AN UNWELCOME VISITOR

Tom was apparently lost in surprise because the lad who had shown so
much bravery by saving the life of a stranger at imminent risk of his
own was nearly overcome by terror simply through seeing in the far
distance that vessel on which he knew was his stepfather.

He looked alternately at Sam and the “Sally D.,” as if fancying that
somewhere in the middle distance he might see that which would give him
a clue to what was really a riddle, and failing in making out more than
the wide expanse of restless waters, he turned toward his friend, asking
impatiently:

“What’s comin’ over you so bad? S’pose that vessel is the ’Sally D.,’
what’s the use of worryin’?”

“Cap’en Doak is comin’ ashore after me. He must have sailed around the
island to wait till he saw Uncle Ben headin’ for Southport, an’ he could
get his hands on me without much trouble. What’ll I do? Oh, what’ll I
do?”

“Look here, Sam!” Tom cried impatiently. “If you’re willin’ to stand
here on the beach when your stepfather lands, in case that vessel is the
’Sally D.,’ an’ in case he’s comin’ back after you, then I allow he
might have a chance of pickin’ you up without very much bother; but
what’s to hinder your makin’ things lively for him?”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked helplessly, and it really seemed as if he
had lost his wits in the sudden attack of terror which beset him so
sorely.

“Mean? Can’t you see that the cap’en of that ’ere schooner would have a
mighty rough time gettin’ his hands on you, if it was a case of huntin’
for what he wanted? This ain’t any toy island, an’ I’d be willin’ to
bet great big dollars that there ain’t the man livin’ who could get hold
of me if I wanted to keep out of his way! What’s to hinder our layin’
low in the bushes, if so be he comes ashore? I reckon he would be a good
long day runnin’ us down, an’ before that happened your Uncle Ben would
be back to take a hand in the scrimmage!”

The look of distress slowly died Away from Sam’s face as his companion
spoke. He had been so overcome by terror at seeing the “Sally D.” that
there was no room in his mind for any thought save what Captain Doak
would do if it was possible for him to work his will, but now he began
to realize that he was showing himself very much of a coward.

“Say, that’s so! You must think I’m a regular baby!” he said with a
faint attempt at a smile. “Just for a minute it seemed as if I was
bound to stand right here waitin’ till Cap’en Doak came ashore. I guess
we’ll give him a good chance to hunt for us.”

“That’s the way to talk,” Tom said approvingly. “We’ll give him a run
for his money, an’ if he gets his hands on either of us I’m allowin’
it’ll be ’cause we’ve lost our heads. There’s no reason why we should
stay up here on the rocks where he’ll see us, so let’s slip down the
other side where we’ll be out of the way an’ can see what he counts on
doin’.”

“Why not go straight back into the bushes an’ find a hidin’-place?”

“’Cause there’s no need of it yet a while. It wouldn’t be any very big
job to keep ahead of him, with anythin’ decent in the way of a start,
an’ I want to see how far he dares jump after your Uncle Ben has told
him that he’s goin’ to law ’bout it.”

Sam had no desire to linger in the vicinity. So great was his fear of
Captain Doak that he would gladly have put to sea in the dory rather
than take the slight chance of being captured on the island. But,
having once shown himself to be a veritable coward so far as an
encounter with the commander of the “Sally D.” was concerned, he shrank
from any further display of fear.

Therefore it was that the boys crouched behind the brow of the cliff,
where a full view of the cove could be had, watching the shabby schooner
as she crept nearer and nearer to the land, and Sam found it really
difficult to prevent a tremor of fear from being apparent in his voice
as he replied to Tom’s questions regarding Uncle Ben.

The good people of Southport, where Sam had been born, knew that
Benjamin Johnson was a native of the town, and even as a young man had
been known as an “odd stick,” who, when his father and mother died,
earned sufficient to make a home for his two sisters by his labor as a
fisherman. When the young women were married, Ben leased Apple Island,
and for many years had worked industriously; it was generally believed
he had saved considerable money, and there were many who, not knowing
him of whom they spoke, called the lobster catcher a miser.

“He’s been mighty good to me since mother died,” Sam said when Tom had
come to an end of his questions, “an’ if he can make Cap’en Doak behave
himself so’s I’ll dare to show my head, I’ll be in great luck livin’
here with him.”

“Do you reckon he’ll let me stay, too?” Tom asked anxiously.

“He has just the same as said you could, an’ all we’ve got to do in
order to have as good a home as any fellow could ask for, is to jump
right inter the work, same’s you’ve begun. It’s a big lot of help to
Uncle Ben, now that he’s gettin’ ’under old, to have somebody pull the
pots, an’ between the two of us we oughter tend to the business without
his raisin’ a finger.”

“You can bet I’ll do my part of it all right; but perhaps he ain’t
countin’ on stayin’ here very long.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked in alarm.

“That plan of his that he keeps tellin’ about may have somethin’ to do
with leavin’ the island.”

Such a suggestion as this would have caused Sam no slight anxiety at any
other time, for the possibility that Uncle Ben’s “plan,” whatever it
might be, would involve his abandoning Apple Island had never occurred
to the lad until this moment. Just now, however, while the “Sally D.”
was slowly but surely approaching the anchorage, he could give little
heed to anything save the fear that Captain Doak might succeed in
getting hold of him once more.

Soon the lads could see the two men clearly, and Sam knew only too well
that his stepfather was in a towering rage.

“He’ll use up more’n one rope’s end on me if he gets the chance!” the
lad said with an indrawing of the breath, and his companion, trying to
speak in a careless tone, replied:

“Oh, he’ll have a mighty tough time gettin’ near enough to make much
trouble, no matter how long he stays. We’ll wait here till we see what
his game is, for there won’t be any sense in runnin’ ’round very lively
before there’s need for it.”

The lads were not kept in suspense many moments. Within a quarter hour
the “Sally D.” was inside the cove; Rube Rowe let the anchor go with a
rush, the sails were hauled down, but not furled, and with everything on
the deck at sixes and sevens, Captain Doak jumped into the dory which
was towing alongside, shouting impatiently to his solitary sailor:

“Bear a hand lively, Rube, for I ain’t countin’ on wastin’ very much
time over this job!”

“Lookin’ for a boy on this ’ere island, an’ the sun within half an hour
of settin’, is goin’ to be a good deal like huntin’ for a needle in a
haystack,” Mr. Rowe grumbled as he obeyed orders, and he was hardly more
than in the boat before the angry captain had begun to row her to the
shore.

“We’ll go straight across the island, for if Ben hasn’t taken him along
the cub is sure to get as far away as possible, an’ once we get our
hands on him, it’s a case of goin’ aboard lively; I’ve spent too much
time on him already.”

“I ain’t certain as the law will uphold us in takin’ him by force, even
if you are his stepfather,” the sailor replied fretfully, and his
employer cried angrily:

“Do what I tell you, an’ I’ll look after the law part of it. Don’t be
afraid of knockin’ him down if you find that he can run too fast. Now
bear to the east’ard an’ I’ll tackle the other end of the island;
there’s little chance he can give both of us the slip.”

Having thus given his orders, Captain Doak set off at a rapid pace,
passing within twenty yards of where the lads were cowering behind the
jutting rocks of the cliff, and Tom whispered when the angry man was so
far away that there could be no danger his words might be overheard:

“Now you see that it was best to stay right here; they don’t count on
our hangin’ ’round near the cove, an’ this is as good a place as we
could find. I haven’t had to sneak away time an’ time ag’in from Mother
Sharkey without gettin’ a mighty good idea of how the trick can be
turned.”

During the next thirty minutes the boys remained silent but on the
alert, one watching for Captain Doak, and the other for Rube Rowe, and
the shadows of evening were lengthening before either of the men put in
an appearance. Then they could be seen coming directly toward the
shanty, walking side by side, and Tom whispered triumphantly:

“They’ve given it up as a bad job, so all we’ve got to do is lay low
here till they look inside the shanty, for it ain’t likely they’ll leave
without openin’ the door.”

“Hadn’t we better run while we’ve got a chance?” Sam asked tremulously.

“Not a bit of it. They’d be sure to sight us, but if we can keep our
distance half an hour longer, it’ll be so dark that they can’t see an
inch before their noses.”

Sam literally flattened himself against the cliff, in his effort to
hide, and hardly dared to breathe when the two men approached the shanty
directly beneath him.




“If it wasn’t so late I’d have that miserable cub out of this!” Captain
Doak cried angrily as he kicked open the door of Uncle Ben’s home, “an’
even as it is he hasn’t given me the slip, for the ’Sally’ shall stay
where she is till I’ve put him aboard.”

“If that’s the way you’re feelin’, I’m allowin’ that we won’t wet
another line this season,” Rube Rowe said with a laugh which caused
Captain Doak to turn with upraised hand as if to strike a blow, and the
sailor cried warningly as he put himself in a posture of defense:

“None of that, Eliakim, or you an’ I’ll part company mighty sudden! I
ain’t so fond of the ’Sally D.,’ an’ it wouldn’t take much of your funny
business to give me my discharge.”

“Don’t talk crazy, Rube! What we’re after is that young cub, an’ this
ain’t the time to cut up rough.”

“You’re doin’ the rough part of it, ’cordin’ to my way of thinkin’, an’
I want you to understand that it won’t take much to put me out of the
job altogether. I ain’t so certain that you’ve got the law on your
side, an’ then ag’in, I’ve allers felt sorry for the little chap, ’cause
there’s no denyin’ but that you’ve led him the toughest kind of a life,
an’ he savin’ you the wages of a cook.”

“Hold your tongue! I know more ’bout law than that drivelin’ old
lobster catcher can tell me, so don’t get the idee that I’m leadin’ you
inter any trouble. The boy is my stepson, an’ he’s bound to dance to my
pipin’ till he’s twenty-one, or I’ll know the reason why. Got any
matches?”

“What do you want of ’em?”

“I’m goin’ to set this shack on fire. Ben Johnson shall be made to
understand what it means to buck agin me. If he was here, I’d give him
a lesson that wouldn’t soon be forgot; but seein’s he ain’t, I’ll let
him have a taste of what’s comin’.”

“If I had any matches you shouldn’t have ’em to use on that shanty!”
Rube Rowe cried angrily. “I know what it means to set a house on fire!”

“This ain’t a house, you bloomin’ idjut; it’s nothin’ but a fisherman’s
shanty, an’ the law won’t be troubled ’bout it. Besides who’s to know
we did the job, if we get under way lively—I can come back after Sam
to-morrow.”

“You’ll get no matches from me,” Rube growled as he walked rapidly up
the shore, and Captain Doak, seemingly incited to yet greater anger by
the opposition of his “crew,” said hoarsely as he ran toward the “Sally
D.’s” boat:

“I’ll go aboard an’ get what I want. When that’s been done, you an’
I’ll have a settlement!”

“I reckon here’s where we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Tom whispered
as he crept slowly to the top of the cliff. “That cap’en of yours won’t
set any shanty afire while I’ve got life enough to roll a lot of these
rocks down on his head!”

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