A NEW MEMBER

When Sam was first told that he would be allowed to live on Apple Island
with Uncle Ben, he mentally promised that he would be the first up and
at work in the morning, to the end that the old lobster catcher might
gain more rest than had been possible when, as he himself expressed it,
he was “captain, mate, and all the crew down to the cook”; but on this
day after the first real work of wrecking had been done on the “Sally
D.,” the lad’s eyes were so heavy with slumber that he continued to
sleep even while Mr. Rowe and Uncle Ben were cooking breakfast.

When, finally, he did awaken, the odor of coffee and fried fish came to
his nostrils, and for the merest fraction of time he believed it was all
a dream; but an instant later he was on his feet, thoroughly wide awake,
as he said with somewhat of reproach in his tone:

“Why didn’t you waken me, Mr. Rowe? It isn’t fair for you an’ Uncle Ben
to be doin’ my work when I show myself such a sleepyhead. It would have
served me right if you’d dragged me out by the heels!”

“You put in a hard day’s work yesterday, Sammy,” Uncle Ben said in a
kindly tone. “It stands to reason that you was tired out, an’ it seemed
the biggest kind of a pity to break in on what you was enjoyin’ so much,
’specially since my eyes were open so wide that I couldn’t have brought
’em together agin no matter how hard I tried. I declare for it, I’m
allowin’ myself to get wrought up over ownin’ the ’Sally’ as bad as
Deacon Stubbs was when ’Bije Fernald gave him a foxhound! The idea of
what I’ve got to buy at the Port to-day, an’ how the schooner will look
after we get her in sailin’ trim once more, has kinder turned my head.
Give Tommy a shake, Sam, an’ as soon as you boys have washed up, we’ll
have breakfast.”

All this while Tom had been sleeping noisily yet peacefully, but he was
aroused to consciousness of his surroundings very speedily after Sam
obeyed Uncle Ben’s command, and was no less surprised than had been his
comrade, on finding the breakfast ready for eating.

The old lobster catcher seemed to think it comical because he had been
able to cook breakfast without arousing either of the lads, and
evidently enjoyed the surprise, therefore very slight complaint was made
by the regular cook, although he felt that in some way, he was not just
certain how, a wrong had been done him.

Uncle Ben lost no time, once the meal had been eaten, in setting out on
the voyage, and indeed it was necessary to start early if he counted on
doing all his shopping and returning before dark.

“If it should so happen, which I don’t think likely, that Eliakim takes
it inter his head to come over here to-day, don’t get up a row with him,
’cause he ain’t worth it,” the old man said warningly as he pushed off
the dory and took up the oars.

“But you don’t count that we’re to stand ’round with our fingers in our
mouths an’ let him do whatever comes inter his ugly head, do yer?” Mr.
Rowe asked sharply.

“I’m allowin’ that you’ll look after things same as if they was your
own, an’ they really are so long as you’re members of the family. What I
mean is, that you are to get along without callin’ names or otherwise
talkin’ rough.”

“All right, I’ll see to that part of it,” Reuben replied grimly. “I’d
thump his head with an oar an’ not open my mouth.”

“Now, now, Reuben, remember that a soft answer turneth away wrath.”

“It may with some, but not sich as Eliakim Doak. I’m noticin’ that your
answers wasn’t so soft yesterday.”

“He’d got all haired up when I come ashore, an’ wasn’t in the mood to
listen except to somethin’ harsh.”

“Well, don’t get to worryin’, Uncle Ben; I’ll see to it that we don’t
have a big row, though if one does come, you can make up your mind
Eliakim won’t want to neighbor on Apple Island for quite a spell, ’cause
I’ll do the job up brown.”

Uncle Ben was forced to content himself with this promise, because he
could not well afford to spend any more time discussing the matter. He
had a long voyage before him, with no slight amount of work to be done
after arriving at Southport, and it was necessary he took full advantage
of the morning breeze.

It would not be time for the boys to haul the traps until nearly noon,
therefore Mr. Rowe set them to work digging sand on the starboard side
of the “Sally,” and when it was time to look after the pots all the
timbers had been put in place.

“Now I reckon we can afford to take our time,” Mr. Rowe said in a tone
of satisfaction, as he wiped the perspiration from his face. “The
’Sally’ won’t sink any deeper, an’ we can get at the job of puttin’ her
inter proper trim ’cordin’ as the fancy strikes us.”

“Do you believe she can be launched without hiring a steamer?” Tommy
asked incredulously.

“Of course she can! though we don’t allow to do anythin’ in that line
till the hull is sound, an’ the ’Sally’ less of a sieve than she has
been these two years past. But there’s no call for you to stand ’round
here chinnin’. It’s time to look after the traps, an’ when you get back
I’ll have a few chores that you can do.”

Mr. Rowe’s “chores” were what other people might have called downright
hard work, as the lads learned when they came back from the traps,
feeling unusually jolly because the catch had been large; but they did
not complain, for however severe the labor it was much the same as play
when they thought of what was to come after the last blow had been
struck.

Bread and butter with plenty of clear, cold water to wash it down served
as the noon-day meal, and it was thus frugal because Mr. Rowe had
suggested that the cook prepare a regular dinner at night, when Uncle
Ben would be there to enjoy it.

Fortunately, Captain Doak did not take it into his head to visit Apple
Island that day and the “chores” were not done until late in the
afternoon, when Mr. Rowe said with the air of one who is content with
what he has accomplished:

“I reckon we can afford to knock off now, lads, for we’ve put in a good
many hours since Uncle Ben began hustlin’ ’round this mornin’. Tommy an’
I’ll catch a nice mess of cunners while Sam is gettin’ ready to fry ’em.
By the time supper’s ready the old man oughter be here.”

Soon all three were so intent on these duties that they gave no heed to
anything else, and before either had thought of watching for Uncle Ben’s
return, the dory was at the mouth of the little harbor. It was Sam who
made the discovery that the old lobster catcher was so near, and he
announced the fact in a tone of surprise:

“Here’s Uncle Ben, an’ we ain’t half ready for him! My! but he has got
a full cargo, an’—— Say, who is that with him?”

Reuben and Tommy, having caught as many cunners as would be needed for
supper, were cleaning them when Sam cried out, and after one glance
seaward Mr. Rowe shouted:

“Now what’s in the wind? Do you reckon he had to find somebody to help
pull the dory?”

“If that’s so, he wasn’t very fussy ’bout what he took. The chap in the
bow looks as if he had been livin’ on wind puddin’ for the last couple
of weeks!” Tommy said, speaking in a low tone lest the words be
overheard, for already was the bow of the dory grating on the beach.

The cause of these comments was a very small and very hungry looking boy
who was perched up on the cargo, which had been piled two or more feet
above the gunwale, and was now staring at the scene before him with eyes
that seemed many sizes too large for his thin face.

“Now why do you s’pose the old man has brought home that little monkey?”
Mr. Rowe said half to himself, making no move toward going to the shore,
and Sam, a moment later, cried as if believing he had made an important
discovery:

“I know what’s up! Uncle Ben has found a new member of the family!
Come on, let’s go down an’ see him. Say, but ain’t he been playin’ in
hard luck!” and Sam, followed by Tommy and Mr. Rowe, ran at full speed
to the shore.

“I was kinder wonderin’ why you didn’t lend a hand at unloadin’ this
boat,” Uncle Ben said laughingly as he scrambled ashore with the little
stranger in his arms. “Kinder s’prised at seein’ this present I’ve
brought yer, eh? Wa’al, what do you think of that?” and the old man
gently dropped the strange boy, who looked almost like a baby, on the
sand.

“Who is he? Where’d you find him?” Sam cried, going shyly up to the
stranger, who stood silent and motionless, as if not quite decided
whether to laugh or cry.

“His name is Joey Sampson; he’s been livin’ out at the poor farm, an’
the s’lectmen got so mighty economical they cooked up the idee Southport
couldn’t afford to feed him any longer, so was countin’ on sendin’ the
poor little creeter down to St. Johns, where somebody said his father’s
cousin lived. Never tried to find out if that ’ere cousin would take
him in or not, but jest allowed to ship him off. I told ’em I’d adopt
the child as a new member of my family, an’ they was mighty glad to get
rid of him. Wa’al, Joey, what do you think of Apple Island?”

“It’s a pretty place, sir,” the little stranger said in a tearful voice,
and straightway Sam’s heart went out to him.

“It’s better than pretty, Joey,” he said, taking the little fellow in
his arms, for, as Mr. Rowe afterward declared, “he wasn’t bigger’n a
shirt button.” “If the only home you’ve had has been the poor farm,
you’ll soon come to know that you was mighty lucky when Uncle Ben run
across your track. Here’s Tommy, an’ Mr. Rowe, an’ me, who hadn’t any
home till we were given the chance to stay here, an’ it’s a mighty
comfortable place, with the best man for the head of the family that
ever lived, as you’ll find out before bein’ here many days.”




“There, there, Sammy,” Uncle Ben interrupted, “have done with your fairy
tales. Take Joey up to the shanty, an’ the rest of us will tote what of
the stuff needs to go under cover. Supper ready?”

“It will be in five minutes, for then the biscuit’ll be done,” and away
Sam ran toward the shanty, petting Joey as if he was really the baby he
looked to be. “You’ll get on here famously,” he said when they were
come to the building, “for it’ll only be a case of settin’ still an’
seein’ yourself grow fat. Then when our schooner is afloat what great
times you’ll have fishin’!”

“Do you s’pose your Uncle Ben will let me stay here very long?” the
little lad asked wistfully.

“Of course he will, else you wouldn’t have been brought here. He’s
buildin’ up a family out of jest sich lonesome boys as you an’ me, an’
you’ve come here to be part of it. Camp down in my bunk while I look
after the supper, for I’m the cook, an’ keep on thankin’ your lucky
stars that Uncle Ben happened to see you at the right time. How long
have you been at the poor farm?”

“Ever since I can remember.”

“Did you like it out there?”

“It wasn’t very nice,” Joey replied timidly, and Sam added emphatically:

“I’ll bet it wasn’t, though there was one spell when I thought it would
be a good deal better than livin’ aboard the ’Sally D.’ with Cap’en Doak
ugly a good deal more’n half the time. Did you ever see that cousin
down in St. Johns?”

“I never knew there was one till Deacon Stubbs said it was a shame a big
boy like me should be eatin’ the bread of idleness, when I had blood
relations that were next door to rollin’ in luxury.”

“Well, was you idle?”

“I did everything they told me—lugged in the wood, split the kindlings,
drove the cows to pasture, an’ brought in the water——”

“An’ that’s what they call eatin’ the bread of idleness!” Uncle Ben
cried as he entered with his arms full of packages, which he laid in one
of the bunks, and, taking Joey in his arms, seated himself by the
window. “Look out there at our schooner, sonny boy! Some day she’ll be
layin’ at anchor, as trim a craft as ever floated, an’ then you shall
walk the quarter-deck like any cap’en, while we do the drudgery. You’re
one of the family now, Joey, an’ I’m countin’ that all hands will come
to love you as much as I’ve found time to do already. You’re a wee mite
of a thing, an’ it’s a baby we’ve been needin’ to make things
ship-shape, so that’s the berth you’ve dropped inter. Now then, Sammy,
get them biscuit out, for I reckon our Joey is mighty sharkish, seein’s
he hasn’t had any dinner, an’ come to think of it, neither have I, for
that matter.”

Mr. Rowe came into the shanty on tiptoe, as if thinking he must be very
quiet while Uncle Ben was holding the “baby,” and Tommy, who followed
him, said laughingly: “You’d think Joey was a reg’lar kid, by the way
Mr. Rowe moves ’round. But say, don’t it make things look better to see
sich a little shaver here!”

Joey would have been very hard to please if the greeting he received in
his new home had not soothed his heart, and by the time Uncle Ben made a
“high chair” by putting a buoy on one of the stools and covering it with
an old fish-net, he appeared to be in the best of spirits.

“A month of this kind of livin’, with plenty of fresh air an’ nobody to
talk ’bout the bread of idleness, will make a new man of you, Joey,”
Uncle Ben said when the tiny lad, unable to swallow another mouthful,
slipped down from the fish-net cushion. “I’m allowin’ to set here in
stormy weather, when there’s nothin’ to be done outside, an’ jest watch
you grow fat.”

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