Harper's Young People, May 4, 1880 An Illustrated Weekly

by: Various

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Language: English
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The tide was just out on the Staten Island shore, and the water in the little cove below Mr. Drake's residence was as smooth as a pan of milk with the cream on.

Nothing in the shape of a ship ought to have tipped over in such water as that.

So Rob Drake had thought, but every time he shoved his new ship away from the flat rock at the head of the cove, over she went. First on one side, then on the other, it did not seem to make much difference which. She stood up well enough so long as Rob kept hold of her, but as soon as ever he let go, down she tumbled.

Rob was about twelve years old, and he believed he knew all about ships.

Did he not live on Staten Island, right across the bay from New York? Did he not go over to the city on the great ferry-boat every now and then, and see all the shipping at the wharves, and sail past all sorts of craft on the way there and back?

Some of them, he knew, came from almost all the countries in the world, and he had seen hundreds of them sail out of the harbor to go home again.

Of course Rob knew all about ships; but this one, on which he and Larry McGee had been whittling and working for a week, seemed determined to float bottom up.

What could be the matter?

"Larry, she's top-heavy."

"No, she ain't. It's ownly a sort of a thrick she's got. All she wants is practice."

Larry was Mr. Drake's hired man, and knew a little of everything, only he knew more about a horse than he did about any kind of sailing vessel.

"The boy's right, my hearty. She's more hamper than hull, and she's no ballast at all."

Rob and Larry looked behind them when they heard that. They had not heard him come along the sandy beach, they had been so busy, but there he was: a short, thin old man, with broad shoulders, dressed like a United States "man-o'-war" sailor, and with a wooden leg that was now punching its round toe deep into the sand.

"'Dade, sor," said Larry, "it's a good ship she is, av she wouldn't lie down that way."

"She's a ship, then? I'm glad to know that. It's a good sign for the boy that he's taken to ships. There's not many boys care for 'em nowadays."

"Why, of course it's a ship," said Rob, as he pulled his craft ashore and held her up to let the water drip from her wet sails. "Didn't you know what she was?"

"Old fellows like me don't know much nowadays. You've put in four masts, and a bowsprit at each end, and I couldn't tell just what she was."

"Oh," said Rob, "that's nothing. I saw a steamer with four masts the other day."

"There's no accounting for steamers, my boy. And I've heard men call 'em ships, too, that ought to have known better."

"Don't I know a ship?" proudly exclaimed Rob. "Can't I tell a schooner from a sloop, and a bark from a brig? I know. It's the masts and rigging make the difference."

"Well, now," said the old man, "you're a bright boy. What's your name?"

"Robert Fulton Drake."

The old man shook his white head solemnly, and took off his round Scotch cap. "Drake's a good name. There was a great sailor of that name once....