“FOR SALE”

Although Uncle Ben appeared so ready to find excuses for Captain Doak’s
surliness, Tom Falonna was not disposed to let the matter drop, as if it
were no more than an ordinary incident, but, on his return to the
shanty, told Mr. Rowe and Sam of the meeting, and what had passed
between the two men, adding in conclusion:

“’Cordin’ to my way of thinkin’, there’s sich a thing as bein’ too good
for this ’ere world, an’ that’s what’s ailin’ Uncle Ben. What he oughter
done was to up an’ hit that pirate a clip under the ear, so’s to give
him a lesson in manners. I only wish his schooner had to lay there on
the sand till I lent a hand toward gettin’ her off! You can bet real
money that she’d rot there!”

“After all that’s been done an’ said, I ain’t got it in my heart to do a
friendly turn for Eliakim Doak,” Mr. Rowe added thoughtfully. “I’d
heard considerable ’bout him before I agreed to fish aboard the ’Sally
D.’ this season; but I never allowed he, nor any other man for that
matter, could be so downright mean an’ ugly as he’d showed hisself. I’d
had it in mind to leave him the very minute I could get some little part
of what was due me for wages; but when Sam stirred up things, I come to
believe that dollars didn’t count very big when it meant stayin’ aboard
the schooner any longer. My biggest hope now is that he’ll float her
mighty sudden, for the sooner that’s been done the quicker we’ll get rid
of him.”

“It won’t seem as if we’d really been made over inter a family till he
has left the island for good an’ all,” Sam said emphatically, as he
straightened up from his work of frying fish to look over his shoulder
apprehensively toward the beach. “It’s dead certain he’ll be on the
watch for a chance to get hold of me once more, no matter how much Uncle
Ben threatens, an’ I’ll have cold chills just so long as he hangs ’round
here.”

“Don’t let Eliakim fret you, Sammy,” Uncle Ben, who had entered the
shanty in time to hear the conclusion of the lad’s remark, said placidly
as he seated himself at the breakfast table. “I cut his claws when I
went to the Port, an’ he knows he’d get inter mighty deep water with the
law by interferin’ in your affairs.”

Uncle Ben, understanding that such conversation only served to increase
Sam’s fears regarding what the owner of the “Sally D.” might do,
hastened to change the subject by outlining the labors of the day:

“I reckon we may as well get at the old pots, to put ’em in shape agin
winter weather. Now we’ve started out as a reg’lar family, it stands us
in hand to have some rule ’bout the day’s work. It strikes me that if
Eliakim is goin’ to loaf ’round here, as seems to be his idee, I’d
better stop ashore to keep him down where he belongs. So s’posen all
hands turn to an’ bring the traps up here where I can find ’em handy?
When that’s been done, the lobsterin’ crew better get onto their job.
If they have as good luck as came to ’em yesterday, it’ll be a case of
carryin’ a cargo to the Port mighty soon.”

Sam, at this point, put an end to the conversation by setting before the
hungry family the results of his labor as cook, and during the next ten
minutes all hands were actively engaged “puttin’ in a stomach linin’,”
as Uncle Ben expressed it.

Immediately the meal was finished Mr. Rowe and Tommy set about bringing
up the pots which needed repairs, while Sam washed the dishes and
otherwise put the shanty to rights. Uncle Ben lost no time in beginning
his portion of the work, and while the “family” were thus as industrious
as bees, Captain Doak sat on the beach sulkily smoking his pipe.

“I declare, Sammy, I can’t make out what Eliakim’s got on his mind,” the
old lobster catcher said, after getting well settled down to his task of
knitting new heads for the traps. “It don’t look as if he counted on
doin’ anythin’ toward gettin’ the ’Sally’ outer the sand, an’ yet he
must have some scheme in his mind.”

“P’rhaps he’s waitin’ to get hold of me,” the amateur cook suggested
timidly.

“Then he’s wastin’ his time, for a fact. You’ll be out in the dory with
Reuben an’ Tommy the best part of the day, an’ I’ll go bail he can’t do
you any harm there. When you get back, the family will all be close at
your heels, so however evil-minded he may be, Eliakim won’t be able to
spin a thread.”

“If so be the cook is done putterin’ ’round, we’ll look after the pots!”
Mr. Rowe called cheerily from the outside as he and Tommy brought up the
last load of traps, and Sam replied to what might be considered as an
invitation, by hurrying out of the shanty.

When the three launched Uncle Ben’s dory in order to begin the real work
of the day Captain Doak yet remained where Sam had first seen him that
morning, and, so far as could be told, he gave no heed whatever when the
lads and his mutinous “crew” passed to and fro near him.

“Do you allow he might be thinkin’ of tryin’ to get square with Uncle
Ben?” Tommy asked in a whisper when the dory was some little distance
from the shore on her way to the nearest trap, and Mr. Rowe replied
confidently:

“Don’t get any sich a notion as that down, lad. Eliakim is sober enough
now to realize that he’d be gettin’ inter the worst kind of hot water if
he tried any funny games with the old man, ’specially after we would
swear he was the only outsider left on the island when we pushed off.
He couldn’t count on doin’ any mischief with the idee that nobody would
know who’d done it. I reckon he’s hard up for cash to hire help in
floatin’ the schooner, an’ havin’ nothin’ else to do, is kinder watchin’
the craft, with a crazy belief that she may slide off’er the sand
without waitin’ for help.”

Then the dory was over the first trap, and Tom, who insisted on serving
a thorough apprenticeship at the business, was picking up the buoy rope
with the gaff, doing it “uncommonly handy-like,” as Mr. Rowe said
approvingly.

The “take” was not as large as on the day previous, but yet they found
marketable lobsters enough to satisfy any save the most avaricious, and
when finally the dory was pulled around the southern point of the island
on her way to the car, where the results of the day’s work were to be
left, Mr. Rowe said exultantly:

“I reckon the family have earned their keep an’ a leetle more this day.
With lobsters fetchin’ eighteen cents apiece wholesale we’ve scooped in
good wages. But wait till Uncle Ben gets a schooner! Then you lads
will be jumpin’ to in good earnest. What with saltin’ down, runnin’
fresh fish inter market, an’ ’tendin’ to the traps, it won’t be any very
idle lives you’ll be leadin’.”

“Knockin’ ’round here don’t seem like real work,” Master Falonna
replied, in a tone of content. “But even if it was the hardest kind of
a job we’d feel like bucklin’ down in great shape, so long as we’re
workin’ to make a home for the family. Hello! It looks as if Cap’en
Doak had gone at last! I can’t see his dory anywhere!”

“What’s that white thing on the ’Sally’s’ hull?” Mr. Rowe asked,
curiously, turning in his seat to make certain Tommy was not mistaken as
to the absence of the unwelcome visitor.

Neither of the lads could even make a guess as to the correct reply.
They could see a small square of white on the hull of the stranded
vessel, and it had, from a distance, the appearance of a sheet of paper;
but since it was not probable Captain Doak would have taken the trouble
to fasten anything of the kind on the “Sally,” it seemed reasonable to
suppose that something had been blown against the timbers by the wind,
as Tommy suggested carelessly.

When the lobsters had been thrown into the car and the fishermen were
nearing the beach, Uncle Ben came out of the shanty to meet them, and as
the boat’s bow struck the sand he cried, showing signs of nervous
excitement for perhaps the first time in his life:

“Do you see that ’ere?” and he pointed to the square of white which had
already attracted Mr. Rowe’s attention.

“Ay; what is it?” Reuben asked carelessly as he leaped over the gunwale
into the water to aid in carrying the dory beyond reach of the tide.

“It’s a notice sayin’ that the ’Sally D.’ will be sold at auction as she
lays, this day week,” Uncle Ben replied with yet more show of
excitement, and Mr. Rowe said curiously:

“Sold at auction, eh? So that’s what Eliakim came over here for so
early, eh? Sellin’ her as she lays! Does that mean he believes she
can’t be floated?”

“I dunno; he wouldn’t make any talk to me ’bout it. After you left I
tried to be neighborly—asked him to come inter the shanty an’ have a cup
of coffee; but I might jest as well have invited a ragin’ hyena. He
made a good deal of rough talk, mixin’ in some threats, an’ after a
spell tacked up that paper. Sold as she lays this day week! I’m
allowin’ he couldn’t raise the money to hire a tug, an’ kinder figgered
that the season wouldn’t ’mount to much, now that he had lost his crew
an’ the cook, so he’s countin’ on goin’ outer the business. How much do
you reckon she’ll fetch, Reuben?”

“Wa’al, the ’Sally’ ain’t any slouch of a schooner,” Mr. Rowe said
slowly and thoughtfully, as if giving due weight to the subject; “but
neither is she so very young, an’ it’ll need a power of fixin’ to put
her inter what you might call first-class shape, for I’m doubtin’ if
Eliakim has spent a dollar on her these last five years. Then ag’in,
she’ll be mighty deep in the sand by this day week, an’ the tides won’t
be runnin’ so high. Take it all in all, Eliakim will come out mighty
well if he gets four hundred dollars, though if I had twice as much
ag’in, an’ lived here on the island, I’d allow it would be a good
bargain to offer it.”

“How much will it cost for a tug to pull her off?”

“Wa’al, that’s as may be. It ain’t any ways certain it could be done in
two days, or even four, an’ I allow there ain’t a man ’round here who’d
take the job less’n a couple of hundred, with the chances of not
finishin’ it even then. But it wouldn’t be any steamer for me, if I
owned the schooner an’ lived here.”




“How would you go about it?” Uncle Ben asked quickly, and with no slight
show of eagerness.

“First an’ foremost, I’d get out five or six of the biggest trees on
this ’ere island, an’ peel off the bark so’s they’d answer for ways.
Then I’d start in when the tide was goin’, an’ dig along one side till
I’d made sich a slope that she’d reg’larly fall inter it—after I had the
timbers fixed jest right. Then it would be more of a job to get her
shored up on the other side; but it could be done if time didn’t count
for too much.”;

“I dunno as I jest catch your meanin’, Reuben,” Uncle Ben said in
perplexity, and Mr. Rowe replied with a laugh:

“I don’t reckon as I’ve made it very plain; but the thing is mapped out
all right in my head. I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout it ever since the
’Sally’ run her nose inter that sand, an’ am willin’ to agree that I
could do it with the crew that’s here, in less’n six weeks. Of course,
if a man had to hire them as was needed to help him, keepin’ ’em ’round
loafin’ when the tide was so high that the work couldn’t be done, it
would cost a pile of money; but put this ’ere family at the job, an’ it
would be easy.”

“An’ you’d be willin’ to pay eight hundred dollars for her, eh?”

“Look here, Uncle Ben,” and Mr. Rowe wheeled to look the old man
suspiciously in the face. “You aint pumpin’ me jest for the sake of
talkin’, an’ that I’ll bet on! What have yer got in your noddle?”

“Wa’al, Reuben, to tell the truth I’ve been wonderin’ if this ’ere
wasn’t our chance to get a schooner for what little money we’ve got to
spend. When I talked ’bout goin’ inter fishin’, I allowed it might be
possible to buy a small craft at a song, ’specially if she was so old
that it wouldn’t be safe to take her to the Banks. But here’s the
’Sally’; we know what she is—looks worse’n she really is, an’ a craft
that would serve our turn to a hair. I’ve got eight hundred dollars, an’
that’s about all——”

“Take my word for it, Uncle Ben, you won’t have to put half of it out to
get her!” Mr. Rowe cried excitedly, while Sam and Tommy shook hands with
each other as their way of showing approbation of the old man’s scheme.
“She’s worth a good five hundred more to you, than to any other man,
’cause you can float her so much cheaper’n a fellow could who had to
hire a crew for the work. Jest say that you’ll be willin’ to spend four
hundred, an’ I’ll figger my plan out so plain that it can be understood,
an’ prove that we needn’t pay a cent for steamers or men.”

“I would believe the Lord had put it inter Eliakim’s head to sell her in
order that we might have a vessel of our own, if she could be bought at
that price,” Uncle Ben replied emphatically, and that he had been
considering the matter in all its bearings, was shown when he added: “If
we didn’t have to pay more than you allow, then I’d have enough left to
put her inter good sailin’ trim, for she needs a thorough overhaulin’.”

“Now look here, Uncle Ben,” and Mr. Rowe spoke with so much earnestness
as to be impressive, “you can take my word for it that she’s jest the
same as yours this very minute, though if you take my advice, you’ll get
somebody at the Port to bid her in to you, ’cause I’ve got an idea that
Eliakim wouldn’t let you have her if he could help himself. Buy the
schooner, an’ if I can’t get her afloat without askin’ you to spend a
cent of money, I’ll sign articles to work for you without wages, till
I’m as old as Methusalem!”

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