FREIGHTING LUMBER

Even Uncle Ben found it difficult to remain sedate, as the head of a
family should, when Sam and Tom pulled alongside. Little Joey was
running fore and aft on the deck, clapping his hands as he screamed for
very joy, while Mr. Rowe leaned over the rail to shout something which
the lads could not understand, and the old lobster catcher tried hard to
appear unconcerned, but he could hold out no longer when the boys
clambered on board.

Reaching out a hand to each of them he cried in a tone of triumph, as if
it was no longer possible for him to keep the secret:

“We got two hundred an’ ten dollars for the catch, lads! Only think of
that! Near to half what the ’Sally’ has cost us!”

“An’ it ain’t the last two-hundred-dollar fare we’ll take ’twixt now an’
winter!” Mr. Rowe cried from amid the mainsail which he was trying to
snug down and at the same time listen to what was being said.

“But how did you get back so quickly?” Sam asked. “We didn’t allow to
see you before to-morrow night!”

Mr. Rowe could no longer attend to his work, but, emerging from the
billowy folds of canvas, he cried exultantly:

“We got back so soon because the ’Sally’ is a reg’lar flyer! When I
sailed with Eliakim I allowed she could go some, but since we’ve shifted
her rig she don’t touch the water at all—jest skims over the top like
one of them ’ere flyin’ fish. Why, lads, she’s made as good as eleven
knots ever since we parted company with you, an’ if that ain’t goin’
some I’d like to know what you call it?”

“She surely is a swift craft!” Uncle Ben added emphatically, and one had
only to look at his face in order to understand that a sailor’s love for
a beautiful vessel was taking root in his heart. “Did you lads carry a
load of lobsters to the Port?”

“Ay, that we did, an’ have only been home long enough to pull the pots,”
Sam replied, at a loss to know how he should break the sad news to the
old man. “We had a full cargo, though I’m thinkin’ we wouldn’t have
gone if it hadn’t been for Cap’en Doak——”

“Has he been here again?” Uncle Ben asked in alarm.

Now it was Tommy’s turn to share in the story-telling, and, taking the
old man by the arm, he led him aft, where a view could have been had of
the shanty if it had still been standing, saying as he did so:

“I reckon you can see what’s been done?”

“What do you mean, lad? What has been done?” Uncle Ben asked
impatiently, failing to note the blackened ruins.

“Can you see the shanty?”

A cry of sorrow burst from the old man’s lips, and his face suddenly
paled as he understood that his home had been reduced to ashes.

“How did it happen, boys? How could it have burned? Wasn’t you here,
or did it—— No, that couldn’t be, for we didn’t leave any fire in the
stove!”

“That pirate of a Doak did it, Uncle Ben!” Tommy cried passionately.
“We got back just in time to see him pullin’ outer the cove, an’ then
the shanty was in a blaze. But I’m thinkin’ he won’t set any more
houses afire, leastways, till that vessel gets to Cuba!”

As a matter of course Uncle Ben could not understand the meaning of the
words and no small amount of time was spent in telling the whole story.
When all the details had been given, and not until then, did Reuben Rowe
speak, when, raising his hand as if taking an oath, he cried angrily:

“I hope that miserable specimen of a man will know what it is to go
hungry before he dies, an’ if I’m anywhere around I’ll chuck good grub
away before givin’ him the littlest bit!”

“Now, now, Reuben, that’s bein’ downright wicked,” Uncle Ben cried,
seizing Mr. Rowe by the arm. “We’ll hope Eliakim will come in time to
realize what he’s about, an’ turn from the evil of his ways.”

“Wa’al, I s’pose I’m wishin’ somethin’ of the same thing; but at the
same time I’d like to have a hand in the turnin’ of him, an’ then I’ll
go bail he’d know it had been done!” and Mr. Rowe went back to snugging
down the mainsail as if fearing he could not contain his wrath before
the head of the family.

“Wasn’t anythin’ saved from the fire?” Uncle Ben asked after a long
pause.

“Everythin’ was burning when we got ashore, an’ now we’ll have to live
aboard the schooner, I reckon,” Tom replied.

“If the folks at the Port are goin’ to furnish lumber for a new house,
why not run over there to-night?” Reuben asked, ceasing work suddenly
again. “The boys have ’tended to the pots an’ there bein’ nothin’ here
for us to do we may as well be savin’ time.”

“Do as you like, Reuben, do as you like,” the old man said in a
sorrowful tone as he turned abruptly and went into the cabin, Mr. Rowe
saying in a whisper as Uncle Ben descended the companionway:

“He’s takin’ it mightily to heart, an’ I can’t say as he’s to be blamed.
The shanty wasn’t much as houses go, but he’d built it himself, an’
lived in it all his life, so to speak. It won’t make any difference how
good a buildin’ goes up in its place, he’ll allers be mournin’ for the
old one. Wa’al, it can’t be helped now, though I do wish Eliakim hadn’t
been let off quite so easy. In with the anchor, lads, an’ we’ll make
harbor off the Port before midnight. Bear a hand lively, an’ perhaps
it’ll chirk Uncle Ben up a bit if he hears us bustlin’ ’round.”

Not until the “Sally” was under way once more, eating up the miles on
her way to Southport, did Uncle Ben come out of the cabin, and then, in
the hope of cheering him ever so little, Sam went to his side, taking
him by the hand.

“I’d try not to feel so awfully bad, Uncle Ben, for if the family grows
any bigger you’d had to have another house or else left some of us out
in the rain.”

“I know it, Sammy, I know it, but somehow I can’t help feelin’ mighty
lonesome ’cause the shanty’s gone, an’ what makes it seem worse is that
it wouldn’t have been burned if I hadn’t been so childish ’bout wantin’
to go on the ’Sally’s’ first cruise. If I had stayed at home Eliakim
never’d done sich a wicked thing.”

“Now that ain’t certain, Uncle Ben, ’cause perhaps you’d been out
pullin’ pots, an’ he’d had the same chance. You’ll like the new house
just as well after we get it built,” and Sam patted the old man’s hand
as he would have done to soothe a distressed baby.

“It’ll never be quite the same, Sammy boy, but I ain’t got any right to
brood over what can’t be helped, an’ I’ll try mighty hard to keep it
from my mind. S’pose you an’ I cook supper! That’ll kinder take up our
attention.”

Little Joey came below to help the cooks, leaving Mr. Rowe and Tom to
run the “Sally,” and so elaborate were Uncle Ben’s plans for the meal
that the schooner was made fast to the dock at Southport before supper
had been made ready.

It was so late in the evening that the citizens of Southport were not
abroad to note the arrival, and, therefore, the “family” had no
visitors.

It was Mr. Mansfield who discovered next morning that the “Sally” was in
the harbor, and he came over the rail before a single member of the
“family” had opened his eyes.

“I was allowin’ to find you all in the dumps, when I saw the ’Sally’ at
the dock; but I reckon you ain’t takin’ it so terrible hard, Uncle Ben,
seein’s how you can sleep so long,” the shopkeeper cried as he entered
the cabin without ceremony, and the old lobster catcher replied almost
cheerily:

“It did strike me kinder hard at first, William, for I’d got to have a
mighty friendly feelin’ for the old shanty, but if the family never has
any greater misfortune than that, God will be good to us.”

“I reckon you’re right, as you allers are, Uncle Ben. Now, instead of
thinkin’ ’bout what’s gone up in smoke, we’ll look ahead to the house
you’re goin’ to have. We here at the Port allow to chip in for the
lumber, an’ as soon as it has been freighted to the island, we’re
countin’ on havin’ a regular old-fashioned raisin’ bee, to help you put
it together. Are you ready to take on a load now?”

“The sooner the better,” Uncle Ben replied, as if almost ashamed to
accept the gift. “I’m hopin’ everybody knows that we’ll be mighty
grateful for what’s bein’ done, an’ if ever I get the chance to do——”

“You’ve had the chance, an’ taken right hold of it, Uncle Ben. It has
made us feel like small potatoes to see you tryin’ to gather into a
family them who needed a home, an’ now we’re goin’ to have a share in
the scheme. We’ll set right about haulin’ the lumber, an’ I reckon the
first horse-load will be here by the time you’ve had breakfast.”

It surely seemed as if every man and horse in Southport was engaged in
loading the schooner, and it was hardly more than noon, thanks to the
many pairs of willing hands, before the “Sally” had as much aboard as it
was deemed wise to take on the first trip.




The afternoon was less than half spent when the “family” were on Apple
Island once more, with their schooner riding at anchor in the little
cove, and now, indeed, was it necessary that every member do his utmost
in the way of work. Sam and Tom set off to haul the traps, while Uncle
Ben, Reuben and even little Joey, labored industriously throwing the
lumber overboard that it might be rafted to the shore.

It was considerably past midnight when this day’s work was ended, and a
more weary crew never turned into the “Sally D.’s” bunks, to be awakened
next morning at daybreak that they might return to the Port for another
cargo.

And so this work was kept up until all the lumber was freighted. There
had been no neglect of the lobster industry, even when the two boys were
so tired that it seemed impossible for them to pull the dory around the
island, and, as a matter of course, no fishing had been indulged in,
even though all knew it might well be that they could get another large
catch of mackerel. Sam had indeed proposed that they fish one forenoon
out of every two, hauling the pots in the night; but to this Uncle Ben
would not listen.

“You boys are already doin’ more work than might well be expected of
men, an’ I don’t count on drivin’ willin’ horses to death for the sake
of gettin’ a few more dollars,” the old lobster catcher said, very
decidedly. “Next week the folks from the Port are comin’ over to stay
quite a spell, an’ what with feedin’ them, lookin’ after the traps, an’
takin’ a turn now an’ then at carpenterin’, I’m allowin’ you’ll have
your hands full. Early Monday mornin’ you two lads are to go over with
Reuben after them as are willin’ to help us, an’ I reckon then is the
time we’d best empty our car of lobsters.”

Therefore it was that the “Sally D.” lay in the cove several days,
serving the family as a home, and as Uncle Ben had planned so was it
done. When the schooner made Southport early on the following Monday
morning, they found waiting for them so many of the citizens that Sam
was greatly alarmed lest he and Tom would not be able to cook food
enough, even though they worked every moment of the time.

The good people of the Port had no idea of allowing Uncle Ben to feed
such an army, but had ready on the pier what Tom called a “reg’lar
stack” of provisions to be put on board, and there was no question but
that they counted on enjoying themselves during such time as the new
house was being built.

Among the belongings on the pier was a large canvas tent, in which the
workmen were to sleep, and Sam said, as he and Tom were helping stow the
goods on the “Sally’s” deck:

“What worries me is that Uncle Ben will get terribly mixed up with so
many people loafin’ ’round.”

“I reckon he’ll keep himself straight when he sees the house goin’ up.
Leastways, he’s got a mighty good idee of what’s goin’ to happen, for I
heard him tell Mr. Rowe that he an’ us two better try to get three or
four bushels of clams to-night, if we can pull the pots in time. Clam
diggin’ is about the only part of Apple Island that I don’t like,” Tommy
added ruefully, “an’ these folks will eat a terrible big pile, I’m
thinkin’.”

“Then you don’t count on doin’ it?”

“Don’t count on doin’ it? Say, Sam, what do you take me for? Do you
think I wouldn’t do anythin’ Uncle Ben wanted, whether I liked it or
not? If he asked me to stand on my head so’s to hang dish-towels on my
feet, you’d see me upside down from mornin’ till night.”

“Get on there with that dunnage!” Mr. Rowe called from the quarter-deck,
for he was playing the part of captain to perfection, on this morning
when he had as spectators nearly every person in Southport. “Bear a
hand lively, you boys, for I’m wantin’ to get under way mighty quick!”

This served to remind the merrymaking carpenters that they also must
bear a hand. In a twinkling the stores and tent were on the schooner’s
deck, while half a dozen men seized each halyard, running up the canvas
in a jiffy, and the “Sally” sailed out of the harbor with the jolliest
lot of passengers that could have been found in a month’s search.

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