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A Runaway Brig; Or, An Accidental Cruise

James Otis

  Produced by David Garcia, David K. Park and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Kentuckiana Digital Library)

  Harry pointed seaward, toward the brigantine, movingthrough the water slowly.--(See page 9.)]



  An Accidental Cruise.


  _Author of_

  "The Castaways," "Toby Tyler," "Mr. Stubbs' Brother," "Left Behind," "Raising the Pearl," "Silent Pete," etc., etc.








  "I'm going down to the beach to find Jim Libby. If you'll come alongwe'll have a prime sail; and most likely this is the last chance weshall have to go out with him, for his vessel leaves in the morning."

  "How can I go when I've got to mind this young one all the forenoon just'cause the nurse must go an' have a sick headache? I don't believe shefeels half as bad as I do!" And Walter Morse looked mournfully out overthe blue waters with but little care for his baby sister, who wasalready toddling dangerously near the long flight of steps leading fromthe veranda of the large summer hotel.

  "Can't you coax off for a couple of hours?" the first speaker, HarryVandyne, asked.

  "It's no use. Mother has gone to ride, and said I was to stay here untilshe came back."

  Harry started toward the beach, determined not to lose a single hour ofpleasure because of his friend's engagements; but before he had takenhalf a dozen steps a sudden, and what seemed like a very happy thought,occurred to him.

  "I'll tell you how it can be fixed. Hire one of the other nurses to takecare of your sister till we get back. Any of them will do it for aquarter, an' we'll be home before your mother comes."

  The boys were spending the summer at the Isle of Shoals, off the NewEngland coast. Harry's father was Robert Vandyne, the well-knownship-owner of New York, and Walter's was equally prominent in thewholesale dry-goods business on Broadway. During their stay at thissummer resort they had made the acquaintance of Jim Libby, "cook'sassistant and everybody's mate" on the fishing-schooner Mary Walker, acraft which visited the Shoals once each week to supply the hotels withfresh fish.

  Jim was at liberty to follow the dictates of his own fancy several hourseach day while in port, and the boys found him ever ready to take themout sailing in the square-bowed, leaky tender belonging to the schooner.As Harry had said, this was Jim's last day on the island until the endof another cruise, and Walter was so eager to blister his hands and wethis feet once more by rowing the Sally Walker--the tender was dignifiedwith a name--around the shore that he really did not stop to considerall Harry's advice implied.

  He wanted to go on the water; Bessie would have even better care fromone of the nurses than he could give her; and it was not difficult toconvince himself that, under all the circumstances, he would bewarranted in disobeying the positive commands of his mother.

  "She didn't know Jim was going away in the morning, or I'm sure she'd'a' fixed it so's I could take one more trip in the Sally."

  "Of course she won't care," Harry said in such a decided tone thatWalter, who was more than willing to be convinced by the most flimsyargument, made his decision at once.

  "Come on; there's Mrs. Harvey's maid, and we'll ask her."

  The bribe of twenty-five cents was sufficient to enlist the good-naturedgirl's sympathies, and five minutes later the two boys were running atfull speed toward the shore, while Bessie, apparently well content withthe change of nurses, looked so happy that Walter really began tobelieve he had done the child such a very great favor that his mothercould not but be pleased.

  The unwieldy-looking Sally Walker was drawn up in a little cove which,owing to a line of rocks just outside, made a most convenientlanding-place, and on the bow sat Master Jim, his face striped with dirtbut beaming with good-nature, and his clothes as ragged as they wereredolent of fish.

  "I'd jes' begun to think you couldn't come, an' was goin' back," hecried as his neatly-dressed acquaintances came into view. "If we wanterdo any sailin' it's time to be off, 'cause this wind's dyin' out mightyfast."

  "It's better late than never, Jim," Harry cried cheerily as he commencedto push at the bow of the boat. "Let's get the old craft afloat, and doour talking afterward."

  To launch the Sally into deep water was quite a hard task owing to herbreadth of beam; but after that had been done the labor was ended for atime, save such as might be necessary with the bailing-dish.

  Jim stepped the short mast with its well-worn leg-of-mutton sail, gotone of the oars aft as a rudder, and the full-bowed clipper began tomove through the water slowly, but with a splashing and a wakesufficient for a craft ten times her size.

  "We can't run along the coast very well 'cause the wind's blowin'straight out to sea, an' she don't stand up to it like a narrower boatwould," the skipper said as he settled himself back comfortably in thestern-sheets while he pulled the fragment of a straw hat down over hiseyes.

  "Let's sail before the wind two or three miles and then row back,"Walter suggested. "I'd like to get to the hotel before mother comes."

  "It'll be a tough pull," Jim replied as he glanced at the clumsy oars."I'd rather row the Sally one mile than two."

  "Harry and I will do that part of the work."

  "Then let her go," and as Jim eased off on the sheet the old craft camearound slowly, for she was by no means prompt in answering the helm.

  "See that ship over there? How far away is she?" Harry asked as hepointed seaward, when the Sally was well under way.

  "That ain't a ship," Jim replied with a slight tone of contempt becausehis companions were so ignorant. "She's a brigantine, an' hard on tothree miles from here."

  "Let's run over to where she is. We can row back by dinner-time easilyenough."

  Since his crew were to do all the work on the return trip Jim would havebeen perfectly willing had the distance been twice as far, and he gaveassent by nodding his head in what he intended should be a trulynautical manner.

  The brig, which was now the objective point of the trip, appeared to bea craft of about three hundred tons, and moving through the waterslowly, under the influence of the rapidly-decreasing wind, on a courseat right-angles with the one the Sally was pursuing. She was runningwith yards square, under her upper and lower topsails, foresail, jib andforetop-mast stay-sail, and the head-sheets were flowing.

  "She ain't goin' so fast but what we can come up with her before thebreeze dies away, I reckon, an' if she's becalmed they won't sayanything agin our goin' aboard," Jim said after a few moments ofsilence, during which all hands gazed intently at the stranger.

  The idea of visiting a vessel at sea was very enticing to the city boys,and they were now as eager for a calm as they had previously been tohave the wind freshen. The Sally took in so much water between herhalf-calked seams that it was necessary to keep the bailing-dish inconstant use, consequently there was little time for speculation as towhere the brig was bound until, when they had sailed not more than amile and a half, Jim said in a tone of mild disappointment:

  "It's no use, fellers, we can't get there. It's dead calm, an' we ain'tmakin' a foot an hour."

  "What's to prevent our rowing?" Harry asked. "You take down the sail andkeep the bailing dish going while Walter and I show you how to make theSally walk."

  "I'm willin' if you are," and Jim unshipped the stumpy
mast. "My vesselwon't get under way before mornin', an' it makes no difference if Iain't back till sunrise."

  To make the Sally "walk" required a great deal of hard work; but sinceit was under the guise of play Harry and Walter went at it with a will,while Jim wondered what sport boys could find in pulling a heavy boat,for this was the one portion of a fisherman's life at which he rebelled.

  Slowly but surely the little craft gained upon the larger one, whichswung to and fro on the lazy swell, and when they were about a quarterof a mile apart Jim said, in a tone of disapprobation:

  "The crew on that brig are worse'n fishermen. Every one of 'em must bebelow, for I haven't seen so much as a feller's nose yet. Perhaps someof the crew have gone ashore--the gangway's unshipped."

  Unacquainted with nautical matters as the city boys were, they did notthink there was anything strange in such a condition of affairs, butkept steadily at work with the oars until Jim scrambled into the bow tofend off, the journey having been finished.

  "I'll make fast here while you go aboard," he said as he seized theladder of rope and wood which hung over the rail as an invitation tovisitors.

  "We'd better find out first whether they're willing to have us," Harrysuggested.

  "That'll be all right," and Jim spoke very confidently. "If you'reafraid I'll go first; but it seems kinder strange that somebody don'thail us."

  Having made the Sally's painter fast, Jim clambered over the sideclosely followed by his companions; but not a person could be seen ondeck. The fore hatch was lying bottom upward, and the appearance of theropes indicated decided carelessness on the part of the crew, yet nosound was heard save the creaking of the booms as they swung lazily toand fro.

  "What's the matter?" Harry asked in a whisper as he noted the look offear which came over Jim's face.

  "I'm sure I don't know. Let's see if we can raise anybody;" and then Jimshouted, "Ahoy below! ahoy!"

  No reply came. Again and again was the cry repeated, until Walter asked,impatiently:

  "Are you afraid to go into the cabin and stir them up?"

  Jim would have braved many dangers rather than be thought a coward, andwithout answering the question he leaped down from the rail, runningfirst into the forecastle and then the cabin, after which he returned tohis companions with a very pale face as he said, in a tremulous whisper:

  "Boys, there ain't a single soul on this 'ere brig but ourselves, an'there's a sword on the cabin floor! Do you s'pose pirates are anywherearound?"