Read CHAPTER VI - A PILOT of The Boy Patriot , free online book, by Edward S. Ellis, on

It is strange that the moon generally has all the blame for fickleness, when the sun quite as often hides his face without sufficient warning.  The Fairport Guard had hardly made the circuit of the town, before the late smiling sky was overcast by dark hurrying clouds, and the weatherwise began to predict a coming storm, which was to be “no joke on sea or land.”

Luckless members of the Fairport Guard who had not had the precaution to tie on their head-gear, might be seen breaking rank and running indecorously in various directions in pursuit of hat or cap, while the skirts of the captain’s time-honored coat flapped in the wind, like the signal of a ship in distress.

It was in the endeavor to complete their usual tour, by passing along the wharf, that this military body was subjected to this attack from old Boreas.  Worse confusion, however, soon broke up all order among them.  A group of men on the wharf had been for some time looking at a ship nearing the harbor.  They could not make her out, they said.  She was a stranger in those waters, and yet bore the American flag.  She seemed a man-of-war, and was evidently signalling for a pilot.

Fairport harbor, smooth and safe as it was, cradled among the overhanging cliffs, had a guard at its entrance which no stranger might defy.  Its deep narrow channel went winding among hidden rocks, and woe betide the keel that ventured a dozen yards from its appointed path.

For thirty years Joe Robertson had been the pilot of Fairport, and was as well known to the frequenters of that harbor as was the tall spire which was the pride of the town.  The sound of war had, however, roused within him the spirit of his father of Revolutionary memory.  He declared he would not have it said that Joe Robertson was content to play door-keeper to the harbor of Fairport, while brave men were shedding their blood for the country, as dear to him as to them.  Joe’s enthusiasm was contagious.  It spread through all Fairport, and there was hardly a man who could bear arms on sea or land who was not off at his country’s bidding.

Old Jock, who had had one leg bitten off by a shark, men who had been crippled by a fall from mainmast or yard, and sickly sailors, worn out by the fevers of southern ports, were left at home to keep company with the few true landsmen, the shopmen of the town.

Old Jock had been content to serve as pilot since the departure of Joe, and well he knew the channel; but he seemed to have grown lazy, or particularly careful of himself, since Hal had come under his roof.  Now he positively refused to go to the vessel in the offing.  He plainly expressed his doubts as to what kind of a craft she was, and moreover declared that such a squall as was coming up was “not to be risked by any man in his senses, even if that old ship went to the bottom with every soul in her.”

Blair listened intently to this conversation.  Too many times had he been to and fro with his father in his pilot’s duty not to know well the dangerous channel.  Every crook and turn in it was as familiar to him as the windings of the little path in his mother’s flower-garden.  The boy stood erect with growing determination as the speakers went on.

“She makes for the shore.  She’ll surely run on the rocks if a pilot don’t go to her.  If Joe Robertson were only here.  What business had a man of his age going off to the war, instead of staying to look after the harbor of his own town?”

“He has left his son to take his place,” said Blair quickly.  “I know the channel.  I am not afraid.  I will just speak to my mother, and then I’m off.”

In a few hurried words the son told his design to the mother who understood him so well.  “May I go?” he added; “I know you will not refuse.”

The mother’s eyes filled with tears as she spoke.  “I will not keep you, my noble boy.  God bless and watch over you.  The true Christian, like his Master, takes his life in his hand, and goes forth at the call of duty.  The true patriot will risk all for his dear countrymen.  Go.  My prayers shall be around you like a guard.”

When Blair returned to the wharf it was with his mother at his side.  The little pilot-boat had been made ready.  As he jumped into it, another figure quickly followed him.  It was Hal Hutchings.  “I must go with you,” he said with determination.  “I can manage a boat.  I sha’n’t be in the way.  I couldn’t stand it to wait on the shore.  May-be two of us will be needed.”

Blair gave Hal one cordial grasp of the hand, then hoisted his bit of a sail, and soon over the wild waves the two boys took their course together.

“God help that Blair Robertson.  He has the making of the right kind of a man in him,” exclaimed a bystander.

“He’s our captain, Blair is,” said one of the youngest members of the Fairport Guard.

“Who would have thought of Hal’s making such a venture?” said Old Jock.  “He’s a little skeary about water yet.  But I believe he’d die for Blair Robertson.  Whatever takes hold of that Hal Hutchings takes him strong.”

The mother’s eye followed the little boat as it went dancing over the waves, but her heart was uplifted in silent prayer.