Charles Roberts.

Reube Dare's Shad Boat





Give me that ax! said Reube, quietly.

Paul handed over the weapon with most prompt and deferential obedience, and began to stammer an inarticulate apology. Reube kept eyeing him without another word, and Paul grew anxious and worried under the gaze. At last he plunged his great hand deep down into his trousers pocket and drew forth a lot of silver and copper coins. These he pressed Reube to accept, presently breaking into maudlin protestations of esteem.

Reube turned away abruptly, having made up his mind what to do with his troublesome guest. He set the lamp on a shelf, and then took the money which Paul still held out.

Ill take care of it till youre sober enough to put it to its proper use, said he.

The big fellow was by this time on the verge of tears, and ejaculating a host of promises. He wouldnt touch another drop, and hed mend both the doors so theyd be just as good as new; and hed never forget Reubes goodness in not having him taken up for a burglar, and hed go right home to his poor family.

No you dont, Jim! interrupted Reube at this point. Youll stay right here where I put you for the rest of this night. And youll go home to your family in the morning if youre sober enough, but not otherwise.

At this Paul began to protest. But paying no more heed to his words than if he had been a naughty child, Reube led him to a small room opening off the kitchen. The window of this room was a tiny affair through which a man of Pauls bulk could not manage to squeeze. Reube got a couple of heavy buffalo robes, spread them on the floor, and told Paul to lie down on them. Then, bidding him sleep soundly and feel better in the morning, Reube locked him in and went to bed. But he took the precaution to carry the ax up stairs with him. His mother said simply:

You managed the poor fellow beautifully, my dear boy. I was glad you were not forced to be rough with him.

Reube smiled inwardly at his mothers magnificent faith in his powers, but all he said was:

Good night, mother dear. Hes all right where he is now, and Ill have a talk with him in the morning.

In the morning Paul had fairly sobered up. He was genuinely ashamed of himself. After making him eat some breakfast Reube gave him back his money and sent him home. As he was leaving the house he turned to say something, but seeing Mrs. Dare within earshot he hesitated. Reube followed him to the gate. There he stopped and said:

I know I was just crazy drunk las night, but I kinder recklect what happened. When we wuz all drinkin down to Simess, an Id licked three or four of the fellers, Mart Gandy says, says he, Theres a lad hereabouts as yer caint lick, Jim Paul, an him only a kid, too! In course I fires up, and says I, Show him to me, an Ill show yous all! Some more words passed, till I was that riled I was blind, an then Mart Gandy says, says he, Yer caint lick Reube Dare! Off I started to oncet, an you knows wells I do that Id never a lifted a finger agin this house ef I hadnt bin jest blind crazy! But Ill remember what I might a done ef you hadnt jest bin able to make me mind; an fore God, Ill try to keep straight.

But you mark my words. Look out fer that ther Gandy! Hes up ter mischief, an he aint the one to stick at anything.

Thank you, Jim, answered Reube, holding out his hand. Well say no more about last night, but Ill remember your warning, and I want you to remember the promise youve just made me!

CHAPTER IX.
The Didos First Fishing Trip

JIM PAULS warning made an impression on Reubes mind. When Will Carter heard of it he exclaimed:

That fits in with my own ideas exactly, Reube! Theres some alien streak in that Gandys blood that makes him more likely to knife you in the back than fight you to your face; and that being a kind of enemy you dont understand, youve got to be all the more careful, old man.

Well, said Reube, thoughtfully, what is one to do about it anyway?

Why, look sharp for a chance to get the scoundrel locked up, even if his family does need him, answered Will. And, meanwhile, keep your eyes open after dark, and take no chances. Carry a good heavy stick, too.

All right! laughed Reube. But I think these hands of mine are good enough for Mart, any day.

That night proving fine with a fair, light wind down the bay, Reube and Will took the Dido out for her first drift. In the cuddy were stowed some extra clothes in case of a cold bay fog rolling up, and several thick blankets, and enough bread and meat and cold tea for a couple of days in case the trip should be unexpectedly prolonged. Will insisted also on a generous sheet of Mrs. Dares gingerbread and a brown stone jug of lime-juice ready mixed. He had a care for material comforts. But as for Reube, he was in such a state of exalted excitement that he could think of nothing but shad and the Dido.

Will was an excellent shot famous, indeed, all about that region for his habit of going partridge shooting with a little rifle instead of the orthodox shotgun. He now took his beloved little rifle with him in the hope of bagging some rare specimen of gull or hawk. He little dreamed that he might turn out to be hunted instead of hunter on that trip.

By the time all preparations were complete, and the brown nets, beaded with wooden floats and leaden sinkers, unwound from the reel and neatly coiled in the Didos stern, and the great half hogshead amidships filled with water to serve as ballast, the rest of the shad fleet were dropping one by one out of the creek. Like great pale moths their sails floated over the marsh, following the windings of the creek, and vanishing into the silvery night. The Dido followed with Reube at the helm. She sailed swiftly and soon overtook her slower rivals. Only the little red-and-white pinkie preserved her distance, and Reube had to acknowledge, reluctantly, that she was as speedy as the Dido. When the fleet reached the open every boat headed down the bay, at the same time diverging from its neighbor. The object of this latter movement was to get the utmost possible room for the nets; of the former to get as far down the bay as possible before turning with the tide to drift back. The fishing was all done on this backward drift.

The Dido gradually lost sight of all her rivals but the pinkie, which hovered, a faint white speck, far to starboard. The five hours sail brought our young shad fishers past Cape Chignecto, and into wider waters. It was rough off the cape after the turn of tide, and the Dido pitched heavily in the steep yellow waves. Neither Reube nor Will had ever before been so far down the bay, and in their curiosity over a certain strange formation of the cliffs they sailed somewhat close to the shore.

Will, from his place on the cuddy, was expatiating learnedly on the distorted strata before them, when suddenly he broke off in the midst of a word, and yelled:

A reef right ahead! Bring her about, quick!

But Reube had seen the danger at the same instant. With one hand he jammed the helm hard down, and with the other loosed the main sheet, at the same time shouting to Will:

Let go the jib!

Will sprang to obey. But the stiff new rope, pulled taut during the long run and shrunken hard by the spray, would not yield at once even to his strong fingers. It had got jammed fast in some way. Meanwhile the Dido, broadside on and beaten mightily by the waves, was heeling as if she would turn over in the trough. The jib pulled terrifically, and the water hissed above the cleaving gunwale.

Quick! Quick! yelled Reube; and Will, snatching his knife from his belt, severed the rope at a slash and released the sail. Gracefully the Dido swung up, righted herself, and bowed on an even keel.

That was something of a close shave, remarked Reube.

It was, said Will, studying with angry eyes the rope which had baffled him.

After this they took a long tack which brought them once more into smoother waters above the cape. As the sun got higher the wind fell lighter, and at length Reube announced that it was time to get out the net. The mainsail was hauled down, and under a close-reefed jib the Dido lay to while the net was slowly and carefully paid out over the stern. The helm was so delicately manipulated that the floating net was not allowed to bunch, but formed its line of blocks into a wide, shallow crescent with the Dido at one horn. This accomplished, the remaining bit of canvas was furled and the long, slow process of drifting was fairly begun. The tide ran fast, and the shores a half mile distant slipped smoothly by. The rudder swung loose while Will and Reube ate their breakfast, and congratulated themselves on the sailing qualities of the Dido. After breakfast they basked in the sweet June sun, told stories, wondered idly if the net was capturing anything, grew sleepy, and at last began to get impatient. A great gray gull flew over, and Will raised his rifle. But he lowered it instantly.

I was on the point of dropping that poor old grayback, said he, penitently, just for lack of something better to do.

I wondered why you were going to shoot it, said Reube, when I knew it was no good as a specimen.

I say, exclaimed Will, a few minutes later, yawning, this suns getting mighty hot! How long have we been drifting?

A little over two hours, replied Reube.

How long is one expected to drift? asked Will.

O, say four, or maybe five, was the reply.

Well, as this is just a sort of trial trip and picnic, suggested Will, I move we haul in the net and count our fish. Then we can sail round yonder point to a big creek I know of with a fine, shelving sand spit at its mouth. The sand is covered at high water; but about the time we get there it will be just right for you to go in swimming from. A swim will go fine this hot day, eh?

All right! assented Reube. He was himself consumed with impatience to see what was in the net.

As the first two oars lengths came over the side there was nothing, and the fishermens faces fell. Then came the shining, silvery sides of a dozen shad, and they grew exultant. Then a small salmon, and they chuckled. Then two or three large jellyfish slipped through the meshes in fragments. And then the shad really began. It was a noble haul, and excitement ran high in the Dido. The huge tub amidships was nearly half full of the gleaming spoils by the time the last fathom of net came over the side; and there was also another and larger salmon to show. The water in the tub was thrown overboard, as the shad made sufficient ballast.

If the Dido keeps it up like this shell be as good as your diked marsh, cried Reube, gloating over his prizes.

Right you are! said Will, heartily, washing his hands with vigor over the side. And now for that swim. Weve earned it, and we need it.

Forthwith the sails were got up, and the Dido made all haste for the swimming place which Will had indicated. She rounded the point, skirted the shore for nearly a mile, ran into the creeks mouth, and dropped anchor beside the tempting yellow sand spit.

CHAPTER X.
Besieged on the Sand Spit

WILL lost no time in getting off his clothes. He felt hot and fishy, and the cool, tawny ripples allured him. Reube tested the anchor to see that the Dido held fast, and then began more slowly to undress. The anchor had been dropped not more than thirty or forty feet from the sand spit, but the boat had swung off before the light breeze till the distance was increased to a score of yards.

Thats quite a swim for me, Will, said Reube, doubtfully, eyeing the tide.

Nonsense! You can swim twice as far as that if you only think so, asserted Will with confidence. By the way, I wonder what makes you such a duffer in the water. Thats your weak point. I must take you in hand and make a water dog of you.

I just wish you would, said Reube. I dont seem to really get hold of myself in the water. I have to work frightfully hard to keep up at all, and then Im all out of breath in less than no time. Why is it, I wonder?

Well, answered Will, well see right now. You swim over to the bar yonder, and Ill stand here and watch your action. I fancy you dont use your legs just right.

Its too far. Pull her in a little way, urged Reube.

Laughingly Will complied. He pulled on the rope till the Dido was almost straight above the anchor. Then Reube slipped overboard with an awkward splash and struck out for the sand spit.

His progress was slow and labored. His strokes made a great turmoil, but produced little solid result. Wills face wore a look of amused comprehension, but he refrained from criticism till the swimmer had reached his goal and drawn himself out panting on the sand.

Hows that? asked Reube.

O, its all wrong! If it was anyone less obstinate than you he wouldnt keep afloat half a minute struggling that way, answered Will. But wait a moment and Ill show you what I mean.

With a graceful curve Will plunged into the water as smoothly as if he had been oiled. A few long, powerful strokes brought him to the spot where his comrade was standing.

Now, said he, get in there in front of me when the water comes up to the lower part of your chest. You use your legs wrong, and your arms too. Your arms dont make a quarter the stroke they ought to, and your fingers are wide open, and your hands press out instead of down on the water too much. Keep your fingers together, and turn your palms so that they tend to lift you, instead of just pushing the water away on each side. And, moreover, finish your stroke!

And what about my legs? asked Reube, humbly.

Never mind them till we get the hands right, insisted Will. Now lean forward slowly, with your back hollowed well and chin up, your arms out straight ahead, and straighten your legs. Right! Now round with your arms in a big, fine sweep, drawing up your legs at the same time. Thats more like it. But your legs you draw them up right under you with the knees close together. Thats all wrong. Didnt you ever watch a frog, old man? As you draw up your legs spread your knees wide apart like one of those tin monkeys shinning up a stick. Try again. M-m-m! Yes, thats something like what I want. You see, with the knees doubled up wide apart they have their separate motions as you kick them out again. The legs press the water down, and so do some lifting. The feet push you ahead, and at the same time you thrust a wedge of water backward from between your legs as they come strongly together.

Thats reasonable, assented Reube, practicing diligently. In a few minutes he had made a marvelous advance in his method. Will sometimes swam beside him, sometimes stood on the bar and criticised.

All at once, in the midst of an encouraging speech he clapped his hands to his heart with a cry of pain, sank upon the sand, and called out sharply:

Come here quick, quick, Reube!

Reube remembered his lessons even in his anxiety, and with long, powerful strokes made his way swiftly to Wills side. As he landed Will straightened himself up with a grave smile, and held one his hand to draw Reube back from the waters edge.

Im all right now, said he.

But what was the matter? queried Reube, in impatient astonishment.

Why, just that, replied Will, suddenly pointing to the water.

Reube turned and glanced behind him.

Sharks! he almost shouted. And there, sure enough, were two black triangular fins cleaving the water where he had just been swimming.

After staring for a moment or two in silence he turned again and met the inscrutable smile on his companions face. He held out his hand.

I understand, said he. If Id got flurried in the water I would have forgotten the lessons you have just given me, and couldnt have got to shore fast enough. And in the love and admiration which glowed in his eyes Will read sufficient thanks.

Now the question is, mused the latter, how were going to get to the boat.

Seems to me wed better stay right here for the present, said Reube, drily.

Yes, suggested Will; and when the tide gets a little higher what then?

Um! said Reube, I was forgetting this is not an honest island. This does certainly look awkward. But what do you suppose those chaps are doing, cruising to and fro right there? Are they just catching herring? Or are they after us?

You would know what they were after if you had seen the way they streaked in here when they got a glimpse of you, responded Will.

I dont see what were going to do about it, said Reube presently, after they had gazed at their dreadful besiegers in gloomy silence. But theres something in the way of a weapon which we might as well secure anyway. And running to the other side of the sand spit he snatched up a broken picket which had been left there by the previous ebb. Its better than nothing, he insisted.

Reube, said Will, if we stay here its all up with us pretty soon. Well just make a dinner for those chaps. It seems to me Id better take that stick youve got there and make a dash for the Dido. You know I swim wonderfully fast, and dive like a fish; and I can perhaps manage to jab the sharks with that picket, or scare them off by making a great splash in the water. If I succeed in getting to the Dido Ill bring her over for you, and well fix the enemy with a couple of bullets.

No, said Reube, doggedly, grasping the other firmly by the shoulder. You just wait here. Well fight this thing out side by side, as we have fought things out before. Remember the cave, Will! And we wont fight till we have to. Were safe for a half hour yet anyway.

And then the distance between us and the boat will be all the greater, urged Will.

No, the winds falling and it may turn and blow the Dido over this way, insisted Reube. See, the fitful little gusts now. Or one of the other boats may come in sight near enough for us to hail her. You never can tell what may happen, you know.

Indeed, as a matter of fact, Reube was right. He could not tell what would happen. What actually did happen was neither of the things which he had suggested, and yet it was the most natural thing in the world.

CHAPTER XI.
Foiling the Sharks

SLOWLY the tide crept in upon the spit, and the strip of sand grew narrower. Those grimly patrolling black fins drew nearer and nearer as the bar became smaller. The gusts of wind grew more and more capricious, sometimes seeming as if they would actually swing the Dido over to the rescue of the despairing prisoners; but this they refrained from doing.

Shell swing over to us yet, asserted Reube, confidently. She isnt going to desert us in such a horrible scrape as this!

But Will made no reply. He was studying his tactics for the struggle which he felt was now close at hand.

Youd better give that stake, or picket, or whatever it is, to me, Reube, he suggested. Youll have enough to do just swimming. I, being perfectly at home in the water, will be able to make the best use of it, dont you think? If I can manage to give each of those brutes a solid jab in the belly, maybe theyll get sick of their undertaking and depart.

All right, agreed Reube, though with some reluctance. And he handed over the sharp stick.

Youll have to fight for yourself and me too, thats all, he continued.

Ill make a fight anyway, said Will. And I dare say I can drive them both off. In these well-stocked waters they cant be very hungry or very fierce.

At last the strip of sand was not more than three or four feet wide and six inches above water. But though so narrow it was more than a hundred yards in length, extending like a sort of backbone up the entrance to the creek. About the middle it looked a foot or two broader than where the captives were standing.

Come up there where it is wider, said Reube.

As they went those black fins kept scrupulously abreast of them, and they shuddered at the sight.

At this point the opposite shore of the creek jutted out somewhat sharply toward the sand spit. Will cast his eye across the narrow channel.

What fools we are all this time! he cried. Why, we can easily swim across to land on this side before the sharks can get all the way around the shoal.

Can we? inquired Reube, doubtfully.

Yes, said Will, and the sooner the better. But now look, Reube; keep cool. Dont try to hurry too much. Take the long, slow strokes. And remember, Ill keep behind, and, if the brutes do get around too quick Ill keep them busy a minute or two, never fear. Then you can come to my rescue with one of those fence stakes yonder. Come on, now! And side by side they slipped swiftly into the water.

With long, powerful strokes they sped across the narrow channel that divided them from safety. Will, swimming at much less than his full speed, dropped almost a yard behind as soon as they were fairly started, and swam on his side so as to command a view of the water behind. The narrow ridge of yet uncovered sand, however, prevented him from seeing what took place when he and Reube slipped noiselessly, as they thought, into the water. Those black fins had turned on the instant, and were darting with terrific speed for the lower end of the sand spit.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6