THE BUCKSKIN PURSE

“WHY, GUY, what’s the matter with you?” asked Mr. Walker, giving the
boy’s hand a cordial grip and shake. “Been sick?”

“No, sir,” stammered Guy.

“Then you’re going to be. I never saw you look so pale before. What was
it you said to me?” added Mr. Walker, addressing himself to the clerk.

“Mrs. Harris has sent down that piece of silk again,” answered Mr.
Fellows. “Can we match it?”

“No; and there’s not a piece like it in the city,” said Mr. Walker. “But
we’ll have some on Monday sure, for I ordered——”

The gentleman suddenly paused, and looking sharply toward the back part
of the store, bent forward in a listening attitude.

Guy listened also, and was almost ready to drop with terror when he
distinctly heard a faint, grating noise like that which would be made by
turning a key carefully in a lock. It seemed to come from behind the
high desk which fenced off the office from the main part of the store.

Mr. Walker stood for an instant as if profoundly astonished, and, with
an inquiring glance at the clerk, started on tiptoe toward the office.
Mr. Fellows was close at his heels, and Guy, impelled by a curiosity
that he could not have resisted if he had tried, brought up the rear. He
saw Mr. Walker disappear behind the high desk, and jumping upon a chair
and looking over it, he had a full view of the scene that transpired on
the other side.

Bob was kneeling in front of an open safe, and was in the very act of
crowding a large package of money into his pocket. So intent was he upon
what he was doing, that he did not hear his father’s stealthy approach.

Mr. Walker was utterly confounded. Hardly able to believe the evidence
of his eyes, he stood for a moment as if deprived of all power of
action; then springing forward with a quick bound, he wrenched the
package from his son’s grasp, and sunk helpless and almost breathless
into the nearest chair.

“Oh. Robert! Robert!” he exclaimed, while the tears he could not repress
coursed down his cheeks. “Is this the way you repay my kindness and
indulgence? How could you do it! How could you do it!”

A death-like silence followed. Mr. Walker leaned his head upon his hands
and shook like a man with the ague. Bob, having recovered his
perpendicular—for his father, in his excitement, had thrown him headlong
into the nearest corner—stood sullen and motionless. The clerk rubbed
his eyes, and looked from one to the other in silent amazement; and Guy,
stunned and bewildered, staggered off the chair, and walking like one in
a dream, moved slowly out of the store and down the street. He did not
know where he was going, and what was more he did not care. When he came
to himself he was standing in the upper story of an elevator, gazing in
a stupid, benumbed sort of way at the monster wheel as it slowly
revolved, bringing up an endless chain of loaded buckets from some dark
abyss beneath him. He was able now to think over the incident that had
just happened at the store, and as he was not yet fully hardened, he
felt his situation most keenly.

“It is all over with me now,” said he, with a calmness that surprised
himself, “for of course the part I have played in this miserable
business will be known when the folks come home, even if it isn’t known
already. Mother will say that she didn’t send me down there to match
that piece of silk, and in that way my guilt will be exposed. Besides,
Bob is cornered, and I know him too well to indulge in the hope that he
will take all the blame upon himself and shield me. I can’t stay here,
for I am forever disgraced. I _must_ go, and with only fifteen dollars
in my pocket, too. Now that I think of it, I am glad Bob didn’t succeed
in stealing that package. I shall at least have the satisfaction of
knowing that what little money I have, I have earned honestly.”

How Guy managed to exist during that long afternoon was a mystery to
himself. He wanted to keep out of sight of everybody, and the loft of
the elevator was as good a place of concealment as he could have found.
No one intruded upon him during the five hours he spent there. He passed
a portion of his time in walking about with his hands in his pockets,
thinking over his situation and wondering what should be his first move
now that he was fairly adrift in the world, and the remainder in
standing at the front window watching the crew of the Queen of the
Lakes, who were still busily engaged in loading their vessel.

During the afternoon several passengers arrived, some on foot and some
in carriages, and Guy always held his breath in suspense while he
sharply scrutinized the face of every one who ascended the gang-plank,
and was as often greatly relieved to find that there were none among
them he had ever seen before.

At length, to his great joy, he discovered a thin cloud of smoke, which
grew thicker and blacker every moment, ascending from the propeller’s
chimney.

The men who were loading the vessel became quicker in their movements
and rolled the freight along at a more rapid rate, encouraged by the
voices and gestures of the mates.

Finally one of the planks was drawn in and the after gangway closed, and
just as it begun to grow dark two of the four lines that held the
steamer to the wharf were cast off and the whistle was blown.

Guy now had another disagreeable piece of business to perform, and that
was to transfer himself from the loft of the elevator to the deck of the
propeller.

Drawing in a long breath and calling all his courage to his aid he ran
swiftly down the stairs, paused a moment at the door and then bounded
across the wharf and up the gang-plank. He went directly to the upper
deck, and seating himself upon the rail over the gangway, looked closely
at every one who came on board the propeller, intending, if he saw Mr.
Walker or any of his father’s clerks approaching, to beat a hasty
retreat. But all Mr. Harris’ employees were doing just what Guy ought to
have been doing—attending to their business. Had they known where he was
and what he was about to do, it is probable that some of them would have
interested themselves in the matter; but as they did not, Guy was left
to his own devices.

At last, to the boy’s intense relief, everything was made ready for the
start. The whistle shrieked again, the captain took his stand upon the
wheel-house, the lines were handed aboard, and the Queen of the Lakes
moved slowly down the harbor.

As soon as clear water was seen between the boat and the wharf Guy told
himself that he was safe from pursuit, and settling into a comfortable
position on the rail, he prepared to take a last look at the city of
Norwall.

As it was already dark he could not see much of it except the lights.
These faded out of his sight one by one, and finally when the steamer,
after passing the breakwater and the light-house swung around and headed
up the lake, they were all shut out from his view.

Then Guy begun to feel lonely and chilly, too, for a keen, cutting wind
was blowing and he had no overcoat. As he arose to his feet, intending
to go into the cabin where it was warmer, some one suddenly laid a hand
upon his shoulder.

Guy started violently, and so surprised and frightened was he that he
lost his balance, and would certainly have fallen overboard had not the
hand been quickly shifted from his shoulder to his arm, griping it with
sufficient force and strength to haul him on board and enable him to
recover his equilibrium. As soon as he was fairly on his feet he looked
up and was astonished beyond measure to find himself confronted by Bob
Walker, who was comfortably wrapped up in an overcoat, held a lighted
cigar in his teeth, and wore his hat on one side in the same old rowdy
style. He did not look much like a boy who had been caught in the act of
robbing a safe.

“Why, Guy,” said he with a laugh, “you are as nervous as an old woman.
You must get over that before you reach the mountains, or Kit Carson and
Captain Bridges will never have a rival in you. Did you think I was a
policeman?”

“Bob,” exclaimed Guy gleefully, “you don’t know how glad I am to see
you. I little expected to find you here.”

“What did you think I would do?” demanded Bob. “You didn’t imagine that
I would stay in Norwall after being caught in such a scrape, did you? I
am not quite so green. I tell you, Guy, if father had stayed away just
five minutes longer we’d have been rich. That package I held in my hand
had five hundred dollars in it.”

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Guy, catching his breath.

“It’s a fact. The amount was marked on the wrapper.”

“What did your father say to you?”

“He told me to go home, and I did; but I didn’t stay there long. I got
my overcoat and came back to the boat. I’ve been on board ever since two
o’clock waiting for you.”

“And I was hiding in the elevator all the while. But, Bob, do you know I
am glad that you didn’t get out of the store with that money? It is bad
enough to run away from home; it would be worse if we were thieves!”

“Bah!” exclaimed Bob contemptuously, “you’re losing courage already, and
you’d better not, for you will have need of all you can muster before we
get through with this business. We’ve got to earn money now to buy an
outfit, and how are we going to do it? But let’s go into the cabin. It’s
cold out here.”

Bob strutted off with as much dignity as if he had been the owner of the
vessel, and Guy slowly followed. The cabin was a blaze of light, and
most of the passengers had congregated there to escape from the cold
wind that was blowing. They sat around in little groups, some reading,
others conversing with their friends, and everybody seemed to be happy
except Guy. He was indeed losing courage; and if he could have blotted
out the events of that afternoon, he would have given everything he ever
hoped to possess to have been safe under his father’s roof again. He had
not yet got fairly out into the “wide, wide world,” of which he had so
often dreamed, had encountered none of its trials and vicissitudes, and
yet he knew as well as though he had already tried it, that the struggle
he was about to commence would prove too much for him. The longer he
thought about it the more nervous and uneasy he became, until at last he
could not sit still, or bear to remain in the cabin. The air seemed hot
and almost stifling, and the merriment of the passengers grated harshly
on his ears. Arising to his feet he made his way to the deck, and for
four long hours paced back and forth, all unmindful of the wind and the
big drops of rain that now and then dashed into his face.

At last, overcome with fatigue and excitement, he sought his state-room.
Bob had already turned in, and was snugly tucked away in the lower bunk.
He appeared to be asleep, for his eyes were closed and he breathed
heavily.

Guy hastily divested himself of his damp garments, and hanging them upon
the hooks that were screwed into the bulk-head, climbed into his bunk
and was soon in a deep slumber. He was aroused once during the night by
some one moving about the room; but it was only Bob, who, in reply to an
inquiry from Guy, said that he had been on deck to see how things were
going, and that it was raining buckets and blowing great guns. Guy
quickly went off into the land of dreams again, lulled by the rocking of
the vessel, but about daylight was awakened by the pangs of seasickness.

All that forenoon he suffered greatly, and was a most forlorn-looking
object indeed. Bob, who was as lively as a cricket, faithfully attended
to all his wants, and shortly after dinner brought him a lemon and a
piece of toast. When he had taken a little of the juice of the former,
and a few mouthfuls of the latter, he felt better, and was able, with
Bob’s help, to put on his clothes and go on deck. While the two boys
were conversing and watching the white-caps as they rolled toward them,
the steward approached, and addressing himself to Guy, said:

“Please walk up to the clerk’s office.”

“To pay your fare, you know,” added Bob, seeing that Guy did not quite
understand. “I settled mine this morning.”

“Oh, yes. I have been so sick that I forgot all about that. Lend me your
arm, please. I haven’t yet got my sea legs on.”

Bob complied, and in a few minutes the two boys were standing before the
clerk, who drew the book containing the passenger list toward him, and
asked, as he held his pen poised in the air:

“What name?”

“Guy—John Thomas,” replied the seasick runaway, who would have given his
true name had not Bob pinched his arm just in time to prevent it.

“Guy John Thomas,” repeated the clerk, as he entered the name in his
book. “Where to?”

“Chicago.”

“Eight dollars.”

Guy thrust his hand into the pocket of his trousers, and a look of blank
amazement suddenly overspread his pale face. The pocket was empty. He
felt in the other, and finally searched everywhere about his clothes,
but nothing in the shape of a purse could be found.

“My gracious!” gasped Guy.

“What’s the matter?” asked his companion.

“Matter!” Guy almost shouted; “matter enough. I’ve lost my pocket-book.”

“No!” exclaimed Bob, looking surprised.

“But I say _yes_!” shrieked Guy; “and with it I have lost every cent I
had in the world. Oh! what shall I do?”

“It can’t be possible,” said Bob, feeling of his friend’s pockets. “Look
again.”

“Oh, haven’t I looked everywhere already?” demanded Guy, the tears
starting to his eyes as he begun another thorough examination of his
clothing. “It’s lost, I tell you.”

“Perhaps you left it in your valise. Let’s go and look.”

“No, I didn’t. I put it in my pocket yesterday, and I didn’t once take
it out. Oh, dear! oh, dear!”

The clerk laid down his pen, leaned his elbows on the desk before him,
and waited to see what Guy was going to do about it, and the latter,
having satisfied himself that the money was not to be found about his
person, allowed Bob to lead him off to his state-room. With frantic
haste he overhauled the bundle and tumbled the contents of his valise
upon the floor, but no purse rewarded his search. Then he looked under
his pillow, and into every corner in the room, but with no better
success.

“It’s no use; it’s gone,” screamed Guy, throwing himself upon Bob’s bunk
and giving away to a torrent of tears, “and here I am without a copper
in my pocket, and no friend to help me! I can’t go back home, and I
don’t know what to do. I wish I was dead. Have you got any money, Bob?”

“Not a dollar; not even half a dollar. I had just enough to pay my fare,
and expected to look to you for a few dimes. We’re in a fix, that’s
certain. When we reach Chicago we shall be strapped as flat as pancakes,
and in a strange city, too. I’ll go and speak to the skipper. Perhaps he
can do something for you.”

Bob easily found the captain, who listened patiently while he stated his
friend’s case, and accompanied him to the presence of Guy, to whom he
propounded a few inquiries: Had he any idea where he lost his money?
Might he not have dropped it or had his pocket picked before he came on
board the propeller. Had he seen any stranger in his room the night
before? and had he any relatives or friends in Chicago? To all these
questions Guy replied in the negative. The captain looked thoughtfully
at the floor for a moment, said it was a hard case, but he didn’t see
that he could do anything, and turning on his heel he left the room,
while Bob seated himself on the edge of his bunk, and looked at his
friend with a very sympathizing expression on his countenance.

A dozen times that afternoon Guy searched all his pockets, examined the
contents of his valise and bundle, and peeped into every part of the
state-room, hoping that in his hurry and excitement he had overlooked
the purse, and that it would yet come to light; but he as often
abandoned the search in utter despair, and threw himself upon the bunk
to indulge in a fresh burst of tears. Bob lent willing assistance, and
tried to utter words of consolation, but these did not help Guy. He did
not want sympathy, but money.

About four o’clock the door opened, admitting the steward.

“Have you found it yet?” he asked.

“No,” sobbed Guy, “and I never shall.”

“Did you lose all you had?”

“Every red cent.”

“Then, of course, you can’t pay your fare to Chicago. I have been
talking to the captain about you, and he says you must go ashore the
first landing we make, which will be at Saginaw. In the meantime you
will have to give up this room and go into the steerage. You will find
an empty bunk there.”

“Oh, I haven’t got any bed-clothes, and how am I to sleep on those hard
boards?” exclaimed Guy.

“I don’t know I am sure. But you will have it to do, if you sleep at
all. We have three or four passengers who slept on chairs in the cabin
last night, and I must put one of them in here.”

Guy covered his face with his hands and cried lustily.

“Come, come! Shoulder your dunnage and clear out! I am in a hurry,” said
the steward sharply.

Guy saw that he had no alternative. Slowly arising from his bunk he
picked up his valise, while Bob took his bundle, and together they went
their way to the steerage. It looked ten-fold more dingy and forbidding
now than it did when Guy first saw it. He did not think he could live
there, and told Bob so.

“Nonsense!” said his companion. “You will live in worse places than this
before you see the Rocky Mountains. But I’d be a man if I were you, Guy.
Choke down your tears.”

“Oh, yes; it’s all well enough for you to talk, for you’ve nothing to
trouble you. Your passage is paid and you’ve a nice room to sleep in.
But you won’t go to Chicago, will you?”

“Why not?”

“And leave me alone?”

“I don’t see that I can help it. I have paid my passage, and I might as
well go on.”

“But, Bob, what shall I do without you?”

“A fellow can’t live in this world without money, Guy, and if I go
ashore in the woods how am I going to earn any?”

“How am _I_ going to earn any?” retorted Guy with more pluck and
independence than he had yet exhibited. “But I see what you are at very
plainly. You want to go back on me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do; and I don’t care either. If you want to desert me while I
am in trouble, do it. I don’t ask any odds of you. All I want you to do
is to keep away from me from this time forward. Don’t speak to me, or
even look at me. But bear one thing in mind—we must both struggle for an
existence now, and I’ll come to the top of the heap first.”

As Guy said this he snatched the bundle from Bob’s hand, pitched it,
with the valise, into one of the empty bunks, and turning square about
left the steerage.

POOR GUY! his misfortunes were following close upon the heels of one
another. He had looked upon the loss of his money as the greatest of
calamities, but now a worse had befallen him. He was at swords’ points
with Bob Walker, and he did not see how he could get on without him. Bob
was so self-reliant, and could so easily adapt himself to circumstances
that Guy had already learned to lean upon him. Fully sensible of his own
lack of courage and independence, he wanted somebody to advise and
sympathize with him. Longing to get away by himself where he could brood
over his sorrows to his heart’s content, he hurried out of the steerage,
and was making his way aft, when he ran plump into the arms of some one.
It was the steward.

“Ah! this will never do,” said the officer. “Steerage passengers are not
allowed abaft the waist.”

“Eh?” exclaimed Guy.

“Come here,” said the steward, “and I will explain what I mean. Do you
see this gangway that runs athwartships? Well, you mustn’t come any
nearer the stern than that. Go for’ard now.”

Guy started in obedience to his command, and just then the supper-bell
rung. The first to answer the summons was Bob Walker, who went into the
wash-room and tucked up his sleeves preparatory to performing his
ablutions. Guy went in also, and followed his movements.

Having recovered from his seasickness by this time, he was, of course,
very hungry, and the savory odors that came from the cabin every time
the door was opened served to quicken his appetite. He hung up his cap,
and was about to turn on the water, when the ubiquitous steward once
more appeared.

“Now, pard, this won’t do, either,” said he, taking hold of the boy’s
arm and waving his hand toward the door.

“Why not?” demanded Guy, trying to throw off the steward’s grasp. “I
want to wash before supper, don’t I?”

“If you do you will find plenty of buckets on the main deck.”

“I am not in the habit of washing in buckets, and I sha’n’t do it,”
replied Guy, greatly astonished.

“Oh, that’s the way the wind sets, is it?” exclaimed the steward,
changing his tone and manner in an instant. “You’re standing on your
dignity, are you, you dead beat? Now mark you,” he added, shaking his
finger in the boy’s face, “if I catch you as far aft as this gangway
again I’ll walk you for’ard by the nape of the neck. Now get out o’
this! Out you go, with a jump.”

Guy did not go with a jump exactly, but he went with a very strong push,
for the steward, exerting all his strength, flung him headlong through
the door, and kicked his cap after him. Bob stood by, wiping his hands,
and, as Guy made his hasty exit, he chuckled audibly, and gave the
steward an approving wink.

When he went into the cabin to supper he jingled some silver in his
pocket, and shook his head in a very wise and knowing manner.

“You’ll come out at the top of the heap before I do, will you?” he
soliloquized. “It looks like it now, does it not? You’re not sharp
enough to make your way in this wicked world, my innocent young friend.
I was as poor as you were yesterday morning, and now I’ve got forty
dollars to help me along. A fig for such fellows as you! I am better off
without you.”

Guy, filled with rage and grief, picked up his cap and made his way
forward. He fully realized now what it was to be adrift in the world.
With no money in his pocket, no friend to whom he could go for advice or
assistance, and with the prospect before him of being put off the boat
in a strange place and among strange people, his situation was indeed a
trying one.

He glanced into the steerage as he walked by the door, but could not
make up his mind to enter. It looked gloomy in there, and the occupants
stared at him so rudely that he hurried on, anxious to get out of their
sight.

“A man is no man unless he has money in his pocket,” said the runaway to
himself. “Everybody is down on me now, because I am broke. It beats me
where that purse could have gone so suddenly. I know it was in my pocket
last night when I hung up my clothes, for I heard it strike against the
bulk-head. If it were not for that safe scrape I’d work my way home on
some vessel, take the whipping I know I’d get, and settle down with the
determination to behave myself. But I shall never see home again, for I
shall starve to death. I brought no provisions with me, and I can’t
raise the money to buy a seat at the second table. I sha’n’t get a bite
to eat until I reach Saginaw, and then I shall have to beg it.”

A bright prospect this for the boy who had so confidently expected to
find nothing but fair weather and plain sailing before him! Instead of
leaving all his troubles at home, he was running into others that he had
never dreamed of.

“Here you are!” exclaimed a cheery voice at his elbow. “Come in and take
a bite with us.”

Guy, who had been walking along with his eyes fastened thoughtfully on
the deck, looked up and found himself in front of an open door that led
into the quarters occupied by the crew of the propeller, who were
engaged in eating their supper. In one corner of the room was a huge
mess-chest, which did duty as a table, and the sailors sat around it,
holding their plates on their knees.

Guy stopped and took a good look at the man whose voice had aroused him
from his reverie, and recognized him at once as one of the wheelsmen. He
was a man rather past the prime of life, with grizzly hair and whiskers,
and hands and face as brown as an Indian’s. Although he was somewhat
better dressed than the majority of his companions, and had doubtless
bestowed a little pains upon his toilet before sitting down to supper,
he was a rough-looking fellow, but still there was something in the mild
blue eye which beamed from under his shaggy brows that won Guy’s heart
at once.

“You’re the lad who lost his money, ain’t you?” continued the sailor.

“Yes, I am,” replied Guy, almost ready to cry again.

“Haven’t you nary shot in the locker?”

“Not one. I’m dead broke.”

“Never mind,” said the sailor kindly, seeing that Guy’s eyes were
rapidly filling with tears. “I’ve known many a man in my time in the
same fix. Why, bless you, when I was your age I used to think no more of
it than I did of eating my regular allowance of salt horse or standing
my trick at the wheel. Haven’t had any supper, have you?”

“No; nor I can’t get any, either.”

“Yes, you can. Walk up to that table and call for what you want. We’ve
four darkey waiters, but they’ve all gone out to the galley after the
plum-pudding. They’ll be in directly. When you have greased your
jaw-tackle with some of our turkey and other fine fixings, tell us how
you come to be out here so far from shore without a cent in your pocket
for ballast.”

Guy understood the invitation thus conveyed, and did not hesitate to
accept it. He did not wait for the darkies to come in with the
plum-pudding, and neither did he find “turkey and other fine fixings” on
the chest; but there was an abundant supply of good, wholesome food, and
Guy having found an empty plate helped himself most bountifully. His
spirits rose a little as his appetite became somewhat appeased, and in
compliance with the wheelsman’s repeated request he related the story of
his loss, to which everybody listened with interest. When he came to
tell that the steward had taken his room from him, and that the captain
had ordered that he must go ashore at the steamer’s first landing-place,
he could scarcely restrain his tears.

After he had finished his narrative some of the sailors questioned him
in regard to his history, but when they got through they knew no more
than when they begun, for Guy gave anything but truthful answers. The
wheelsman said nothing. He seemed to be thinking busily. When he had
laid aside his plate and filled a short, black pipe, which he drew from
his pocket, he beckoned to Guy, who followed him to the main deck.

“Now, then,” said the wheelsman as he and the runaway seated themselves
beside an open gangway, out of earshot of everybody, “you say your name
is John Thomas. Mine’s Dick Flint, and I’m glad to see you. How are
you?”

“Well enough in body, but rather uncomfortable in mind,” replied Guy as
he took the sailor’s hand and shook it cordially. “But, after all, I
feel better than I did an hour ago, for I’ve had something to eat.”

“I know how it seems to be hungry,” said the wheelsman. “Now, maybe you
wouldn’t lose nothing if you was to tell me your plans. What are you
going to do when you reach the Western country? Got any folks there?”

“I have an uncle, as I have already told you,” replied Guy, “but I don’t
know where he is. Indeed, I don’t much care; for since I left Syracuse I
have changed my mind about trying to find him. I am going to be a hunter
and trapper.”

“You are!” exclaimed Flint, measuring the boy with his eye.

“Yes. I am going out to the Rocky Mountains to fight Indians and grizzly
bears and make myself famous. There’s plenty of fun and excitement to be
found in that life, and I have always wanted to follow it.”

“If it is excitement you are after you had better go to sea. You’ll find
it there, take my word for it. I don’t know anything about this hunting
business, but you’ll need guns and traps, won’t you? And how are you
going to get them with your locker empty?”

“Yes, I shall need at least three hundred dollars; but where it is to
come from I don’t know. I must go to work and earn it somehow.”

“Did you ever follow any kind of business?”

“No; I have been to school all my life.”

“Well, you had better go a-sailoring with me. You can earn the money you
want in that way. You see, I don’t run here on the lakes—I belong
outside.”

“Outside?” repeated Guy.

“Yes, out on the ocean. I have sailed the blue water, man and boy, for
thirty-five years, and if I live I expect to sail it thirty-five more. I
left an old mother in Ohio when I went to sea—I ran away from her, like
a fool as I was—and for twenty years I never heard from her. At last I
found myself in Boston with a few hundreds in my pocket, and I thought I
would go back to the old place, and, if my mother was still above
hatches, the money I had saved would make her comfortable for the rest
of her days. But I didn’t find her,” said Flint, while a sorrowful
expression settled on his face—“never had a chance to tell her how sorry
I was that I had treated her so, and that if she would forgive me and
own me as her son once more I would try and make up for it. She had been
under the sod ten years, and the old place was in the hands of
strangers. Nobody knew me or ever heard of me. Of course I couldn’t stay
there, and hearing that there was a schooner in Chicago loading for
Liverpool, I went up and engaged a berth on her. Finding that she wasn’t
ready to sail, I shipped as wheelsman in this tub to go one trip to
Buffalo and back. The schooner will be off the ways and have her cargo
aboard by the time we get there, and if you say the word maybe I can
work you in as cabin-boy or something.”

“But you forget that I must leave this boat at Saginaw,” said Guy.

“No, I don’t. There’s more’n one way to get around that. Will you go?
That’s what I want to know?”

“I will, and I am under great obligations to you for the offer.”

“Belay that,” said the sailor. “I know what it is to be without money or
friends—I am used to it, but you ain’t, I can see that plain enough, and
I want to help you out. Now about your money—when did you see it last?”

The loss of the purse was a matter that the wheelsman inquired into very
particularly. He questioned Guy closely for ten minutes, and having
finished his pipe, knocked the ashes from it and arose to his feet.

“I must go on watch now,” said he. “When you get ready to go to bed,
tumble into my bunk. There’s room enough in it for both of us, and any
of the boys will show you where it is. Keep up a good heart and you’ll
come out all right. I’ll make a sailor man of you.”

Flint walked off, leaving Guy sitting silent and thoughtful. His mind
was relieved of a great load of anxiety, for he had found somebody to
lean upon. And this new friend was more to his liking than the one he
had lost, for he had more confidence in him. Having been a wanderer upon
the face of the earth for thirty-five years, Flint of course knew all
about his position and was fully competent to give advice in any
emergency. But still there was one objection to him. Guy would have
thought more of him if he had been a hunter instead of a sea-faring man.
He did not want to go before the mast for he was too firmly wedded to
his idea of living in the woods. He had thought and dreamed of it for
years, and he clung to it still.

“This sailoring will be a merely temporary business,” thought Guy, “and
perhaps it is after all the best thing I could do. I am well enough
acquainted with city life to know that I can’t make much money at
anything just now, having no trade or profession. The only course open
to me is to go into a store or office, and there I could command but
three or four dollars a week, out of which I should have to pay my
board, so I could not save anything. I may be able to earn eight or ten
dollars a month as cabin-boy, and as I shall be under no expense for
board of course I shall have all my money at the end of the voyage.
Besides, while I am earning the three hundred dollars I need, I shall be
getting used to hard fare and hard weather, and consequently I shall be
in better condition to begin my career as a hunter. I shall adopt
Flint’s plan, for I don’t think I could do better.”

Having come to this conclusion Guy made his way to the sailors’ quarters
and went to bed in a very happy frame of mind.

DURING the next two days Guy was as light of heart as a boy could
possibly be. He messed and bunked with the sailors, and soon begun to
feel so much at home among them that he would not have gone back into
the cabin if he had been allowed the privilege. It is true he sometimes
told himself that these unkempt, swaggering fellows in blue flannel
shirts and canvas trousers were not just the sort of men that he had
been in the habit of associating with at home. But after all he cared
very little for that. He expected to mingle with rough characters and
lead a rough life all his days, and the sooner he commenced the sooner
he would get used to it.

He saw the steward occasionally, but that worthy never noticed him. He
knew of course that Guy could not leave the steamer until she made a
landing, and if in the meantime the crew were disposed to take him and
care for him, it was no concern of his. All he wanted of Guy was to keep
away from that part of the vessel devoted to the use of the cabin
passengers.

Guy also saw Bob Walker every day, but never spoke to him. Indeed he was
not allowed an opportunity, for whenever Bob caught a glimpse of him he
would throw up his head, stick his cigar (and he always had one in his
mouth) up toward his right cheek, and walk off with all the independence
imaginable. This always made Guy very angry.

“He thinks he is some, but he’ll be glad to sulk away and hide himself
before we reach Chicago,” soliloquized Guy. “He smokes at least ten or a
dozen cigars every day; and twelve cigars at ten cents each amount to a
dollar and twenty cents—in two days, two dollars and forty cents. He
told me he didn’t have half a dollar in his pocket; and if that was the
truth, where does he get those cigars? I don’t wonder Flint suspects
him. I would have suspected him myself if I had been sharp.”

On the evening of the fourth day after leaving Norwall, Flint hurried
into the crew’s quarters, where Guy was dreaming away the time in his
bunk, and shook him roughly by the shoulder.

“Roll out now,” said he. “Saginaw is close by. We shall be alongside the
pier in half an hour, and you must be ready to get off. Where’s your
dunnage?”

“Here it is,” said Guy, pulling his valise and bundle out of an empty
berth.

“What have you got in that carpet-sack? I heard something rattle, and
you lift it as though it was heavy.”

“So it is. I’ve got my hunting equipments in here.”

“Roll ’em out, and let’s have a look at ’em.”

Guy accordingly produced the key and unlocked his valise. The sailor
looked into it, examined the contents, and said:

“You can’t take them things on board ship with you, and you might as
well get rid of them one time as another. Chuck ’em overboard.”

Guy was astonished, and at first felt like flatly refusing to obey the
order. He had been to considerable trouble and some expense to collect
the articles comprising the outfit, and he could not bear to part with
them. But after a little reflection he thought better of it, and
gathering them all up in his arms, he went to the door, looked up and
down the deck to make sure that there was no one in sight, and threw
them into the water.

The hunting-knife, on the handle of which he had intended to score a
notch for every grizzly bear he “rubbed out;” the lead, which, melted
into bullets, was to have created such havoc among the buffaloes and
antelopes of the prairie; the traps that were to have made him rich and
famous—all went down among the fishes. The rubber blankets alone
remained afloat, and after giving a melancholy flap or two, as if
bidding him farewell, faded from his view in the fast-gathering
twilight.

“Now,” said the wheelsman, when Guy came back to him, “what’s in that
bundle? Your clothes? Well, put ’em into your carpet-sack, and while
you’re doing it, listen to what I have to say. I must talk fast, for
both me and my partner have to be at the wheel when we make a landing.
By the time we reach the pier it will be pitch dark. As soon as the
gang-plank is out, take your dunnage and go ashore. Follow a long
wood-pile which you will find on the pier until you come to the shore
end of it, and then round to and come back to the propeller on the
opposite side. Do you understand? I shall be relieved from the wheel by
that time, and I’ll be standing on deck just over the after gangway.
You’ll see me, and you must keep watch of me, too, for when the coast is
clear I’ll wave my hat, and you must run up the gang-plank and dodge
into the engineers’ locker. You know where that is, don’t you?”

“Yes; but what will the engineers say if they see me going in?”

“Nothing. I’ve talked it all over with them, and they said I might stow
you away in there. They’re sorry for you because you lost your money.
Behind the door of the locker you’ll find a chest with a blanket and
pillow in it, and all you’ve got to do is to turn in and keep still. You
can lay there as snug as a bug in a rug, for nobody except the engineers
ever goes near that locker, and they won’t bother you.”

“Flint!” shouted the mate on watch at this moment.

“Ay, ay, sir!” answered the sailor. “I must go to the wheel now. Can you
remember what I have said?”

“Yes, I can,” replied Guy.

“Be careful that no one sees you when you come aboard,” said Flint
earnestly, “or you’ll get me and the engineer in hot water.”

So saying, the wheelsman hurried away, and Guy sat down on one of the
bunks near the door to wait until the propeller reached the shore. She
had scarcely touched the pier when the steward came up.

“Ah, here you are!” he exclaimed, slapping Guy familiarly on the
shoulder. “I have been looking for you. It is time you were making
yourself scarce about here.”

“I am going as soon as the gang-plank is shoved out,” replied Guy.

“But I want to _see_ you go. I am well posted in the tricks of you
dead-beats, and can’t be fooled easy. Come on. That isn’t all your
baggage,” he added as Guy picked up his valise. “You had a bundle when
you came on board.”

“If you are better acquainted with my business than I am, you had better
attend to it,” replied the boy, who did not like the steward’s
domineering tone. “I guess I know what I am doing.”

He pushed past the officer as he spoke, and started down the stairs. On
the way he met with Bob Walker, who was loitering around on purpose to
see him off.

Bob winked at the steward and nodded familiarly to Guy, who returned the
recognition with a savage scowl. When the latter disappeared down the
stairs, Bob seated himself on the railing, and drawing a buckskin purse
from his pocket, shook it in his closed hands, and smiled complacently.
If one might judge by the loud jingling of its contents, the purse was
well filled.

“Now, my young boy,” said the steward, when he and Guy had descended the
gang-plank that led to the pier, “I shall stand here until I see you
safely ashore. Good-by, and the next time you start out on your travels,
be sure you’ve got money in your pocket.”

Guy bolted off without saying a word in reply. The extraordinary
interest the steward took in his movements was something he had not
bargained for, and he was very much afraid that he might not succeed in
returning to the steamer without being seen by him or some one else who
would order him ashore again.

What could he do in that case? Saginaw, what little he was able to see
of it by the aid of the light from the lanterns and torches on the pier,
was not a cheerful-looking place. More than that, he did not know a soul
there; and where could he go to pass the night and find a breakfast the
next morning? The only friend he had that side of Norwall was the
wheelsman, and sooner than lose him he would do something desperate.

Casting his eye over his shoulder occasionally, he saw that the steward
was not only keeping watch of him, but that he was following him to see
that he went ashore.

There were two others watching him also—Bob Walker, who was perched upon
the rail, and Dick Flint, who stood at the foot of the stairs leading to
the wheel-house.

“Bob is very anxious to see the last of me,” said Guy to himself, “and
that, in my opinion, is another proof that he stole my money. But he
isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, and neither is the steward. With
Flint’s help I can fool them both. There’s no use in spoiling things by
being in too great a hurry. The crew are getting ready to wood-up, so I
shall have plenty of time.”

Guy made his way along the wood-pile, but when he reached the end of it
he could not “round to and come up on the other side,” as the sailor had
told him to do, so he kept straight ahead, and having reached the shore,
stopped in the shadow of a warehouse. Neither Bob nor the steward could
see him there, but as the pier and the steamer were brilliantly lighted
up, he could observe their every movement.

He saw the steward, who had followed him to the end of the wood-pile,
gaze steadily at the warehouse for a few minutes, and then turn about,
go back to the propeller, and disappear in the gangway. Bob also left
his perch after a little delay, and that was a signal to Guy to bestir
himself.

He ran quickly down the bank to the pier, and throwing himself on his
hands and knees behind the wood-pile, made his way toward the steamer,
dragging his valise after him. In a few seconds more he was crouching
close at the edge of the pier, waiting impatiently for a sign from Dick
Flint, who was walking slowly up and down the deck.

Bob Walker, having seen Guy disappear behind the warehouse, drew a long
breath of relief, and pulled a fresh cigar from his pocket.

“He has gone at last,” said he, “and I am safe. His presence for the
last three days has been a perfect torture to me; but from this time
forward I shall stand in no fear of discovery. There comes the steward,
and I might as well have a glass of ale.”

Bob was very observing, and the Queen of the Lakes had not been many
hours out of the port of Norwall before he began to learn something. He
noticed that there were two or three gentlemen among the cabin
passengers who made regular hourly visits to some place abaft the cabin,
and that when they came back they were either smoking fragrant cigars or
wiping their lips as if they had something good to eat or drink. Bob
made it his business to follow them on one of their excursions, and
found that they stopped in front of a little bar kept by the steward.
After that Bob went there on his own responsibility, and became one of
the best customers at the bar. As he always paid for what he got, and
seemed to have plenty of money, the steward cultivated his acquaintance,
and was ready to serve him with a cigar or a glass of ale at any hour of
the day or night.

On this particular evening, as Bob made his way aft, a sailor followed
him at a respectful distance. While he stood at the bar, the man, who
was partially concealed behind a stanchion, took off his hat and waved
it once or twice in the air, whereupon a figure which was crouching at
the end of the wood-pile sprung up and darted into the gangway like a
flash. It was Guy Harris.

Rapid as his movements were, however, he did not succeed in entering the
gangway without discovery; for Bob, having received some change from the
steward, who at once closed the bar and went off, faced about, and while
putting the money away in his purse, happened to cast his eye toward the
pier just in time to see Guy jump up from behind the wood-pile. He
thought he recognized him, and to make sure of it leaned quickly over
the side and obtained a good view of him.

“Now that plan won’t work, my young friend,” he exclaimed, and so
astonished was he that he spoke the words aloud. “It will never do to
let you stay here. I’ll have you put off again before you are five
minutes older.”

Bob hastily put the purse into his pocket and was hurrying forward when
he found himself brought to a stand-still by a burly fellow who suddenly
stepped before him and blocked up his path.

“Hold hard there!” said the latter. “Where are you going?”

“I want to find the steward,” answered Bob, trying to crowd by the
sailor.

“Hold hard there, I say!” repeated the man, seizing Bob by the collar
and pushing him back. “What do you want to see the steward for?”

“What’s that to you, you insolent fellow? Let me pass, and don’t dare
put your hand on me again. If you do, I will report you to the captain.”

“Oh, you will, will you? Come on, there’s the old man on the pier.”

Flint, for it was he, linked his brawny arm through Bob’s and made a
motion to pull him toward the stairs, but the boy drew back.

“Why don’t you come on?” cried the wheelsman. “I thought you wanted to
report me to the cap’n. What have you got to say to the steward, I ask
you?”

“There’s a fellow below who is going to steal a ride to Chicago,”
replied Bob, alarmed at the man’s tone and manner.

“No, he hain’t,” said Flint. “He’s only come back to get his money. Hand
it out here.”

Bob’s assurance was pretty well frightened out of him by these words.
His secret was not safe after all. He made a strong effort to keep up
his courage.

“Hand what out?” he asked, trying to assume a look of injured innocence.

“Oh, you don’t know nothing about it, do you? I want that buckskin purse
that you just put into your pocket. There’s fifteen dollars in it, or
ought to be, and you stole it from your room-mate on the first night out
from Norwall. Hand it over, I say.”

“I didn’t steal any money. You didn’t see me put any buckskin purse into
my pocket, and I haven’t got any, either. The best thing you can do is
to let me pass.”

“You needn’t put on no frills with me, ’cause they won’t go down. You
didn’t know that the curtain of the window of your state-room was up
that night, did you? You didn’t think I saw you when you took that purse
out of your room-mate’s pocket, did you? Well, I did; and I heard you
tell him when he asked you what you were doing, that you had been out on
deck to see how things were going on, and that it was raining buckets
and blowing great guns butt-end foremost. Aha!” he added, seeing that an
expression of unbounded astonishment overspread Bob’s pale face. “I know
all about it, don’t I? I stood here, too, while you were loafing at that
bar, and saw you take that same purse from your pocket and pay for a
glass of something out of it. And there it is, right there,” said Flint,
making a sudden dash at the boy’s pocket and clutching it and its
contents with a firm grasp. “Now hand it out without no more words, or
I’ll walk you down to the old man and have you locked up for a thief. I
sha’n’t ask you again.”

Bob was utterly confounded. The conversation between him and Guy on the
first night out had taken place just as the sailor had repeated it, and
that was the time he had stolen the purse from his friend’s pocket. But
how in the world could the theft have been found out? Guy did not see
him take the money, for he was asleep. Beyond a doubt Flint told the
truth when he said that he had observed the whole proceeding. Overcome
with fear and rage Bob could not speak. Mistaking his silence for
obstinacy, the wheelsman seized him by the collar and began dragging him
toward the stairs, intending to take him before the captain. Then Bob
found his tongue very speedily.

“Hold on,” he cried. “If I give you the money will you promise that you
won’t blow on me?”

“I’ll keep still if you do; but if I hear you lisp a word about a
fellow’s trying to steal a ride to Chicago I’ll have you locked up as
sure as you’re alive. Now,” he added, as Bob placed the purse in his
hands, “how much have you spent out of it?”

“Just ten cents.”

“Well, hand it out here. I must have fifteen dollars. Not a red less
will satisfy me.”

“I have nothing smaller than a dollar.”

“Then give me that. I’ll take it for interest.”

Bob did not dare refuse. He gave the money to the wheelsman, who said,
as he put it away in the purse:

“Now go into your room, and don’t show your face on deck again until
this vessel is well under way. Keep a still tongue in your head and I’ll
do the same.”

Bob, glad enough to get out of the man’s sight, at once started for the
cabin. Flint watched him out of sight and then rolled off toward the
wheel-house, winking and nodding his head as if he were highly gratified
at what he had done.

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