WRECKING

When Uncle Ben and the two boys arrived at the stranded schooner Mr.
Rowe was there, bustling around as if it was his intention to begin the
task of launching her at once, and Uncle Ben said with a laugh, which at
the same time was much like a chuckle of satisfaction:

“Wa’al, Reuben, are you countin’ on havin’ her in deep water before we
turn in?”

“I ain’t allowin’ to let any grass grow under my feet, an’ that’s a
fact,” Mr. Rowe replied in a tone of decision. “This ’ere is a longish
job, an’ I want to get the whole thing figgered out in my head so’s we
won’t have to do any of the work over ag’in.”

“Ain’t you in any way curious to know how I fixed up the trade?”

“I reckon news like that will keep, seein’s how the schooner is yours
past all chance of Cap’en Doak’s backin’ out, eh?”

“The money has been paid, an’ I’ve got a clean bill of sale in my
pocket. William Mansfield looked things up, so’s to make certain there
wasn’t a mortgage or lien on her, consequently, seein’s how Eliakim
signed the documents of his own free will, an’ was mighty glad to get
hold of my four hundred and seventy dollars, I don’t see any show for
him to back down on the bargain.”

“Come on board, Tommy, an’ see what she looks like!” Sam cried as he
clambered up over the bow, and Master Falonna followed close at his
heels, the older members of the “family” paying no attention to what the
lads did, so intent was Reuben on explaining to Uncle Ben exactly how he
proposed to begin work on the following morning.

“I’m wonderin’ if the boys can’t ’tend to the traps alone, to-morrow,
so’s to give you an’ me all the time we want. It ain’t that there’ll be
sich a dreadful sight of work; but we’ll need to do a pile of figgerin’,
an’ at that sort of thing two heads are better’n one.”

“I reckon they can get along all right,” Uncle Ben replied thoughtfully.
“Both of ’em have tried it often enough, an’ that ’ere Tommy takes hold
as if he was born to be a lobster catcher. I was thinkin’, though, that
there’d be a lot of things needed, an’ I’d be called on to go to the
Port.”

“Unless you’ve got business of your own, I reckon you’d better stay
’round here one day so’s to make certain I don’t go astray on my
calculatin’. You see, I didn’t get all the schoolin’ I mighter had, an’
when it comes to shakin’ up figgers, I ain’t over-strong.”

“Hello, Uncle Ben!” Sam cried from the deck of the schooner. “Cap’en
Doak has left all his things in the cabin—gun an’ everythin’. Do you
s’pose he allowed to throw the whole lot inter the trade?”

“The ’Sally’ was sold jest as she laid, with everythin’ aboard, ’cordin’
to what the auctioneer said, an’ he allowed there was considerable
fishin’ gear in the hold: but it don’t seem likely Eliakim would leave
sich as a gun to go inter the bargain.”

“Come up here an’ look your property over, so’s to know jest what you
did buy,” and Sam passed down the bight of a rope that the old man might
come up without too great exertion.

Mr. Rowe dropped his “calculations” in order to aid in the examination
of the new property, and night was fully come before either member of
the party had satisfied his curiosity. There were many articles in the
cabin such as blankets, oilskins, cooking utensils, the rusty gun, and
crockery, which would be of service to the “family”; but the collection
was so large that it did not seem possible Captain Doak had intended all
should be sold with the schooner, and Uncle Ben said with a long-drawn
sigh as he led the way over the rail:

“Dear, dear, I did hope that we’d seen the last of Eliakim; but now I
s’pose he’ll be fritterin’ ’round here pretty nigh all summer, makin’
mischief, an’ allowin’ he’s only gettin’ his things away.”

“If you bought the schooner jest as she lays, I wouldn’t trouble my head
’bout Eliakim Doak. I’d tell him flat-flooted that what things was
aboard belonged to the man who bought her, an’ that he’d get himself
filled so full of holes that he could let hisself out for a
milk-strainer, if he ever stepped foot on the island ag’in,” and Mr.
Rowe shook his fist in the direction of Southport, as if by so doing he
could frighten the man who might possibly attempt to work mischief.

“We won’t have any words with Eliakim, Reuben,” Uncle Ben replied
placidly. “If he comes here claimin’ what’s in the cabin, I shall tell
him to take it an’ be off; but he must be made to understand that I
won’t have him whifflin’ ’round this island any longer than’s necessary
to pack his dunnage inter a boat. Now then, Sammy, if you’re goin’ to
give us any supper this night, it’s time you began to stir yourself
right lively.”

Sam did not need to be reminded of the task to be performed. He was
already in advance of the others on the way to the shanty when Uncle Ben
spoke, and immediately quickened his pace to a run, followed closely by
Tom.

If it is true that “too many cooks spoil the broth,” then the supper
should have been ruined beyond redemption on this first night after the
family had become shipowners, for each member insisted on “bearing a
hand,” until, as Sam declared, it was hard work to find the stove.

Uncle Ben’s prayer was one of thanksgiving, when supper had finally been
made ready, and even a stranger might have understood from the words how
rejoiced the old man was at having thus come into possession of the
“Sally D.,” for by the purchase of the vessel it seemed to him as if
there could no longer be any question as to the success of his plan
relating to the gathering of a family.

There was very little sleeping done by the inmates of the shanty on this
night. So great was the excitement that each one got up two or three
times to look out of the door for some signs of a new day, and it yet
lacked a full hour of sunrise when Uncle Ben said in a tone of positive
relief:

“I reckon we may as well turn out, lads. There’s a good deal to be done
before nightfall, an’ precious little chance that we can sleep while all
hands are on edge ’bout the schooner.”

Mr. Rowe ate breakfast hurriedly, as soon as it had been made ready, and
then, in persuance of the plan already formed in his mind, went, in
company with Uncle Ben, to the grove of fir trees in the middle of the
island, it having already been arranged that Sam and Tommy should attend
to the traps alone.

The boys were proud at thus being entrusted with the labor, yet it would
have been more to their liking had the task assigned them been on shore,
for they were feverishly eager to see the work of launching the “Sally
D.” begun. As it was, they set about the job with a will, and it is
safe to say that never before had Uncle Ben’s traps been hauled and
reset in such a short time. What pleased them better than all was the
fact that the catch was unusually large, and Tom said in a tone of
satisfaction as the last captive was thrown into the car:

“At this rate Uncle Ben won’t have to take very much more of his money
out of the bank to pay for outfittin’ the schooner, ’cause the lobsters
will pay all the bills. I’m glad we’ve got so many, an’ a good deal
better pleased because now we can turn to an’ help Mr. Rowe with his
work. Let’s get ashore lively. I’ll help cook dinner, so’s not to be
gettin’ any more of the fun than you.”

When the boys went ashore they were disappointed at not seeing any
evidences of Mr. Rowe’s work. They had expected much would have been
done toward floating the schooner, and yet it was as if she had not been
visited since they set out to haul the traps.

Not until the two men had answered the summons to dinner did the lads
understand the meaning of this seeming neglect, and then Mr. Rowe
explained that until the timbers, of which the ways were to be made, had
been cut and dragged to the shore nothing could be done.

“We’ll give you a job as soon as these ’ere vittles have been ate,” he
said with a laugh. “Uncle Ben an’ I have got three trees ready, an’
while you’re makin’ horses out of yourselves by haulin’ ’em to the beach
we’ll trim up as many more.”

Sam would have left the dishes unwashed on this day, in order to get at
what seemed more important work the sooner; but Uncle Ben insisted that
the housework must go on as usual, whether the “Sally” was floated or
not, therefore the shanty was set to rights, hastily but thoroughly,
before the boys began their share of the wrecking.

It was exhausting labor to get a pair of wheels under each of the heavy
timbers in turn, and drag it across the island, but neither Sam nor Tom
counted the cost, so that their portion of the task was accomplished.

When night came again Mr. Rowe announced that it was his purpose to
“make a showin’” next day, promising that when the sun had set once more
his companions should see that which would make plain his method of
floating the schooner.

“I’ve got timbers enough for the ways on the port side,” he said, “an’
there won’t be need of cuttin’ more till she’s on her beam-ends. The
only question is whether we can do it in one tide; for if we can’t, all
our work will be wasted.”

“If it wasn’t for pullin’ the pots, Tommy an’ I could put in some mighty
big licks at shovelin’ sand,” Sam suggested, and much to his surprise
Uncle Ben added placidly:

“I’ve been thinkin’ of jest that same thing, lad. You see I ain’t used
to anythin’ but fishin’, an’ can’t do more’n half a man’s work at other
jobs, so I’m allowin’ to pull the pots alone to-morrow, same’s I’ve done
year in an’ year out ever since settlin’ down here. That will leave you
boys free to help Reuben, an’ I’m countin’ on seein’ a big pile of work
done when I get back.”

“That’s what will happen,” Tommy replied confidently, and then he began
to help the cook that they might get to bed the earlier.

There were no laggards in the shanty next morning. It would not be time
to attend to the traps until about the middle of the forenoon, because
of the tide, therefore Uncle Ben took it upon himself to do the
housework. Thus there was nothing to prevent the boys from getting at
the task of wrecking as soon as breakfast was eaten, and the meal had
been prepared before sunrise.

A hard master was Reuben Rowe. His desire to see the “Sally D.” in a
seaworthy condition was so great that it seemed as if neither himself
nor any other could do as much work in a given time as he wished to see
done, and the consequence was that he drove his assistants to the utmost
of their powers, until Sam laughingly declared that he “begrudged the
time it took them to draw their breath.”

The plan was to excavate the sand from beneath the port side of the
schooner, doing it in such a manner that the timbers could be set in
place before she heeled over, and this was, as he said, “quite a nice
piece of work.”




Uncle Ben shoveled industriously until it was time for him to visit the
traps, and then said cheerily as he pushed off in the dory:

“I’m allowin’ to come back as soon as may be, an’ I’m not sorry to get a
breathin’ spell. Pullin’ lobster-pots is child’s play ’longside of what
Reuben expects his helpers to do, an’ I’ll be havin’ what you might call
a vacation. Keep steady at it, lads, for that’s the way to win in a long
race.”

“An’ you can make up your mind that we’re counting on that same thing!”
Reuben replied emphatically. “After we get the schooner on what you
might call ways, so’s there’s no chance of her sinkin’ any deeper in the
sand, it’ll be all right to take things a little easier, but till that’s
done it’s a case of hustle all the time.”

Then Uncle Ben pulled off from the shore, and the three laborers
shoveled sand as if their very lives depended upon it, until Reuben
finally announced:

“I’m thinkin’ half an hour more will see us well along with this job,
an’ it hasn’t been done any too quick, for the tide is beginnin’ to
come. If it catches us before the timbers are down all the work will go
for nothin’, ’cause it wouldn’t take long for the sea to wash every
grain of sand back where we’ve taken it from.”

As he spoke the lads straightened up for an instant to relieve the
painful strain on their backs, and at the same time Sam chanced to look
seaward, when he saw that which caused him to cry in dismay:

“There comes a dory from Southport way! It can’t be anybody but Cap’en
Doak, an’ he wouldn’t pull all the distance over here except it was to
make mischief!”

There was an expression of anxiety on Reuben Rowe’s face as he gazed
intently in the direction indicated by Sam, and after what seemed like a
very long time of silence he said slowly, and with somewhat of menace in
his tones:

“I’m allowin’ that’s him for sure, an’ there’s likely to be the biggest
kind of a row if he tries to be funny. If we lay still half an hour
jest now, this day’s work is spoiled, an’ he shan’t be the man to waste
our time like that!”

“I wish Uncle Ben was here,” Sam said half to himself, and Reuben added:

“I ain’t certain but it’s a good idee he’s away. The old man is too
soft-hearted to deal with the likes of Eliakim Doak, an’ I ain’t given
that way a little bit, seein’s I know him root an’ branch.”

“What will you do if he tries to kick up a row?” Tommy asked anxiously,
and one might have believed that he would be pleased to see the former
owner of the “Sally D.” meet with a person who was not very careful to
avoid hurting his feelings.

“I’ll give him all he’s lookin’ for, an’ a little more! Dig the best
you know how, lads, an’ p’rhaps we can get the timbers in place before
he makes the cove. Then we’ll have time to look after his case,” and
Mr. Rowe set the example by throwing out sand from the trench in a
regular stream.

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