Read CHAPTER X - SAM SHAW APPEARS of The Boy Pilot of the Lakes, Nat Morton's Perils, free online book, by Frank V. Webster, on ReadCentral.com.

The vessel had not come to a stop, before orders were hurriedly given to let go the anchor.  The narrow escape had decided Captain Marshall that it would not be safe to proceed, and, as there was good holding ground not far from the rocks, he determined to lay-to until the fog lifted.

From the pilot-house came the captain, Mr. Weatherby, and Andy Simmon.  The pilot was very much excited.

“Those were false lights, or else something is out of order with the machinery,” he exclaimed.  “The light on the point flashes once every five seconds.  The next light, beyond the point, flashes once every fifteen seconds.  This light flashed once every fifteen seconds, for Andy and I both kept count.”

“That’s right,” said the assistant.

“And I calculated by that,” went on the pilot, “that we were beyond the point, for I couldn’t see anything but the light, and I had to go by that.  I was on the right course, if that light was the one beyond the point, but naturally on the wrong one if that was the point light.”

“And it was the point light,” said the captain solemnly.

“It was, Mr. Marshall, and only for the lookout we would now be on the rocks.”

“I can’t blame you for the narrow escape we had,” went on the commander.  “Still -

“Of course you can’t blame me!” exclaimed the pilot, as though provoked that any such suspicion should rest on him.  “I was steering right, according to the lights.  There is something wrong with them.  The lights were false.  Whether they have been deliberately changed, or whether the machinery is at fault is something that will have to be found out.  It isn’t safe to proceed until morning.”

“And that will delay me several hours,” grumbled Mr. Marshall.

“I can’t help that.  I’ll not take the responsibility of piloting the boat in this thick fog, when I can’t depend on the lights.”

“No, of course not,” was the answer.  “We’ll have to remain here, that’s all.  Have the fog-horn sounded regularly, Mr. Bumstead,” the captain added to the mate; and all through the night, at ten-second intervals, the great siren fog-whistle of the boat blew its melancholy blast.  Nat found it impossible to sleep much with that noise over his head, but toward morning the fog lifted somewhat, and he got into a doze, for the whistle stopped.

Mr. Weatherby went ashore in the morning to make inquiries regarding the false lights.  He learned that the machinery in the point lighthouse had become deranged, so that the wrong signal was shown.  It had been repaired as soon as possible, and was now all right.  But as the fog was gone and it was daylight, the ship could proceed safely without depending on lighthouses.  Nat was up early, and had a good view of the point and rocks that had so nearly caused the destruction of the Jessie Drew.

Three days later, having made a stop at Cheboygan to take on some freight, the big ship was on Lake Huron.  This was farther than Nat had ever been before, and he was much interested in the sight of a new body of water, though at first it did not seem much different from Lake Michigan.

They steamed ahead, making only moderate speed, for the freighter was not a swift boat, and on the evening of the next day they ran into Thunder Bay and docked at Alpena.

“Plenty of work ahead for you and me,” said Mr. Dunn to Nat that night.

“How’s that?”

“Well, we’ve got to break out a large part of the cargo and take on almost as much again.  We’ll be busy checking up lists and making out way-bills.  You want to be careful not to make a mistake, as that mate will have his eye on you.  It’s easy to see he doesn’t like you.”

“And I don’t like him,” retorted Nat.

“I don’t blame you.  Still, do your best when he’s around.  I know you always do, though.  Well, I’m going to get to bed early, as we’ll have our hands full in the morning.”

Nat also sought his bunk about nine o’clock, and it seemed he had hardly been asleep at all when six bells struck, and he had to get up.

That day was indeed a busy one, and Nat was glad when noon came and he could stop for dinner.  He ate a hearty meal, and was taking a rest on deck, for the ’longshoremen and freight handlers would not resume their labors until one o’clock, when he saw coming up the gangplank a boy about his own age.  The lad had red hair and rather an unpleasant face, with a bold, hard look about the eyes.

“Hey, kid!” the youth exclaimed on catching sight of Nat, “tell me where Mr. Bumstead hangs out.  I want to see him quick.  Understand?”

“I understand you well enough,” replied Nat, who resented the unpleasant way in which the question was put.  “You speak loud enough.  I know what you mean.  Mr. Bumstead is at dinner, and I don’t believe he’d like to be disturbed.”

“Oh, that’s all right.  He’ll see me.  He expects me.  Now you show me where he is, or I’ll report you.”

“You will, eh?” asked Nat.  “Well, I’m not in the habit of showing strangers about the ship.  It’s against orders.  You can’t go below until you get permission from the captain, mate or second mate.”

“I can’t, eh?  Guess you don’t know who I am,” replied the red-haired youth with an ugly leer.

“No, and I don’t care,” retorted Nat, for his life about the docks had made him rather fearless.

“Well, I’ll make you care-you’ll see!  Now, are you going to show me where I can find Mr. Bumstead?  If you don’t I’ll make trouble for you.”

“Look here!” exclaimed Nat, striding over to the stranger.  “Don’t talk to me like that.  I’m not afraid of you, whoever you are.  I’ll not show you to Mr. Bumstead’s cabin, as it is against the rules.  You can’t go below, either, unless the second mate, who’s in charge of the deck now, says you can.  He’s over there, and you can ask him if you want to.  Now, don’t you say anything more to me or I’ll punch your face!”

Nat was no milksop.  He had often fought with the lads on the dock on less provocation than this, and, for the time being, he forgot he was on a ship.

“What’s the row?” asked the second mate, who, hearing the sound of high voices, approached to see what the trouble was.

“Oh, here’s a fresh fellow who wants to see Mr. Bumstead,” replied Nat.

“He can’t until after grub hour,” said the second mate shortly.  “What’s your business, young man?  Tell it, or go ashore.”

“I want to see Mr. Bumstead,” replied the red-haired lad more humbly than he had yet spoken, for the second mate was a stalwart man.

“What for?”

“Well, he expects me.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m his nephew, Sam Shaw, and I’m going to make the rest of the trip with him.  He invited me, and I’m going to be a passenger.”

“Oh, so you’re his nephew, eh?” asked the second mate.

“That’s what I am, and when I tell him how that fellow treated me he’ll make it hot for him,” boasted Sam Shaw.  “Now will you show me where Mr. Bumstead’s cabin is?” he asked of Nat insolently.

“No,” replied our hero.  “You can ask one of the stewards.  I’ll have nothing to do with you,” for Sam’s threat to tell his uncle had roused all the spirit that Nat possessed.

“There’s your uncle now,” said the second mate as Mr. Bumstead came up the companionway.

“Hello, Uncle Joe!” called Sam; and as he went forward to meet his relative Nat went below.  In spite of his bold words he was not a little worried lest Sam Shaw had come to supplant him in his position aboard the freighter.