SUMNER RECEIVES A SECOND OFFER.
FOR a few minutes Sumner Rankin's peril was most imminent.
He was almost within reach of the drifting canoe, which he had been
watching too closely to take note of any other object, when he became
conscious of the clumsy, wood-laden schooner rushing down on him before
the squall. She was manned by a crew of two Negroes, and by the manner
in which she yawed, heading one moment this way and the next another,
he saw that they had but little control of her movements. In vain did
he shout to them to look out. His voice was lost in the shriek of the
wind, and they did not hear him. He tried to cross their bows, and
might have succeeded in so doing, but at that moment their mainsail
gybed over with a crash, and the heavy craft, looking as large as a
man-of-war in comparison with his cockleshell, headed directly for him.
With the next send of the sea the canvas canoe was crushed beneath the
ponderous bows, and blotted from existence as though it had been a
As Sumner saw the black mass towering above him, and
before it could descend, he rose to his feet, and taking a straight
header, dived deep into the angry waters. When he again came to the
surface he was swimming in the foaming wake of the schooner, and
drifting down towards him from the windward was the beautiful cedar
canoe which was the cause of all the trouble, and which he had passed
in his effort to save his own from destruction. A few strokes took him
to her, and with a feeling of devout thankfulness he clutched her
Worth Manton, or any other inexperienced canoeman, would
have attempted to climb up over the bow or stern, and, sitting astride
the slippery deck, to work his way into the cockpit. Such an attempt
would have been almost certain to roll the light craft over and fill
her with water, in which case she would become wholly unmanageable. But
Sumner knew better than to do such a thing. He had practiced capsizing
so often in his crank canvas canoe that to get into this comparatively
broad-beamed and stable craft was the easiest kind of a performance.
Seizing hold of the coaming directly amidship, he placed his left hand
on the side of the cockpit nearest him, and reaching far over, grasped
the other side with his right. Then kicking in the, water behind him
until his body lay nearly flat on its surface, and bearing as much
weight as possible on his right hand, he drew himself squarely across
the cockpit, and in another moment was seated ill it, without having
shipped a drop of water over the coaming.
There was no paddle in the canoe, and though she rode the
waves like a cork, she was entirely at the mercy of the wind and tide.
Although the squall was passing, the darkness of night was rapidly
shutting out all familiar objects, and Sumner was on the point of
resigning himself to a night of aimless drifting, with an interesting
uncertainty as to when he should be picked up, when a distant shout,
that sounded exceedingly like his own name, was borne to his ears. He
sent back an answering cry, the shout was repeated, and a few minutes
later the shadowy form of the Psyche, with Mr. Manton wielding
a double-bladed paddle, shot out of the darkness.
"I never was so glad to find any one in my life!"
exclaimed the newcomer. "We were afraid that clumsy schooner had run
you down. I tell you what, boy, the last ten minutes have been the most
anxious I ever passed, and I wouldn't go through with them again for
all the canoes in the world. But what has become of your own boat?"
"She has gone to the bottom, like many a good ship
before her," replied Sumner; "and it wasn't the fault of those lubbers
on the schooner that I didn't go with her. Have you an extra paddle
with you ?"
"No; I neglected to bring one, and I shall have to take
you in tow."
They had already drifted down past the fort that commands
the harbor from the southwest point of the island, and as they could
not hope to make their way back against wind and tide, they were
compelled to work in behind it, and make a landing on the south beach a
mile or more from where they started. Here Mr. Manton remained in
charge of the canoes, while Sumner ran home to announce his own safety,
obtain a change of clothing and another paddle.
He found his mother and Worth in a terrible state of
anxiety concerning him; but he made so light of his recent adventure
that it was not until after the canoes were brought safely back, an
hour later, that they learned the full extent of his recent peril.
This incident seemed to cement a firm friendship between
Sumner and the Mantons, and while the former stubbornly refused to
accept the recompense for his lost canoe that Mr. Manton tried to force
upon him, declaring that it was only his own carelessness in not
keeping a sharper lookout, the latter made up his mind that, in spite
of his pride, the boy must and should be rewarded in some way for what
he had done.
The following week was busily and happily spent in making
new sails for the two canoes, re-rigging them, and in teaching Worth
how to manage his. It struck Sumner as a little curious that, even
after the new sails were made, Mr. Manton was always too busy to go out
on these practice trips with his nephew, and invariably asked him to
take the Psyche and act as instructor in his place. Of course
he could not refuse to do this, nor did he have the slightest
inclination to do so; for what boy who loved boats would not have
jumped at the chance of sailing that dainty craft? How Sumner did
appreciate her speed and seaworthy qualities! He raced with every
sponger and fisherman in the harbor, and caused their eyes to open with
amazement at the ease with which he beat them. How fond he became of
the canoe that bore him to so many victories! How, with all his heart,
he did wish he were going in her on the cruise up the reef, for which
such extensive preparations were being made! Much as he wished this,
however, he was very careful not to express the wish to any person
except his mother, to whom he always confided all his hopes, fears, and
plans. After his refusal of Mr. Manton's offer to accompany them as
guide, he would not for anything have let that gentleman know how
eagerly he longed to have the offer repeated in such form that his
pride would allow him to accept it. Still, as he had no canoe now, it
would be impossible for him to go, and there was no use in thinking of
So he tried to make the most of his present opportunities,
and gain all the pleasure that they held. Nor did he neglect Worth, but
instructed him so thoroughly in the art of canoe handling, that at the
end of a week the boy was as much at home in his canoe as he had ever
been on a yacht.
One day, as the two beautiful craft, with their perfect
setting lateen sails, were glancing in and out among the anchored
sponge fleet on the north side of the island, like white-winged sea
birds, a young sponger, named Rust Norris, called out from one of the
"Say, Sumner, come here a minute, will yer?"
As the latter sailed alongside and asked what he wanted,
the sponger answered:
"I want to try that fancy trick of yourn. Let me
take her a few minutes, will yer?"
"No," replied Sumner; "I can't, because she isn't mine
to lend. Besides, as you are not accustomed to this style of craft, you
couldn't sail her, anyhow; and you'd upset before you had gone a
"Oh, I would, would I? Well, I'll bet I can sail
anything you can, or any other landlubber that thinks he knows it all
because his daddy belonged to the navy."
Then, as Sumner, with a flushed face, but disdaining any
reply, sheered off and sailed away, he added,
"I'd jest naturally hate myself if I was as mean
as you be, Sumner Rankin, and I won't forget your disobligingness in a
In the mean time Mr. Manton had studied Sumner's character
carefully, and the more he did so the more he was pleased with the boy.
He found him to be proud and high-tempered, but also manly,
straightforward, and honest to a fault, as well as prompt to act in
emergencies, self-reliant, and a thorough sailor. In the course of
several conversations with the boy's mother he learned much of Sumner's
past history and of his dreams for the future. To her he finally
confided a plan, formed on the day that Sumner saved Worth's canoe at
the expense of his own, and after some discussion won her assent to it.
It was nothing more nor less than that Sumner should take
his place on the proposed cruise up the reef, and act the part of
guide, companion, and friend to the younger canoeman.
"I shall not for a second time be guilty of the
mistake of trying to hire you to take this cruise," said Mr. Manton,
smiling, as he unfolded this plan to Sumner; "but I ask you to do it as
a favor to both me and Worth. Indeed, it will be a great favor to me,"
he added, hastily, as he saw an expression of doubt on the lad's face;
"for I really ought to be in New York at this very minute, attending to
some important business, which I was only willing to neglect in case
Worth could not take this trip without me. Now, however, I am confident
that he will be safer with you than he would be with me alone, and if
you will take my canoe and accompany him to Cape Florida, where I shall
try to meet you about the first of April, you will place me under an
obligation. Will you do it?"
TEACHING A THIEF A LESSON.
WAS there ever such a chance to do the very thing he most
longed to do offered a boy before? Sumner did not believe there ever
had been, and with a quick glance at his mother's smiling face, in
which he read her assent to the plan, he answered:
"I don't know how to thank you, sir, for making
me such a splendid offer, and not only will I gladly accept it, but I
promise to do everything in my power to make Worth have a good time,
and see that no harm befalls him. But I wish you were going too. I hate
to think of taking your place and depriving you of all the pleasure of
"My dear boy," replied Mr. Manton, "you must not look at
it in that way, for, as I said before, you will be doing me a real
favor in taking my place. I am more of a yachtsman than a canoeman
anyway, and I look forward with fully as much pleasure to cruising down
the Indian River from St. Augustine in the yacht that my brother
proposes to charter, and meeting you at Cape Florida, -- as I should to
running up the reef in a canoe. There is one more thing, however. I
must insist upon your sailing your own canoe, for I make it a rule
never to lend my boats to any one, and you will have enough
responsibility in looking after Worth, without having the added one of
caring for another person's canoe. So, from this moment the Psyche,
all that she contains is yours."
"Oh, Mr. Manton!"
"That will do. Not another word," laughed the young man.
"I am as obstinate as a mule when I have once made up my mind to a
thing, and so there is nothing for you to do but take the canoe, and
make the best use you can of her."
Sumner's protests against this generosity were but feeble
ones, and were quickly disposed of by Mr. Manton, who simply refused to
listen to them. He cut them short by saying,
"Now that this matter is settled, and everything
is in readiness for a start, I propose that you get off in the morning,
for I want to take tomorrow night's steamer for Tampa."
That night, after everybody had gone to bed and the house
was still, Sumner lay wide awake, thinking over the good fortune that
had befallen him. At length he could not resist the temptation of
getting up, partly dressing himself, and slipping out for a look at his
canoe, his very own! the most beautiful craft lie had ever seen, and
such a one as in his wildest dreams he had never hoped to possess.
The two canoes had been drawn up on the grass not far
from. the water's edge, and covered with some bits of old canvas.
Although it was a moonlit night, the moon was occasionally obscured by
drifting clouds, and when Sumner left the house everything was in
shadow from this cause. He moved very quietly, for he did not wish any
one to know of the weakness that led him to look at something with
which he was already familiar, merely because it had acquired the new
interest of possession.
To his amazement, when he reached the place where the
canoes had been left, he could find but one of them. In vain did he
lift the canvas that had covered them both, and look hurriedly about
the little yard. One of them was certainly gone, and no trace of it
remained. As the boy stood irresolute, wondering what he ought to do,
he was startled by a slight splash in the water. At the same moment the
cloud passed from the face of the moon, and by the light thus afforded
Sumner saw the figure of a man seated in the missing canoe, and
cautiously paddling from the shore.
Without an instant's hesitation he slid the remaining
canoe over the grass and into the water, sprang into it, seized a
paddle, and started in pursuit. Of course the paddler in the first
canoe might be one of the Mantons, but Sumner did not believe it was
either of them. He thought it more than likely that the stranger was
some one who only desired to try the canoe, but it might be a thief. At
any rate, the boy determined to discover who he was, and what he meant
by his stealthy performance before they were many minutes older.
The stranger did not realize that he was pursued until
Sumner had shoved off from shore, and was urging his own craft forward
with vigorous strokes of his double-bladed paddle. When, by a glance
over his shoulder, he discovered this, he redoubled his efforts to
escape, and by his clumsy splashings proved himself a novice in the art
of paddling. Still he made fair headway, and it was not until they were
several hundred yards from shore that Sumner overtook him.
Here was anchored an immense mooring buoy, with a round,
slightly conical top, having in its center a great iron ring. It did
not rise more than a foot from the surface of the water, and in trying
to watch Sumner, the occupant of the leading canoe did not notice it
until his light craft struck it a glancing blow, and very nearly upset.
The next instant an effort to recover his equilibrium had precipitated
the fellow into the water, and as Sumner shot past him he was wildly
clutching at the buoy, with desperate efforts to gain its upper surface.
Satisfied that he could not drown so long as he clung to
the buoy, Sumner first picked up the drifting canoe. With it in tow he
returned to the buoy on which the recent fugitive was now sitting,
clinging tightly to the iron ring, and presenting a comical picture of
"Don't leave me here," Sumner!" he cried, in an
imploring tone, in which the boy at once recognized the voice of Rust
Norris. "I didn't mean no harm. I only just wanted to try the trick,
and I meant to put her back again where I found her. Honest I did!"
"Well, I don't know," replied Sumner, who could not help
laughing at the other's plight, in spite of his anger at him for taking
the canoe without leave, and his suspicion that it would not have been
returned so promptly as Rust claimed it would. "You look quite as
comfortable as you deserve to be; besides, you will have a nice quiet
chance out here to learn the lesson that it is better to leave other
people's property alone than to take it without permission. So, on the
whole, I think I will leave you where you are for a while. I did think
of having you arrested for stealing, but I guess this will do just as
HE RETURNED TO THE BUOY, ON WHICH THE
RECENT FUGITIVE WAS NOW SITTING.