John Haynes found the time hang heavily upon his hand after his withdrawal from the boys' volunteer company. All the boys with whom he had been accustomed to associate belonged to it, and in their interest could talk of nothing else. To him, on the contrary, it was a disagreeable subject. In the pleasant spring days the company came out twice a week, and went through company drill on the Common, under the command of Frank, or Captain Frost, as he was now called.
Had Frank shown himself incompetent, and made himself ridiculous by blunders, it would have afforded John satisfaction. But Frank, thorough in all things, had so carefully prepared himself for his duties that he never made a mistake, and always acquitted himself so creditably and with such entire self-possession, that his praises were in every mouth.
Dick Bumstead, too, manifested an ambition to fill his second lieutenancy, to which, so much to his own surprise, he had been elected, in such a manner as to justify the company in their choice. In this he fully succeeded. He had become quite a different boy from what he was when we first made his acquaintance. He had learned to respect himself, and perceived with great satisfaction that he was generally respected by the boys. He no longer attempted to shirk his work in the shop, and his father now spoke of him with complacency, instead of complaint as formerly.
"Yes," said he one day, "Dick's a good boy. He was always smart, but rather fly-a-way. I couldn't place any dependence upon him once, but it is not so now. I couldn't wish for a better boy. I don't know what has come over him, but I hope it'll last."
Dick happened to overhear his father speaking thus to a neighbor, and he only determined, with a commendable feeling of pride, that the change that had given his father so much pleasure should last. It does a boy good to know that his efforts are appreciated. In this case it had a happy effect upon Dick, who, I am glad to say, kept his resolution.
It has been mentioned that John was the possessor of a boat. Finding one great source of amusement cut off, and being left very much to himself, he fell back upon this, and nearly every pleasant afternoon he might be seen rowing on the river above the dam. He was obliged to confine himself to this part of the river, since, in the part below the dam, the water was too shallow.
There is one great drawback, however, upon the pleasure of owning a rowboat. It is tiresome to row single-handed after a time. So John found it, and, not being overfond of active exertion, he was beginning to get weary of this kind of amusement when all at once a new plan was suggested to him. This was, to rig up a mast and sail, and thus obviate the necessity of rowing.
No sooner had this plan suggested itself than he hastened to put it into execution. His boat was large enough to bear a small mast, so there was no difficulty on that head. He engaged the village carpenter to effect the desired change. He did not choose to consult his father on the subject, fearing that he might make some objection either on score of safety or expense, while he had made up his mind to have his own way.
When it was finished, and the boat with its slender mast and white sail floated gently on the, quiet bosom of the stream, John's satisfaction was unbounded.
"You've got a pretty boat," said Mr. Plane, the carpenter. "I suppose you know how to manage it?" he added inquiringly.
"Yes," answered John carelessly, "I've been in a sailboat before to-day."
Mr. Plane's doubts were set at rest by John's confident manner, and he suppressed the caution which he had intended to give him. It made little difference, however, for John was headstrong, and would have been pretty certain to disregard whatever he might say.
It was true that this was not the first time John had been in a sailboat; but if not the first, it was only the second. The first occasion had been three years previous, and at that time he had had nothing to do with the management of the boat--a very important matter. It was in John's nature to be over-confident, and he thought he understood merely from observation exactly how a boat ought to be managed. As we shall see, he found out his mistake.
The first day after his boat was ready John was greatly disappointed that there was no wind. The next day, as if to make up for it, the wind was very strong. Had John possessed a particle of prudence he would have seen that it was no day to venture out in a sailboat. But he was not in the habit of curbing his impatience, and he determined that he would not wait till another day. He declared that it was a mere "capful of wind," and would be all the better for the purpose.
"It's a tip-top wind. Won't it make my boat scud," he said to himself exultantly, as be took his place, and pushed off from shore.
Henry Morton had been out on a walk, and from the summit of a little hill near the river-bank espied John pushing off in his boat.
"He'll be sure to capsize," thought the young man in alarm. "Even if he is used to a sailboat he is very imprudent to put out in such a wind; I will hurry down and save him if I can."
He hurried to the bank of the river, reaching it out of breath.
John was by this time some distance out. The wind had carried him along finely, the boat scudding, as he expressed it. He was congratulating himself on the success of his trial trip, when all at once a flaw struck the boat. Not being a skillful boatman he was wholly unprepared for it, and the boat upset.
Struggling in terror and confusion, John struck out for the shore. But he was not much of a swimmer, and the suddenness of the accident had unnerved him, and deprived him of his self-possession. The current of the river was rapid, and he would inevitably have drowned but for the opportune assistance of Mr. Morton.
The young man had no sooner seen the boat capsize, than he flung off his coat and boots, and, plunging into the river, swam vigorously toward the imperiled boy.
Luckily for John, Mr. Morton was, though of slight frame, muscular, and an admirable swimmer. He reached him just as John's strokes were becoming feebler and feebler; he was about to give up his unequal struggle with the waves.
"Take hold of me," he said. "Have courage, and I will save you."
John seized him with the firm grip of a drowning person, and nearly prevented him from striking out. But Mr. Morton's strength served him in good stead; and, notwithstanding the heavy burden, he succeeded in reaching the bank in safety, though with much exhaustion.
John no sooner reached the bank than he fainted away. The great danger which he had just escaped, added to his own efforts, had proved too much for him.
Mr. Morton, fortunately knew how to act in such emergencies. By the use of the proper remedies, he was fortunately brought to himself, and his preserver offered to accompany him home. John still felt giddy, and was glad to accept Mr. Morton's offer. He knew that his father would be angry with him for having the boat fitted up without his knowledge, especially as he had directed Mr. Plane to charge it to his father's account. Supposing that Squire Haynes approved, the carpenter made no objections to doing so. But even the apprehension of his father's anger was swallowed up by the thought of the great peril from which he had just escaped, and the discomfort of the wet clothes which he had on.
Mr. Morton, too, was completely wet through, with the exception of his coat, and but for John's apparent inability to go home alone, would at once have returned to his boarding-house to exchange his wet clothes for dry ones.
It so happened that Squire Haynes was sitting at a front window, and saw Mr. Morton and his son as they entered the gate and came up the graveled walk. He had never met Mr. Morton, and was surprised now at seeing him in John's company. He had conceived a feeling of dislike to the young man, for which he could not account, while at the same time he felt a strong curiosity to know more of him.
When they came nearer, he perceived the drenched garments, and went to the door himself to admit them.
"What's the matter, John?" he demanded hastily, with a contraction of the eyebrows.
"I'm wet!" said John shortly.
"It is easy to see that. But how came you so wet?"
"I've been in the river," answered John, who did not seem disposed to volunteer any particulars of his adventure.
"How came you there?"
"Your son's boat capsized," explained Mr. Morton; "and, as you will judge from my appearance, I jumped in after him. I should advise him to change his clothing, or he will be likely to take cold."
Squire Haynes looked puzzled.
"I don't see how a large rowboat like his could capsize," he said; "he must have been very careless."
"It was a sailboat," explained John, rather reluctantly.
"A sailboat! Whose?"
"I don't understand at all."
"I had a mast put in, and a sail rigged up, two or three days since," said John, compelled at last to explain.
"Why did you do this without my permission?" demanded the squire angrily.
"Perhaps," said Mr. Morton quietly, "it will be better to postpone inquiries until your son has changed his clothes.
Squire Haynes, though somewhat irritated by this interference, bethought himself that it would be churlish not to thank his son's preserver.
"I am indebted to you, sir," he said, "for your agency in saving the life of this rash boy. I regret that you should have got wet."
"I shall probably experience nothing more than temporary inconvenience."
"You have been some months in the village, I believe, Mr. Morton. I trust you will call at an early day, and enable me to follow up the chance which has made us acquainted."
"I seldom make calls," said Mr. Morton, in a distant tone. "Yet," added he, after a pause, "I may have occasion to accept your invitation some day. Good morning, sir."
"Good morning," returned the squire, looking after him with an expression of perplexity.
"He boards at the Frosts', doesn't he, John?" asked Squire Haynes, turning to his son.
"There's something in his face that seems familiar," mused the squire absently. "He reminds me of somebody, though I can't recall who."
It was not long before the squire's memory was refreshed, and he obtained clearer information respecting the young man, and the errand which had brought him to Rossville. When that information came, it was so far from pleasing that he would willingly have postponed it indefinitely.