Read Chapter XIII. of Brave Tom The Battle That Won, free online book, by Edward S. Ellis, on

The speed with which the train was running at the time Tom Gordon was pushed off was such that he was thrown forward with great violence upon the hard earth, where he lay senseless, with his leg broken and a number of severe bruises about his body.

The only one who saw his fall was the miscreant that caused it; and it is not necessary to say he made no alarm, and the train went whirling on to its destination.

Tom’s employers knew nothing of the accident; and putting on a temporary substitute, they were constrained to believe, after several days’ silence, that he had left their service, some two or three boys coming forward to declare that they had heard Tom say that such was his intention, as he had received a good offer on the Erie road.  The substitute was given to understand that his situation was permanent, and the ill-used Tom was thus thrown out of his situation.

After lying an hour or so on the ground he came to, and finding he was in a sad plight, he set up a series of yells, which soon brought assistance in the shape of a passing farmer, who lifted him into his wagon, carted him home, and played the good Samaritan.

A physician was summoned, the broken limb set, and the patient was told that all he had to do was to do nothing but lie still and get strong.  The farmer agreed that he should stay there, especially as the patient gave him to understand that he would pay him for the service.

Here we leave Thomas Gordon for the time in good hands, while we turn our attention to his friend, James Travers, who has been waiting too long for notice.

The reader will recall that the morning succeeding the rescue of the little girl from the river the two boys started out to hunt up something to do in New York.  The experience of both was quite similar through the greater portion of the day, and we have dwelt fully upon what befell Tom.

Jim, with no better success, and fully as discouraged, set out on his return, as the cold, wintry night was closing in, and he reached the long, open street along the river without any incident worth notice; but while walking wearily along, and when not far from his lodging-place, he was accosted by a well-dressed man, who placed his hand on his shoulder and said, in a pleasant voice, ­

“I think you are looking for something to do, my son?”

“Yes, sir,” was Jim’s reply, his heart bounding with renewed hope at the prospect of employment.

“Are you willing to do anything?”

“Anything that’s honest and right.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to do what was not right,” added the stranger, as if he was hurt at the idea.

“What is it you want me to do?”

“How would you like to work on a vessel?”

“I was never on a ship in my life,” said Jim, frightened at the thought of the perils of the sea.

“That don’t make any difference:  you wouldn’t have to serve as a sailor, but as a sort of a cabin-boy; and not exactly that, either.  I am the owner of the boat, and want a clerk ­a boy who can write letters, keep my accounts, and make himself generally useful.  I like your looks, and you impress me as a boy of education.”

“I think I could do all you ask; but where does your vessel sail?”

“Oh, she ain’t a foreign ship, only a small schooner, engaged in the coasting-trade down along the Jersey shore, sometimes going as far as the capes, and occasionally making a trip up the Hudson.  As navigation has closed on the river, we sha’n’t go up there before Spring.”

“I think I would like the job,” said Jim, who felt as if the vision shown by Aladdin’s lamp was opening before him.  “What pay will you give if I suit you?”

“I am willing to pay well for the boy.  It will be twenty dollars a week and found” –­

“What!” exclaimed the astounded Jim, “did you say twenty dollars a week?”

“That’s just what I said.  I’m one of those who are willing to pay well for what they want.”

“I’ll take the situation; when do you want me to go?”

“As soon as possible ­what do you say for to-morrow?”

“That will suit, as I have nothing in the world to do; I only want to run down to the hotel and tell Tom.”

“Who’s Tom?”

“He’s the boy that came with me from home; he’ll be mightily pleased when he hears the news.”

“Suppose you walk down with me, and take a look at the boat; it isn’t far off.”

As Jim could see no reason for refusing, and as he hadn’t the slightest thought of wrong, he replied that he would be glad to accept the invitation; and the two started off toward the wharves.

The well-dressed gentleman, who gave his name as Mr. Hornblower, kept up a running chat of the most interesting nature to Jim, who was sure he was one of the finest persons he ever met.  The walk was considerably longer than Jim expected, and the man acted as if he had lost his way.  He finally recovered himself, and, pausing where a number of all kinds of boats were gathered, he said that his schooner, the Simoon, lay on the outside, and was to be reached by passing over the decks of several other boats.

These lay so close, that there was no difficulty or danger in traveling over them, and they soon reached the deck of a trim-looking schooner, which was as silent and apparently as deserted as the tomb.  Reaching the cabin, a light was seen shining through the crevices, and Mr. Hornblower drew the small door aside, and invited his young companion to descend.

Jim did so, and found himself in an ordinary-looking cabin, quite well furnished, and supplied with a couple of hammocks.

A small stove was burning, and the temperature was exceedingly pleasant after the bleak air outside, where the raw wind blew strongly up the bay.

“I wouldn’t want a better place than this to stay,” said the delighted lad, taking a seat on a camp-stool.

“Then I’ll let you stay a while.”

These strange words were uttered by the man who stood outside the door, looking in at the lad with an odd smile on his countenance.

“What do you mean?” asked Jim, filled with a terrible fear.

“I mean just this:  I want you to stay on the boat for the present.  If you keep quiet and do what is told you, you won’t be hurt; but if you go to howling and kicking up a rumpus, you’ll be knocked in the head and pitched overboard.”

“But tell me why you have brought me here?” asked Jim, swallowing the lump in his throat, and looking pleadingly up to the cruel stranger.  “What do you want of me?”

“We want a big thing of you, as you’ll learn before long; but you mustn’t ask too many questions, nor try to get away, nor refuse to do what is told you.  If you do, your clock will be wound up in short order; but remember what I’ve told you, and you’ll be released after a while, without any harm to you.  I will now bid you good-night.”

With this the man shut and fastened the door of the cabin, using a padlock to do so.

The lad heard his footsteps as he walked rapidly over the deck, leaping upon those adjoining, and quickly passing up the wharf.

“Well, this beats everything,” remarked Jim with a great sigh, sitting down again on the camp-stool.

As he sat thus in deep thought, it seemed to him, more than once, as if it was all a hideous dream, and he pinched himself to make sure it was not.

What it all meant was more than he could figure out, or even guess.  The only possible solution he could hit upon was that this Hornblower, as he called himself, was in need of a cabin-boy, or perhaps a sailor, and he took this rather summary way of securing one, without the preliminary of obtaining the consent of the party most concerned.

Whoever Mr. Hornblower might be, it looked as if he had made elaborate preparations for the game played with such success.

“Poor Tom will be worried to death when he finds nothing of me,” was the natural fear of Jim, while turning over in his mind the extraordinary situation in which he was placed.  Despite the warning uttered by his captor before leaving, the boy stole up the steps and stealthily tried the door.  It was fastened too securely for him to force it.

As he sat down again in the chair, he heard feet on the deck, and he concluded that his master had come back to see whether all was right.

But the fellow did not touch the cabin-door; and a minute later the lad noticed that two men were moving about, then the sounds showed that the sail was being hoisted.  He could distinguish their words as they exchanged directions, and it was not long before the rippling water told that the schooner was under way.

“Like enough they have started for China or the Cape of Good Hope, and I won’t see Tom again for years.”

He sat still in the cabin, which was lit by a lamp suspended overhead, and which soon became so warm from the stove and confined air, that he did what he could to cool off the interior.

He had just finished this when he felt a draught of cold air, and looking up, saw an ugly face peering down on him from the cabin door.

“Hello, you’re down there, are you?” called out the man; “how do you like it?”

“It’s getting rather warm,” answered Jim, hoping to make the best of a bad business.

“If you find it too hot, come on deck and air yourself.”

The lad accepted the invitation, and hastily ascended the few steps, his chief object being to learn where he was.

Looking about in the gloom, he observed a ship under full sail on the right, and a little farther off one on the left.  In the former direction he thought he discerned a faint dark line close to the water, which he supposed showed where the shore lay.

“Then we are putting out to sea,” was his conclusion, while he shivered in the keen wind which swept over the deck.

The schooner had her mainsail and foresail up, both bellying far outward under the impulse of the wind, while the hull keeled far over to the right in response, and the foaming water at the bow told that she was making her way at high speed toward her destination, wherever that might be.

As well as Jim could make out in the gloom, neither of the two men who were managing the vessel was Hornblower.

“Where are we bound?” asked the prisoner, turning upon the one who invited him to come out of the cabin.

“To the moon,” was the unsatisfactory response.

Jim said no more, for he was afraid he might offend the fellow by pressing his inquiries.

“I guess you’d better go below and sleep, for the likes of you ain’t of any use here.”

The boy did as advised.

He saw no preparations for eating, but he was so wearied and anxious that he felt little appetite; and, throwing himself in one of the hammocks, he committed himself to the care of Heaven, and was soon asleep.

He never opened his eyes till roused by the smell of burning meat, and looking up, saw one of the men cooking in the cabin, instead of on deck, as it seemed to the lad ought to have been the case.

He now took a good survey of the countenances of the men.  They did not look particularly wicked, though both were hard and forbidding.

They paid scarcely any attention to the boy, but gave him to understand that he was at liberty to eat if he wished.

Jim did so, and as soon as the meal was finished strolled on deck.

From the direction of the morning sun he saw they were sailing southward, and the long stretch of land on the right he concluded must be the Jersey coast.