A WAR OF WORDS

“I want you boys to know that I ain’t afraid of Eliakim Doak, when it’s
only my own skin that’s to be hurt, nor of any four men like him,” Mr.
Rowe said as he continued to throw up the sand. “It’s only ’cause I’m
afraid he may contrive to keep us on edge till the tide comes up an’
puts things in bad shape. If we can get these ’ere timbers down
shipshape, before he pulls in, I’ll be ready to give him a full dose.
Jump to it, lads, for every shovelful counts jest now!”

There was little need to urge the boys to further exertions; they could
understand full well how important it was, unless they were willing to
lose what had already been done, to push the work to the utmost, and
never for a single instant did they even look seaward, although both
were curious to know how rapidly the enemy was approaching.

It was fortunate for Uncle Ben’s “family” that Captain Doak did not take
it into his head to leave Southport any earlier in the day, for he was
nearly half a mile from the cove when, with a cry of triumph, Mr. Rowe
laid the last timber in place, as he said grimly:

“Now let the old heathen come; we’re ready for him,” and he literally
scraped the perspiration from his face.

“It’ll be quite a spell yet before he gets here,” and Tom straightened
himself slowly, as if with difficulty after remaining in a bent position
so long. “What I’m keen to know is, how much better off we are after
puttin’ these logs down? The schooner lays jest as she did before.”

“Ay, lad, an’ lucky for you she didn’t heel over while we were workin’
so far under the hull. I’ll admit that it don’t look now as if we’d
done very much for her comfort; but after the tide comes up, an’ the
water swashes back an’ forth for a spell, you’ll see her lay over like a
tired man, an’ unless I’m way out of my reckonin’, she’ll be restin’ the
biggest part of her weight on the logs by mornin’. Then it’s only a
matter of workin’ the other side like this. After that’s been done, we
know for a fact that she can’t settle any further inter the sand, an’
it’ll only need a couple of smooth planks with a few wedges, to slide
her off when we’re ready.”

“I hope it’ll work; but I can’t figger out how,” Sam said in perplexity,
and before Mr. Rowe’s mirth, which had been aroused by the expression on
the boy’s face, was abated, Captain Doak ran his dory up on the shore
within a dozen yards of where the “Sally D.” lay.

“What’s goin’ on here?” he cried angrily, and as if it surprised him to
see any one at work near the schooner.

“We’re tryin’ to stop the old hooker from buryin’ herself in the sand,”
Mr. Rowe replied without any show of anger; but Tom noted with no little
satisfaction that the former “crew” of the “Sally” held his shovel
firmly in his right hand, as if thinking it might be needed for a
weapon.

“What right have you to be foolin’ ’round her?” and Captain Doak rose to
his feet threateningly, whereupon Mr. Rowe stepped a few paces nearer
the bow of the vessel to where he could clamber on board without
difficulty.

“I haven’t turned her over to Ben Johnson, an’ p’rhaps I shall change my
mind ’bout lettin’ her go, ’specially at the ridiculous price he bid.”

“You gave him a clear bill of sale!” Mr. Rowe cried angrily, and the two
boys ranged themselves on either side of him, as if believing they would
soon be called upon to take part in defending the property of the
“family.”

“I may have been crazy enough to give a bill of sale, but till I say the
word he ain’t got any right to fool ’round her. An’ I warn you here an’
now, Rube Rowe, that if you so much as lay your hand on that craft I’ll
sue you for trespass, if so be I ain’t on the spot to knock your two
eyes inter one!” and Captain Doak stepped out from the dory in what both
Sam and Tom thought was a threatening manner.

“Hold on, Eliakim Doak, an’ don’t take the chance of makin’ the biggest
mistake of your life!” Mr. Rowe said impressively. “You haven’t got old
Uncle Ben here to deal with. I don’t keep soft words for sich as I know
you to be. I’m in charge of this ’ere island, likewise the schooner
that has been bought an’ paid for, an’ it’ll be the sickest day’s work
you ever did to kick up a row jest now. What’er you here for, anyhow?”

“I came to get my things outer the cabin, an’ to settle on whether I’d
let her go at any price——”

“The last part of it has been settled already, an’ that you know very
well, Eliakim Doak, ’less you’re willin’ to admit you’re a bigger dummy
than I ever allowed you was. Uncle Ben has said that you could have
what things are in the cabin, though if I’d bought the schooner as she
lays, it would be a long, cold day before you’d take the value of a
fish-scale away from her.”

“We’ll see ’bout that part of it,” said Captain Doak.

“We’ve seen about it already! I’ll throw out what stuff Uncle Ben
allowed you could take away, an’ then you’ll make a quick move from this
’ere island, or I’ll know the reason why,” and with the agility of a
monkey Mr. Rowe clambered aboard the stranded vessel.

Captain Doak stepped forward as if about to make an attack, but seeing
Sam and Tom near the bow with shovels ready to be used as weapons, he
wisely concluded to remain on the beach, contenting himself by shouting:

“I’ll have the law on you if a single thing in that ’ere cabin is
touched!”

In reply to this threat came a shower of oilskins, followed by the rusty
musket and a quantity of battered tin dishes.

“Shove that stuff aboard your craft, an’ I’ll send down some more,” Mr.
Rowe cried with a grin as he leaned over the rail. “It’s a certain
thing, Eliakim, that you ain’t to be allowed to board this ’ere
schooner, for I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could sling a mule by the
ear, if there was any chance to do mischief!”

“I’ll stay where I am till I get good an’ ready, an’ you ain’t the man
who can make me move! I’ve got rights that I’m goin’ to have——”

“The only rights you’ve got ’round here is to get inter that dory, an’
keep beyond low water mark!” Mr. Rowe cried as if in a fury of rage, and
the two lads were actually frightened when they saw him leap over the
rail with an oar raised over his shoulder threateningly. “Now take that
dunnage inter yer boat, or get in without it, else——”

“Reuben! Reuben!” came in placid tones from over the water, and,
looking up, the lads saw Uncle Ben pulling slowly toward the island.

“If he hadn’t got back quite so soon I declare I’d have damaged you some
with this oar!” Mr. Rowe cried savagely, as he swung the weapon
menacingly in front of Captain Doak until he could do no less than beat
a slow retreat toward his boat.

Then the war of words ceased until the old lobster catcher ran his dory
ashore and stepped out on the beach as if it was the most natural thing
in the world to see Captain Doak on Apple Island.

“Have you been havin’ any trouble with the cap’en, Reuben?” he asked,
and Mr. Rowe, so angry that the words came like a torrent, replied by
repeating what the former owner of the “Sally D.” had said.

“There is no reason, Reuben, why you should get so disturbed over it,
for the sale was open an’ legal. Eliakim took from me the money I bid,
and gave a lawful bill of sale. It is only right that he should have
what belongings are in the cabin, for I didn’t count them as goin’ with
the schooner.”

“Wa’al, he’s got ’em, hasn’t he?” Mr. Rowe cried, pointing to the
assortment of goods on the sand. “I don’t allow that he shall step his
foot on board the ’Sally,’ for nobody knows how much mischief sich as
he’d be willin’ to do when he’s in one of his ugly tantrums.”

“I’m not allowin’ he shall go on board,” Uncle Ben said in such a firm
tone that the boys looked at him in surprise. “He can name over what he
claims, an’ then leave the island, else I’ll start for the Port.
What’ll be done after I get there he knows full well.”

Captain Doak appeared to be quite as much surprised as were the boys;
but it was not in his nature to give in beaten until absolutely obliged
so to do, and he cried hotly:

“I’ll do as I please——”

“We’ll see about that!” and Reuben advanced with upraised oar. “I
didn’t think it was in Uncle Ben to take sich a strong stand; but it
seems that he’s got considerable backbone after all, which is apt to be
the way with these soft-spoken folks. You’re to leave, an’ do it mighty
quick, without another word, or I’ll let this oar drop!”

To the surprise of all, even including Mr. Rowe, Captain Doak selected a
few articles from the collection on the beach and threw them into his
dory without speaking, but after pulling from the shore a few strokes,
he stopped to say:

“Don’t think you’ve seen the last of me, Ben Johnson. I count the
’Sally’ as belongin’ to me as much as she ever did, an’ from this out
I’ll make it my business to see that you don’t swell ’round in her,
lordin’ it over me!”

“No one wants to lord it over you, Eliakim,” Uncle Ben replied, quietly.
“I would like to be friends with you, an’ have tried from the first to
lend a hand when you was needin’ it——”

“I s’pose that’s what you was doin’ when you took my cook from me?” the
captain roared.

“What I did then was to help a poor little orphan who was bein’ abused,
an’ it was no more than my duty.”

“Fine words butter no parsnips with me! I’ll show you an’ that mutinous
hound of a Rube Rowe what comes to them that cross Eliakim Doak’s path!”
and with this threat the captain rowed away, the little group on the
island watching until he was beyond ear-shot, when Mr. Rowe said
thoughtfully:




“I never had no great idee that Eliakim ever hankered much after the
truth, but when he promises to work mischief, I’m believin’ he’ll keep
his word.”

“It’s childish for us to think that he can do anythin’ to harm us,”
Uncle Ben replied, as he pushed off the dory again, preparatory to
carrying his morning’s catch to the car.

“It would be childish to give him a fair chance,” Mr. Rowe cried. “I’m
not allowin’ that he’ll cut any great swarth while the ’Sally’ is high
an’ dry on the sand; but once she’s afloat you know as well as I that a
man like Eliakim could do her so much harm in one hour that we couldn’t
repair it in a year.”

“We won’t cross any bridges until we come to them,” the old man said
cheerily, as he pulled away, and Reuben added in a low tone, not caring
that Uncle Ben should hear him:

“I allow there’s a good deal of sense in that old sayin’, but there are
times when a man better keep his weather eye peeled to see that sich as
Eliakim don’t build bridges for him to cross. We’ll put aboard this
plunder that Doak didn’t take away with him, an’ then get dinner, for
I’m countin’ we’ll have a spell at the pump this afternoon. There’s a
good bit of water aboard the ’Sally,’ an’ it must be well out of her
before we can caulk around the stern-post.”

When Uncle Ben came ashore from the lobster car dinner was nearly ready,
and while washing his hands and face he announced the result of his
morning’s work.

“Things are surely comin’ our way. Here we are takin’ more lobsters than
I’ve seen come out of the pots this many a day, an’ jest when we’re
needin’ the money to buy a new outfit for the ’Sally.’”

“Much good the new outfit will do her if Eliakim’s goin’ to hang ’round
watchin’ for a chance to put a spoke in the wheel,” Mr. Rowe grumbled.

“There, there, Reuben, don’t keep frettin’ when we’ve got so much to be
thankful for. Eliakim’s bark is worse’n his bite, an’ that I’ve known
this many a day.”

At this point the conversation was interrupted by Sam’s announcement
that dinner was ready, and, much to Tommy’s surprise, Uncle Ben’s prayer
was mostly a plea for Captain Doak, that he might be brought to see the
errors of his ways.

While eating, the old man asked concerning the work that had been done
during his absence, and when Reuben had made a detailed report, he said:

“I’m allowin’ that you’ll be wantin’ me to make another voyage to the
Port mighty soon, Reuben?”

“It would be a good thing if we had a bale of oakum an’ a barrel of tar
this very day. We’re goin’ to pump her out after dinner, an’ oughter be
able to stop the worst of the leaks as soon as that’s been done.”

“I’ll get off bright an’ early in the mornin’. Sammy an’ Tommy can tend
to the pots, an’ you’ll have to shift as best you can alone till they
have done the work. I’m allowin’ there are some things the cook is
needin’, so we’ll write ’em all down an’ I’ll spread myself buyin’
stuff.”

Sam did not wait to finish his dinner before making out a list of what
was needed in the way of stores, and Mr. Rowe called for several tools
that would be required in the work of wrecking, all of which promised to
make up a busy day of shopping.

“I reckon I’ll be gone till nigh nightfall, if I buy all that stuff,”
Uncle Ben said, with a chuckle of pleasure. “It’s mighty lucky lobsters
are fetchin’ a big price, else I might have to bust the bank by drawin’
out all my money.”

Mr. Rowe was not inclined to linger long at table, or spend very much
time in conversation while there remained so great an amount of work to
be done on the “Sally,” and as soon as Tom and Sam could wash the dishes
he insisted on their following him to the beach.

A full hour after sunset did the entire “family” labor on their vessel,
and when finally they went to the shanty, tired to the verge of
exhaustion, it was with the pleasing knowledge that very much had been
accomplished since sunrise. The largest leak, which was near the
stern-post, as Reuben had guessed, was stopped as well as it could be
with oiled rags, and the “Sally D.” had already settled over to port on
the timbers.

“I’m allowin’ that by to-morrow night, even though you lads are to loaf
half the time foolin’ with the lobster traps, we’ll have things in sich
shape that she can’t go any further inter the sand, no matter how strong
the wind may blow from the s’uthard.”

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