UNCLE BEN’S ARRIVAL

Sam filled both buckets with sea water and carried them to the top of
the cliff, where they could conveniently be got at in case the commander
of the “Sally D.” made another attempt to burn the shanty, and, this
done, there was nothing more to be done in the way of defense.

Now that he had time to consider the situation more calmly, and while
they were waiting for Captain Doak to reappear, Tom began to have some
misgivings regarding their ability to hold possession of the island
against a man armed with a deadly weapon.

“Are you certain that gun of his ain’t in condition?” he asked
anxiously, and Sam replied with a laugh, as if there was no question
whatsoever in his mind:

“I heard the cap’en say it had been loaded more’n two years, an’ in that
time, for it has been hangin’ up in the ’Sally’s’ cabin all the while,
it stands to reason it must have gathered considerable rust. Rube Rowe
said he’d rather stand in front than behind it, in case anybody was
crazy enough to pull the trigger.”

“Then I reckon it’s all right,” Tom said with a sigh of relief. “I
ain’t backin’ down any when it comes to stoppin’ that bloomin’ fisherman
from burnin’ your Uncle Ben’s shanty; but I ain’t had any too much
experience in fightin’ with guns. When I lived with Mother Sharkey it
was only a case of dodgin’ anythin’ she could lay her hands on, an’ I’m
way up on tricks like that, ’cause you see I had to be mighty spry or
catch it hot; but——”

“There comes Cap’en Doak, an’ he’s got the gun with him!” Sam cried, for
he could make out, in the gloom, the outlines of a man emerging from the
cabin of the schooner. “P’rhaps he’s jest crazy-mad enough to fire off
the thing without stoppin’ to think of the rust!”

“I don’t see but that we’ll have to take our chances on it, ’cause it’s
too late to make a move now. Get a couple of rocks ready, an’ when I
say the word let ’em drive the best you know how. We’re bound to do him
all the damage we can. He started all this, and its his fault if he
gets hurt.”

Sam armed himself as his companion had suggested, but at the same time
he was far from feeling comfortable in mind. It was to him a very
serious matter, this attempting to work injury to a human being, and the
idea came into his mind that he would be solely responsible for whatever
might happen, because, by at once giving himself up, to his stepfather,
he could put an end to further trouble on the island, but in such case
he would receive most terrible punishment.

“Look here, Tom,” he said in a tearful tone as he allowed the rocks to
drop from his hands, “this row wouldn’t have come off if I hadn’t run
away from the schooner an’ I can stop it all now by goin’ aboard the
’Sally’ an’ takin’ what the cap’en sees fit to deal out in the way of a
thumpin’. I’m goin’ to give in, an’ then there won’t be any danger
Uncle Ben’s shanty will be burned.”

“You ain’t goin’ to do any sich foolish thing!” Tom cried, excitedly.
“An’ what’s more, your Uncle Ben’s shanty won’t be burned while there
are plenty of rocks near by! S’pose you hadn’t run away, where’d I be
now? Swashin’ ’round off the shore with the fish havin’ a Thanksgivin’
dinner, an’ on account of that I’m bound to hold up the biggest end of
this ’ere scrimmage. You won’t go aboard the schooner to-night, not if
I have to hold you on this cliff with one hand while I fight the cap’en
with the other. Here comes the old pirate, so get busy!”

Captain Doak had lost no time in coming ashore after getting possession
of his weapon, and as Tom spoke he was advancing rapidly toward the
shanty, apparently confident of speedily reducing the defenders to
subjection.

“Hold on there! You’ve come far enough!” Master Falonna cried when the
angry captain was a hundred feet away. “The next time we knock you down
it won’t be so easy to get up!”

“I’ll shoot you loafers full of holes!” the commander of the “Sally D.”
cried, the tremor of his voice telling that he was almost beside himself
with rage; but to Tom’s relief, he took good care to remain at a
respectful distance from the foot of the cliff. “I’m willin’ to give
you one chance more, an’ if you ain’t wise enough to take it, there’s
goin’ to be a whole lot of trouble on this island. Let that worthless
Sam go aboard the ’Sally’ this minute, an’ I’ll get the schooner under
way in a jiffy. If he——”

“Never mind ’bout the rest of it, mister, ’cause Sam’s goin’ to stay
right where he is, ’less we have ter come down an’ wipe the earth up
with you. I reckon you’re right when you say there’s goin’ to be
trouble; but you’re the one what’ll have it!”

For reply Captain Doak raised the gun as if to take aim, and Tom
whispered excitedly:

“He’s goin’ to shoot! Let him have it!”

At the same instant he suited the action to the words; four missiles
came skimming down the cliff, one of them striking the rusty gun within
an inch of the captain’s face, and another hitting the commander of the
“Sally D.” on the left leg with a thud that could be distinctly heard.

The ancient weapon was knocked from the captain’s hands, or fell when he
grasped the injured limb as if in greatest distress, and then came from
his lips a regular torrent of abuse and threats.

“I don’t allow you’re doin’ us any damage by usin’ your tongue so much;
but at the same time I ain’t willin’ to stand here doin’ nothin’ while
you’re shootin’ your mouth off at sich a rate,” Tom said threateningly,
as he armed himself with more rocks. “Get on down toward the beach, or
I’ll try my hand at bruisin’ your other leg!”

To the surprise of both the boys, Captain Doak hastily obeyed this
command, hobbling off as if it caused him keenest pain to use the
injured member, but at the same time taking good care not to linger
within range of those whom he had attempted to bully.

“What do you think of that?” Tom cried in astonishment as he watched the
commander of the “Sally D.” hurrying to gain the beach.

“He has gone off to try some other game, an’ when he comes again we’ll
get it hotter,” Sam whispered timidly, and Tom replied scornfully,
almost as if disappointed because the battle had been ended so suddenly:

“Unless he puts up somethin’ hotter we’ve wasted our time by luggin’ up
so many rocks. He’s nothin’ but a great big bully, that’s what he is,
an’ the minute things ain’t runnin’ his way he’s ready to cry baby. I’m
goin’ to get that gun!”

“Don’t! Don’t leave the cliff, or he’ll serve you out terrible!” Sam
cried, trying to prevent his companion from scrambling down the rocky
descent, but Tom pushed him aside as he said disdainfully:

“It’ll be a cold day when he uses me so very terrible, the big bag of
wind!” and down he ran at full speed, Captain Doak apparently giving no
heed as the lad captured the rusty gun.

In less than sixty seconds Tom was on the top of the cliff again,
brandishing his trophy as he shouted to the commander of the schooner
who, seated on the sand, was rubbing his injured limb energetically:

“It’s time you went aboard, ’less you want to get another dose. We’re
here to look after things while Uncle Ben is away, an’ don’t count on
havin’ sich as you ’round here after dark! I’m goin’ to pile a lot of
rocks on this gun, when it has been pointed straight for you, an’ then
tie a string to the trigger so I can pull it without takin’ the chances
of havin’ my head blown off. If you’re in the way there’ll be a mighty
good show of gettin’ hurt.”

“What’s goin’ on over there?” a voice cried from across the water, and
as the boys remained silent in surprise they heard the splash of oars in
the distance.

“Uncle Ben has come back!” Sam shouted, in a tone of most intense
relief, and immediately after came the question:

“What’s the matter ashore?”

“Cap’en Doak has been tryin’ to burn the shanty!” Tom replied, and from
the deck of the schooner Rube Rowe took part in the conversation by
saying irritably:

“I reckon you haven’t got back any too soon, Uncle Ben. The skipper is
crazier than a woodchuck, an’ if the boys hadn’t put up a pretty stiff
fight he’d cut quite a swarth!”

There was no reply, but Sam fancied that the oars were worked more
energetically, as if the old lobster catcher was in a hurry to gain the
shore, and Tom whispered, as he made careful selection of two rocks:

“Let’s get down on the beach about as soon as your Uncle Ben comes
ashore, for there’s no tellin’ what that bloomin’ stepfather of yours
may try to do to the old man.”




It is possible that Sam would not have ventured down from the cliff
alone; but he could do no less than follow the example set by his
companion and by the time Uncle Ben’s dory struck the shore the two lads
were so near that they might easily have fallen upon Captain Doak before
he could do a mischief.

The old lobster catcher hauled his boat far up on the beach and threw
out the anchor, lest she should drift away when the tide rose again,
before saying anything to the man whom he had warned against trespassing
on Apple Island. Then, instead of speaking in an angry tone, he said
placidly:

“You are only makin’ matters worse for yourself, Eliakim, by tryin’ to
work mischief. I allowed you’d let your temper get the upper hand an’ so
did what I could to protect Sam Cushing. I’ve finished the business at
the Port, ’cordin’ to what I promised, an’ if you lay the weight of your
finger on the lad ag’in you’ll be buckin’ agin the whole state of Maine,
’cause you’ve no longer got a shadder of a claim on him.”

“What’s the meanin’ of all that, you old idjut?” Captain Doak cried
angrily, looking toward Uncle Ben for the first time since he had come
ashore.

“I mean that a legal guardian will be app’inted for the boy you’ve
wronged outer his mother’s house, an’ his case will be looked inter by
the judge. As for your bein’ here, that’s another matter, an’ I’ve
found out jest what rights I’ve got to this ’ere island, seein’s how I
pay rent for it. You’re to keep a proper distance, Eliakim Doak, for
I’m warnin’ you off of what is the same as my property, an’ if you put
your foot on this place ag’in I’ll have you sued for trespass.”

“Hurray for Uncle Ben,” said Tom gleefully. Sam was too astonished to
speak.

“It takes considerable to get me started,” Uncle Ben went on, “an’ you
mustn’t think that all this has come on me sudden-like; I’ve had it in
mind ever since the day you sold Sam’s house, puttin’ the money inter
your own pocket, but didn’t get ’round to straightenin’ things till you
allowed he was obleeged to stop aboard with you, doin’ a man’s work an’
gettin’ nothin’ in the way of wages.” Then walking toward his shanty,
giving no heed as to what Captain Doak might propose to do, the old man
said to the boys, “I reckon it is time you turned in, for the night is
gettin’ old. Come with me, for growin’ lads need a good bit of sleep to
keep ’em in shape.”

Tom and Sam followed Uncle Ben; but before entering the shanty both
looked back to see what the commander of the “Sally D.” was doing, and,
much to their surprise, saw that he remained seated on the sand as when
the old lobster catcher came ashore.

“He’s not goin’ to leave,” Tom announced, as he closed the door behind
him lest the subject of their conversation should overhear the words,
and Uncle Ben replied placidly:

“He’ll go aboard after a spell, an’ get the schooner under way. An
obstinate man is Eliakim Doak, an’ it goes agin the grain to be forced
inter doin’ what he don’t like. Have you had much trouble with him?”

Both lads told the story of what had happened on the island, giving the
story in a fragmentary way, but none the less clearly, and when the
recital was done Uncle Ben said in a tone of conviction:

“It’s lucky he didn’t have his will, an’ p’rhaps it’s well he kicked up
a row, else I might have fiddled over my plan till there wasn’t life
enough left in me to carry it out as I’ve figgered on. Now it’s the
same as started, an’ all owin’ to Eliakim’s bad temper.”

Sam and Tom looked at each other in perplexity. Uncle Ben appeared to
think he had accomplished something of importance, and yet they failed
to understand what he meant, for to mix a plan of his with the actions
of Captain Doak seemed much like trying to combine oil with water.

“What is it, Uncle Ben?” Sam asked after waiting in vain for the old man
to make the necessary explanations. “How did Cap’en Doak’s tryin’ to
burn the shanty have anythin’ to do with your plan?”

“It wasn’t what he tried to do since I left that made any difference;
but only because I knew he was out to make trouble. I’ll get a bite to
eat, fill my pipe, an’ then, while I’m takin’ comfort, you shall hear
all about it.”

The old man set about making ready a meal, and while he was thus engaged
Tom crept out to learn what move Captain Doak might have made, returning
five minutes later with the report that the commander of the “Sally D.”
yet remained on the beach as when they had left him.

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