THE BOAT CLUB OR THE BUNKERS OF RIPPLETON
NEW EDITION, REVISED AND ENLARGED
NEW YORK THE MERSHON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1896, By LEE AND SHEPARD
IN MEMORY OF MY NEPHEW, WILLIAM PARKER JEWETT Who Died January 4, 1884, TO WHOM This Book WAS ORIGINALLY DEDICATED
"THE BOAT CLUB" was written and published more than forty years ago, and was the first juvenile book the author had ever presented to the public. Young people who read it at the age of eighteen have now reached threescore, and those who read it at ten have passed their half-century of life. The electrotype plates from which it has been printed for more than a generation of human life have suffered so much from severe wear that new ones have become necessary, and they must be replaced. This condition affords the author the opportunity to revise the work, in fact, to make a new book of it; and the old boat must be reconstructed and launched again. The author has something to say on what suggests itself as a memorial occasion when something historical may be said. First, it is proper that old things should be respected and honored, and therefore is presented the—
OF "THE BOAT CLUB."
The author of the following story pleads guilty of being more than half a boy himself; and in writing a book to meet the wants and the tastes of "Young America," he has had no difficulty in stepping back over the weary waste of years that separates youth from maturity, and entering fully into the spirit of the scenes he describes. He has endeavored to combine healthy moral lessons with a sufficient amount of exciting interest to render the story attractive to the young; and he hopes he has not mingled these elements of a good juvenile book in disproportionate quantities.
Thus was laid the foundation of the writer's life-work for young people, after an initiation of over twenty years as a teacher in the schools of Boston, in all grades from usher to principal. Even then he had not the remotest idea of becoming an author; he never definitely prepared himself for such a profession; and, as he has often stated it, he "blundered into the business of writing books for the young," though he had had considerable experience in story-writing for magazines and newspapers.
This beginning has been followed by ninety-six volumes in sets of six volumes or more, and two others, the whole of the ninety-eight books being for young people. To these may be added the number of bound yearly volumes of magazines for juveniles of which the writer has been the editor for thirty-two years, making one hundred and thirty volumes of this kind, besides half a dozen or more for adults, to say nothing of nine hundred stories, long and short, for periodicals. This is the literary record of the author in the seventy-fifth year of his age; and being still in fair physical condition, it is possible that more may be added to the number.
This is an introduction to the republication of "The Boat Club," and this book suggested what has been written so far. It occurs to me that some venerable person who read the book in childhood may have a desire to know how it happened to be written, and possibly some others may wish to know something of the motives which have animated the writer for the long term in which he has been engaged in producing books for juvenile readers. In a speech made by the author in 1875, at the dedication of a branch of the Boston Public Library in Dorchester, which had become a part of the city, the desire of the venerable personage and the wishes of the other inquirers were fully answered; and perhaps they cannot be better satisfied than in reading a portion of this address, given after the writer had been introduced by the Mayor of Boston:—
Though not to the manner born, Mr. Mayor, I have resided in Dorchester during the greater portion of my life; and this church has been my "religious home" for more than twenty-five years. I confess that it seems very strange to me to be introduced to an audience gathered within these walls by the Mayor of Boston. In presenting me to this large audience, you have called me by a name by which, perhaps, I am better known than by my real name. I am willing to acknowledge that I have written a great many stories for young people. And here I wish to say—what may perhaps surprise some of this audience—that I fully approve of and indorse all that Mr. Greenough, the President of the Board of Trustees of the Library, has said in his very able and instructive address, in regard to a proper supervision of the reading of the girls and boys. It was only the other day that one of the ablest and most successful masters of the public schools in this part of the city told me that he did not regard the establishment of public libraries in our towns and cities as wholly a benefit and a blessing to the communities, for the reason that some of them supply the young with books of doubtful tendency. I am glad, therefore, to know that the management of our public libraries and the selection of the books are in the hands of those who are fully awake to the responsibilities of their important positions.
Mr. Mayor, the mention by you of the name under which I have been in the habit of writing suggests that I may say now what I had on my mind, but did not intend to utter on this occasion. In one of the wall pews which were on my left before this church was remodelled, as a teacher in the Sunday-school connected with this parish, I had a class of boys. It was more than twenty-five years ago, and some of those boys have passed away from earth; but the others are now, as men of middle age, engaged in the active duties of life. I well remember how I looked into their faces, Sunday after Sunday, and how I endeavored to give them the good word that would help them along safely in their career of existence. I gave them the best I had to give, for I was interested in them. My interest made me desire to do more for them; and I thought I might write a story that would influence and benefit them. I had it in my mind to print a small pamphlet of sixty pages, and dedicate it to the boys of my Sunday-school class, putting all their names upon the page. The plot and plan of the story were clear in my mind; and the moral of it, which was not to be paraded in set terms, was even more clearly defined than the plot and plan.
Circumstances prevented the carrying out of this purpose, and the story was not written at that time. Several years afterwards, my publishers, after the issue of a tolerably successful book of mine for grown-up people,—for I had written a great many stories, though none for young people,—asked me to write a juvenile book. I assured them I could not do it; I had never attempted anything of the kind. The publishers insisted, and finally I promised to see what I could do. I had but little faith in my ability in this direction; but the plot and plan of the story I had arranged for my Sunday-school class came back to me, and I went to work upon it. The result of my efforts was "The Boat Club."
When I began to write stories for the young I had a distinct purpose in my mind. How well I remember the books I read, unknown to my parents, when I was a boy! They were "The Three Spaniards," "Alonzo and Melissa," "The Mysteries of Udolpho," "Rinaldo Rinaldini," "Freemantle the Privateersman," and similar works, not often found at the present time on the shelves of the booksellers, though I am sorry to say that their places have been filled with books hardly less pernicious. The hero of these stories was a pirate, a highwayman, a smuggler, or a bandit. He was painted in glowing colors; and in admiring his boldness, my sympathies were with this outcast and outlaw. These books were bad, very bad; because they brought the reader into sympathy with evil and wicked men. It seemed to me that stories just as interesting, just as exciting if you please, could be written, without any of the evil tendencies of these harmful books. I have tried to do this in the stories I have written for young people. I have never written a story which could excite the love, admiration, and sympathy of the reader for an evil-minded person, a bad character. This has been my standard; and however others may regard it, I still deem it a safe one. I am willing to admit that I have sometimes been rather more "sensational" than I now wish I had been; but I have never made a hero whose moral character, or whose lack of high aims and purposes, could mislead the reader.
But, Mr. Mayor, I hope you will pardon the egotism of these remarks; for I did not prepare myself to say what I have said, and I was rather surprised into it by your mention of my book name.
With the same apology to my readers of the present day for reproducing this speech, and for saying so much about myself, I wish to allow a young gentleman to state the influence upon himself of these books. He is the son of a distinguished literary man whose works live after him, and who was for several years United States Consul at Glasgow and Edinburgh. I insert here the young man's letter, which I received in Florence, Italy, in 1870.
BOSTON, Sept. 9, 1870.
Dear Sir,—I heard some one remark the other day, that, however high a man might stand in the estimation of his fellow-men, there would be times when it would be pleasant for him to know that he had been of some especial benefit to one or more individuals. The remark reminded me of you, and of the immense advantage which your writings had been to me; and I thought that possibly it might give you pleasure to know that to you—together with a good mother's judicious management—I owe all my taste for reading.
Until I was about ten years of age, I perfectly detested the idea of taking a book into my hands. At about this time my mother procured "Poor and Proud," which she commenced reading to me; and finding me a good deal interested, she contrived to stop reading at one of the most interesting points in the story, when, giving me the book, she said that perhaps I would like to read on and see what came next. And I read on and on, becoming more and more interested in the story, until I had finished the book. Seeing me interested in your works, others were procured for me; and in reading those I often met with something which would rouse in me a desire to read history, until at last a taste for reading was formed, which a lifetime will not gratify. Thus you see I have especial reason for gratitude that you should ever have written stories for boys. Not that I believe myself to be the only one, but one of the many who have been benefited in the same way.
Hoping that you may find your visit to the Old World both pleasant and profitable, and wishing you a safe return, I remain, sir,
G. FRANK UNDERWOOD.
G. F. RANK.
I have received hundreds of similar letters, containing substantially the same testimony. In December of the year this letter came to me, I was confined to my hotel in England by a London fog one day; and in the first daily paper I picked up in the reading-room I was surprised to find myself "written up" in terms that made me blush; but the article pleased me because it contained the same idea my young friend had embodied in his letter.
Gratefully remembering my friends of over forty years' standing, and with a hearty recognition of those of more recent years, I return to them all my most sincere thanks for their generous appreciation of the work of my lifetime, and for their continued kindness to me from the first appearance of "The Boat Club" to the present time. I heartily wish them all continued health, prosperity, and happiness; and I do so in the sincere belief that I have never morally harmed any of my readers, but have added pleasure as well as moral and intellectual profit to their lives.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS "Oliver Optic"
DORCHESTER, October 9, 1896
I. THE FOURTH OF JULY COMING 19
II. THE WIDOW WESTON 32
III. A DISAPPOINTED BOY 47
IV. THE FOURTH OF JULY 60
V. THE CLUB BOAT 77
VI. THE EMBARKATION 89
VII. GIVE WAY TOGETHER 102
VIII. THE SECOND LESSON 116
IX. THE STOLEN WALLET 138
X. TONY'S CASE 152
XI. THE BOAT-HOUSE 166
XII. THE FIRST MEETING IN ZEPHYR HALL 180
XIII. THE THUNDERBOLT 194
XIV. THE COLLISION 207
XV. CENTRE ISLAND 221
XVI. THE GEOGRAPHY OF WOOD LAKE 236
XVII. OVERBOARD 251
XVIII. TIM BUNKER 268
XIX. THE TRIAL OF TONY 280
XX. THE STRANGER 294
XXI. THE CONCLUSION 308
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT 71
I DID NOT KNOW IT WAS THERE 150
TIM SEIZED AN OAR 217
YOU MUST COME WITH ME 279
THE BOAT CLUB OR THE BUNKERS OF RIPPLETON
THE FOURTH OF JULY COMING
"How much money have you got, Frank?" asked Charles Hardy of his friend Frank Sedley.
"Four dollars and seventy-five cents."
"That is more than twice as much as I have. Won't you have a glorious time?"
It was the evening of the third of July, and the two boys were counting the money they had saved for Independence. Captain Sedley, the father of Frank, had promised to take him and his friend to Boston to attend the celebration; and they had long looked forward to the event with the liveliest anticipations of pleasure.
"I don't know, Charley," replied Frank Sedley, as he slid the money into his purse; "I was thinking of something else."
"I was thinking how poor the widow Weston is, and how much good this money I am going to throw away on fire-crackers and gingerbread would do her."
"Perhaps it would."
"I know it would."
"But you are not going to spoil our fun by giving it to her, are you?"
"There are a great many boys who will have no money to spend to-morrow—Tony Weston, for instance," continued Frank.
"Tony is a good fellow."
"That he is; and his mother has a terrible hard time of it to support herself and her son and daughter."
"I suppose she has. Why don't you ask your father to help her?"
"He does help her. He gives her wood and flour, and a great many other things; and my mother employs her to do sewing. She is willing to work."
"And Tony works too."
"He is too young to do much; but he loves his mother, and tries to do all he can to lighten her burden."
"He makes a dollar a week sometimes."
"I was thinking just now that I would give Mrs. Weston the money I had saved for Independence."
"It would do her a great deal of good."
"What is the use of going to Boston, if you have no money?" asked Charles, who was not a little disturbed by this proposed disbursement of the Fourth of July funds.
"I can stay at home, then."
"That wouldn't be fair, Frank."
"You not only rob yourself of the fun, but me too."
"I really pity the poor woman so much that I cannot find it in my heart to spend the money foolishly, when it will buy so many comforts for her."
"Your father will give you some money for her."
"That isn't the thing."
"What do you mean?"
"You went to meeting last Sunday?"
"And heard the sermon?"
"Some of it," replied Charles, smiling.
"You remember the minister spoke of the luxury of doing good; of the benefit one gets by sacrificing his inclination for the good of others, or something like that; I can't express it as he did, though I have the idea."
Frank paused, and looked earnestly into the face of his friend, to ascertain whether he was likely to find any sympathy in the heart of Charles.
"I do remember it, Frank. He told a story to illustrate his meaning."
"That was it. I don't very often mind much about the sermon, but somehow I was very much interested in that one."
"And so you mean to give your money to the widow Weston, just to see how you will feel after it," added Charles with a laugh.
"No; that isn't it."
"What is it, then?"
"I will give it to her because I really feel that she needs it more than I do. I feel a pleasure in the thought of sacrificing my inclination for her happiness, which is more satisfactory than all the fun I anticipate to-morrow."
"You'll be a parson, Frank."
"No, I won't; I will do my duty."
"Have you made up your mind?"
"We can have a good time at home."
"I shall give my money to the widow Weston, at any rate."
Charles Hardy could not but admire the generosity of his friend, though he found it difficult to abandon the thought of the pleasure he anticipated in spending the Fourth in Boston. He stood in silent thought a few moments, and then spoke.
"Well, Frank," said he, "if you have determined to give your money to the widow, I shall follow your example."
"But, Charley, I didn't mean to influence you. I will even go to Boston with you, though I have no money."
"I will give my money to the widow. I think you are right."
"Good, Charley! I like you for it."
"I have two dollars and a quarter," continued Charles, taking the money from his pocket.
"We shall make up just seven dollars. How it will rejoice the heart of the poor woman!" exclaimed Frank with enthusiasm.
"So it will. But don't you think your father will make it up to us, when he finds out how generous we have been?"
Frank looked into the face of his companion with an expression of painful surprise on his countenance.
"I don't want him to do so."
"It would rob the action of all its merit. If you give your money with the hope of having it restored to you, I beg you not to give it at all. I have abandoned all thoughts of having any money to spend to-morrow."
"And not go to Boston?"
"What will your father say when you tell him you are not going? He will want to know the reason."
"I will tell him day after to-morrow."
"He will want to know to-morrow."
"I can persuade him to wait. Shall we go over to-night, and give the money to Mrs. Weston?"
"Yes; if you like."
"Wait a moment, and I will go into the house and ask my father to let me stay out till nine o'clock this evening."
Frank bounded lightly over the green lawn to his father's house, near which the conversation took place.
Rippleton, the scene of my story, is a New England village, situated about ten miles from Boston. It is one of those thriving places which have sprung into existence in a moment, as it were, under the potent stimulus of a railroad and a water privilege. Twenty years ago it consisted of only one factory and about a dozen houses. Now it is a great, bustling village, and probably in a few years will become a city. Trains of cars arrive and depart every hour, as the Traveller's Guide says; and a double row of factories extends along the sides of the river. It has its banks, its hotels, its dozen churches, and its noisy streets—indeed, almost all the pomp and circumstance of a great city.
About a mile from the village was the beautiful residence of Captain Sedley—Frank's father. He was a retired shipmaster, in which capacity he had acquired a handsome fortune. His house was built within a few rods of Wood Lake—a beautiful sheet of water, nearly three miles in length, and a little more than a mile in width. On the river, which formed the outlet of this lake, the village of Rippleton was situated; and its clear waters turned the great wheels of the factories.
Captain Sedley had chosen this place in which to spend the evening of his days, because it seemed to him the loveliest spot in all New England. The glassy, transparent lake, with its wood-crowned shores, its picturesque rocks, its little green islands, indeed, everything about it was so grand and beautiful, that it seemed more like the creation of an enthusiastic imagination than a substantial reality. The retired shipmaster loved the beautiful in nature, and his first view of the silver lake and the surrounding country enabled him to decide that this spot should be his future habitation. He bought the land, built him a fine house, and was as happy as a mortal could desire to be.
But I beg my young reader not to think that Captain Sedley was happy because he lived in such a beautiful place, and had such a fine house, and so much money at his command; for a beautiful prospect, a costly dwelling, and plenty of money, alone, cannot make a person contented and happy. The richest men are often the most miserable; a bed of down may be a bed of thorns; and a magnificent mansion will not banish the gnawings of remorse.
Captain Sedley was a good man. He had always endeavored to be true to his God and true to himself; to be just and honest in his relations to his fellow-men. In an active business experience of twenty years, he had found a great many opportunities for doing good—opportunities which he had had the moral courage to improve. He loved his God by loving his fellow-man. He had made his fortune by being honest and just. He had lived a good life; and as every good man will, whether he get rich or poor by it, he was receiving his reward in the serene happiness of his life in this world, and in the cherished hope of everlasting bliss in the world to come.
Captain Sedley was happy, too, in his family. Mrs. Sedley was an amiable and devoted woman; and Frank, his only child, was an affectionate and obedient son. Perhaps my young friends cannot fully appreciate the amount of satisfaction which a parent derives from the good character of his child. Though the worthy shipmaster had a beautiful estate and plenty of money, if his son had been a liar, a thief, a profane swearer,—in short, if Frank had been a bad boy,—he could not have been happy. If a wise and good father could choose between having his son a hopeless drunkard or villain, and laying his cold form in the dark grave, never more to see him on earth, he would no doubt choose the latter. Almost all parents say so; and their words are so earnest, their tears so eloquent, that we cannot but believe it. Such was the father of Frank Sedley, and it was such a father that made so good a son.
Charles Hardy was the son of one of the factory agents, who was Captain Sedley's nearest neighbor; and a strong friendship had grown up between the two boys. Charles's character was essentially different from that of his friend; but as I prefer that my young reader should judge his disposition for himself, and distinguish between the good and the evil of his thoughts and actions as the story proceeds, I shall not now tell him what kind of a boy he was.
THE WIDOW WESTON
Near the house of Captain Sedley, a sandy beach extended from the road, on the margin of the lake, down to the water's side. It was here that Charles Hardy waited the return of his friend. He was thinking of the sacrifice they had concluded to make for the widow Weston; and it must be confessed that he felt not a little sad at the thought of resigning all the enjoyment he anticipated in connection with the excursion to the city the following day.
On the water, secured by a pole driven into the sand, floated a raft, which some of the boys in the neighborhood had built, and with which they amused themselves in paddling about the lake. It was a rude structure, made by lashing together four rails in the form of a square, and placing planks across the upper side of them. The boys who had constructed it lived farther down the lake in the direction of the village. They did not bear a very good character in the neighborhood. If an orchard was robbed, a henroost plundered, or any other mischief done in the vicinity, it could generally be traced to them. They always played together, went to and came from school together, planned and executed their mischief together, so that they came to be regarded as a unit of roguery, and people never saw one of them without wondering where the rest were.
The foremost of these unruly fellows was Tim Bunker. He was the ruling spirit of their party, and had the reputation of being a notoriously bad boy. He was in the habit of lying, swearing, cheating, and stealing; and people, judging his followers by their ringleader, had got into the way of calling them the Bunkers.
Of course Captain Sedley was unwilling that his son should associate with such boys as the Bunkers; and so much did Frank dislike their company that it was scarcely necessary to caution him to avoid them.
While Charles Hardy was waiting, he walked down to the water's edge. The sun was just sinking behind the green hills in the west, reflecting the shadows of the beautiful gold and purple clouds upon the surface of the silver lake. A gentle breeze was blowing down the valley, and the little waves broke with a musical ripple upon the pebbly sands. It was a lovely hour and a lovely scene, and Charles felt the sweet influence of both. He looked out upon the lake, and wished he was floating over its tiny wavelets.
He stepped upon the raft, and thought how pleasant and how exciting it would be to sail over to Centre Isle, as the little wood-crowned islet that rose from the middle of the lake was called. Pulling up the stake that held the raft, he pushed out a little way from the shore. The sensation which the motion of the raft produced was new and strange to him, and he felt a longing desire to sail farther. But just then Frank returned.
"My father is not at home," said he.
"Can't you go, then?" asked Charles, as he pushed the raft to the shore again.
"Yes; I told my mother where I was going."
"Frank, let us go up to Mrs. Weston's on this raft. She lives close by the shore of the lake."
"My father told me never to go on the lake without permission from him."
"Pooh! What harm can there be in it?"
"I don't know that there can be any."
"Let us go then."
"My father told me not to go on the lake."
"But he has gone away, you said."
"I cannot disobey him."
"He never will know it."
"You don't mean what you say, Charley. You would not have me go directly contrary to what my father told me, just because he is not here to see me."
Charles felt a little ashamed, and replacing the stake that secured the raft, jumped on shore.
"It is a delightful evening, and it would be so pleasant to take a little sail!" said he.
"I don't think that raft is very safe. I saw the Bunkers on it the other day, and they stood ankle deep in water."
"I am not afraid of it."
"No matter; my father told me not to go on the lake, which is quite reason enough for me not to do so."
"But the Bunkers seem to have a first-rate time on it."
"Perhaps they do."
"But we fellows that have to mind what our fathers and mothers tell us are the losers by our obedience."
Frank smiled; he could not help doing so at the thought of one who had just been counselling him to disobedience making such a remark.
"I am quite sure I am contented."
"But don't you think the Bunkers have more fun than we do? Tim Bunker don't care any more about what his father says than he does about the fifth wheel of a coach, and he always seems to have a first-rate time."
"Appearances are deceitful," replied Frank with a sage smile. "Do you think we should enjoy ourselves up to our ankles in water on that raft?"
"The water wouldn't hurt us."
"Not so much as the disobedience, it is true; but I don't care much about such fun as that."
"Tim Bunker asked me to sail with him over to the island yesterday, and I had a great mind to go. If it had been any other fellow, I would."
"Your father told you not to go on the lake."
"He never would have known it."
"Perhaps not; but you would not have felt any better on that account."
"For my part, I hate to be tied to my father's coat-tails or mother's apron-string when there is any fun going on. I don't see why we shouldn't have a good time once in a while, as well as the Bunkers, who are no better than we are."
"I don't know how it is with you, but I can enjoy myself enough and obey my parents at the same time."
"Right, Frank!" exclaimed Captain Sedley, who at this moment stepped down from the grove adjoining the beach, where he had overheard a part of the conversation. "So you think, Charles, that the boys who disobey their parents enjoy themselves most."
"No, sir. I don't exactly mean that; but the Bunkers have some first-rate times with this raft," replied Charles, very much confused by the sudden appearance of Frank's father.
"But their lives are continually in danger," added Captain Sedley.
"Oh, sir, they can all swim."
"All of them?"
"Like ducks, sir."
"Suppose one of them should fall overboard half a mile from the land, where I saw them yesterday. Do you think he could swim ashore?"
"There are a great many things to be considered in such a case. His clothes might encumber him; he might have the cramp; he might get frightened."
"The others could save him."
"We do not know what they could do. Boys at play are very different from boys in the hour of peril. When I was a sailor before the mast, one of my shipmates, a very expert swimmer ordinarily, fell from the mainyard arm into the sea. Two of us jumped in to assist him; but he sank to the bottom like a lump of lead, and we never saw him again."
"That was strange," added Charles.
"He was taken unawares; he lost his self-command, and it might be so with the Bunkers. This rafting is dangerous business, and I advise you never to engage in it;" and Captain Sedley walked off towards his house.
"Father, I want to go up to the widow Weston's a little while," said Frank.
"Very well; but you must be back so as to go to bed and get up in season for your excursion to the city to-morrow."
"Come, Charley, I guess we won't go up on the raft," said Frank with a pleasant laugh.
"I guess not;" and the two boys walked towards the rude cottage of the widow Weston.
It was situated near the lake, about half a mile from Captain Sedley's. Mrs. Weston was the widow of a poor laboring man who had died about a year before our story opens. She was the mother of four children,—three sons and a daughter. Her eldest son, who was now twenty-two years old, had been in California nearly two years, having left his home a year before the death of his father. She had received one letter from him on his arrival at San Francisco, since which she had heard nothing of him, and had given up all hopes of ever seeing him again. She had not a doubt but that he had found a grave in the golden soil of that far-off land. She mourned him as dead, and all the earthly hopes of the poor mother were concentrated in her remaining children.
Anthony, the next son, whom everybody called Tony, was now thirteen years old. He was an active, industrious boy; and all the neighbors were willing to employ him on their farms and about their houses, so that he was able to do a great deal towards supporting the family. He was a good boy, so honest and truthful, so kind-hearted, and so devoted to his poor mother, that he was a great favorite in the vicinity; and some of the richer folks, when they really had no work for him, would find something for him to do, for he was so proud and high-spirited that he would not take money he had not earned.
Mary Weston, the daughter, was eleven years of age. Like her brother, she had a sweet and gentle disposition, and did all she could to assist her poor mother in the strait of her poverty. But Mrs. Weston, though she had a hard struggle to get along, sent her daughter to school winter and summer, preferring to deprive herself of many of the comforts of life, rather than have her daughter forego the advantages of a tolerable education. Mary, though her little hands were too feeble to work much, felt that she was a burden to her toiling, self-denying parent; and though she could not persuade her to let her stay at home and help her, used all her time out of school in taking care of little Richard, then only three years old. By constantly striving to be useful, and by continually watching for opportunities to be of service to her mother, she very sensibly diminished the burden of her cares.
Poor as the widow Weston was, hard as she was obliged to struggle for a subsistence, she was happy, and her children were happy. They had no fine house, no money, no rich carpets, no beds of down, as their rich neighbor had, yet they were quite as happy as he was. The God of nature gave them the same beautiful prospect of lake and hills, and woods and rocks, to look out upon; and if these things helped to gladden their hearts, it was goodness which lay at the foundation of all their joys, and cast a ray of sunshine across the path of poverty and want. They were contented with their lot, hard and bitter as many others deemed it; and contentment made them happy,—prepared their hearts to enjoy the blessings of plenty, if God in his wisdom should ever bestow it upon them.
The boys found the family at supper, and Frank could not but contrast his evening meal with that of the poor widow's family. He had just partaken of the choicest fruits, nice cake, hot waffles and muffins, set before him; the Westons had only brown bread and very white butter. He had used silver dishes and silver forks; they ate their coarse fare from a few half-broken plates. His father was rich, and they were very poor.
"You are welcome, Master Frank; I am glad to see you, and Master Charles too," said Mrs. Weston, rising from the table and handing them chairs. "I hope your father and mother are well."
"Very well, I thank you, ma'am," replied Frank. "I have called to see you about something, and I want to see you alone," added he in a low tone; for he did not wish Tony, who was a great deal prouder than his mother, to know the nature of his errand.
Just then Tony finished his supper, and Mrs. Weston sent him out to feed the hens.
"I have brought you a present, Mrs. Weston," continued Frank; "I hope you will accept it."
"Indeed, Master Frank, you are always very good to me; and your father and mother too," replied the widow.
"Here are seven dollars. Charles and I wish to give you this sum."
"Seven dollars!" exclaimed the widow; for to a poor woman like her this was a very large sum.
"Charles and I had saved it for the Fourth of July; but we thought how much good it would do you, who have to work so hard, and we determined to make you a present of it."
"May God bless you both!" exclaimed the widow, wiping a tear of gratitude from her eye; "but I cannot think of taking your money."
"But, Mrs. Weston, you must take it."
"And you give up your pleasure for a poor body like me?"
"We give the money to you because it will afford us a greater pleasure than to spend it for fire-crackers and gingerbread."
"How noble and generous! but you wrong yourselves."
"Oh, no, we don't," said Charles; and at that moment he felt happier than if all the gingerbread and fire-crackers in the world had been showered down upon him.
"Hush! here comes Tony. Not a word to him about it if you please."
"Heaven bless you, boys!" said the poor woman as she put the money in her pocket.
Frank and Charles talked a few moments with Tony about the "glorious Fourth," and then took leave of the family.
A DISAPPOINTED BOY
Captain Sedley was an early riser. Every morning at sunrise he was abroad in the pleasant grove that bordered the lake near his house. It was a favorite spot, and he had spent a great deal of time and money in bringing Art into communion with Nature in this lovely retreat. He had cleared out the underbrush, made gravel walks and avenues through it, erected a summer-house in the valley, and an observatory on the summit of the hill, which terminated on the lake side in a steep rocky precipice, at whose base the waters rippled.
The worthy shipmaster was a devout man, which was perhaps the reason why he so much enjoyed his morning walk. It was the pleasantest hour of all the day to him,—a fit time for meditation, and for the contemplation of the beautiful scenery that surrounded his habitation. The trees looked greener and the lake more limpid then, when his mind was invigorated by the peaceful slumbers of the preceding night; and there, in his favorite retreat, while all nature was smiling upon him, went up his morning prayer to that beneficent Being who had spared him yet another day, and crowned his life with loving-kindness and tender mercies.
It was the morning of the Fourth of July; and the sounds of the booming cannon and the pealing bells, which the westerly breeze bore up the lake, reminded him of the gratitude he owed to God for the political, social, and religious privileges which had been bequeathed to the country by the fathers of the Revolution. He prayed for his country, that a blessing might always rest upon it.
As he walked along, thus engaged in his inaudible devotions, he heard a footstep behind him. The solitude of his morning walk was seldom disturbed by the intrusion of others. Turning, he recognized the friend of his son.
"You are abroad early, Charles," said he.
"Yes, sir; this is the Fourth of July."
"And you feel like a little patriot on the occasion."
"I feel like having some fun."
"No doubt of it; I am afraid the boys think more of the smoke and noise of the day than they do of the momentous event it commemorates."
"We like to have a good time, and the Fourth of July comes but once a year."
"Probably you will be fully satisfied before night comes."
"I don't know," replied Charles, in a tone and with an expression of countenance which attracted the attention of Captain Sedley.
"You don't know! I thought you were depending upon a good time in the city!"
"We did anticipate a great deal of pleasure, but we have given it up."
"Indeed! I have made preparations to take you to Boston."
"We have given it up, sir," repeated Charles.
"He has not mentioned the fact to me."
"But he intends to do so."
"What is the meaning of all this? I am surprised."
"I knew you would be," said Charles evasively.
"But why have you given it up?"
"Oh! that's a secret."
"Is it, indeed? Then, you really are not going?"
"I suppose the secret is not to be divulged to me."
Captain Sedley was not a little perplexed by what he had heard. The proposed excursion had been the topic of conversation for the last fortnight, and Charles and Frank had both manifested the liveliest interest in it. And now that the whole scheme had been abandoned, the anticipated pleasure voluntarily resigned, was strange and incomprehensible. At first he was disposed to believe some more agreeable plan of spending the day had been devised, and it seemed questionable to him whether the plan which must be kept secret could meet his approbation.
"It was Frank's notion, Mr. Sedley," added Charles.
"And you have promised not to tell me?"
"Oh, no, sir! I don't know that Frank would like it if I should do so, though I can't see what harm it would do."
"Of course you must do as you think proper," replied Captain Sedley. "I don't wish you to betray Frank's confidence, unless you think he is doing wrong."
"Nothing wrong, sir."
"Then, why should it be kept secret?"
"I do not know of any reason why it should be. You won't tell Frank if I let the cat out of the bag?" said Charles with a kind of forced laugh.
"Certainly not, if you wish it."
"Well, then, we are not going because we have no money to spend."
"No money! Why, I gave Frank three dollars towards it no longer ago than yesterday, and he had some money before that," replied Captain Sedley, not a little alarmed at the revelation.
"Frank had four dollars and seventy-five cents, and I had two dollars and twenty-five cents, which made seven dollars between us."
"What have you done with it?" asked the kind father, fearful lest his son had been doing wrong.
"Last night we concluded to give our money to the widow Weston, instead of spending it for candy and crackers, and to stay at home instead of going to Boston."
An expression of pleasure lighted up the features of the devoted father. The confession of Charles was a great relief to him.
"Well done, boys!" exclaimed he. "That was noble and generous;" and involuntarily he thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew forth his purse.
"Frank proposed it," said Charles, a gleam of satisfaction lighting up his eye as he beheld the purse.
Captain Sedley held it in his hand a moment, looked searchingly at Charles, and then returned it to his pocket.
"It was a noble deed, Charles; and I had rather hear such a thing of my son than to have all the wealth and honors which the world can give bestowed upon him."
Charles looked disappointed when he saw Captain Sedley restore his purse to his pocket.
"And Frank means to keep it a secret, does he?" continued the delighted father.
"Yes, sir; till to-morrow."
"Very well; I will not mention the fact that you have told me about it."
"Thank you, sir," replied Charles doubtfully.
"And I am glad you told me—that is, if you have not betrayed his confidence;" and Captain Sedley looked rather sharply at Charles.
"Oh, no, sir! I have not."
"Because, when he tells me he does not intend to go, I should otherwise have insisted on knowing the reason."
Charles was already sorry he had said a word about it.
"It was a noble sacrifice, Charles," continued Captain Sedley with much enthusiasm. "If from a worthy motive we sacrifice our inclinations for the good of others, we are always sure of finding our reward—indeed, the act is its own reward."
Charles began to feel a little uneasy. It seemed to him as though Captain Sedley never looked so sharply at him before. What could he mean? He had given all his money to the widow Weston as well as Frank, but Captain Sedley's looks seemed to reprove rather than commend him. He did not feel satisfied with himself, or with Captain Sedley—why, he could not exactly tell; so he happened to think that his father might want him, and he ran home as fast as his legs would carry him.
But his father did not want him, and he walked nervously about the house till breakfast-time. He had no appetite, and everything seemed to go wrong with him.
"Come, Charles," said his mother, "eat your breakfast, or you will get hungry before you get to Boston."
"Not going," answered he sulkily.
"Why not?" asked his father and mother in the same breath.
"Haven't got any money."
"No money! Where is the two dollars I gave you yesterday?" asked Mr. Hardy rather sternly.
"Gave it away."
"Frank proposed last night to give our money to the widow Weston instead of spending it; and like a great fool as I was, I agreed to it."
"Poor fellow! It is too bad!" added Mrs. Hardy.
"What did he do it for, then?" said Mr. Hardy.
"Of course he didn't want to be behind Frank in doing a good action."
"But he is a long way behind him."
"He has given the woman the money, and played the hypocrite," replied Mr. Hardy, with the most evident expression of disgust in his tones and looks. "He has acted just like a great many folks who put money into the contribution-box for missions and Bible societies, because they think it looks well."
"But, husband, you will give him some more money? You will make up the sum to him which he has given in charity?"
"Given in charity! Given in hypocrisy, you mean! I shall do no such thing."
"Deprive the poor boy of all his anticipated pleasure?" said the indulgent mother.
"The bitter fruit of his own hypocrisy," replied Mr. Hardy.
"You are too bad!"
"No, I am not. If he gave away his money because he thought it was an act of charity that would look well, that would make Frank and his father think better of him, he is rightly served; and I am disposed to shut him up in this room with a good book to teach him better, instead of letting him go to the celebration."
Mr. Hardy was a blunt, honest man, perhaps a little too much inclined to be harsh with his son when he had done wrong. Possibly his views of parental discipline were not altogether correct, but in the main he meant right. He was disgusted at the conduct of Charles, and thought no reasonable penalty too severe for hypocrisy and deceit.
"On the other hand," continued he, "if he had made up his mind to sacrifice his inclination at the call of charity, he would not have felt as he does now. He would have been contented to stay at home. He would have found a nobler satisfaction in the consciousness of having done a good deed than in all the anticipated pleasures of the celebration. It is very plain to me the whole thing was an act of gross hypocrisy;" and Mr. Hardy rose from the table, and left the room.
Charles understood his father's analysis of his conduct. He felt that it was truthful. What would his father have said if he had known his motive in seeking Captain Sedley that morning? He was ashamed of himself, and was glad that his father knew nothing about it.
He had not yet lost all hope that Captain Sedley would reimburse the sums they had given the widow, and take them to Boston. But Frank's father, appreciating the noble sacrifice his son had made, was content that he should receive all the moral discipline to be derived from the act. Therefore he said nothing about it, and went to the city alone.
Charles waited impatiently till ten o'clock; but no one came for him, and he left the house in search of such enjoyment as Rippleton could afford him.
THE FOURTH OF JULY
Charles Hardy was sadly disappointed. He had given his money to the widow Weston in the fullest confidence that it would be refunded to him, and that he should be able to attend the celebration in Boston. When Frank had proposed the charitable plan, his heart told him how good and pleasant it would be to assist the poor woman. His feelings were with his friend in the benevolent design; it was a mere impulse, however, which prompted him to join in the act. He thought of the sacrifice, but the hope of not being actually compelled to make it in the end involuntarily helped him to a decision.
His father had misjudged his motive in calling him hypocritical, for he really felt like doing the noble deed. He felt kindly towards the widow Weston; but his principle was not strong and deep enough to enable him to bear with pleasure, or even with a good grace, the deprivation which his benevolent act had called upon him to suffer.
It was not so with Frank. He had given without the hope of reward; and in staying at home on the Fourth of July, he was perfectly contented, because it was the price he paid for the pleasure of doing good.
Charles, when he found that Captain Sedley did not come for him, hastened over to find Frank. He and Tony Weston were on the beach.
"Hello, Charley! We have been waiting for you," said Frank, as he approached.
"Hello, fellows! What's in the wind?" replied Charles. "What are you going to do to-day?"
"We were just thinking about something."
"Has your father gone to the city, Frank?"
"What did he say?"
"Didn't he look surprised?"
"Not much. He only asked me the reason, and I said I would tell him to-morrow. He didn't say any more about it. Got off nicely, didn't I?"
"First-rate," replied Charles coldly.
"What are you talking about?" asked Tony, to whom, of course, this conversation was unintelligible.
"Tell you some other time, Tony," replied Charles. "Now, what shall we do to-day?"
"I don't know. Here comes Uncle Ben; perhaps he can give us an idea."
Uncle Ben was an old seaman, who had sailed a great many years in the employ of Captain Sedley. He was a rough, blunt old fellow, but so honest, warm-hearted, and devoted to his employer, that when the latter retired from the duties of his profession, he had given him a home on his estate. Uncle Ben was a good sailor, but he had never risen above the place of second mate. Without much ambition to distinguish himself, or to make money, he was perfectly content to live with Captain Sedley, even in a humble capacity.
Frank was an especial favorite of Uncle Ben; and as the old sailor's habits were good, and as his ideas of morality and religion rendered him a safe companion for his son, Captain Sedley permitted and encouraged their intimacy. During the long winter evenings, he listened with the most intense interest and delight to Uncle Ben's descriptions of sea life and of the various countries he had visited.
With the neighbors, and especially the boys in the vicinity, the old sailor was respected, and treated with a great deal of consideration. He was an old man, but he had always maintained an unblemished character. He was full of kindness and sympathy, always manifesting the liveliest regard for the welfare of his friends; and on this account people had got into the way of calling him by the familiar sobriquet of Uncle Ben. It is true he was sometimes rude and rough, but his kind heart atoned for the blemishes in his deportment.
Though Captain Sedley considered Uncle Ben a necessary appendage to his estate, he did not impose upon him the performance of any very arduous duties. He kept a pleasure-boat on the lake, and the old sailor had the entire charge of that. Occasionally he worked a little in the garden, groomed the horses, and did the "chores" about the house; but to use his own expression, he was "laid up in ordinary."
"Here comes Uncle Ben," said Frank.
"I have been lookin' for you, boys. What are you up to here?"
"Nothing, Uncle Ben."
"What do you stand there for, then? Arn't this the Fourth of July?"
"It is, Uncle Ben; and we were thinking what we should do with ourselves. Can't you tell us?"
"That I can, boys; I am goin' across the lake in the boat, and Cap'n Sedley told me I might take you over with me if you'd like to go."
"Hurrah!" cried Charles Hardy, throwing up his cap with delight.
"That we would, Uncle Ben; and right glad we are of the chance to go," replied Frank.
"Tumble up to the boat-house, then," replied Uncle Ben, as he hobbled after the boys, who, delighted with the prospect of a sail on the lake, bounded off like so many antelopes.
The boat was cast off from her moorings in the boat-house, and the boys jumped in.
"You will let me steer, won't you, Uncle Ben?" said Frank.
"Sartin, if you want to. Take the helm."
The old sailor hoisted the sails, and the boat stood out towards the middle of the lake.
"Steady, there," said Uncle Ben; "keep the sails full."
Frank found it was not so easy a matter to steer a sailboat as he had supposed; for one moment he stopped the boat by "throwing her up into the wind," and the next ran her almost on shore by "keeping away."
"Keep her away!" cried Uncle Ben. "That will do; steady as she is. No, no; you are six p'ints off the course now. Luff a little! Hard a port!"
"I don't know what you mean, Uncle Ben; I think you had better steer yourself," said Frank, resigning the helm.
"I think I had."
Under the old sailor's skilful management, the boat soon reached Centre Isle, where they decided to land.
"Now, boys, if you want to celebrate a little, here's half a dozen bunches of crackers," said Uncle Ben, as he took a little package from the locker in the stern of the boat.
"Bravo, Uncle Ben! We will have a nice time."
"Now, if you are of a mind to stay here and have a good time, while I sail over to the other shore to see a sick man, I will give you a good sail when I return."
"Hurrah! we will, Uncle Ben. Have you got any matches?"
"There are matches and a slowmatch in the bundle," replied Uncle Ben, as he pushed off. "Now blaze away, and don't burn your fingers."
"Now for it!" exclaimed Charles, as he lighted the slowmatch. "Here goes the first shot. Hurrah!"
The boys were in high glee. The crackers snapped admirably, and the little forest of Centre Isle reverberated with the reports of their mimic guns. Various expedients were devised to vary the entertainment. Crackers were fired in the water, in the stumps, thrown in the air, or half buried in the wet sand of the beach.
"By gracious! the Bunkers are coming!" exclaimed Tony Weston, as he discerned the raft, navigated by half a dozen boys, approaching the island.
"Let them come," said Charles.
"I had rather they would not come," added Frank.
"What harm will they do?"
"They are quarrelsome and disagreeable."
"Well, they won't be here this half-hour yet; that is one consolation; and we can have a good time till they do get here," returned Charles, as he lighted a whole bunch of the crackers.
"Go it!" cried Tony. "Hurrah! Fourth of July comes but once a year."
"Don't fire them all at once, Charley," interposed Frank.
"That is all the fun of it."
"But the fun won't last long at that rate."
"We must fire them all before the Bunkers get here, or they will take them away from us."
And before the half-hour which Charles had given them to reach the island had expired, their stock was entirely gone, their ammunition exhausted, their noisy patriotism evaporated, and they seated themselves on the grass to watch the approaching raft.
It had been a long and difficult passage, but at last the Bunkers landed.
"Hello, Tony," said Tim, as he leaped ashore; "what are you doing here?"
"Been firing crackers," replied Tony.
"Got any more?"
"None of us," replied Frank. "We have fired them all."
"You haven't!" answered Tim with an oath.
"I tell you the truth; don't I, Charley?"
"We had but six bunches, and we have fired them all," added Charles.
"I don't believe it; you long-face fellers will lie twice as quick as one of us," said Tim, walking up to Frank.
"I have no more; I would not lie about it," protested Frank.
"Yes, yer would lie about it too. Now, just hand over some o' them crackers, or I'll duck you in the lake."
Frank made no reply to this rude speech. He heartily wished himself off the island, and out of the company of the newcomers.
"Hit him, Tim!" cried one of the Bunkers.
"Hit him!" repeated the others.
"Want to fight?" said Tim, doubling up his fists, and assuming a pugilistic attitude.
"No, I don't want to fight; I will not fight," replied Frank, retreating backward from the quarrelsome boy.
"Oh, you won't fight, eh? Then, you'll git licked," replied Tim, following him.
"I have not injured you; I don't see why you should wish to fight with me."
"You lie! yer have. Didn't yer tell me yer hadn't got no more crackers?"
"I have not."
"Yes, yer have;" and Tim struck Frank a severe blow which made his lip bleed.
"Don't do that again!" cried Tony Weston, his face flushed with indignation.
"What are you going to do about it?" said Tim, turning to Tony.
"I don't want to fight, but I won't see him abused in that shape."
"Never mind him, Tony," interposed Frank. "He didn't hurt me much. Let us go over to the other side of the island."
"No, yer won't!" said Tim Bunker, approaching Frank again, and giving him another blow in the face.
Tony Weston could bear no more; and springing upon the leader of the Bunkers, he struck him several times in rapid succession.
"Don't, Tony, don't," said Frank, trying to separate the combatants.
"Fair play!" cried the Bunkers.
Tony, though younger and lighter than his antagonist, pressed him so severely that he brought him to the ground before Frank and Charles could draw him off. Tim instantly leaped to his feet again.
"Come on!" said he.
"Mind your own business!" said Tim to Frank as he renewed the assault upon him.
Frank tried to get away; and when Tony and Charles came to his assistance the other Bunkers attacked them, and the fight became general.
"Give it to 'em," shouted Tim, as he struck his opponent several times on the head.
Frank saw that he had nothing to hope for unless he defended himself. He had done his best to prevent the fight, and now he felt justified in resorting to necessary violence to save himself from further injury.
Suddenly springing upon his assailant, he bore him to the ground, and held him there. In the meantime Tony and Charles were getting the worst of it, when a loud shout arrested the attention of the combatants. They all suspended the strife.
"It is Uncle Ben," said Charles.
The Bunkers seemed to understand the character of the old sailor; and taking to their heels, they fled precipitately towards the other end of the island.
"What are you about, boys?" said Uncle Ben sternly, as he landed.
"We could not help it, Uncle Ben; indeed we could not," replied Frank, wiping his bleeding lip, and proceeding to tell the particulars of the whole affair.
"It was my fault; I ought not to have left you here alone. What will your father say?" said Uncle Ben, looking much troubled.
"He will not say anything; I am sure you are not to blame, Uncle Ben."
"Jump into the boat, and let us be off. These boys must be attended to."
Uncle Ben, instead of immediately following the boys into the boat, pushed off the raft from the shore, and attaching a line to it, made fast the other end to the boat.
"What are you going to do, Uncle Ben?" asked Frank.
"I am going to keep them ruffians prisoners for a while," replied he, as the boat shot away from the island with the raft in tow.
"You don't mean to keep them there?"
"I sartinly do, till your father comes home, and he may do what he pleases with 'em. If I had my way, I'd tie 'em up to the grating, and give 'em a dozen apiece. 'Twould sarve 'em right, the meddlesome rascals! I like good boys, but such boys as them is worse nor marines."
"But, Uncle Ben, we can't sail with this raft dragging after us."
"We will make the shore with it, then."
The raft was towed ashore, and the boys had a fine sail the entire length of the lake. As they passed Centre Isle, they could see the Bunkers gathered in a ring, apparently discussing their prospects; and on their return, Tim hailed them, begging to be taken ashore.
"What do you say, boys? Shall we forgive 'em?" asked Uncle Ben.
"Yes!" exclaimed all three.
Uncle Ben landed at the island, and took them in, and during the passage read them a severe lecture on the error of their ways. They gave good attention to him, and seemed very penitent. But no sooner had they got ashore, and out of reach of the old sailor, than they insulted him by hooting his name, coupled with the most opprobrious epithets.
"No use to be easy with 'em. The better you use 'em the worse they sarve you," said Uncle Ben, as he hauled the boat into its house.
THE CLUB BOAT
For a fortnight the Bunkers did not venture to approach the residence of Captain Sedley. The raft, which Uncle Ben had been instructed to break up, was removed some distance down the lake before he had time to execute his orders. After a few days the memorable incident of the "Fourth" ceased to be talked about, and was finally forgotten.
Two weeks passed away. Uncle Ben had been absent from home three days. He went to Boston with his employer, who returned without him. To Frank's earnest inquiries as to where he was, his father only replied that he would return soon.
It was after nine o'clock in the evening on the third day when he returned. Frank teased him to tell where he had been all the time; but Uncle Ben only looked strange and mysterious, and would not gratify his curiosity.
Frank got up the next morning quite early, and walked over to the widow Weston's with Charles. On their return, a new object on the lake attracted the attention of the latter.
"Hello, Frank! what's that?" exclaimed he. "By gracious! it is a new boat!"
"So it is; and what an odd-looking craft!"
Both boys ran with all their might down to the little beach by the road to get a nearer view of the strange boat.
"My eyes! look at it!" ejaculated the wondering Charles.
"What can it mean? It wasn't there last night," said Frank.
"No; and it looks like the boats we read about in the fairy books. I shouldn't wonder if she dropped down out of the clouds. Isn't she a beauty?"
"That she is! And how long and slender she is!"
"One, two, three—twelve places for the oars," cried Charles.
"Uncle Ben knows something about her, I believe!" exclaimed Frank, as a beam of intelligence penetrated his mind.
"Just twig the bow! 'Tis as sharp as a razor."
"And there is her name on each side of it—Zephyr! What a pretty name it is!"
"So it is. That boat's a ripper, let me tell you!" said Charles enthusiastically.
"A what?" asked Captain Sedley, coming down from a thicket in the grove close by, where he had been enjoying the astonishment of the boys.
"O father!" exclaimed Frank, "whose is she? Where did she come from? What is she for?"
"One question at a time, Frank. But before I answer any of them, let me say a word to you, Charles. You said she was a 'ripper' just now."
"That wasn't any harm, was it?"
"Not a very elegant word, though. I will warrant you cannot find it in the dictionary."
"I merely meant that it was a very fine boat."
"I presume you meant nothing wrong; but such expressions do not add anything to the force of language, and using them may induce a bad habit. If you associated with boys accustomed to use profanity, this desire to use strong words would lead you into the practice."
"I never thought of that."
"Just now you said, 'By gracious!' Such phrases are apt to induce profanity, and are no addition whatever to the force of your remark."
"I don't know that they are."
"You were very much surprised at seeing this boat."
"We were, indeed."
"Frank, it is yours," added Captain Sedley, turning with a smile to his son.
"Mine, father!" exclaimed Frank, clapping his hands.
"It is yours, and of course your friends will derive as much pleasure from its use as you will yourself."
"But where did it come from, father?"
"Two months ago, when the Bunkers first began to amuse themselves with the raft, the idea of procuring it occurred to me. I saw that you and Charles both had a great desire to join in their sports. For obvious reasons I could not permit Frank to do so; but I immediately resolved that you should have the means of enjoying yourselves on the lake in safety and comfort, and I ordered this boat to be built."
"Isn't she a beauty!" exclaimed Charles.
"But, Charles, do you remember what you said a fortnight ago?"
"When you were talking here on the evening before the Fourth of July?"
"I said a great many things, I suppose, and some of them not quite so bright as they might have been," replied Charles, wondering what weakness of his was now to be exposed.
"Your remark was to the effect that boys who were obliged to mind their parents were the losers for their obedience."
"But I did not mean so, sir."
"You meant some of it, Charles. You wanted to go on the raft, and you felt at that moment as though it was a disagreeable duty to obey your parents. But I think it was only a momentary feeling."
"I am sure it was, sir."
"Let this beautiful boat, then, convince you that obedience to your parents is your duty, and ought to be your pleasure."
"How came it here, father?" asked Frank. "I am completely mystified."
"Uncle Ben has been in Boston the past three days, procuring its outfit; and yesterday it was brought up to the village on the railroad."
"That's why you would not tell me where he was."
"It is; I thought I would surprise you. Last night after dark Uncle Ben and I rowed it up from the village."
"Wasn't we surprised, though?" added Frank.
"I'll bet we were," replied Charles.
"What, Charles, more of your inelegant speeches?" said Captain Sedley.
"I didn't mean to; I will try and break myself of that habit."
"Do; it is a foolish practice."
"But, father, what shall we do with her? Has she got any sails?" asked Frank.
"No, my son. It is what is called a club boat. It is pulled by twelve oars. In Boston, and a great many other places, a number of young men form themselves into a little society for the purpose of amusing themselves with these boats. You perceive it is built very long, narrow, and sharp, so as to attain the greatest speed; and rowing it is a very healthy and pretty exercise, as well as the most exciting amusement."
"I should think it would be; but, father, can't we get into it, so as to see what it is like?"
"Not now. To-day is Wednesday, and this afternoon Uncle Ben shall give you your first lesson in rowing."
"Can we row it alone?" asked Frank, looking perplexed as he saw the twelve row-locks.
"No, Frank; you must form a society, a club, as they do in the city. You must have thirteen boys; twelve to row, and one to steer."
"Hurrah! won't that be fine!" exclaimed Charles with enthusiasm.
"But, boys, you must be careful whom you invite to join the club. We do not want any bad boys—especially none of the Bunkers."
"Not one of them," added Charles promptly.
"Tony shall be one," said Frank.
"Tony is a good boy," replied Captain Sedley.
"Fred and Sam Harper," suggested Charles.
"They are very well; but I shall leave the selection of the club to you, boys," continued Captain Sedley. "I am going to have a boat-house built by the side of the other for your boat, and in one end of it will be a room for your meetings."
"That will be nice!" ejaculated Charles. "Won't we have the fun!"
"You must make a kind of constitution; that is, some regulations for the government of the club."
"You will make those for us, won't you, father?" said Frank.
"No; I prefer that you should make them yourselves."
"We don't know how."
"I can tell you something about it. In the first place, you will want a clerk and a coxswain."
"A what?" asked both boys together.
"A coxswain. When you sail he steers the boat, and has the command. He is, in fact, the captain. When you hold a meeting, he will be the chairman."
"Who will be coxswain?" asked Charles, with a look of inquiry at Frank.
"You will choose him by vote, as well as the clerk," answered Captain Sedley.
"But the regulations, father?"
"You must have no profanity, no lying, no vulgar language; and no boy must be permitted to neglect his school, or his duties at home, on account of the boat."
"We can fix all that," said Charles.
"I intend that this club shall be a society for the promotion of your moral welfare, as well as a means of amusement. In your club-room I am going to place a library for your use; and next winter, when the lake is frozen over, you can meet there for amusement and instruction."
"That will be first-rate," added Charles.
"What time shall we meet this afternoon, father?"
"Two o'clock, say. Now go to your breakfasts, and get ready for school. Be careful and not let the pleasure you anticipate in the boat interfere with your studies," said Captain Sedley, as the boys bounded away to their respective homes.
Frank and Charles, on their way to school, decided upon the boys whom they should invite to join the club; and in the course of the forenoon they were asked to assemble on the beach, without being told the precise object of the meeting.
The boys' heads were so full of the club boat that it required a great deal of courage to enable them to study in school that day; but so closely had Captain Sedley connected the idea of improvement with the club, that they struggled hard, and succeeded in getting "perfect lessons."
At half-past one the members of the embryo boat club were on the beach. Those who were not informed before their arrival of the nature of the "time" in store for them were in ecstasies when they beheld the beautiful boat reposing so lightly and gracefully on the tranquil bosom of the clear lake. None of them had ever seen such a fairy bark before, and it more than realized their idea of the airy and graceful craft of which they had read and thought.
Uncle Ben had not arrived yet; but he had evidently been there during the forenoon, for the boat had been taken from her moorings, and was now secured by a line attached to a stake driven in the sand.
The boys, as a matter of course, were very impatient to take their first lesson in rowing, and to skim over the glassy lake in the splendid barge before them.
"Where is Uncle Ben?" asked Charles, hardly able to control his impatience.
"He will be here soon; it is not two o'clock yet," answered Frank.
"Don't be in a hurry, Charley," added Tony, who had seated himself upon the sand, and considering the exciting circumstances of the day, demeaned himself like a philosopher.
"I am so anxious to get a peep at the inside of her," replied Charles, as he took hold of the line that held the boat, and pulled her towards the shore. "Don't you think he will be here before two o'clock?"
"I don't know. I wouldn't touch her, Charley," said Frank.
"See how she shoots ahead! I scarcely pulled at all on the line."
The light bark, under the impulse of Charles's gentle pull, darted to the shore, throwing her sharp bow entirely out of the water.
"Don't, Charley; you will scrape the paint from her keel on the sand," interposed Frank. "She is built very lightly, and my father says she cost him four hundred dollars."
"I won't hurt her. Just twig the cushioned seats in the stern, and see all the brass work round the sides! My eyes, how it shines!" exclaimed Charles, holding up both hands with delight.
"Just see the oars!" added Fred Harper.
"And there are the flags rolled up in the stern," said another boy.
"Won't we have a glorious time!" continued Charles, as he placed one foot on the bow of the boat.
"Don't get in, Charley; that isn't fair," interposed Tony Weston.
"It won't do any harm;" and Charles stepped into the boat.
Half a dozen other boys, carried away by the excitement of the moment, followed his example, and jumped in after him. Charles led the way to the stern of the boat, walking over the seats, or, to speak technically, the "thwarts."
The light boat, which had been drawn far out of the water, and which now rested her keel upon the bottom, having no support upon the sides, rolling over on her gunnel, and tumbled the boys into the lake.
"There! Now see what you have done!" cried Tony, springing up, and pushing the boat away from the shore.
"Avast, there! What are you about?" exclaimed Uncle Ben, hobbling down to the beach as fast as his legs would carry him.
"You are too bad, Charley!" said Frank. "You will spoil all our fun by your impatience."
"I didn't think she would upset so easily," replied Charles.
"You ought not to have meddled with her."
"That you hadn't, youngster," said Uncle Ben. "Don't you know a boat can't stand alone when the keel is on the sand?"
The old sailor spoke pretty sternly, and Charles was abashed by his reproof.
"Forgive me, Uncle Ben; I didn't mean any harm."
"I know you didn't, Charley; but you must be careful always. Live and larn," replied Uncle Ben, mollified by the penitence of the boy.
"She won't tip over again, will she?" asked Frank.
"Not if you handle her right; run over to that rock in the grove, where the water is deep, and I will bring her over."
Uncle Ben unfastened the line, and wading out a little way into the lake, jumped in, and rowed over to the rock.
"Now, my lads, you must do everything in order. We don't want any hurrying and tumbling about. When you get into the boat, step easy, and keep quiet in your places," said Uncle Ben, as he brought the boat alongside the rock. "Fend off, there! Don't let her rub!"
Tony, who was by far the coolest and most reliable boy of the party, took hold of the boat, and prevented her from striking the rock.
"Now, Tony, you shall be bow oarsman; that is, you shall pull the foremost oar. You may get in first, and take that boat-hook forward. Stop, no more of you yet; keep perfectly cool!"
Tony obeyed, and took his station in the bow with the boat-hook in his hand.
"Now hook on the rock with it, and keep her steady. There, that will do," continued Uncle Ben, taking another boat-hook and steadying the stern. "Now, one at a time, and each of you take one of the seats."
The boys were so impatient that they could not wait to get in as the old sailor directed; and all huddled in together, to the imminent peril of their lives and the boat.
"Avast! that won't do! Back, all of you!" roared Uncle Ben, provoked by their awkwardness. "Now, Frank, call them by name, one at a time, and let each take his place before you call another."
This plan worked better. Uncle Ben was a firm advocate of discipline, and insisted on having everything done in "shipshape order," as he styled it. He had been in the United States Navy, and was familiar with its discipline. The boys were all seated; and finding that their hurry and impatience only retarded their progress, they learned to keep still, and wait till the old sailor told them what to do.
They had all seated themselves on one side of the boat, and the consequence was it nearly tipped her over.
"Now, my lads, trim ship. You are all over on the starboard side," said Uncle Ben, as he pushed the boat away from the rock.
The boys, in their eagerness to render prompt obedience, all passed over to the opposite ends of the thwarts, and the boat instantly careened upon the other side.
"Avast there! Now stop a bit," continued the old sailor. "I am going to number you all. I don't know your names, all of you; so just mind the figgers. Tony, you are number one; say it."
"One," shouted Tony, with a pleasant laugh.
"The boy on the next seat."
"Stop a bit; we have got one too many. One of you must be coxswain. Cap'n Sedley says you must choose him by vote. Who shall be your coxswain, boys?"
"Frank Sedley," shouted all the boys together.
"Good! it is a unanimous vote," said Uncle Ben. "You desarve the honor, Frank; take a seat in the starn-sheets. Next boy, number."
The boys all numbered, with the exception of Frank Sedley, who was not to pull an oar.
"Now, my lads, remember your numbers—don't touch the oars yet. You have got a good deal to larn fust," continued Uncle Ben.
"We shall be good scholars," said Charles.
"I hope you will. Now, Tony, take your place on the starboard side, opposite the row-lock over to port."
Tony, at a venture, seated himself on the forward thwart.
"Avast! that's the larboard side."
"But, Uncle Ben, we don't know the meaning of those words," added Frank.
"No more you don't," answered Uncle Ben, hitching up his trousers and laughing good-naturedly. "You can larn, though, if you pay 'tention."
"We will try."
"This side, then,"—and the old sailor laid his hand upon the right-hand side of the boat, looking towards the bow,—"this is the starboard side."
"The right-hand side is the starboard side," repeated several of the boys.
"Number five," said Uncle Ben, calling upon Charles Hardy, "which is the starboard side?"
"This," replied Charles, pointing to his right.
"But you said the right-hand side."
"No, I didn't; I said this side," replied the old sailor, laughing at the boy's perplexity. "It is the right-hand side lookin' for'ad. Do you understand it now?"
"We do," shouted the boys together.
"Now, who can tell me which is the larboard side?"
"The left looking forward," replied several.
"Good, my hearties; and larboard and port mean the same thing. 'Port' is more used now nor larboard."
"We all understand it," said Charles Hardy.
"You'll forget it, ten to one, before to-morrow."
"No, we won't."
"Now, Tony, take the starboard side. That's it. Number two, the port side. That's right. Number three, the starboard."
The boys had grown more tractable, and Uncle Ben succeeded in getting them all in their proper places. The boat thus trimmed sat even on the water, and the boys were delighted with this change in her position. Most of them were wholly unaccustomed to boats, and the one-sided posture gave them a sensation of uneasiness; but while they saw Uncle Ben and some of the others feeling so secure, they did not like to acknowledge their timidity.
"When you take the oars—not yet—don't be in a hurry. Do everything calmly," said Uncle Ben. "You'll never larn anything if you don't go to work shipshape."
"But what shall I do?" asked Frank. "There are only twelve oars."
"Seat yourself square in the starn, my boy."
Frank obeyed, and Uncle Ben shipped the rudder. Instead of a tiller, there was a short piece of wood, elegantly carved and gilded, which extended crossways with the boat. At each end of it was fastened a line, by means of which the rudder was moved.
"Take the tiller-ropes, Frank, and keep quiet till we get ready to give way," said Uncle Ben, as he seated himself by the side of the young coxswain.
"We are all ready," interposed Charles Hardy, by way of hurrying the old sailor's movements.
The old man was not to be hurried; and when he saw what an excitement the boys were in, he made them sit still, and not speak a word for two minutes.
GIVE WAY TOGETHER
"No hurry, boys; we've got the whole arternoon afore us," said the old salt, when he had cooled them off. "You've got some things to larn. You can't row yet no more'n a codfish can go up a ladder. You don't know how."
"I think we can row, Uncle Ben," said Charles uneasily.
"I know you can't. If you don't want to larn, say so, and I'll make the boat fast to the stake again," added the old boatman sharply, as though he meant what he said.
"We do! We do!" protested the boys with one voice.
"Then be quiet, and keep your ear-ports wide open. The boy next to the bow is the bowman. The stroke oarsman is the one farthest aft, or nearest the starn. Each on 'em has a boat-hook. Now take 'em, and shove her off."
The two boys obeyed, and placing the point of the boat-hooks against the rock, shoved off with all their might; and the Zephyr receded from the shore till the wind took her, and drove her out under the lee of Centre Island. Here he directed Tony to throw the grapnel, a small anchor with four flukes, overboard, as much to assure the impatient oarsmen that there was to be no rowing at present, as to hold the boat where she was.
"Now, boys, I want you to larn somethin', so as to know where you are. Some on you better write it down; and don't forgit it."
Several of them took paper and pencils from their pockets, and were ready to write down what was said.
"The for'd part of the boat is the bow; also the fore-sheets," continued the old sailor. "The after part, where the coxswain sets, is the starn-sheets. The middle of the boat is the waist. Enough of that for now. Do you know what an oar is?"
"Of course we do, Uncle Ben!" shouted the crew.
"An oar has three parts," said the instructor.
"It is all in one piece," added one of the boys.
"So is your head all in one piece; but haven't you got any nose, ears, and chin. An oar has three parts,—the blade, the loom, and the handle. The blade is the part you put in the water. The handle is the part you take hold of. The loom is the round part between the blade and the handle. Can you remember that if you haven't writ it down?"
"We know all that like a book," replied Fred Harper.
"This is a carvel-built boat; that is, her planking runs fore and aft," Uncle Ben explained, using gestures to indicate the direction. "Planking may mean boards or thinner stuff. The planks are jointed at the edges so as to fit close, and the spaces between are stuffed with oakum, which is called calking. A clinker-built boat is put together in the same way, but one plank laps over another; and we generally call this kind of boat a lap-streak. Now, youngsters, we are going to take the oars—not yet, till you know how to do it. The first command of the coxswain will be 'Up oars!' They lay now across the thwarts."
"Across what?" asked one of them.
"The thwarts: lubbers call them the seats," replied the old seaman, laughing. "You set backwards when you row, all facing the coxswain. Them as is on the starboard side has the oars on their left. Those on the port has 'em on their right, just where you will put them when you boat your oars after you have done using them. Now, Frank, you will give the first command; but not one of you will obey it, for you don't know how."
"Up oars!" said the coxswain in a commanding tone.
"At this order, you will pick up your oars, and hold them up straight, with the blades athwartships, or across the boat," the instructor explained. "If the boat were at a landing, or alongside another boat, the two bowmen and the two stroke oarsmen would not do as the others do; for it would be their duty to shove off, and get the boat under way. Now you may try it; but don't hurry. Give the order again, Frank. Stand up this time, so that you can see the whole length of the boat."
The coxswain rose from his seat; and having no little natural dignity, he did it very gracefully, and was not at all flurried.
"Up oars!" said he very slowly, pausing between the words.
All hands made a dive, as it were, at the oars, and stood them up as required. But they hit each other in the back, rapped others on the head, elevated the oars so that there was neither order nor symmetry in the movement, and they were straggling as many different ways as there were boys.
"Avast there! That won't do at all!" shouted Uncle Ben. "You are all snarled up, and we must have it done shipshape."
He seated himself on the after thwart, after he had required them to boat their oars, and proceeded to show them how to pick them up. He went forward, and repeated the movement. Then he made several of them do it alone. Next four of them did it together. At last he believed he had them in condition to execute the manoeuvre properly. Then he called upon Frank to give the order again, and this time they did it as well as could be expected. He was not satisfied, and compelled the oarsmen to go through it repeatedly for half an hour.
"Now we will begin again," said Uncle Ben. "If you do it well, we will go on. Give the order, Frank."
They did it better than at any time before; and while the crew sat with the oars elevated, the old sailor proceeded to explain the next movement.
"If we were at a landing, or alongside the sailboat, you would remain as you be now, till the boat was clear of everything, before the next order would come. That command will be 'Let fall!' Then you will let your oars drop upon the water all at once, striking it at just the same instant. But you will not let the loom of the oar touch the gunwale."
"Where is the gunwale?" asked one of the boys.
"The rail along the top of the boat in which the rowlocks are set. You mustn't let an oar touch that. Keep hold of the handle with the blade on the water. Then, without any command, you will ship the oar; in other words, drop the loom into the rowlock. Now go through that again. Steady, and don't hurry. Do it in about the time the stroke oarsman gives you."
Frank gave the commands again, beginning with "Up oars!" till the oarsmen had shipped their oars; and it was very well done, and Uncle Ben actually praised the crew.
"The next command is 'Give way together!'" said the old sailor. "You will take the time from the stroke oar, and pull with it all the time."
Fred Harper was the aftermost rower; and the instructor asked him to vacate his seat, which Ben took himself, with the oar in his hands.
"Now carry the handle of the oar forward to easy arm's length towards the starn," continued Ben, suiting the action to the word; and all followed his example. "Drop the end of the oar into the water till the blade is just covered, no deeper. Then pause a bit, and pull the handle towards you to your breasts, or very nearly there."
The crew followed the instructions, and imitated the old seaman till they had taken their first stroke. These movements were repeated several times, till they could do them well. Then they began again with Frank giving the commands, and they went through the whole till they could do everything to the satisfaction of the teacher.
"Now, bowman, you may weigh the anchor," said Uncle Ben; and the hearts of the boys beat rapidly, for the time for actual rowing had come.
Tony Weston hauled in the grapnel, and stowed it in the fore-sheets.
"Up oars!" commanded Frank, rising from his seat; and all the oars were elevated in good order, though not quite perfect. "Let fall!" he continued; and this movement was very well done, and all shipped their oars. "Give way together!"
The boat began to move, and the motion seemed to perplex some of the oarsmen. A few of them appeared to be trying to touch bottom, and on the second stroke they were in a snarl.
"Avast, all!" shouted Uncle Ben. "This won't do! Some of you act as though you were spearing eels. You are not to bury your oar in the water above the blade at any time. You must keep the flat part of the oar up and down in the water always. If you turn it in pulling, the blade will shoot up into the air, or dive down towards the bottom."
Then he practised them for a full half-hour on this step, and finally brought them up to a very handsome stroke. Then Frank gave the commands again, and they pulled passably well. Directing the coxswain to head the Zephyr up the lake, Ben gave his attention to individuals, pointing out their faults, and correcting them. The boat seemed to be as light as a feather; and even with the indifferent rowing, she made tremendous headway, as the boys thought. She was soon at the head of the lake.
"Now, boys, we have to stop as well as start her," said the teacher, some time before the boat reached the head of the lake, where the river flowed into it; "and the command will be, 'Stand by to lay on your oars!' But that order is only for you to be ready to do it. The next command will be 'Oars!' The last order, Frank, must be given at the beginning of a stroke, the oars being in the water. Then, boys, you will level your oars, all in a straight line, not one above or below the others; and you will turn, or feather them, as it is called, so that they would lie flat on the water if dropped down; but they must not be dropped down, not one of them. Now give the command, Frank. You need not stand up to do it, unless there's an emergency."
"Stand by to lay on your oars!" called the coxswain. "Oars!" he added after a short pause.
This movement, like the others, required to be done several times; but the Zephyr lost her headway at the mouth of the river. On the return, the young oarsmen were instructed in feathering their oars. They were told precisely how to turn the hands so as to bring the oar up flatwise as it came out of the water, and how to reverse the motion when it was dipped for the stroke. They had become somewhat accustomed to handling the oars, and Uncle Ben warmly commended the proficiency they made. Frank had headed the boat for Centre Island; and when she was abreast of it, Ben called his attention to the fact that his father and mother were both on the beach, observing the movements of the Zephyr and her crew.
It was nearly time to go ashore; but the old sailor gave them two more lessons,—one from laying on the oars to holding water when it was desirable to check the headway, and the other to back the craft in order to stop the headway at once.
Ben declared that the club had done exceedingly well for the first day afloat, and now they must go to the spot where Captain and Mrs. Sedley were looking at them. Frank was directed to run for the cottage of the widow Weston.
"Now we must give the captain the compliment of tossing oars to him," said Ben on the way over. "When a boat in the navy is to meet or pass one containing a superior officer, it is the fashion to salute him with a toss of the oars exactly as you have learned to do it to-day."
The teacher explained it more in detail; and the boat headed down the lake, keeping as close to the shore as it was prudent to go.
"Stand by to toss!" said Frank, prompted by the old sailor. "Toss!"
The oars all went up to a perpendicular, with no straggling ones among them; and the Zephyr had headway enough to keep her moving a quarter of a mile. Captain Sedley took off his hat, acknowledging the salute, while Mrs. Sedley waved her handkerchief very vigorously. Then the oars were trailed in due form, and the boat went up to the flat rock where they had embarked. Frank's father and mother came over to congratulate the boys upon the proficiency they had made in a single afternoon. The lady then invited all the crew and Uncle Ben to visit the mansion, where they found a nice collation awaiting them. They had been on the lake all the afternoon, and the air and exercise had given them excellent appetites. Neither the captain nor his wife preached to them, but talked very pleasantly about the boat and the rowing. They took their leave before dark, and a dozen families knew all about the excursion before bedtime.
THE SECOND LESSON
It was hard work for the boys to confine their attention to their studies during the next few days; but Frank Sedley made a severe struggle to do so, and succeeded very well. Perhaps he accomplished as much or more by his efforts to induce his companions not to be carried away by the fascinations of boating as by the efforts of his own will. It was plain enough that his father would not permit the Zephyr to interfere with the studies of the boys, and he represented this danger very strongly to his friends. They all did their best to keep their minds fixed upon the lessons, and they made a reasonable success of their efforts. But they were all looking forward to Saturday afternoon with eager anticipations; and when it came, they were at the flat rock which served as a landing-place half an hour before the appointed time.
The Zephyr was there; and so was Uncle Ben, who gave them all a pleasant greeting, and made quite a long speech about the necessity of keeping cool, and not spoiling the practice of the club, as they called it, though it had not yet been organized, by their foolish hurry and impatience. They all promised to be as cool as Nelson at Trafalgar; and no doubt they all intended to keep their promise, but the fascination of working the new boat sometimes proved to be too much for them.
"Where are the flags, Uncle Ben? We haven't put them up yet," said Frank.
"Here they are, my boy," replied the old sailor, taking them from the cushioned seat in the stern-sheets. "The blue silk one, with silver stars around the letter 'Z,' goes in the bow. You'll find a place for it there, Tony, and you may put it up. Here is the American flag, and it goes in the starn. You will find a place for it, Frank; put it there."
The two boys inserted the end of each staff in the socket prepared for it, and the breeze spread out the flags to the great delight of the juvenile boatmen. They made the boat look very gay and jaunty, and seemed to give the finishing glory to the beautiful craft. The boys wanted to get into the boat, but Uncle Ben would not permit one of them to do so; everything must be done in shipshape order.
"Now, Frank, you'll take your place in the starn-sheets, and call off the numbers," said the instructor. "Don't jump, boys, like you was goin' to ketch a rabbit, but like you was goin' to the grocery store for half a pound of tea."
"We will make a funeral gait of it," added Fred Harper.
"Don't you do so; walk nateral, like a Christian, and don't hurry a bit," said the old sailor. "If you are in such a flurry as you were yesterday, I cal'late to go ashore with you, and let you cool off for three days. If you can't keep cool, you can't do nothin'."
"We'll make a funeral of it, Uncle Ben," said Joseph Barton.
"We don't want no funeral on't. Jest be nateral; that's all. We're goin' through all you larned the other day; and I want you to do it jest as you study your lessons in school. Call off the numbers, Frank."
"One;" and Tony Weston took his place.
"Two;" and Ned Graham took his seat.
All the numbers were called, and all the crew were then in their places. Ben had a card in his hand on which Fred Harper had written the name of every boy against his number, so that the old sailor could learn whom he had in the boat.
"Now, youngsters, look on your thwarts, and you will find a cross on 'em, a small chalk-mark. Stand up, and you will see 'em."
They all obeyed the direction; and they did it very quietly.
"Good, boys! You did that very well, and none of you didn't fall overboard. You see the chalk-marks; and they are not in the middle of the thwart, but half-way between the middle and the gunwale. Set down on the mark. That's it; well done. You are put over nearer one side than the other to give you a better purchase on your oars. You are toler'ble cool now, and act more like human critters than you did t'other day, and we are ready to go to work. Mind what I said about the bow and stroke oarsmen. Go on, Frank."
"Stand by!" said the coxswain.
"That means 'Ready!' as the sojers use the word," Uncle Ben explained. "Here at the landing, you know just what's comin' next. Go on, Frank."
"Ready! Up oars!" continued Frank, making a slight pause between the commands.
"Good!" said the old seaman. "The captain's monkey couldn't do it half as well as that!"
"Keep your seat, Ned Graham," said Tony in a low tone, when the other bowman was going to take his oar.
"Shove off!" Frank commanded while all the oars were still up in the air.
Tony and Fred Harper took the boat-hooks, and with the help of the ones next to them shoved the boat far away from the rock.
The two bow and the two stroke oarsmen elevated their oars, and the whole twelve were then in unison.
"Good!" almost shouted the teacher. "That was done beautiful! Go on, Frank."
"Stand by!" said Frank; though this warning command is not often used, but the coxswain wished to do all he could to keep the oarsmen cool and collected. "Let fall!"
The blades all struck the water as one, and not a single one touched the gunwale. Not one failed to ship his oar, or drop it into the rowlock.
"You all act like you had been made over since we met last," said Ben, rubbing his hands with delight.
"We have been studying up this thing, Uncle Ben," Fred Harper explained. "At recess every day we practised it together, and some one filled out what the others had forgotten. We have tried to be perfect."
"Glad to hear it, youngsters; and you have been very near perfect so far. Go on, Frank."
"Stand by! Give way together!"
This was the most difficult movement of the whole; but the boys, for this reason, had practised it the most in their thoughts, and in their dummy rehearsals, and it was done as well as the others had been, much to the surprise of Uncle Ben, who had been sure they would fail on this command. They did not fail, and caught the stroke as well as though they had been practising for a month. The boat went off at great speed; and Ben had hardly a word of fault to find with the rowing, though he corrected some of the individual movements. He permitted the crew to pull the whole length of the lake; but Frank, prompted by Ben, had slowed them down to the measured stroke of the cutter of a man-of-war.
"Stand by to lay on your oars!" said the coxswain, when the boat was approaching the mouth of the river. "Oars!"