The Corner House Girls Under Canvas
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CHAPTER XXIV – BROUGHT TO BOOK
“Let me go! Let me go!” gasped the girl in Ruth’s arms. “He will get me.”
“Who’ll get you?” demanded the wondering Agnes.
“Big Jim, the Gypsy. He’s after me,” said the strange girl.
“And Tom Jonah and the boys are after him,” declared Ruth. “Don’t you fret; Big Jim won’t come back here.”
“Who is she, Ruth?” asked Agnes.
“Never mind who I am,” said the girl, rather sharply. “Let me go.”
“I know why you were lurking about here,” Ruth said, calmly. “You heard that Rosa Wildwood is stopping here.”
“Well?” demanded the other.
“Then you are June Wildwood. You’re her sister. I don’t know how you came to be with those Gypsies, and masquerading as an old woman – ”
“My goodness!” gasped Agnes. “Was she that Gypsy queen?”
“Yes,” Ruth said, confidently. “Now, weren’t you?” to the strange girl. “And aren’t you Rosa’s sister who ran away two years ago?”
“Oh, I am! I am!” groaned the girl.
“Well, Rosa’s just crazy to see you. And your father has been searching for you everywhere,” said Ruth, quickly. “You must come in and see Rosa. There’s Mrs. Bobster opening the front door.”
The shadow of the man with the derby hat on his head still was motionless upon the shade; but the widow had opened the front door on its chain, and now demanded:
“Who’s there? what do you want?”
“It’s only me, Mrs. Bobster,” cried Ruth.
Tess and Dot were already running toward the cottage door. “Oh, Mrs. Bobster!” Tess cried, “here’s the girl that helped us on the island – me and Dot.”
“And my Alice-doll,” concluded Dot, likewise excited. “And Ruthie says she’s Rosa’s sister.”
“For the good land of liberty’s sake!” ejaculated Mrs. Bobster, throwing wide the door. “Come in! Come in!”
The girl whom Ruth had seized hesitated for a moment. Ruth whispered in her ear:
“Rosa is wearing her heart out for you, June Wildwood. And your father isn’t drinking any more. He has a steady job. You come back to them and you needn’t be afraid of those Gypsies.”
“They’ll try to get me back. Doc. Raynes’ wife was one of them. The old doctor died a year ago, and since then I’ve been with that gang,” said June Wildwood.
“Were the doctor and his wife the folks you ran away with?”
“Yes. I danced and sang and dressed up in character to help entertain their audiences when he sold bitters and salve,” the girl explained. “The old doctor treated me all right. But these thieving Gypsies are different. Mrs. Doc. Raynes is Big Jim’s sister.”
“Don’t you be afraid of them any more. We’ll set the police after them,” Ruth declared. “Where have you been since the day my sisters were with you?”
“I’ve been washing dishes at a hotel here in Pleasant Cove. But I kept under cover. I was afraid of them,” said the girl.
They reached the door then, and went into the cottage. Mrs. Bobster ushered them right into the sitting-room and at once all the girls halted in amazement.There was an armchair standing between the window and the center table, where the lamp sat. Leaning against the chair was the broom, and on the business end of that very useful household implement was a hat that had probably once belonged to the husband of the little old woman who lived in a shoe.
“My goodness sake!” ejaculated Agnes, the first to get her breath. “Then it was not company you had at all, Mrs. Bobster?”
“No,” said the widow, in a business-like way, removing the hat from the broom and standing the latter in the corner. “But I didn’t want folks to know it. There’s some stragglers around here after dark, and I wanted ’em to think there was a man in the house.”
At that moment Rosa Wildwood came running downstairs in wrapper and slippers. “I heard her! I heard her!” she shrieked, and the next moment the two sisters were hugging each other frantically.
Explanations were in order; and it took some time for the little old lady who lived in a shoe to understand the reunion of her boarder and the girl who had lived with the Gypsies.
The boys and Tom Jonah came back, having chased the lurking Big Jim for quite a mile through the woods. “And Tom Jonah brought back a piece of his coat-tail,” chuckled Neale O’Neil. “He can consider himself lucky that the dog didn’t bite deeper!”
“I guess that dog doesn’t like Gypsies,” said June Wildwood, patting Tom Jonah’s head.
The boys were just as much interested as their girl friends in the reunion of Rosa and her sister. Meanwhile Mrs. Bobster bustled about and found the usual pitcher of cool milk and a great platter of cookies. The young folk feasted beyond reason while they all talked.
Ruth arranged with the little old woman who lived in a shoe to let June stay with her sister, and she promised June, as well, that if she would return to Milton with Rosa, employment would be found for her so that she could be self-supporting, yet live at home with Rosa and Bob Wildwood.
The Corner House girls offered to leave Tom Jonah to guard the premises for that night. But Mrs. Bobster said:
“I reckon I won’t be scaret none with two great girls in the house with me. Besides, when I am asleep, being lonesome don’t bother me none – no, ma’am!”
“Well, we don’t know how long we’re going to have old Tom Jonah ourselves,” sighed Agnes, as the party bound for the tent colony started on again.
“How’s that!” demanded Neale, quickly.
They told him about the man named Reynolds, from Shawmit, and the claim he had made to the big dog. Neale was equally troubled with the Corner House girls over this, and he advised Ruth and Agnes to take the dog wherever they went.
“Don’t give the fellow a chance to find Tom Jonah alone, or with the little girls,” said Neale. “I don’t believe he can get the dog legally without considerable trouble. And Tom Jonah has shown whom he likes best.”
This uncertainty about Tom Jonah, however, did not keep the Corner House girls from continuing their good times at Pleasant Cove. With one of the ladies of the tent colony for chaperon the girls and their boy friends had many a “junket” – up the river, down the bay, and even outside upon the open sea.
It was on one of these latter occasions that Ruth and Agnes joined Neale and his friends on the “double-ender,” Hattie G., and with her crew spent a night and a day chasing the elusive swordfish.
That was an adventure; and one not soon to be forgotten by the older Corner House girls. Of course Tess and Dot were too small to go on this trip and they were fast asleep in one of the neighboring tents when Neale O’Neil came and scratched on the canvas of that in which Ruth and Agnes slept.
“Oh!” gasped Agnes. “What’s that!”
“Is that you, Neale?” demanded Ruth, calmly.
“Of course. Get a bustle on,” advised the boy. “The motorboat will be ready in ten minutes.”
“Mercy!” ejaculated Agnes, giggling. “You know we don’t wear bustles, Neale. They are too old-fashioned for anything.”
She and Ruth quickly dressed. There wasn’t much “prinking and preening” before the mirror on this morning, that was sure. In ten minutes the two Corner House girls were running down the beach, with their bags (packed over-night) and their rain-coats over their arms. Tom Jonah raced after them.
Everywhere save on the beach itself the shadows lay deep. There was no moon and the stars twinkled high overhead – spangles sewed on the black-velvet robe of Night.
Out upon the quietly heaving waters sounded voices – then the pop of a launch engine.
“Come on!” urged Neale’s voice. “They’re getting the boat ready, girls.”
“But we’re not going out to the banks in the Nimble Shanks– surely!” cried Agnes.
“No. But we’re going down the cove in her to catch the Hattie G. Skipper Joline sent up a rocket for us half an hour ago. The tide’s going out. He won’t wait long, I assure you.”
“It would be lots more comfortable to go all the way in the motorboat – wouldn’t it?” asked Ruth, stepping into the skiff after Agnes and the dog.
“Skipper Joline would have a fit,” laughed Joe Eldred. “A motorboat engine would scare every swordfish within a league of the Banks – so he says. He declares that is what makes them so hard to catch the last few seasons. These motorboats running about the sea are a greater nuisance than the motor cars ashore – so he declares.”
“I suppose the swordfish shy at the motorboats just like the horses shy at automobiles!” giggled Agnes, as Neale and Joe pushed off and seized the oars.
“Yep,” grunted Neale O’Neil. “And the motorboats have frightened all the horse-mackerel away. That’s a joke. I’ll tell the Skipper that.”
Several shadowy figures – being those of the other boys and Mr. and Mrs. Stryver, who were members of the swordfishing party, too – were spied about the deck and cockpit of the Nimble Shanks. The boys shot the skiff in beside the motorboat and helped the girls aboard. Then they moored the skiff to the motorboat’s buoy and soon the Nimble Shanks was away, down the cove.
It was past two o’clock – the darkest minutes of a summer’s morning. Seaward, a light haze hung over the water – seemingly a veil of mist let down from the sky to shut out the view of all distant objects from the out-sailing mariners.
As the party neared the fishing fleet, voices carried flatly across the water, and now and then a dog barked. Tom Jonah answered these canines ashore with explosive growls. He stood forward, his paws planted firmly on the deck, and snuffing the sea air. Tom Jonah was a good sailor.
“Got your scare?” a voice came out of the darkness, quavering across the cove. “Going to be thick outside.”
Neale grabbed the fish-horn and blew a mighty blast on it. Similar horns answered from all about the fleet.
A towering mast, with its big sail bending to the breeze, shot past them – the big cat-boat, Susie, bound for her lines of lobster-pots just off the mouth of the cove. Her crew hailed the launch and her party – four sturdy young fellows in jerseys and high sea-boots.
“Whew!” said Joe. “Smell that lobster bait! I’d hate to go for a pleasure trip on the Susie.”
The Hattie G. was just ahead and Mr. Stryver shut off the engine. The drab, dirty looking old craft tugged sharply at her taut mooring cable. She had two short masts, and on these heavy canvas was being spread by the crew, which consisted of five men and a boy.
One of the men was the skipper, another the mate, a third the cook; but all hands had to turn to to make sail. There were several sweeps (heavy oars) held in bights of rope along the rail. Both ends of the Hattie G. were sharp; in other words she had two bows. Thus the name, “double-ender” – a build of craft now almost extinct save in a few New England ports out of which ply the swordfishermen.
Skipper Joline came to the rail. He was a hoarse, red-faced man with a white beard, cut like a paintbrush, on his chin.
“Climb aboard, folks,” he said. “Steve will get breakfast shortly. There’s a bit of fog and some swell outside. Better all lay in a good foundation of scouse and sody biscuit. Ye’ll need it later.”
“That sounds rather suggestive, Ruth,” whispered Agnes. “Do you suppose he expects us landlubbers to be really sick?”
“I hope not,” replied her sister. “But I don’t care! I’m going to eat that breakfast if it kills me! I was never so hungry in all my life before.”
They left the Nimble Shanks moored at the double-ender’s anchor-buoy, and the latter lurched away on the short leg of her tack for the entrance to the cove. There was a fresh breeze and the water began to sing under the sharp bows of the Hattie G.
The cook got busy in the galley and the fragrance of coffee and fried fish smothered all other smells about the craft – for it must be confessed that the double-ender had an ancient and fishy smell of her own that was not altogether pleasant to the nostrils of a fastidious person.
These hearty boys and girls were out for fun, however, and they had been long enough at Pleasant Cove to get used to most fishy odors. Before breakfast was over the Hattie G. had run through the “Breach,” as the cove entrance was called, and they were sailing straight out to sea.
The mournful wail of a horn in the fog now and then announced the location of some lobsterman. The Hattie G. answered these “scares” with her own horn and swept on through the fog.
But now the mist began to lift. A golden glow rose, increased, and spread all along the eastern horizon. Suddenly they shot out of the fog and sailed right into the bright path of the rising sun.
This wonderful sight of sunrise at sea delighted Ruth and Agnes intensely. It was just as though they had sailed suddenly into a new world.
The fog masked the land astern. Ahead was nothing but the heaving, greenish-gray waves, foam-streaked at their crowns to the distant skyline, with only a few sails crossing the line of vision. Not a speck of land marred the seascape.
Later, when the Hattie G. reached the Banks, there was something beside the view to interest and excite the Corner House girls.
The big sails were lowered and only a riding sail spread to keep the Hattie G. on an even keel. A “pulpit” was set up on each of her short booms – both fore and aft.
At the top of a mast was rigged a barrel-like thing in which the lookout stood with a glass, on the watch for the swordfish.
These can only be caught asleep on the surface of the sea. When one is sighted either the sails are hoisted, or the sweeps are used, to bring the vessel near enough for the skipper or his mate to make a cast of the harpoon.
Once one of the huge fish was spied, everybody aboard the Hattie G. was on the qui vive. The boys climbed the ratlines to see. The girls borrowed the cook’s old-fashioned spyglass to get a better view of the creature.
The Hattie G. was brought softly near the fish. Skipper Joline had warned his guests to keep quiet. Ruth kept her hand upon Tom Jonah’s collar so that he should not disturb the proceedings.
The skipper stepped into the pulpit – a framework of iron against which he leaned when he cast the harpoon. All was ready for the supreme moment.
The coil of the line was laid behind him. The crew brought the Hattie G. just to the spot Skipper Joline indicated with a wave of his hand.
Back swung the mighty arm of the skipper, the muscles swelling like cables under the sleeve of his blue jersey.
“Now!” breathed the mate, as eager as any of the boys or girls among the spectators.
The skipper had let drive. The harpoon sank deeply into the fish. For a brief instant they saw blood spurt out and dye the sea.
Then the huge fish leaped almost its length from the sea. The crew drove the Hattie G. back. Good reason why the swordfishing craft are built sharp at both ends!
How the fish thrashed and fought! Its sword beat the water to foam. Had it found the double-ender, the latter’s bottom-planks would have been no protection against the creature’s blows.
A swordfish has been known to thrust its weapon through the bottom of a boat and break it off in its struggles to get free.
“Oh, Agnes!” gasped Ruth, when the fight was over and the huge fish killed. “Who would ever believe, while buying a slice of swordfish, that it was so dangerous to capture one of the creatures?”
The crew of the Hattie G. got four ere they set sail for Pleasant Cove again, and the Corner House girls became quite used to the methods of the fishermen and the tactics of the swordfish on being struck.
They sailed back to Pleasant Cove with what was called the prize catch of the season. When a fish is as big as a good-sized dining-table and sells for twenty-five cents a pound, retail, it does not take many to make a good catch.
Ruth and Agnes, and Neale and the other boys, were glad they went on the trip. They arrived at the camp late in the evening, filled with enthusiasm over the adventures of the day.
And Skipper Joline presented the Corner House girls with a four-foot sword which, later, occupied a place of honor over the sitting-room mantelpiece in the old Corner House at Milton.
Ruth took Tom Jonah up to see the Wildwood girls with her the very next time she went to call.
The Corner House girl found Rosa and June shelling peas under the arbor, while Mrs. Bobster was talking with Kuk Somes over a “mess” of clams she had bought.
“You ain’t honest enough to count out a hunderd clams, Kuk,” declared the plain-spoken old lady. “Ye got such a high-powered imagination that ye can’t count straight.”
“Now, Mis’ Bobster, thet thar’s a hard statement ter make,” said Kuk, shaking his head, but grinning. “Don’t make me out so ’fore these here young ladies.”
“I reckon they know ye!” cried the widow. “If they’ve ever hearn ye spin one o’ yer sea-farin’ yarns – ”
“And we have,” interposed Ruth, smiling. “He’s told us about how he sailed in the Spanking Sal and lost his leg fighting pirates.”
“For the good land o’ liberty!” gasped Mrs. Bobster. “He never told ye that?”
“Oh, yes. It was very interesting,” laughed Ruth.
“Why,” said the widow, angrily, “that fellow never sailed in a deep-water craft in his life. The only time he ever went out in a double-ender as fur as the swordfish banks, he was so sick they had ter bring him ashore on a stretcher!”
“Now, Mis’ Bobster – ” began the clam digger, faintly.
“Ain’t that so? Ye daren’t deny it,” she declared. “He ain’t no sailor. He’s jest an old beach-comber. Don’t never go in any boat outside of the cove. Lost his leg fightin’ pirates, did he? Huh!”
“So he told us,” said the much amused Ruth.
“Why, th’ ridiculous old thing!” exclaimed Mrs. Bobster, laughing herself now. “He lost that leg in Mr. Reynolds’ sawmill at Shawmit – that’s how he did it. And he was tipsy at the time or he wouldn’t never have got hurt.”
“Oh!” cried Ruth, staring at the sheepish clam digger.
“And he goes over there to Shawmit ev’ry month an’ collects ten dollars from Reynolds, who’s good-natured and helps him out with a pension. Ain’t that so, Kuk Somes!”
The wooden-legged clam digger nodded. “Whar’s the harm?” he murmured. “Ye know these city folks likes ter hear my yarns. An’ it don’t hurt ’em none.”
“But that’s how Mr. Reynolds heard about our having Tom Jonah,” declared Ruth, accusingly. “You told him.”
“Yep. That’s his old dawg,” said Kuk.
“Well, you’ve made us a lot of trouble,” said Ruth, sadly. “For I am afraid that Mr. Reynolds will try to take Tom Jonah away. And,” she added, in secret, “how wrong I was to accuse Trix Severn, without stronger evidence.”
CHAPTER XXV – THE END OF THE OUTING
Tess and Dot Kenway had a very serious matter to decide. Ruth had determined that, as they were all enjoying themselves at Pleasant Cove so much, the Corner House flag should continue to wave for a time longer over their tent in the Willowbend Camp.
But there was something at home in Milton, at the old Corner House itself, that the younger girls thought they must attend to.
“It’s really a nawful state of affairs,” Tess declared, nodding her sunny head, gravely, and with her lips pursed up. “They are growing right up without knowing their own names. Why! I don’t see how their own mother knows them apart.”
“Oh!” gasped Dot, to whom this was a new idea indeed. “I never thought of that.”
“Well, it’s so,” said Tess. “I – I wish Ruth had sent for them and had had them brought down here when Rosa and Tom Jonah came.”
“But they couldn’t leave their mother, Tess,” objected Dot. “They’re too small.”
“I – don’t – know,” said Tess, doubtfully. “At any rate, it’s high time they were named. You know, Mrs. MacCall says so herself.”
Dot picked up the letter that the kind housekeeper at the old Corner House had written especially to the two smaller Kenway girls.
“She says they chase their tails all day long and they have had to put them out in the woodshed to keep them from being under foot,” Dot said, reading slowly, for Mrs. MacCall’s writing was not like print.
“They must be named,” repeated Tess, with conviction.
“But Ruth won’t let us go home to do it,” quoth Dot.
“And I don’t want to. Do you?” demanded Tess, hastily. “I don’t want to leave the beach now, just when we’re having so much fun.”
Neither did Dot. But the state of the unchristened kittens – the youngest family of Sandyface – troubled her exceedingly.
Tess, however, suddenly had one of her very brilliant ideas. “I tell you what let’s do!” she cried.
“Let’s write Mrs. MacCall and Uncle Rufus a letter, and ask them to name Sandyface’s children their own selves.”
“But – but we want to name them,” cried Dot.
“Goosey!” exclaimed Tess. “We’ll choose the names; but Mrs. MacCall and Uncle Rufus can give them to the kittens. Don’t you see?”
“Oh, Tess! we might,” agreed Dot, delighted.
Tess ran to the tent for paper and pencil, and bespoke the favor of an envelope addressed in ink to Mrs. MacCall.
“Of course, I’ll address one for you,” said Ruth, kindly. “But what’s all the hurry about writing home?”
Tess explained the necessity that had arisen. Sandyface’s family of kittens was growing up without being christened – and something might happen to them.
“You know,” said Tess, gravely, “it would be dreadful if one of them died and we didn’t know what to put on the headboard. It would be dreadful!”
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