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首页 » 儿童英文小说 » A Year in a Yawl » CHAPTER II THE LAUNCHING OF THE BOAT
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“You shall be my mate, Arthur,” said Kenneth, who from that time his friends were apt to call Cap. “You spoke first, but to show that there is no partiality, Frank shall be navigator and Clyde chief-quartermaster.”

“No, I’d rather be the crew,” Frank protested; “that would be more exclusive and less responsible.”

“I’ll vote to be cook: then I’ll have you all in my power,” and Clyde pointed exultingly at the other three.

“Well, none of you can be anything for a good while yet. Come and look at the boat.” All four started toward the shop. “I tell you what, you can all be ship-carpenters, shipwrights, riggers, fitters, caulkers, and generally hard hustlers for a couple of months before we graduate to our high positions,” and Ransom led on to their “Argo.”

After going over the plans of the boat together, and talking of all the pleasures and dangers in prospect, the four separated; Frank, Arthur, and Clyde going to tell their people and ask their permission to join the expedition, an ordeal which they dreaded with all their hearts. Kenneth lingered a while to think over the happy outcome of his afternoon’s talk, and to plan anew his building, for from now on he had efficient assistants. He felt for the first time that his would be a great responsibility; for if anything happened to any of his friends he would be to blame.

The thoughtful mood soon wore off, however, and when he locked up the shop, and went into the house, he was radiant with pleasure.

“Father! Arthur, Clyde, and Frank said that they would go with me.” Kenneth burst into the room with his news.

“That’s good,” was his father’s reply. “If the Morrows and Chauvets will let their sons go, that is, of course——”

“But you will speak a good word for me, won’t you, father?” Kenneth smiled at him confidently.

“Ye-e-es, if you think you must go.” The elder Ransom looked at his son rather sadly.

“Why, of course. I thought that it was all settled. Is anything the matter? What is it?” Kenneth was excited and worried; the possibility of a final refusal from his father had never occurred to him.

“Wait a minute, son.” Mr. Ransom pulled his boy down on the arm of his big leather easy chair. “The fact is, your mother and I have been talking over this projected cruise of yours, and—though you may not realize it—it is hard for us to have you, our youngest and last, go away upon so long and dangerous a trip.” He stopped for a moment and looked into the boy’s fast saddening face. “We promised that you should go, and go you shall, if you insist, but you are pretty young to undertake such a journey, and your mother and I thought that you might give it up for a while. We knew that you would be disappointed”—the father held up his hand to check the words which were just ready to pour out of the boy’s mouth—“and so we thought that we would try to make it up to you in some other way. If you will be willing to give up your project for a while, at least, your mother and I have decided to deed over this house and place to you, and your assigns, forever,” and he smiled at the legal phrase.

“Give me the house and grounds if I don’t go? Father, what can I say? I thank you awfully, but I would like to think it over a bit before I answer. It is rather sudden.” The boy grabbed his father’s hand, and then went upstairs to his own room.

He was touched, and very grateful, but grievously disappointed. He had set his heart on the trip, had persuaded his friends to go with him, and now he must give it all up. What seemed hardest of all, was that he would have to tell his companions that the whole thing was off. The photographs of boats that lined the walls of the room, and the plan of his own boat, laid out on the table, seemed a mockery to him. “Well, I won’t take the house any way,” he said to himself. “If they want me to stay as badly as that, I won’t go, of course; but——”

A minute or two later he came into the room where his father and mother were sitting reading.

“I’ll stay,” he said, standing before them. “I didn’t know you wanted me to, so much; but I can’t take the house; I don’t want to be paid to stay—but you’re terribly good to me.”

It was hard to give up gracefully, and he dropped rather dejectedly into a chair.

“By George, mother!” Mr. Ransom said to his wife, “that boy is the right sort, and I think that we ought not to spoil his chance. I vote we let him go.”

Kenneth looked eagerly at his mother. She said nothing, but he read plainly in her face that though she feared to let him take the voyage, she would not refuse his wish.

He could not say a word; but he had to go out, unlock the door of his shop, and tell his boat confidentially what bricks his father and mother were. He just had to tell something.

The next morning the other three boys came with long faces and disgruntled tempers. Their parents, one and all, were against the trip, and declared that Kenneth’s father and mother were crazy to let him go on such a journey.

Kenneth said nothing of his experience of the night before, but felt absolutely sure now of his parents’ backing and encouragement.

“Don’t you give up like that, fellows,” he said cheerfully, slapping his mate-to-be on his shoulder, to stir him up. “If you don’t have confidence yourself, how can you expect other people to believe in you and the success of the trip?”

“But—” began Frank.

“Bear a hand with this stick, will you?” Kenneth interrupted.

“Arthur, open that trap at the end of the steam-box, please. That’s it—in she goes!” With a will, Frank and Kenneth pushed the long plank into the box.

“A few more of those, and the body of the boat will be complete. But there’s a lot more to be done, and we’ve got to keep at it.” Ransom stopped, went to a far corner, and poked among some old boards; he finally picked out one, and showed it to the boys.

“I move that we make this our motto. All those in favor will signify as much by saying ‘aye.’”

Four “aye’s” rang out vigorously.

“Contrary minded will signify by saying ‘no.’

“It is moved and carried, that this shall be our motto, and we’ll nail our colors to the—the—woodshed.”

“Hear! Hear!” laughed the three at the end of Ken’s speech; but when he nailed up the board bearing this motto in clear letters:

there was a cheer that cleared the air amazingly, and chased away the gloom that had bid fair to settle over the company.

“I believe that my father will be able to convince your people that our trip is feasible,” said Kenneth from his place on top of a ladder. “Anyhow, let’s get to work. For ‘keeping everlastingly at it brings success.’” Soon all the noises the young shipbuilders made seemed to voice that motto.

It was a long time before the three got permission to go, but their evident determination, and their continual “keeping at it,” aided by Mr. Ransom’s support, finally brought success. All this time the four worked like beavers. The planking was completed, the cabin laid out and built, the deck laid, and the cockpit floored.

“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” Kenneth exclaimed one day. “I never thought—how are we going to get her down to the water?”

Immediately the noise of hammer and saw, the dull clap of wood, and the sharp ring of iron ceased, and all four stood open-mouthed, speechless.

“Why, it’s a good three-quarters of a mile to the nearest water,” gasped Frank.

“And think of that hill down to the ravine between,” added Clyde.

“She must weigh three tons,” wailed Arthur.

“Oh, I guess Johnson, the house mover, will do it,” Kenneth suggested. “Let’s go and see him.” But Johnson wanted a prohibitive price for moving the boat to the launching ways, so the crew decided to tackle the job themselves.

Then the trouble began. The sides of the shop had to come down to allow the yawl to be moved out, and a truck had to be built that would safely bear the great weight.

Despite all, however, the boat was finally loaded, and under the eyes of all the townspeople who could get away from their work, the first stage of their journey began.

All went well for a time. A sturdy team was hitched to the wheeled truck, and the progress over the first part of the smooth, level road was easy. Passers-by were apt to quote passages about “sailing the raging meadows,” and about young tars who preferred to do their sailing ashore. But Ransom and his friends were good-natured and too busy to heed anything but the overland trip of their precious craft.

When the brink of the hill leading down to the ravine was reached, the team was stopped and a consultation was held. The slope was almost thirty degrees, and a bridge at the bottom had to be passed slowly, or the great weight might go through the planking.

“Make her fast to that tree,” suggested Arthur, “with a block and fall, and pay out gradually till she gets to the bottom; then reverse the operation and make fast in front, hitch the team to the line and haul up.”

“Great head, Art! We’ll do it.” And Ken started back to the shop for the block and fall.

The road curved just before descending to the ravine, and a big tree grew in the bend. A line made fast to it would lead straight down. It was most advantageously placed. A sling was put around the tree, and another was run about the boat herself just below the rail. To each of these a block was attached. The captain went over each rope carefully to see that all was right, tight, and strong. Frank drove the horses, which were to back with all their might; Clyde watched the boat herself; while Kenneth and Arthur tended the line, and stood prepared to pay out slowly.

“Let her go; slowly now, e-e-e-asy!” yelled Ransom to Frank with the team.

Kenneth and Arthur took in the slack, and braced against the strain. The horses began to move slowly and the truck slid gradually over the crest of the hill; the line tightened and the blocks clucked sleepily under the strain.

“Go e-e-e-asy!” yelled Ransom.

The truck was going faster; he and Arthur could hardly hold it back.

“Easy there; pull up, Frank.” The horses were straining back with all their might, but the weight of the boat was pushing them on faster than they wanted to go.

“Stop, Frank! She’s running away!”

But there was no stopping her from before—the horses were fairly off their feet. The running line was beginning to burn Kenneth’s and Arthur’s hands. She was running away, sure enough, and to certain destruction if she was not stopped at once.

Frank’s face was pale and anxious as he shouted and strained back on the reins, trying to stop his team; Clyde, utterly impotent, ran from side to side, looking in vain for a stick or log with which to check the wheels. Kenneth and Arthur clung desperately to the line, which, in spite of all, they could not control.

The speed of the boat was certainly growing faster and faster every second. The work of months and the means of a glorious trip was going to destruction.

“Here, Arthur, quick! I’ll try to hold, while you take a double turn round that other tree—quick—quick!&rdqu