AT THE PORT

Tom’s hunger increased as he realized that it would be impossible to get
anything to eat until after considerable heavy work had been done, and
he was already tired with the labors of the day; but since Sam did not
complain, he would have been ashamed to speak of his own desires or
needs, and followed his comrade back to where they had so hastily left
the dory.

“It’s goin’ to come pretty tough on us, I reckon; but we oughter be
willin’ to tire ourselves a big bit, seein’s this is about the best
chance we’ll ever have to show Uncle Ben what we’re willin’ to do toward
squarin’ up for his bein’ so good to us,” Sam said, as if believing his
companion needed heartening, and Tom replied stoutly, forcing a smile to
his lips:

“Don’t get it inter your head that I’m goin’ to cry baby jest ’cause I
can’t fill myself up with things to eat. I’ve been hungry many a time
when I didn’t see any show ahead for gettin’ the next day’s breakfast,
an’ reckon I can hold out as long as you. It won’t do any harm if we
lay in a cargo of water. My mouth is pretty dry, an’ that old pirate
couldn’t play any funny business with the spring.”

Then the boys refreshed themselves with cold water, after which they
launched the dory to set about the work of hauling traps, each doing his
best to make it appear that plenty of exercise was the one thing needed
at that time.

The catch was not as large as on the previous night, but yet they
brought in so many lobsters that Sam knew from experience it would not
be wise to leave such a large number in the car any length of time, and
said with an air of wisdom as they neared the cove on their return:

“We’d have to go to the Port even though the shanty hadn’t been burned,
an’ if we count on gettin’ there before dark it’s a case of hustlin’
right lively from now on. We’ll take as big a cargo as can be carried
in good shape, an’ be off. Do you want another drink of water?”

“I could stow away considerable, but I reckon we’d better not stop to go
to the spring. The sooner we strike the Port the sooner we’ll get
somethin’ to eat, an’ I’m growin’ mighty hollow inside.”

It was neither a long nor a difficult task to take from the car, by aid
of a gaff, as many lobsters as were needed to make up a fairly good
cargo for the dory, and when this had been done the lads buckled down to
the oars once more, both feeling so tired that under any other
circumstances they would have believed it absolutely impossible to make
the journey.

With so heavy a load the boat moved sluggishly through the water,
despite all their efforts, and, to add to their labor, the wind was dead
ahead.

“It’s goin’ to be a long pull; but Uncle Ben says that any job can be
done by stickin’ at it. So don’t let’s look around to see how near we
are, but keep on workin’ the oars till we get there,” Sam said with a
brave effort at cheerfulness as he set the example.

The lads were not inclined for conversation during the journey; both
were nearly exhausted, and it required all their courage to continue at
the laborious task. It really seemed as if the dory lay like a log on
the water, and no matter how they tugged at the oars, which had
apparently grown wonderfully heavy since morning, it seemed impossible
to crawl away from the island.

Tom shut his teeth tightly as he worked, while Sam, trusting that his
comrade would steer the craft, kept his eyes fixed upon the bottom of
the boat, striving manfully to forget that he was weary, thirsty, and
hungry. The rippling of the water against the side of the dory was the
only sound to be heard; the sun, although very near to setting, sent his
most fervent rays across the lazy swell of the ocean as if trying to
discourage the toiling lads, while the warm wind, instead of refreshing,
only added to their discomfort.

But, following Uncle Ben’s advice, they “stuck at it” without any
interval of rest, and, as a matter of course, decreased the distance
between themselves and the Port by a certain number of inches with every
stroke of the oars.

Finally, just when the sun had sunk out of sight behind the western
hills, the dory poked her nose around that point of land which formed
the eastern arm, or side, of Southport harbor, and Sam said with a
long-drawn sigh of relief as he pulled a trifle more vigorously at the
oars:

“It surely seems as if we’d been rowin’ two or three days. I did think,
when Uncle Ben told me I might live with him on Apple Island, that the
time never could come when I’d be played out by pullin’ a boat, ’cause
of bein’ so glad that I had a decent home once more; but if we’d been
much longer rowin’ over here I ain’t certain as I could have stuck at
it.”

“Don’t talk about it,” Tom replied with a groan. “I’m so near dead that
if I stop to think I’ll tumble over. It did seem a spell ago as if I
was starvin’; but now I’d rather lay down an’ sleep than have the best
dinner that ever was cooked!”

Ten minutes later the dory was made fast to the pier, and, by the rarest
good fortune, the first person in Southport who learned of their arrival
was Mr. Mansfield. He had just sauntered down on the wharf when Sam
crawled ashore with the painter, and, as a matter of course, was curious
to learn why they had come without Uncle Ben.

But little time was spent in telling the story, for no sooner had Mr.
Mansfield gotten an inkling of the mischief done, than he turned
abruptly, almost running up the street.

“Now what?” Tom, who had thrown himself full length on the pier, asked
with mild curiosity, being so nearly exhausted that he could not display
a very lively interest in anything.

“I reckon he’s gone to tell the folks what’s been done. We’ll have to
wait here.”

“That’s jest what I want to do, an’ he needn’t hurry back on my account,
for I could stay right where I am till mornin’ an’ not fret myself very
much.”

There was little need for the boys to speculate as to the reason for Mr.
Mansfield’s sudden departure. He returned within five minutes and at
once began to ask many questions, to all of which Sam replied as well as
he was able; but before having given any great amount of information his
eyes closed in sleep, despite all his efforts to keep them open, and the
shopkeeper exclaimed in a tone of self-reproach:

“I come mighty nigh bein’ a brute to keep you here talkin’, when,
’cordin’ to what’s been said, you must have been workin’ like beavers
since before daybreak. Toddle up to my house an’ go to bed. There
ain’t any chance Uncle Ben can get back within the next four an’ twenty
hours.”

Not only did Mr. Mansfield provide them with a bed, but his wife
insisted on their eating a hearty meal before lying down, and when,
finally, the two lads had an opportunity to crawl between the
lavender-scented sheets, Tom said with a sigh of content:

“It pays to get awfully tired, jest for the sake of findin’ out how nice
it is to go to bed.”

Then it was as if he had dropped into dreamland on the instant, for the
words were hardly more than out of his mouth before he was breathing
heavily. And Sam did not have time to realize the condition of his
comrade, for he himself was lost in the blissful unconsciousness of
slumber.

Not until the sun had been looking in at the chamber window of Mr.
Mansfield’s house a full hour did the boys realize where they were, and
then Sam jumped out of bed as he cried:

“Just think of it, Tom, after all our work to get the lobsters here, we
left them in the dory all night, an’ it’ll be the biggest kind of luck
if any of ’em are alive now!”

Very hurriedly did the boys dress, and they would have hastened out of
the house on the instant if Mrs. Mansfield had not insisted on their
partaking of the breakfast which had been kept so long waiting.

“William took care of the lobsters last night, so there’s no reason why
you should be in such a hurry,” she said when Sam attempted to explain
why they should be on the pier as soon as possible. “Captain Doak won’t
be brought before ’Squire Kelly till nine o’clock, an’ there’s nothing
you can do till then.”

“Cap’en Doak!” Sam repeated in amazement. “Why is he to come up before
the ’Squire?”

“Because he burned Uncle Ben’s house, of course,” the good woman replied
sharply. “Do you suppose the people of the Port are going to allow him
to carry on at such a rate? He will have a trial and be punished for
what he has done, so William says.”

This was most pleasing news to Tom, who did not hesitate to say he
“hoped the old heathen” would be sent to prison for a long time; but
Sam, although believing the culprit should be punished, felt sad because
the man was to answer for his misdeeds.

“Oh,” he said, as if trying to find some excuse for the man who had
abused him so long, “he ain’t anywhere near so bad when he’s sober.”

“Then it’s time he was put where he can’t be anything else,” Mrs.
Mansfield replied sharply. “I’ve been longing to have him brought up to
answer for his tricks ever since your mother died. She, poor woman, the
same as had the life worried out of her by that miserable creature!”

Mrs. Mansfield was not the only person in town who believed the time had
come when Captain Doak should be put where he could not give way to his
appetite and his temper, as the boys learned when they went out on the
street after having eaten what Tom declared was “the breakfast of their
lives.”




The townspeople were determined that Uncle Ben’s family should not
longer be exposed to the vicious whims of Eliakim Doak, and the
testimony of Sam and Tom, who saw him pulling away from the island
shortly after the shanty had been set on fire, was sufficient to
convict.

The result of the fire was that the former owner of the “Sally D.”
received a sentence of ninety days in the county jail, in addition to
paying a fine of two hundred dollars; but it was understood that if he
left town at once the sentence would not be carried into effect until he
showed himself again in the state.

It so happened that a lumber-laden vessel was on the point of leaving
the harbor bound for Cuba and on her Captain Doak took passage, thus
passing out of the lives of those whom he had wronged, and from that day
until now neither Uncle Ben’s family, nor any citizen of Southport, has
ever seen or heard of him.

When the trial had been brought to an end and the angry citizens saw
Eliakim leave the harbor on the Cuban-bound craft, Sam and Tom were
called upon to tell over and over again the story of the previous day’s
good and bad happenings, and when the two lads insisted that they must
set out for Apple Island in order to arrive before dark Mr. Mansfield
said as he went with them to the pier:

“You are to tell Uncle Ben that we of the Port will buy lumber enough to
build him a regular house, an’ he’s to come over here after it when he
gets back from Portland. Say to him that we count it our duty to make
up for the mischief Eliakim has done, an’ when he’s ready to put up the
buildin’ we’ll all lend a hand. I reckon we’ll make it a reg’lar
vacation time. You’ll find that mother has sent down food enough to
keep you from bein’ hungry till the schooner comes back, an’ it won’t be
any great hardship if you do have to sleep out-of-doors this night.”

“You’ve been awful good to us, Mr. Mansfield, an’ we won’t forget it,”
Sam said, as he took his seat in the dory, and Tom added:

“It kinder seems as if everybody was good since Uncle Ben took us in
hand, an’ I’m hopin’ the day’ll come when I can show him how I feel on
account of what he did when he started a family.”

“Uncle Ben Johnson is the salt of the earth, if there’s sich a thing,
an’ the funny part of it is that it has taken us folks here at the Port
so long to find it out. We’ve got the idee now, though, an’ will keep
it in mind mighty fresh.”

Then the journey to Apple Island was begun, the lads pulling steadily
and strong after their long rest, and once outside the harbor Tom said
reflectively:

“I ain’t so certain but that your old heathen did Uncle Ben a good turn
when he set the shanty afire, ’cause now the old man will have a decent
house, which is more’n would ever have come his way if he’d had to spend
good money buildin’ it.”

“That’s ’cause he wants to keep all the dollars he can get to help out
on raisin’ a family, an’ it strikes me that he’s doin’ it mighty fast,
though I ain’t certain as we can have such high times when there are a
good many fellows around.”

Then the lads fell to discussing what would be the result after Uncle
Ben’s plan had been fully carried into execution, and they were not at
an end of it when the dory was run up on the sand near the ruins of the
shanty.

Again was it time to attend to the traps, and, stopping only to catch
cunners enough to serve as bait, the lads went about their task,
believing that when the work was come to an end they must perforce find
for themselves beds among the bushes, for it did not seem possible the
“Sally” could return from Portland until another day had passed.

The catch was not large on this afternoon, although the labor of hauling
the pots was as great as if they had loaded the dory gunwale deep with
lobsters, and the last one had been thrown into the car just as the sun
sank out of sight.

“I reckon we’d better hustle if we count on findin’ a good place for
sleepin’, ’cause it’ll be dark in the woods. I’m—— Hello! There’s the
’Sally’! Why do you s’pose she didn’t go to Portland?”

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