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   Chapter 2 GOING BACK WITH THE PILOT.

A Jolly Fellowship By Frank R. Stockton Characters: 14505

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


We were pretty near the Narrows when I thought it was about time to let the captain, or one of the officers, know that there were some people on board who didn't intend to take the whole trip. I had read in the newspapers that committees and friends who went part way with distinguished people generally left them in the lower bay.

But I was saved the trouble of looking for an officer, for one of them, the purser, came along, collecting tickets. I didn't give him a chance to ask Scott or any of the other fellows for something that they didn't have, but went right up to him and told him how the matter stood.

"I must see the captain about this," he said, and off he went.

"He didn't look very friendly," said Scott, and I had to admit that he didn't.

In a few moments the captain came walking rapidly up to us. He was a tall man, dressed in blue, with side-whiskers, and an oil-cloth cap. The purser came up behind him.

"What's all this?" said the captain. "Are you not passengers, you boys?" He did not look very friendly, either, as he asked this question.

THE VESSEL IS OFF.

"Two of us are," I said, "but four of us were carried off accidentally."

"Accident? Fiddlesticks!" exclaimed the captain. "Didn't you know the vessel was starting? Hadn't you time to get off? Didn't you hear the gong? Everybody else heard it. Are you all deaf?"

This was a good deal to answer at once, so I just said that I didn't remember hearing any gong. Tom Myers and his brother George, however, spoke up, and said that they had heard a gong, they thought, but did not know what it was for.

"Why didn't you ask, then?" said the captain, who was getting worse in his humor. I had a good mind to tell him that it would take up a good deal of the crew's time if Tom Myers and his brother George asked about everything they didn't understand on board this ship, but I thought I had better not. I have no doubt the gong sounded when we were having our row in the state-room, and were not likely to pay attention to it even if we did hear it.

"And why, in the name of common sense," the captain went on, "didn't you come and report, the instant you found the vessel had started? Did you think we were fast to the pier all this time?"

Then Scott thought he might as well come out square with the truth; and he told how they made up their minds, after they found that the steamer had really started, with them on board, not to make any fuss about it, nor give anybody any trouble to stop the ship, or to put back, but just to stay quietly on board, and go back with the pilot. They thought that would be most convenient, all around.

"Go back with the pilot!" the captain cried. "Why, you young idiot, there is no pilot! Coastwise steamers don't carry pilots. I am my own pilot. There is no pilot going back!"

You ought to have seen Scott's face!

SCOTT AND THE CAPTAIN.

Nobody said anything. We all just stood and looked at the captain. Tears began to come into the eyes of Tom Myers and his brother George.

"What are they to do?" asked the purser of the captain. "Buy tickets for Savannah?"

"We can't do that," said Scott, quickly. "We haven't any money."

"I don't know what they're to do," replied the captain. "I'd like to chuck 'em overboard." And with this agreeable little speech he walked away.

The purser now took the two tickets for Rectus and myself, and saying: "We'll see what's to be done with the rest of you fellows," he walked away, too.

Then we all looked at one another. We were a pretty pale lot, and I believe that Rectus and I, who were all right, felt almost as badly as the four other boys, who were all wrong.

"We can't go to Savannah!" said Harry Alden. "What right have they to take us to Savannah?"

"Well, then, you'd better get out and go home," said Scott. "I don't so much mind their taking us to Savannah, for they can't make us pay if we haven't any money. But how are we going to get back? That's the question. And what'll the professor think? He'll write home that we've run away. And what'll we do in Savannah without any money?"

"You'd better have thought of some of these things before you got us into waiting to go back with the pilot," said Harry.

As for Tom Myers and his brother George, they just sat down and put their arms on the railing, and clapped their faces down on their arms. They cried all over their coat-sleeves, but kept as quiet as they could about it. Whenever these two boys had to cry before any of the rest of the school-fellows, they had learned to keep very quiet about it.

While the rest of us were talking away, and Scott and Harry finding fault with each other, the captain came back. He looked in a little better humor.

"The only thing that can be done with you boys," he said, "is to put you on some tug or small craft that's going back to New York. If we meet one, I'll lie to and let you off. But it will put me to a great deal of trouble, and we may meet with nothing that will take you aboard. You have acted very badly. If you had come right to me, or to any of the officers, the moment you found we had started, I could have easily put you on shore. There are lots of small boats about the piers that would have come out after you, or I might even have put back. But I can do nothing now but look out for some craft bound for New York that will take you aboard. If we don't meet one, you'll have to go on to Savannah."

This made us feel a little better. We were now in the lower bay, and there would certainly be some sort of a vessel that would stop for the boys. We all went to the forward deck and looked out. It was pretty cold there, and we soon began to shiver in the wind, but still we stuck it out.

There were a good many vessels, but most of them were big ones. We could hardly have the impudence to ask a great three-masted ship, under full sail, to stop and give us a lift to New York. At any rate, we had nothing to do with the asking. The captain would attend to that. But every time we came near a vessel going the other way, we looked about to see if we could see anything of an officer with a trumpet, standing all ready to sing out, "Sail ho!"

But, after a while, we felt so cold that we couldn't stand it any longer, and we went below. We might have gone and stood by the smoke-stack and warmed ourselves, but we didn't know enough about ships to think of this.

We hadn't been standing around the stove in the dining-room more than ten minutes, before the purser came hurrying toward us.

"Come, now," he said, "tumble forward! The captain's hailed a pilot-boat."

"Hurrah!" said Scott; "we're going back in a pilot-boat, after all!" and we all ran after the purser to the lower forward deck. Our engines had stopped, and not far from us was a rough-looking little schooner with a big "17" painted in black on her mainsail. She was "putting about," the purser said, and her sails were flapping in the wind.

There was a great change in the countenances of Tom Myers and his brother George. They looked like a couple of new boys.

"Isn't this capital?" said Scott. "Everything's turned out all right."

But all of a sudden he changed his tune.

"Look here!" said he to me, pulling

me on one side; "wont that pilot want to be paid something? He wont stop his vessel and take us back for nothing, will he?"

I couldn't say anything about this, but I asked the purser, who still stood by us.

"I don't suppose he'll make any regular charge," said he; "but he'll expect you to give him something,-whatever you please."

"But we haven't anything," said Scott to me. "We have our return tickets to Willisville, and that's about all."

"Perhaps we can't go back, after all," said Harry, glumly, while Tom Myers and his brother George began to drop their lower jaws again.

I did not believe that the pilot-boat people would ask to see the boys' money before they took them on board; but I couldn't help feeling that it would be pretty hard for them to go ashore at the city and give nothing for their passages but promises, and so I called Rectus on one side, and proposed to lend the fellows some money. He agreed, and I unpinned a banknote and gave it to Scott. He was mightily tickled to get it, and vowed he'd send it back to me in the first letter he wrote (and he did it, too).

The pilot-schooner did not come very near us, but she lowered a boat with two men in it, and they rowed up to the steamer. Some of our sailors let down a pair of stairs, and one of the men in the boat came up to see what was wanted. The purser was telling him, when the captain, who was standing on the upper deck, by the pilot-house, sung out:

"Hurry up there, now, and don't keep this vessel here any longer. Get 'em out as quick as you can, Mr. Brown."

The boys didn't stop to have this kind invitation repeated, and Scott scuffled down the stairs into the boat as fast as he could, followed closely by Harry Alden. Tom Myers and his brother George stopped long enough to bid each of us good-bye, and shake hands with us, and then they went down the stairs. They had to climb over the railing to the platform in front of the wheel-house to get to the stairs, and as the steamer rolled a little, and the stairs shook, they went down very slowly, backward, and when they got to the bottom were afraid to step into the boat, which looked pretty unsteady as it wobbled about under them.

"Come, there! Be lively!" shouted the captain.

Just then, Rectus made a step forward. He had been looking very anxiously at the boys as they got into the boat, but he hadn't said anything.

"Where are you going?" said I; for, as quick as a flash, the thought came into my mind that Rectus's heart had failed him, and that he would like to back out.

"I think I'll go back with the boys," he said, making another step toward the top of the stairs, down which the man from the pilot-boat was hurrying.

"Just you try it!" said I, and I put out my arm in front of him.

He didn't try it, and I'm glad he didn't, for I should have been sorry enough to have had the boys go back and say that when they last saw Rectus and I we were having a big fight on the deck of the steamer.

The vessel now started off, and Rectus and I went to the upper deck and stood and watched the little boat, as it slowly approached the schooner. We were rapidly leaving them, but we saw the boys climb on board, and one of them-it must have been Scott-waved his handkerchief to us. I waved mine in return, but Rectus kept his in his pocket. I don't think he felt in a wavy mood.

While we were standing looking at the distant pilot-boat, I began to consider a few matters; and the principal thing was this: How were Rectus and I to stand toward each other? Should we travel like a couple of school-friends, or should I make him understand that he was under my charge and control, and must behave himself accordingly? I had no idea what he thought of the matter, and by the way he addressed me when we met, I supposed that it was possible that he looked upon me very much as he used to when we went to school together. If he had said Mr. Gordon, it would have been more appropriate, I thought, and would have encouraged me, too, in taking position as his supervisor. As far as my own feelings were concerned, I think I would have preferred to travel about on a level with Rectus, and to have a good time with him, as two old school-fellows might easily have, even if one did happen to be two years older than the other. But that would not be earning my salary. After a good deal of thought, I came to the conclusion that I would let things go on as they would, for a while, giving Rectus a good deal of rope; but the moment he began to show signs of insubordination, I would march right on him, and quell him with an iron hand. After that, all would be plain sailing, and we could have as much fun as we pleased, for Rectus would know exactly how far he could go.

There were but few passengers on deck, for it was quite cold, and it now began to grow dark, and we went below. Pretty soon the dinner-bell rang, and I was glad to hear it, for I had the appetite of a horse. There was a first-rate dinner, ever so many different kinds of dishes, all up and down the table, which had ridges running lengthwise, under the table-cloth, to keep the plates from sliding off, if a storm should come up. Before we were done with dinner the shelves above the table began to swing a good deal,-or rather the vessel rolled and the shelves kept their places,-so I knew we must be pretty well out to sea, but I had not expected it would be so rough, for the day had been fine and clear. When we left the table, it was about as much as we could do to keep our feet, and in less than a quarter of an hour I began to feel dreadfully. I stuck it out as long as I could, and then I went to bed. The old ship rolled, and she pitched, and she heaved, and she butted, right and left, against the waves, and made herself just as uncomfortable for human beings as she could, but, for all that, I went to sleep after a while.

I don't know how long I slept, but when I woke up, there was Rectus, sitting on a little bench by the state-room wall, with his feet braced against the berth. He was hard at work sucking a lemon. I turned over and looked down at him. He didn't look a bit sick. I hated to see him eating lemons.

"Don't you feel badly, Rectus?" said I.

"Oh no!" said he; "I'm all right. You ought to suck a lemon. Have one?"

I declined his offer. The idea of eating or drinking anything was intensely disagreeable to me. I wished that Rectus would put down that lemon. He did throw it away after a while, but he immediately began to cut another one.

RECTUS AND THE LEMONS.

"Rectus," said I, "you'll make yourself sick. You'd better go to bed."

"It's just the thing to stop me from being sick," said he, and at that minute the vessel gave her stern a great toss over sideways, which sent Rectus off his seat, head foremost into the wash-stand. I was glad to see it. I would have been glad of almost anything that stopped that lemon business.

But it didn't stop it; and he only picked himself up, and sat down again, his lemon at his mouth.

"Rectus!" I cried, leaning out of my berth. "Put down that lemon and go to bed!"

He put down the lemon without a word, and went to bed. I turned over with a sense of relief. Rectus was subordinate!

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