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The Vagabond lay peacefully at anchor at the mouth of Hempstead Harbor. It was almost midnight and a ragged-looking moon was tingeing the quiet water with silver light. In the cabin the crew were preparing for bed. Spencer had finished his narrative of events and was sitting on the edge of Bob’s berth looking almost happy.
“Then we guessed right about the empty boat,” said Nelson.
“Yes,” answered Spencer. “They seen me from the Henry the first thing. And when they had me aboard the captain told Joe—that’s the feller with the rings in his ears—to stave a hole in the bottom of your boat. So he did, with a boat hook.”
“And he didn’t lick you for running away?” asked Bob incredulously. Spencer shook his head.
“No, he was too glad to get me back. He kept askin’ me if I thought I was smart as he was. He’d lost his cook the night before—ran off, he did—and so he said I was to cook. I’ve been cooking ever since.”
“Hasn’t he licked you since then?” Tom inquired.
“Oh, yes, once or twice,” replied Spencer cheerfully. “But not to hurt much. But if he’d got me to-night I guess he’d just about have walloped the skin off’n me!”
“You think he suspected something was up this evening, do you?” asked Bob.
“Yes, ’cause he was watchin’ me all the time till I turned in, just like he was a cat. There was only him and Joe aboard, ’cause he’d let the others go off. When I sneaked out I guess he heard me—the captain, I mean; Joe was asleep. But I guess he thought I would try to make for the street, ’cause he went over to the wharf after me. If he hadn’t I wouldn’t have made it, I guess.”
“Lucky he did,” said Bob. “I’ll bet he saw us at supper. Well, all’s well that ends well, Spencer. We’ll have you at home in the morning, and if you’ll take my advice you’ll stay there!”
“I’m a-goin’ to,” was the answer. “Ma, she won’t let him take me away again.”
“Good,” said Bob. “Let’s turn in. Did you fix Spencer’s bunk, Dan?”
“Yes, it’s all ready,” was the answer. “As for me, I’ll bet I can sleep a few lines to-night. This thing of kidnaping folks is interesting, but wearing.”
“Yes,” yawned Tom. “It makes you sleepy to be shot at.”
The next morning the Vagabond took up her journey for Mullen’s Cove. It was a sixty-mile trip, but the launch made it in record time, something under five hours and a half, turning into Mattituck Inlet at a little before two in the afternoon. Spencer begged them to go home with him.
“Ma,” he said earnestly, “she’d like to thank you fellers for bein’ so good to me.”
But the four were shy of gratitude and so Spencer was set ashore a mile from his home, his belongings knotted up in a blue cotton shirt under his arm. They watched him out of sight. At the top of the sandy road he turned and waved them farewell with the bundle. Then he passed from sight.
“All aboard!” cried Dan. “Swing her around, Mr. Navigating Officer. Ho, for the deep blue sea!”
“We’ll make Shelter Island,” said Nelson, “and have a civilized dinner once more. Does that suit you chaps?”
“Sounds good to me,” answered Tom.
“Me, too,” said Bob.
“Any old place will suit me,” cried Dan as he seized Barry and tried to waltz him about the cockpit. “Any old place so long as it’s on the water. A sailor’s life for us, eh, Barry?”
And Barry barked wildly, possibly in assent.
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