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Go-Ahead: Or, The Fisher-Boy's Motto written by Harry Castlemon who was a prolific writer of juvenile stories and novels, intended mainly for boys. This book is one of many works by him. It has already Published in 1868. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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Or, The Fisher-Boy's Motto
CHAPTER I. A RAGAMUFFIN.
CHAPTER II. A LIBERAL PASSENGER.
CHAPTER III. FISHERTOWN IN COUNCIL.
CHAPTER IV. TOM NEWCOMBE'S PLAN.
CHAPTER V. SAM BARTON'S REVENGE.
CHAPTER VI. GOING IN DEBT.
CHAPTER VII. TOM ORDERS A NEW BOAT.
CHAPTER VIII. THE GO AHEAD NO. 2.
CHAPTER IX. CRUSOE AND HIS MEN.
CHAPTER X. ANOTHER FAILURE.
CHAPTER XI. TOM'S NEW YACHT.
CHAPTER XII. TOM LOSES A DINNER.
CHAPTER XIII. MR. NEWCOMBE'S PRESENT.
CHAPTER XIV. BOB MAKES A DISCOVERY.
CHAPTER XV. BOB A PRISONER.
CHAPTER XVI. BOB FIGHTS FOR HIS LIBERTY.
CHAPTER XVII. PREPARATIONS FOR THE VOYAGE.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE ATTACK ON THE YACHT.
CHAPTER XIX. CRUSOE AFLOAT.
CHAPTER XX. THE TABLES TURNED.
CHAPTER XXI. HARRY'S REPORT.
CHAPTER XXII. CONCLUSION.
LAUNCHING THE YAWL.
Bad luck again to-day," said Bob Jennings, as he reluctantly drew in his line and glanced at his empty basket, which he had hoped to take home full of fish, "I've been here since seven o'clock this morning, and haven't had a single bite. If it is true that 'Fortune favors the brave', it seems to me she is a long time in finding out that there is such a fellow as Bob Jennings in the world, for the harder I work, the worse I get along."
As the fisher-boy spoke, he pulled up his anchor, hoisted a small tattered sail in the bow of his boat, and filled away for home, as poor as when he set out in the morning.
It was no wonder that Bob felt somewhat disheartened, for he was but twelve cents better off at that moment than he had been the day before. He had ferried six ship-carpenters across the harbor that morning, and then pulled five miles up the bay, to his fishing-grounds, only to return empty-handed. And that was not the worst of it, for a "streak of bad luck," as he called it, had attended him during the entire week. It was then Friday; and since Monday morning he had earned just a dollar and a quarter. Fishing had been unprofitable, and the ship-carpenters seemed to have taken a sudden dislike to his boat, for, of late, he had never been able to secure more than half a load, and his ferrying did not yield him twenty cents a day. He had worked hard, but luck was against him, and, in spite of all his exertions, he had not been able to earn enough to pay the week's expenses; and that morning his mother had told him that she would soon be obliged to use a portion of the fifteen dollars which Bob had managed to save as part of the sum necessary to support the family while he was gone on his first voyage at sea. Bob had been expecting this; and it was the worst part of his week's "streak of bad luck," for that fifteen dollars had been saved for a special purpose, and he did not want to see it used for any thing else. He had staked all his hopes upon the result of this day's work, and thus far he had earned but twelve cents. Some boys, perhaps, would have thought fifteen dollars a very insignificant sum to be troubled about, but Bob looked upon it as quite a respectable fortune. There were not many fisher-boys about Newport who could boast that, during the last six months, they had fed and clothed a family of four persons, and saved money besides. Bob was the only one among them who ever laid by a penny for a rainy day; but, unless his luck soon changed, he would be as poor as the rest of them—his fortune would melt away, and his first voyage be indefinitely postponed. The fisher-boy was not in the habit of grumbling because every thing did not work as smoothly as he desired, but, under such circumstances, he found it almost impossible to keep up a cheerful heart. He was willing to work, but he wanted to see that he was making some headway in the world. When fortune favored him, and he could give his mother fifty, or even twenty-five, cents every evening, there was not a happier boy in Newport than Bob Jennings. He felt rich; and it is probable that he would even have hesitated about changing places with his friend Tom Newcombe, whom he sometimes envied. But when luck went against him—as had been the case during the week that had just passed—Bob could not help getting downhearted, for it seemed to him that every failure he made placed the object of his ambition farther beyond his reach. He wanted to become the master of a fine vessel, but he could not go to sea leaving his mother unprovided for; and thirty dollars would be sufficient to insure her against want during his absence. After nearly six months' hard work, he had saved half the amount required, and he had begun to hope that, by the time the spring arrived, he could give up fishing and ferrying, turn his scow over to his brother, and enter upon his career as a sailor. But Bob's hopes had been ruined more than once by a "streak of bad luck," and now it seemed as if misfortune was again about to overtake him.
"I don't want to see that fifteen dollars broken in upon," said the fisher-boy, taking a firmer grasp of the oar with which he was steering his clumsy craft, as if to indicate that he had determined to hold on to his fortune as long as possible; "I've worked hard for it, through storm and sunshine, have gone about my work ragged and barefooted, and now, if I lose it, I shall almost believe that I was born to be a fisherman, and that it's no use for me to try to be any thing else. If this money goes, it will be the third time I have been bankrupt. After mother agreed to let me go to sea if I would save thirty dollars, I went to work, and, at the end of three months, I had seven dollars in the bank. I was making money fast, and I thought that, at the end of the year, I should have more than thirty dollars laid by. But I had a streak of bad luck; the fish wouldn't bite, I couldn't make a dime a day ferrying, and four dollars out of the seven had to go to feed the family. After awhile, my luck changed again, and, in four months, I had saved twelve dollars and a half. Then I began to fall behind a second time, and every red cent of my twelve dollars was gone before I knew it. Then came a streak of good luck, which lasted almost six months, and, during that time, I saved just fifteen dollars. If that goes like the rest, I shall begin to believe that I am very unlucky. Now, there's Sam Barton! He doesn't work half as hard as I do, but he makes more money. I wish I had been in his place night before last."
Bob was not the only one who envied Sam Barton, for he was the most fortunate ferry-boy about the village. His companions all looked upon him with a great deal of respect; and the reason was because Sam owned the best boat, and could boast of more "regular customers" than any other boys about the harbor. On Wednesday evening, after the workmen had all been taken across, and the ferry-boys were seated in their boats, counting their money, and getting ready to start for home, a gentleman, who was standing on the wharf talking to an acquaintance, accidentally slipped off into the water. A dozen boats at once started to his assistance; but Sam was foremost, and, reaching the gentleman just as he was sinking for the last time, he seized him and lifted him into his boat. The man soon recovered from the effects of his involuntary bath, and, on being assisted on to the wharf, he thrust his hand into his pocket, and, pulling out a large roll of bills, tossed it to Sam; after which, he stepped into a carriage and was driven off. The ferry-boys, who had been interested spectators of all that had taken place, crowded up around Sam's boat; and when the latter had counted the money, he found himself the proud possessor of a hundred dollars—a much larger sum than he had ever owned before. The idea of a reward must have entered Sam's head the moment he saw the gentleman struggling in the water, for, after he had put the money carefully away in his pocket, he turned to Bob, who had been close beside him all the while, and coolly remarked:
"You're a purty good hand with an oar, Bobby Jennings, an' I'll allow that you can make that ar ole scow of your'n fly through the water amazin' fast, but it wasn't no use fur you to think of beatin' me in this race, 'cause I was pullin' fur money—I was. I knowed the ole chap would give a feller a dime or two fur haulin' him out of the water, fur I seed he couldn't swim the minute he fell in."
"So did I," said Bob, "but I never thought of a reward; I only wanted to save the man's life."
"I s'pose, then," said Sam, "that if you had been first, an' had pulled that feller into your boat, an' he had said 'Thank you, Bobby,' you would have been satisfied?"
"Certainly, I would!" replied the fisher-boy.
"Well," continued Sam, thrusting his hand into his pocket to satisfy himself that his money was safe, "mebbe that's a good principle to go on, but it won't bring you much bread an' butter—not more'n you can eat, any how. I believe a feller has a right to make all he can. In course, he oughter work, 'cause he'll soon starve if he don't; but when he sees a chance to make a few dollars easy, he oughtn't to let it slip. The world owes us ferry-boys a livin', an' the easier we make it, the smarter we be. But, 'pears to me, if I was a rich man, an' should fall into the harbor, an' couldn't swim a stroke, I'd give the feller that pulled me out more'n a hundred dollars."
The next day, when Sam came among his companions, the appearance of himself and boat excited the wonder and admiration of every ferry-boy in the harbor. His yawl had received a fresh coat of paint outside; and the thwarts were supplied with cushions, so that his passengers might have the benefit of easy seats. Sam was rigged out in a brand-new suit of clothes, and he sculled about among the ferry-boys as if he felt himself to be very important.
"What do you think of me an' my yawl, now, Bobby Jennings?" asked Sam, as he dashed up along-side the fisher-boy, who was seated in his scow watching the wharves on both sides of the harbor, in the hope of discovering a passenger. "Ain't we gay? That hundred dollars came in handy, I tell you."
"Your boat looks very nice," replied Bob, glancing first at the clean, dry yawl, and then at his own unpainted, leaky craft. "She's a great deal better than mine."
"That's to be expected," said Sam; "you see, I've got capital to go on, and I know how to use it. I was onct as poor as you be; the boat I had was a'most as leaky an' dirty as that ar craft of your'n, and I never could make enough to pay expenses, 'cause the ship-carpenters an' the fine gentlemen who have business across the harbor wouldn't have nothing to do with me. One day, my old man said to me: 'Sammy, a coward an' a poor man are the two meanest things in the world. They are a disgrace to society. If you ever want to be respected, go to work an' make some money.' I thought that was good advice, and I follered it. Now look at me! I've got two good boats—the other a nice little skiff that I want to sell to some feller who has twenty dollars to pay for it—I wear good clothes, I've got more regular customers than any two other boys in the harbor, an' every night I take home at least a dollar and a half. I'm makin' money; an' the reason is, I know how to do it. During two years' ferryin' on this harbor, I have learned that the only way to get custom is to have a nice, clean boat——Yes, sir; comin', sir!"
Sam Barton was a boy who could do two things at once—that is, he could talk and keep a bright lookout for passengers at the same time—and he had just discovered a man standing on the wharf, waving his handkerchief—a sign that he wanted to cross the harbor. Bob saw him at the same moment, and, by the time Sam had got his oar out, the fisher-boy was well under way, and Sam began to fear that the two cents he had hoped to earn would find their way into the pockets of his rival. "First come, first served," was the law in force among the ferry-boys, and the one who could handle his oar the best got the most passengers. There was not a boy in the harbor who could beat Bob sculling, and although he had a heavy, unwieldy boat to manage, he generally came off first best in his races. He certainly did in this instance, for, when he reached the wharf where the passenger was standing, Sam was a long way behind.
"Jump in, sir," said Bob.
The man looked down at the scow, which, on account of its numerous leaks, could not be kept very clean, then at his well-blacked boots, and shook his head.
"O, she'll take you over safely, sir," said Bob; "I've carried fifteen men in her many a time."
"Sheer off there, Bobby Jennings!" shouted Sam Barton, bringing his handsome yawl along-side the wharf at this moment; "here's the boat the gentleman's been a-waitin' fur. He wants a neat, tidy craft, wi' cushions to sit down on. Jump in, sir."
The idea Sam had advanced but a few moments before—that a nice, clean boat was necessary to secure patronage—received confirmation now, for the man climbed down into the yawl, and Bob saw his rival pocket the passage-money.
The fisher-boy thought over these incidents, as he sat in the stern-sheets of his scow sailing slowly homeward from his fishing-grounds; and, although Sam Barton had, at first, fallen very low in his estimation, by accepting a reward for saving a man's life, he was now ready to wish that he had been in Sam's place.
"If I could only think of some honest way to earn a hundred dollars, how proud I should feel!" said the fisher-boy. "It would support the family in fine style for a year to come, and would buy a good many articles of furniture that we need in the house. It would send me to sea, too, and I would then be in a situation to make a man of myself. I might, some day, become the captain of one of Mr. Newcombe's fine ships."
At this point in his meditations, when the fisher-boy was imagining how grand he would feel when he should walk the quarter-deck of his own vessel, he was suddenly startled with the shout:
"Look out there, you ragamuffin! Out of the way, or we'll run you down!" And the next moment, a beautiful little schooner, filled with boys about his own age, dashed by, under a full press of canvas.
"Ship ahoy!" shouted the boy who held the helm of the schooner; "What ship is that?"
"Why, that's the 'Go Ahead,'" said one of his companions, reading the name which was painted in rude letters on the stern of Bob's scow.
"So it is!" said another. "But I don't think the name is appropriate, for she don't seem to go ahead at all."
The boys in the schooner laughed loudly at this exhibition of wit, and the little vessel dashed on, leaving Bob sitting in the stern of his scow, silent and thoughtful. This incident had brought him back to earth again. The gallant ship, of which he had imagined himself the proud commander, faded before his eyes, and he foundhimself seated at the helm of his leaky boat, with its tattered sail and empty fish-basket staring him in the face. The trim, swift-sailing little schooner, which had so nearly run him down, and which was now bounding gayly over the waves of the bay, with its load of merry, thoughtless boys, presented a strange contrast to his own clumsy craft, and, but for one simple thing, Bob would have been more disheartened than ever. But one of the boys had called him a "ragamuffin;" while the others had made sport of his boat and the odd name she bore, and this aroused the fisher-boy's spirit.
"They don't know what they were talking about," said Bob to himself. "I didn't give my scow that name on account of her sailing qualities, for no one who knows any thing about a boat would expect a tub like this to sail fast. I call her the 'Go Ahead' because that's part of my motto, and I want it where I can see it when I get down-hearted."
Bob hesitated, and even looked as if he felt ashamed of himself as he said this, for he remembered that but a few moments before he had been sadly discouraged, and had never once thought of his motto. It was strange that he had forgotten it, for the words "Go Ahead," painted in huge capitals, stared at him from every part of the boat to which he could direct his gaze. On the thwarts, the gunwales, the oar with which he was steering, and even on the bottom, where the water stood three inches deep, appeared the mysterious words, which, under ordinary circumstances, never failed to prove a sure source of cheerfulness and contentment to the fisher-boy.
"They called me a ragamuffin," continued Bob, looking down at his patched garments, "and perhaps I am; but I know one thing, and that is, a ragged coat has covered the back of many an honest man. I believe I am honest, for I never, knowingly, cheated a man out of a cent. My customers are not afraid to trust me, for they believe just what I say, and never look at the scales when I am weighing out the fish. Sam Barton says, that poor men and cowards ought not to be allowed to live in the world; but mother says, poverty is no disgrace if a person works hard and tries to better his condition. I won't always be a ragamuffin, now I tell you! I'll own a sail-boat one of these days that will make that schooner ashamed of herself. How will I get it?" added Bob aloud, as if some invisible person had just asked him the question. "How will I get it? I'll work for it; that's the way I'll get it. I'll stick to my ferrying and fishing until something better turns up, and then I'll make a man of myself."
As the fisher-boy said this, he gave one parting glance at the schooner, and then turned his attention to the management of his scow. His feelings now were very different from what they had been when he began his voyage homeward, for the sneering remarks of the schooner's crew had aroused his pride and indignation. He was willing to admit that he was a ragamuffin, but he was determined that he would not always remain one. He was ambitious to be something better; and, like a sensible boy, he knew there was but one way for him to accomplish his object, and that was to work hard for it.
During the voyage homeward, Bob thought over his situation, and revolved in his mind numerous plans for future operations; but the only conclusion he could come to was, to "stick to his business" and do the best he could. He might have accepted a situation in some store; in fact, one or two had been offered him—for Bob, like every other honest, industrious boy, had plenty of friends—but that would not better his condition as far as money was concerned. His wages would amount to but a dollar and a half or two dollars a week, and at that rate he could not save a cent. Even fishing and ferrying were generally more profitable; for, although some weeks he would make scarcely enough to pay expenses, he would, at other times, clear three and four dollars, so that his mother could lay by something to increase their little fortune. His present "streak of bad luck" could not last always; it would soon change in his favor, and, until then, he would work on and hope for the best. There were numerous obstacles and discouragements in his way, and the greatest of them was the want of a good boat. The Go Ahead had done him considerable service, but she was so old and shaky that, with the exception of Bob, there was scarcely a boy in Newport who was brave enough to trust himself very far from shore in her. It was no wonder, then, that the ship-carpenters gave the fisher-boy a wide berth, and preferred Sam Barton's staunch yawl to his leaky scow. The question, how should he get a new boat? Had troubled him for three months, and he was not yet able to answer it. At first he had thought of building one; but he had no money to buy the necessary material, and the planks and boards that got loose in the harbor were always picked up before Bob knew they were there. He could not buy a boat, for such a one as he wanted would cost twenty or thirty dollars; and where could he obtain so much money? This question perplexed Bob greatly, and now it seemed to trouble him more than ever. He did not recover his usual spirits again that afternoon, and, when he ran his scow upon the beach in front of his humble home, he wore an exceedingly long face, which told the family, as plainly as words, that his day's work had not been a profitable one.
"How many, Bobby?" asked his mother, appearing at the door.
"So many!" replied the fisher boy, inverting his basket, to show that it was empty. "I hope I shall have better luck to-morrow."
Bob threw his basket on the beach, pulled down his sail, and, after rolling it up, carried it around behind the house, and put it in its accustomed place. He then walked round to the other side of the cabin, and eagerly read some rude characters which he had cut in the boards, close up under the eaves. This was, no doubt, an unusual way to raise one's spirits, but it seemed to have that effect upon Bob, for he shook his head and whispered to himself:
"I'm not discouraged yet. If a boy lives up to that motto, he'll make a man of himself, I don't care how poor he is."
This was not the first time the fisher-boy had drawn encouragement and consolation from this same mysterious source, for, every day, after he returned from his fishing grounds, he would steal around behind the house to read his motto. If he had been unlucky, he did it to raise his spirits; and if he had been successful, he read it with a renewed determination to "stick to it." What it was that served to encourage him, no one about the house knew except himself. His mother had often seen the characters cut in the boards, but she could not read them, for they were so rudely executed that they bore but very little resemblance to the letters of the alphabet. Bob could use a pen or pencil very well, but he had never learned the art of engraving, and that was the reason no one could read the words he had cut in the boards.
"Yes, sir!" repeated Bob, "that motto will make a man of me yet, if I live up to it."
"Did you ever hear of a person who became rich by it?" asked one of his brothers, who had followed him behind the house.
"No, but still I believe it will work wonders."
"Perhaps it will; but it don't seem to be working wonders just now. You have not caught a single fish to-day, and mother says that, if you don't earn thirty cents to-night, she will have to use part of your fifteen dollars."
Thirty cents! That was a small amount to stand between Bob and his fortune, but it might as well have been as many dollars, for he had no idea that he should be able to secure a load of fifteen ship-carpenters that evening. He thought of his leaky scow, then of Sam Barton's fine boat, and wished that he was able to own one exactly like it. But wishing did no good. It would not bring him another boat, or change the Go Ahead into a handsome yawl, with cushioned seats; so Bob, after another glance at the letters under the eaves, dismissed all thoughts of Sam Barton and his boat, and turned his attention to bailing out his scow. In half an hour the boat had been emptied of the water, and wiped dry, after which the fisher-boy pushed off from the beach, and sculled toward the harbor.
The fisher-boy's home, as we have said, was built upon the beach, and was but one of a dozen similar abodes, where dwelt as many boys, who, like Bob, earned their living by fishing and ferrying. They all made it a point to be in the harbor at half-past six in the morning, and at five in the evening; and, when Bob pushed off from the beach, he soon found himself in the midst of a small fleet of boats, of all sizes and descriptions, whose ragged crews were bent on the same mission as himself. These boys were mostly the sons of sailors and fishermen; some of them, like Bob, looking forward to the day when they should be the masters of fine vessels; while the majority, with no care for the morrow, were content to follow the occupations of their fathers, and were willing to remain fishermen all their lives. Bob was, perhaps, the poorest one among them, as fortunes were reckoned in Fishertown—which was the name given to that part of the village where the fishermen lived. Their boats constituted their only wealth, and a boy's fortune was measured by the size and condition of his craft. The boys were all good judges of boats, and there was not one among them who did not laugh whenever Bob made his appearance in the harbor. On the evening in question, when he came up with the little fleet, he was greeted with a chorus of shouts and yells that would have made most boys angry.
"Here comes Bobby Jennings in his washing-tub!" shouted one of the ferry-boys, as Bob sculled slowly past him. "Clear the track!"
Although the term "washing-tub" does not give one a very good idea of the appearance of the fisher-boy's scow, it was, perhaps, the most appropriate name that could have been applied to her, for she bore but very little resemblance to any thing in the shape of a boat that had ever been seen about the village. She was built of heavy planks, which Bob had picked up at the upper end of the harbor; and, having no plane with which to dress them down to an equal thickness, he had been obliged to use the boards as he found them; consequently, one side of the scow was heavier than the other; and this made her "tip" considerably, as if she was always on the point of capsizing. The fisher-boy had made an attempt to shape the stem and stern exactly alike, but, having nothing but a dull ax to work with, he had only succeeded in giving the Go Ahead a very homely model, for the bow was long and slanting, and the stern stood almost straight up and down in the water. Of the planks that formed the bottom, some were thick and others thin, and the joints were caulked with rags and bits of rope which Bob had picked up about the wharves. This unwieldy craft was propelled by an oar worked over the stern; and, although she made but poor headway under sail, she could be pushed through the water at an astonishing rate of speed, especially when the sight of a passenger on the wharf induced the fisher-boy to put forth all his power of muscle.
"Yes, sir!" shouted another of the ferry-boys, "here comes Jennings and his lumber-yard!"
"Well," said the fisher-boy, good-naturedly, "if you think you can beat this lumber-yard, this is a first-rate chance to try it."
But the boy very wisely declined to accept the challenge. He had seen the Go Ahead make remarkably fast time, and he did not like to risk the disgrace of being beaten.
As the boats were all moving along leisurely, Bob soon took the lead, and presently he rounded the pier, and entered the harbor.
"Every body I meet has something to say about my boat!" said he to himself. "I don't wonder that the workmen refuse to patronize me, for she is a rough-looking craft, that's a fact. If I couldn't swim like a duck, I should almost be afraid to get into her myself; for she looks as if she was just about to turn over. The water that runs in through the bottom doesn't trouble me any, because I go barefooted; but, if I was rich, and could afford to wear fine boots, I believe I should hesitate about taking passage in a craft like this. I really begin to believe that it was more by good luck than good management, that I ever made a cent with her. I must think up a plan to get a new boat; now, that's settled."
Bob sculled slowly to the middle of the harbor, where he stopped and sat down in his scow to wait for a passenger. A short distance from him was a steamer, which was just getting ready to start on her regular trip to Boston. The first bell had been rung, and the gang-plank was crowded with passengers who were hurrying on board, and with visitors, who were making haste to get ashore. As the fisher-boy sat watching the steamer, his oar idly dangling in the water, and his thoughts busy with the question which, for the last three months, had been uppermost in his mind, he happened to glance toward the opposite side of the harbor, and saw a gentleman walking uneasily up and down the wharf, stopping now and then to wave his hat, to attract the attention of some of the ferry-boys.
"Yes, sir; comin', sir! Be there directly, sir!" shouted a voice behind the fisher-boy, which the latter knew belonged to Sam Barton. "I'm comin' like a steamboat, sir!"
The words were hardly out of Sam's mouth, however, before he became aware that his old rival was ready to contest the ownership of the two cents' passage money, which the gentleman was waiting to pay to the boy who should carry him across the harbor; for Bob had jumped to his feet, and was sending his clumsy scow through the water at a rate of speed that soon left Sam behind. The latter, however, never once thought of giving up the race, for he was one who tried to profit by his experience. He had told the fisher-boy that he had learned that a nice, clean boat would go a long way toward securing custom, and he was in hopes that when the passenger on the wharf saw his fine yawl, drawn up along-side Bob's scow, he would do as others had done—take passage with him, and leave the fisher-boy to look elsewhere. This was a favorite trick of Sam's, and by it he gained a great deal of custom.
"Jump in, sir!" said Bob, as he ran the Go Ahead along-side the wharf.
"Out o' the way, there, Bobby Jennings!" shouted Sam. "Here comes the boat the gentleman's been a waitin' for. He wants cushions to set down on."
But the man's actions indicated that he had not been waiting for Sam Barton, for, without a moment's hesitation, he sprang down into Bob's scow, exclaiming:
"I'll give you a silver half-dollar if you will put me on board that steamer before she leaves the wharf. Do your best, now."
The fisher-boy did not need any orders to "do his best," after his passenger had promised him a half dollar for putting him on board the steamer. He opened his eyes in astonishment at the mention of so large a reward, and so did Sam Barton, who wondered that the gentleman should choose a leaky, dirty craft, when he might just as well have had a clean, dry boat, with "cushions to set down on."
Bob lost no time in pushing off from the wharf, and when he got fairly started, he sent the Go Ahead through the water in a way that made the ferry-boys wonder. But the harbor was wide, and when the fisher-boy was half way across, the steamer's bell rang for the second time.
"Hurry up, boy!" said the passenger, nervously. "I must go out on that boat. Catch her, and I'll give you a dollar."
Bob drew in a long breath, shook off his hat, and redoubled his exertions at the oar, and, to his delight, he succeeded in running under the stern of the steamer, and drawing up along-side the wharf, just as the last bell was ringing, and the order had been given to haul in the gang-plank.
"Here you are, boy," exclaimed the passenger. "You are a capital oarsman, and the next time I come to Newport and want a ferry-boy, I shall remember you." As he spoke, he thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out some money, which he handed to Bob.
"Hurrah for me!" said the fisher-boy, "my fortune is safe."
Being deeply interested in the success of his passenger, he did not examine his fare, but stood with one hand holding the Go Ahead along-side the wharf, and the other clutching the two pieces of money. He saw the gentleman spring upon the gang-plank just as the sailors had begun to haul it in. Reaching the steamer in safety, he turned and gave Bob an approving nod, and then disappeared up the stairs that led to the deck.
"He's all right," said the fisher-boy, wiping his forehead with his shirt sleeve, "and so am I. If I could get a passenger like that every day, it wouldn't be long before I would go to sea."
Bob seated himself in the stern of his scow, panting hard after his long race, and jingled the money in his closed hand. He had not yet looked at it, but he knew that the gentleman had kept his promise, for he could feel the two half-dollars with his fingers. He had not owned a great deal of money of that description, and he did not think he could be deceived.
"How much did he give you, Bobby?" inquired Sam Barton, pulling up along-side the scow. "A feller can't scare up a passenger like that every day, an' I'm sorry I didn't beat you in the race."
"I am not," said Bob, "you don't know how much good this dollar will do me!"
"A dollar!" exclaimed Sam. "Did he give you a whole dollar?"
"Yes, sir, two silver half-dollars. See there!" said Bob, opening his hand. "Don't they look—"
The fisher-boy suddenly paused, and gazed first at the money, and then at his companion, who stood with eyes and mouth open, the very picture of astonishment. Instead of two silver half-dollars, Bob held in his hand two twenty-dollar gold pieces.
"Bobby Jennings!" exclaimed Sam, who was the first to recover from his surprise, "ain't me an' you the luckiest boys in Newport? I got a hundred dollars fur haulin' a feller out of the water, an' now you get forty dollars in gold, fur bringin' a passenger across the harbor. You can throw away that ar ole scow now, Bobby, an' buy my skiff. I'll sell her to you fur twenty dollars, an' any body who has seed her, will tell you that she's cheap at that. Is it a bargain?"
The fisher-boy did not answer; indeed, he did not seem to be aware that Sam was speaking to him. He sat looking at the two bright pieces of gold, as if he had suddenly lost all power to turn his eyes from them.
"I say, Bobby, is it a bargain?" repeated Sam.
This question seemed to bring the fisher-boy to his senses. He hastily put the money into his pocket, shoved the Go Ahead from the wharf, and catching up his oar, he started in hot pursuit of the steamer, which was now moving slowly down the harbor. He very soon discovered, however, that it was useless to think of overtaking her, and seeing his passenger walking up and down the deck, he dropped his oar, and began to shout and swing his hat around his head to attract the man's attention. In this he was successful; for the passenger waved his hand in reply, as if he thought that Bob was congratulating him on reaching the steamer in time.
"Hold on!" screamed the fisher-boy. "Come back here, sir! You have paid me too much!" and he pulled the money out of his pocket and held it up, as if he hoped that, even at that distance, the man could see and recognize it. But the latter evidently could not be made to understand, for he again waved his hand, and then resumed his walk; while Bob stood in his scow and watched the steamer as she rounded the pier, and shaped her course down the bay.
Sam Barton had watched all these movements in surprise. When he saw that Bob was endeavoring to overtake the steamer, in order to return the money which his passenger had paid to him by mistake, he caught up his oar and followed after him, urging him to keep silent. If Bob heard him, he did not heed his advice, for not until he became convinced that it was impossible to catch the steamer, or to make the man understand him, did he cease to pull and shout with all his might.
"Bobby Jennings, have you gone clean crazy?" demanded Sam, as he sculled up along-side the fisher-boy, who stood gazing after the steamer, as if he hoped she might yet come back, and give him an opportunity to return the gold pieces. "What do you want to give that ar money back fur?"
"Why, it isn't mine," answered Bob.
"It ain't your'n!" repeated Sam. "I'd like to know what's the reason. Didn't that feller give it to you with his own hands? In course he did; an' that's why it belongs to you."
"But he made a mistake," said Bob.
"That's his own lookout, an' not your'n," returned Sam. "Keep it, say nothin' to nobody, throw away that ar ole scow, an' buy my skiff. Then you'll be well fixed, an' can begin to make money. That feller will never miss it, 'cause when you see a man who carries twenty dollar gold-pieces loose in his pockets, these hard times, it's a sure sign that he knows where to get more when they are gone. Where be you goin'?" he added, as the fisher-boy got out his oar, and sculled away from the spot.
"I am going home," was the answer. "I am going to give this money to mother, before I lose it."
"Well, now, Bobby Jennings," exclaimed Sam, "if ever I see a feller who was clean crazy, I see one now. You'll always be a fisherman, you'll always live in a little shantee on the beach, an' you don't deserve nothin' better. The world owes you a livin', an' the easier you make it the smarter you be. You'll never have another chance like this."
"I can't help that!" replied Bob. "I've always been honest, and I always intend to be."
Sam could not stop longer to remonstrate, for he saw one of his "regular customers" standing on the wharf. He sculled off to attend to him, muttering to himself: "Never mind, Bobby Jennings! I want one of them gold pieces, an' I'm bound to get it."
It is very probable that the fisher-boy did not overhear Sam's threat; if he did he was not frightened from his purpose, for, true to his determination, he carried the money home, and gave it to his mother for safe keeping.
"The gentleman told me that he would come back to Newport," said Bob, when he had related his story, "and that he would hunt me up when he wanted a ferry-boy; so I know that I shall have a chance to return the money to him. But I wish he hadn't made that mistake, mother. It will be six o'clock before I can get back to the wharf, and I am almost certain that I can't earn money enough to save my fifteen dollars. It is very hard to be poor."
"Yes, it is hard, sometimes," replied his mother; "but dishonesty is worse than poverty."
After the fisher-boy had seen the money put carefully away, he hurried back to his scow, and, pulled toward the harbor. When he arrived there, he found that most of the workmen had already been ferried across, and he secured only one solitary passenger, who, upon being placed safely upon the wharf, drew in a long breath and exclaimed:
"I bless my lucky stars that I am on solid ground once more. A man had better take a few lessons in swimming, before he risks his life in a tub like that."
Bob received his two cents' passage money without making any reply, and then sculled slowly toward the place where the ferry-boys had congregated, to count their cash, and compare notes. He was the most unfortunate one among them. Sam Barton was feeling very jubilant over a dollar and a half he had earned since morning; and the smallest boy in the harbor was proudly exhibiting forty cents to his admiring companions—the proceeds of his day's work.
"How much have you got, Bobby?" called one of the boys.
"I had only one passenger to-night," was the reply.
"Serves you jest right!" exclaimed Sam Barton. "I sha'n't feel the least bit sorry fur you, if you never get another customer. A chap who will throw away such a chance as you had to-day, hadn't ought to make any money. He took a feller across the harbor," added Sam, turning to his companions, "an' got forty dollars in gold fur it. He might jest as well have kept the money as not; but he had to take it home and give it to his mother! Never mind, Bobby Jennings! I'll be even with you one of these days."
"You'll be even with me!" repeated the fisher-boy. "What have I done to you?"
"You had oughter give me one of them pieces of gold for my skiff," returned Sam; "but you didn't do it. I'll pay you off for that. I'll take every passenger away from you that I can."
"I can't help that. The harbor is as free to you as it is to me."
"If you'll buy my skiff," continued Sam, "I'll let you alone. If I see you goin' fur a customer, I won't trouble you."
"I can't buy your boat, because I havn't got the money. Those gold pieces do not belong to me."
"They do, too!" exclaimed Sam. "That's only an excuse of your'n for keepin' 'em. If you don't pay me twenty dollars fur my skiff, you sha'n't run any craft on this yere harbor."
Bob was a good deal astonished at this declaration, but he made no reply, for Sam was a bully, and he did not wish to irritate him. As to running any boat besides Sam's skiff on the harbor, the fisher-boy thought he should do as he pleased about that, although he knew that, if his rival chose to do so, he could make him a great deal of trouble. If the forty dollars in gold had belonged to him, he would gladly have given half of it for the skiff; but the money had been paid to him by mistake, and he had no right to use it.
"What do you say, Bobby Jennings?" demanded Sam, as he picked up his oar and sculled slowly away from the spot. "I'll give you one more chance, an' if you don't make a bargain with me, you'll always be sorry for it. I am listenin' with all the ears I've got."
"Well, if you are," exclaimed the fisher-boy, springing up in his scow, and extending his hand toward Sam, as if to give more emphasis to his words, "you can hear me repeat what I have already said to you a half-a-dozen times, that I have no right to touch that money, and I'm not going to do it. I've always been honest, and I always intend to be; so, you'll have to look somewhere else for a customer. I hope I have spoken plainly enough this time."
"All right," replied Sam. "If you ever git rich by actin' the dunce that ar way, jest let me know it. Let's go home, fellers."
The fisher-boy did not feel called upon to make any reply to these remarks. He got out his oar and followed slowly after his companions, wondering how a boy could be so unreasonable as Sam had shown himself to be, and trying his best to determine what the bully would decide to do in the matter. Being well acquainted with him, Bob knew that he was not above doing a mean action, and he was afraid that, assisted by some of his particular friends, he might attempt to take revenge on him.
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