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Chapter 25
Discussing the Situation.—By Land or by Sea.—Conferences with Bennie.—The Offer of Bennie.—The last Meal at Scoffs Bay.—The Boat is on the Shore, and the Bark is on the Sea.—Last Words of Solomon, and Farewell Speech of the Ancient Mariner.

ON reaching the shore they found it necessary to take into consideration the course of action that was now most advisable.

“We’ve got a few weeks yet of vacation, boys,” said Bart, “and if we want to enjoy ourselves, we’d better get out of this as fast as possible.”

“We ought, at any rate, to write to our fathers and mothers,” said Phil; “I don’t know what they’ll think.”

“Write!” said Bruce; “we’d better hurry off home our own selves, and not send letters. For my part, I’m ready to start off this evening for Grand Pr茅.”

“Grand Pr茅? But why Grand Pr茅?” asked Arthur. “O, I don’t know,” said Bruce: “what other way is there to go? We’ll have to get away from this, of course; and it seems most natural to cross the mountain to Grand Pr茅, and then go on by stage. Bart could leave us at Windsor, and take the steamer for St. John.”

“Sure an the stage goes the other way altogether,” said Pat.

“How’s that?”

“Why, down the valley to Annapolis; an the steamer starts from that to St. John, so it does; an’ it’s twice as near, so it is.”

“No, it isn’t.”.

“Yes, it is. St. John is only sixty mile from Annapolis, and it’s more’n a hundred an twinty from Windsor.”

“But Annapolis is seventy or eighty miles from this place, and Windsor’s only thirty.”

“At any rate, it’s easier goin by the way of Annapolis.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is; you go down the valley, so you do, an the other way you have to go up.”

“Pooh! nonsense! The Annapolis valley isn’t a hill. The fact is, from here to St. John it’s easier to go by the way of Windsor.”

“It’s further thin—.”

“Yes,” said Phil, “it’s a hundred and fifty miles by the way of Windsor, and only a hundred and forty-seven by the way of Annapolis.”

“For my part,” said Bart, “I don’t fancy either way. What’s the use of talking about a hundred and fifty miles, when you need only go half that distance?”

“Half that distance? How?”

“Why, across the bay.”

“Across the bay? O! Why, that completely alters the case,” said Bruce.

“Of course.”

“Sure, but how can we go on fut across the bay? or by stage?” objected Pat.

“There don’t seem to be any schooner here,” said Arthur, looking all around.

All the others did the same, searching narrowly the whole line of coast. Nothing, however, was visible of the nature of a vessel. Boats there were, however, in plenty, quite commodious too, but none of them sufficiently large to take them so far as St. John.

“I’m afraid, Bart, your idea of getting to St. John by water won’t do,” said Bruce. “You’d better make up your mind to come along with us.”

“O, I’ll go, of course, along with you; we must stick together as long as we can; but we must settle, first of all, which is the best way to go. You’ll find it most convenient to come to St. John. You can go from there up the bay, and then go over to Prince Edward Island, easier than by any other route.”

“Well, I don’t know but that we can, at least as easy as any other way, and so I’ve no objection; but won’t it be best to go to Windsor, or, if you prefer it, to Annapolis?”

“Well, let’s find out, first of all, whether there is any chance of going by a more direct way. Old Bennie can tell us all about it.”

“Yes, yes,” said Tom, who had thus far taken no part in the discussion, “let’s ask old Bennie; he can tell us what’s best to do.”

With these words the boys walked on faster towards where old Bennie was sauntering about with Captain Corbet and Solomon. At the first mention of their wish Bennie energetically refused to say anything about it.

“You’ve got to stay here, boys—you’ve got to, you know; an thar’s no use talkin, an that’s all about it—thar now.”

This the good Bennie said over and over again, persisting in it most obstinately. At length Bart managed to secure his attention long enough to convey to him an idea of the circumstances in which they were, and especially the regard which they had for their respective parents. At the mention of this Bennie’s obstinacy gave away.

“Wal, thar,” boys, said he, “that thar does knock me, an I give up. The fact is, when I regard you, and think on what you’ve ben a doin on, an how you’ve ben adoin of it, an what sort of a craft you’ve ben a navigatin in, I feel as though the parients an guardins of sech as youns had ort to be pitied.”

In fact, Bennie’s commiseration for these anxious parents was so great that he changed his tactics at once, and instead of trying to keep the boys with him, he exhibited the utmost eagerness to hasten their departure.

“You can’t go straight off to St. John, boys, from this place, for there ain’t a schooner in jest now; but there’s a way of goin that’ll take you to that place faster, mebbe, than you could go if you went direct in a sailin craft. It’s to get off to the nighest place where the steamer touches.”

“What’s that?”

“Parrsboro’.”

“Parrsboro’? and how far is it?”

“O, only a few miles; it’s only jest round thar;” and Bennie swung his arm round over towards the right, indicating a vast extent of the earth’s surface.

“O, we all know Parrsboro’ perfectly well,” said Bart; “but when can we catch the steamer there?”

“Why, to-morrow, some time, at about half tide. The steamer comes up to-night, and goes down tomorrow. So, if you go to Parrsboro’ an take the steamer thar, you’ll be able to be in St. John quicker than if you went any other way.”

This intelligence at once settled the question completely. They all saw that to go by land part of the way would take up much longer time. Parrsboro’ was so near that it needed only to be mentioned for them all to adopt at once this plan. The only question now remaining was how to get there.

“Wal, there ain’t no trouble about that,” said Bennie. “Thar’s my boat—a nice, clean, roomy one; and I’ll engage to put you over in Parrsboro’ quick sticks. ’Tain’t big enough, quite, to take you to St. John; not because she couldn’t go there, for I’d a precious sight sooner cross the bay—yes, or the Atlantic Ocean—in her than in that old Antelope; but because she hain’t got good sleepin accommodations in case we was to be delayed, as would be very probable. She’s ony an open boat—a beautiful one for sailin in by day, an in fine weather, but not overly good for long vyges for reasons above mentioned, as you’ll observe, young gentlemen.”

“And can we get over there to-day?”

“Wal, let me see. The tide’s a leetle agin us, but bein as you’re anxious, I don’t know but what we might do it. There ain’t much wind about, an we may have to pull a bit; but we’ll do what we can, an then, you know, we’ve got all night afore us. Even at the wust we’re sure to get to Parrs-boro’ before the steamer doos; for if the tide’s too much for us we can wait till it turns, and then go up with the flood. An so, if you’re bound to be off, why, here am I, in good order and condition, an at your service.”

Bennie now led the way to his boat, which was drawn up on the beach. It was an open fishing boat of large size, with one mast and sail. It was, as Bennie had said, quite clean and comfortable, and afforded a very pleasant mode of dropping over to the Parrsboro’ shore. Having once seen the boat, the boys were now all eager to be off. Bennie, however, insisted on their taking their dinner before starting. This they all consented to do very readily. The dinner was almost ready, and Bennie prepared for the voyage, which preparation consisted chiefly in moving the boat down over the beach to the water, which was some distance away.

Then followed the dinner, which was served up in the usual sumptuous style peculiar to Mrs. Bennie, After this followed a kindly farewell to their motherly hostess, and the boys followed Bennie to the beach, accompanied by the venerable Corbet and the aged Solomon.

It had been no slight task to move the heavy boat from the place where she had been lying all the way down to the water, for the tide was quite low, and the space intervening was considerable; but Bennie had accomplished the task with the help of some of his neighbors, and the boat now lay so that a slight push might suffice to set her afloat; and inside were some provisions prepared by the forethought of Mrs. Bennie, together with some wraps put there with an eye to some sudden assault of the fog. Everything was, therefore, very well ordered to secure the comfort of the travellers.

On the way to the boat the venerable Corbet and the aged Solomon were silent, and appeared overcome with emotion. This silence was first broken by Solomon.

“Tell ye what, chilen,” said he; “it am drefful hard for a ’fectionate ole nigga like me to hab to undergo dis yer operatium. Can’t stan it, no how; an donno what on erf I’se a gwine to do. Here I ben a romin ober the mighty oceam, feelin like de father an garden ob all of youns; and now it ’mos stracts dis yer ole nigga to tar his sef away. Blest if I ain’t like to break down like a chicken; an I ain’t got nuffin else to do. Darsen’t go on wid you, Mas’r Bart—darsen’t, no how. Braid ob dat ar ole woman wid de gridiron. De aged Solomon hab got to become a pilgrin an awander on de face ob de erf. But I ain’t gwine to wander yet a while; I pose to make a bee-line for de Cad’my. I hab a hope dat de ole ’oman hab not got dar; an if so I be safe, an tany rate de doctor’ll take her in hand—he’s de boy—dat ar’s de identical gemman dat kin overhaul her an teach her her ‘p’s’ an ‘q’s.’ But what you’ll do, chilen, widout me to cook, and to carve, an to car for you, am more dan I can magine. Ony I truss we’m boun to meet agin afore long, an jine in de social band; an so you won’t forgit ole Solomon.”

The boys all shook him warmly by the hand, advising him to go by all means back to the Academy, and put himself at once under the protection of the doctor, who would defend him from all possible dangers arising out of his “ole ’oman.”

The mate, Wade, also received their farewells.

Thus far the venerable Corbet had been a mute spectator; his heart was full; his mind seemed preoccupied; he seemed to follow mechanically. At last he saw the moment come which must once more sever him from them, and with a long breath he began to speak.

“It air seldom, young sirs,” said he, “that I am called on to experience a sensation sich as that which this moment swells this aged boosom; an I feel that this is one of the most mournful moments of my checkered career. Thar’s a sadness, an a depression, an a melancholy, sich as I’ve seldom knowed afore. Tain’t altogether the loss of the friend of my youth. That air passed and gone—‘tis o’er. I’ve met that grief an surmounted him. But it was a sore struggle, and the aged Corbet ain’t the man he once was. Consequently, I’m onmanned; I’m all took aback. It’s this here separation, boys dear, comin as it doos, hard an fast on the heels of the great calamity of the loved and lost Antelope. But it’s got to be.”—He paused and sighed heavily. “Yes,” he continued, pensively, “it’s got to be. You ain’t my sons; you’ve got parients an gardens that’s anxious about you an wants to see you, and no doubt hain’t got that confidence in me which they might have in some. But go you, boys dear, and tell all them parients an gardens that there ain’t a pang, an there ain’t a emotion, an there ain’t a anxiety, an there ain’t a grief that they’ve ever had for any of you that I haven’t had for every one of you. Tell them that there ain’t a tear that they’ve shed over you, but I’ve shed too: an there ain’t a sigh they’ve heaved what I haven’t heaved, and ain’t a groan they’ve groaned that I ain’t groaned too. Tell them that Corbet, with all his faults, loves you still, an that if you run into dangers and trials, thar wan’t a moment when he wouldn’t hev shed his heart’s blood to get you off safe and clear. Don’t let em run away with the idee that I’m a stony-hearted monster that’s ben a endangerin of your lives in divers places. I’m ready to be blamed for carless-ness an ignorance, boys dear, but not for lack of affection. You know it, an I know that you know it, an what I want is for you all to make them know it too. For, boys dear, I’m a father, an I know a father’s heart, an I wouldn’t have the heart of any father made bitter against me.”

How long the venerable navigator would have gone on talking, it is impossible to say; indeed, it seemed now as if, after his long silence, his tongue, having once found voice, had become endowed with perpetual motion, and was ready to wag forever. But Bennie Grigg put on a stopper, and abruptly interrupted.

“All right, all right, my hearty,” said he; “I’ll engage that they’ll do all that; but thar ain’t no time to lose; so tumble in, boys, tumble in, and let’s get off so as to round the pint an take the flood tide as it runs up.”

Upon this the boys all shook hands hurriedly with Captain Corbet, one after another, and then each one “tumbled” into the boat. Captain Corbet, thus suddenly silenced, remained silent as he seized each one’s hand. Then Bennie called upon him and Solomon to help him shove off the boat. Then Bennie jumped in and hoisted the sail. Then the boat moved slowly away, bearing the “B. O. W. C.” and their fortunes.

“Good by, boys,” wailed Captain Corbet.

“Good by,” murmured the aged Solomon.

“Good by! Good by!” cried all the boys.

“We’ll meet soon,” said Captain Corbet.

“O, yes—in a few weeks,” cried Tom.

And so with frequent good bys the boat moved slowly from the beach, and slowly passed over the water till the forms of the aged Solomon and the ancient mariner were gradually lost to view.


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