THE NAUTIFELERS CLUB ON THE LAKE

Captain Gildrock hardly thought of the self-sufficient visitor after he
had seen the boat which contained him pull away from the wharf. He only
wondered how Matt Randolph had ever made the acquaintance of such a
fellow, for he was a gentleman himself.

The Beech Hill Industrial School had nearly completed its third year of
existence; and in the opinion of the principal, and also of a great many
other people, it was a decided success. It had certainly reformed quite
a number of young men who might otherwise have become useless, if not
dangerous, members of the community. It had given useful trades to a
considerable number of young men who would not have taken them up on
their own account.

Its moral influence had been even more marked than its industrial power,
and it had assuredly done something to make manual labor more
respectable than it had been considered to be before. There were already
those who were not only earning a living, but were supporting their
parents, by the aid of the knowledge and skill they had acquired in the
institution; and if it had done nothing more than this, it would have
done a great deal.

Cold critics said it ought to be a success, for the founder of it had a
purse long enough to make any reasonable undertaking a success; but the
idea was not a practical one, because it was not susceptible of
universal application. The State could not afford to support such
schools for all who might be willing to use them. It certainly could not
provide for an expenditure as liberal as that of Captain Gildrock, but
it could do a great deal more than it has yet done in this direction.

After the principal had disposed of his impertinent visitor,–for there
was really only one of this type, as Chuckworth and Mackwith hardly
spoke a word,–he could not help thinking that it was a great pity
Spickles could not be brought under such discipline as that of the Beech
Hill School. He was a young man of decided ability, and all he needed
was a kind of discipline that would give him something to live for. He
needed something to think about and work for.

When Matt Randolph returned from his trip with his class in sailing, he
reported to the principal, who happened to be in the office. He informed
the captain where he had been, and the nature of the operations he had
conducted on board of the Lily. He commended his crew for good
discipline, and close application to their duty. A critic might have
laughed at this last part of the report as entirely superfluous; for, as
a matter of course, any party of human boys would be interested, and do
their whole duty, in sailing a boat.

“By the way, Randolph, is Mr. Spickles a friend of yours?” asked the
principal, after he had listened attentively to the report.

“No, sir!” replied Matt, very decidedly. “I was acquainted with him at
home, and he was on board of the yacht a number of times; but after he
stole a thousand dollars from his father, and ran away, I had nothing
more to do with him.”

“Was he as bad as that? He seemed to be more like one of the puppy order
than one of the criminal kind. He was very saucy to me after I had shown
his party over the school; and I had to take him by the collar, and put
him into his boat.”

“I am glad you did, sir,” added Matt. “I was inclined to lay hands on
him after his impudence at the beginning.”

“He came to see you, I suppose?”

“Yes, sir. He is with a party, and there are five of them. They have
chartered a schooner, and intend to spend the summer on the lake.
Spickles invited me on board of the vessel, and insisted that I should
go with him. I refused.”

“The less you have to do with such a fellow as that, the better it will
be for you, though it may be all the worse for him,” added the
principal.

“Spickles told me they had just tapped a keg of beer.”

“Of course! the fellow has made considerable progress in the downward
road.”

After supper the students embarked in the barges for a row, and for
practice with the oars. As during the last season, there were three of
these boats, the Gildrock and the Winooski, each of twelve oars, and the
Marian of eight oars. The crews had been re-organized; and the two
larger boats were preparing for a race, each against the other.

Matt Randolph was the coxswain of the Winooski, and Dory Dornwood of the
Gildrock; for the crew of each had selected the most skilful boatman in
the school to get them in condition for this race. For the last year the
students had been on tolerably peaceable terms with the members of the
Chesterfield Collegiate Institute, on the other side of the lake; and it
was possible that a race would be arranged with them for the Fourth of
July.

The two barges were careful to keep away from each other during their
practice. The two coxswains, though on the most friendly terms, never
talked about the coming race. If either had any points, he wanted to
keep them to himself. Each of them had a system of his own in the method
of rowing, and each kept his own counsel.

Matt Randolph, for these reasons, did not immediately follow the
Gildrock when she left the boat-house, but went up to the head of
Beechwater. As soon as the rival craft had passed out of the little
lake, the Winooski followed her. The coxswain saw that the party on
board of the La Motte, which lay just below the entrance of the creek
into the river, hailed the Gildrock when she went by her. But Dory took
no notice of them; and Matt concluded that he had not been addressed in
civil tones, or he would have replied.

“I wonder what that schooner is that lies in the river,” said Ash
Burton, who pulled the stroke-oar in the Winooski. “She has been there
all the afternoon, and a boat from her went up into Beechwater a while
ago.”

“That is the schooner La Motte; and she has a party of young fellows on
board of her who are going to spend the summer on the lake,” replied the
coxswain, loud enough for all in the barge to hear him.

“They are hoisting the mainsail,” added the stroke-oarsman. “That looks
as though they were going out of the river.”

“If they are going to leave these parts, I am glad of it,” said Matt in
a lower tone.

“Why are you glad of it, Matt?” asked Ash curiously.

“They are not the sort of fellows I like to have very near me; for they
are on a lark, and they have plenty of beer on board,” replied the
coxswain.

The boat passed out of the creek into the river. The La Motte had set
her mainsail, and was now hoisting the foresail. Matt gave the schooner
as wide a berth as he could, but he could not get more than a hundred
feet from her.

“Is that you, Matt Randolph?” shouted Spickles.

“I believe so,” replied the coxswain.

“Come on board, will you, Matt?” continue the captain of the La Motte,
beckoning with his hand.

“You must excuse me, Spickles. I have the charge of this barge, and I
can’t leave her,” replied Matt, very civilly, but not less decisively.
“I have to attend to my duty.”

“But I want to see you about the navigation of this river; for I got
aground coming in, and I don’t want to do it again,” added the captain
of the La Motte.

The coxswain shifted the helm of the barge; for if there was any thing
to be done that would assist in the departure of the schooner, he was
willing to do it. He ran alongside of the vessel, and held the boat at a
distance of about ten feet from her.

“What is the trouble about the navigation, Spickles?” asked Matt, coming
to business at once.

“Off that point below, I found that the water was not more than two feet
deep,” said the captain.

“And it is marked one foot on the chart; and you told me you were
supplied with charts.”

“I am; but the river is not laid down on the chart.”

“You have a south-west wind; and all you have to do is to keep near the
middle of the stream, and you will go out all right. Is that all?”

“No, that is not all,” replied Spickles, who seemed to be dissatisfied
at the distance his former friend kept between them, and with his
apparent desire to get off again. “The water is not more than two or
three feet deep anywhere out beyond that point.”

“To the southward of the point, the water is shoal; but it is deep
enough north of it to float an ocean-steamer anywhere. As soon as you
get to that bend in the river, and open up the point, run for it.
Then–have you a compass on board?”

“Of course I have a compass: I brought a good one with me from New
York,” replied Spickles.

“When you are up with Beaver Point”–

“Where is that?” interposed the captain of the La Motte, who seemed to
be intent upon detaining the coxswain as long as possible.

“The point at the mouth of the river. When you come up with it, make
your course north-west by west, and you will be all right till you run
on the shore on the other side of the lake.”

“I say, Matt, I want to introduce you to the members of the Nautifelers
Club; and I wish you would come on board,” persisted Spickles.

“As I said before, I cannot, and you must excuse me. But what is the
club?” asked Matt, whose curiosity was excited.

“The Nautifelers Club.”

“Is that a Greek word?”

“Of course it is.”

“I can’t quite make it out: will you spell it for me?” asked Matt.

“I will write it for you: it means in English, ‘Lots of fun.'”

The coxswain gave an order which brought the stern of the barge near
enough to the vessel to enable him to obtain the paper, but resisted all
persuasions to go on board of the schooner.

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