[Transcriber's Note: The text on pages 93 and 95 was transposed - it has been placed in the correct order. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.]
LITTLE BY LITTLE
The Cruise of the Flyaway
BY WILLIAM TAYLOR ADAMS
CHICAGO UNION SCHOOL FURNISHING COMPANY PUBLISHERS
CHARLES LABAN ADAMS
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
BY HIS UNCLE.
In presenting to his young friends the sixth volume of the "Library for Young People," the author cannot be unconscious of what the readers of his former books require of him. They will turn the leaves of "Little by Little," expecting to find an abundance of stirring incidents; and he hopes they will not be disappointed. Some of the older readers and sterner critics will look for romantic and rather exaggerated events; but he thinks they will look in vain, for as we grow older we become more reasonable, and do not expect showers of gold to fall upon every seedy hero, or to see nice young gentlemen leap over lofty precipices without sometimes being dashed to pieces.
But the author hopes that something more than exciting incidents will be found upon his pages; that, though he has seldom, if ever, gone out of his way to define the moral quality, or measure the moral quantity, of the words and deeds of his characters, the story will not be found wanting in a true Christian spirit.
Paul Duncan, the hero of this volume, is a nautical young gentleman, and most of the events of the story occur upon the water; but the author hopes his young lady friends will not make faces at him on this account. The boys insisted upon having a sea story, and being the "lords of creation," of course they must be indulged; but the writer most solemnly promises to remember the girls next time.
Thanking my young friends again for the continued kindness manifested towards my pets, I give them "Little by Little," hoping that the excellent spirit of Paul Duncan will pervade their minds and hearts, and lead them forward to the material and moral triumphs which crowned his useful life.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS. DORCHESTER, August 28, 1860.
I. Paul Duncan Disobeys Orders 9
II. Paul is Cool and Self-possessed 19
III. Paul Hears Bad News 28
IV. Paul Becomes the Head of the Family 38
V. Paul Cooks His Own Breakfast, and Goes a-Fishing 49
VI. Paul Makes a Good Speculation 59
VII. Paul Goes Into Business on His Own Account 69
VIII. Paul Takes a Cold Bath 79
IX. Paul Becomes the Skipper of the Fawn 89
X. Paul and John are Very Much Excited 99
XI. Paul's First Cruise in the Fawn 109
XII. Paul Sleeps on His Watch 118
XIII. Paul Makes a Night Run in the Storm 127
XIV. Paul Scolds the First Officer of the Fawn 137
XV. Paul Goes on a Cruise in the Flyaway 146
XVI. Paul Witnesses a Mutiny 156
XVII. Paul Discovers that Mischief is Brewing 166
XVIII. Paul is Made a Prisoner 176
XIX. Paul Takes Command of the Flyaway 185
XX. Paul Exercises a Strong Moral Influence 194
XXI. Paul Advances Little by Little, and the Story Ends 203
LITTLE BY LITTLE;
THE CRUISE OF THE FLYAWAY.
PAUL DUNCAN DISOBEYS ORDERS.
"I'll give you a quarter, Paul, if you will take me down to the Point in your boat," said Thomas Nettle, as he came down to the beach where the boy addressed was baling out an old dingy-looking boat.
"It blows too hard," replied Paul Duncan.
"The club went down in their boat."
"But it didn't blow so hard then as it does now. It's a regular sou'easter."
"What are you afraid of, Paul?"
"I'm not afraid; but there's no use of risking your life for a quarter."
"I'll give you a half, then."
Paul Duncan hesitated. Half a dollar was a great deal of money to him, and more than often found its way into his exchequer. He glanced at the white-capped waves in the bay, and then at Thomas.
"There's no ballast in her," said he.
"Put some rocks in, then."
"I think it's rather dangerous, and I don't believe your mother would agree to have you go out in a boat in such a blow as this."
"My mother! Humph! Let me tell you I'm not tied to my mother's apron string. I think I'm old enough to have a will of my own. Don't talk to me about my mother," replied Thomas contemptuously. "I'm not a baby."
"Just as you please; but I think it blows too hard to go out."
"Let me have your boat, and I'll go alone then, if you are afraid to go."
"I'm not afraid," answered Paul, stung by these repeated implications upon his courage. "Jump in, and I'll give you enough of it before you get half way to the Point."
Thomas got into the boat, which was anything but a beauty in her shape and appointments. Paul pushed her off the beach upon which she had grounded, and as she receded from the shore, leaped on board of her. Placing an oar at the stern, he sculled her out a short distance from the land, and then shook out the sail. The first flaw of wind that struck it heeled the boat over so far that Thomas leaped with desperate haste up to the windward side.
"Don't be afraid, Tom," said Paul, with a smile. "She has got the wind now."
"Who's afraid?" demanded Thomas.
"I thought you were by the way you jumped."
"Well, the gunnel of your old craft went under."
"I say it did; and you don't suppose I was going to sit there and be spilled into the drink—do you?" continued Thomas, sharply.
"I won't dispute with you; she heeled over, as a boat always will when she first gets the wind."
"You think you are an old salt, Paul, but you don't know enough to navigate a herring pond."
"Just as you like," replied Paul, whose good nature was proof against the assaults of his companion. "I don't pretend to know much; but I think I understand this old boat pretty well."
"Paul! Paul!" cried a voice from the shore.
"That's my mother," said the young boatman, as he discovered a woman on the beach. "What do you want, mother?"
"Come ashore," replied Mrs. Duncan, whose voice was almost drowned by the noise of the waves as they beat against the boat.
Paul's mother seemed to think she had said enough, for her son was generally a very obedient boy, and she turned to walk up the bluff towards the house. But she knew enough about the management of a boat to perceive that, in this instance, her order was not obeyed.
"Come ashore right off, Paul," she repeated with an emphasis that was calculated to make an impression upon the rebellious party.
"Do you want me, mother?" asked Paul, as he put the boat about, and brought her upon the home tack.
"No, I don't want you; but it blows too hard for you to be out there. You'll capsize, as true as you're alive," replied Mrs. Duncan; and seeing the boat headed towards the shore, she hastened home.
"Are you going to back out, Paul?" demanded Thomas, as the boat came about.
"My mother won't let me go," replied Paul, rather sheepishly, for he was not proof against the derision of his companion.
"Won't let you go!" sneered Thomas.
"You heard what she said."
"I did; my mother would no more dare to say as much as that to me than she would dare to cut my head off. She knows her place better."
Paul was not a little shocked by this unfeeling speech, and could not help seeing that Thomas had not much regard for his mother. For his own part, he loved his mother very much, though he was not exactly willing to confess the fact to a boy who entertained such opinions as those of Thomas Nettle. He had been accustomed to obey his mother for the respect and love he bore her, and it had never before occurred to him that she overstepped the bounds of reason and propriety in presuming to command him. Paul had the reputation of being a good boy, both at home and among the neighbors; but it must not be inferred that he was perfect, that he never disobeyed his father and mother,—though the instances were very rare,—or that he never did what he knew to be wrong. He had his faults and his weaknesses; but for the present I shall let my young reader discover them from what he says and what he does. He was disturbed by the derision of his friend, no less than by his impudent self-possession. He even asked himself why he should be tied to his mother's apron string, as Thomas expressed the subjection of the child to the parent. He was only a year younger than his companion, and he began to question whether it was not about time for him to assert his own independence, and cut the apron string when it pulled too hard upon his inclination.
Paul was the oldest of a family of six children, and was now in his fourteenth year. His father was a journeyman ship carpenter—an honest, temperate, hard-working man, who was obliged to struggle with the realities of life in order to win a comfortable subsistence for his large family. In the inoffensive sense of the term, he was a poor man; that is, he lived from hand to mouth, and had not saved a single dollar with which to meet the misfortunes of life. But he had brought up his family as well as he could, and given the oldest the best education his limited means would afford.
Thomas Nettle's father was a wealthy merchant, who had retired from active business, and lived upon his beautiful estate in Bayville, in which transpired the events of my story. Major Nettle, as his townsmen called him,—for he had attained to the rank indicated by his military title in the militia,—was an easy, careless man, and had but a very low appreciation of the moral and religious duties and responsibilities of a parent. It was a favorite theory with him that a boy would do well enough if only let alone. It was of no use to cram his head or his heart with notions, as he called them, about morality and religion; the boy would find them out himself when he wanted them. In support of his doctrine, he used to point to the minister's son who was in the state prison, and the deacon's son who had run away to sea to avoid the house of correction. Of course, then, Master Thomas Nettle's parental training was never very severe, for he had no one to dispute his independence when he chose to assert it.
Paul had seen enough of the world to find out that wealth commands a certain respect, and he could not always keep down a sense of deference with which his rich companions inspired him; and when they admitted him to their friendship, he could not help being greatly influenced by their words and their actions. Thomas was always dressed well, and always had money in his pocket; and these things made Paul realize the difference in their social positions. It is true, he tried to make himself believe that he was as good as any one else, and would not bend his neck or his knee to the smartest boy in Bayville; yet he could not but feel the disparity between himself and the sons of his rich neighbors. He would not go out of his way to court their favor, though it flattered his vanity to be their chosen companion.
"Steady! why don't you luff her up, when the puffs come," said Thomas, as a flaw of wind struck the sail, and careened her so far that she took in a little water over the side.
"Oh, I don't mind a little dash of water over the side," replied Paul, with a smile; for it must be owned that he was disposed to punish his companion for the imputations he had cast upon his seamanship and his courage.
"Well, are you going ashore?" continued Thomas. "Are you going to let your mother domineer over you? If you do, I hope she will put you in the cradle and rock you to sleep when you get ashore."
"We must get some ballast," answered Paul, who had not yet got far enough to declare his independence of maternal authority.
"You are afraid to go!"
"I think I can stand it as long as you can."
"Then what are you going ashore for?"
"After more ballast," replied Paul, who, though deeply stung by the sneers of Thomas, had not yet decided to disobey his mother.
"Will you take me down to the Point when you get the ballast?"
"I don't know; I'll see."
The old boat dashed on, and in a moment or two grounded upon the beach. There was a great struggle in the soul of Paul. He did not like to go contrary to the express command of his mother on the one hand, and he did not like to incur the derision of Thomas on the other, for he would tell it to all the boys who would call him "chickenish."
"There are two rocks that will just answer your purpose," said Thomas, as they leaped out of the boat. "You take one and I will take the other. Come, bear a hand, or I shall not get to the picnic till the fun is all over."
The two large stones were placed in the boat, and still Paul was undecided. He had not the courage to face the ridicule of his independent friend, nor the heart to disobey the mother whom he loved and respected.
"I guess I won't go, Tom," said he, as a momentary resolution supported the better impulse of his nature.
"Chicken-hearted! Are you afraid of your mother or of the wind and waves?" sneered Thomas, and his features curled up into an expression of contempt which moved the hesitating boy quite as much as his words.
"Of neither. If you think I'm afraid to go any where that you dare go, you are very much mistaken. It's a very easy thing for you to stand there and talk, but when the boat takes in a pint of water over the side, you jump as though an earthquake had taken you all aback," said Paul, smartly.
"Humph. Get into the boat, and we'll soon see who's afraid; though perhaps you had better go and get your mother to go with you."
"I have proved you to be a coward, and I don't think there is any use of going now. I don't like to be in a boat with a fellow who is skittish when the wind blows," continued Paul, who was determined to make the most of their previous experience. "It isn't safe to have a fellow jumping about in the boat when there's a heavy sea on. You might upset her, cantering about over the thwarts like a frightened colt."
"You are smart, Paul; but your big talk sounds silly while I stand here and stump you to carry me down to the Point. You are afraid of the sea, and afraid of your mother. You dare not go!"
"Jump in!" cried Paul, desperately, as his failing resolution fled before these taunts. "Jump in, Tom."
"Now don't back out if you happen to see one of your mother's aprons on the clothes-line."
"Never fear me; and if you don't wish yourself ashore before you get half way to Tenean Point, I lose my guess; that's all," answered Paul, as he pushed the boat off into deep water. "The wind is dead ahead, and we must beat all the way down."
"Put her through, Paul."
"Ay, ay, my hearty, I'll put her through, and you too," replied the young boatman as he shook out the sail, and hauled the sheet home.
As she felt the strong blast, the old boat lay down before it, and a large wave broke over her gunnel; but Paul luffed her up, so that she did not fill. Whatever Thomas thought of this stirring experience, he kept his seat upon the weather side, and appeared to be perfectly unconcerned. As they came out from under the bluff, where the windows of the house above commanded a view of their position, they were discovered by Mrs. Duncan, who again hastened to the beach to repeat her command more imperatively than before. Paul had steeled his heart to do wrong in this instance, and he pretended not to see or hear her; and the boat dashed on her course.
PAUL IS COOL AND SELF-POSSESSED.
Bayville is situated about seven or eight miles from Boston, on the line of one of the principal railroads. A large portion of the inhabitants, even at the time of which I write, were gentlemen doing business in the city, though the place had a shipyard and several wharves from which the surrounding country was supplied with wood, coal, and lumber. The town is located on both sides of Tenean River, the estuary of which forms a very good harbor, though the place has not yet attained to any considerable commercial importance.
The shipyard and the wharves were on the north side of the river, which was known as Mercantile Point. On the south side a peninsula extended about half a mile out into the sea, at the extremity of which was the little cottage of Mr. Duncan, the ship carpenter. It was built upon the high bluff, and below it was the beach, which had been formed by the continued caving of the earth from the high bank. The cottage was over a mile from the shipyard, by the road, and not more than half the distance in a straight line across the water. As an easy and pleasant way to get to his work, Mr. Duncan had purchased the old boat, in which Paul had just embarked, for a few dollars, and in good weather generally went over to the shipyard by water. He was a skilful boatman, and under his tuition his son had learned all the mysteries of sailing a boat. Like most boys, he was disposed to be more daring than was necessary, and it was often that his father and mother found occasion to check him in the pursuit of bold enterprises. Paul was passionately fond of the water, and was proud of his nautical skill and knowledge.
Aquatic sports were all the rage at Bayville, and there were very few gentlemen who had the means that did not own boats of some kind. In the summer season the harbor always presented a brilliant display of yachts, sail boats, and wherries. The largest of these was the Flyaway, a splendid yacht of fifty-two tons, which was jointly owned by Major Nettle and Captain Littleton. Even the boys of the High School had a club boat, which in the warm season, not only afforded them fine sport, but plenty of healthy exercise for the proper development of their physical organization.
On the first day of May, when our story opens, the scholars of the High School had a picnic at Tenean Point, and the boat club had gone down to participate in the festivities of the occasion. Thomas Nettle had been to the city in the morning, and had not returned in season to go down with the club, of which he was a member. It was four miles to the Point by the road, and only half that distance by water, when the wind permitted the passage in a straight line. He did not like the idea of walking so far, choosing rather to incur the danger of being drowned by the upsetting of Paul's old boat.
In spite of the strong wind and the heavy sea, Paul kept the boat on her course, though, as the tide was against her, she did not make much headway.
"Can you weather South Point, Paul?" asked Thomas, who had been silent for some time.
"I'm afraid I can't; this old boat makes about as much leeway as headway."
"It is pretty rough out here—isn't it?"
"Rather," replied Paul, indifferently.
"She takes in a good deal of water."
"Mostly spray; you can bale her out, if you have a mind to do so."
Thomas was glad to have something in the shape of occupation, for it required all his power to conceal a certain nervousness, which he would not have had Paul see for all the world. He took the tin kettle, and worked as though the safety of the craft depended entirely upon his efforts.
The wind seemed to increase rather than diminish in force, and the sail was becoming more exciting every moment; but Paul maintained his self-possession, and though he had some doubts about his ability to keep the old craft right side up, he did not permit his companion to know that he had a single misgiving.
"We can't fetch by the Point," said he, when Thomas had done baling.
"Better come about then; we may get ashore on the rocks."
"Good!" exclaimed Paul, with a hearty laugh.
"What is the matter now?" demanded Thomas.
"The idea of striking a rock on the weather side!" laughed Paul.
"You are right; I didn't think."
The boat now came into comparatively still water, under the lee of Long Island, as the outermost of three small islets, extending out in a line from the mouth of the river, was called. The island was a mass of rocks, rising from ten to twenty feet above high water mark, and as they got behind it, they were sheltered from the force of the wind. In this situation, Paul attempted to tack; but the old boat would not come round in stays, for she had partially lost her headway, and the tide was against her.
"That's bad," said Thomas; "we shall lose all we have gained by this."
"Take an oar and heave her head round, then," replied Paul.
"Ay, ay;" and Thomas took the oar, and brought her head up to the wind.
There was a coolness and self-possession in the demeanor of Paul which filled his companion with confidence as well as admiration, though he was in no humor to acknowledge it. If Thomas was not actually terrified by the sweeping billows and the rude pitching of the boat, it was only because he felt that he was in the charge of a skilful boatman. The old craft soon caught the wind on the other tack, and drove out among the big waves again.
Paul's mother was still on the beach watching the uneasy movements of the boat, and in momentary expectation that she would be swamped. Her earnest gestures were disregarded by her son, and she was prepared for the worst fate that could befall him. Paul tried to keep his eyes away from her; but he could not help stealing an occasional glance at her, though his conscience reproached him for the pain and terror he was giving her. But he felt that his courage and his reputation as a boatman were at stake, and that, if he failed to achieve the purpose before him, he would be the derision of Thomas Nettle and all his companions.
For two hours the boat labored heavily in the rough sea, and had accomplished about two thirds of the distance to Tenean Point. The young adventurers were now in the worst place in the bay, and the boat was exposed to the full force of the wind and the sea, from which they had before been partially protected by an island.
"What do you think, Paul?" said Thomas, suspending for a moment the work of baling, in which he had been engaged for the last hour.
"What do I think?" replied Paul, coolly, as he wiped the spray from his eyes; "I think it blows tremendous hard."
"So do I."
"Then we shan't quarrel about that, anyhow."
"Do you think you can make the Point?"
"Certainly I do; I'm in for it, at any rate."
"We don't make much headway."
"I shan't get to the picnic in any kind of season," continued Thomas, crouching down under the weather rail, as a huge wave gave the boat a slap that made her quiver like a leaf.
"I can't help that, Tom; I didn't want you to come this way."
"Don't you think we had better run for the shore, and give it up?"
"I don't think any such thing. If the old boat will only hold together long enough, I'll put you ashore on Tenean Point."
"I'm afraid she won't hold together much longer."
"No matter; we will go it while she does hold together. Can you swim, Tom?"
"You know very well I can swim, Paul."
"Better get your boots off, then."
"Who do you suppose could swim ashore in such a sea as this? Besides, it is over a half a mile, and the surf on the beach would tear a fellow all to pieces."
"You ought to have thought of these things before you came out here."
"It is a great deal worse than I had any idea of," answered Thomas, who had proceeded far enough to be willing to yield a point. "For my part, I am willing to be landed here;" and he pointed to a little cove on the Tenean shore.
"You don't say you have got enough of it, Tom," said Paul, with a smile.
"Enough of it! I want to get to the picnic some time to-day. I hope you don't think I am frightened."
"Of course I don't; you daresn't be frightened after all your big talk before we came out."
"I'll give up on that, Paul. You are the spunkiest fellow with a boat I ever saw. I am willing to say that and stick to it."
"That's saying a good deal."
"But you mustn't suppose I am afraid."
"Of course not; you're only in a hurry to get to the picnic; that's the idea."
"That's just it, and if you will put me ashore at the cove, I will be just as much obliged to you as though you carried me all the way to the Point."
"Let's not back out, Tom."
"I don't back out; and I'm sure you don't."
"It looks a little like backing out to give up the chase."
"You ought to be satisfied, if I am."
"I shan't be satisfied till I land you at the Point."
"Come, come, Paul, don't carry the joke too far. The sea is getting heavier and heavier, and the wind blows a young hurricane."
"O, well, if you really want to back out, I'm willing."
"I don't want to do anything of the sort. If you think I can't stand it as long as you can, you are mistaken," replied Thomas, proudly; and taking the dipper, he continued to bale out the water, whistling an air to indicate his indifference to the perils that surrounded them.
"Put her through, then; we shan't be much longer if we don't get swamped."
The boat was now standing out from the shore, and while Thomas was still busy, whistling off his fears, a violent gust of wind struck the sail, causing the boat to heel over so far that she drank up several buckets of water, and would have filled if the sprit had not broken, thus removing the pressure.
"Come, Paul, I have got enough of this," cried Thomas, uneasily.
"I don't think you will be able to get any more of it, for the sprit has snapped, and we can't carry sail any longer," replied Paul, apparently unmoved by the accident. "Bale her out as fast as you can, and I will take an oar, and keep her head up to the sea".
"What will you do now?" asked Thomas, whose courage was sorely tried by the perilous situation of the boat.
"Get the water out, and we will see what can be done," answered Paul, who, though he had already decided this important question, would not permit his passenger to enter into his counsels, preferring to tantalize him by his mysterious manner.
"Let us get ashore, Paul, as soon as possible."
"Going to back out?"
"No; what's the use of talking in that way, about backing out, when you can't carry sail?" replied Thomas, whose pride was still unconquered, though his courage was rapidly failing him.
"I shall rig a new sprit; there's the boat-hook, which will make a very good one; it is just the right length."
"I'll give up then, and back out," said Thomas, despairing of any relief from the misfortunes that had befallen the boat.
"Don't back out on my account; I will put you ashore at the Point, if you say the word," replied Paul, satisfied now that he had kept his promise and given his friend enough of it.
"Run for the shore, Paul."
"Just as you say;" and the boatman, proud of the triumph he had won over his boastful companion, turned the boat's head towards the shore.
The corner of the sail hung down for the want of a sprit to support it, but as they had the wind free, there was canvas enough to drive her rapidly towards the shore. While they were still half a mile from the cove, Thomas called Paul's attention to a horse and chaise on the beach, from which a man was making violent gestures for them to come ashore.
PAUL HEARS BAD NEWS.
"Who is it, Tom?" asked Paul, very anxiously.
"I don't know; can't make him out."
"What can he want with us?"
"Perhaps your mother has sent him after her runaway boy; but whoever he is, I will tell him you are a fellow of the right spunk."
"Who can it be?"
"What matter who it is? Your mother won't whip you—will she?"
"No, of course not. My mother don't whip me."
"I thought she did, you seem so much afraid of her."
"I am not afraid of her."
"If you are, there is nothing else that can frighten you."
"I mind my mother because she is my mother; because I like to do so, and not because I am afraid of her. You had better not say much more about being afraid, Tom."
"Do you mean to say I was afraid?" said Thomas, smartly.
"If you wasn't afraid, you was confoundedly scared," replied Paul, whose paradox was fully appreciated by his companion.
"Look here, Paul; are you going to tell the fellows that I was scared?" demanded Thomas, rather in a beseeching than an intimidating tone.
"That will depend on circumstances."
"You may as well understand me first as last. You keep talking about my being afraid of my mother, and all that sort of stuff. I'm not afraid of her, and I don't like to be told that I am."
"I won't say it again, then."
"Fellows that live in glass houses mustn't throw stones."
"Do you really think I was frightened, Paul?"
"I really think you was. Didn't you back out?"
"Not till the sail broke down."
"I offered to fix that."
"It's no use to risk a fellow's life for nothing."
"That's the point exactly. Don't you say a word about my mother, and you may talk as big as you please about this scrape."
"I'm not going to talk big about it. I shall give you all the credit you deserve."
"Of course you will. The fellow that holds the bag can let the cat out when he chooses. I don't like to have my mother spoken of as you speak of your mother. She's my mother, and she has always been a good mother to me, and I would do anything in the world for her. There's only one thing about this scrape that I'm sorry for; and that is, that I didn't mind her. It makes me feel bad."
"She won't say much to you; she will be so glad to have you safely home, that she won't feel like jawing you," answered Thomas, in what he intended for words of consolation, but which were really heartless and offensive to the penitent.
"My mother don't jaw; it will make her feel bad that I didn't mind her; and that is ten times worse than a scolding or a whipping.—That man keeps shaking his hat to us. Who do you think it is?"
"It looks like Captain Littleton."
"What can he want of me?" said Paul, anxiously.
"If it is Captain Littleton, it is more like he wants me."
In a few moments more the boat darted into the cove, and the boys recognized Captain Littleton in the gentleman who had been beckoning to them.
"Come ashore, Paul, as quick as you can!" shouted he, as he jumped into his chaise, and drove nearer to the point where the boat was to land.
"Do you want me, sir?" asked Paul.
"Yes; you are wanted at home."
Our hero was filled with terror and anxiety by this reply. He was sure that something had happened, or a gentleman like Captain Littleton would not have taken the trouble to come after him. As the boat struck the bank, he brailed up the sail, and jumped ashore with the painter in his hand.
"Come, Paul, never mind the boat; Thomas will take care of her. Get into the chaise with me as quick as you can," said Captain Littleton.
"What is the matter, sir? What has happened?" demanded Paul, trembling with the most painful solicitude.
"Get into the chaise first, and I will tell you as we return."
"Has anything happened to my mother, sir?" cried Paul, the tears rushing to his eyes.
"Nothing has happened to your mother, Paul. She is quite well," answered Captain Littleton, as he urged the horse to his utmost speed.
Paul was greatly relieved by this assurance, though it was still evident from the manner of the gentleman, and the speed at which he drove the horse, that some dreadful event had occurred. His conscience smote him for his disobedience to his mother, and he was not in a fit moral condition to meet the shock of adversity with courage and fortitude. He would have given the world, in that anxious moment, to have undone the work of the last three hours, and effaced their record from his conscience.
"Tell me what has happened, if you please, sir," he continued. "Is any of the folks dead? You say it is not my mother."
"Your mother is quite well, and none of your family are dead, though——"
Captain Littleton paused, and looked at the boy's face, which was still bathed in tears. He saw the misery that he was enduring, and he hesitated to utter words which he knew must carry grief and woe to his heart.
"You must be calm and firm, Paul," continued the kind gentleman. "It is not so bad as you suppose, and we may hope for the best. Your father has just met with a serious accident."
"Is he dead, sir?" gasped Paul. "You don't tell me the whole story, sir."
"He is not dead, Paul; but he is very badly hurt."
"He is alive, then?"
Paul closely scrutinized the expression of Captain Littleton, fearful that he had not told him the whole truth.
"Are you sure he was not killed?" he asked, still unsatisfied.
"He was alive when I left him, but that was nearly an hour ago."
"I am thankful if he is alive. How did it happen, sir?"
"He fell from the bow of the ship upon which he was at work, and struck a pile of timber. I am afraid he is very badly hurt. I happened to be near the shipyard at the time, and assisted in carrying him home. He is conscious, and asked for you. Your mother said you were out in the boat."
Paul burst into tears again at these words, for he realized the nature and depth of his mother's feelings when she had uttered them, and how bitterly did he regret his act of disobedience! The dreadful event had come to intensify the anguish of his penitence, and he felt that, if he had not done wrong, he could have met the calamity with patience and resolution. When children do wrong, they know not what event may occur to increase a thousand fold the bitterness of their remorse.
"Do you think my father is alive now?" sobbed Paul.
"I hope so; but it is impossible to foretell the result. The doctors spoke very despondingly of his case; but we must hope for the best."
"How does my mother bear it?"
"As well as could be expected, considering the suddenness of the calamity."
"O, it will kill her," groaned Paul.
"I hope not; you must be calm, my boy. It is dreadful, I know; but we must not add to the pain of the sufferer by useless lamentation."
"I will be as calm as I can, sir; but it is awful to have such a thing happen just now."
"We know not what a day or an hour may bring forth, Paul."
"Yes, but to have it happen now. If it had been at any other time, I could have borne it better," continued the penitent boy, wiping away the tears that blinded him.
"We cannot choose the time for such an event to happen."
"If it had only come before I left home! O, dear."
"Be calm, Paul; we could not select a time when we should be prepared for such a calamity. You must not suppose one time is better than another for trials and sorrows."
"You do not understand me, Captain Littleton," replied Paul, earnestly. "I disobeyed my mother in going out in the boat. She told me to come ashore, and stood on the beach beckoning and calling to me not to go, but I didn't mind her. That's what makes me feel so bad about it."
"I am sorry you disobeyed her, for you must suffer the more for your disobedience."
"I was sorry I did so before I came ashore, and now I would give all the world if I had minded mother, and let Tom Nettle laugh at me as much as he pleased."
"Tom is a wild boy, and you must not heed his jeers."
"I will not, another time. You think my father is not dead?"
"I think not," replied Captain Littleton, as he increased the speed of the horse.
Paul did not say much more, but wept in silence as the chaise dashed along the road. Every moment seemed like an hour, till he came in sight of the cottage of his father. There were the two sulkies of the doctors, and a crowd of people at the gate, to enable him to realize the dreadful calamity which had overtaken him. The panting horse stopped before the door, and Paul's limbs almost failed him as he dragged himself into the house.
"O Paul," sobbed his mother, who met him at the door, "I thought you would never come. I'm afraid you won't have a father a great while longer."
"Forgive me, mother, for what I did," cried Paul.
"I do forgive you, my son; but come, your poor father wants to see you very much."
His mother took him by the hand, and led him into the chamber where his father lay. He was shocked by the change which a few short hours had produced, and he needed not the skill of the physicians to assure him that Mr. Duncan had but a short time to live.
"Paul," said his father, faintly, "I shall soon be no more, and I leave your mother and your brothers and sisters to your care. Take good care of them, Paul, for they will soon have no one else to help them. Be a good boy, and be an honest man, and everything will go well with you. Be true to your God and true to yourself, and then all the world cannot harm you. May God keep you in the path of duty as long as you live."
Mr. Duncan closed his eyes with an audible sigh, and Paul burst into tears, realizing that he was about to lose the kindest and best of fathers.
"Don't cry, my boy," said the sufferer; "be a man, and in a little while the struggle will be over with me."
The whole family were gathered round the bed, and Mr. Duncan gave them his blessing, for the doctors assured him his hour was at hand. We will not dwell upon the painful scene. In an hour all was still in that room save the sobs of the bereaved widow, who stood gazing in agony upon the silent form which she had seen go out from her that morning in the full vigor of health and strength. The angel of death was there, and had done his work.
Paul was stupefied by the suddenness of the shock, and all the currents of his existence seemed to stop in their flow. He spent the afternoon in his chamber, trying to understand the nature of his situation. He had dried his tears, but the deeper grief had gone in upon his heart. He spent a wakeful night in thinking of the past, and in endeavoring to make himself believe that his father was dead. All that he had ever done for him, all that he had ever said to him, came up before him with a vividness that made them seem like realities.
In this condition he moved about the house till after the funeral, mechanically executing such duties as he was required to perform; but everything was so unnatural to him that he could hardly persuade himself of the reality of his being. The death of his father was an epoch in his existence, a turning point in his career, and the wheels of time, the current of events, stopped, soon to resume their course in a different direction.
When the last rites of love and respect had been paid to the remains of his father, Paul roused himself from his stupor, and began to examine the future. At the death bed of his parent he had received a solemn charge, and he carefully reviewed the words, and recalled the expression with which it had been committed to him. His mother and his brothers and sisters had been given into his care, and he felt the responsibility of the position he had accepted. He determined, to the best of his ability, to discharge his duty to them; but he was sorely troubled to think of some way by which he could earn money enough to support them, for he had put a literal construction upon the dying words of his father.
PAUL BECOMES THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY.
For a week after the funeral Paul racked his brain in devising expedients to supply the place of his father in a pecuniary point of view, but without success. If he went into a store, or obtained such a place as a boy can fill, it would pay him only two or three dollars a week, and this would be scarcely anything towards the support of the family, for his father had generally earned twelve dollars a week during the greater portion of the year. He wanted to do something better. He did not expect to make so much as his father had made, but was determined, if possible, to earn at least half as much.
Thus far his reflection had been to little purpose, for it was no small matter for a boy to charge himself with double the work of one of his age. He had not yet consulted his mother, nor obtained her views in regard to the support of the family. He did not know whether she expected him to do the whole of it, but it did not appear reasonable to him that she could do anything more than to keep house and take care of the children. He wished that he could go to her and relieve her of all responsibility in regard to the money affairs, and let her live just as she had been accustomed to live before the death of his father; and he almost cried with vexation, after he had vainly ransacked his brains for the means, to think he could not do so. He could not hit upon any plan that would meet his expectations, and he decided to have a talk with her in relation to the future.
"What are we going to do, mother?" he asked, as he seated himself in the kitchen where Mrs. Duncan was getting supper.
"That is what I have been thinking of myself," she replied. "I have been talking with Captain Littleton to-day, and he gave me some good advice, and offered me any assistance I might require."
"You surely don't mean to live on charity, mother," added Paul, proudly.
"Certainly not. Captain Littleton did not offer to give me anything; only to assist me in getting work for myself and you."
"O, well, that's all right."
"While we have our health and strength, we shall not have to ask other help of any one."
"Of course not."
"I hope I am above asking charity, or taking it either."
"I knew you were. What did Captain Littleton say?"
"Thanks to the goodness and forethought of your father, we are not left entirely destitute," replied Mrs. Duncan, wiping a tear from her cheek.
"I didn't know there was anything left."
"After paying all the funeral expenses and the doctor's bills, I shall have fifty dollars in money. Your father had no debts."
"Fifty dollars isn't much, mother, towards supporting the family. It wouldn't last two months."
"That is very true; we have more than that. Three years ago your father had his life insured for a thousand dollars, and this sum will be paid to me in a few days."
"I didn't know that," said Paul, greatly surprised to find they had what seemed to him so vast a sum. "We shall get along very well."
"Your father used to calculate that it cost him about eight dollars a week to live, or about four hundred dollars a year. If he had had work all the year round, he might have saved a very handsome sum, he used to tell me."
"It will not cost us eight dollars a week now."
"No; we must live very prudently; but if it cost us only five, a thousand dollars would last but a few years, and what should we do then?"
"We must not spend it then."
"Captain Littleton told me what he thought we had better do. This house in which we live can be bought for fifteen hundred dollars, though the owner has always asked eighteen hundred, and——"
"You don't really think of such a thing as buying the house?" interrupted Paul, filled with amazement at the magnitude of the idea.
"That is what Captain Littleton advises me to do."
"But you haven't money enough."
"I can give a mortgage for five hundred dollars. The rent of the house is one hundred and forty dollars, and Mr. Freeman says he cannot afford to let it for any less. Now, if we buy it, we can pay a thousand dollars down, and we shall owe five hundred, on which we shall have to pay the interest, amounting to thirty dollars. By this plan, we should have to pay out only about fifty dollars a year for interest and taxes, or about a dollar a week. In this way we can get along on five dollars a week."
"Buy the house then, by all means, mother. Five dollars a week! Well, I think I shall be able to support the family, after all."
"You, Paul?" exclaimed Mrs. Duncan, with a smile.
"I am sure I can."
"What do you intend to do?"
"I don't know yet."
"Your poor father intended that you should enter the High School this fall; but I suppose that cannot be. Captain Littleton said he would get you a place where you could have two or three dollars a week."
"I must make more than that, mother," replied Paul, shaking his head.
"You must not be too ambitious. If you get two or three dollars a week, you will do very well, and that sum will be a great help to me."
"You heard what father said to me in his last moments?" said Paul, with solemn earnestness. "He told me to take care of my mother and of my brothers and sisters, and I mean to do so."
"But he never had a thought that you could earn money enough to support the whole of us. You are a good boy, Paul, but you must not try to do too much."
"If we can live on five dollars a week, I am almost sure I can earn that."
"That is a good deal for a boy like you."
"I can do it, I know."
"Captain Littleton said he would find a place for you."
"I shall be very much obliged to him, and will take any place I can get; but I am certain before long that I can make five dollars a week."
"Don't think of such a thing. There are a great many men who get no more than that. You must work your way up, little by little, Paul, and one of these days you will obtain a good situation."
"That's just what I mean to do. Little by little—that's my motto; and if I can only get hold any where, you may leave the rest to me."
"You are a good boy, Paul, and you will succeed by and by," said Mrs. Duncan, proudly. "I expect to get some work myself next week, and I have no doubt we shall do very well."
"What work, mother?" asked Paul, a shadow of dissatisfaction passing over his face.
"Captain Littleton thought he could get me a chance to make bags for the flour mills."
"I don't mean to have you take in work, mother. You have enough to do to take care of the house and the children."
"I can do a good deal besides. Sarah can help a great deal about the house, and with what we can all do, we shall get along very well indeed. We ought to be very thankful for all the blessings that surround us."
"We are enough sight better off than I thought," replied Paul; "but I don't want to have you make a slave of yourself. You used to work hard enough; and now, if you are going to take in work, you will wear yourself out in a few years."
"I guess not, Paul. There is somebody knocking at the door; go and see who it is."
Paul went to the door, and the visitor proved to be Captain Littleton.
"I was looking for you, Paul," said he. "I'm going to give a dinner party to-morrow, and I want a mess of perch, fresh from the rocks, by twelve o'clock. I want you should go down and catch them for me. You always have good luck at fishing. Will you do this for me, Paul?"
"Yes, sir; certainly I will."
"I will speak to your mother about it."
Paul conducted Captain Littleton into the little parlor, and called his mother. She was willing that he should go, and glad to have him do something in return for the gentleman's repeated acts of kindness.
"I will give you twenty cents a dozen for them, Paul, and I want at least five dozen," continued the captain.
"He will not charge anything, sir," added Mrs. Duncan.
"Not a cent, sir," repeated Paul.
"It's a fair trade, young man, and I won't take them unless I pay for them."
"I don't want any pay from you, sir."
"But I choose to pay you, and you must take your orders from me in this instance. Have you any clams for bait?"
"No, sir. I will get some to-night."
"Very well; you may go and get them now, and I will talk to your mother about business."
Paul took his hat and went down to the beach. Embarking in the old boat, he sailed over to Tenean, where plenty of clams were to be had, and a bucket full was soon procured. Like a prudent fisherman, he made all his arrangements for the next day. First he repaired the worn-out sail, then made a new sprit, and refitted the tiller to the rudder head. When everything was in ship-shape order about the boat, he took out his perch lines, ganged on a new hook, and rigged an extra sinker for use in case of accident.
"Going a fishing, Paul?" said John Duncan, his brother, a lad of ten, who joined him when he had nearly completed his preparations.
"I'm going down in the morning to get a mess of perch for Captain Littleton."
"Let me go with you, Paul?"
"You must go to school."
"It don't keep."
"Ask mother, then; if she is willing, I am."
"Have you got a line for me?"
John Duncan, for his years, was almost as much of a sailor and fisherman as Paul. Both of them took to the water like ducks, and seemed to understand all about a boat as if by instinct. The prospect of a day down below fired the imagination of the "young salt," and he ran up the bluff with all his might to obtain the desired permission.
"May I go a-fishing with Paul to-morrow, mother?" shouted he, as he rushed into the parlor, without noticing the presence of Captain Littleton.
"We will see about that by and by. Take off your cap."
"How do you do, John?" said Captain Littleton.
"Pretty well," replied John, whose head keeled over on the port side, as he discovered the visitor, and three fingers found their way into his mouth.
"You want to go a-fishing, do you?"
"Do you think it is safe to let him go?" asked Mrs. Duncan.
"I ain't afraid, mother," interrupted the young hopeful.
"I know you are not, and that's one reason why I don't like to trust you in the boat."
"Your boys take to the water in a natural way; and when boys have a decided taste of that kind, it isn't of much use to thwart them."
"I know it isn't; but John has worried my life out since he was four years old, for he is always in the water."
"I should use proper precaution with him; but Paul is so good a boatman that I should not be afraid to trust him in his care."
"You may go, John," added Mrs. Duncan. "I have almost made up my mind to let him live in the water; but I can't help going to the window when he is out on the beach, at least twenty times a day, to see if he isn't in trouble."
"To return to Paul," said Captain Littleton, resuming the remarks which the entrance of John had interrupted. "I have the refusal of a place in a lawyer's office, where the salary is two dollars and a half a week. It is small pay, but it is better than nothing."
"He expects more than that. It would have astonished you to hear him talk a little while ago. He is going to assume the whole burden of supporting the family, and is not willing that I should do anything."
"He is a smart boy, and ought to have a good place."
"He says he means to make five dollars a week; but that is mere boy-talk."
"I like his spirit, but he will hardly be expected to earn five dollars a week at present. I hope I shall be able to find him a better place than the one I spoke of."
"You are very good, sir; I shall never be able to repay you for your kindness."
"Don't mention it, ma'am. I am very glad to do anything I can for you. You have made up your mind then to purchase the house?"
"I think that's the best thing you can do under the circumstances. The property is rising in value, and in a few years, if you should want to sell, it would bring two thousand dollars. I will see Freeman as I return, and the papers shall be made out immediately."
"Thank you, sir."
Captain Littleton took his leave, and Mrs. Duncan was very grateful to him for the friendly interest he manifested in her affairs. When Paul returned to the house, his mother informed him that her friend had found a place for him; but the young aspirant had got an idea, and made up his mind to decline the situation.
PAUL COOKS HIS OWN BREAKFAST, AND GOES A-FISHING.
About six miles east of Bayville was a rocky island, around which perch were abundant. Paul had often been there with his father, and was familiar with the locality. He knew just where to moor his boat to have good luck in fishing; and was acquainted with all the channels, currents, and bars in the bay. He was not only a skilful seaman, but a good pilot, and felt as much at home on the bay as in the streets of Bayville.
It would be low tide in the bay at seven o'clock, and Paul made his calculations accordingly. The best time to fish was on the "young flood," or soon after the tide had turned to come in; and, if the wind should happen to be light or contrary, it would take him a long time to run down to Rock Island, as the place was called; therefore he must go down with the tide. To accomplish his purpose it was necessary that he should start by five o'clock in the morning, which was an hour before his usual breakfast time.
He did not sleep very well that night, for the great idea to which we have alluded was creating an immense commotion in his mind. He had reasoned out the certainty of his being able to support the family, and he felt as proud of his great resolution as though he had achieved its full fruits. When, at last, he dropped asleep, it was only to dream of great speculations, and of the satisfaction he should have in giving his mother money enough on Saturday night to pay all the expenses of the family for a week.
He woke very early in the morning, and as he jumped out of bed he heard the clock on the Town Hall strike four. He did not mean to disturb his mother, and therefore cautioned John not to make any noise. He was not like some boys, who growl and grumble at their mothers if their meals are not ready when they want them. Stealing softly down stairs, he went to the back kitchen, and made a fire in the stove.
"Now, John, you go down to the boat, and bale her out," said he to his brother, as the latter joined him.
"Are you going without any breakfast?" asked John.
"No; breakfast will be ready by the time you have baled out the boat."
"You haven't called mother yet?"
"I don't mean to do so."
"Where will you get your breakfast, then?"
"I will get it myself."
"You don't know how to cook," replied John, incredulously.
"You see if I don't; now go ahead, and don't make a noise, or you will wake mother."
Paul then went down cellar, and brought up a few potatoes, which he washed and put into the kettle. A piece of pork and a slice of veal were deposited in the frying pan, ready to be cooked at the proper time. The coffee, not omitting the important bit of fish skin, was put in the coffee-pot, and operations in that quarter were suspended till the water in the tea-kettle should boil. Though our hero had never actually performed these manoeuvres with his own hands, he had seen them executed so many times that he was perfectly familiar with the routine.
Everything upon the stove was doing very well, and he pulled out the table, which he proceeded to cover with the proper articles for the morning meal. Each article was carefully disposed in its proper place, for Paul had already learned that food tastes better in the midst of order and neatness, than when taken in dirt and confusion. It is true, he made some mistakes for the want of experience, and was frequently obliged to stop and think what articles were required; but when the table was set, he was satisfied with its cheerful and neat appearance. By this time the tea-kettle was spouting out long jets of steam, and the lid was rattling under the influence of the commotion beneath it. Paul poured a little of the boiling water into the coffee-pot, and then came an appalling difficulty—he did not know how much to put in, and was not sure that he had taken the proper quantity of coffee. At a venture he filled the pot half full, and then proceeded to cook the meat. After the coffee had boiled ten or fifteen minutes, he tested its strength, and added more water. He was delighted with his success, and when John returned from the beach, he was putting the breakfast upon the table.
"Breakfast is ready," said Paul.
"Did you cook it, though?"
"I did; I told you I could."
"I'll give up now. Why don't you hire out for a cook?"
"Perhaps I shall, one of these days."
"Wouldn't mother's eyes stick out if she should happen in about this time!"
"I guess not much."
But they did, for just as the boys were seating themselves at the table, Mrs. Duncan entered the room.
"Why, boys! what have you been doing?" exclaimed she, astonished at the regularity with which everything seemed to be proceeding in her absence.
"Only getting something to eat before we go," replied Paul.
"Why didn't you call me?"
"I thought I wouldn't get you up so early; besides, I could get breakfast just as well myself."
"I declare you are a good cook, Paul. Your potatoes and meat look as nice as can be. How is your coffee? Did you put a piece of fish-skin in the pot?"
"Did you put any salt on the meat?"
"I did; come, mother, sit down and eat your breakfast."
Mrs. Duncan accepted this polite invitation, and seating herself in her accustomed place, began to pour out the coffee. It was clear, and of the right strength, and she liberally praised Paul for his culinary skill, and declared that her son was a jewel about the house. The breakfast seemed even better than usual that morning, and our hero was as proud as though he had built a meeting house.
"Come, John, we must bear a hand; there isn't a breath of wind, and it will take us some time to make Rock Island," said Paul, as he rose from the table. "Have you filled the jug with water?"
"No, but I will."
"Here is some gingerbread and cheese for luncheon," added Mrs. Duncan, as she handed Paul a basket she had filled for their use. "Now, be very careful, and don't run any risk. Look out for squalls, and don't carry sail too long."
"I'll be very careful, mother. You may trust me to go round the world," replied Paul.
"But I wish you had a better boat."
"She'll do very well, mother, though I hope to have a better one some time or other."
The jug was filled at the pump, and with their provisions and water the boys set off with light hearts for the work of the day.
Paul felt the responsibility of the trust which Captain Littleton had imposed upon him. He was going to make some money by the operation, and upon this day's success depended the hopes which he had been cherishing in regard to his new scheme.
There are always some drawbacks to disturb the best-laid plans, and when Paul reached the bluff, he discovered the boat adrift at some distance from the shore.
"You are a careless fellow, John," he cried. "You didn't make fast the boat."
"That's too bad, Paul; I didn't mean to do that," replied John, vexed at the accident.
"I don't suppose you did; but you are careless."
"I thought I made her fast. What shall we do, Paul? I would rather given anything than had this happen."
"So would I; but there is no use of crying about it. There isn't a skiff within half a mile of here."
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Paul," said John, putting down the jug and throwing off his jacket. "I'll swim out to her and scull her in."
Paul made no objection to this plan, and in half a minute more, John had stripped and was swimming with all his might after the boat, which was perhaps fifty rods from the shore. He was a vigorous swimmer, as self-possessed in the water as on the land, and his brother had no fears in regard to his safety, or his ability to reach the boat.
It did not take the little fellow long to catch the boat, and the accident did not make more than half an hour's delay. The stores were taken on board, and before John had time to dress himself, the boat was under sail, and working slowly down the bay. A light breeze from the west had sprung up, and a gentle ripple at the bow assured the young fisherman that everything was progressing in a satisfactory manner.
"I should like to be a fisherman, Paul," said John, who sat on the bottom of the boat opening clams for bait.
"Perhaps you may be one of these days," replied Paul, moodily. "I think I shall do something in that line right off."
"Yes, but don't you say a word about it to anybody, above all, not to mother. I have been thinking about it all night."
"What do you mean, Paul?"
The ambitious youth had a great idea in his mind, which was struggling to be actualized. More than twenty times since the preceding evening had the words of Captain Littleton crossed his imagination, and kindled up a great blaze of possibilities and probabilities. "I will give you twenty cents a dozen for them," the captain had said. If he would buy perch others would buy them. He had a boat, and there would not be many days when he could not catch as many as five or six dozen. Even at a shilling a dozen he could make a dollar a day.
This was his scheme—to supply Bayville with fresh fish. He had as good a chance to sell them as the men who went through the place blowing their tin horns. He should have an advantage over them, for his fish were certain to be fresh, and he was sure the people would be willing to patronize him. The plan promised exceedingly well, and he wished to talk it over with some one, though he was not quite ready to have it made public. It was true, John was only ten years old, and didn't know much; but he wanted to talk with somebody about it, and so he concluded to take his brother into his confidence.
"What do I mean, John?" said he. "Why can't I catch perch every day, and sell them in town?"
"Sure enough, why can't you?" replied John, delighted with the idea, and perhaps bringing some selfish motives to bear upon it.
"We can haul 'em in as fast as we can throw over the line off the rocks, and there are rich folks enough in Bayville to buy them."
"It's a first-rate idea," exclaimed John, with enthusiasm. "You might go down farther, and catch cod and haddock."
"I would if I had a good boat."
"Father used to go out after cod and haddock in this boat."
"I know, but she is getting rather shaky."
The great idea was discussed in all its bearings till they reached Rock Island, when Paul carefully selected his position, and let go the anchor. The hooks were baited and the lines thrown over, and never before had Paul taken his fishing apparatus when so much seemed to depend upon the success of his efforts. His heart beat as the sinker touched the bottom, and he pulled it up the proper distance. All his fortunes for the future appeared to hang upon the result.
"Hurrah! I've got one!" shouted John, as with childish eagerness he pulled in his line.
It was a sculpin!
Was this a type of his own success? Was he to watch his chance on the great sea of life, and finally, after all his anxious watching and toil, was he to pull in only a sculpin? These were painful thoughts to Paul, and his heart almost sunk within him, as he considered the possible failure of his favorite scheme. If he failed in this, he must accept the paltry two dollars and a half a week, and let his mother drudge like a slave. He could not tolerate the thought of failure, and——
Paul did not whistle till he got out of the woods, and announced his success to John by slapping a monster perch upon the bottom of the boat. If that was a type of his success he was satisfied. Before he had time to follow out the reflections suggested by the event, John hauled in the mate to the big fish, and another had taken hold of his own hook.
By ten o'clock there were six dozen perch in the basket, besides three handsome tautog and half a dozen sea flounders. The young fisherman was satisfied, hauled up killock, and made sail for home. His heart was as light as the upper air, and he was confident of the success of his grand scheme.
PAUL MAKES A GOOD SPECULATION.
"Now, John you must steer, while I skin the perch," said Paul, as he resigned the helm to his brother.
"That I will," replied he, with alacrity, for he did not often get a chance to handle the boat, and was fond of the amusement.
"But you must be careful, and keep your eyes open, for we have no time to spare," added the youthful skipper.
"Do you think I don't know how to steer a boat?" asked John, hurt by the insinuation.
"You know how well enough, if you will pay attention to it, and not be fooling with her."
"I'll keep her right."
Paul took from under the thwart an old shoe-knife which had been ground down to one third of its original width. It had been well sharpened for this important occasion, but he had provided an old whetstone as a further precaution against a dull blade. To skin a perch neatly and expeditiously is a nice operation; but Paul had had sufficient practice in the art to render him a skilful hand. Seating himself on the lee rail, he commenced work in earnest, occasionally glancing up to see that the boat was doing her best in the way of sailing.
"How much will you make, Paul, if you sell all your fish?" asked John.
"The perch will bring a dollar and twenty cents, if I get twenty cents a dozen for them."
"The tautog are worth something."
"They are worth a quarter apiece."
"You have done a good day's work then?"
"If I sell the fish, I shall," answered Paul, with a smile of satisfaction. "Come, John, the sail is shaking, and you have lost the wind," he added as his brother carelessly luffed her up.
"I was adding up the perch and the tautog."
"You must mind the boat; you must stop talking, if you can't do your duty without."
John promised to be more careful, and Paul had no further occasion to complain of his inattention. The younger fisherman was a good boy, but he had not yet been trained to that steadiness of purpose which is necessary to success. He was only ten years old, and it was not to be expected that he should fully appreciate the earnestness of his brother's purpose, though he was beginning to realize that close attention was necessary in order to accomplish great deeds. He was fond of trying experiments, just for the fun of the thing; and when he had been permitted to take the helm on other occasions, he wanted to do something besides keep her in a direct course—to see how close she would lie to the wind without letting the sail shake, to run down a floating mass of seaweed, or chase a stick of wood; but on this trip, he was guilty of no greater indiscretion than carelessness.
Long before the boat reached Bayville, Paul had skinned and strung the fish; and their appearance on the line was creditable to his skill. Leaving John to secure the boat, he took the fish and hastened up to the house of Captain Littleton. He found that gentleman in his garden with his guests.
"Well, Paul, what luck?" asked he, as the young fisherman came in sight.
"How many have you got?"
"Just the number I want. Carry them into the kitchen, Paul. I declare, you have dressed them very nicely."
"I tried to have them right, sir, and I am glad they suit you," replied Paul, modestly, as he walked towards the rear of the house.
"Stop, Paul; what have you got there?" said Captain Littleton.
"Tautog, sir; and if you will permit me, I will leave them in the kitchen with the perch."
"You are a lucky fisherman Paul; those are handsome fish, and if you will leave them, I will make it all right when you come out. That is a luxury I did not expect."
Paul was delighted by the commendation of his friend, and the splendid scheme of his future operations increased in importance with every word that was uttered. With a light heart he ran into the kitchen with his stock, and then returned to Captain Littleton.
"Here is two dollars, Paul," said he, handing him a bill.
"That is too much, sir," stammered Paul, overwhelmed at the idea of having made two dollars in one day.
"It is right, my boy; take it. You mustn't be bashful if you are going to fight your way through the world."
"You are very kind, sir, but this is more than the fish come to," answered Paul, taking the bill.
"No, it isn't; the perch come to a dollar and twenty cents, the tautog to seventy-five, which make a dollar and ninety-five cents. So we will call it square, and I am very much obliged to you besides."
"I didn't mean to charge you any thing for the tautog, sir."
"Look here, Paul; when you get rich I will accept your gifts; but now, my boy, I will take the will for the deed, and I feel just as grateful to you as though you had presented me a service of plate. You have done well, and I am glad of it."
"Thank you, sir; I am very much obliged to you for this, and for all you have done for my mother," replied Paul, as he put the bank bill in his pocket.
"By the way, how about that place in the lawyer's office, Paul?" said Captain Littleton, as the young fisherman turned to go home.
"If you please, sir, I had rather not take the place."
"You are going to do better, then?"
"Yes, sir, I think I am. I am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken."
"Not at all, my boy; I didn't think the situation would be large enough to suit your ambition. What are you going to do, Paul?"
"I am going to catch fish, and sell them in town, sir," replied Paul, boldly, though he could hardly keep down the emotions that swelled in his bosom.
"Good, my boy! I like an enterprising spirit and I dare say you will do very well. You may put me down for two dozen perch every Saturday."
"Thank you, sir."
"I will speak to my neighbors, and I have no doubt you will find a market for all the fish you can catch."
"You are very kind."
"What does your mother say about the plan?"
"I haven't told her yet. It is a new idea. I am afraid she will not like it very well."
"She will not object very strongly."
"If you would speak to her about it, if you please, sir; she will think everything of what you say."
"I will, Paul. When you catch any more tautog, be sure and bring them to me."
"I certainly will, Captain Littleton," answered Paul, as he bounded towards home, his heart filled with gratitude to his friend, and with hope for the success of his darling scheme.
Half a dozen times on the way, he put his hand into his pocket to feel of the old black wallet, that contained the proceeds of his first day's work. He had never done a job before which produced more than half a dollar, and the immense sum in his pocket seemed enough to make or break an ordinary bank. Such a run of luck was almost incredible. Wouldn't his mother be astonished when he handed her that two dollar bill!
He had some misgivings in regard to his mother's consent; for like all good mothers, who love their sons, she did not like to have him exposed to danger. But that two dollar bill, and the brilliant promise of success which the future held out to him, would be strong arguments in favor of the scheme, and he hoped to triumph over every objection she could present.
Before he reached the cottage, Paul contrived to subdue some of his enthusiasm, and walked into the kitchen, where his mother was getting dinner, as coolly and indifferently as though nothing extraordinary had happened. It was hard work for him to keep down the excitement that was raging within, but he had determined not to made a fool of himself.
"Well, Paul, have you had a good time," said Mrs. Duncan, as he entered the room.
"First-rate, mother," he replied; though he was not exactly pleased to find that she regarded the trip to Rock Island in the light of a pleasure excursion.
"Did you get as many fish as Captain Littleton wanted?"
"Yes, more too; I left six dozen perch and three handsome tautog in his kitchen just now."
"You were lucky."
"I am good for as many as that every day. Look here, mother;" and he pulled out his wallet, and took therefrom the two dollar bill. "What do you think of that?"
"Did he give you all that?"
"He is very liberal."
"That he is; but the fish came to about that; the tautog are worth a quarter apiece."
"You have done bravely, my boy. If you could make half as much money as that every day, we should have all we want, and more too."
"I can, mother; and I mean to do so," replied Paul, thinking this a good opportunity to announce his magnificent intentions.
"You mustn't be too confident, Paul."
"I know I can."
"And, pray, what do you mean to do?" inquired Mrs. Duncan, with an incredulous smile.
"I am going into the fishing business, mother."
"Into the fishing business."
"What in the world do you mean by that?"
"I mean just what I say, mother!"
"Is the boy crazy?" demanded Mrs. Duncan, suspending her culinary operations, and looking with interest into the animated face of her son.
"I am as regular as I ever was in my life. I've thought it all over, and spoken to Captain Littleton besides; and he says go ahead," replied Paul, making an early use of the captain's encouraging words.
"But I don't understand what you mean? Going into the fishing business?"
"Yes, ma'am; we've got a boat, and I mean to go down to Rock Island every day, Sundays excepted, and catch perch. I mean to sell them here in Bayville, and Captain Littleton told me to put him down for two dozen every Saturday. That's the idea, mother."
"If I can get a shilling a dozen for them, I can make a dollar a day as easy as you can turn your hand over," added Paul, who was not disposed to let his mother speak upon impulse.
"You would have to be on the water every day."
"What of that, mother? The water is a good thing to be on, and just as safe as the land, if you are only a mind to think so."
"Rather dangerous, I'm afraid."
"O, no, mother; it's only a notion some folks have, that the water isn't safe."
"Hundreds of people are drowned every year."
"And hundreds smashed up and killed on the railroads. Why, Captain Mitchell don't think it is safe to go about much on the land. He only feels secure when he is in his old whale boat. He won't get into a chaise or a wagon—don't think it is safe to ride in them; but he knocks about the bay in all sorts of weather. Please don't object to it, mother, for I've set my heart upon the business, and I'm satisfied I shall do well," said Paul, with kindling enthusiasm.
"Well, if you are set upon it, I don't want to say too much against it," replied Mrs. Duncan, doubtfully.
"Captain Littleton will speak to you about it, and he understands these things."
"I know he does; but after all, I would rather have you safe on land."
"I shall be safe enough, mother; and I shall be able to take care of the family without your making bags."
"You are a good boy, Paul," added his mother, turning from him to wipe away the tears that moistened her eyes, for in the loneliness of her widowhood she realized what it was to have such a noble and devoted son.
Paul was delighted to think he had so easily smoothed over matters with her. He had expected to have a hard beat to windward in reconciling her to his plan, but she had proved much more reasonable than he anticipated. He attributed his ready victory in a great measure to the influence of Captain Littleton's name, and he was confident he would remove any remaining doubts she might harbor.
After dinner Paul went up to his room, and taking from his drawer a little account book, which had long been waiting to be used, he entered the amount of the day's sales upon the first page.
"Little by little," said he, as he returned the book to the drawer, "and one of these days I shall be rich."
This was a very comforting reflection, and notwithstanding the possible slip between the cup and the lip, he enjoyed the full benefit of it.
PAUL GOES INTO BUSINESS ON HIS OWN ACCOUNT.
Before night, all the arrangements for the next day's trip were completed, and Paul retired at an early hour, so as to be up in season in the morning. The excitement which his great project created in his mind, however, would not let him sleep till he was actually exhausted with thinking. He did not wake till five o'clock in the morning, which made him so ashamed of himself, that he could hardly conceal his vexation, especially as he found his mother was up, and his breakfast was nearly ready, when he went down-stairs. But on reflection he found he was early enough, for it would be low tide nearly an hour later than on the preceding day.
While he was eating his breakfast, his brother John came down. It was an unusually early hour for him to rise, and it was evident from the haste with which he completed his toilet, after he found Paul had not gone, that he had an idea of his own, as well as his brother.
"Mayn't I go with you, Paul?" asked he.
"You must go to school."
"Mayn't I stay away from school to-day, mother?" added he, turning quickly to Mrs. Duncan.
"I'd rather you wouldn't, John."
"Why not, mother?" whined he.
"I don't want you to stay out of school a single day, when it can be prevented."
"I should think I might go with Paul. I can catch as many fish as he can."
"Paul is older than you are, and he always kept close to his school till he left."
"I want to do something towards supporting the family, as well as he."
Mrs. Duncan laughed, and so did Paul; for however ambitious the young gentleman might have been to bear his full share of the burden of the family, it was too evident that his taste for boating and fishing was the dominant motive for absenting himself from school.
"Let me go with you, Paul."
"Mother says you must go to school, and I think you had better be there."
"Who will steer the boat while you skin the fish?" demanded John, who had a proper idea of the value of his services, and was not at all pleased at the thought of having them undervalued.
"I shall try to get along some way without you. I should like to have you go, first rate, John; but I don't think you ought to stay out of school. You will have a vacation next week, and you may go every day then, if you want to."
"You ought to take me with you, Paul," continued John, resorting to the persuasive, now that the argumentative had failed.
"I tell you I should like to have you go with me, if it were not for your school."
John exhausted his store of arguments and persuasions without effect, and then fled to his room to cry over his defeat. Paul sympathized with his brother in his disappointment, but as the head of the family, he could not, on principle, yield the point. Taking his jug of water and his lunch, he left the house and hastened to the beach. The wind was light, as on the preceding day, and it took him nearly two hours to run down to Rock Island, for the old boat was a very heavy sailer even under the most favorable circumstances.
Paul did not feel quite so nervous as on the day before, for he was so confident of success that he did not feel uneasy even when he did not get a bite for quarter of an hour. The perch were accommodating in the main, and did not disappoint him, for at twelve o'clock—as he judged it to be by the height of the tide—he had seven dozen in the boat, and they were still biting as greedily as when he first commenced. He had two lines on board, and he tried the experiment of using them both at the same time, though without much success; for perch are fastidious, and require a great deal of attention. While he was pulling in a fish upon one line, the sly rogues in the brine stole his bait from the other, and he came to the conclusion it was not best to have too many irons in the fire at once.
Paul did not like to abandon the field while it was yielding such a rich harvest; but he was a prudent fisherman, and not disposed to run any risks. The tide would turn in less than two hours, and he knew it would be impossible to run up to Bayville against both wind and tide. The old boat was not equal to any such emergency, and he reluctantly wound up his line and made sail for home.
The seven dozen perch were to be cleaned, and when he got fairly under way he missed John, for it was difficult for him to skin fish and work the boat at the same time. Seating himself in the stern he passed his arm round the tiller,—for there was no comb to keep it in place,—and commenced his labors. He soon found that he was working at a great disadvantage, and he exerted his ingenuity to devise a plan for overcoming the difficulty. Taking a small line, he made the middle of it fast to the end of the tiller; then passing it round the cleets, he tied the ends together. This apparatus kept the tiller in its place, and he could change it to any required position by pulling the line. Resuming his labors upon the fish, he found his plan worked very well, and the perch were in readiness for market when he reached the shore. After securing the boat, he hastened with the fish to the cottage, where his dinner was waiting for him. His mother congratulated him upon his success, and told him that Captain Littleton had been to see her during his absence, and that she was entirely reconciled to his new occupation.
The most difficult part of the business, in Paul's estimation, was yet to come—that of selling the fish. As he left the house with his precious load of merchandise, he could not help feeling that the grand scheme was still an experiment, for it had not been demonstrated that Bayville would buy six or eight dozen of perch every day. It was a large place, containing about six thousand inhabitants; and as he walked along, he brought his mathematical knowledge into use in an attempt to convince himself that the market was large enough to keep him busy during the season. At the least calculation there were six hundred families in the town, and probably a thousand. If each family would buy a mess of perch once in ten days, it would make six hundred dozen in that time, or sixty dozen a day; but, to make allowance for over-estimates, he was willing to reduce the total one half, and call it thirty dozen a day. The fisherman would supply a large portion of the demand, but he concluded that he should have no difficulty in selling all the perch he could catch.
Passing the house of Captain Littleton, the next was that of Major Nettle, and he resolved to make his first attempt to sell. The gentleman, was not at home, and the servants didn't know anything about it; and he was just leaving when Thomas Nettle accosted him.
"What have you got, Paul?"
"Perch; do your folks want to buy any?"
"Yes, I guess they do. Where did you catch them?"
"Down at Rock Island; I am going down every day."
"Are you, though? I should like to go with you some time."
"I shall be glad to have you. I have gone into this business."
"Since my father died, I have to do something to help my mother," replied Paul, not caring to announce to his friend the whole of his stupendous plan.
"Do you expect to do anything at this business?"
"Certainly I do; I made two dollars at it yesterday."
"Did you though?"
"Do your folks want any perch to-day?"
"I guess they do; how much a dozen?"
"Seventeen cents," replied Paul, who had decided to be moderate in his prices.
"I will speak to my mother."
Thomas returned in a short time, and took two dozen of the fish, and paid the money for them. Overjoyed at this success, he proceeded to the next house; but though he was eloquent in regard to the freshness and fineness of his wares, he could not make a trade. He met with no better success at the next three or four places at which he called, and he began to feel a little discouraged. But the next house in his way was a large, genteel boarding-house, and he had the satisfaction of selling four dozen at the price he had before fixed, though he had almost made up his mind to let them go at ninepence. The gentleman who kept the house was pleased to get the perch, and wanted the young fisherman to bring him some three times a week for the present, for his boarders were very fond of them.
Paul could scarcely contain himself for the joy he felt, as he glanced at the only remaining dozen of his stock, and at the very next house he disposed of them. With a dollar and nineteen cents in his pocket, he walked towards home, proud as a lord of his success. The result of this day's work afforded him far more satisfaction than that of the preceding day, though the proceeds were considerably less; for he was conscious of the influence of Captain Littleton's generosity in the transaction. But the second day's triumph was achieved by his own unaided labor and skill. What he had done this day was a fair specimen of what he might hope to do in the future.
"Sold out so soon, Paul?" said his mother, as he entered the kitchen.
"Yes; I had good luck. They took four dozen at the boarding-house. I think if I had had twenty dozen I could have sold them all. There is a great deal of difference between perch just out of the water, fresh and good, and perch which have been dragged about in a fish cart, under a hot sun, for two or three days."
Mrs. Duncan fully agreed with this sage remark, and did not think it improved any kind of fish to keep them a great while after they were caught.
"One dollar and nineteen cents, mother; here is the money," continued Paul, emptying the contents of the wallet into her lap. "What do you think of the fishing business now, mother?"
"It has proved to be a very good business so far: but you must not expect people to eat perch all the year round, Paul. They will get sick of them after a while."
"Then I shall go farther off; but there are other fish besides perch, and I don't intend to confine my operations to one kind. There are eels, and smelts, and cod, and haddock; and if worse comes to worse, I can go into the clam trade."
"What a boy!" laughed Mrs. Duncan. "You are so determined that I have no doubt you will succeed."
"If I don't, it shall not be my fault," replied Paul, complacently.
"But you don't mean to follow this business all your life?"
"The life of a fisherman is not the pleasantest in the world."
"That's according to one's taste. If I only had a good boat, I can't think of anything that would suit me better."
"It is hard work."
"So much the better. You said that five dollars a week would support the family. Now, if you have no objection, I will save up all I make over that sum, till I get enough to buy a boat."
"Certainly, Paul; and if you give me three dollars a week, or even two, I can get along very well."
"I shall not do that, mother. I am going to support the family, anyhow; and I wish you wouldn't take any more bags to make."
"You mustn't think of doing too much, Paul."
"Too much! I shall be idle half the time, at this rate. Here I am, with my day's work done at three o'clock in the afternoon. I don't want you to do anything, mother, but take care of the house, as you always used to do."
"There will certainly be no need of it, if you get along as well as you expect. How much will such a boat as you want cost, Paul?"
"Well, I don't know; when I buy I want to get a first-rate one."
"How much do you think."
"Fifty to seventy-five dollars; but I won't think of such a thing yet a while. The old one will do very well for the present. I can save up something every week, and little by little, I shall make up enough to get just such a boat as I want."
"You might take the money from the life insurance; for Mr. Freeman will perhaps sell us the house, if we pay nine hundred dollars down."
"I won't do that, mother. My boat shall be bought with my own earnings."
"I will lend you the money, then."
"No, I won't get in debt."
"But a new boat would be safer."
"The old one is safe enough; all the fault I find with her is, that it takes her so long to get down to the fishing ground."
Paul resolutely refused to run in debt, or to touch the money which had been appropriated for the purchase of the house. He intended, when he had time, to fix up the old boat, and rig a jib on, which he thought would overcome his principal objection to her.
When he went to bed that night, he entered the proceeds of this day's work in his book, and then with pardonable pride, he congratulated himself on the sum total of the earnings of the two days.