WAR DECLARED

Captain Eliakim Doak remained as if in deep thought for several moments
after Uncle Ben left him with what, from such a placid man as the old
lobster catcher, was a most emphatic threat. Bluster as he might, and
even Deacon Stubbs had been heard to say that the commander of the
“Sally D.” was stronger at blustering than he was at fighting, he
understood full well that it would be in the power of Uncle Ben to make
matters very inconvenient, if not absolutely disagreeable for him.

As a matter of course Uncle Ben as the owner or lessee of the island had
no right to forbid vessels to anchor in the coves; but it was for him to
say who should be permitted to come ashore, and the fisherman who could
not take aboard his water supply from this particular place would be put
to great inconvenience. Until to-day Uncle Ben had welcomed any who
pleased to visit the island, and was ever ready to lend a hand when it
was needed, therefore it can readily be seen that for business reasons,
if for no other, Captain Doak could not well afford to seriously offend
the old lobster catcher.

The question to be decided in Captain Doak’s mind was as to which would
be the greater loss, Sam’s services, which did not cost him anything in
the way of money, or Uncle Ben’s friendship, which really meant the
shutting out of Apple Island’s conveniences from the “Sally D.” and her
commander.

It was evident that Captain Doak decided he could get along without the
lobster catcher’s friendship better than he could the cook to whom he
paid nothing, for after a brief time of hesitation and thought he said
sufficiently loud to be heard by those who were hiding behind the rocks:

“If that old lobster thinks I’m dependin’ on him for fresh water, he’ll
soon find he’s mistaken, an’ as for his standin’ up with Sam agin me,
I’ll let him know that it’s a job he’d better not tackle!”

Then, as if having forgotten that he had crossed the island in search of
the runaway, Captain Doak followed rapidly in Uncle Ben’s footsteps, and
Sam whispered to his new-made friend:

“There’s goin’ to be a big row now for sure. The cap’en has got his back
up, an’ I’m afraid Uncle Ben will get the worst of it.”

“It kinder strikes me that we’re bound to take a hand in it, ’cordin’ to
all you’ve said ’bout both of ’em,” Tom replied in a matter-of-fact
tone. “If your boss gets the upper hand things are likely to be warm
for you, so the play is to put in what licks we can for the other one.”

“We couldn’t do anything!” Sam exclaimed with a long-drawn sigh.
“Cap’en Doak would chew us all up before we’d even winked.”

“I ain’t so certain of that. I’ve never seen a row yet, an’ I’ve been
mixed up with a lot of ’em in my day, when a boy didn’t have a chance to
make considerable of a showin’, if he was willin’ to pitch in. Come on
before it’s too late! Your boss has got inter the bushes by this time
an’ won’t be likely to know what we’re up to if we keep our wits about
us.”

Sam, not believing it would be possible to lend aid to Uncle Ben, and
not eager to come any nearer his stepfather than might be absolutely
necessary, would have refused to leave his place of concealment, but Tom
had stepped out from behind the rocks as he spoke, setting off at once
in the same direction as that taken by Captain Doak.

“Keep close behind me an’ I’ll show you how to work a trick or two,” Tom
said, as if to show that he had taken command of the party, and then he
walked at such a rapid pace that Sam could not have taken the lead even
had he been so disposed.

It was not difficult to follow the commander of the “Sally D.” without
attracting his attention; the threat made by Uncle Ben had aroused
Captain Doak’s anger to such an extent that he appeared to have
forgotten Sam entirely.

Until the angry fisherman had passed through the thicket Tom kept
reasonably close to his heels, but when he came out into the open, on
the slope which led to the cove, it became necessary for the boys to
hang back until quite a distance in the rear. Therefore, when he turned
sharply to the left around the shed in which Uncle Ben stored his fuel,
the lads no longer had him in view.

In order to advance with the least danger of being seen Tom had made a
wide detour to gain the shelter of a stack of lobster-pots, with no idea
in mind that there was any necessity for moving rapidly. But suddenly
he heard the voice of Captain Doak, raised high as if in anger.

“Now there will be a row, an’ if we don’t take a hand Uncle Ben is bound
to get the worst of it!” Sam cried, as he urged Tom forward by gripping
his arm firmly. “Come on! We’ve got to help Uncle Ben!”

His own fears were forgotten in the desire to aid the old man who had
been so kind to him.

The boys arrived on the scene at the exact moment when their services
were most needed by Uncle Ben, for the master of the “Sally D.,”
apparently half crazed by anger, was rushing toward the lobster catcher
with clenched fists.

“I reckon here’s where we get our work in!” Tom cried, as if delighted
by the evidences of trouble, and catching up the first missile that came
to his hand, which proved to be a lobster-pot buoy, with a half-inch
rope made fast to one end, he ran between the two men, swinging the
heavy weapon in a threatening manner.

So blinded by his rage was Captain Doak that he apparently did not see
the newcomers until Sam, armed with a heavy stake, pressed close by the
side of his friend, and then, suddenly recognizing the truant cook, the
commander of the “Sally D.” sprang forward to seize him.

“None of that, or I’ll let this ’ere buoy come agin your head!” Tom
cried threateningly. He swung his improvised weapon yet more vigorously,
and Captain Doak fell back a few paces, for a single blow from the heavy
missile would have inflicted a serious wound.

“Why didn’t you stay in the bushes?” Uncle Ben asked sharply of Sam, and
before the latter could reply Captain Doak shouted:

“Get aboard the schooner, you young idler, an’ when I’ve settled with
this Ben Johnson I’ll ’tend to your case in sich a way that you won’t
try to give me the slip ag’in!”

“He’ll stay where he is! An’ if you raise your hand against him we’ll
see what the law can do toward makin’ you pay over to the lad the money
what belongs to him from the sellin’ of his mother’s house!” Uncle Ben
cried, as he pulled Sam toward him, at the same time looking in
bewilderment at Tom, as if wondering where he had dropped from.

Angry though Captain Doak was, he could understand without too great a
mental effort that the odds were against him.

“If you think you can carry matters with sich a high hand, Ben Johnson,
keep on tryin’, an’ before you’re many days older I’ll show you what
claim I’ve got on that idle, worthless Sam. You’ve run agin the wrong
man when you tackle me, an’ I’ll straighten out things on this ’ere
island if I never wet another line this season.”

“An’ I’m tellin’ you, Eliakim Doak, that you shall answer to the law for
trespass. I’ve warned you off this place, an’ you’ve stayed to
threaten, so it’s time I found out who’s master here,” Uncle Ben
replied, his face pale with anger, but his voice calm and low.

Just for one moment Captain Doak lingered, as if to decide whether there
was yet a possibility of his overcoming the small army opposed to him,
and then, shaking his fist in impotent rage, he walked slowly away to
where the “Sally D.’s” dory lay with her bow on the beach.

Uncle Ben followed slowly, the boys trailing on behind him, and not
until the fisherman had pulled off to the schooner was any word spoken
by those on the island. Then the old lobster catcher said with a sigh,
which might have been one of regret:

“I’ve lived here nigh to thirty years, off an’ on, an’ this is the first
time I’ve had a hard word with man or boy. I reckon Eliakim an’ I have
declared war now, though, an’ it stands me in hand to keep my weather
eye open, for he ain’t the kind of a man who’s given to fair fightin’.”
Then, turning suddenly upon Sam, he asked, pointing toward Tom, “Where
did that lad come from, an’ what made you try to take a hand in the
row?”

“We couldn’t stand still an’ see Cap’en Doak jump on you,” Sam replied
quickly, and then, in the fewest possible words, he told of Tom’s
rescue, giving to himself very little credit for what had been done in
the way of saving life.

“It begins to look as if the good Lord was bound I should carry out the
plan I’ve been turnin’ over in my mind these many years,” Uncle Ben said
slowly, as if thinking aloud, and when Sam asked for an explanation of
the words he added: “Get inter the shanty, lads; there’s no good reason
why you should stay outside here where the sight of you will only make
Eliakim Doak worse. We’ll talk this over later, when we’ve got more
time. Now it stands me in hand to make ready for a trip to town.”

“To town, Uncle Ben!” Sam cried as if in alarm. “If you go while the
’Sally D.’ is layin’ here, Cap’en Doak will come ashore an’ serve me out
terribly.”

“I’m allowin’ the two of us could make it mighty hot for him if he tried
any funny business,” Tom interrupted, and from the tone of his voice one
would have said that it would give him no little pleasure to try
conclusions with the commander of the “Sally D.”

“I shan’t go away while that schooner is anchored off here,” Uncle Ben
said decidedly. “What’s more, I’m grieved that I’ve let my temper get
the best of me, even though Eliakim did threaten. Howsomever, it stands
me in hand to take the consequences, which are that I must go to town
after riggin’ up some kind of a plan so’s to make sure of findin’ you
lads here when I get back.”

“Is it because of your plan that you’re goin’, Uncle Ben?” Sam asked as
if in doubt as to whether he had the right to raise such a question.

“No, lad, I’ve got to go, seein’s how I allowed to bring suit agin
Eliakim Doak for trespass, an’ it won’t do to break my word now.
Besides, if I don’t do something of the kind, there’s no tellin’ how far
that man may dare to go for the sake of gettin’ his hands on you once
more, which is what I’m goin’ to prevent. My plan can be talked over
after we’ve settled down peaceably, so to speak, though it does really
seem as if it was workin’ itself out with no help from me.”

“I don’t believe that the cap’en cares very much about the law, an’ I’m
expectin’ he’ll keep on raisin’ a row till I just have to go back to the
’Sally D.,’” Sam said, with a long-drawn sigh, and Uncle Ben replied
almost sharply:

“I’m allowin’ that he hasn’t cared much for the law back along, else he
wouldn’t have dared to sell your home an’ put the money inter his own
pocket; but it’ll go hard if I can’t bring him ’round to respectin’ what
the court says shall be done. It seems as if I was goin’ back on all
the principles I’ve held to by gettin’ inter law at my time of life; but
it’s too late to draw out now, for neither he nor any other man shall
hector a boy same’s he’s been hectorin’ you.”

Then Uncle Ben went into the shanty as if to make preparations for
departure, while Sam and Tom stood watching the movements of the two men
who could be seen moving about on the deck of the “Sally D.,” and Tom
finally asked:

“Who’s the other feller?”

“Rube Rowe; he’s a real good man, an’ has told me more than once that he
wouldn’t sail in the ’Sally D.’ if it wasn’t that Cap’en Doak pays him
better wages than he could get on any other craft. You see, it ain’t
easy to find decent fishermen who’ll sail with a man like him,” and he
waved his hand in the direction of Captain Doak, “so he has to give good
money, or go without.”

“Would Rube Rowe do anything to hurt you?”

“Don’t reckon he’d think there was anythin’ wrong in draggin’ me aboard
the schooner, if the cap’en said to, ’cause he’s my stepfather, an’ a
good many people believe I’m bound to hang right by him. If it hadn’t
been for Uncle Ben I’d never so much as thought of runnin’ away, an’
perhaps it would have been better if I hadn’t started, ’cause he’ll make
it mighty warm for me if he ever gets me aboard the schooner.”

“You’ll be a softy if he does get a hold on you after all that’s been
done. I’d like to see the fisherman who could haul me away from this
island if Uncle Ben had allowed I might stay with him. It’s time your
old schooner got under way.”

“I’m afraid Cap’en Doak won’t leave till he’s had one more whack at me,”
Sam replied sorrowfully and then, turning abruptly, he made his way to
the shanty that he might take counsel with Uncle Ben.

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