Read the entire story by following the links at the end of each chapter or simply click the tag Houseboat Boys and they will all show up. Edited from original text to make the story easier to read by todays understandings.
The Houseboat Boys
by Allyn Draper
There were five of them. And they all belonged to the great house of Barnes and Co. of the City of New York. They were all bright, plucky, active and lucky drummers, who had done splendid work for the house during the season just past. The head of the house had just told them that , as a recognition of their good work, they were to have the entire summer to themselves on full pay. Of course they were happy. There were jubilant, for on full pay for three months with freedom to go where they wished they could have no end of fun and adventure. Tom Owens and Joe Smith walked arm in arm to their boarding house when they left the store, congratulating each other on their good fortune.
“We never got but two weeks before,” remarked Tom.
“No, nor did we ever do so much business before. I tell you man, we have employers who appreciate good work.”
“That is so. I am going to do my best to earn three months off again next summer.”
“So will I. But where shall we go this summer? That’s the most important question just now.”
“Yes. Well, I don’t know. I have not made up my mind where I shall go. But I am going to make the most of it, you may depend on that”
“Ditto, man. I am going to do my best to get the worth of my ninety days’ time out of it.”
Ben Allen, Arthur Beam, and Charlie Swayne were the other three lucky drummers. They were all mere youths, none of them being over twenty one years of age except Tom Owens who was twenty two. Swayne was only nineteen but his work on the road had been as effective as the best of them. Barnes and Co believed in the ambition and enthusiasm of youth, and backed up their belief in a very practical way. Ben Allen and Tom Owens were cousins, and it was through Tom Owens that Ben secured his position with the house. Yet, strange to say, they were not good friends. Tom had discovered a lack of good principe in his cousin which had caused him to regret that he had introduced him to the house.
Ben’s father was a brother of Tom’s mother. The two families had lost sight of each other for years. Allen moved West when Ben was a small boy, and when Ben came to New York he reported to Tom that his mother was dead- and his father traveling. Both of Tom’s parent were dead, and he had been supporting himself since he was sixteen years of age. Somehow or other he never could get Ben to tell him anything about his father or family, though he was extremely anxious to learn all he could about them. The other drummers of the house- and there were nearly a score of them- had noticed his reticence in regard to himself and his family. All of them frequently spoke in endearing terms of their parents, brothers, and sisters. But not a word from Ben. A day or two later Joe Smith said to Tom, and they walked home together.
“The boys are arranging to go off together to spend the summer, and they are counting on us to go with them.”
“Where are they going?”
“Somewhere up on Lake Superior, I believe.”
“Who proposed it?”
“Your cousin Ben.”
“Then I won’t go. ben and I can’t get along amicably together somehow.”
“Oh pshaw! We can’t go without you, Tom. There’ll be enough of us for you if you and Ben can’t agree.”
“What is the plan laid out?”
“Why, it is this: Ben was traveling for the house out there last year, you know, and at Mackinaw he saw a boat which he thinks would be the very thing for us to spend the summer in, and, to tell you the truth, I think so too.”
“Something int eh shape of a houseboat?”
“Yes, a boat of very light draft, forty feet long by twelve wide on which is built a house of three rooms with a front and rear piazza to it, fitted up with all the conveniences of a cottage. It is run by a small electric engine, and is also lighted by electricity.”
“Well, that is an odd sort of a boat, I must say. Who owns it?”
“Ben says that a rich old fellow had it built for his own use, intending to take a party of friends up some of the many rivers which empty into Lake Superior from the North. But the rheumatism struck him just as it was finished, and it has been lying idle ever since. It can be bought or hired for the summer very cheap, Ben thinks, and if it can I think it would be the best thing we could do. It draws less than two feet of water, which will enable us to go hundreds of miles up into the northern wilds of Canada where no tourists have ever been, for the country above Lake Nipigon is almost a wild unexplored country.”
“I would like very much to go, Joe,” said Tom, “but I don’t care to go with a party of which Ben Allen is a member.
Joe could not move him, and the next day he told the others, except Allen, why Tom would not go. By accident Ben heard of it, though he did not say anything about it. Charlie Swayne and Arthur Beam added their persuasive powers to the pressure that was brought to bear on the tall, good looking young drummer, and finally he was persuaded to give his consent to go. Ben telegraphed to Griggs, one of his customers in Mackinaw, to see if the houseboat he had seen there the year before could be hired furnished for the summer for a party of five on a vacation cruise and on what terms. Quite late in the day the reply came that it could be hired, and the terms were so reasonable that a telegram was sent asking Griggs to secure it for the party, who would take possession on the second day of June. That matter being attended to, the party of five made preparations for the summer’s trip. Some bought rifles and some shotguns, while no end of fishing tackle was bought up. Ben Allen, as the one who had suggested the excursion and pushed it through, was the busiest one of the party during the ten days left them.
The morning of the first day of June came, and the party of five made their way to the depot to take a west bound train. Quite a party of their friends had assembled to see them off. There was quite a noisy time there when the train moved out. Two days later they arrived at the city of Machinaw. Mr. Griggs, the merchant, et them at the train and conducted them to the boat which he had secured for them. Ben introduced the party to the merchant, who in turn introduced the party to the merchant, who in turn introduced them to the pilot and steward of the houseboat. The pilot was French Canadian, who was a fine electrician and one of the best guides in the Northwest. The steward was a great big caterer who understood his business thoroughly.
“I am glad to be able to say you, you gentlemen” said Griggs, after the introductions had been made, “that no better pilot than Pierre Lacombe can be found in the lake region, not a better steward than Scipio. We all call him Scip. I’ve known them both for years, and if anything is lost through any fault of theirs you may charge it up to me.”
“That’s recommendation enough, I am sure,” remarked Tom, as he looked at the two men. “Who is to be our captain?”
“Oh, you must elect one of your own party to that position,” said the merchant.
Ben Allen sounded three of the party as to their choice of captain, and found that they were big in favor of Tom Owens, his cousin.
“I think it unjust to me,” he said to them, “because I got up this excursion and —”
“Oh, you are too hot headed to be captain,” said Joe to him. “Besides, you know, Tom wouldn’t go if you were captain.”
Ben said no more. But in the evening he went on shore and made his way along the water front till me met a tall man in a cloak in the gateway of a lumber yard. the man in the cloak coughed slightly and Ben turned to him quickly, saying: “Father!”
“Ben!” replied the man, grasping his hand.
They retired behind a huge pile of lumber where the man in the cloak, who was no other than Ben’s father, asked:
“Did they all come?”
“Yes, and are on board the boat,” Ben replied.
“When do you start, and where do you go?”
“We may start tomorrow afternoon, or the next morning. We have got to buy our supplies tomorrow. I don’t know where we shall go, but think well go up the Nepigon river to the lake and beyond.”
“Who is to be in charge of the boat?”
“They have secured a French Canadian of the name Lacombe to be pilot, and Tome will be the captain.”
“Tom Owens! Why don’t you be captain?”
“Because they all want Tom.”
“Well that makes it bad for us, but we can work it all the same. You can learn how to run the electric engine if you work the pilot right. Just as soon as you’ve mastered it, we’ll throw ‘em into the lake and take the boat. Once in our hands we can do our work without hindrance, and move from one locality to another without danger of discovery.”
“Where will me meet you?” Ben asked.
“Up on Nepigon Lake. We have a rendezvous up there. Tom won’t know me, and you and I will meet as strangers.”
“Well, good-bye till then,” and the precious pair shook hands and parted.