Charles Roberts.

Reube Dare's Shad Boat





Thrilling with suppressed excitement, Reube and Will sat down with the jar between them, and Reube proceeded to chip away the rosin with his knife. Will gazed at the operation intently.

Probably some good old Evangelines pet jar of apple sauce! said he.

Reube ignored this levity, and chipped away with irritating deliberation. At last off came the cover. As it did so there was a most thrilling jingling within, and the boys leaned forward with such eagerness that their heads bumped violently together. They saw stars, but heeded them not, for in the mouth of the jar they saw the yellow glint of a number of gold coins.

Well, dreams do sometimes come true! remarked Will. And Reube, spreading out Wills coat, which lay close at hand, emptied upon it the whole contents of the jar.

It was coin all coin! There were a few golden Louis, a number of Spanish pieces, with silver crowns and livres Tourtnois, amounting, according to such hasty estimate as the boys could make, to some five or six hundred dollars.

Thatll be three hundred dollars apiece, said Reube, with eyes sparkling; and Ill be able to take mother to Boston and go to college too!

Three hundred dollars apiece! said Will. Indeed, I dont see what I had to do with it. You found it. You had nerve enough to take notice of it when you were more than three quarters dead. And you went back and got it. Ive no earthly claim upon it, old man.

Reube set his jaw obstinately.

Will, said he, we were exploring the cave in partnership. If you had found the stuff, Id have expected my share. Now, youve got to go shares with me in this, or I give you my word our friendship ends!

O, dont get on your dignity that way, Reube, said Will. If I must, why, I suppose I must! And if I cant take a present from you, I dont see whom I could take one from. But I wont take half, because I didnt do half toward getting it, and because you need it enough sight more than I do. A couple of years ago Id have spoken differently. But Ill divide with you, and as to the proportions, well settle that on the way home. Now Im off for the Dido! And having thrown off his clothes as he talked, he ran down the bank and plunged into the sea.

Ill let you off with one third, shouted Reube after him, as he sat on the bank and watched. Not one penny less!

All right, spluttered Will, breasting a white-crested, yellow wave. In a few minutes he was on board the Dido. Pulling up the anchor and hoisting the sail, he brought her in beside a jutting plaster rock which formed a natural quay. Then he resumed his clothes, while Reube took his place at the helm.

The wind being still down the bay and the tide on the turn, they decided not to attempt the all-night task of beating up against it. It took them, indeed, two tacks to reach the pinkie. Will went aboard the latter craft, leaving Reube in his darling Dido.

The two boats tacked patiently back and forth, in and out of the wide cove, till they gained the shelter of a little creek under the lea of Wood Point. Here they were secured with anxious care. Then Will and Reube started for home by the road, pricked on to haste by the thought of how their mothers would be worrying, by the sharp demands of their empty stomachs, and by the elating clink of the coins that filled their pockets. When they reached Mrs. Dares cottage Reube rushed in to relieve his mothers fears, for she had indeed begun to be anxious. Will hurried on toward Frosty Hollow, munching a piece of Mrs. Dares gingerbread by the way.

As he trudged forward cheerfully, he was overtaken by an express wagon bound for the Corners. The driver offered him a lift, as the phrase goes about Tantramar. It was none other than Jerry Barnes, the master of the red bull, and the owner of the pinkie which Will and Reube had so boldly appropriated. Will told him the whole story, omitting only the discovery of the jar of coin. He and Reube had agreed to keep their counsel on this point, lest some should envy their good luck and others doubt their story.

I hope, said Will, you are not put out at our taking the pinkie?

I hope, grinned Barnes, youre not put out at old Ramses for bein so oncivil in the pastur! But as for the pinkie, of course you did quite right. Only Ill want you chaps to get her back to the creek by to-morrow mornins tide, as Im goin to drift for shad to-morrow night!

Of course, said Will; well go after her the first thing in the morning. Thats just what we planned on.

That theres a smart boat Reube Dares built. And hes a right smart lad, is Reube, remarked Jerry Barnes.

Theres where your heads level, agreed Will, warmly.

And do you know when hes goin to drift? asked Barnes.

He wont be quite ready for to-morrow night, said Will. But we count on getting out the night following.

Well, now, a word in your ear! went on Barnes, leaning over confidentially. Ive no manner of doubt Mart Gandy cut the Dido loose. And now Reube had better keep his eye on his nets after the boats get away to-morrow night. I shouldnt wonder a mite if Gandyd try slashing em, so as to give Reube an unpleasant surprise when he starts out for the Didos first fishing.

I say, said Will, I never thought of that! Well lay for him, so to speak, and give him a lesson if he tries it on.

A nods as good as a wink, remarked Jerry Barnes, mysteriously, as he set Will down at Mrs. Carters door.

Mrs. Carter had not been at all anxious. Ever since Wills reclamation of the new marsh she had had an implicit faith in his ability and judgment. She had imagined that he was spending the day with Reube. She rather lost her dignified self-control over Wills story of the adventure in the cave, and she was filled with girlish excitement over the finding of the old blue jar.

Of course, dearest boy, said Mrs. Carter, you did quite right to want Reuben to take all the treasure, since he alone found it. But where would he have been but for you? Reuben is a fine boy, if his grandfather didnt amount to much. He takes after his mothers family the most. Im glad he made you take a share of these lovely old coins.

Well be able to have some sort of a jolly lark on the strength of it when Ted comes home, said Will.

We might take a run to Boston! suggested his mother. I want you boys to see the city; I want to see it myself. And I might Mrs. Dare, you know, might want a friend near her if the operation proves at all serious, which I hope it wont.

You dear, thats just like your thoughtfulness! cried Will, jumping up and kissing her. And so it was agreed upon, subject, in a measure, to Teds assent.

CHAPTER VII.
Mart Gandy Hacks the Shad Net

DURING the next forenoon the Dido and the pinkie were sailed up to their old berths in the creek. That night all the boats went out except the Dido, fading like ghosts into the misty, half-moonlit dusk. Reube was very indignant at the thought that Gandy might attack his shad net, and vowed, if he caught him at it, to clap him in jail. Mrs. Dare had made the boys take a pair of heavy blankets with them, and, stretched on these, they lay along the seat in the Didos stern, just under the shelter of the gunwale. The reel, with its dark burden of net, rose a few feet away, and stood out black but vague against the paler sky. Close at hand lay the wharf, like a crouching antediluvian monster, with its fore paws plunged into the tide.

From where they lay our watchers commanded a view of the surrounding levels by merely lifting their heads. In low but eager tones they discussed the Boston trip planned for the coming autumn, and Reube squeezed his comrades hand gratefully when he heard what company he and his mother would have.

I can never tell your mother my gratitude, said he. With her there my anxiety will be more than half gone.

Im so glad muzz thought of it! said Will. Im sure it would never have entered my heedless head. And yet it is just the thing for us to do.

Another subject of their excited colloquy was the disposal of those old coins. If deposited at the Barchester Bank they would certainly arouse comment and set all sorts of romantic stories going. But presently Will thought of his friend Mr. Hand, to whom all things in the way of financial management seemed possible. It was decided that on the very next day Will should take the whole store to him and get him to send it away for conversion into modern currency.

And hell be able to see that we dont get cheated, added Will. I fancy some of those coins will be wanted by collectors, and so be worth a lot more than their face value.

I tell you, Will, exclaimed Reube, I cant even yet quite get over my astonishment at the way you swear by old Hand; or, perhaps I should rather say, at the way the old fellow seems to be developing qualities of which he was never suspected until you begun to thaw him out.

Indeed, said Will, warmly, Mr. Hand is fine stuff. He was like a piece of gold hidden in a mass of very refractory ore. But Toddles melted him down all right.

In a short time conversation flagged, and then, listening to the lip-lip-lipping of the softly falling tide and the mellow far-off roar of the waters pouring through an aboideau, both the watchers grew drowsy. At last Will was asleep. Even Reubes brain was getting entangled with confused and fleeting visions when he was brought sharply to himself by the queer sucking sound of footsteps in the mud.

He raised his head and peered over the gunwale. There was Mart Gandy within ten paces of the net reel. He had come by way of the dike. In his hand gleamed the polished curve of the sickle with which he was accustomed to reap his buckwheat, and Reubes blood boiled at the thought of that long, keen blade working havoc in the meshes of his cherished nets. Gandy marched straight up to the reel, raised the sickle, and slashed viciously at the mass of woven twine.

Ere he could repeat the stroke a yell of wrath rang in his ear and Reube was upon him, hurling him to the ground. His deadly weapon flew from his grasp, and he was too startled to make much resistance. The weight of Reubes knee on his chest, the clutch of Reubes strong fingers at his throat, took all the fight out of him. He looked up with angry and frightened eyes and saw Will standing by, a meaning smile on his lips and a heavy tarred ropes end in his hand.

Reube rubbed the culprits head rudely in the mud, and then relaxed the grip upon his gasping throat.

I cannot pound the scoundrel now that Ive got him down, said he, turning his face toward Will. What shall we do with him? You cant lather a chap that doesnt resist and that has his head down in the mud. Its brutal!

Well tie his hands to the reel and give him a taste of this ropes end, suggested Will, judiciously.

I dont exactly like that either, said Reube, rubbing his captives head again in the slime. Its too much like playing hangman. He deserves the cat-o-nine-tails if ever a scoundrel did, but I dont like the dirty work of applying it. Wed better just take him to jail. Then hell get a term in the penitentiary, and be out of the way for a few years. Fetch me that cod line out of the cuddy, will you?

By this time Mart Gandy had found his voice. That word penitentiary had reduced him to an abject state of terror, and he began to plead piteously for mercy.

Lick me! Lick me all you like! he cried, in his queer, high voice. I kin take a hidin; but dont send me to the penitentiary! Whatd the old man do, as haint got his right senses no more? An the old womand jest plumb starve, for the gals they aint a mite o good to work. Le me off this time, Reube Dare, n I declare I wont never do it agin!

Marts imploring voice more than his words made Reube weaken in his purpose. As for Marts promise, he put no faith in that, and marked on Wills face an unrelenting grin. Nevertheless he said:

Theres something in what the rascal says, Will. If Mart goes to the penitentiary his familys going to suffer more than he. Ive a mind to let him off this time, after all.

Well, grunted Will, just as you say. But it would be nothing short of iniquitous to let him off altogether. Youd better give him a good ducking, to let him know youre in earnest, anyway.

Reube pondered this a moment.

Mart Gandy, he said, sternly, Im going to let you off this time with nothing more than a ducking, to fix the circumstance in your mind. But remember, if I find you again at any of your old pranks Ill have a warrant out against you that very day! And Ive got all the evidence needed to convict you. Now get up! And he jerked the lanky and bedraggled form to its feet.

Mart, with the fear of prison walls no longer chilling his heart, had recovered himself during this harangue, and his eyes gleamed with a furtive, half-wild hate. Still he made no resistance. The sickle lay far beyond his reach, and he knew he was physically no match for either Reube or Will. He was led to the very edge of the steep, slippery incline of the channel, wherein the tide had dropped about fifteen feet. Will snatched a coil of rope out of the boat.

Can you swim? he asked, curtly.

No, said the fellow, eyeing him sidewise.

He is lying, remarked Reube, in a businesslike voice.

Well, said Will, if he isnt lying well fish him out again, thats all.

Just as he was speaking, and while Gandys eyes were fixed upon his face with an evil light in them, Reube stepped forward and executed a certain dexterous trip of which he was master. Gandys heels flew out over the brink, his head went back, and, feet foremost, he shot like lightning down the slope and into the stream.

In a moment he came to the surface and began floundering and struggling like a drowning man.

Hes putting that all on, said Reube.

Maybe not, exclaimed Will. Better throw him the end of the rope now.

Reube smiled, gravely, but obeyed and a coil fell almost in Gandys arms. The struggling man seemed too bewildered to catch it. He grasped at it wildly, sank, rose, sank, and rose again. Will prepared to jump in and rescue him. But Reube interposed.

No, you dont, said he, coolly; not without one end of this rope round your waist and me hanging onto the other end!

Make haste, then, cried Will, in some anxiety.

In a few seconds the rope was knotted firmly about Wills waist, and he sprang into the water. Even as he did so the apparently drowning man disappeared. He came up again many feet away, and, swimming with wonderful speed, gained the opposite bank. He clambered nimbly up the slope and started at a run across the marsh. Reube, with derisive compliments, helped the dripping and disgusted Will to shore again.

I saw his game, said he, while Will wrung out his clothes. Hes just like a fish in the water, and he thought hed make believe he was drowning, and so manage to drag you down without getting blamed for it. But he knew the game was up when he heard what I said and saw you had the rope tied to you.

Right you are this time, old man, said Will.

The sky had cleared perfectly, and in the radiant moonlight Reubes skillful fingers quickly mended the net. The cut was not a deep one, as the blade had been stopped by two of the large wooden floats with which the net was beaded. The mending done and the net made ready for the next nights fishing, the boys turned their faces toward the uplands to seek a few hours sleep at Mrs. Dares.

Meanwhile Mart Gandy had never ceased running till he got behind an old barn which hid him from the scene of his punishment. Then he turned and shook his long, dark finger in silent fury toward the spot where his antagonists were working. When he reached home he crept to a loft in the shed and drew out a long, heavy musket, once a flintlock, which he had altered to a percussion lock, so that it made an effective weapon for duck shooting. This gun he loaded with a heavy charge of powder and a liberal proportion of buckshot. He muttered over his task till it was done to his satisfaction, and then stole off to sleep in the barn.

CHAPTER VIII.
A Midnight Visitor

REUBE and Will did not go shad fishing the next night, after all. A fierce souwester blew up toward evening, and drifting for shad was out of the question. Every boat was made secure with extra care, and all night the fury of an unusually high tide put the Tantramar and Westcock dikes to the test. They stood the trial nobly, for well had their builders done their work.

The Dares wide-winged cottage, set in a hollow of the hill, was little jarred by the gusts that volleyed down upon it. Having seen the Dido well secured behind the little wharf, Reube felt altogether at ease.

Are you quite sure, asked Mrs. Dare that evening, that Gandy wont make another attack on the shad boat or the net?

O yes, mother, answered Reube; Im no longer anxious on that score. Mart feels madder than ever, Ive no doubt, and I think hed have tried to drown Will last night if I had left him half a chance. But he is just mortally afraid of the penitentiary, and, now he knows we can prove a case against him, I imagine hell bottle his wrath for a while.

Well, dear, I hope you are right, said his mother. But I must say I think Mart Gandy is more dangerous than you give him credit for being. I want you to be very careful how you go about alone at night. I know that blood, and how it craves for vengeance. Be watchful, Reube, and dont make the mistake of undervaluing your enemy.

No, mother, I wont, answered Reube. I know that wise head of yours is generally in the right. If you think I ought to keep my weather eye open, why, open I will keep it, I promise you. And now its my turn! What were you doing out so late alone, when it was almost dark, with those poor eyes that cant see much even in broad daylight?

I know it was imprudent, Reube, and I did have some trouble getting home, confessed Mrs. Dare. But, dear, I couldnt help it. I heard quite late in the afternoon that Jim Paul was on a spree again, after keeping steady for a whole year. He has been drinking hard for a week drunk all the time and his wife sick in bed, and nothing to eat in the house. I went right down with a basket, and I was glad I went. The children were crying with hunger. And such a house! And Mrs. Paul lying on the floor, white as a ghost, where she had just fallen! She had got out of bed and tried to make some porridge for the children there was nothing in the house but a little corn meal. Her husband was out, and she was trembling with fear lest he should return in a drunken frenzy and beat them all. Poor woman! And Jim Paul is a good husband and father when he is sober. You see, Reube, it took me a long while, blind as Im getting, to find the children and straighten things up.

Well, mother, this autumn, if all goes well, said Reube, cheerfully, well get the poor eyes fixed as good as new. And then you may stay out late sometimes without me scolding you.

That night, when Reube and his mother were sleeping soundly, they were roused by a crash which the roaring of the wind could not drown. It seemed to shake the whole house. Reube sprang out of bed. As he dragged on his trousers his mother came to the door with a lamp in her hand.

What is it, mother? he asked, rubbing his eyes.

Some one has broken in the outer door, replied Mrs. Dare, calmly. He is in the back kitchen now, but the inner door is bolted.

Reube took the lamp from her hand and started down stairs.

O, my boy, what are you doing? You have no weapon. O, if only we had

But Reube interrupted these words, which now had an all-unwonted tremor in them.

Nothing else to be done, mother, he said, quietly. Dont be scared! He wont bother me, whoever he is! And as his mother looked at him she felt strangely reassured. Or, perhaps it was something in his voice which satisfied her. She snatched up her big Paisley shawl, flung it over her nightgown, and followed Reube at a discreet distance.

Reube opened a door leading from the hall to the inner kitchen. At the same moment the door between the two kitchens was battered in with a loud crash, and there entered a terrifying apparition. It was Jim Paul, drunk, and with a wild glitter in his bloodshot eyes. His face and huge, burly form were stained with the blood of various fights, and he carried in his hand the ax with which he had broken down the doors.

Jim Pauls appearance was well calculated to daunt an older heart than Reubes, but Reubes heart was of a dauntless fiber. A cold, steady light seemed to shine from his pale eyes as they met the fierce and feverish gaze of the intruder, who promptly stopped and glanced aside uneasily. Reubes mouth and broad brow, usually so boyish, looked as grim as iron as he stepped up coolly to the drunken giant and asked him what he meant by breaking into the house.

Paul hesitated, beginning to quail before the stronger will that confronted him.





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