NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years, and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.
The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from What it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.
In the long ago, the brig Industry used to sail from that wharf to the far country where she went, and she used to sail back again to that wharf and unload all the pretty things she had brought back. Captain Solomon was the captain of the Industry then. He had not been married when he was made captain, but he had not been the captain many years before he married; and in time he had three sons. And Captain Solomon's sons grew, and, one day, the oldest was twelve years old and the middle son was about nine and a half, but the littlest son of all was only two and three-quarters. And that littlest son was the one who stayed on the farm, afterwards, and was Uncle John, the father of little John.
And by the time Captain Solomon's oldest son was twelve years old the Industry had stopped going to the little city, and she sailed from a wharf in Boston, and all the other ships that belonged to Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob sailed from that wharf in Boston, too. And Captain Solomon wondered what he should do with his oldest son, and he thought about it for a long time. And, at last, he decided that the boy should go one voyage with him, in the Industry, to see how he liked going to sea. But Captain Solomon was not sure that he would let his son go to sea, even if he liked it; for it was a hard life, even at the best, and if a man went to sea for a living, he had but little time at home, especially if he sailed on long voyages to far countries. Captain Solomon could only be at home with his family about a month or six weeks in each year, and he was beginning to get tired of that life, and to long for a farm where he could stay all the time.
So he went into the office of Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob, one morning, and there he found Captain Jacob. And Captain Jacob looked up from what he was doing.
"Good morning, Captain," said Captain Solomon.
"Good morning," answered Captain Jacob.
Then Captain Solomon didn't know exactly how to begin to say what he had to say. So he hemmed and hawed for some time, but he didn't say anything.
"Well, Captain, what's the trouble?" asked Captain Jacob.
"Well, Captain, there isn't anything the trouble, exactly," answered Captain Solomon. "But you know I've got a son."
And Captain Jacob smiled. "Three, haven't you?" said Captain Jacob. "Or is it four, now?"
"No," said Captain Solomon, "only three. But my oldest boy is twelve years old."
"Bless me!" said Captain Jacob. "How time does fly! It doesn't seem more than a year or two since we made you captain. Twelve years old, is he ? Well, come to think of it, my own boy must be nearly thirteen."
"I hope he's well," said Captain Solomon, "and the little girl, too, and their mother. I remember well the first voyage of the Industry, when I was mate, and you were in command, and when Mistress Lois went along."
"Yes," said Captain Jacob. "We've none of us forgotten that. And they're all well. But what did you want to do with your boy? Why don't you take him with you, next voyage? He'll see something of the world, and the Industry is a good ship yet."
"She is that," said Captain Solomon; "none better. And I had the thought to ask you about that very thing."
"We'll make him cabin boy," said Captain Jacob. "And I have an idea—though I don't know how Lois will like it."
And Captain Solomon thanked him, and he went away. Then Captain Jonathan came in and Captain Jacob told him about Captain Solomon's son, and Captain Jonathan thought it was a good thing to make him the cabin boy. Then Captain Jacob told Captain Jonathan about the idea that he had, which was that perhaps he might like to send his own boy with Captain Solomon, too. And Captain Jonathan didn't say anything for a long time, but thought and thought.
"Well, Jacob," he said at last, "you may be right. He'd have Sol to keep him company. But it's different, sending off my own grandson, and Lois's boy. Why, I may never see him again."
But Captain Jacob laughed at him, and said that Captain Jonathan would live a great many years yet; and that the Industry was a good ship and Captain Solomon a good captain. Sol was Captain Solomon's son that was to be the cabin boy. And Captain Jonathan agreed to the plan, and Captain Jacob got ready to go to see Lois. For Lois was down in that little city, at the house that was Captain Jacob's, and little Jacob was there, too.
They didn't have any railroad trains then, nor any railroads; and Captain Jacob took his valise, which would hold a great many clothes, but he didn't put many clothes in it, so that it hung down rather limp. And he went to the stagecoach office, and there he found a coach almost ready to start. And he went into the office and signed his name in a big book, and then he went out again, and climbed up on top of the coach and sat behind the driver. For it was a beautiful sunny day early in the fall, and the inside of the coach would be hot and stuffy. And then the man away up behind blew a long note on his horn, and the driver gathered up the reins and got his whip in his hand. And the driver gave a signal, and the men who had been holding the horses let go their heads, and away they went.
The coach was a fast coach, and it had four horses hitched to it. It went rather slowly at first, with the four horses all trotting gently. But as soon as they had got out of the streets into the roads of the country, the driver made the horses go faster, so that one horse had to gallop, to keep up. And so they went for about ten miles, three of the horses trotting and one galloping; but sometimes they went more slowly, up a little hill, and sometimes they went faster, down hill on the other side, so that all the horses were galloping except one. And, all of that time, Captain Jacob could see the ocean far off, and it was very pleasant; only, sometimes when they went slowly, the wind would blow the cloud of dust, that was raised by the horses' feet and by the wheels, down upon the passengers. Captain Jacob didn't like dust.
The driver made the horses go faster.
They passed through some little towns, on the way, and stopped once, to take on a passenger; and when they had gone about ten miles, they came into a larger town, and stopped in the yard of an inn. Then some men came running out, and the men began to take out the horses. The horses that had dragged them the ten miles were all tired out, and one of them—the one that had been galloping nearly all of the way—was all warm and he looked as if he had been covered with soapsuds where the reins had rubbed on his neck and wherever the harness had touched him. And the men had the horses out in a jiffy, and other men brought four fresh horses. And the men hitched these fresh horses to the coach as fast as they could, and buckled the reins. Then the man sitting high up behind blew a note on his horn, to let the people know they were ready to start. Some of the passengers had got down and gone into the inn; and these passengers came running out, and got up into their places, and, as soon as they were up, the driver gave the signal to let go the horses' heads. And they whirled out of that inn yard at a gallop.
So they went for another ten miles or so; sometimes faster, sometimes more slowly; and they changed horses again. And when they had changed horses three times, Captain Jacob began to see the ocean nearer, and there was the wide river and the little city. And the coach drew up at a tavern, and Captain Jacob got down. It had taken them about three hours to come from Boston, but he was all stiff and lame for a little while, with sitting still so long, and he was covered with dust. And he went into the tavern to have the dust brushed off, and then he walked home.
Lois was very much surprised to see Captain Jacob, for she didn't know that he was coming; and little Jacob would have been surprised, too, only he was out playing with some other boys and he didn't know that his father had come. But little Lois was never surprised at anything that her father did, and she was glad to see him, and he took her up in his arms and kissed her. She was six and a quarter years old. And Captain Jacob and Lois and little Jacob and little Lois didn't live at that house any more; but Lois came there three or four times every year. And in the summer she brought the children and stayed nearly a month at a time; but in the winter she stayed only a few days, and sometimes she brought little Jacob, but she never brought little Lois in the winter, because the ride in the stage was too long and too cold. So Lois wondered what could have brought Captain Jacob down there so suddenly.
"And," said Lois, "of course you will say the stage brought you. But what is the reason that you came? Has anything gone wrong?"
And Captain Jacob laughed. He couldn't catch Lois with his jokes. "Nothing is wrong," he said. "But why shouldn't I come? Aren't you glad to see me?"
Captain Jacob joked more than he had been used to, and Lois knew that. "Of course I am," she answered. "But you don't generally come without letting me know beforehand. I thought it must be something important."
And Captain Jacob didn't laugh any more. "Well, Lois, it is important," he said. And then he told her about Captain Solomon and his boy, Sol, and that he had had the idea that it was a good chance to send little Jacob, too. So he had come right down to tell her about it and to hear what reasons she would give against the idea.
And Lois didn't say anything for a long while, but just sat still and looked out of the window. And at last she gave a little trembling sigh, and said that she wasn't going to give any reasons at all against his going, for she knew that she didn't have any good reasons to give and it might be the best thing for little Jacob. But Captain Jacob couldn't expect that she would like to send him away for such a long time and on such a long voyage, for he wouldn't have his mother with him, nor any woman, to take care of him if he was sick. But she was willing to leave it to little Jacob himself, to go or not, as he wished.
And Captain Jacob thought about it for a while, and then he said that he was willing to leave it to little Jacob, too. And if he thought that he didn't want to go, he needn't. And, just then, little Jacob came running in. And he was surprised to see his father, but he greeted his father politely, and went up to him and shook hands with him. For little boys were taught to be respectful to their fathers, in those days, and to be more polite than little boys are apt to be nowadays. But perhaps they didn't love their fathers so much, and it is really more important that boys should love their fathers than that they should be respectful to them; although good manners are to be desired, too. It isn't likely that mothers were very different, then, from what they are now.
"Jacob," said Captain Jacob, "how would you like to go to India and back in the Industry? Sol is going."
And little Jacob's eyes lighted up with excitement. "Oh, sir!" he cried, just like that. And he clasped his hands together. "Oh, sir!"
Captain Jacob smiled. "So you'd like it, would you?"
"Oh, yes, sir. That is—" And he unclasped his hands and began to look a little troubled. "Is mother going, and Lois ? Or are—are you going, sir?"
"No," said Captain Jacob, rather gruffly. He stopped smiling, but when he stopped smiling Lois began to smile.
"Come here, Jacob," she said. And he went to his mother, and she put her arm around him, and he leaned against her.
"Well?" asked Captain Jacob, then.
"If you please, sir," said little Jacob, "I should like to think it over a little. Do I have to decide?"
"If you please, sir," said little Jacob, "I should like to think it over."
"Yes," said Captain Jacob. "Your mother and I have agreed to leave it to you. Think it over. I shall not have to go back to Boston for some days, and it will do if you let me know your decision before I go. The Industry will sail in about two weeks. It is a chance, Jacob, a chance."
So little Jacob thought and thought for some days about going to India. And Lois wouldn't try to persuade him not to go, for she didn't think that would be fair; and Captain Jacob didn't say anything at all about it. And little Jacob thought so much about it that it nearly made him sick. He didn't want to leave his mother and little Lois for all that long time, but it never entered his head that he might be sick, for children don't usually think of that, and he had always been a well boy. But the voyage in the Industry would be pleasant, for little Jacob liked to be on the ocean, although he had never been on the ocean more than a part of a day; and he liked the ships, and he often went down to the wharf with his father, just to be near them. And he knew Sol, and they often played together; and Sol was going to India.
And the day came when Captain Jacob was going back to Boston, and he hadn't said anything more to little Jacob about going to India. And Captain Jacob packed his bag and said good-bye to Lois and to little Jacob and to little Lois, and he was just going out of the door on his way to the stage-coach. But he stopped, with his hand on the door-knob.
"Well, Jacob," he said, "India or not?" "Yes, if you please, sir," answered little Jacob. "I think I ought to."
"That's what I think," said Captain Jacob. "Better get your things together. Good-bye."
And Captain Jacob went away. And Lois felt very sorry that little Jacob had decided to go, but she thought it really was the best thing for him, and she thought that the year would seem short after it was over. So she tried not to let little Jacob see that she felt sorry. And, for the next week, she was very busy in getting together the things she thought he would need. And Lois had been to India in the Industry and she knew what sort of things little Jacob would need.
And it came time for them to go back to Boston in the stage-coach, and they went, Lois and little Lois and little Jacob. And little Jacob was very much excited with the idea of going away in a great ship, so that he didn't get tired. And they got to their house in Boston, that was on Portland Street. But Portland Street was a very different kind of a street, then, from what it is now, and it had nice houses on it.
And, the next morning, they were all on board the Industry. Captain Jacob was there, and Lois and little Lois and little Jacob; and Captain Solomon and little Sol and all the sailors. And Captain Jonathan was there, too, and he seemed much disturbed, and he said good-bye to little Jacob a good many times, and told him to keep his eyes open so that he could tell him, when he got back, whether things had changed much in India, and whether the elephants that piled the teak logs in the yard up the river were the same elephants that used to be there. And he said that there used to be an elephant that had only one tusk and that had some pieces gone out of his ears, and that elephant was a kind elephant and would let little boys ride him. And he turned to Captain Solomon and said that he hoped he would find time to take the boys to see the elephants.
Captain Solomon laughed, and he said that he guessed there would be no trouble about that. Then he saw that everybody was waiting for everybody else, and he turned to Captain Jacob.
"We're all ready to start, sir," he said, "as soon as you're ready to have us."
And so they all said good-bye to little Jacob again, and they all went down the sloping way on to the wharf, Captain Jonathan and little Lois and Captain Jacob; but Lois stopped, to give little Jacob another kiss, and then she went down, too. And little Jacob and little Sol stood leaning on the rail, and little Jacob was trying not to cry.
Then the sailors untied the great ropes that held the ship, and they hoisted the sails and the Industry sailed away. And Lois and Captain Jacob and little Lois and Captain Jonathan watched her sail out into the harbor and past the islands, until they couldn't see her any more. And all the time that Lois could see little Jacob standing by the rail, he didn't cry a single tear.
And that's all.