waiting for daybreak. What an endless night
it was ! I have known months that did not
seem so long.
Our position was irksome rather than peril
ous ; for the day was certain to bring us relief
from the town, where our prolonged absence,
together with the storm, had no doubt excited
the liveliest alarm for our safety.
cold, the darkness, and the suspense were hard
Our soaked jackets had chilled us to the
bone. In order to keep warm we lay so closely
that we could hear our hearts beat above the
tumult of sea and sky.
After a while we grew very hungry, not hav
ing broken our fast since early in the day. The
rain had turned the hard-tack into a sort of
dough ; but it was better than nothing.
We used to laugh at Fred Langdon for al-
168 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
ways carrying in his pocket a small vial of es
sence of peppermint or sassafras, a few drops
of which, sprinkled on a lump of loaf-sugar, he
seemed to consider a great luxury. I do not
know what would have become of us at this
crisis if it had not been for that omnipresent
bottle of hot stuff. We poured the stinging
liquid over our sugar, which had kept dry in a
sardine-box, and warmed ourselves with fre
After four or five hours the rain ceased, the
wind died away to a moan, and the sea no
longer raging like a maniac sobbed and
sobbed with a piteous human voice all along
the coast. And well it might, after that night s
work. Twelve sail of the Gloucester fishing
fleet had gone down with every soul on board,
just outside of Whale s-Back Light. Think of
the wide grief that follows in the wake of one
wreck ; then think of the despairing women
who wrung their hands and wept, the next
morning, in the streets of Gloucester, Marble-
head, and Newcastle !
Though our strength was nearly spent, we
were too cold to sleep. Once I sunk into a
troubled doze, when I seemed to hear Charley
Marden s parting words, only it was the Sea
that said them. After that I threw off the
drowsiness whenever it threatened to overcome
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 169
Fred Langdon was the earliest to discover a
filmy, luminous streak in the sky, the first glim
mering of sunrise.
" Look, it is nearly daybreak ! "
While we were following the direction of his
finger, a sound of distant oars fell upon our
We listened breathlessly, and as the dip of
the blades became more audible, we discerned
two foggy lights, like will-o -the-wisps, floating
on the river.
Running down to the water s edge, we hailed
the boats with all our might. The call was
heard, for the oars rested a moment in the row
locks, and then pulled in towards the island.
It was two boats from the town, in the fore
most of which we could now make out the fig
ures of Captain Nutter and Binny Wallace s
father. We shrunk back on seeing him.
"Thank God!" cried Mr. Wallace fervently,
as he leaped from the wherry without waiting
for the bow to touch the beach.
But when he saw only three boys standing
on the sands, his eye wandered restlessly
about in quest of the fourth ; then a deadly
pallor overspread his features.
Our story was soon told. A solemn silence
fell upon the crowd of rough boatmen gathered
round, interrupted only by a stifled sob from
i;o THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
one poor old man who stood apart from the
The sea was still running too high for any
small boat to venture out ; so it was arranged
that the wherry should take us back to town,
leaving the yawl, with a picked crew, to hug
the island until daybreak, and then set forth
in search of the Dolphin.
Though it was barely sunrise when we
reached town, there were a great many per
sons assembled at the landing eager for intelli
gence from missing boats. Two picnic parties
had started down river the day before, just
previous to the gale, and nothing had been
heard of them. It turned out that the pleasure-
seekers saw their danger in time, and ran
ashore on one of the least exposed islands,
where they passed the night. Shortly after
our own arrival they appeared off Rivermouth,
much to the joy of their friends, in two shat
tered, dismasted boats.
The excitement over, I was in a forlorn
state, physically and mentally. Captain Nutter
put me to bed between hot blankets, and sent
Kitty Collins for the doctor. I was wandering
in my mind, and fancied myself still on Sand-
peep Island : now we were building our brick
stove to cook the chowder, and, in my delirium,
I laughed aloud and shouted to my comrades ;
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 171
now the sky darkened, and the squall struck
the island ; now I gave orders to Wallace how
to manage the boat, and now I cried because
the rain was pouring in on me through the
holes in the tent. Towards evening a high
fever set in, and it was many days before my
grandfather deemed it prudent to tell me that
the Dolphin had been found, floating keel
upwards, four miles southeast of Mackerel
Poor little Binny Wallace ! How strange it
seemed, when I went to school again, to see
that empty seat in the fifth row ! How gloomy
the playground was, lacking the sunshine of
his gentle, sensitive face ! One day a folded
sheet slipped from my algebra ; it was the last
note he ever wrote me. I could not read it
for the tears.
What a pang shot across my heart the after
noon it was whispered through the town that
a body had been washed ashore at Grave Point
the place where we bathed. We bathed
there no more ! How well I remember the
funeral, and what a piteous sight it was after
wards to see his familiar name on a small
headstone in the Old South Burying-Ground.
Poor little Binny Wallace ! Always the same
to me. The rest of us have grown up into
hard, worldly men, fighting the fight of life ;
172 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
but you are forever young, and gentle, and
pure ; a part of my own childhood that time
cannot wither ; always a little boy, always
poor little Binny Wallace !
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE TURNS UP
A YEAR had stolen by since the death of
Binny Wallace a year of which I have no
thing important to record.
The loss of our little playmate threw a
shadow over our young lives for many and
many a month. The Dolphin rose and fell
with the tide at the foot of the slippery steps,
unused, the rest of the summer. At the close
of November we hauled her sadly into the
boat-house for the winter; but when spring
came round we launched the Dolphin again,
and often went down to the wharf and looked
at her lying in the tangled eel-grass, without
much inclination to take a row. The associa
tions connected with the boat were too painful
as yet ; but time, which wears the sharp edge
from everything, softened this feeling, and one
afternoon we brought out the cobwebbed oars.
The ice once broken, brief trips along the
wharves we seldom cared to go out into the
river now became one of our chief amuse-
174 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
ments. Meanwhile Gypsy was not forgotten.
Every clear morning I was in the saddle be
fore breakfast, and there are few roads or lanes
within ten miles of Rivermouth that have not
borne the print of her vagrant hoof.
I studied like a good fellow this quarter,
carrying off a couple of first prizes. The Cap
tain expressed his gratification by presenting
me with a new silver dollar. If a dollar in his
eyes was smaller than a cart-wheel, it was not
so very much smaller. I redeemed my pencil-
case from the treasurer of the Centipedes, and
felt that I was getting on in the world.
It was at this time I was greatly cast down
by a letter from my father saying that he
should be unable to visit Rivermouth until the
following year. With that letter came another
to Captain Nutter, which he did not read aloud
to the family, as usual. It was on business,
he said, folding it up in his wallet. He re
ceived several of these business letters from
time to time, and I noticed that they always
made him silent and moody.
The fact is my father s banking-house was
not thriving. The unlooked-for failure of a
firm largely indebted to him had crippled "the
house." When the Captain imparted this in
formation to me I did not trouble myself over
the matter. I supposed if I supposed any-
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 175
thing that all grown-up people had more or
less money, when they wanted it. Whether
they inherited it, or whether government sup
plied them, was not clear to me. A loose idea
that my father had a private gold-mine some
where or other relieved me of all uneasiness.
I was not far from right. Every man has
within himself a gold-mine whose riches are
limited only by his own industry. It is true, it
sometimes happens that industry does not avail,
if a man lacks that something which, for want
of a better name, we call luck. My father was
a person of untiring energy and ability, but he
had no luck. To use a Rivermouth saying, he
was always catching sculpins when every one
else with the same bait was catching mackerel.
It was more than two years since I had seen
my parents. I felt that I could not bear a
longer separation. Every letter from New
Orleans we got two or three a month gave
me a fit of homesickness ; and when it was
definitely settled that my father and mother
were to remain in the South another twelve
month, I resolved to go to them.
Since Binny Wallace s death, Pepper Whit-
comb had been my fidus Achates ; we occupied
desks near each other at school, and were
always together in play hours. We rigged a
twine telegraph from his garret window to the
176 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
scuttle of the Nutter House, and sent messages
to each other in a match-box. We shared our
pocket-money and our secrets those amazing
secrets which boys have. We met in lonely
places by stealth, and parted like conspirators ;
we could not buy a jackknife or build a kite
without throwing an air of mystery and guilt
over the transaction.
I naturally hastened to lay my New Orleans
project before Pepper Whitcomb, having
dragged him for that purpose to a secluded
spot in the dark pine woods outside the town.
Pepper listened to me with a gravity which he
will not be able to surpass when he becomes
Chief Justice, and strongly advised me to go.
" The summer vacation," said Pepper, "lasts
six weeks ; that will give you a fortnight to
spend in New Orleans, allowing two weeks
each way for the journey."
I wrung his hand and begged him to accom
pany me, offering to defray all the expenses.
I was nothing if I was not princely in those
days. After considerable urging, he consented
to go on terms so liberal. The whole thing
was arranged ; there was nothing to do now but
to advise Captain Nutter of my plan, which I
did the next day.
The possibility that he might oppose the
tour never entered my head. I was therefore
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 177
totally unprepared for the vigorous nega
tive which met my proposal. I was deeply
mortified, moreover, for there was Pepper
Whitcomb on the wharf, at the foot of the
street, waiting for me to come and let him
know what day we were to start.
" Go to New Orleans ? Go to Jericho ! " ex
claimed Captain Nutter. " You d look pretty,
you two, philandering off, like the babes in the
wood, twenty-five hundred miles, * with all the
world before you where to choose ! "
And the Captain s features, which had worn
an indignant air as he began the sentence,
relaxed into a broad smile. Whether it was
at the felicity of his own quotation, or at the
mental picture he drew of Pepper and myself
on our travels, I could not tell, and little cared.
I was heart-broken. How could I face my
chum after all the dazzling inducements I had
held out to him ?
My grandfather, seeing that I took the mat
ter seriously, pointed out the difficulties of
such a journey and the great expense involved.
He entered into the details of my father s
money troubles, and succeeded in making it
plain to me that my wishes, under the circum
stances, were somewhat unreasonable. It was
in no cheerful mood that I joined Pepper at
the end of the wharf.
i;8 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
I found that young gentleman leaning against
the bulkhead gazing intently towards the
islands in the harbor. He had formed a tele
scope of his hands, and was so occupied with
his observations as to be oblivious of my
" Hullo ! " cried Pepper, dropping his hands.
" Look there ! is n t that a bark coming up the
Narrows ? "
" Where ? "
" Just at the left of Fishcrate Island. Don t
you see the mainmast peeping above the old
Sure enough, it was a vessel of considerable
size, slowly beating up to town. In a few mo
ments more the other two masts were visible
above the green hillocks.
" Fore-topmasts blown away," said Pepper.
" Putting in for repairs, I guess."
As the bark lazily crept from behind the
last of the islands, she let go her anchors and
swung round with the tide. Then the gleeful
chant of the sailors at the capstan came to us
pleasantly across the water. The vessel lay
within three quarters of a mile of us, and we
could plainly see the men at the davits lowering
the starboard long-boat. It no sooner touched
the stream than a dozen of the crew scrambled
like mice over the side of the merchantman.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 179
In a neglected seaport like Rivermouth the
arrival of a large ship is an event of moment.
The prospect of having twenty or thirty jolly
tars let loose on the peaceful town excites
divers emotions among the inhabitants. The
small shopkeepers along the wharves antici
pate a thriving trade ; the proprietors of the
two rival boarding-houses The Wee Drop
and The Sailor s Rest hasten down to the
landing to secure lodgers ; and the female
population of Anchor Lane turn out to a wo
man, for a ship fresh from sea is always full
of possible husbands and long-lost prodigal
But aside from this there is scant welcome
given to a ship s crew in Rivermouth. The
toil-worn mariner is a sad fellow ashore, judg
ing him by a severe moral standard.
Once, I remember, a United States frigate
came into port for repairs after a storm. She
lay in the river a fortnight or more, and every
day sent us a gang of sixty or seventy of our
country s gallant defenders, who spread them
selves over the town, doing all sorts of mad
things. They were good-natured enough, but
full of old Sancho. The Wee Drop proved a
drop too much for many of them. They went
singing through the streets at midnight, wring
ing off door-knockers, shinning up water-spouts,
i8o THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
and frightening the Oldest Inhabitant nearly
to death by popping their heads into his sec
ond-story window, and shouting " Fire ! " One
morning a blue -jacket was discovered in a
perilous plight, halfway up the steeple of the
South Church, clinging to the lightning-rod.
How he got there nobody could tell, not even
blue-jacket himself. All he knew was, that
the leg of his trousers had caught on a nail,
and there he stuck, unable to move either way.
It cost the town five or six dollars to get him
down again. He directed the workmen how
to splice the ladders brought to his assistance,
and called his rescuers " butter-fingered land
lubbers " with delicious coolness.
But those were man-of-war s men. The
sedate-looking craft now lying off Fishcrate
Island was not likely to carry any such lively
cargo. Nevertheless, we watched the com
ing in of the long-boat with considerable in
As it drew near, the figure of the man pull
ing the bow-oar seemed oddly familiar to me.
Where could I have seen him before ? When
and where ? His back was towards me, but
there was something about that closely cropped
head that I recognized instantly.
" Way enough ! " cried the steersman, and
all the oars stood upright in the air. The man
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 181
in the bow seized the boat-hook, and, turning
round quickly, showed me the honest face of
Sailor Ben of the Typhoon.
" It s Sailor Ben ! " I cried, nearly pushing
Pepper Whitcomb overboard in my excite
Sailor Ben, with the wonderful pink lady on
his arm, and the ships and stars and anchors
tattooed all over him, was a well-known hero
among my playmates. And there he was, like
something in a dream come true !
I did not wait for my old acquaintance to
get firmly on the wharf, before I grasped his
hand in both of mine.
" Sailor Ben, don t you remember me ? "
He evidently did not. He shifted his quid
from one cheek to the other, and looked at me
" Lord love ye, lad, I don t know you. I
was never here afore in my life."
" What ! " I cried, enjoying his perplexity,
"have you forgotten the voyage from New
Orleans in the Typhoon, two years ago, you
lovely old picture-book ? "
Ah ! then he knew me, and in token of the
recollection gave my hand such a squeeze that
I am sure an unpleasant change came over my
" Bless my eyes, but you have growed ! I
182 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
should n t have knowed you if I had met you
in Singapore ! "
Without stopping to inquire, as I was tempted
to do, why he was more likely to recognize me
in Singapore than anywhere else, I invited him
to come at once up to the Nutter House, where
I insured him a warm welcome from the Cap
"Hold steady, Master Tom," said Sailor
Ben, slipping the painter through the ring-bolt
and tying the loveliest knot you ever saw;
" hold steady till I see if the mate can let me
off. If you please, sir," he continued, address
ing the steersman, a very red-faced, bow-legged
person, " this here is a little shipmate o mine
as wants to talk over back times along of me,
if so it s convenient."
"All right, Ben," returned the mate; "sha n t
want you for an hour."
Leaving one man in charge of the boat, the
mate and the rest of the crew went off together.
In the meanwhile Pepper Whitcomb had got
out his cunner line, and was quietly fishing at
the end of the wharf, as if to give me the idea
that he was not very much impressed by my
intimacy with so renowned a character as Sailor
Ben. Perhaps Pepper was a little jealous. At
any rate, he refused to go with us to the
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 183
Captain Nutter was at home reading the
Rivermouth Barnacle. He was a reader to do
an editor s heart good ; he never skipped over
an advertisement, even if he had read it fifty
times before. Then the paper went the rounds
of the neighborhood, among the poor people,
like the single portable eye which the three
blind crones passed to one another in the le
gend of King Acrisius. The Captain, I repeat,
was wandering in the labyrinths of the River-
mouth Barnacle when I led Sailor Ben into the
My grandfather, whose inborn courtesy knew
no distinctions, received my nautical friend as
if he had been an admiral instead of a common
forecastle-hand. Sailor Ben pulled an imagi
nary tuft of hair on his forehead, and bowed
clumsily. Sailors have a way of using their
forelock as a sort of handle to bow with.
The old tar had probably never been in so
handsome an apartment in all his days, and
nothing could induce him to take the inviting
mahogany chair which the Captain wheeled out
from the corner.
The abashed mariner stood up against the
wall, twirling his tarpaulin in his two hands
and looking extremely silly. He made a poor
show in a gentleman s drawing-room, but what
a fellow he had been in his day, when the gale
1 84 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
blew great guns and the topsails wanted reef
ing ! I thought of him with the Mexican squad
ron off Vera Cruz, where
" The rushing battle-bolt sung from the three-decker out of
and he did not seem awkward or ignoble to me,
for all his shyness.
As Sailor Ben declined to sit down, the Cap
tain did not resume his seat ; so we three stood
in a constrained manner until my grandfather
went to the door and called to Kitty to bring
in a decanter of madeira and two glasses.
"My grandson, here, has talked so much
about you," said the Captain pleasantly, " that
you seem quite like an old acquaintance to
" Thankee, sir, thankee," returned Sailor
Ben, looking as guilty as if he had been de
tected in picking a pocket.
" And I m very glad to see you, Mr.
" Watson Benjamin Watson."
" Mr. Watson," added the Captain. " Tom,
open the door, there s Kitty with the glasses."
I opened the door, and Kitty entered the
room bringing the things on a waiter, which
she was about to set on the table, when sud
denly she uttered a loud shriek ; the decanter
and glasses fell with a crash to the floor, and
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 185
Kitty, as white as a sheet, was seen flying
through the hall.
" It s his wraith ! It s his wraith l ! " we
heard Kitty shrieking, in the kitchen.
My grandfather and I turned with amazement
to Sailor Ben. His eyes were standing out of
his head like a lobster s.
" It s my own little Irish lass ! " shouted the
sailor, and he darted into the hall after her.
Even then we scarcely caught the meaning
of his words, but when we saw Watson and
Kitty sobbing on each other s shoulder in the
kitchen, we understood it all.
" I begs your honor s parden, sir," he said,
lifting his tear-stained face above Kitty s tum
bled hair; "I begs your honor s parden for
kicking up a rumpus in the house, but it s my
own little Irish lass as I lost so long ago ! "
" Heaven preserve us ! " cried the Captain,
blowing his nose violently a transparent ruse
to hide his emotion.
Miss Abigail was in an upper chamber,
sweeping ; but on hearing the unusual racket
below, she scented an accident and came am
bling down-stairs with a bottle of the infallible
hot-drops in her hand. Nothing but the firm
ness of my grandfather prevented her from
giving Sailor Ben a tablespoonful on the spot.
1 Ghost, spirit.
186 THE STORY OF A BAD BOY
But when she learned what had come about
that this was Kitty s husband, that Kitty
Collins was not Kitty Collins now, but Mrs.
Benjamin Watson, of Nantucket the good
soul sat down on the meal-chest and sobbed as
if to quote from Captain Nutter as if a
husband of her own had turned up !
A happier set of persons than we were never
met together in a dingy kitchen or anywhere
else. The Captain ordered a fresh decanter
of madeira, and made all hands, excepting my
self, drink a cup to the return of " the prodigal
sea-son," as he called Sailor Ben.
After the first flush of joy and surprise was
over, Kitty grew silent and constrained. Now
and then she fixed her eyes thoughtfully on
her husband. Why had he deserted her all
these long years ? What right had he to look
for a welcome from one he had treated so
cruelly ? She had been true to him, but had
he been true to her ? Sailor Ben must have
guessed what was passing in her mind, for
presently he took her hand and said
" Well, lass, it s a long yarn, but you shall
have it all in good time. It was my hard luck
as made us part company, an no will of mine,
for I loved you dear."
Kitty brightened up immediately, needing
no other assurance of Sailor Ben s faithfulness.
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 187
When his hour had expired, we walked with
him down to the wharf, where the Captain held
a consultation with the mate, which resulted
in an extension of Mr. Watson s leave of
absence, and afterwards in his discharge from
his ship. We then went to The Sailor s Rest
to engage a room for him, as he would not
hear of accepting the hospitalities of the Nut
" You see, I m only an uneddicated man,"
he remarked to my grandfather, by way of
IN WHICH SAILOR BEN SPINS A YARN
OF course we were all very curious to learn
what had befallen Sailor Ben that morning
long ago, when he bade his little bride good-by
and disappeared so mysteriously.
After tea, that same evening, we assembled
around the table in the kitchen the only
place where Sailor Ben felt at home to hear
what he had to say for himself.
The candles were snuffed, and a pitcher of
foaming nut-brown ale was set at the elbow of
the speaker, who was evidently embarrassed
by the respectability of his audience, consisting
of Captain Nutter, Miss Abigail, myself, and
Kitty, whose face shone with happiness like
one of the polished tin platters on the dresser.
" Well, my hearties," commenced Sailor
Ben then he stopped short and turned very
red, as it struck him that may be this was not
quite the proper way to address a dignitary
like the Captain and a severe elderly lady like
Miss Abigail Nutter, who sat bolt upright
THE STORY OF A BAD BOY 189
staring at him as she would have stared at the