Robert Coverdale's Struggle - LightNovelOnl.com
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But the materials at his command were by no means of the best. The nails were nearly all rusty, some were snapped off in the middle and his stone did not work with the precision of a regular hammer.
"If it will only hold together till I can get to shore," he thought, "I won't care if it goes to pieces the next minute. It seems a little shaky, though. I must try to find a few more nails. It may increase the strength of it."
There was an end of a beam projecting from the sand, just at his feet.
Robert expected that probably he might by unearthing it find somewhere about it a few nails, and he accordingly commenced operations.
If he had had a shovel or a spade, he could have worked to better advantage, but as it was he was forced to content himself with a large shell which he picked up near the shore.
Soon he had excavated a considerable amount of sand and brought to the surface a considerable part of the buried beam. It was at this point that he felt the shell strike something hard.
"I suppose it is a stone," thought Robert.
And he continued his work with the object of getting it out of the way.
It was not long before the object was exposed to view.
What was Robert's surprise and excitement to find it an ivory portemonnaie, very much soiled and discolored by sea water!
Now, I suppose no one can find a purse or pocketbook without feeling his pulse a little quickened, especially where, as in Robert's case, money is so much needed.
He immediately opened the portemonnaie, and to his great delight found that it contained several gold pieces.
As my readers will feel curious to know the extent of his good luck, I will state definitely the amount of his discovery. There were two gold ten-dollar pieces, two of five, one two-dollar-and-a-half piece and fifty cents in silver. In all there were thirty-three dollars in gold and silver.
Robert's delight may be imagined. If he had felt in luck the day before, when he had been paid two dollars, how much more was he elated by a sum which to him seemed almost a fortune!
"I am glad George didn't take me on board his boat," he reflected. "If he had, I should never have found this money. Now, I don't care if I do stay here all night. Uncle had little idea what service he was doing me when he left me alone on Egg Island."
Though Robert expressed his willingness to spend the night on Egg Island, he soon became eager to get home so that he could exhibit to his aunt the evidence of his extraordinary luck.
He anticipated the joy of the poor woman as she saw assured to her for weeks to come a degree of comfort to which for a long time she had been unaccustomed.
Robert examined his raft once more and resolved to proceed to make it ready for service. It took longer than he anticipated, and it was nearly two hours later before he ventured to launch it. He used a board for a paddle, and on his frail craft he embarked, with a bold heart, for the mainland.
A FRIEND GOES TO THE RESCUE
Leaving Robert for a time, we will accompany George Randolph on his homeward trip.
George did not at all enjoy the plain speaking he had heard from Robert.
The more he thought of it the more his pride was outraged and the more deeply he was incensed.
"The low-lived fellow!" he exclaimed as he was rowing home. "I never heard of such impudence before. He actually seemed to think that I would take as a passenger a common fisherman's boy. I haven't sunk as low as that."
George was brought up to have a high opinion of himself and his position. He really thought that he was made of a different sort of clay than the poor boys with whom he was brought in contact, and his foolish parents encouraged him in this foolish belief.
Probably he would have been very much shocked if it had become known that his own grandfather was an honest mechanic, who was compelled to live in a very humble way.
George chose to forget this or to keep it out of sight, as it might have embarrassed him when he was making his high social pretensions.
Falsely trained as he had been, and with a strong tendency to selfishness, George had no difficulty in persuading himself that he had done exactly right in rebuking the forwardness of his humble acquaintance.
"He isn't fit to associate with a gentleman," he said to himself. "What business is it of mine that he has to stay on the island all night? If his uncle left him there, I dare say he deserved it."
George did not immediately land when he reached the beach, but floated here and there at will, enjoying the delightful sea breeze which set in from seaward. At length, however, he became tired and landed. The boat did not belong to him, but was hired of a fisherman living near by, who had an extra boat.
The owner of the boat was on hand when George landed. He was, though a fisherman, a man of good, sound common sense, who read a good deal in his leisure moments and was therefore well informed. Like many other New England men of low position, he was superior to his humble station and was capable of acquitting himself creditably in a much higher sphere. It is from persons of his class that our prominent men are often recruited.
It may be mentioned here that, though George's father, as he liked to boast, was a rich man, the boy himself was very mean in money matters and seldom willing to pay a fair price for anything. He was not above driving a close bargain, and to save five cents would dispute for half an hour.
"So you've got back young man?" said Ben Bence, the fisherman. "Did you have a pleasant trip?"
"Quite fair," answered George in a patronizing tone. "I rowed over to Egg Island and back."
"That's doing very well for a city boy," said the fisherman.
"I should think it was good for any boy or man either," said George, annoyed at this depreciation of his great achievement.
"Why," said he, "I'm out for four or five hours sometimes. I don't think anything of rowing from fifteen to twenty miles, while you have rowed only six."
"I don't expect to row as far as a man," said George, rather taken down.
"The best rower round here among the boys is Bob Coverdaie," said the fisherman.
"What can he do?" asked George with a sneer.
"He can row ten miles without feeling it," said Bence.
"Does he say so?" asked George in a meaning tone.
"No, but I have seen him do it. He's been out with me more than once.
He's a muscular boy, Bob is. Do you know him?"
"I have seen him," answered George distantly.
"He's a great chum of your cousin, Herbert Irving," said Bence, "and so I thought you might have met him."
This subject was not to George's taste, and he proceeded to change it.
"Well, my good man," he said patronizingly, "how much do I owe you?"
"So I am your good man?" repeated Ben Bence with an amused smile. "I am much obliged to you, I am sure. Well, you were gone about two hours, I reckon."