THE GREAT WESTERN SERIES
UP THE RIVER
YACHTING ON THE MISSISSIPPI
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD" "THE ARMY AND NAVY SERIES" "THE WOODVILLE SERIES" "THE STARRY FLAG SERIES" "THE BOAT CLUB STORIES" "THE LAKE SHORE SERIES" "THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES" "THE YACHT CLUB SERIES" "THE RIVERDALE STORIES" ETC.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS NEW YORK CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM 1882
COPYRIGHT, 1881, BY WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY, NO. 4 PEARL STREET.
TO MY YOUNG FRIEND
MINNIE ETHEL ADAMS,
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
THE GREAT WESTERN SERIES.
GOING WEST; OR, THE PERILS OF A POOR BOY.
OUT WEST; OR, ROUGHING IT ON THE GREAT LAKES.
LAKE BREEZES; OR, THE CRUISE OF THE SYLVANIA.
GOING SOUTH; OR, YACHTING ON THE ATLANTIC COAST.
DOWN SOUTH; OR, YACHT ADVENTURES IN FLORIDA.
UP THE RIVER; OR, YACHTING ON THE MISSISSIPPI.
LEE AND SHEPARD, Publishers, Boston.
UP THE RIVER is the sixth and last of "The Great Western Series." The events of the story occur on the coast of Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Mississippi River. The volume and the series close with the return of the hero, by a route not often taken by tourists, to his home in Michigan. His voyaging on the ocean, the Great Lakes, and the Father of Waters, is finished for the present; but the writer believes that his principal character has grown wiser and better since he was first introduced to the reader. He has made mistakes of judgment, but whatever of example and inspiration he may impart to the reader will be that of a true and noble boy, with no vices to disfigure his character, and no low aims to lead him from "the straight and narrow path" of duty.
The author has a copy of his first book before him as he writes. On the title-page is this line: "A Tale of the Mississippi and the South-West." The preface, dated 1852, contains this passage: "In the summer of 1848, the author of the following tale was a passenger on board of a steamboat from New Orleans to Cincinnati. During the passage—one of the most prolonged and uncomfortable in the annals of western river navigation—the plot of this story was arranged. Many of its incidents, and all of its descriptions of steamboat life will be recognized by the voyager on the Mississippi." Since that time the author has travelled on the upper waters of the great river.
His last book, by a coincidence at the present time, also relates to the Mississippi. Nearly a generation has passed away between the first and the last; and the latter is the writer's seventy-fifth book. The author has endeavored to make his works correct in facts and descriptions, as well as in moral tendency; and in the preparation of them he has travelled over fifty thousand miles by sea and land.
To his young friends,—some of the earlier of whom are now middle-aged men and women, with boys and girls of their own, reading the same books their fathers and mothers read a quarter of a century ago,—to his young friends the author again returns his sincere and hearty thanks for the favor they have bestowed upon his numerous volumes.
DORCHESTER, MASS., June 1, 1881.
PAGE CHAPTER I. IN CAPTAIN BOOMSBY'S SALOON 11
CHAPTER II. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS 23
CHAPTER III. ADIEU TO THE BOOMSBYS 34
CHAPTER IV. NICK BOOMSBY HAS ASPIRATIONS 47
CHAPTER V. THE STRANGE MOVEMENT OF THE ISLANDER 59
CHAPTER VI. A LIVELY CHASE 71
CHAPTER VII. A FOG OFF THE FLORIDA COAST 81
CHAPTER VIII. A PORT IN A STORM 93
CHAPTER IX. A VISIT FROM AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE 104
CHAPTER X. INTELLIGENCE OF THE ISLANDER 116
CHAPTER XI. DIFFICULT NAVIGATION 127
CHAPTER XII. THE CALAMITY ON FRENCH REEF 138
CHAPTER XIII. A NIGHT LOST IN THE STORM 149
CHAPTER XIV. LOOKING FOR THE ISLANDER 160
CHAPTER XV. A PARTIAL SOLUTION OF THE MYSTERY 172
CHAPTER XVI. ACROSS THE GULF OF MEXICO 184
CHAPTER XVII. THE SYLVANIA IN AMBUSH 196
CHAPTER XVIII. HOW NICK BOOMSBY MANAGED HIS CASE 208
CHAPTER XIX. A SEARCH FOR THE LOST TREASURE 220
CHAPTER XX. THE THEORY AND THE FACTS 231
CHAPTER XXI. UP THE MISSISSIPPI 242
CHAPTER XXII. THE ISLANDER IN A BAD FIX 253
CHAPTER XXIII. AN EMBARRASSING SITUATION 265
CHAPTER XXIV. A CREVASSE ON THE MISSISSIPPI 277
CHAPTER XXV. SAILING ACROSS THE FIELDS 289
CHAPTER XXVI. A DESPERATE STRUGGLE WITH THE RUSHING WATERS 301
CHAPTER XXVII. THE PLANTER AND HIS FAMILY 312
CHAPTER XXVIII. A DISTINGUISHED PASSENGER 324
CHAPTER XXIX. UP THE RIVER FOR MANY DAYS 335
CHAPTER XXX. UP ANOTHER RIVER AND HOME AGAIN 347
UP THE RIVER;
YACHTING ON THE MISSISSIPPI.
IN CAPTAIN BOOMSBY'S SALOON.
"I don't think it's quite the thing, Alick," said my cousin, Owen Garningham, as we were walking through Bay Street after our return to Jacksonville from the interior of Florida.
"What is not quite the thing, Owen?" I inquired, for he had given me no clue to what he was thinking about.
"After I chartered your steamer for a year to come here, and go up the Mississippi River—by the way, this river is called 'The Father of Waters,' isn't it?" asked Owen, flying off from the subject in his mind, as he was in the habit of doing.
"Every schoolboy in this country learns that from his geography," I replied.
"Happily, I was never a schoolboy in this country, and I didn't find it out from the geography. If the Mississippi is the Father of Waters, can you tell me who is the mother of them?"
"O, ah! Don't you feel faint, Captain Alick?" added Owen, stopping short on the sidewalk, and gazing into my face with a look of mock anxiety.
"Not at all; I think I could swallow a burly Briton or two, if the occasion required."
"Don't do it! It would ruin your digestion. But it strikes me those two rivers are but one."
"I think so, too, and they ought to be. Father and mother—man and wife—ought to be one," I answered, as indifferently as I could. "But something was not quite the thing; and if there is anything in this country that is not quite the thing, I want to know what it is."
"When I chartered the Sylvania to come down here, and then go up the 'Father of Waters,' it isn't quite the thing for your father to declare the whole thing off at this point of the cruise," replied Owen. "I was going to have a jolly good time going up the river."
"You may have it yet, for I have given you a cordial invitation to go 'up the river' with me; and I mean every word I said about the matter," I added, in soothing tones.
"But your father says the charter arrangement is ended, and you may go where you like in your steamer."
"And I concluded at once to carry out all the arrangements for this trip, just as we made them at Detroit," I replied. "I have invited the Shepards and the Tiffanys to join us, and everything will go on just as it did before, except that you will not pay the bills."
"Which means that, if I join you at all, I shall not be myself," returned Owen, with a look of disgust. "In other words, I shall not be my own master, and I must go where my uncle and you may choose to take me."
"Not at all; we are going up the Mississippi simply because that is the route you selected, and because I desire to carry out your plan of travel to the letter," I replied, rather warmly. "I don't think I could do anything more to meet your views than I have done."
"You are as noble, grand, magnanimous, as it is possible for any fellow to be, Alick; but that don't make me any more willing to be under obligations to you every day of my life."
"You need feel under no obligations to me."
"Ah, but I do, you see; and I still think it was not just the thing to break away from the written agreement we made," continued Owen, unable to conceal his vexation.
"I think you ought not to say another word in that line of remark, Owen. A contract to do anything fraudulent is void from the beginning. Do you remember for what purpose you chartered the Sylvania?"
"If you won't say another word about it, Alick, I won't!" exclaimed my cousin, extending his hand to me, which I immediately grasped.
"I won't, unless you drive me to it," I replied. "I have not reminded you of what occurred while we were coming South, and I never will, for I think Carrington was the villain of the drama, and not you."
"You are right, Alick; and you are the best fellow that ever lived!" protested Owen. "But I would like to pay my share of the expenses of the cruise from this day, as I have done before. I shall feel better about it if I do."
"I will speak to my father about that. I am sure I don't object to your paying your share," I answered. "I am willing to carry out the agreement just as we made it; but my father takes a different view of the subject."
"I know he does, and I can't blame him," replied Owen. "He means simply to say that his son shall be under no obligations to me, after what has happened."
"Let us say nothing more about this matter, Owen," I added; "it is not a pleasant topic to me, any more than it was to him."
"When do we sail, if I sail with you, Alick?" he asked.
"To-morrow morning; and we should be on board to-night, ready for an early start, for we have to conform to the tide on the bar at the mouth of the river. The Tiffanys will go with us, but the Shepards have not yet accepted the invitation I gave them."
"I am going to Colonel Shepard's house now, and I will find out whether they are going or not," said Owen, as we came to a street leading to St. James's Square, where Colonel Shepard's house was located.
"And I will drop into Captain Boomsby's saloon," I added.
"The beast Boomsby! Why do you go there, Alick?" demanded Owen, with a look of disgust and astonishment in his face.
"I lived with him for years, and I will just say good-by to him, for I may never see him again. I hope I never shall, at any rate. He has abused and wronged me, but I am willing to forgive him if he will only keep out of my way."
"'Pon my word, I believe you would forgive a man if he blew your brains out, Alick?"
"If it were a matter of brains, I couldn't do it; but if I had heart enough left, I would try to forgive him if he was sorry for what he had done."
"You forgave me, and it is easy enough for you to do the same with Beast Boomsby," added Owen, as he turned up the street to his destination.
I had been made the victim of a plot, and taught to believe that my father, Sir Bent Garningham, was dead. The little steamer Sylvania was my own property, for I had earned it by saving the lives of her original owner and his family. Pike Carrington, my father's solicitor in England, had induced the son of my father's younger brother to make an attempt to get me "out of the way."
The villain had acted more for his own interest than for that of my cousin. They had called in my old enemy Captain Parker Boomsby, and sent him to Florida in one steamer, while Owen went with me in the Sylvania. My friend Robert Washburn, the mate of the steam-yacht, had discovered the plot, and we had been on our guard night and day to meet any treachery.
Captain Boomsby claimed me and all that I had, when he learned that my father was dead. He had done his best to obtain the steam-yacht, but his unfortunate habit of drinking too much whiskey had defeated his plan. In his attempt to destroy me he had taken the life of the solicitor.
On our voyage, "going South," we had encountered a heavy gale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Owen Garningham, my cousin, had been swept from the hurricane-deck of the Sylvania by the raging sea. At the risk of my own, I had saved his life. This act had conquered him, and he no longer took any interest in the plan to destroy me, if he had ever thought of anything so bad as this. He became my strong friend, and had no further desire to rob me of my father's estate, or to obtain the title, for which he cared more than I did.
The Shepards were a family we first met at a regatta in Portland Harbor. Owen had become deeply interested in Miss Edith, the daughter, and, at his invitation, the family had come most of the way to Florida in the steamer. We had been up the Ocklawaha River to Lake Griffin, and up the St. Johns as far as any steamer could go. My father, who had left me at college in Montomercy, to attend to his affairs in England, had been called to India on business. His absence was the opportunity for the conspirators, and they destroyed our letters.
When I learned that my father was not dead, I had written to him. He had followed me up the St. Johns, and appeared in time to save me from the bullet of one of Captain Boomsby's agents. He learned the whole truth from me, and at once cancelled the charter by which my cousin Owen was to have the use of the steamer for a year, one half of which had now expired.
The Tiffanys were father and daughter, whom the crew of the Sylvania had saved from a fire at St. Augustine. The gentleman was an intimate friend of my father, who requested him to see me when he visited this country. His daughter Margie, if not as pretty as Edith Shepard, interested me more. As arranged before we left Detroit, we were to go up the Mississippi River. The Tiffanys had accepted the invitation to join us, for they were tourists for pleasure and observation.
My father was an English baronet, succeeding to the title and estates by the death of an elder brother. He had served in the army for many years, and had attained the rank of major. He was better pleased to be called by his military than by his family title, in this republican land. But he was too proud to allow me to continue in the employ of my cousin, though he did not object to his nephew as a passenger when I desired it. He left everything to me to manage as I pleased after he had cancelled the charter agreement. With this abstract of previous events my readers will be prepared to understand what is to follow.
Captain Boomsby's saloon was on Bay Street. He had a bar for the white and respectable customers on that street, and another in the rear for negroes. I was never even tempted to drink any intoxicating beverages; and when he became a rumseller, I thought my tyrant had found his proper level. His son Nick tended the front bar, while he waited upon the negroes, who imbibed the cheapest corn-whiskey and apple-brandy by the tumbler-full at a dram.
When I went into the saloon Captain Boomsby was seated in the rear of the room, where he had a view of both bars. He was at least half "full" himself. He was badly bloated, and his face was red and almost honeycombed with toddy-blossoms.
"Well, Sandy, what do you want now?" demanded the saloon-keeper, when I came into his presence. He did not call me "Alick," as others did, but still used the name by which I had been known when he took me from the poor-house in the State of Maine.
"Nothing, Captain Boomsby; only we sail to-morrow, and I thought I would say good-by to you, for I may never see you again," I replied.
"I never want to see you no more," growled he. "You've always behaved bad ever since I fust knowed you, and you will come to some bad end yet."
"I hope not," I said, seating myself.
"You sartin will. I took care on you when you was little, and done everything I could for you; but you have worked agin me from the fust."
As I seated myself I saw a customer come up to the front bar. He had a package, which he laid upon the counter while he poured out his dram.
"I don't think it's any use for you and me to talk over these things," I added, turning my eyes from the counter to the bloated face of my former tyrant. "We shall not be likely to agree in regard to matters in the past."
"You know just as well as I do that the steam-yacht you sail in rightfully belongs to me," he added.
"I think not. If she belongs to anybody besides myself, it must be to my father."
"That man ain't your father any more'n I am."
At that moment a rather rough-looking man came into the saloon, walked far enough back to look into the negro bar, and then retreated.
"I think it has been fully proved that Major Garningham is my father," I replied.
I had scarcely spoken the words, as the rough-looking visitor was retreating without any dram, when Nick made a flying leap over the counter, and rushed out at the street door. The gentleman with the package had his eyes upturned to the ceiling, in the act of draining the tumbler in which he had elaborately stirred up the fiery mixture.
When Nick went over the counter the customer was startled. He saw, at the same moment I discovered the fact, that the package he had laid upon the counter was missing. He rushed out of the saloon like a crazy man.
FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS.
"What on airth does all that mean?" said Captain Boomsby, rising with difficulty from his chair, and walking towards the front door.
"I'm sure I don't know," I replied. "I saw Nick leap over the counter as though he had found a mocassin-snake behind it."
"Don't say nothin' about mocassins here, for you scart my wife out of her seven senses once afore," said the captain, savagely, as he stopped and looked at me.
He had set a trap to have such a snake bite me in his house; but I was not thinking of that when I named the venomous reptile. This event, and the quantity of his own vile fluids he consumed, made him sensitive on the subject of snakes. I was afraid he would soon see more of them than he could manage.
"What made Nick run out so quick, and what did Peverell follow him for, without payin' for his liquor?" continued Captain Boomsby, when he had properly admonished me in regard to the snakes.
"I don't know, sir," I replied. "Who was the man that followed Nick?"
"That was Peverell."
"Who is Peverell?" I asked. "What does he do?"
"He is the messenger, I believe they call him, of the First National Bank of Florida."
"That explains it all, then," I added, beginning to understand the situation.
"I don't see nothin'. What explains it all?" demanded the captain, testily.
"Peverell had a package when he came in. He put it on the counter before he poured out his dram," I explained. "When Nick went over the counter the package was gone. If Peverell is the messenger of a bank, I have no doubt the bundle contained money in bank notes."
"Creation! You don't! But what made Nick go over the bar so like a hoppergrass?" exclaimed the saloon-keeper.
"I don't know. I can only understand what I saw."
"If Nick's got that bundle of money, he's smart," added Captain Boomsby.
"Do you think it was smart to steal it, captain?" I asked, mildly.
"How big a package was it, Sandy?" replied my tyrant, turning away from the moral question.
"It was at least two inches thick."
"Creation! Then there ain't less than a thousand dollars in it!"
"Let us hope that Nick did not take it," I added.
"Well, you go out, Sandy, and see where Nick's gone. I can't leave both bars without anybody to look out for 'em, for them niggers will come in and steal the liquor as quick as they will chickens."
I was interested to know the meaning of what I had seen in the saloon, and I went out into Bay Street. A crowd of men were rushing towards a narrow street leading down to the river. I followed them, and, near the landing-place of the Charleston steamers, I saw a colored policeman lay violent hands on the rough-looking person who had walked into the saloon, looked into the negro bar, and then retreated.
Nick was on the spot, hatless and coatless, almost as soon as the policeman had grabbed his victim. Mr. Peverell was only a moment behind. By this time I had framed an explanation of what had transpired in the saloon which satisfied me for the moment, whether it was correct or not. While Peverell was concocting his beverage—and he had seemed to me to be very dainty and particular in the preparation of it—he had almost turned his back upon the package on the counter.
I was not bestowing any particular attention upon the rough-looking visitor, but I had seen him pass close by the bank messenger. I concluded that he had snatched up the package on the counter, and retreated with it from the saloon. Nick had either seen the man take the bundle, or had discovered that it was missing. No one could have taken it but the person who was passing out of the door. On the impulse of the moment the young bar-tender had leaped over the counter to pursue the thief.
Of course a crowd quickly collected around the robber and the policeman, with Nick and the messenger in the inner circle. The bank official was very much excited, and I judged that the package contained a considerable sum of money. Nick was hardly less disturbed. I was interested enough to run all the way to the pier, and work myself into the centre of the crowd before it had become very compact.
"Dat's jes like you, Buckner," said the policeman, as soon as he could obtain breath enough to speak,—and he had not quite enough when he did speak. "I done cotch you doin' dat same ting before."
"Doing what thing, you black spider?" demanded Buckner, who appeared to be greatly astonished at his arrest.
"You done stole someting," protested the guardian of the peace. "What did you run for if you don't steal someting?"
"I didn't steal anything! I run because the rest of you did, to find out what the matter was," replied Buckner, stoutly. "What did I steal, you black Lazarus?"
"Donno what you 'tole. I 'pose dis gemman can told what you 'tole," replied the policeman, turning to Peverell.
"He stole a package of bank bills I laid on the counter; that is what he stole! And there was four thousand dollars in the package, too," gasped the messenger.
"Did you see me take the package?" demanded Buckner, indignantly.
"I did not; but you were the only person that came into the saloon and left it while I was there," replied Peverell, sharply; and it was evident that he had no doubt at all in regard to the guilty person.
"I didn't touch your package! I didn't see any package! I didn't go near you, or even know you were in the saloon!" protested Buckner, vehemently. "I'm a poor man, I know, and it is hard enough for me to get a living; but I never stole the value of a penny in my life."
"But I saw him take it!" broke in Nick, with almost as much earnestness as Buckner or Peverell, though he had no special interest in the animated discussion. "The moment he tried to get out of the saloon, I jumped over the counter and went for him."
"That's so!" added Peverell, with increasing energy. "But we are wasting time. Why don't you search your prisoner, and get the package? If he stole it, he has the package now."
"Search me as much as you like!" replied Buckner, warmly.
"Search him!" "Overhaul him!" "Clean him out!" shouted the crowd, who were working themselves up to a fever-heat over the case.
"He's thrown it away before this time," suggested Nick.
"He couldn't have thrown it away without some one seeing him do it," replied Peverell. "Did any one see him throw it away?"
"No! no!" shouted the bystanders.
I had seen Buckner running down the middle of the narrow street, with the officer, Nick, Peverell, and others, within a few feet of him. It would have been almost impossible for him to get rid of the bundle in any way without being observed.
"He might have thrown it into the river," again suggested Nick.
"He done don't go widin twenty yards ob de riber; and he done don't frow no package in de riber when I don't see him. Dis chile hab his four eyes open all de time," added the policeman.
"Search him!" "Turn him inside out!" shouted the crowd again.
"Search me all you like!" cried Buckner, pulling out both the pockets of his pants, and throwing up his arms in readiness to submit to the operation. "I haven't got the package, and I never saw it."
"How big was de package, Mr. Peverell?" asked the officer, as he proceeded to examine the clothing of the prisoner.
"It was the size of a bank-bill, and about two inches thick," replied the messenger, very anxiously.
"I don't find noffin like dat on dis yere prisonder," said the officer, when he had felt his man all over.
"You won't find nothing if you search me all day and all night," protested Buckner; and there was something like a proud dignity in his manner, though he was not a good-looking man.
But it is possible to be honest without being handsome; and rogues assume virtues they do not possess. Certainly, the valuable package was not concealed upon the person of Buckner. The only alternative was, that he had thrown it away,—cast it into some hole, or pitched it into the river.
"There can be no doubt this is the man that took the package from the counter, for no one else came near me while I was in the saloon," reasoned Peverell, whose vehemence had calmed down, and given place to a deep anxiety.
"I've said all I have to say, and you can do what you like with me; but I will make it hot for some of you before you see the end of this business," said Buckner, doggedly. "I'm a poor man, but I'm not to be trodden on, any more than a nigger is!"
By this time the crowd had scattered to make a search in the holes and in the water for the missing package.
"What were you doing in the saloon?" asked the messenger, in a mild tone.
"I went in there to see if I could find a man to help me take up a couple of trunks to the St. James," replied Buckner. "I looked into the nigger bar, and then came out. I saw there was a man at the front bar; but I took no notice of him, and didn't see any package."
"Before you had reached the door, this young man had jumped over the counter, and was chasing you. He was sure you had taken the package; and no one else could have taken it," added Peverell, warming up again.
"But I didn't take it, and that's all I have to say about it," answered Buckner, decidedly.
"I saw him take it!" repeated Nick, with emphasis. "He must have thrown it into the river."
The policeman led his prisoner away to the lockup, while all the rest of us followed up the search for half an hour. The messenger said the bills were done up between two tin slabs of the size of the notes, and inclosed in brown paper. Some searched on the pier, and some went out in boats,—but no package could be found. The search was given up, and I went back to the saloon with Nick and Peverell.
Captain Boomsby's son told his father all about the affair from beginning to end. He was putting the whiskey-bottle back into its place under the counter, when he heard Buckner's step as he approached the front door. He looked up, saw that the package was gone, and that the departing visitor had it. "That was all he knew about it."
"But you said you saw Buckner take it," said Peverell.
"I saw him take it out of the saloon," replied Nick.
The circumstances pointed very strongly, to say the least, to Buckner as the guilty one. I had learned all I wanted to know, and was trying to say good-by to Captain Boomsby, when Peeks, the steward of the Sylvania, came into the saloon with a telegraphic dispatch in his hand.
ADIEU TO THE BOOMSBYS.
Mr. Peverell, the bank messenger, called at the saloon on his way back. Doubtless he was not a little concerned about meeting the officers of the bank, after the loss of so large a sum of money. By this time they had heard the news, for it was flying all over the city. He looked very much troubled, as well he might.
"It seems very strange to me," said Peverell, after he had discussed the robbery for a while. "Nobody came into the saloon while I was there but Buckner. I saw him come in, but I took no further notice of him; and I hadn't the least idea that anything was wrong till I saw Nick leap over the counter. I can't see how anybody else could have taken the package; and it is just as hard to tell what became of it."
"I haven't the least doubt but what he threw it into the river," added Nick Boomsby.
"I don't see how he could have done it without anybody seeing him," replied the messenger. "There were plenty of men standing about the pier."
"There seems to be something the matter here," interposed Peeks, coming up to me at this moment with the telegraphic despatch in his hand. "I am sorry to disturb you, Captain Alick."
"It is none of my affairs," I added, hoping the despatch contained no bad news from home.
"I have a message from Detroit informing me that my father is very sick," added Peeks, opening the despatch. "My mother wants me to come home as quick as I can."
"I am sorry your news is so bad, Mr. Peeks; but there is only one thing for a son to do in such a case," I replied, full of sympathy for our steward. "I hardly know how I shall get along without you; but I cannot ask you to remain under such circumstances."
"I am sorry to leave, Captain Alick, especially for such a reason. My health has been entirely restored by this cruise, and I would not leave you if I didn't get a cent for my work, though I have been well and promptly paid. My father has considerable property, and my mother is old and feeble. I am afraid I shall not be able to join you again, for if my father dies, as the doctors say he must, I shall have to look out for his affairs at home. But I have no time to lose, for I must take the train for the North this afternoon."
I paid him the balance of wages due him, and we parted with a hearty shake of hands. His going disturbed me not a little, for he was both skilful and faithful, and his services had been invaluable, when I had so many passengers on board the Sylvania. He left the saloon, and for some minutes I forgot the exciting events of the day.
If we were to sail on our next cruise, as had been arranged, the next morning, I must look up a competent steward. But the Florida season was over, and I anticipated no trouble in finding one.
By this time there was quite a crowd collected in the saloon, and for half an hour longer the robbery was talked over. Nothing new was brought out. Buckner had taken the package from the counter, Nick had pursued him, and the money was not found. They could not get beyond these facts, or beyond these apparent facts, for things are not always as they seem.
Peverell left when he found he could get no further in his investigation, and then for a time there was a lively business done at both bars of the saloon. The negroes had come into the front room to hear what was said, and they could not leave till each of them had imbibed all the cheap whiskey he could get into one of Captain Boomsby's thick-bottomed tumblers. Nick was just as busy at the front bar. I could not help looking at him as he dealt out the dangerous fluids—doubly dangerous after passing through Captain Boomsby's hands. I doubted whether he had any ambition to become anything better than a bartender. He was about my age, but not half so robust, for, being an only son, his father and mother humored him, and never compelled him to do anything like hard work, as they had me.
Nick was dressed in rather cheap, but flashy, clothes, and wore an enormous glass diamond in his shirt front. At the present time he seemed to be doing his dirty work in a very mechanical manner, as though he were thinking of something else. He had to ask every customer twice over what he wanted, and even then gave him the wrong bottle.
But the rush of business was soon over. Captain Boomsby came out of the negro bar, and Nick joined him in the rear of the front saloon. The father looked at the son, and the son looked at the father, and then both of them looked at me, as though they did not care to say anything in my presence.
"I suppose I shall have to go to court, father," said Nick, "and I guess I had better go up stairs and slick up a little."
"You look well enough as you be," replied the elder Boomsby.
"If I am going into the court, I want my best clothes on. Besides, father, you said I might go out this afternoon," replied Nick, who evidently had other views in his head than the court. "Mother had just as lief tend bar this afternoon as not."
"I s'pose she had, but I don't want her in the bar when I can help it," added the captain, whose marital relations had become decidedly unpleasant, as I had learned from observation.
"Well, Captain Boomsby, I must say good-bye to you again," I interposed, not caring to wait for the father and son to settle the question between them.
I offered my hand and he took it; but I don't think he was inclined to weep at my departure. I thought that Nick looked at me with more than usual interest, and when I took him by the hand to say good-bye to him, he pressed my hand warmly. Before, when I had met him, he was hardly disposed to speak to me at all. He and his mother kept the old sores open.
"I have never been on board of your steamer yet, Captain Alick," said he, with a sort of ghastly grin, which I could not understand. "I wanted to get out this afternoon to make a visit to her."
"She can be seen by everybody who chooses to visit her, and I shall be glad to see you on board of her," I replied. "All hands are on shore now, except Cobbington, who is acting as ship-keeper. He will show you all over the Sylvania, if I am not on board."
"Where are you going from here in her?" asked Nick.
"We shall run down the coast of Florida, then across the Gulf of Mexico, and then up the Mississippi," I replied.
"I wish I was going with you," added Nick.
I did not wish he was going with me, and so I said nothing. I had taken leave of the captain and his son, and was about to depart when Mrs. Boomsby came into the saloon from the front entry.
"You here, Sandy," said she, bestowing a look of disgust upon me.
"I leave early to-morrow morning, and I dropped in to say good-bye. I will say the same to you, Mrs. Boomsby," I added, moving towards the door.
"You needn't trouble yourself to say good-bye to me, for sakes knows I don't keer whether I ever see you again or not," replied the amiable lady, with a frown on her countenance which was enough to prevent me from saying anything more. I bowed and moved towards the door.
"I s'pose you think you are mighty grand, sailin' about in a steam yacht; but you'll come to a bad end yet," continued Mrs. Boomsby.
That was just what her husband had said to me, and I concluded they had talked the matter over again. I did not wait to hear any more. I entered the saloon on a friendly mission; I had forgiven my worst enemies,—I could conceive of none worse than the Boomsbys,—and I was not willing to have any words with the most virulent one of the family. I walked out of the saloon. I heard some further uncomplimentary allusions to myself as I closed the door behind me; but I believed that was the last I should ever see of any of the Boomsby family.
I walked up to Colonel Shepard's house, and found all the family, as well as Owen there. They were evidently engaged in the discussion of some topic of interest when I entered. I had come up to press their acceptance of the invitation I had given them to continue the yachting excursion with me up the Mississippi; but before I had time to say anything about it, Owen told me the Shepards had concluded to decline the invitation. I was rather taken aback by this announcement, for the party were exceedingly pleasant company, and I knew that Margie Tiffany would enjoy being with her friend, Edith Shepard.
"You have treated us exceedingly well, Captain Alick, on board of the Sylvania, and we shall all be grateful to you as long as we live, for all the pleasure you have afforded us," said Colonel Shepard.
"I shall be greatly disappointed, sir, if your family do not go with us," I answered, wondering at his decision. "We can accommodate you very well, and the more the merrier, you know."
"You forget that I am the owner of a steam yacht like the Sylvania," continued Colonel Shepard, smiling. "I expected to send her to New York, but I concluded not to do so until we were ready to go ourselves."
"I knew that the Islander was still here, and she can take you anywhere you wish to go as comfortably as the Sylvania; but I should be very glad to have you continue to be our passengers."
"As you have your father with you now, I think you will get along very well without us," laughed the colonel. "I only wish I had you and your crew to run the Islander for me."
"Thank you; you are very kind, sir. I am afraid we shall not be able to leave the Sylvania. But where are you going?"
"It is still an open question whether we proceed directly to New York, cruise awhile in the vicinity of Florida, or go with you. I am not quite willing to leave the State until I have pulled in a few more red-fish, black bass, and other fish such as we caught in Indian River."
"I suppose you don't propose to take Captain Boomsby with you as captain of the Islander. You remember that he came to Florida in command of her," I added.
"I don't propose to take any such person. I retain the captain and crew I engaged to take the Islander to New York," replied Colonel Shepard. "Captain Blastblow has seen service in a yacht, and has commanded a steamer."
"I have no doubt he is entirely competent."
"I think he is, or I would not trust my family to his care. While we were up the St. Johns, he put the Islander in first-rate condition. He has had her boiler and machinery overhauled, and declares she has the best engine he ever saw in a steamer. I went down to see her as soon as we arrived. He has engaged a steward, waiters, and others, and I think we shall be ready to sail as soon as you are," continued the colonel.
"We are off early to-morrow morning," I added.
"Captain Blastblow told me at noon he should be ready to sail to-night. I expect a letter to-day from New York, and that will enable me to decide where we go."
I soon took my leave, for I had to engage a steward before night. I was amazed at the decision of Colonel Shepard, and I could not help thinking he had some motive for his course which did not appear on the surface. I decided to call upon my father on my way to the wharf, for he was staying at the Carlton with the Tiffanys. I had gone but a few steps before Owen caught up with me.
"I want you to understand, Alick, that I am not concerned in this business," said he, in a deprecatory tone. "I had no idea what the colonel intended to do until I went to his house this afternoon."
"O, I don't blame you for it, Owen," I replied.
"But I think they would have gone with us if I had held the charter of the vessel as before," he added.
"I think that need make no difference. I suppose you will go in the Islander now," I continued, laughing, for I did not think he would be able to break away from Miss Edith.
"I don't know, Alick. To tell the truth, I have had no invitation to go in the Islander; and without one I surely shall not go in her."
This seemed to me to be a little odd, and I was thinking of it when we came to the Carlton, where I found my father on the piazza. We told him the whole story. To my astonishment, he said he was glad to hear it. I told him Owen had no invitation to go in the Islander.
"And he will have none," added my father, bluntly. "Owen, if you accept any such invitation, should one be given, the Sylvania will part company with the Islander as soon as we get out of the river."
"That is very odd, uncle Bent," answered Owen.
"I have a very great respect for Colonel and Mrs. Shepard; and what he has done, probably by the counsel of his wife, removes the only doubt I had of him. Owen, you are a perfect spoon! It is not quite proper that you and Miss Edith should be spooning all the time, night and day; and to my mind, Colonel Shepard has decided to go in his own yacht to prevent this thing, as well as to retain his own self-respect. I dare say he is no longer willing to be the guests, with his whole family, of Alick or yourself. That's the whole of it. It is better for you to visit the young lady occasionally than to spend weeks or months with her in a little steam-yacht."
I thought my father was rather severe upon my cousin, and I determined to speak to him about the matter when we were alone. I told my father that Peeks had been obliged to leave, and that I must look up a steward at once.
He told me I need not go far to find one, and recommended me to give the place to Cobbington. I had not thought of such a thing, and I hastened on board to consider the matter.
NICK BOOMSBY HAS ASPIRATIONS.
When I reached Market Wharf I found that the Islander had hauled out into the stream from the wharf where she had been undergoing repairs. Captain Blastblow had certainly done his work well. The twin sister of the Sylvania had been painted, and she looked as though she had just come out of the ship-yard for the first time. She was moored off the yacht-club house, and the American flag was flying at her peak, as though she had just gone into commission.
I earnestly hoped that Colonel Shepard would conclude to make the trip up the Mississippi, for I was very confident we should enjoy yachting on the great river much more in company with the Islander, and the pleasant party on board of her, than we could alone.
I took a shore boat to board the Sylvania, for as this was our last chance on shore for the present, all hands had been allowed to spend the day in the city. Cobbington declared that he did not care to see any more of the city, where he had passed so many miserable days, and had volunteered to remain on board as ship-keeper.
Miles Cobbington had come to the south as an invalid, and having no means, he had picked up a precarious living by hunting, fishing, and doing such odd jobs of work as he could find. When I came across him he was hungry, and without a place to lay his head. With good living on board the Sylvania, and with his mind relieved of all anxiety about his daily food and shelter, he had picked up wonderfully during the month of our trip up the river.
"Well, Miles, how do you get on?" I asked as I ascended the gangway.
"First-rate, Captain Garningham. I haven't been so happy for years as I am now," he replied with a cheerful smile. "I begin to think I may live for some years yet."
"I hope you will live for many years yet," I replied. "Mr. Peeks has been on board this afternoon, has he not?"
"Yes, sir; and I am very sorry to have him leave for such a reason," said Cobbington, with a look of genuine sympathy.
"I believe he attended to putting all our provisions and stores on board."
"Yes, captain; we stowed away everything last night, and we are ready to leave as soon as you give the word."
"We can't go without a steward," I added, glancing at Cobbington to see if I could find any suggestion in his face. But he looked entirely blank.
"The steamers here are hauling off, now, and I should say you would have no difficulty in finding one," he replied.
"Do you think you can readily find another good waiter?" I asked.
"I could find a hundred of them in half an hour," he replied.
"Then I wish you to find one as soon as the crew come on board. I want one to take your place in the fore-cabin."
"To take my place!" exclaimed Cobbington, looking aghast at me. "Then you are going to discharge me. What have I done?"
"You have done lots of things, and done them well. You will take Mr. Peeks's place as steward, at the same wages he received," I replied, unwilling to hurt his feeling a moment longer.
"Thank you, Captain Garningham," added Cobbington, his thin face suddenly wreathed in smiles. "I suppose you understand what you are doing, captain."
"I think I do; but I will add that it was my father who suggested your name for the position."
"I am very grateful to him for doing so, and to you for giving me the place. I think I can do the work to your satisfaction, for I have had considerable experience in this sort of business."
I gave him such directions as he needed, and then called a shore boat. As the Islander was likely to be our consort during the whole, or a part, of the cruise up the Mississippi, I thought I would pay her a visit, and become better acquainted with her officers. My uniform procured me a ready recognition on her deck. Captain Blastblow was a man of forty, with a bald head and red whiskers. He treated me very politely, though I thought I could see something like contempt in his manner, possibly at the idea of a young fellow like me presuming to hold a position equal to his own.
The captain took considerable pains to bring it into the conversation that he had been a seaman all his life, that he had come on board through the hawse hole, and had not crawled in at the cabin window. He made a slurring remark about fresh-water sailors, and informed me that he had been around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. He had been an ensign in the navy during "the late unpleasantness," and had served in the Gulf of Mexico in the blockade fleet.
"When do you sail, Captain Blastblow?" I inquired.
"I don't know: but I have my orders to be ready to go at a moment's warning at any time after daylight to-morrow morning," replied the captain of the Islander.
These instructions seemed to be entirely consistent with what Colonel Shepard had said, that his departure and destination depended upon the letters he expected to receive by the afternoon mail. I looked over the steamer, and found her as neat as a new pin in every part. The officers and crew had put on a new uniform, and I found that they had steam up on board.
I found no one that I knew on her deck, and the captain introduced me to the mate, the engineers, and the steward. I thought there was a little irony in his words as he did so; but I took no notice of this circumstance. I could see that he believed he was a thoroughly competent captain, and that he had some doubts in regard to my ability to fill the position I occupied on board of the Sylvania. I was willing that the future should settle all such questions; but I had the vanity to believe, though I did not say so, that I could handle the Sylvania as well as he could the Islander.
We parted as the best of friends should part, and when I had seated myself in the boat, I could not help thinking I should like to see him handle his vessel in such a storm as I had seen on Lake Superior. In a few moments I was landed on Market Wharf, and walked up to the post-office to inquire if there were any letters for me. I learned that the northern mail had not arrived. It was often several hours behind time, for the railroads in Florida were in very bad condition.
Colonel Shepard was there, very impatient at the non-arrival of his letters. He told me, if he had to go to New York, he should sail in the Islander on the next tide. If his business did not call him north at once, he should sail with us the next morning.
The colonel went over to the Carlton, and I was about to go with him, when Nick Boomsby came up to me. He was dressed in his best clothes, and he was as good a representative of the idiotic swell as I had ever met.
"When do you sail, Captain Alick?" he asked, as though the question was one of vital importance to him personally.
"To-morrow morning, about seven o'clock, unless some change is made in the arrangements," I replied, wondering what possible interest he could have in the sailing of the steamer.
"Alick, you and I were always good friends," he continued.
"Not always, though I don't mind that now," I added, not willing that the exact truth should be sacrificed, even by my silence.
"I am getting a little tired of this place, and I want to be out of it. I know we didn't always agree when we were little children; but I don't believe you think of these things now."
"I have not the least ill-will towards you, Nick."
"I am right glad to hear you say so. The old man never will let up on you, I suppose. But I told him he was a fool, and that he had better let you alone."
Perhaps it was good advice, but I did not believe he ever gave it to his father, though he was capable of any disrespect. I waited to learn what he was driving at, though the fact that he had said he wished he was going with me on the cruise came to my mind in this connection.
"I am tired of the sort of life I am leading," continued Nick.
"I don't blame you," I added, with the utmost sincerity, though I had not supposed he had any soarings above the sphere of a bar-tender.
"What can I do? The old man won't let me do anything else beside tend bar. It is mean business, and I'm bound to get out of it."
I thought Nick's view of the situation was very commendable, though I did not see how he was to break away from his father, if the latter was not willing he should do so.
"The only way I can do it is to run away," added Nick.
"I can't advise you to do that," I replied.
"I am eighteen years old, and I am able to take care of myself. The old man don't give me any wages, and it's hard work for me to get a suit of clothes out of him when I need it. Which would you rather do if you were in my place,—sell whiskey, and very likely become a drunkard yourself, or run away, and become an honest and respectable man?"
It was a hard question, and I declined to answer it, for I was unwilling to be responsible to any degree for anything that Nick Boomsby might do. I knew him too well.
"If you will take me to New Orleans on your steamer, I will work my passage, and be everlastingly obliged to you besides," persisted Nick, coming all at once to the point.
"No, Nick, I shall not do anything to provoke your father, or give him just cause to complain of me. So far as your leaving your present business is concerned, you must settle that for yourself," I replied, firmly.
I refused all his entreaties to be allowed to go in the Sylvania. I told him that the relation between his father and myself would not permit me to do anything to assist him. He seemed to be reconciled to my decision, and was as pleasant as possible. He asked me about the Islander, and I told him all I knew about her. I inquired what had been done about the robbery. Nothing more had been done, but everybody was satisfied that Buckner was the guilty person, and the police were still searching for the missing package. Nick was going on board of the Sylvania next, and I wrote on a card a request to Cobbington to show him over the vessel.
While we were talking the mail arrived. Colonel Shepard rushed to the post-office, and I was talking to him while the mail was in process of sorting and distribution. Nick stood by me all the time, and listened to all that we were saying. At last Colonel Shepard received his letters. He opened one of them with feverish haste.
"All right! I go with you, Captain Alick!" exclaimed the colonel, evidently as much delighted as a child would have been. "I will follow you up the Mississippi. What time do you sail, Captain Alick?"
"At seven; that will bring us to the bar at about the right time," I replied.
"I must send word on board to Captain Blastblow to be ready at that time."
The colonel appeared to be searching his pockets for a piece of paper, and I handed him one of my blank cards. He wrote something on it, and intimated that he wanted to find some one by whom he could send it on board of the Islander.
"I am just going on board of the Sylvania, and I will leave it on board of the Islander as I pass her," interposed Nick.
Colonel Shepard asked me if I knew the young man, and I told him I did. He gave him the card, and Nick hastened off in the direction of the boat-club building. I wondered if he was not intending to look for a passage to New Orleans in the Islander. It was not impossible, and I determined that my late passengers should not be burdened with his company.
I went to the Carlton, and found that my passengers had decided not to go on board of the Sylvania till the next morning, and had ordered an early breakfast. There was to be some sort of a social occasion in the parlors that evening, and my father and his friends wished to be present. I went on board of the steamer. On my way I looked in at the window of Captain Boomsby's saloon, and saw that Nick was there peddling out whiskey to thirsty customers. He had not concealed himself on board of the Islander; and I had told Colonel Shepard to be on the lookout in the morning, to assure himself that he had no more passengers than he wanted. I was quite sure I had blocked Nick's wheels, so far as running away in either of the steam-yachts was concerned.
THE STRANGE MOVEMENT OF THE ISLANDER.
Cobbington had engaged the additional waiter. His name was Reel Bendick, as he spelled it out to me; and he seemed to be an intelligent and docile man. He was to wait on the table in the fore-cabin, while Tom Sands was to continue in the after-cabin, where he had always been assisted by the steward, and on great occasions by Washington Gopher, the accomplished cook who had come all the way from Detroit.
With these exceptions our crew remained the same as before.
Since our return from up the St. Johns, everything about the Sylvania had been put in perfect order for sea. Moses Brickland, the engineer, had overhauled the machinery and the boiler, and we had a full supply of coal in the bunkers. I went all over the vessel, and assured myself that everything was in order.
"I suppose there is no doubt about our leaving in the morning, is there, Captain Alick?" asked Bob Washburn, the mate, as we seated ourselves in the captain's cabin, after we had both been all over the deck and the cabins.
"Of course I don't know anything more about that than you do, but I think there cannot be much doubt of it," I replied. "We shall have no passengers but my father, the Tiffanys, and my cousin."
"Does Owen Garningham go with us, Alick?" asked Washburn, with astonishment.
"He told me this afternoon he had no invitation to go in the Islander, and my father said he would have none," I replied.
"Then your father thinks there has been too much spooning on board," added Washburn, laughing.
"Probably Colonel Shepard thinks so too, and that may be the reason why he decided to go in the Islander instead of in the Sylvania."
"I should think it would be better to separate Owen and Miss Edith until each shall have a chance to make up his mind."
"Owen seems to be very much attached to Miss Edith, and their being together all the time may result in something very serious. He is a young fellow of twenty, and I doubt if he knows his own mind; he is fascinated by a pretty face."
"There is no doubt of that; and the face is as pretty a one as I ever saw," added Washburn, with emphasis.
"My father says Owen's mother is very rich, and that she is more afraid he will fall into some entangling alliance of this sort, than she is of his becoming a drunkard, or becoming a bad man," I continued, recalling some of the conversations my father had had with me.
"They say Colonel Shepard is rich enough to satisfy even an English nabob," suggested the mate.
"I suppose Owen's mother expects him to marry a duchess," I replied. "I saw her when I was in England; but she had no love for me, and I have no doubt she wished I had never turned up."
"I should say that Edith Shepard was good enough for any fellow, even if he were an earl or a duke," said Washburn, shrugging his shoulders.
"Luckily it is none of our affair, though my sympathies are all with Owen," I added. "I wonder if Nick Boomsby came on board this afternoon," I continued, willing to change the subject.
I called Cobbington into our room, and was informed that Nick had been on board, and had been treated with distinguished consideration.
"Did he say anything about going with us, Cobbington?" I asked.
"He only said he should like to go with us, but you would not allow him to do so, and he had given up all thought about it," replied the new steward. "Besides, he said he was the important witness in a law-case that would come up to-morrow morning."
"I don't believe he would stay for the law-case if I would give him a berth on board," I added.
I related the particulars of the robbery of the messenger, and Cobbington commented on them at some length. I found that he knew the messenger, and had not a very high respect for him. He had his doubts whether there was any four thousand dollars in the transaction. It looked more to him as though the messenger had arranged the affair so that he could appropriate the money to his own use. Cobbington had worked with Buckner, who was a poor man, and had come to Florida, like himself, to save his life.
"Why did Nick jump over the counter, and chase Buckner, then? Nick says he saw Buckner take the package from the counter, and run out at the front door," I added.
"I don't know anything about the matter, except that I would trust Buckner farther than I would Peverell," persisted the steward. "A bank messenger that means to be honest don't go into a bar-room and put four thousand dollars down on the counter; not every day in the week, at least. I don't believe Buckner took the package; if he had it would have been found on him when the policeman caught him."
We could not get ahead any further than those on shore had in solving the mysterious disappearance of the treasure. At an early hour I turned in, and Washburn soon followed me. After dark I cautioned the anchor-watch not to let any person come on board. I was afraid that Nick Boomsby would try to become a stowaway on board of the steamer, and thus give his father an additional grudge against me. But I soon went to sleep and forgot all about Nick.
I was up at five in the morning. Before I washed my face and made my toilet, I went on deck to take a look at the weather, as I generally did at sea, or when we were on the point of sailing. It was cloudy and thick; but I thought it probable that it would clear off as the day advanced. The smoke was pouring out of the smoke-stack of the Islander, as well as of the Sylvania. If the weather was not bad enough to make me think of delaying our departure, it was still not so pleasant as I desired for a start.
I dressed myself, and looked the vessel over again. Our party would breakfast before they came on board, and we had nothing to do yet but look after ourselves. At six o'clock we took our morning meal. As soon as it was cleared away, I ordered the anchor up, and we ran in to Market Wharf to take on board our passengers.
Before we reached the wharf I saw a boat board the Islander; but she was too far off for me to determine who was in the craft. It was still only half-past-six, and I did not expect our passengers for half an hour or more. I went on shore to walk through the market. It seemed very odd to me to find all sorts of green things, such as green peas, cucumbers, spinach, new turnips, carrots, and most other vegetables, which I had not been in the habit of seeing till July and August. But we had been eating such things, including strawberries, for a month, and many of them all winter in the West Indies.
"The Islander is under way," said Washburn, as I sauntered along the wharf.
"Probably she is going to run in for her passengers, as we have done," I replied.
"She don't seem to be headed for the wharf, but down the river," added the mate.
I went on board, and then to the hurricane deck, where I could obtain a good view of her. I was confident that her passengers had not gone on board of her, for we had seen nothing but a boat with two persons in it go alongside the Islander. The party consisted of four persons, and two of them were ladies. They could not have gone on board of her without our seeing them.
"It don't look as though she was running in to a wharf," said Washburn, joining me on the hurricane deck.
"Very likely she is taking a little run down the river so that her new captain can see how she works," I added, without a suspicion that anything was wrong about our twin sister. "It isn't seven yet, and she is taking a little turn before she goes up to the wharf."
"Of course it is all right," replied Washburn. "Her captain is as salt as a barrel of brine, and knows all about steamers."
We waited fifteen minutes longer, till I heard a clock strike seven, but the Islander continued on her course down the river. I knew she had been ordered to be ready to sail at seven, and I did not suppose Captain Blastblow would willingly fail to be on time. While I was watching the movements of our consort, the baggage of our party arrived at the end of the wharf, and, a few minutes later, a carriage came bringing our passengers.
I had no more time to study the affairs of the Islander. My father, Mr. Tiffany and Miss Margie were in the carriage, and I was permitted to help the young lady out, and escort her to the deck. I was a little afraid of my father calling me a "spoon," and I was careful not to overdo myself in politeness.
"How long before you sail, Captain Alick?" asked my fair companion.
"Immediately," I replied. "The Islander has already gone, but I think she must return."
"May I go into the pilot-house, captain?"
"Certainly; I shall be delighted to have you there."
"How much I shall miss Edith!" exclaimed Miss Margie, as I gave her the best seat in the pilot-house. "I think it is a great pity that we could not all go together in the same steamer."
"I should have been very glad to have the Shepards on board," I replied. "I suppose Colonel Shepard prefers to sail in his own yacht, as I think I should if I were in his place. But we shall be within hail of each other most of the time, and you can visit Miss Edith about every day after we get into the Mississippi River."
"I am told the Mississippi is a very large river," mused Miss Margie. "Can you see across it, Captain Alick?"
"No doubt of it," I answered, laughing. "It is not more than a mile wide, as a rule. You must be thinking of the Amazon, which is a hundred and fifty miles wide near its mouth. Vessels must get out of sight of land in crossing it, near the ocean."
"We are all on board, Alick, except Owen," said my father, coming into the pilot-house. "He should not keep us waiting."
"Perhaps he has decided to go in the other steamer," I suggested.
But I had hardly spoken the words before Owen came on board. He did not seem to be in despair at his separation from his "bright particular star," and was in excellent humor when he joined us in the pilot-house.
"Where are the rest of your party, Owen?" I asked.
"Merciful hotandsplosh! Haven't you found out yet that they are going on the Islander?" demanded Owen.
"I haven't seen them go on board of her yet," I added.
"They took a carriage to the wharf near the boat-house, and I took one to come here," replied Owen. "They must be on board of her by this time."
"I think not. The Islander has gone down the river," I answered, as I ordered the fasts to be cast off.
I backed the Sylvania on the stern line to clear her from the wharf, and then rang to go ahead. Our voyage around Florida had actually begun, and I was duly exhilarated by the fact. The Islander had gone around the bend of the river, and I could see only her masts and rigging. The wind was blowing fresh from the southwest, and I was not a little astonished to see that her crew were shaking out her fore-topsail. This did not indicate that her captain intended to return to the wharf for his passengers.
"Colonel Shepard and his family must have gone on board of her at least a quarter of an hour before seven, Owen," I said, unable to account for the movements of the Islander in any other way.
"But they did not leave the colonel's house till five minutes of seven—at the same time I started to come here," replied Owen. "What has happened? What is the matter?"
"I don't know that anything is the matter," I replied. "The Islander got under way about half-past six, and I supposed she was going to take a turn on the river before she went up to the wharf. Instead of that she has been moving steadily down the river since she got up her anchor; and there she is, three or four miles on her way to the ocean."
"Sylvania, ahoy!" shouted some one on the shore.
On the pier, near the club-house, were the Shepard party; and it was the colonel who had hailed us. They seemed to be quite as much astonished as we were. I ran the steamer up to the wharf.
A LIVELY CHASE.
In a few minutes our bow and stern lines were fast to the wharf where the Shepards were waiting for their steam-yacht. Owen leaped ashore before the vessel was fairly alongside, though he had not yet come to a full comprehension of what had happened. He knew something was the matter, but he could not tell what it was.
As soon as the Sylvania was made fast I went on shore. Colonel Shepard seemed to be bewildered, for Owen had just told him the Islander had gone down the river. The rest of the family were quite as much astonished as the husband and father. Chloe, the colored servant, was actually wringing her hands, as though she feared another conspiracy was about to be developed.
"Where is the Islander, Captain Alick?" asked the colonel, as I presented myself before him.
"She has gone down the river; and the last I saw of her, she was shaking out her fore-topsail," I replied.
"But what does that mean?" added Colonel Shepard, with a frown.
"I'm sure I don't know, sir. She got under way about half-past six. I supposed Captain Blastblow was about to take a turn or two in her before he ran up to the wharf. It is now quarter-past seven, and the Islander is still making her way down the river. You can see her across the land, though only her spars are in sight."
I pointed out the tapering masts of our consort—if she was to be our consort—in the distance. Presently she disappeared behind a forest of pine.
"I don't understand it at all," said the perplexed owner of the stray yacht. "What does Captain Blastblow mean by treating me in this manner, when I ordered him to be at this wharf precisely at seven?"
"I can't explain it, sir," I replied. "There is clearly some misunderstanding about the matter."
"You saw me write the card at the post-office last night, Captain Alick: and I sent it off by the young man who was with you."
"Yes, sir; Nick Boomsby took the card; and I have no doubt he delivered it, for he came on board of the Sylvania towards night.
"I think Captain Blastblow intends to return soon," I added, for I could not think of any explanation of his singular conduct. I certainly could not reason out any plausible occasion for such a violation of his orders as that in which he seemed to be engaged.
"Perhaps he has run off with the yacht, and intends to become a pirate, or something of that sort," suggested Gus Shepard.
"Nonsense, my son! The Islander is not an armed vessel, and Captain Blastblow is not a pirate," replied Colonel Shepard. "Do you suppose anything was out of order on board of the steamer, Captain Alick?"
"It is possible; but if such was the case, the captain would hardly have gone so far down the river," I replied. "If the Islander had needed any more repairs, Captain Blastblow would have remained in Jacksonville and attended to them."
"Perhaps he wishes to become better acquainted with the vessel before he takes her to sea," added the colonel.
"He might have done that yesterday. He would not have waited until you were ready to sail, and then gone off on an experimental cruise," I answered.
"An experimental cruise!" exclaimed Owen. "What a terrible expression. I hope Captain Blastblow don't use such expressions. If he does, he has gone out to sea where he can have room enough to unsnarl his tongue."
"Captain Blastblow is an American, and he is used to such little trials," I replied.
"What shall be done?" asked Colonel Shepard.
"I think you had better go on board of the Sylvania, with your baggage, and we will stand down the river," I replied, promptly, for I had kept this idea in my mind for some time. "We can at least follow the Islander, and when we come up with her you can go on board of her."
"Are you sure you can overtake her, Captain Alick?" asked Colonel Shepard, with a smile, as though he had some doubts in regard to the relative speed of the two steam-yachts. "Captain Blastblow is confident that he can outsail the Sylvania."
"I don't say that he cannot; but if he does, he has learned a new trick in handling her," I answered, with energy. "I have sailed the Sylvania against the Islander on the Great Lakes more than once, and have not found the time when I could not beat her."
"Her new captain claims to be a very skilful man in handling steamers," added the colonel.
"If you and your family will come on board, sir, I will do the best I can to overtake the Islander, and ascertain what the conduct of her captain means. If we have anything like fair play, we shall overhaul the Islander sometime to-day," I continued, confidently. "We are both well down in the water, with our coal-bunkers and water-tanks full. She is nearly an hour ahead of us now, and her captain was hurrying her all he could."
Owen was delighted with the decision of Colonel Shepard when he accepted my invitation. He had regained his divinity, and he conducted her on board of the Sylvania, while the colonel assisted Mrs. Shepard. Owen escorted Miss Edith to the pilot-house, and her mother went down into the cabin, for the morning was rather raw and chilly. Margie took her dear friend to her heart, and hoped the Sylvania would never overtake the Islander.
"You must let the other steamer keep ahead, Captain Alick," said Margie, as I took my place at the wheel, when the baggage had been put on board.
"That would be treason to the Sylvania and treason to Colonel Shepard," I replied, as I rang the bell to start the steamer.
I knew the river well enough to go ahead confidently, and I had given the chief-engineer a hint as to what I expected of him. In a few minutes, the little steamer was buzzing along at the rate of eleven miles an hour. The only thing I feared was fog, and there seemed to be great banks of it off in the direction of the mouth of the river.
"Mr. Washburn," I called through the windows in front of me.
"On deck, sir," replied the mate.
"Call all hands, and set the fore-topsail."
"Ay, ay, sir," responded Washburn; and I knew there would be no lack of zeal on his part when we came to an out-and-out race.
All hands usually consisted of the two deck hands; but Ben Bowman, the second fireman, and the cabin-waiter were available when there was any extra work to be done. Buck Lingley and Hop Tossford, the deck hands, were sent aloft by the mate to loose sails, while the others manned the halyard and the braces. In a very short time the topsail was drawing full, and the speed of the vessel was sensibly increased.
"Mr. Washburn!" I called again.
"On deck, sir," responded the mate.
"Set the foresail."
The crew made quick work of it.
"Now the mainsail, Mr. Washburn," I continued.
The wind was quite fresh, and the fore and aft sails caused the steamer to heel over considerably when the puffs came, as they generally do in a south-westerly breeze.
"You will tip us over, Captain Alick!" cried Miss Margie, who had not been at sea in the Sylvania.
"I won't do anything of the kind, Miss Tiffany," I replied, with a laugh. "I shall not drown myself for the sake of drowning you, I am very sure. Mr. Washburn!"
"On deck, sir."
"Set the fore to'gallant sail."
"Ay, ay, sir," chuckled the mate, who understood that I meant business by this time.
"Pray, which is the fore top-gallant sail, Captain Alick?" asked Miss Margie.
"It is the highest sail we set on the foremast, though larger vessels have a royal above that, then a skysail," I replied. "Mr. Washburn!"
"On deck, sir."
"Now give us the fore squaresail, and run up the jib."
The last order was to set the main gaff-topsail; and then we had all sail on. We turned the bend of the river just after the last sail had been set, which gave us the wind over the starboard quarter. I was confident we were making twelve knots an hour, and the skilful firing of Philander Perkins soon made her do even better than this. The water fairly roared at the bow as the vessel cut through it. The young ladies in the pilot-house ceased to talk, and Miss Margie held on at the wheel with both hands. It was lively sailing, but there was no danger, and I told the fair maiden so many times.
We all kept a sharp lookout for the Islander, but as yet we saw nothing of her. She had, at least, ten miles the start of us, and it was likely to be a long chase, if she continued on her course. I wanted very much to get a sight of her when we reached the bar at the mouth of the St. Johns, so as to determine what course she took.
No progress whatever had been made in solving the problem of the Islander's sudden departure without her owner and passengers. We could not imagine any motive on the part of her captain for his singular conduct. My father and Colonel Shepard talked about the matter all the time; but in the absence of any data they could not get ahead a particle.
In an hour and a half by the watch we were in sight of the bar. The weather looked thick and nasty outside, and there was not the slightest sign of the Islander. But we were still in the river, and our view to the north and south was obstructed by the trees and shrubs on the shores. It was plain enough to me by this time that Captain Blastblow had no intention of returning to Jacksonville for his passengers.
I kept the Sylvania on her course over the bar, and, as it was full tide, I had no fear of taking the bottom. We kept on our course till we had made a good offing. Though the fog had not settled down near the bar, vast piles of it were floating in the air. The question now was whether the Islander had gone to the north or the south. I had given the wheel to Hop Tossford, and I was using the glass very industriously in all quarters of the horizon.
"Sail, ho!" shouted Buck Lingley, who had taken his station on the cap of the foremast.
"Where away?" I shouted, sticking my head out the side window of the pilot-house.
"Right on the starboard beam," replied Buck.
As the fog lifted a minute later I got a glimpse of the sail.
"It is the Islander!" I shouted, not a little excited. "She is going to the southward."
"I can't understand it," said Colonel Shepard, shaking his head. "Does Captain Blastblow mean to run away with the vessel?"
No one could tell what he meant.
A FOG OFF THE FLORIDA COAST.
The Sylvania was close-hauled, and I gave out the course south south-east. This was the navigation to take the steamer around the peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, though we intended to put in at Key West, in order to see the place. Washburn noted the departure on the log slate in the pilot-house, and, as it was necessary for us to run by our dead reckoning, the log was heaved every hour. In a short time we were buried in the fog, and kept our steam-whistle going at the proper intervals.
The young ladies soon deserted the pilot-house, for we were obliged to keep the front windows open, and the air was cold and moist. Owen left with them, and my father and Colonel Shepard soon took their places. The owner of the Islander was still too much excited to keep still. He tried to see through the fog; but he might as well have attempted to look through a rocky hill.
"How far ahead do you think the Islander is now, Captain Alick?" asked the Colonel.
"About eight miles, I should judge, unless Captain Blastblow has succeeded in getting more speed out of the Islander than any one else ever could," I replied at once, for I had estimated the distance before.
"Do you really think you are gaining on her?"
"I have no doubt of it," I replied, confidently. "They hurried the Islander down the river; and when both vessels are doing their best the Sylvania gains about a knot an hour on the Islander. I have tried this with her when she had a sailing-master on board who knew all about her, and had sailed her hundreds of miles. I don't believe Captain Blastblow can do any better with her than Captain Braceback; and I used to beat him every time."
"I dare say you are quite right, Captain Alick," added Colonel Shepard. "It is reasonable to suppose that a man who is used to a vessel can do better with her than a stranger."
"I got only a glimpse of the Islander when the fog lifted for a moment, and saw only her spars and sails," I continued. "I have had considerable experience in judging of distances on the water. I should like to have you ask the others on board how far off they think the other steamer was when we saw her."
The colonel liked the suggestion, and he was so much interested in the question that he wished to have the best information he could obtain. I called Washburn first. No one but Hop Tossford at the wheel had heard the conversation, and they could not be influenced by my opinion of the matter. The mate said seven miles. Buck Lingley made it nine miles, and then Ben Bowman was summoned.
"Just about eight miles, I should say," replied Ben, when the question was put to him.
"No two of them agree, though they do not differ widely," said the Colonel, when all who had seen the Islander had answered.
"Ben Bowman has had more experience than all the rest of us put together," I added. "But, Colonel, if you will average all the answers, you will find the result is just eight miles. We may be all wrong. Captain Blastblow talks louder than the rest of us, but when he beats the Sylvania in a fair stand-up run, I wish you would let me know it, if I don't find it out before you do."
I felt almost absolutely certain of the ground I stood on, for I had tried this same issue when the result was almost a case of life and death with me. The Sylvania had been built after the Islander, and her constructor had an opportunity to improve on her model. Our engine was a little more powerful than that of the other yacht, and a defect in the lines of the latter had been corrected in building ours. But the fact of our superior speed had been several times demonstrated by actual trial, and the improvements in our model and machinery only explained what had been proved. It was of course possible that Captain Blastblow had some "knack" of getting more speed out of a steamer than I had; but I was willing to believe, in this case, only what was fairly proved.
"We may miss the Islander in this fog," continued Colonel Shepard, peering anxiously through the fog.
"We may, sir," I replied. "There is nothing to prevent her from coming about and running back to Jacksonville."
"What if she should do that?" asked the owner of the stray yacht.
"We are in the dark as to the intentions of her captain; and everything depends upon them," I answered.
"What can his intentions possibly be?" inquired the colonel, knitting his brow, as he recurred once more to the well-worn topic for at least the twentieth time.
"It is quite impossible to conjecture his motives. He has either made a mistake in regard to his instructions, or he means to run away with the Islander."
"What mistake could he have made in regard to his instructions?" demanded the colonel, who had not admitted the possibility for an instant of any mistake. "Last night I wrote his instructions to be ready to sail at seven, and sent them off to him by the young man who was with you."
"Did you write seven this morning, sir?" I asked.
"I think I did, though I should not be willing to swear to it," replied the colonel, looking a little blank at the idea of such a mistake.
"If you simply said seven, he may have taken it to mean seven this evening," I suggested.
"He could not have thought we intended to go down the river and cross the bar in the night."
"I should say not; but Captain Blastblow is a very brilliant man, and has been around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope so many times that he ought to know what he is about," I replied, letting out a little of my pique at the commander of the Islander for his implications against me.
"Allowing that I wrote 'seven P.M.,' or that I did not write either morning or evening, what is Captain Blastblow doing down here?" demanded Colonel Shepard, warmly.
"If he understood that you were not to sail till this evening, he may have brought the Islander out here to try her, and enable him to get accustomed to her ways before he took on board his passengers. That is all the explanation I can suggest, but I don't think it will hold water. He knows very well, for he has been around Cape Horn several times, that if he comes out here in a fog, he may not be able to get back to Jacksonville in time to take you on board to-night, or even to-morrow or next day."
"If Captain Blastblow had any doubt in regard to my orders, he could have sent one of his men up to my house, and ascertained just what I intended," said the owner, rather wrathfully.
"That is what I should have done; but Captain Blastblow has had more experience than I have," I replied, with a smile.
"Did you notice anything unusual about the Islander, or the conduct of those on board of her, when you saw her this morning, Captain Alick?" continued the colonel.
"Nothing at all, sir. A boat went off to her a few moments before she weighed her anchor," I answered. "There were two persons in the boat when it went alongside the Islander, but only one returned to the shore in it. I concluded some one of her officers or crew had remained ashore over night, and came off in a shore boat. I did not think of the boat till you asked the question."
"I don't see that the boat throws any light on the transaction," mused the owner. "We don't know who was in the boat, though if we were in Jacksonville, we could easily ascertain."
"I don't have any idea that we shall know anything about this matter until we overhaul the Islander," I added. "We can guess for the next week, but we are as likely to guess wrong as right."
"I can't help being considerably disturbed about this mysterious conduct of Captain Blastblow; but I do not see that we are likely to be any wiser in regard to it, as Captain Alick says, till we see the captain," replied the colonel. "We have got to make the best of it, and be patient till we learn more. What do you think of it, Major Garningham?"
"I don't think it is possible to form an intelligent opinion without further information in regard to the facts," replied my father. "I am more inclined to believe that Captain Blastblow has made a mistake of some kind, than that he means anything wrong. It would be worse than folly for him to attempt to run away with the steam-yacht, for he is sure to be discovered and punished."
"If it is a mistake or a misunderstanding, it is a very queer one. But I am not disposed to worry about the matter, and I shall try to reconcile myself to the situation," replied Colonel Shepard, struggling to laugh off his anxiety for the safety of his yacht.
I think it was the want of her, more than the value of the craft, that troubled and vexed him. He was a very wealthy man, and if she was lost entirely to him, it would hardly impair his fortune.
"We shall do the best we can to solve the problem, and overhaul the Islander," I continued; "but, after all, we may miss her. If Captain Blastblow has made a blunder, or there is any misunderstanding, he must soon discover it. If he has only come out here for a trial trip, and should happen to pass us in the fog without our seeing him, he knows the Sylvania will put into Key West. If he gets back to Jacksonville, and finds that you have left in our steamer, he will return at once, and find us at our anchorage in port."
"When shall you reach Key West, Captain Alick?" asked the colonel.
"If we have good weather, it is a run of from forty-two to forty-five hours. If this fog continues, it will take longer than that, for the navigation is not all plain sailing," I replied.
"And you think you can overtake the Islander in about eight hours?"
"I think so, sir; but I can't say that we shall come near enough to see or hear her in this fog," I answered. "I think you had better make your party comfortable on board of the Sylvania, and leave the rest of the matter to me and my officers."
"I am confident that is the better way for you; and I am sure Alick will do all he can both to make you and your family comfortable in the cabin, and to find your runaway vessel," added my father.
Colonel Shepard yielded to this advice, and I went down into the after-cabin with all the passengers to arrange about the staterooms and berths. Our involuntary guests declared that they were very sorry to make so much trouble, and especially to disturb our arrangements on board. Both my father and I assured them they made no trouble, and that we were not at all disturbed by their presence, inasmuch as we had invited them to take the cruise in the Sylvania, and were glad to have them on board.
I had made a diagram of the cabin, and assigned rooms and berths to all the passengers, when I supposed they were to sail with us. I proceeded to arrange our guests in accordance with this plan.
"Let me have a berth in the fore-cabin, Alick," said Owen to me in a whisper.
"There is no need of that, Owen," I replied. "There is room enough for all of you in this cabin, and some to spare. Colonel and Mrs. Shepard will occupy the port stateroom, as before, when they have sailed with us," I continued, consulting my diagram.
The colonel protested that he would not occupy the best stateroom; but I insisted, and went on giving out the apartments.
"Miss Edith and Miss Margie will take the starboard stateroom."
Both of them screamed with delight at this disposition of them, and Margie declared that I was a "dear, good little Captain Alick," though I was bigger in stature than her father. I had given the two larger rooms to those who were to double-up in them; and of the two remaining rooms, I gave one to my father and the other to Mr. Tiffany. Owen and Gus were assigned to the two berths next to the rooms, which left two others for Chloe and the steward. The curtains drew out in front of the berths, so that the spaces within them were almost the same as staterooms. All were satisfied. I gave orders to Cobbington to provide tables for all. Leaving the passengers to arrange their baggage in their new quarters, I returned to the deck.