seen a shingling hatchet in the cook-room, used for splitting up the kindling wood. He went for it, and, with no great difficulty, opened one of the boxes. It was filled with bottles, packed in straw, and each one enclosed in a curious case made of the same material. He slipped one of the bottles out of its casing. It was labeled "JAMES HENNESSY & CO.—COGNAC." The name of the firm, so well known to old topers and moderate drinkers, afforded him no light; but he knew that "Cognac" meant brandy.
"Oho! aha!" said Little Bobtail, knowingly; "I smell a mice now. This boat wasn't used for a pleasure party."
He had heard about those mysterious custom-house inspectors and detectives, who poke their noses into grocery stores, cellars, and all the sly places where contraband goods were supposed to be concealed. Promptly he arrived at the conclusion that the brandy in the yacht had come "thus far into the bowels of the land" without paying its respects to the custom-house, or any of the heavy duties which go to support the army and navy, and a host of beneficent institutions which make our country "the land of the free and the home of the brave," and the collection of which affords a multitude of officials an opportunity to steal. But Little Bobtail did not trouble himself to discuss any of the vexed questions about free trade and tariff, or even to weigh carefully the immorality of smuggling.
Our hero did not believe in brandy, abstractly or concretely. It was liquor, and liquor had been a curse to his home, a curse to his mother, and a curse to himself; and he was tempted to take the boxes on deck, open them, and spill the contents of the bottles into the sea. Possibly—not probably—he would have done so, if he had not been afraid the liquor would destroy the fish, or drive them away to prohibition waters. The problem of the yacht had become intricate, and he was puzzled to determine what to do with her. If he had been properly instructed in regard to the duty of the citizens to his government, and properly inspired to discharge this duty, he would have sailed the yacht and her cargo over to Camden, and delivered her to the deputy collector in charge of the port. He knew what smuggling meant; but his views were very indefinite. According to the fishermen, and most of the traders, to whose conversation on this subject he had listened, smuggling was hardly to be regarded as a sin, or, if a sin, it was one of the most trivial character.
It is a melancholy truth, becoming more and more familiar to us every year, that cheating the government is hardly considered a crime; that respectable men, as the world measures them, and even members of the church, defraud the revenues of the government without compunction.
We are sorry to acknowledge that Little Bobtail did not think of such a thing as handing over the yacht and her contraband cargo—as he was fully satisfied it was—to the custom-house officials. He had not been educated up to a point which compelled him to do so. His conscience was not sensitive on this point above the average of the town's people. He was afraid, if he did so, that the government would coolly ignore him because he was a boy, and he should lose his ten dollars. Perhaps he thought he could make better terms with the smugglers than he could with the honorable and high-minded deputy-collector. While he was thinking of the matter, the moon rose in the clear sky, and shed a welcome light over the bay. It occurred to him that those who had lost the yacht might be in search of her. They might blunder upon him in the morning, and, being reckless smugglers, might even kill him to prevent his bearing testimony against them. He did not like the idea of meeting any such men alone. He preferred that the interview should take place in Camden harbor. The wind was still fresh, and in the yacht he could beat over to Camden in three or four hours; but he thought the breeze was hauling to the southward, which would give him a slant so that he could run over without tacking.
Moved by these considerations, he hoisted the mainsail of the yacht, which required all his strength and skill. He then weighed the anchor of the old tub, and carried her painter to the larger craft. He had a hard pull at the anchor of the yacht, but he got it up after a while, and stowed it securely forward. Rushing to the helm, he hauled in the sheet, and taking the wind on the quarter, he stood to the northward, in order to pass around the island. The yacht worked beautifully, even without her jib. Hauling in the sheet when she was clear of the island, he laid her up to the wind as close as she would go. In a short time he got the bearings of the lights, and found that he could let out his sheet a little. The yacht seemed to fly under the fresh breeze, and Little Bobtail watched her motions with perfect delight. After a while he discovered the light on Negro Island, and it was all plain sailing to him.
If the yacht went so fast with only her main-sail, what would she not do with her jib also? The young skipper was determined to test the question, and, lashing the helm, he hoisted her headsail. Trimming the sail by the sheets which led aft, the yacht increased her speed, and tossed the water over her boughs at a fearful rate; but Little Bobtail had closed the fore scuttle, and he let it toss. It was wild excitement to him, and he enjoyed it to the utmost. In two hours he was approaching the Spindles off the Point, where he deemed it prudent to take in the jib; but the wind was not so fresh in shore, and he went up the harbor quite leisurely. He had time to think again; and a disagreeable consideration was forced upon him, as he heard the clock of the Baptist Church strike one.
He was in Camden harbor; he must come to anchor; and the next morning everybody would wonder what boat the stranger was. The boatmen and bummers about town would board her, and want to know what those boxes contained. Little Bobtail was worried; but it was high tide, and he anchored close up to the rocks in front of the cottage. He was not willing to "face the music" the next day, and he was determined to get rid of the boxes, even if he threw them overboard. Landing in the old boat, he went up to the cottage. Ezekiel was in a drunken sleep in his chamber. Nothing could wake him, as he knew from former experience, when he was in this condition. He went up stairs to his own chamber. The cottage was a one-story building, with two rooms finished in the middle of the roof. On each side of these chambers there was a space for old rubbish, which no one ever explored. The young skipper decided, after a careful examination of the premises, to store the boxes in these spaces. To will was to do with him, and he went to work at once.
In a couple of hours he had conveyed the twenty boxes from the boat, and packed them away in these lumber-holes, and covered them with old traps, so that even his mother would not suspect their presence in the house. Having done all this, he sailed the yacht out into the deep water near the Portland Pier, where he anchored her. Tired out after the long day and the long night, he stretched himself on one of the transoms, and went to sleep.
Little Bobtail slept as soundly on the transom of the yacht as Ezekiel Taylor did in the cottage; and, as he did not retire till after three in the morning, he did not turn out till nine. He had worked all day and nearly all night, and he was very tired. While he was slumbering soundly in the cabin, many an eye was directed from the shore, and from the boats and vessels in the harbor, at the trim and janty yacht which had come in during the night. She was not there the evening before, and she was there now. Scores of boatmen asked what she was and where she came from; but no one could answer. No one had seen her before, and all were confident that she did not belong anywhere in the bay. The gossips concluded that she was a yacht from Boston or Portland, with a party on board; and, as she had come in during the night, they supposed her crew were making up for lost time in the matter of sleep. Those who were out in boats, though they sailed around the stranger and examined her carefully, were considerate enough not to go on board of her, and thus waken the tired sleepers.
So Little Bobtail was permitted to finish his nap in peace. The clock on the Baptist Church was striking nine when he woke. He leaped upon the cabin floor with a start when he saw the sunlight streaming in through the round port-holes in the trunk. He had no toilet to make, for he had turned in without removing even his shoes; and, putting on his cap, he was ready for business at once, though he did wash his face and hands, and comb his hair, when a wash-basin at the forward part of the cabin suggested these operations to him. He had an opportunity to see the yacht now by daylight, and his previous impressions of her were more than confirmed. She was even trimmer and more janty than he had supposed.
The experience of the preceding night seemed to him very like a dream. He went on deck, and examined with a critical eye the standing and running rigging, than which nothing could be neater or better. The old tub in which he had been blown off the day before was anchored near her, with a slack line from her stern to the yacht, as he had left her. The dingy old craft looked so mean and insignificant compared with the yacht, that the contrast put him almost out of conceit with the brilliant plan he had considered to purchase the former. He was rather doubtful whether he should be willing to invest the ten dollars—if he should obtain it—in such an enterprise.
Just then it occurred to him that he did not even know the name of the yacht. He walked out on the foot-rope at the end of the main boom, in order to see if it was painted on the stern. There it was—SKYLARK; only this, and nothing more. The port from which she hailed was not there. Skylark was a very good name, though it was not particularly appropriate for a thing that was to sail on the water, and not in the air. But "skylarking" was a term applied to frolicking, to rude play; and in this sense "Skylark" was entirely proper. On the whole, he did not object to the name, and would not if the owner had appeared at that moment and made him a present of her. He was entirely satisfied both with the yacht and her name; and, having completed his survey by daylight, he again pondered the subject of smuggling in a general way, and then in its relations to the incidents of the previous night. No higher views, no better resolutions, came to him. The contraband cargo was safe under the eaves of the cottage, where no one would be likely to find it; though he could not help thinking what a disaster it would be if Ezekiel should happen to discover those boxes, which doubtless contained liquor enough to keep him drunk for a whole year.
Turning away from the great moral question which confronted him, Little Bobtail began to feel—distinctly to feel, rather than to think—that it was about breakfast time. He went forward and removed the scuttle from over the cook-room. Jumping down into the little apartment, he made a fire in the stove, and put on the tea-kettle. While it was warming up, he went on deck again, for he heard the dip of a pair of oars near the yacht.
"Hullo, Monkey!" he shouted, as he recognized the occupant of a dilapidated old dory, who was taking a leisurely survey of the trim yacht.
"Hullo, Bob! Is that you?" replied the person in the boat, who was a boy of about the age of Little Bobtail, though not half so handsome.
Robert had called him "Monkey," and it was not difficult to determine where he had obtained his sobriquet, for, looking at the youth, Darwinism seemed to be made easy, without distorting either facts or logic. In his case, no long ages appeared to have elapsed between the monkey and the man, and the transition seemed to have been easy and natural. In a word, he looked like a monkey in the face, while no one could possibly have suspected that he was one. Above his mouth his face abruptly receded, so that the end of his nose was not far from plumb with his lips. In the middle of his forehead the hair seemed to grow down to the bridge of his nose. A stranger, who was not of a melancholy turn of mind, could hardly have refrained from laughing when looking at him for the first time. But Bobtail did not laugh, for Monkey was a friend, and a brother, in the generic sense.
"Come on board, Monkey," added Little Bobtail.
"What boat's this?" asked the representative of Darwinism, as he leaped upon the deck with the painter of the dory in his hand.
"The Skylark," replied Bobtail.
As the new arrival stepped upon the deck of the yacht, he was not unlike the traditional monkey of the circus, for his dress was almost as fantastic as his face. His father, who was a fisherman, had been lost at sea, and his mother was a poor woman, with neither energy nor gumption, who occupied a miserable shanty about a mile from the village, in which hardly a mean dwelling could be found. The woman was believed to be a little "daft," for she always hid herself when any of the town's people appeared near her shanty. She had a garden, in which she raised potatoes and corn, and kept a pig and a cow; and these furnished her subsistence, with the trifle which her son earned by odd jobs. The woman's name was Nancy Monk, and her boy's was Peter Monk, though certainly the surname was not needed to suggest the nickname by which he was universally called.
Of course Peter Monk's unfortunate affinity to the ape subjected him to no little annoyance from the sneers and insults of other boys, whose sense of decency was below their sense of the ludicrous.
Though Peter was, in the main, a good-natured fellow, there was a point of endurance beyond which he was not proof against the coarse jeers of his companions; and more than once Little Bobtail had been his protector when borne under by the force of numbers; for our hero had a hard fist as well as a kind heart. So Monkey was his friend for life, not so much because Bobtail had fought his battles, as because he treated him well, and made more of him than any one else did.
"Never heard of the Skylark before," said the visitor. "Where does she come from?"
"I don't know."
"Who owns her?"
"I don't know."
"Where does she belong?"
"I don't know."
"O, you don't?" grinned Monkey, exhibiting another affinity to the origin of the race.
"No, I don't."
"Where are the folks that belong to her?"
"I don't know."
"What you doing on board of her, Bob?"
"I'm looking out for her till somebody comes who has a better right to do so."
"How come she here?"
"I brought her here."
"Nobody lives there."
"I know it."
And Little Bobtail smiled at the perplexity of the visitor.
"Well, then, how come she over there, where nobody don't live?"
"I picked her up adrift."
"O, you did—did you?"
"I did. But come below; I want to get my breakfast," added Bobtail, as he led the way down into the cabin.
Monkey stared, and exclaimed as he viewed the comfortable, and even luxurious, furnishings of the yacht. He asked a thousand questions which Bobtail could not answer, and a thousand more which he did answer.
"Have you been to breakfast, Monkey?" asked Bobtail, as he seated himself before the stove in the cook-room, while the guest remained at the door in the cabin.
"Yes, I had something," replied Monkey, glancing at the leg of bacon.
The host knew very well that Monkey did not live much better at home than the pigs in the sty of the first-class farmer; that he was always a hungry waif, who could make a meal at any time. He resolved to give his visitor a treat on the present occasion; and he anticipated his own breakfast with double pleasure when he thought of the satisfaction which the meal would give his companion.
"Monkey, will you take Prince's boat over to her moorings for me? Somebody may want her," said he, as he put the coffee-pot on the stove, and took down the leg of bacon.
"To be sure I will, Bob. I'll do anything for you."
"I wish you would; and then come back and have some breakfast with me."
Monkey grinned, and even chattered, as he hastened to execute his errand. By the time he returned, Bobtail had set the table in the cabin; for, as he had company, he decided to take the meal in state. He had fried all the rest of the kid of potatoes, and two large slices of ham. He made the coffee, and mixed up a pitcher of condensed milk.
"Sit down, Monkey," said Little Bobtail, as he wiped the perspiration from his brow, for the cook-room was a hot place, even with the scuttle open.
"Yes," replied Monkey, showing all the teeth in his head, for when the mouths were given out he had been supplied with a very liberal share.
The host helped him to a big piece of ham and a great heap of fried potatoes. The guest was not very elegant in his manners; but what he lacked in refinement he made up in zeal. Fingers seemed to come handier to him than a fork, or, rather, a "slit spoon," as he called it. He did not often make two parts of a slice of potato, and his mouthfuls of ham were big enough to bait a large cod. Fortunately there was enough to fill him up.
"Somebody's looking for you, Bob, up in the village," said Monkey, when he began to be gorged, which, however, was not till both the slices of ham were nearly consumed.
"For me?" asked Little Bobtail.
"Squire Gilfilian asked me if I'd seen you; and I told him I hadn't. He was askin' everybody for you. Some on 'em said you wan't to home; and the old man said he hadn't seen you sence yesterday mornin'."
"Who wants me?"
"I don't know; but the squire wanted to see you powerful bad," grinned Monkey.
"All right. I'll go up and see him by and by," said Bobtail, as he left the table.
With the assistance of his new ally he washed the dishes, cleaned up the stove and cooking utensils, and swept out the cabin. Everything was put into the neatest condition. When this was done, the decks were washed down, the sails stowed more trimly than the skipper could do it in the dark, all the running rigging hauled taut, and the ends coiled away, so that the yacht was in man-of-war style. He found a padlock, with a key in it, to fasten the cabin door; and having put the tiller below, so that no one could sail the Skylark in his absence, he secured the door, and went on shore with Monkey. He stopped at the cottage to see if his mother had returned from Rockport, but neither she nor Ezekiel was there.
Walking towards the village, he wondered what Squire Gilfilian could want of him. He began to be a little troubled about the letter again, for, in the excitement of his cruise over to Blank Island, he hardly thought of the disagreeable circumstances connected with it. He found the squire in his office, with a stranger, a flashy-looking and ill-visaged fellow.
"I hear you want to see me," said Little Bobtail.
"I do," replied the lawyer, sternly and decidedly. "Come in here;" and he led the way to his private office in the rear. "Now, boy, I want to know what you did with that letter."
"I told you before what I did with it. I put it on your desk," answered Bobtail, promptly; and it is not strange that his brown cheek flushed a little, but it was with indignation, not guilt.
"So you told me before; but I don't believe it," added the squire, with a terrible frown, and in a very loud tone, doubtless involuntarily resorting to one of the tricks of his trade to intimidate the youth.
"Do you think I would lie about a letter?" demanded Bobtail, warmly.
"Do you know what was in that letter?"
"How should I know?"
"Because you opened it," sharply retorted the lawyer, as though he intended to overwhelm a contumacious and guilty witness.
"I didn't open it," protested the boy, stoutly. "I put it on your desk; and that's all I know about it."
"It is easier for you to say that than it is for me to believe it."
"I can't help it, if you don't believe me. I have told the truth. I had a letter for you, and another for Captain Chinks. I gave him his here in your office, and chucked yours on your desk. That's the whole truth, and all I know about the letters. If Captain Chinks was here he would tell you the same thing, for he said you was busy in here, and told me to put the letter on the desk; and that's just what I did, and just all I did."
"Captain Chinks isn't here, and has been gone a week."
"He'll come back some time, I suppose."
"I don't know whether he will or not. He's mixed up with a smuggling case, and he may not deem it prudent to come back."
"Whether he does or not, I never saw the letter after I put it on your desk."
The lawyer bit his lips. There was nothing in the tones or the manner of the youth to excite suspicion, and Little Bobtail's reputation for honesty was first class. A year before, he had found the wallet of a stranger, which he might have kept, but had taken great pains to find the owner. In fact, everybody that knew him knew that he was honest.
"Now, Little Bobtail, you stand very well in the village," continued Squire Gilfilian, with a smile, as he suddenly changed his tactics.
"I always mean to keep myself straight, sir," added Bobtail.
"Of course you do. But the best of us are sometimes tempted to do wrong. If you have been led away, and—"
"I haven't been led away, sir."
"You may have made a mistake. If you opened that letter by accident or otherwise—"
"I didn't open it by accident or otherwise. I didn't open it at all," interposed the boy, with energy.
"Hear what I have to say, Little Bobtail. The best of folks are sometimes led away. Even ministers of the gospel once in a great while do a wicked deed."
"I don't care if they do; I haven't opened your letter."
"But I'm only supposing a case."
"Well, sir, you needn't suppose I opened that letter, for I didn't."
"Suppose you had opened it—"
"It is only an hypothesis."
"I don't care if it is; I didn't open the letter," persisted Bobtail, who had not the least idea what an hypothesis was.
"If somebody else, then, had opened that letter, and taken out the money. He might have been sorely tempted; he might have opened it by accident," said the squire, in soft, oily tones.
"Somebody else might, but I didn't."
"If he don't feel bad about it now, he will, as sure as he lives, for the truth will come out. Don't you think so?"
"I do think so."
"It will ruin his reputation, send him to the state prison, and spoil his prospects forever. Now, don't you think it would be better for him to give up the money, if I should say to him that I wouldn't mention the matter?"
"I think he had better give it up, whether you mention it or not," answered Bobtail, more calmly.
"Then don't you think you had better give it up?"
"I tell you again, I didn't open the letter, and haven't seen the money," protested Bobtail, violently.
"You had better think it over."
"I don't want to think it over."
"You will have to go to jail if you don't."
"I can go to jail, but I can't give up what I haven't got, nor own up to what I didn't do."
"The letter which you brought to my office that morning contained five hundred dollars in one bill. It was my advance fee for defending the Buckingham Bank robbers. Their friends raised the money; but only a rogue would have sent it in cash. The letter is gone. It was last in your hands. Now you had better think it all over, and you may stay here and do so, while I talk with the gentleman in the other room." And the squire opened the door.
There was another person in the front room now, who had entered during this interview. In spite of the suspicion of the attorney, this person was Captain Chinks, who was promptly summoned to the private office, and the conference renewed.
The ill-visaged person in the front room was probably a bank robber himself, though he was not yet implicated in the Buckingham affair. He was a friend of the robbers who had been arrested, and had employed Squire Gilfilian—who was as eloquent in speech as he was skilful in the intricacies of the law—to defend his unfortunate friends. The lawyer would not do so without a fee in advance; and the five hundred dollars had been sent in the letter which had so strangely disappeared. Either the sender knew no better than to trust so large a sum in the mail, or his criminal associations made him diffident about applying for a check or draft.
Hearing nothing from the lawyer, he had written again, stating that he had sent the money at the time agreed upon. The squire had expected the letter, and intended immediately to start for the county town in the jail of which the robbers were confined, in order to examine his case. In reply to the second letter, he telegraphed to his correspondent in Portland that he had not received the first; and then the robbers' agent had come himself. There he was in the front room.
"I'm very glad to see you, Captain Chinks," said Squire Gilfilian, as he conducted the gentleman of doubtful reputation into his private office.
"Is my case likely to come up soon?" asked the captain.
"No, I don't think it will ever come up," answered the lawyer.
"Well, you have changed your tune since I was here before," added Captain Chinks, with a satisfied smile. "Then everything was going to be proved against me; now, nothing."
"I have sifted down all the evidence the government has; and you needn't trouble yourself any more about that matter."
"I suppose an innocent man never need fear," said the captain.
Squire Gilfilian looked at the gentleman of doubtful reputation, opened his eyes with a jerk, and a faint smile played about the corners of his mouth. But professionally he dealt with evidence and questions of law, rather than with truth itself. He did not ask what was true, only what could be proved.
Little Bobtail listened attentively to this conversation, though he had very little interest in it. But he could not help indorsing, in his own mind, the remark of Captain Chinks, that the innocent never need fear. He was under suspicion himself; but he was not afraid.
"Ah, Bobtail! are you a witness for the prosecution?" said the captain, appearing now to see the youth for the first time.
"No, sir. I'm the defendant myself," replied Bobtail, pleasantly; for the arrival of the captain seemed to settle all his trouble. "I am in stays just now, caught in going about, and there I hang. If you will just give me a pull on the lee side, I shall go about handsomely."