After Charles Hardy had joined the
“Rovers” band, which was composed of the
original Bunkers, with others whom Tim had collected
together, his conscience proved less troublesome.
The first wrong step taken, the second follows with
less compunction, and so on, till the moral sense is
At the meeting he was informed by
Tim that he had been admitted to the society on account
of his knowledge of boats. They could not get
along without such a fellow; and he was accordingly
appointed “master of marine,” and second
in command to Tim himself. These honors and compliments
reconciled him to the society of the Rovers, and he
began to exhibit his energy of purpose in directing
the details of the next week’s operations.
Saturday was appointed as the day
for stocking the island with provisions and other
necessaries, ready for the reception of the entire
party on Sunday night. Tim and Charles were to
attend to this duty in person.
“Meet me at eight o’clock
in the morning over by Joe Braman’s landing,
“But school keeps; I can’t go till afternoon.”
“And then the Zephyrs will see what we are about.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Yes you can; can’t you ’hook Jack’?”
“I dare not.”
“Humph! You are an idiot!
Tell the fellows to-morrow that you are going over
to your uncle’s, and they will tell the master.”
Charles consented, after some argument.
“I will get Joe’s boat,
and we can pull off to the island and get the money.”
“Where will you buy the things?”
“We must go down to Rippleton.
You must get some, and I will get some. We will
buy them at different stores, so no one will know but
what they are for the folks.”
“And the tent?”
“We will get a piece of cotton
cloth for that, and some needles and thread.
Leave all that to me. Now, be on hand in season.”
“One thing, Tim: I may be seen in Rippleton.”
“No matter if you are. Bluff ’em
off if they say anything.”
The Rovers were to “rendezvous”-Tim
had found this word in the “Adventures of the
Bold Buccaneer”-at nine o’clock
on Sunday evening at the wood. The arrangements
were all completed, and the band dispersed.
On Saturday Charles was true to his
appointment, and met Tim on the north side of the
lake. The money was procured, and the provisions
were safely deposited in the boat. It is true,
Charles was so much embarrassed that he well-nigh
betrayed the existence of the plot to the shopkeepers;
and he was very glad when this part of the business
Then a new difficulty presented itself.
Suppose the Zephyrs should visit Center Island that
afternoon and discover the stores! They had not
thought of this before, and the risk was too great
to be incurred. They decided to conceal their
stores on the main shore till night, and then carry
them off. A convenient place was found for this
purpose, and the articles were landed.
They then repaired to the island to mature their plans.
“Now, where shall we pitch the tent?”
asked Charles, when they landed.
“On the high ground near the beach.”
“We have no poles. Here is the May-pole;
that will do for one.”
“We can’t pitch the tent,
soldier fashion. We must drive down four forked
stakes; then put poles on the forks, and cover the
whole with cloth.”
“But where are the stakes and the poles?”
“We can cut them in the woods.
We will get Joe Braman’s ax, and do it this
“Suppose they should make a
raft, and come off to us?” suggested Charles.
“We have two fast boats, and
can easily keep out of their way,” replied Tim.
“If they want to fight we can beat them off.”
Charles did not approve of fighting,
and thought it would be bad policy. Tim was tolerably
tractable now that he was having his own way, and was
not very strenuous in support of his own pugnacious
views. When their plans were fully digested they
left the island to prepare the stakes. Before
noon they separated, and the truant returned home about
the usual time.
That afternoon he joined the Zephyrs
in an excursion up the lake, and another lighthouse
was erected in the vicinity of a dangerous reef.
“What shall we do next week?”
asked Charles, as they were returning home.
“We are going up the river,”
replied Frank. “My father has consented
“Has he? That will be first rate.”
“And so has George Weston.”
Charles relapsed into deep thought.
He was thinking how much better he could enjoy himself
with good boys than with such fellows as the Rovers;
for, though he was “master of marine” among
them, he could not help acknowledging to himself that
they were not pleasant companions. They used
profane and vulgar language; were always disposed to
quarrel. Disputes which were settled peaceably
in the clubs were decided by a fight among the Rovers;
and the ambitious “master” had many misgivings
as to his ability to control them. Tim could manage
them very well; for, if one was turbulent, he struck
him and knocked him down; and Charles had not the
brute courage to do this.
“What are you thinking about, Charley?”
asked Frank, pleasantly.
“Nothing,” replied Charles, promptly,
as he tried to laugh.
“You act rather queerly this
afternoon; just as though you had something on your
“O, no; nothing of the kind.”
“I hope you don’t regret the expulsion
of Tim Bunker.”
Charles tried to be gay after that;
but he could not. There was a weight upon his
soul which bore him down, and he felt like a criminal
in the presence of his companions. He was glad
when the club landed, and the members separated-glad
to get away from them, for their happy, innocent faces
were a constant reproach to him.
Sunday was a day of rest; but every
moment of it was burdened with a sin against God and
against himself. Every moment that he delayed
to repent was plunging him deeper and deeper in error
and crime. Strangely enough, the minister preached
a sermon about the Prodigal Son; and the vivid picture
he drew of the return of the erring wanderer so deeply
affected the youthful delinquent that he fully resolved
to do his duty, and expose the Rovers’ scheme.
The money had been spent in part;
but, if they sent him to jail, it would be better
than to continue in wickedness. Then he thought
what Captain Sedley would say to him; that the club
would despise him; and that he would not be permitted
to join the sports of the coming week-to
say nothing of being put in prison.
But his duty was plain, and he had
resolved to do it. He had decided to suffer the
penalty of his transgression, whatever it might be,
and get back again into the right path as soon as
Happy would it have been for him had
he done so. On his way home from church he unfortunately
met Tim Bunker, who had evidently placed himself in
his way to confirm his fidelity to the Rovers.
Tim saw that he was meditating something
dangerous to the success of his scheme. Charles
was cold and distant. He appeared to have lost
“If you play us false, it will
be all up with you,” said Tim, in a low, determined
tone. “I can prove that you stole the purse.
It was enough to overthrow all Charles’s
good resolution. His fickle mind, his shallow
principle, gave way. Stifling his convictions
of duty, and silencing the “still small voice,”
he went home: and there was no joy in heaven
over the returning prodigal.
“Charles,” said his father,
sternly, as he entered the house, “you were
not at school yesterday!”
“I got late, and did not like to go,”
“Where were you?”
“Down at the village.”
“Go to your room, and don’t leave it without
Charles obeyed. The consequences
of his error were already beginning to overtake him.
His father joined him soon after, and talked to him
very severely. He was really alarmed, for Captain
Sedley had given him a hint concerning his son’s
intimacy with Tim Bunker.
Charles was not permitted to leave
his room that afternoon, and his supper was sent up
to him; but his mother brought it, and consoled him
in his troubles-promising to prevent his
father from punishing him any more.
“Now, go to bed, Charley; never
do so again, and it will be all right to-morrow,”
said the weak mother, as she took her leave.
But Charles did not go to bed.
The family retired early; and, taking his great-coat
on his arm, he stole noiselessly out of the house.
At nine o’clock he was at the rendezvous of
It was not deemed prudent to put their
plans in execution till a later hour; and the band
dispersed, with instructions to meet again in an hour
at Flat Rock, where the boats would be in readiness
to take them off to the island.
Tim and Charles, with four others,
immediately repaired to the place where Joe Braman’s
boat, which had been hired for the enterprise, was
concealed. Seating themselves in it, they waited
till the hour had expired, and then, with muffled
oars, pulled up to the Butterfly’s house.
The doors which opened out upon the
lake were not fastened, and an entrance was readily
effected. The boat was loosed, pushed out into
the lake without noise, and towed down to the Zephyr’s
house. But here the doors were found to be fastened;
and one of the boys had to enter by a window, and
draw the bolt. The boat was then secured without
“Now, Charley, you get into
the Zephyr with two fellows, and tow the Sylph off,”
said Tim, in a whisper.
“Shan’t I get my crew first?”
“Just as you like.”
Charles and his two companions got
into the Zephyr and worked her down to the rock, where
he received his crew. It was found then that some
of the Rovers had not yet made their appearance, so
that there were only ten boys to each boat.
Although the success of the criminal
undertaking required the utmost caution, Charles found
his command were disposed to be very boisterous, and
all his efforts would hardly keep them quiet.
After some trouble he got away from the shore; but
his crew, from the want of discipline, were utterly
incapable of pulling in concert. They had not
taken three strokes before they were all in confusion-tumbling
off the thwarts, knocking each other in the back,
and each swearing at and abusing his companions.
“Hold your jaw, there!”
called Tim Bunker, in a low tone, from the Butterfly.
“Cease rowing!” said Charles.
But they would not “cease rowing,”
and the prospect was that a general fight would soon
ensue in spite of all the coxswain’s efforts
to restore order. At last Tim came alongside,
and rapping two or three of the turbulent Rovers over
the head with a boathook, he succeeded in quieting
After several attempts Charles got
them so they could pull without knocking each other
out of the boat; but he was heartily disgusted with
his crew, and would gladly have escaped from them,
even if Rippleton Jail had yawned to receive him.
After half a dozen trials he placed the Zephyr alongside
the Sylph, let go her moorings, and took her in tow.
The Rovers then pulled for the island; but the passage
thither was long and difficult.