THE TRIAL TRIP

Sam and Tommy could not afford to spend very many moments in rejoicing
after the “Sally D.” was afloat, because the work of preparing a dinner
which should really be a feast of thanksgiving had been intrusted to
them, and time was precious if the task was to be performed according to
their desires.

It was impossible, however, for the two lads not to devote a few moments
to admiring the jaunty little schooner as she rose and fell on the
gentle swell, tugging at the anchor cable as if coaxing to be allowed to
use her wings once more where the water was deep and the wind blew half
a gale.

“It seems almost as if we had built the whole of her,” Sam said, half to
himself, as he gazed with critical eye upon the charming marine picture
before him.

“An’ I allow we can take more credit for her looks than belongs to the
man who really did put her together,” Mr. Rowe added quickly. “She was
what you might call a wreck when Uncle Ben bought her, an’ now cast your
eyes over the beauty! I remember when she was first launched, an’ am
free to say that she didn’t come anywhere near bein’ as handsome as at
this minute, for her spars never did have rake enough, while the
bowsprit allers made her look snub-nosed. We’ve changed all that; she’s
as tight as a cup, an’ if she can’t outsail anythin’ on this ’ere coast
I’ll eat my hat, instead of the dinner you lads are allowin’ to fix up
this day.”

“An’ it’s time we got about the work, instead of standin’ here lookin’
at the dandy of all schooners that ever floated,” Tommy said with no
slight show of nervousness. “Here we’ve got to build a fire in the
cabin, cook all the stuff that has been made ready, set the table, an’
do more work than the law allows! Can’t you make Uncle Ben an’ his
visitors come ashore, Mr. Rowe?”

“They can’t do it till I go after ’em in the dory, an’ that’s the fact,”
Reuben replied laughingly. “Do you know, I’d clean forgot everythin’
except the little beauty that we’ve worked over so long! If Eliakim
Doak could see her this minute, I’m reckonin’ he’d jest about go crazy
’cause she don’t belong to him any longer!”

“Don’t talk about that old heathen!” Tommy cried imploringly. “It seems
like it would bring us bad luck even to speak his name on the first day
the ’Sally’ is in the water. Take hold with me, Sam, an’ we’ll shove
off the dory, else Mr. Rowe’ll never get through lookin’ at the
schooner!”

Reuben aroused himself, as it were, and in another moment set about the
work which was necessary before the first steps toward making ready the
thanksgiving feast could be taken.

It was agreed that Tom should go aboard and build a fire in the
cook-stove, which had been made ready for use several days before the
launching, while Sam began the task of bringing the eatables from the
shanty to the shore, with the assistance of Reuben and little Joey, as
soon as the guests had been brought ashore, for the “baby of the family”
had insisted on being allowed to aid in the celebration.

Although no one had anticipated the coming of guests, it had been agreed
that Uncle Ben should not raise his hand in the way of work on this day,
therefore, according to the program already made, he had nothing to do
save act the part of host to Mr. Mansfield and his friends.

How Sam and Tom worked when the food had been brought aboard the “Sally”
and they, with Joey as assistant, were alone on the schooner! Sam had
already laid his plans as to what should be served for dinner, and such
a quantity of food had been provided that even the addition of three to
the list of feasters did not require additional preparation, save in the
way of extra dishes and stools.

Because of the visitors from Southport, Mr. Rowe suggested that a table
be set up on deck, since the cabin was too small to accommodate so many,
therefore, while the boys worked over the stove he and Joey put two
boards, that were well scrubbed with soap and water, across from the top
of the cabin to the starboard rail, and on these the feast was spread.

The bill of fare was made up of fried lobster, broiled cunners, roasted
clams, lobster chowder, stewed clams, potatoes and fresh bread in
plenty, and coffee for all in brightly-scoured tin cups.

Not until late in the afternoon was Sam willing to admit that he could
do no more, and then Mr. Rowe brought Uncle Ben and the guests on board,
after making the dory gay with a couple of old flags.

If the boys had been hoping to be complimented for their skill as cooks
they were not disappointed, for the gentlemen from Southport were loud
and profuse in their praises as they seated themselves on either side
the makeshift for a table, and Sam’s eyes glistened when Uncle Ben
declared that the “family cook” was the best coffee maker “he had ever
struck.”

It can well be fancied how fervent was the blessing the old lobster
catcher invoked, and a stranger might have thought that the schooner had
been presented to him without money and without price, so humbly
grateful was he to the good God for the gift of the little vessel.

Sam and Tom insisted upon waiting upon those at table, and little Joey
had been eager to assist them, but Uncle Ben declared that he wouldn’t
be able to eat a mouthful unless the baby was by his side, therefore,
the two boys had the pleasure of conducting the feast unaided.

How the food disappeared after the feasters got well to work! If Sam’s
skill as a cook had not already been spoken of he would have understood
that it was fully appreciated before that dinner came to an end. Even
though so much had been prepared, it was necessary to fry six more
lobsters, else the two boys would have gone hungry, for nearly
everything on the table was gone before the last man declared it was
impossible for him to eat any more.

“It’s the best dinner I ever put into my mouth,” Mr. Mansfield said
decidedly as he sipped the steaming coffee. “I’ve heard it said Sammy
Cushing could beat any cook that ever sailed out of the Port; but I
never put much faith in the talk till to-day. I allow you’re buildin’
up quite a family here, Uncle Ben?”

“That’s what I’m hopin’ to do, William,” the old lobster catcher replied
modestly. “Not havin’ child nor chick of my own, it seems as if I
oughter do somethin’ in the way of lookin’ after youngsters what haven’t
got any homes. Apple Island is big enough for a good many, an’ now that
we’ve got this ’ere schooner to be used in fishin’, I’m allowin’ that we
can provide for quite a number of lads who are willin’ to help
themselves. Since Reuben Rowe wants to stay with us, an’ will run the
’Sally,’ it stands to reason that with what the vessel brings in, added
to the lobsterin’, we’ll be able to do more than pay our way.”

“I’ve allers allowed that you was a good citizen, Uncle Ben,” Mr.
Mansfield said as he rose to his feet, “an’ we at the Port are proud of
you, even though we haven’t said very much about it. When the selectmen
got so snug that they couldn’t afford to keep Joey at the poor farm, an’
you gave him a home sich as any boy can be happy in, we had a better
idee of what you was tryin’ to do than if you’d spent a week explainin’
it. The upshot of the whole matter is that we of the Port made up our
minds to have a hand in the business, an’ without much tryin’ we’ve
raised a hundred dollars cash, with the agreement to give more when it’s
needed, so here’s the money.”

Having said this, Mr. Mansfield laid before Uncle Ben a roll of
bank-notes, and then sat down with the air of a man who is nearly on the
verge of exhaustion from much speaking.

Uncle Ben was so surprised that during several moments it seemed
impossible for him to say a word; he swallowed something which seemed to
have come up in his throat suddenly, brushed his eyes as if they were
full of dust, started up to leave the table, and then sank back again as
if unable to do other than keep down the lump in his throat.

It was Mr. Rowe who put an end to what was becoming really unpleasant by
crying out loudly:

“Three cheers for Uncle Ben an’ the people of the Port who’ve found out
what kind of a man he is!”

Then all hands, except the old man himself, cheered wildly, and in the
confusion caused by this outburst Mr. Mansfield proposed that the guests
go ashore in order that the boys might have a chance to set the deck of
the schooner to rights after the thanksgiving feast.

“It begins to look as if this ’ere family was comin’ out right strong,
if the folks at the Port are lookin’ after it,” Tom said, in a tone of
triumph, and Sam replied sharply:

“Put all the people at the Port together, an’ they wouldn’t make up one
of Uncle Ben’s fingers! It would have been a long day before they
thought of startin’ a family, an’ it wasn’t until Uncle Ben had spent
about all the money he had in the bank that they woke up to the idee he
was doin’ somethin’ big in helpin’ sich fellers as you an’ me.”

“Don’t you count one hundred dollars any thin’?” Tom asked in surprise.

“Of course I do; but what is it for all of them to raise, when Uncle Ben
has put out more’n five times as much without winkin’?”

Then Sam, as if he had settled the matter finally, went about his work,
and the sun was not yet ready to drop out of sight behind the hills when
the deck and cabin of the “Sally D.” were as cleanly and orderly as
before the feast was made ready.

Mr. Mansfield and his friends were not inclined to eat the “bread of
idleness,” as was shown very shortly after they went on shore; for then
they set about bringing out ballast in the dories, under the direction
of Mr. Rowe, until a full half hour before night had shut in, the “Sally
D.” was in good trim for the trial trip on the following morning.




As had been arranged, the regular crew of the “Sally” slept on board
that night in the newly-painted bunks. Reuben claimed the right as
captain to the aftermost one on the starboard side, while Sam and Tom
occupied the two forward berths opposite, and very snug and beautiful
was the cabin when the small swinging lamp had been lighted.

“It won’t be anythin’ more’n fun to go out fishin’ in a craft like
this,” Tom said sleepily, as he took one last look around before Mr.
Rowe extinguished the light for the night, and the “captain” replied
with no little of sharpness in his tones:

“It’s dollars, not fun, that we’ll be after, lad, when once the work is
begun. This ’ere schooner has cost a heap of money, even though Uncle
Ben did get her at a bargain, an’ if she don’t bring in the whole
expense of the family, with a little left over for them as may come
later, I’ll say we’ve made a bloomin’ failure of our job. Why, I’ve
known a craft like this to pay for herself twice over in one season, an’
while we can’t count on any sich luck as that, seein’ our crew will be
small, we oughter make enough to keep Uncle Ben’s mind easy ’bout money
matters. Now you lads are to shut your eyes, ’cause it’ll be a mighty
early call in the mornin’.”

As to this last Mr. Rowe kept his word faithfully, for it seemed to the
boys as if they had no more than fallen asleep before he aroused them
with the word that they would “need to jump right lively in order to
make breakfast ready before the schooner was under way.”

The sun had not yet risen when Uncle Ben, little Joey and the guests
came on board; but even then Sam and Tom had a hearty meal prepared; and
when, with every flag flying and the wind cresting the waves with foam,
the “Sally D.” glided out of the cove under full sail, the day was no
more than well begun.

If only it were possible to describe the joy of the “family” on this
first trip of the schooner they had rescued from the sands! Every inch
of canvas was spread to the fresh breeze, the little craft heeling over
to it until to Joey it seemed as if she was in danger of capsizing, and
with the water spouting up from her bow into spray, she gave good proof
that Reuben had told only the truth when he said she could show her
heels to anything of her size that ever sailed out of Southport.

Mr. Rowe stood at the helm; Sam and Tom stationed themselves in the bow
as lookouts, although there was no need of any such precaution; Joey ran
to and fro screaming with delight, while Uncle Ben and his guests
remained well aft where they could watch with sailorly eyes the
movements of the jaunty little schooner.

The lads in the bow, who behaved very much as if believing the cruise
could not be made if they failed of keeping their eyes fixed upon the
waters ahead, would have been well content to spend the entire day, and
then a dozen more, cruising idly about, and it was really with a sense
of disappointment that they saw the entrance to the harbor of Southport
close under the bow.

“I reckon we’ve been comin’ some, to get here as soon as this,” Tom said
in a tone of admiration, and Sam added contentedly:

“This is the craft that can fly when she’s in shape, with somebody at
the helm who knows what he’s about.”

It was as if the people at the Port had received early notice of the
exact time when the “Sally” was to arrive, for as she entered the harbor
flags were flying on every vessel in port, the church bells were ringing
out a noisy welcome, and the one pier was literally black with people
who had assembled to welcome the “family” and their schooner.

“It looks as if they counted on makin’ a reg’lar celebration out of it,”
Sam said in delight, and then a cloud came over his face as he added in
a whisper: “S’pose Cap’en Doak should be here, an’ it stands to reason
he is, we’re bound to have trouble, ’cause he’ll never get over sayin’
that he owns some part of the ’Sally’!”

“Well, let him say it,” Tom replied carelessly. “He can talk himself
black in the face without changin’ anythin’, an’ by this time the folks
here know what kind of a pirate he is.”

“But we can’t afford to have a row the very first day the ’Sally’ is
under sail, ’cause it’ll be bad luck!” Sam wailed.

“The luck will be whatever we’re a mind to make it, an’ as for that old
heathen, he won’t dare to open his mouth while all these people are
around.”

Reuben Rowe interrupted the conversation by giving the word to let go
the jib halyards, and by the time the “Sally” was stripped of her canvas
Uncle Ben had thrown a hawser ashore to be caught and made fast by the
many hands that were outstretched to have a part in this first landing.

The little schooner was not moored when the church bells rang out a yet
louder welcome, and Uncle Ben’s weather-bronzed cheeks were actually red
as the citizens of the Port shouted themselves hoarse in his honor.

“It’s a big day!” Sam whispered to Tom, “an’ if only Cap’en Doak ain’t
here we’ll have the time of our lives!”

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