Chapter XIII. Revenge.
 

In spite of his wounded arm Ben Haley succeeded in propelling the boat to the opposite shore. The blood was steadily, though slowly, flowing from his wound, and had already stained his shirt red for a considerable space. In the excitement of first receiving it he had not felt the pain; now, however, the wound began to pain him, and, as might be expected, his feeling of animosity toward our hero was not diminished.

"That cursed boy!" he muttered, between his teeth. "I wish I had had time to give him one blow--he wouldn't have wanted another. I hope the wound isn't serious--if it is, I may have paid dear for the gold."

Still, the thought of the gold in his pockets afforded some satisfaction. He had been penniless; now he was the possessor of--as near as he could estimate, for he had not had time to count--five hundred dollars in gold. That was more than he had ever possessed before at one time, and would enable him to live at ease for a while.

On reaching the shore he was about to leave the boat to its fate, when he espied a boy standing at a little distance, with a hatchet in his hand. This gave him an idea.

"Come here, boy," he said.

The boy came forward, and examined the stranger with curiosity.

"Is that your hatchet?" he asked.

"No, sir. It belongs to my father."

"Would you mind selling it to me if I will give you money enough to buy a new one?"

"This is an old hatchet."

"It will suit me just as well, and I haven't time to buy another. Would your father sell it?"

"Yes, sir; I guess so."

"Very well. What will a new one cost you?"

The boy named the price.

"Here is the money, and twenty-five cents more to pay you for your trouble in going to the store."

Tae boy pocketed the money with satisfaction. He was a farmer's son, and seldom had any money in his possession. He already had twenty-five cents saved up toward the purchase of a junior ball, and the stranger's gratuity would just make up the sum necessary to secure it. He was in a hurry to make the purchase, and, accordingly, no sooner had he received the money than he started at once for the village store. His departure was satisfactory to Ben Haley, who now had nothing to prevent his carrying out his plans.

"I wanted to be revenged on the boy, and now I know how," he said. "I'll make some trouble for him with this hatchet."

He drew the boat up and fastened it. Then he deliberately proceeded to cut away at the bottom with his newly-acquired hatchet. He had a strong arm, and his blows were made more effective by triumphant malice. The boat he supposed to belong to Robert, and he was determined to spoil it.

He hacked away with such energy that soon there was a large hole in the bottom of the boat. Not content with inflicting this damage, he cut it in various other places, until it presented an appearance very different from the neat, stanch boat of which Will Paine had been so proud. At length Ben stopped, and contemplated the ruin he had wrought with malicious satisfaction.

"That's the first instalment in my revenge," he said. "I should like to see my young ferryman's face when he sees his boat again. It'll cost him more than he'll ever get from my miserly uncle to repair it. It serves him right for meddling with matters that don't concern him. And now I must be getting away, for my affectionate uncle will soon be raising a hue and cry after me if I'm not very much mistaken."

He would like to hare gone at once to obtain medical assistance for his wound, but to go to the village doctor would be dangerous. He must wait till he had got out of the town limits, and the farther away the better. He knew when the train would start, and made his way across the fields to the station, arriving just in time to catch it. First, however, he bound a handkerchief round his shoulder to arrest the flow of blood.

When he reached the station, and was purchasing his ticket, the station-master noticed the blood upon his shirt.

"Are you hurt, sir?" he asked.

"Yes, a little," said Ben Haley.

"How did it happen?" inquired the other, with Yankee inquisitiveness.

"I was out hunting," said Ben, carelessly, "with a friend who wasn't much used to firearms. In swinging his gun round, it accidentally went off, and I got shot through the shoulder."

"That's bad," said the station-master, in a tone of sympathy. "You'd better go round to the doctor's, and have it attended to."

"I would," said Ben, "but I am called away by business of the greatest importance. I can get along for a few hours, and then I'll have a doctor look at it. How soon will the train be here?"

"It's coming now. Don't you hear it?"

"That's the train I must take. You see I couldn't wait long enough for the doctor," added Ben, anxious to account satisfactorily for his inattention to the medical assistance of which he stood in need.

When he was fairly on board the cars, and the train was under way, he felt considerably relieved. He was speeding fast away from the man he had robbed, and who was interested in his capture, and in a few days he might be at sea, able to snap his fingers at his miserly uncle and the boy whom he determined some day to meet and settle scores with.

From one enemy of Robert the transition is brief and natural to another. At this very moment Halbert Davis was sauntering idly and discontentedly through the streets of the village. He was the son of a rich man, or of one whom most persons, his own family included, supposed to be rich; but this consciousness, though it made him proud, by no means made him happy. He had that morning at the breakfast table asked his father to give him a boat like Will Paine's, but Mr. Davis had answered by a decided refusal.

"You don't need any boat," he said, sharply.

"It wouldn't cost very much," pleaded Halbert.

"How much do you suppose?"

"Will Paine told me his father paid fifty dollars for his."

"Why don't you borrow it sometimes?"

"I can't borrow it. Will started a day or two since for boarding school."

"Better still. I will hire it for you while he is away."

"I thought of it myself," said Halbert, "but just before he went away Will lent it to the factory boy," sneering as he uttered the last two words.

"Do you mean Robert Rushton?"

"Yes."

"That's only a boy's arrangement. I will see Mr. Paine, and propose to pay him for the use of the boat, and I presume he will be willing to accede to my terms."

"When will you see him?" asked Halbert, hopefully.

"I will try to see him in the course of the day."

It turned out, however, that there was no need of calling on Mr. Paine, for five minutes later, having some business with Mr. Davis, he rang the bell, and was ushered into the breakfast-room.

"Excuse my calling early," he said, "but I wished to see you about----" and here he stated his business, in which my readers will feel no interest. When that was over, Mr. Davis introduced the subject of the boat, and made the offer referred to.

"I am sorry to refuse," said Mr. Paine, "but my son, before going away, passed his promise to Robert Rushton that he should have it during his absence."

"Do you hold yourself bound by such a promise?" inquired Mrs. Davis, with a disagreeable smile.

"Certainly," said the lawyer, gravely. "Robert is a valued friend of my son's, and I respect boyish friendship. I remember very well my own boyhood, and I had some strong friendships at that time."

"I don't see what your son can find to like in Robert Rushton," said Mrs. Davis, with something of Halbert's manner. "I think him a very disagreeable and impertinent boy."

Mr. Paine did not admire Mrs. Davis, and was not likely to be influenced by her prejudices. Without inquiry, therefore, into the cause of her unfavorable opinion, he said, "I have formed quite a different opinion of Robert. I am persuaded that you do him injustice."

"He attacked Halbert ferociously the other day," said Mrs. Davis, determined to impart the information whether asked or not. "He has an ungovernable temper."

Mr. Paine glanced shrewdly at Halbert, of whose arrogant and quarrelsome disposition he had heard from his own son, and replied, "I make it a point not to interfere in boys' quarrels. William speaks very highly of Robert, and it affords him great satisfaction, I know, to leave the boat in his charge."

Mrs. Davis saw that there was no use in pursuing the subject, and it dropped.

After the lawyer had gone Halbert made his petition anew, but without satisfactory results. The fact was, Mr. Davis had heard unfavorable reports from New York the day previous respecting a stock in which he had an interest, and it was not a favorable moment to prefer a request involving the outlay of money.

It was this refusal which made Halbert discontented and unhappy. The factory boy, as he sneeringly called him, could have a boat, while he, a gentleman's son, was forced to go without one. Of course, he would not stoop to ask the loan of the boat, however much he wanted it, from a boy he disliked so much as Robert. He wondered whether Robert were out this morning. So, unconsciously, his steps led him to the shore of the river, where he knew the boat was generally kept. He cast his eye toward it, when what was his surprise to find the object of his desire half full of water, with a large hole in the bottom and defaced in other respects.