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Title: Jack Harvey's Adventures - or, The Rival Campers Among the Oyster Pirates
Author: Smith, Ruel Perley, 1869-1937
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             Jack Harvey’s
                               Adventures
                        Among the Oyster Pirates


                                   By
                           Ruel Perley Smith

            Author of “The Rival Campers Series,” “Prisoners
                           of Fortune,” etc.

                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                            Louis D. Gowing

                                 BOSTON
                          L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
                                  1908

                          RIVAL CAMPERS SERIES
                                   BY
                           RUEL PERLEY SMITH

              Each 1 vol., large 12mo, illustrated, $1.50


  The Rival Campers
  The Rival Campers Afloat
  The Rival Campers Ashore
  Jack Harvey’s Adventures
    Or, The Rival Campers Among the Oyster Pirates

                          L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
                  New England Building, Boston, Mass.

                            Copyright, 1908
                        By L. C. Page & Company
                             (INCORPORATED)
                          All rights reserved

                   First Impression, September, 1908

                      Electrotyped and Printed at
                          THE COLONIAL PRESS:
                  C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.


                                   TO
                              Lucy E. Cyr
                         With the Author’s Love



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. Harvey Makes an Acquaintance                                      1
  II. The Cabin of the Schooner                                       12
  III. Down the Bay                                                   25
  IV. Aboard the Bug-eye                                              40
  V. The Law of the Bay                                               52
  VI. The Working of the Law                                          62
  VII. Dredging Fleet Tactics                                         75
  VIII. A Night’s Poaching                                            85
  IX. Faces through the Telescope                                    102
  X. Flight and Disaster                                             117
  XI. Harvey Sends a Message to Shore                                132
  XII. Escape at Last                                                149
  XIII. Henry Burns Makes a Discovery                                163
  XIV. Harvey Meets with a Loss                                      181
  XV. Henry Burns in Trouble                                         199
  XVI. Artie Jenkins Comes Aboard                                    212
  XVII. Artie Jenkins at the Dredges                                 223
  XVIII. The Battle of Nanticoke River                               241
  XIX. Surprises for Jack Harvey                                     256
  XX. The Pursuit of the Brandt                                      271



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                    PAGE
  “Dealt Harvey a blow in the face that knocked him off his feet”
          (Frontispiece)                                             115
  “Up from the forecastle there burst three men”                      28
  “Presented a pretty sight as viewed from the deck of the river
          steamer”                                                   113
  “‘Stand back there, or I’ll shoot,’ he cried”                      196
  “‘Get up there; you’re quitting!’ cried Haley”                     237
  “The speaker was a middle-aged, well-built man”                    257



                             JACK HARVEY’S
                               ADVENTURES


                                   OR

                      THE RIVAL CAMPERS AMONG THE
                             OYSTER PIRATES



                               CHAPTER I
                      HARVEY MAKES AN ACQUAINTANCE


An Atlantic Transport Line steamship lay at its pier in the city of
Baltimore, on a November day. There were indications, everywhere about,
that the hour of its departure for Europe was approaching. A hum of
excitement filled the air. Clouds of dark smoke, ascending skyward from
the steamer, threw a thin canopy here and there over little groups of
persons gathered upon the pier to bid farewell to friends. Clerks and
belated messengers darted to and fro among them. An occasional officer,
in ship’s uniform, gave greeting to some acquaintance and spoke hopefully
of the voyage.

Among all these, a big, tall, broad-shouldered man, whose face, florid
and smiling, gave evidence of abundant good spirits, stood, with one hand
resting upon a boy’s shoulder. A woman accompanied them, who now and then
raised a handkerchief to her eyes and wiped away a tear.

“There!” exclaimed the man, suddenly, “do you see that, Jack? You’d
better come along with us. It isn’t too late. Ma doesn’t want to leave
you behind. If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s to see a woman cry.”

The boy, in return, gave a somewhat contemptuous glance toward the
steamship.

“I don’t want to go,” he said. “What’s the fun going to sea in a thing
like that? Have to dress up and look nice all the time. If it was only a
ship—”

He didn’t have a chance to finish the sentence.

“Jack Harvey!” exclaimed his mother, eying him with great disapproval
through her tears, “why did you wear that awful sweater down here, to see
us off? If you only knew how you look! I’m ashamed to have folks see
you.”

Harvey’s father burst into a hearty roar of laughter.

“Isn’t that just like a woman?” he chuckled. “Crying about leaving Jack,
with one eye, and looking at his clothes with the other. Why, Martha, I
tell you he looks fine. None of your milk-sop lads for me!” And he gave
his son a slap of approval that made even that stalwart youth wince.

“Why, when I was Jack’s age,” continued the elder Harvey, warming to the
subject and raising his voice accordingly, “I didn’t know where the next
suit of clothes was coming from.”

Mrs. Harvey glanced apprehensively over her shoulder, to see who was
listening.

“Guess I wasn’t much older than Jack,” went on the speaker, thrusting his
hands into his pockets and jingling the coins therein, “when I was
working in the mines out west and wherever I could pick up a job.”

“Now, William,” interrupted Mrs. Harvey, “you know you’ve told us all
about that a hundred times—”

She, herself, was interrupted.

“You’ve got just a minute to go aboard, sir,” said one of the pier
employees, addressing Mr. Harvey. “You’ll be left, if you don’t hurry.”

Jack Harvey’s father gave him a vigorous handshake, and another slap
across the shoulder. Mrs. Harvey took him in her arms, despised sweater
and all, and kissed him good-bye. The next moment, the boy found himself
alone on the pier, waving to his parents, as the gang-plank was hauled
back.

The liner slowly glided out into the harbour, a cloud of handkerchiefs
fluttering along its rail, in answer to a similar demonstration upon the
pier.

Jack Harvey’s father, gazing back approvingly at his son, strove to
comfort and cheer the spirits of his wife.

“Jack’s all right,” said he. “Hang me, if I wasn’t just such another when
I was his age. I didn’t want anybody mollycoddling me. He’ll take care of
himself, all right. Don’t you worry. He’ll be an inch taller in six
months. He knows what he wants, too, better than we do. He’ll have more
fun up in Benton this winter than he’d have travelling around Europe.
There he goes. Take a last look at him, Martha. Confound the scamp! I
kind of wish he’d taken a notion to come along with us.”

If Jack Harvey had any such misgiving as to his decision to spend the
winter in Maine, with his boon companions, Henry Burns and the Warren
boys, and Tom Harris and Bob White and little Tim Reardon and all the
others, in preference to touring Europe with his father and mother, he
showed no sign of it. He whistled a tune as the liner went down the
harbour, watched the smoke pour in black clouds from its funnel, then
turned and walked away from the pier.

A glance at the sturdy figure, as he went along, would have satisfied
anyone of the truth of the assertion of Harvey’s father, that he was able
to take care of himself. The black sweater, albeit it rested under the
disapproval and scorn of Mrs. Harvey, covered a broad, deep chest that
indicated vigorous health; his thick winter jacket hung upon shoulders
that were rounded and muscular. He swung along with the ease and carriage
that told of athletic training. And the advantage of the sweater to one
of his active temperament was apparent, in that, although the air had a
somewhat icy tinge, he was unencumbered by any overcoat—an economy of
dress that afforded him freedom.

Freedom! His was, indeed, freedom now in all things. It came over him
strongly, as he walked alone in the city in which he was a total
stranger, how free he was to act as he pleased. His parents, who
exercised little restraint over him at the most, were now being borne
swiftly down the bay toward the ocean, and he should not see them again
for six long months. He, himself, was due to arrive back in Benton as
fast as trains would carry him; but the thought of his absolute freedom
for the time being exhilarated him strangely. He felt like challenging
the first youth he met to box, or wrestle, or race—anything in which he
could exert his utmost strength and let loose his pent-up energies.

Harvey’s train was due to leave that evening. He spent the afternoon
vigorously, walking miles through streets, exploring here and there,
seeing the sights all new to him. He was growing just a bit weary, and
very hungry, and was thinking of returning to the hotel for supper, when
he emerged from a side street upon a street that ran along the water
front.

A sight that made his pulses beat faster met his eyes. Almost at his
feet, a little more than the width of the street away, lay a fleet of
some thirty or forty fishermen, snuggled all in together, close to a
large float that intervened between them and the wharf. Himself a good
sailor of bay craft, and fond of the water, the picturesqueness of these
boats attracted Harvey greatly.

They were of an odd type, for the most part, unlike anything he had ever
seen in Maine waters, or anywhere else. They were long, shallow, light
draft fellows, with no bulwarks; so that as they lay, broadside to the
float, one might walk across from one to another, without difficulty.
Most of them were sharp at bow and stern. The masts had a most
extraordinary rake to them; and in the two-masters, the rig was more like
that of a yawl than the schooners he was accustomed to seeing. In the
case of these, the after mast, or what would correspond to the ordinary
main-mast, was the smaller and shorter of the two; and it raked aft at an
angle that suggested to the eye of a stranger that it was about to give
way and go overboard by the stern.

Jack Harvey had heard in the vaguest way of the Chesapeake Bay oystermen;
and he surmised at once that this was a part of that fleet. There was
little about them at the moment, however, to indicate occupation of any
sort. Their decks, which were built flush fore and aft, broken only by
the hatches, were swept clean, and their equipment for fishing, or
dredging, had been carefully packed away. And, as matter of fact, the
vessels Harvey now saw were probably for the most part the carriers for
the fishing fleet, that brought the oysters to market; and so carried no
dredging outfits.

Moreover, there was a pleasing suggestion of indolence and coziness in
the smoke that curled out of many funnels from the cook stoves in the
cabins, telling of preparations for supper. A few men were idling about,
talking together, on this and that boat, in groups. There seemed to be no
one working. Not such a bad sort of existence, thought Harvey.

The fishing boats made, indeed, a most attractive picture. Their lines,
though not as fine as yachts, were sweeping and graceful; their rigging,
simple and of few ropes, formed a network of sharp angles as they lay, a
score deep, by the float; their sloping masts, small and tapering,
inclined now all in one direction, like bare trees bending in a breeze.
The light that yet remained in the west brought them out in sharp relief
against water and sky.

As Harvey stood, watching them, interestedly, a slight accident happened.
A screw steamer, docked just at the head of the float, began to revolve
its propeller rapidly, preparatory to moving in its berth. The swift
current of water excited by the propeller bore down strongly against the
bow of one of the fishermen; and, at that most inopportune moment, the
bow line by which the latter was moored, frayed with much wear, parted.
The bow swung with the current, and the vessel threatened to crash into
another lying just below.

The veriest novice might almost have known what was needed; but Harvey
was no novice, and certainly did know. He was, moreover, prompt to act. A
coil of rope lay at hand upon the float. Snatching up one loose end of
this, Harvey quickly gathered a few loops in either hand, swung them and
threw the end aboard the vessel to a man that had run forward. Then he
took a few turns with the other end about a spiling, and held hard. The
vessel brought up, without harm.

“Good for you!” said a voice just behind Harvey. “You saved ’em just in
time.”

Harvey turned quickly.

The speaker was a thin, sallow youth, some years older, apparently, than
Harvey. His appearance, at first glance, was not wholly prepossessing.
His dress, which had a pretence of smartness, was faded and somewhat
shabby, but was set off with a gaudy waistcoat and a heavy gold chain
adorning its front. His collar was wilted and far from immaculate; but
its short-comings found possible compensation in a truly brilliant
necktie, tied sailor-fashion, with flying ends. A much worn derby hat was
tilted sidewise on the back of his head.

This youth, who was perhaps eighteen or nineteen years of age, had a
smart and presuming manner. He laid a hand familiarly on Harvey’s
shoulder, and addressed him as though he had known him a life-time.

“You’re all right,” he continued. “You took a hitch there like an old
hand. Come on, we’ll step aboard and look ’em over.”

Almost before he knew it, Harvey was being conducted across the float to
the deck of the first fisherman. He went willingly enough, for that
matter, for it was exactly what he had been wishing—that he might inspect
them closer. Yet he knew, without any definite reason forming itself in
his mind, that his chance acquaintance was not congenial to him.

“Will they let us go aboard?” he asked.

“Why, of course,” replied the stranger. “They don’t care. I know a few of
them, anyway. I’ll show you around.”

From the first boat, they stepped across to the deck of another,
alongside.

“Stranger about here?” inquired the youth of Harvey, casually, giving him
a quick, sharp, sidelong glance, as he spoke.

“Yes,” replied Harvey; “I am here only for the day. My father and mother
just went off on that liner for Europe.”

“Is that so!” responded the other. At the same moment he fell behind
Harvey and gave him another sharp, scrutinizing glance from head to foot.
Then he added, “So that leaves you all alone, to do as you please, eh?”

Harvey assented. It was his turn to question now.

“You live about here?” he asked; and looked his companion in the face. It
was an uncertain glance that met his. The small, dark eyes of the
stranger gave him no direct, answering glance, but shifted evasively.

“Oh, yes,” he responded; “lived here all my life. We’re one of the old
families here, but—” and he gave a slighting look at his well worn
clothing—“but we’ve had financial embarrassments lately. The fact is,
I’ve had to drop out of college for a year—”

The youth was interrupted for a moment at this point. He and Harvey,
walking forward on the vessel, had come upon two men who were sitting on
the deck by the forecastle. One of them, looking up, burst into a laugh.
Harvey turned, quickly.

Whatever it was that had amused the man was not apparent. As Harvey
turned and looked at him, he stopped abruptly and pointed off across the
water. Harvey, led by his companion, started aft again.

As the two reversed their steps, the man who had laughed pointed slyly at
Harvey’s escort.

“He’s a slick one, is Artie,” he said. “Catches more of ’em, they say,
than any runner along the front.”

“Got him, do you think?” inquired the other man, nodding toward Harvey.

“Looks promising.”

“My name is Jenkins,” continued Harvey’s companion; “and, as I was
saying, I’m out of college for a year, earning the money to keep on.
Don’t know as that interests you any—but never mind. What did you say?
Queer rig, these boats have?”

“Why, yes, it strikes me so,” replied Harvey. “It looks odd to me to see
big vessels like these with no gaffs and these leg-o’-mutton sails.”

Again the youth gave Harvey one of those quick, shrewd glances, that
seemed to take in everything about him from cap to shoes.

“Guess you know something about boats,” he remarked.

“Well, I own a sloop up in Samoset Bay, in Maine—that is, another fellow
and I own it together,” replied Harvey, with a touch of pride.

“I knew you were a sailor, the minute I saw you heave that line,”
exclaimed the other. And Harvey felt just a bit flattered. Perhaps
Jenkins wasn’t such a bad sort, despite his odd attire.

“Do you see that schooner?” inquired young Mr. Jenkins, suddenly,
pointing to a craft with a distinctive schooner rig, the outermost of the
vessels that comprised the fleet.

Harvey nodded.

“Well,” continued Jenkins, “that’s Captain Scroop’s boat. She’s the best
one of them all, and he’s the most obliging and gentlemanly captain that
sails into Baltimore. Come on, we’ll go over her.”

They walked across the decks to the side of the schooner, and climbed
aboard, over the rail. The schooner seemed deserted, save the presence of
a boy of about twelve, who was engaged in chopping a block of stove-wood
into kindlings, near the afterhouse.

“Hello, Joe,” said Jenkins.

The boy looked up and nodded, sullenly. He seemed, moreover, to eye Mr.
Jenkins with some disfavour.

“Captain Scroop aboard?”

The boy shook his head.

“Well, we’re going to look about a bit,” said Mr. Jenkins, easily.

He conducted Harvey about the deck, forward and aft, explaining one thing
and another; then showed the way to the companion that led to the cabin.
“Step down,” he said to Harvey. “Nice quarters they have aboard here.”
Then, as Harvey descended, he added, “Make yourself comfortable a moment.
I’ll be right along.”

Seeing Harvey at the foot of the companion-ladder, he turned quickly,
stepped to the side of the boy and cuffed him smartly over one ear.

“Here, you,” he said, “brace up and say something! There’s a dollar in it
for you if we land him. Come to life, now!”

Then he darted after Harvey, down into the cabin.



                               CHAPTER II
                       THE CABIN OF THE SCHOONER


Jack Harvey stood at the foot of the companionway, for a moment, looking
into the cabin, before he entered. There was a lamp burning dimly,
fastened into a socket in a support that extended from the centre-board
box to the ceiling. Its light sufficed for Harvey to see but vaguely at
first, owing to a cloud of tobacco smoke that filled the stuffy cabin. It
was warm there, however, for the cook-stove in the galley threw its
comforting heat beyond the limits of that small place; and the warmth was
decidedly agreeable to one coming in from the evening air.

Harvey entered and stood, waiting for his new acquaintance to join him.
He could see objects soon more plainly. He perceived that the person who
was emitting the volumes of smoke was a short, thick-set man, who was
occupying one of the two wooden chairs that the cabin afforded. He was
huddled all up in a heap, with his head submerged below the collar of his
thick overcoat, out of which rim the smoke ascended, as though from the
crater of a tiny volcano.

He seemed to have fallen almost into sleep there; and it appeared to
Harvey that he must be very uncomfortable, bundled in his great coat,
with the cabin hot and smoky. Yet he was awake sufficiently to draw at
the stem of his pipe, and to glance up at Harvey as he entered. He even
made a jerky motion over one shoulder, with his thumb, indicating a bunk
that extended along the side of the cabin, and mumbled something that
sounded like, “Have a seat.”

Harvey, however, turned toward the companion-way, as young Mr. Jenkins
entered and rejoined him.

“Now this is what I call comfortable for a vessel,” said Mr. Jenkins,
briskly; “not much like some of those old bug-eyes, where they stuff you
into a hole and call it a cabin. We’ll have a bit more air in here, and
then we’ll sit down and have a bite with Joe. He wants us to. You’re in
no great hurry, are you?”

“No, I’m not,” responded Harvey, congratulating himself that here was a
chance at last to see life aboard a real fisherman at close quarters.

Mr. Jenkins opened one of the ports on either side, which cleared the
cabin in a measure of the dense cloud of smoke, and made it more
agreeable. Then, stooping, he lifted the leaf of a folding table, that
was hinged to the side of the centre-board box, turned the bracket that
supported it into place, and motioned to Harvey to draw up a chair. He
seated himself on a wooden box, close by.

“Joe’s got some steamed oysters ready, and a pot of coffee and some corn
bread,” he said, cheerfully. “You don’t mind taking pot luck for once, do
you, just to see how they live aboard? Here he is now. Come on, Joe,
we’re hungry. Joe, this is Mr.—let’s see, did I get your name?”

Harvey informed him, wondering at the easy familiarity of his new
acquaintance aboard the vessel, but somewhat amused over it, and his
curiosity aroused. The boy nodded to Harvey. Stepping into the galley, he
returned directly, bringing two bowls filled with steamed oysters, which
he set before Harvey and Mr. Jenkins. The corn bread and coffee arrived
duly, and young Mr. Jenkins urged Harvey to fall to and eat heartily.

Harvey needed no urging. His long walk about the city had made him
ravenously hungry. Moreover, although the coffee was not much like what
he had been accustomed to, the oysters and corn bread were certainly
delicious. Harvey and Mr. Jenkins ate by themselves, waited on by the
youth, who declared he would eat later, with “him,” pointing to the
drowsy smoker, who had not stirred from his original position, and with
Captain Scroop, if the latter should return to supper.

It was in the course of the meal that Harvey, to his surprise, discovered
that there was still another occupant of the cabin, of whose presence he
had not before been aware. In the forward, farther corner of the cabin,
what had appeared to be a tumbled heap of blankets, on one of the bunks,
suddenly gave forth a resounding snore; and the heap of blankets stirred
slightly.

“Hello,” exclaimed Harvey; “what’s that?”

Mr. Jenkins glanced sharply at the sleeper, sprang up and made a closer
inspection, and then, apparently satisfied with what he saw, resumed his
seat.

“It’s one of the mates,” he said. “He’s had a hard cold for a week; taken
something to sleep it off with, I guess.”

Harvey went on eating. He might not have had so keen a relish for his
food, however, had he known that the sleeper was not only not a mate, but
that, indeed, he had never been aboard a vessel before in all his life;
that he hadn’t known when nor how he did come aboard; that he was utterly
oblivious to where he now was; and that he had been seized of an
overpowering drowsiness shortly after taking a single glass of grog with
the same young gentleman who now sat with Jack Harvey in the schooner’s
cabin. That had taken place at a small saloon just across from the float.

Perhaps the suggestion was a timely one for Mr. Jenkins; perhaps he did
not need it. At all events, he said guardedly, “Scroop sometimes opens
that bottle for visitors; do you want to warm up a bit against the night
air?”

He pointed, as he spoke, to a half opened locker, in which some glassware
of a certain kind was visible.

“No, thanks,” replied Harvey, “never.”

“Nor I, either,” rejoined Mr. Jenkins, emphatically. “A man’s a fool that
does, in my opinion. But it’s hospitality along here to offer it, so no
offence.”

One might, however, have noted a look of disappointment in his
countenance; and he seemed to be thinking, hard.

“Joe’s a good sort,” he remarked, presently. “I don’t know why I should
tell you, but it’s odd how I come to know him. The fact is, when my folks
had money—plenty of it, too—Joe lived in a little house that belonged to
our estate, and I used to run away and play with him. What’s more, now
I’m grown up, I’m going to run away with him again, eh, Joe?”

The boy nodded.

Harvey looked at Mr. Jenkins, inquiringly. The latter leaned nearer to
Harvey and assumed a more confidential air.

“Why, the fact is,” he said in a low tone, “you might not think it,
perhaps, but I’m a college man—Johns Hopkins—you’ve heard of that, eh?”

Harvey recalled the name, though the mere fact that such an institution
existed was the extent of his information regarding it, and he nodded.

“Well,” continued Mr. Jenkins, “I’m working my way through, and my folks
are so proud they don’t want it known. So I’m going a trip or two with
Joe and Captain Scroop, just as soon as they have a berth for me, because
it’s out of the way, where no one will know me, it’s easy work, and the
pay is high. Isn’t that so, Joe?”

One might have caught the suggestion of a fleeting desire to grin, on the
features of the boy addressed; but he lowered his gaze and nodded.

“Why, how many more men do you have begging for chances to ship, every
voyage, than you have need of?” inquired young Mr. Jenkins, looking
sharply at the boy.

“Dunno,” answered Joe, doggedly. “Mebbe five or six; mebbe more.”

“That’s it!” exclaimed Mr. Jenkins, “And the wages are twenty-five
dollars a month, and all the good food a fellow can eat, eh?”

“More’n he can eat, mostly,” responded the boy. “They gets too much to
eat.”

“And when are you going to find that place for me to go a voyage—and
berth aft here with you and the captain and mate, like a gentleman, and
get my twenty-five a month at easy work?”

“We’ve got it now,” said Joe.

Young Mr. Jenkins sprang from his chair, with an exclamation of delight.
He stepped up to the boy and seized him by an arm.

“Say!” he cried; “you’re in earnest now—none of your tricks—do you mean
it, really?”

The boy nodded.

“We’ve got two chances,” he said.

Young Mr. Jenkins gave a whistle of amazement.

“Two chances open on the same voyage!” he exclaimed. “I never knew of
that before, and just before sailing. How do you account for it—somebody
taken sick?”

“That’s it,” said the boy.

Young Mr. Jenkins walked slowly back to his seat, looked sharply at
Harvey from the comers of his eyes, and spoke earnestly.

“Say, Mr. Harvey,” he said, “I’m not sure, but I believe I could get that
chance for you. You played in great luck when I saw you throw that
heaving line to the vessel there, this afternoon. I’ll swear to Captain
Scroop that you’re all right, and I know you could make good. Do you know
I’ve taken a sort of liking to you; and I tell you what, you and I’ll
ship for one month and I’ll see you through. Why, they’re all like
brothers here, the captain and his men. We’ll have a gorgeous time, see
how the fishing is done, come back in a month and have twenty-five
dollars apiece to show for it. And then you’ll have had a real sea
experience—something to talk about when you get home. It’s the chance of
a life-time.”

Taken all by surprise by the offer, and withal against his better
judgment, Jack Harvey found a strange allurement in the suggestion. At no
time in all his life could it have been held forth so opportunely. He
thought of his father and mother, on the ocean, to be gone for six
months. He knew, too, what his father would say, when he should tell him
of it later; how the bluff, careless, elder Harvey would throw back his
head, and laugh, and vow he was the same sort when he was a youth.

How strangely, too, events that had taken place in Benton coincided
favourably with his already half-formed intention to take the chance. He
recalled, in a flash, the hour of leaving there, with his father and
mother, for Baltimore; how Henry Burns’s aunt, with whom he had been
boarding, had asked when he would return; how Harvey’s mother had
answered that she hoped yet to persuade the boy to accompany them to
Europe; and how Miss Matilda Burns had said, then, she should expect him
when he arrived—no sooner—and had remarked, smiling, that if he didn’t
come back at all she should know he had gone to Europe.

“It’s only for a month, you know,” suggested young Mr. Jenkins, almost as
though he had been reading Harvey’s thoughts.

Harvey sat for a moment, thinking hard.

“Isn’t it pretty cold down there in the bay this time of year?” he asked.

“Why, bless you, no,” replied Mr. Jenkins, laughing at the suggestion.
“Don’t you know you’re in the South, now, my boy? This is the coldest
day, right now, that we’ll have till January. And if we have a touch of
winter—which isn’t likely—why, there’s a good, comfortable cabin to warm
up in.”

“Are we sure to get back in a month?”

“Joe, when are you due back here?” called Mr. Jenkins.

“Middle of December,” came the reply.

“I’m most inclined to try it,” said Harvey, hesitatingly.

Mr. Jenkins slapped him on the back, then shook his hand warmly.

“You’re the right sort,” he said. “We’ll have a lark.”

And Harvey knew from that moment that, for better or worse, be it a
foolish venture or not, he was in for it.

“What do I need to get for the trip?” he asked. “Guess I’d better step up
into the town and buy some boots and oil-skins.”

A look of determination came into the face of Mr. Jenkins. It was as if
he had made up his mind that Harvey should have no opportunity now of
backing out.

“No, you don’t need to,” he said. “The captain’s got all that stuff, and
he buys at wholesale, and you can get it cheaper of him. Wait till
to-morrow, anyway, and if he can’t fit you, we’ll go ashore.”

Harvey gave a start of surprise. He hadn’t counted on spending this night
aboard the schooner.

“Do you mean to stay here to-night?” he asked.

“Why, sure,” responded young Mr. Jenkins. “Good chance to try it on and
see how you like it. We’ll just roll up here, and you’ll swear you were
never more comfortable in all your life.”

“Well,” answered Harvey, “I’ll try it. You’re sure the captain will ship
us, though?”

“Oh, you can take what that boy Joe says for gospel,” answered young Mr.
Jenkins. “He knows.”

“Then I’ll step out on deck and bring down that little hand-bag of mine,”
said Harvey. “I left it forward by the rail when I came aboard. It’s got
a comb and brush and a tooth-brush and a change of underwear in it.”

Harvey ascended the ladder and walked out on deck. It was a glorious
night, the sky studded with thousands of stars. The air was chilly, but
Harvey was warmly dressed, and the crisp air was invigorating after his
stay in the cabin. He went forward, wondering, in his somewhat confused
state of mind, what his chums in Benton would think of it if they could
know where he was, and what he contemplated doing.

“I only wish Henry Burns was going along,” he thought. “Well, I’ll have
something to tell him next time I see him.”

He little thought under what strange circumstances they would next meet.

Hardly had Harvey left the cabin, when young Mr. Jenkins sprang into the
galley, leering at the boy Joe, and digging that stolid youngster
facetiously in the ribs.

“Oh, that’s rich!” he chuckled. “What do you say, Joey—a pretty
hair-brush and comb and a tooth-brush aboard an oyster dredger? You’ll
have to tell old Haley to get a mirror—a French-plate, gold-leaf
mirror—for Mr. Harvey. Oh, he’d do it, all right. He’ll—ah, ha, ha—oh
jimminy Christmas! Isn’t that rich?”

The boy, Joe, turned toward Mr. Jenkins, somewhat angrily.

“You think you’re smart,” he muttered. “You’ll get come up with, one of
these days. What did you get him for? He ain’t the right sort. He’s got
folks as will make trouble. I’ll bet the old man won’t stand for him.”

“Look here, you,” exclaimed Mr. Jenkins, seizing the boy, roughly, “you
shut up! Who asked you to tell me what to do? Don’t I know my business?
Don’t I know old Scroop, too, as much as you do? Of course he’ll stand
for him—when I tell him a few things. You leave that to me, and don’t you
go interfering, or I’ll hand you something you’ll feel for a week.”

The boy shrank back, and relapsed into stolid silence.

“Where’s that pen and ink?” inquired Jenkins.

The boy pointed to a locker.

Taking a faded wallet from his pocket, Mr. Jenkins produced therefrom a
paper which he unfolded and spread upon the table. It seemed to be a
form, of some sort or other, partly type-written. He got the rusty pen
and a small bottle of ink, laid them beside it, and waited for Harvey’s
return. Harvey soon reappeared.

“We’ll just sign this agreement,” remarked Mr. Jenkins carelessly.
“Scroop had some aboard here. They don’t mean much, with a good captain
like him, for he does better than he’s bound to, anyway. I’ll just run it
over, so you can get an idea of it.”

Talking glibly, Mr. Jenkins ran his finger along the lines, whereby
Harvey, by the dim light, got a somewhat hazy idea of them: to the effect
that he, Jack Harvey, twenty-one years of age, was bound to serve for one
month aboard the fisherman, Z. B. Brandt, whereof the master was Hamilton
Haley, on a dredging trip in Chesapeake bay and its tributaries.
Together, with divers conditions and provisions which Mr. Jenkins
dismissed briefly, as of no account.

“But I’m not twenty-one years old,” said Harvey. “That’s wrong.”

“Oh, that don’t amount to anything,” responded Mr. Jenkins. “I knew you
weren’t quite that, but it’s near enough. It’s all right. No one ever
looks at it. We’ll sign, and it’s all over. Then we’ll turn in, and see
the captain in the morning. He’s going to be late, by the looks.”

“But I thought you said the captain’s name was Scroop,” suggested Harvey,
puzzled.

“So it is,” replied Mr. Jenkins. “This is an old contract, but it’s just
as good. Haley used to be captain, and they use the old forms. It don’t
matter what the captain’s name is, so long as he’s all right, and he’s
got a good boat.”

Harvey, following the example of his companion, put his name to the
paper.

It might have been different had he had opportunity to take note, on
coming aboard, that the schooner, in the cabin of which he now sat, bore
no such name on bow and stern as the “Z. B. Brandt.” It might have been
different had he seen, in his mind’s eye, the real Z. B. Brandt, pitching
and tossing in the waters of Chesapeake Bay, seventy odd miles below
where the schooner lay in her snug berth. But he knew naught of that, nor
that the schooner in which he was about to take up his quarters for the
night was no more like the Z. B. Brandt than a Pullman is like a
cattle-car.

It was with his mind filled with a picture of the voyage soon over and
done, and a proud return to Henry Burns and his cronies, that Harvey
turned in shortly, on one of the bunks, wrapped himself snugly in a good
warm blanket, and went off to sleep. The creaking of rigging, as some
craft moved with the current, the noise of some new arrival coming in
late to join the fleet at moorings, the tramp of an occasional sailor on
the deck of a neighbouring craft, and the swinging of the schooner, did
not disturb his sound slumbers. Wearied with the doings of a busy day, he
did not move, once his eyes had closed in sleep.

Some time after eleven o’clock, Mr. Jenkins arose softly and stepped
cautiously over to where Harvey lay. There was no mistaking the soundness
of Harvey’s slumbers. Mr. Jenkins slipped out of the cabin, upon deck. A
row-boat soon attracted his attention, coming toward the schooner from
somewhere below. There were three figures in it. As the boat came
alongside, Mr. Jenkins stepped to the rail and spoke to the man in the
stern.

“Hello, Scroop,” he said. “I’ve got another for you. He wouldn’t drink,
but he’s a sound sleeper.”

The captain nodded. With the assistance of his companion in the boat,
whom Mr. Jenkins called mate, and of Mr. Jenkins, himself, another man
was lifted from the small craft to the deck of the schooner. He seemed
half asleep, and walked between them like one that had been drugged. They
did not take him aft, but assisted him down into the forecastle, and
returned presently, without him.

“All right, captain?” queried Mr. Jenkins.

“Yes, cast us off.”

Mr. Jenkins sprang over the rail, to the deck of the craft alongside. He
cast off the lines, forward and aft, that had moored the schooner to the
other vessel. The captain and mate ran up one of the jibs. Mr. Jenkins
pushed vigorously, and the bow of the schooner slowly swung clear. The
current aided. The light night breeze caught the jib. The schooner
drifted away, with Captain Scroop at the wheel.

Mr. Jenkins, standing on the deck of the vessel to which the schooner had
been moored, watched the latter glide away. After a little time the
foresail was run up. The schooner was leaving the harbour of Baltimore.

Mr. Jenkins did a little shuffle, thrust his hands into his pockets, and
walked briskly across the decks to shore.

“That’s ten dollars easy money for me and Scroop,” he muttered. Then he
stopped once and chuckled. “A comb and brush and a tooth-brush aboard old
Haley’s bug-eye!” he said. “Oh, my! That’s a good one.”



                              CHAPTER III
                              DOWN THE BAY


Jack Harvey’s father, awakening next morning in his comfortable
state-room aboard the liner, would have been not a little astounded had
he known how strangely the facts belied his remark to Mrs. Harvey that
Jack must, by this time, be well on his way north. By no possible stretch
of fancy could the vision of their son, lying asleep in the crazy cabin
of the old schooner, appear to the minds of Harvey’s parents. In blissful
ignorance of his strange adventure, they sailed away. Miles and miles
behind, the schooner followed in the liner’s wake.

Jack Harvey was a good sleeper. The sun came up out of the bay and shed
its light far and wide upon hundreds of craft, borne lightly by the wind
and tide. It penetrated, even, the cabin of the dingy schooner, and it
lighted the way for the youthful sleeper to come back from dreams to
consciousness.

For some moments, as Harvey lay with half opened eyes, he wondered where
he was. Then it all came back to him in a flash: the Baltimore
water-front; the picturesque fishermen; the strange young man—and then,
the remembrance that he had signed for a month aboard the schooner. For
an instant he almost regretted that act, and the thought brought him up
quickly on one elbow, to look about him.

One resolve he made at the moment. He would not back out now. He might
find that impossible, anyway, since he had signed the paper. But he would
send a line to Miss Matilda Burns, letting her know what he was doing. It
was no more than fair to her.

The next moment, Jack Harvey leaped to his feet. He was fully awake now.
Dressed, as he was,—for he had removed only his shoes and coat,—he sprang
to one of the ports. He had sailed too much not to know that the vessel
was under weigh, although, on a perfectly smooth sea and with no swell,
there was but slight perceptible motion to the schooner.

One glance told him the truth. He waited no longer, but ran up the
companion-way on deck. Amazed, he looked about him. Far astern, some
fifteen miles, the outlines of the city showed. The nearest shore was a
mile away. The schooner, foresail and main-sail set, and winged out, was
slowly gliding before the wind down the bay.

Jack Harvey gave a whistle of astonishment. Then a feeling of resentment
toward young Mr. Jenkins arose in his breast.

“That’s a cool trick!” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t he tell me we were going
to sail so soon? He said we’d have time to get a few things in the shops
before we sailed. I’ll tell him what I think of it.”

Without waiting to speak to anyone on deck, or scarce take notice of who
was there, Harvey darted down the companion-way and hastened to the bunk
where he had seen Mr. Jenkins turn in, the night before.

It was empty.

Strangely puzzled, Harvey made his way out on deck. A tall, keen-eyed
man, smooth-shaven save for a light blond moustache, sat astride the
wheel box, steering. Harvey turned to him, somewhat excitedly.

“Where’s that fellow Jenkins?” he asked.

Coolly surveying Harvey, with a pair of steady, blue eyes, the man
replied, “You call me ‘Mr. Blake,’ young feller; I’m mate.”

Harvey’s face flushed, angrily. A feeling that he had been somehow
tricked came over him. Ignoring the man’s order, he stepped nearer to
him.

“I want to see that chap, Jenkins,” he repeated. “He didn’t tell me we
were going to sail this way in the night. Where is he?”

The lines about the mouth of Mr. Blake, mate, tightened as he looked the
boy over from head to foot. Later experience enlightened Harvey as to
what would have happened to him had they been well down the bay. But, as
it was, the man merely uttered something softly under his breath. “I’ll
leave you for Haley to deal with,” was what he said. And he added, in a
mollifying tone, addressing Harvey:

“Why, it’s too bad about that young feller, Jenkins. You see he got left.
He slipped up town for some stuff, early this morning—about three
o’clock, I guess, and didn’t show up when the tide served for starting.
Scroop wouldn’t wait, and you can’t blame him. But he left word for
Jenkins to come down on that boat that lay alongside us. She starts
to-morrow. We’ll pick him up down the bay. It’ll be all right. You’re the
young feller that Joe told about, eh—going a trip with us?”

The man’s manner, changing thus suddenly from sharp to kindly, was
surprising—and a bit comforting, too. Without a companion, even though
Jenkins were a chance acquaintance, the venture seemed to have taken on a
somewhat different and less pleasing aspect to Harvey.

“Yes,” he said, in answer to the mate’s query, “I’m going one trip, just
for a month.”

“I see,” said the mate, quietly. “Well, you’ll like it. You’re the right
sort. I can tell that. Ever shipped before?”

Harvey shook his head, as he explained that he had done some bay sailing.
He was about to explain further under what circumstances, but something
made him pause. Under the same sudden impulse—he knew not the reason for
it, but obeyed it—he became reticent when Mr. Blake, mate, plied him with
questions concerning himself and where he was from.

“I’m just knocking around a bit,” he replied, and kept his own counsel. A
fortunate thing for him, perhaps, in the light of subsequent events.

The conversation was abruptly broken off. Up from the forecastle there
burst three men, clinching in a confused, rough-and-tumble fashion, and
struggling together. Had Jack Harvey been on deck the night before, and
observed the man who had been carried, sleeping, from the cabin to the
forecastle, he might perhaps recognize him now as one of these three.

Somewhat recovered from his condition of stupefaction was he; sufficient
to gaze about him wildly, wrestle with the two men who attacked him,
strike at them furiously, and cry out several times that he was up to
their tricks, that he couldn’t be trapped like a dog and shanghaied down
the bay—and let them come on, if they dared.

That they did dare was quite apparent; for they rushed him almost off his
feet the next moment. And then, to Harvey’s surprise, he found himself
suddenly at service aboard the schooner.

Leaping to his feet, the mate exclaimed, hastily, “Here, you, hold that
wheel a minute.”

Harvey obeyed. The mate made a few bounds across the deck, took advantage
of the opening that offered as the strange man’s back was turned to him,
and dealt him a blow behind one ear that felled him, half stunned. The
next moment, Harvey saw the three lift the vanquished fighter by head and
heels and carry him below again.

Harvey’s heart sank a little. It was hardly an auspicious beginning of a
cruise on a strange craft.

Mr. Blake was back again in a few minutes. He was as cool as though
nothing unusual had taken place.

“No, you keep the wheel a moment, while I light my pipe,” he said, as
Harvey started to relinquish the post. Then he laughed, drew forth his
pipe and a piece of tobacco, and proceeded to cut a pipeful with his
knife.

“That’s Tom Saunders,” he said. “Gets foolish drunk the minute he steps
on shore; never’s sober except when he’s afloat. Comes aboard a-boilin’
every trip, fights, and makes a mess about being carried off against his
will. He’ll straighten out tomorrow and be the best man in the crew.”

Harvey felt a bit easier. There had come over him, as he watched the
struggle, a feeling that perhaps he, too, had been trapped aboard here.
It was strange, certainly: the disappearance of Mr. Jenkins, and the
words the man had just uttered about being shanghaied. However, he was in
for the cruise; and come what would, Harvey resolved to make the best of
it.

There came aft, presently, the man Scroop, captain of the schooner, whom
Harvey eyed curiously, when the mate addressed him.

“Well?” inquired Mate Blake.

Captain Scroop gave vent to a vigorous expletive. “We’ve fixed him!” he
said. “He’ll shut up for a while. Hullo, who’s this?”

“A friend of Jenkins,” replied the mate, giving a sly wink as he spoke.

Captain Scroop looked at Harvey keenly. Harvey eyed him, eagerly, in
return. What he saw was not wholly favourable. Scroop, a hard-featured,
shifty-eyed man of middle stature, had not been rendered more
prepossessing by his recent encounter. A swelling under one eye showed
where the stranger’s fist had landed heavily. His woollen shirt was torn
open at the neck, wherein the veins were distended from wrath and
excitement. He gave one quick, shifting glance at Harvey and said
abruptly, “All right. Get below now and tell Joe to give you breakfast.”

Harvey went below.

Captain Scroop turned angrily upon the mate.

“Who got him aboard?” he asked.

“Jenkins—who do you suppose?”

Captain Scroop’s face darkened, and he shook a clenched fist in the
direction of Baltimore.

“Won’t he never tell the truth, nohow?” he exclaimed. “Lied to me last
night, up and down. Twenty-five years old, or near that, was what he
swore. Haven’t I told him not to get these boys? That’s a kid—if he’s
seventeen he’s doin’ better’n I think. He’s got to go, though. I’ll put
him through, now. But wait till we get back. Won’t I settle with
somebody? They’ll have the law on us some day.”

“Pooh! You’ve said all that a million times,” replied the mate, coolly.
“What’s the odds? Aren’t we taking chances, every trip we make? Haven’t
we had boys before? Look at the lot of ’em we’ve had from New York.
What’s it to us? Leave Haley to work it out. And don’t you go to getting
down on Artie Jenkins. He knows his lay. He wouldn’t have shipped this
fellow unless he knew it was all right. He’s no fonder of trouble than we
are.”

Jack Harvey, the innocent subject of the foregoing remarks, was, in the
meantime, getting into a better frame of mind. There was no great fault,
surely, to be found with the grub aboard the schooner. Nothing that he
had ever cooked and eaten at his camp by the shore of Samoset Bay tasted
better than the corn flap-jacks handed out from the galley by the boy,
Joe. Smeared with a substance, greasy and yellow, but that never was nor
ever could be suspected of being butter, and sticky with a blackish
liquid that was sweet, like molasses, they were still appetizing to a
hungry youth who had never known the qualms of sea-sickness. A muddy
compound, called by extreme courtesy coffee, warmed Harvey to the marrow
and put heart in him. A few slices of fried bacon tasted better than the
best meal he could have had aboard the ocean liner.

Eating heartily, despite his disappointment to find himself forsaken by
Mr. Jenkins, Harvey essayed to draw the boy, Joe, into conversation; but
the latter was sullen, and chary of his words.

Would Jenkins surely be down by the next vessel? The boy nodded, somewhat
blankly. He guessed so. Where would they begin fishing, and how? Harvey
would see, later. And so on. There was clearly little to be gotten from
him.

Once there came down into the cabin the same, odd individual who had sat,
huddled in the cabin, smoking, the afternoon before. He got a dish of the
flap-jacks and a pail of the coffee, and started out again. Harvey fired
a question at him, as the man waited a moment to receive his grub.

“How do we fish, down the bay, anyway?” asked Harvey.

The man turned a little, stared at Harvey in a surly manner for a moment,
and then—apparently not all in sympathy with methods aboard the schooner
and in the trade generally—answered, “Hmph! You breaks yer back at a
bloody winder.” And with this somewhat enigmatical reply, went about his
business.

“Say,” said Harvey, turning to the boy, once more, “what’s a winder?”

“Why, it’s a—a—winder,” responded the boy.

“That’s just what I thought,” said Harvey, smiling in spite of his
perplexity. “And what’s it for?”

“You get oysters with it,” replied the boy. “You heaves the dredge
overboard, and you winds it in again.”

“Oh, I see,” said Harvey, enlightened by this lucid explanation. “It’s a
sort of windlass, eh?”

Joe nodded.

“Hard work?” continued Harvey.

“Naw—easy.”

But Harvey had his misgivings. And again he comforted himself with the
thought, at worst, the cruise would be over and done in a month.

“I guess I’m good for that,” he muttered; and went out on deck again.

The schooner’s course had been changed a little, and they were now
sailing almost directly south, down Chesapeake bay. The schooner was no
longer winged out, but had both booms off to port, getting the wind on
the quarter. Fore-staysail and jib and main gaff top-sail, as well, were
set, and the old craft was swinging southward at a fair clip. The wind
had begun to increase.

This was action after Harvey’s own heart, and he walked forward, toward
the gruff sailor, who was stationed near the forecastle. He observed, as
he advanced, that there was still another man forward by the jibs; and
that these two sailors, the captain and mate and the boy, Joe, were
apparently the only ones aboard the vessel, besides himself.

Harvey glanced at the man forward. He was almost dwarfish in stature,
thick-set, with unusually broad shoulders. Clearly, this was not the man
that Harvey had seen asleep, amid the bundle of blankets, in the cabin.
Harvey had not seen the face of the sleeper, but he had noted once, when
the man had stirred, that he was a tall man; that the figure stretched
out at length took up an unusual amount of room.

It flashed over Harvey that the man he had seen asleep in the cabin, the
night before, was missing from there now. Harvey was certain he had not
seen him, as he sat eating. To make sure, he went back and looked. The
man was not there.

“That’s odd,” said Harvey to himself, as he came on deck again. “I wonder
if they’ve lugged him down into the forecastle, too. They must have done
it in the night. By jimminy! I wonder how many they’ve got stowed away
down there, anyway.”

Somewhat startled at the idea that there might be other men held there,
and curious to see for himself, Harvey approached the companion. As he
did so, the surly seaman barred his way.

“Keep out ’er there,” he said, roughly. “You can’t go below now. Them’s
my orders.”

Harvey stepped back, in surprise. There was a mystery to the forecastle,
then, sure enough. He hazarded one question:

“What’s the matter? What’s down there?”

The man made no reply.

Harvey went forward to where the other man stood.

“Say, what’s there to do aboard here?” he asked.

The fellow turned and eyed Harvey for a moment, curiously.

“Nothin’ now,” he replied, finally. “Nothin’ till we get down the bay. We
all takes it easy like, till then.”

But further than this, he, too, became uncommunicative when Harvey
questioned him about the cruise. It was discouraging, and Harvey gave it
up. He seemed likely to have little companionship, if any, aboard the
schooner, and the thought was not pleasing. Again he wondered at the
strange disappearance of Mr. Jenkins, and hoped it might be true that the
young man would rejoin them down the bay.

The day passed somewhat monotonously for the most part. The schooner was
holding an almost straight course down the bay, along the western shore.
Harvey, having an eye for safety, noted that the coast was almost
unbroken for miles and miles, affording no harbour in case of storm. He
spoke of it once to the sailor by the forecastle.

“Plenty of harbours down below,” replied the man. “We’re goin’ well;
reckon we’ll lie in the Patuxent tonight. There’s harbour enough for
you.”

It was a positive relief to Harvey when, some time in the afternoon, it
came on to blow very fresh, and the foresail and mainsail were both
reefed. He lent a hand at that, tieing in reef points with the other two.
They seemed surprised that he knew how to do it.

But, with the freshening of the wind, it altered its direction and blew
up finally, towards evening, from the eastward; so that they made slower
progress, running now on the wind, close-hauled. Rain began falling at
twilight, and a bitter chill crept into the air. Harvey thought of the
oil-skins he had intended buying in Baltimore, and wished he had them.
There was nothing for him to do on deck now, however, and he gladly went
below.

He ate his supper alone, for all hands were on deck. The schooner pitched
and thrashed about in the short, rough seas. It was gloomy in the dimly
lighted cabin, and the boy Joe, at work in the galley, positively
declined to enter into conversation. Jack Harvey, left to himself,
mindful of his strange situation, of the mysterious forecastle with its
imprisoned men, and depressed by the wretched night, didn’t dare admit to
himself how much he wished himself ashore. The confinement of the cabin
made him drowsy, not long after he had eaten, and he was glad enough to
roll up in a blanket on one of the bunks and go off to sleep.

While he slept, the schooner thrashed its way in past a light-house on a
point of land on the western shore, and headed up into the mouth of a
broad, deep river. They sailed into this for something like half a mile,
Scroop at the wheel, and the mate and two seamen forward, peering ahead
through the rain.

Presently the mate rushed aft.

“There she lies,” he said, pointing, as he spoke, to where a lantern
gleamed in the fore-mast shrouds of a vessel at anchor.

“I see her,” responded Scroop.

The old schooner, under the guiding hand of Scroop, rounded to and came
up into the wind a few rods astern of the other vessel. And now, lying
astern, the light from the other’s cabin shone so that the forms of three
men could be distinguished vaguely, standing on the deck. The schooner’s
anchor went down, the foresail was dropped, and, the jibs having already
been taken in, the craft was soon lying snug, with her mainsail hauled
flat aft, to steady her. A small boat was launched from the deck, and
made fast alongside.

Mr. Blake, mate, pointing toward the cabin, inquired briefly, “Take him
first?”

“No,” said Scroop. “Clear out the forecastle. He’ll make a fuss, I
reckon. When we drop him, I want to get out and leave him to Haley.”

Advancing hastily across the deck, the four men, captain and mate and the
two sailors, disappeared into the forecastle. They reappeared shortly,
bearing an unconscious burden between them, much as they would have
carried a sack of potatoes; which burden, however, showed some sign of
animation as the rain fell upon it, and muttered something
unintelligible. They deposited the burden in the bottom of the small
boat.

Another disappearance into the forecastle, and a repetition of the
performance; another and similar burden being laid alongside the first in
the boat.

Then five men emerged from the forecastle, the fifth man walking upright,
held fast by the others. It was the man that Harvey had seen struggling
with the two sailors that morning. But he went along quietly now, the
reason being apparent in the words of Scroop.

“You go along or you go overboard,” he said. “The first yip out of you
and you get that belayin’ pin in the head.”

The boat, with its conscious and unconscious cargo, rowed by the two
sailors and guided by Scroop in the stem, put away from the schooner and
was soon alongside the other vessel.

“Hello,” said a voice.

“Hello, Haley.”

“How many?”

“Three here and one to come; good men, too—sailors, every one of ’em.”

A snort of incredulity from the man on deck.

“Let you tell it!” he exclaimed. “I’m in luck if there’s one of ’em that
hasn’t been selling ribbon over a counter. Well, fetch ’em on.”

A hatch-way forward received the three men; a short, thick-necked, burly
individual—the same being Hamilton Haley of the bug-eye Brandt—eying them
with evident suspicion as they were taken below. After which, the two
worthy captains repaired together to the cabin of the bug-eye, and
partook of something in the way of refreshment, which was followed by the
transfer of forty dollars in greasy bills, from a chest in the cabin to
the wallet of Captain Scroop.

“Dredging good?” inquires Scroop.

“Not much. Lost a man day before yesterday—took sick and died. Went
overboard in the chop, down below, and I couldn’t get him.”

“Wasn’t near time for his paying off, eh?” suggests Scroop, leering
skeptically.

“Never you mind what it was near. It couldn’t be helped, and the mate
will swear to it.”

This asserted by Haley, red of face, wrathful of manner, and bringing a
heavy fist down hard on the chest.

Some time later, Jack Harvey awoke suddenly from sound sleep. Someone was
shaking him. Dazed and hardly conscious of where he was, he recognized
the mate.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

The mate shook him again.

“Get up!” he said. “Get up. We’re going to row ashore. Hurry now, jump
into your boots and coat.”

Harvey, blinking and drowsy, did as he was ordered. Escorted by the mate,
he went out into the drizzle on deck. It was almost like an unpleasant
night-mare, the act of stumbling down into the boat, the short, pitching
ride in the rainy night. Then, all at once, the side of the other vessel
loomed up. Another moment, Harvey found himself lifted roughly aboard,
and, before he knew hardly what had happened, the rowboat was going away
and leaving him.

“Here!” he cried, thoroughly frightened. “What are you doing? What are
you leaving me here for? This isn’t ashore. Here, you, keep your hands
off me.”

But there was no hope for Jack Harvey. In the grasp of two stalwart
sailors, seeing in a flash the truth of what had befallen him, knowing,
all too late, that he had been tricked and trapped aboard a strange
vessel, he found himself dragged across the deck. He was half carried,
half thrown down the companion-way. He found himself in a stuffy,
ill-smelling forecastle, not much bigger than a good sized dog-kennel. It
was already crowded with men; but there, by lying at close quarters with
this forsaken lot of humanity, he might sleep out the rest of the night,
if he could.

And thus Jack Harvey was to begin his adventures aboard Hamilton Haley’s
bug-eye. Nor would it matter, as he should find, that the satchel
containing the articles which had occasioned so much hilarity on the part
of young Mr. Jenkins, had been left behind, in the confusion. Jack Harvey
surely would not need them aboard the Z. B. Brandt.



                               CHAPTER IV
                           ABOARD THE BUG-EYE


Jack Harvey stood at the foot of the short ladder leading down into the
forecastle, looking anxiously about him. A boat-lantern, wired for
protection in handling, hung by the bulkhead, affording a gloomy view of
the place. Harvey had, in the course of much roughing it, lived at times
in tents, in log cabins, and in odd sorts of shacks, and slept in the
cabins of the fishing boats of Samoset Bay in Maine. But never in all his
experience had he found himself in such dismal, cramped and forbidding
quarters as these.

On either side of the forecastle nearest the ladder was a narrow, shallow
bunk, raised a little above the floor, sufficient to tuck a few odds and
ends of clothing under; directly above each was a similar bunk, of equal
dimensions. All four of these had scarcely any head-room at all—an
arrangement whereby one, springing quickly up into a sitting posture,
would give his head such a bump as would remind him unpleasantly of the
economy of space.

In the lower of these bunks there now lay two men, at least asleep if not
resting. They breathed heavily, moaning as though in some unnatural
condition of slumber. It was evident to Harvey that they were under the
influence of something like a drug; and the recollection flashed through
his mind of the offer of young Mr. Jenkins in the cabin of the
schooner—which he had fortunately refused. If he were, indeed, a captive,
he was at least in no such senseless condition as these men.

The upper bunks held two more occupants. These two slept quietly, even
through the disturbance that had been made so recently. Perhaps they were
not unused to such occurrences. It was apparent they were sailors, and
their sleep was natural. In all likelihood, the two lower bunks had been
left vacant for new recruits, the old seamen taking the upper ones.

All this Jack Harvey took in with a few quick glances. What he saw next
gave him something of a start.

Forward of the four bunks described were yet two others, the space in the
forecastle being arranged “to sleep” six men. These bunks were, if such a
thing could be possible, even less comfortable than the others. Curving
with the lines of the bows of the vessel, they had scarce length enough
for a good sized man to stretch out in. In part compensation for which,
however, there being no upper bunks, there was head-room enough so that
one could sit upright with some degree of comfort.

In the starboard bunk there sat a man, huddled up, with one arm bracing
him from behind, and a hand, clutching one knee. He was staring at the
new-comer Harvey, with a look of abject despair.

Harvey, surprised and startled to find himself thus confronting someone
who was clearly in his proper senses, returned the man’s gaze, and the
two stared wonderingly at each other for a moment, in silence.

With a groan, the man swung himself down to the floor and advanced a
step.

“Hullo,” he said, “how in the Dickens did they get you?”

“Same to you,” said Harvey, by way of reply. He had, at the sight of this
companion in misery, regained his composure a little. Unconsciously, the
fact that here was someone with whom he could share misfortune had raised
his courage. For Harvey had taken in the appearance of the man at once.
He was well dressed. His clothes were of fine material and of a stylish
cut—albeit they were wrinkled and dusty from his recent experiences. A
torn place in the sleeve of his coat told, too, of the rough handling he
had received. His collar was crumpled and wilted, his tie disarranged. A
derby hat that he had worn lay now on the floor, in one corner, with the
crown broken. On the little finger of his left hand he wore a ring.

Instinctively, Jack Harvey and the stranger extended arms and grasped
hands, with the warmth of sudden friendship born of mutual sympathy.

“Well, I’ll be hanged, if they’re not a lot of scoundrels!” exclaimed the
man, surveying Harvey with astonishment. “Why, you’re only a boy. How on
earth did they get you? Didn’t drug your drink, did they?”

“No, I don’t drink,” said Harvey. “I signed for a cruise, all right, but
not on this craft. I signed to go a month on that schooner that brought
me down. Cracky, but it looks as though I’d made a mess of it. A chap
named Jenkins got me into this—”

“Jenkins!” cried the man, bursting out in a fury. “Jenkins, was it? Slim,
oily chap, flashy waistcoat and sailor tie?”

Harvey nodded.

The man clenched his fist and raised it above his head.

“Told you he was going to Johns Hopkins when he earned the money—nice
family but poor—and all that sort of rot?”

“That’s the chap,” said Harvey.

The man dropped his fist, put out a hand to Harvey, and they shook once
more. The man’s face relaxed into a grim smile.

“Well, I’m another Jenkins recruit,” he said. “I’m an idiot, an ass,
anything you’re a-mind to call me. There’s some excuse for you—but me, a
man that’s travelled from one end of this United States to the other, and
met every kind of a sharper between New York and San Francisco—to get
caught in a scrape like this!”

“Why, then your name is not Tom Saunders,” exclaimed Harvey, who now
recognized in his new acquaintance the man he had seen struggling with
the men of the schooner. “They said you were a sailor.” The man made a
gesture of disgust. “I hate the very smell of the salt water!” he cried.

There was a small sea chest next to the bulk-head at the forward end of
the forecastle, and Harvey and the stranger seated themselves on it. The
man relapsed for a moment into silence, his elbows on his knees, his face
buried in his hands. Then, all of a sudden, he sat erect, and beat his
fist down upon one knee.

“This ends it!” he cried, earnestly. “Never again as long as I live and
breathe.”

Harvey stared at him in surprise.

“I mean the drink,” cried the man, excitedly. “Mind what I say, and I
mean it. Never another drink as long as I live. I’ve said, before, that
I’d stop it, but this ends it. Say, what’s your name, anyway?”

“Jack Harvey.”

“Well, my name’s Edwards—Tom Edwards. Now look here, Harvey, I mean what
I say; if you ever see Tom Edwards try to take another drink, you just
walk up and hit him the hardest knock you can give him. See?”

Harvey laughed, in spite of the other’s earnestness.

“I won’t have any chance for some time, by the looks of things,” he said.
“You won’t need to sign any pledge this month. I reckon there’s no saloon
aboard this vessel.”

“I’m glad of it,” exclaimed Edwards. “I wouldn’t walk into one now, if
they were giving the stuff away. Look what it’s got me into. Say, how did
our Johns Hopkins friend catch you?”

Harvey quickly narrated the events that had followed the departure of his
parents for Europe, and the meeting with young Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Edwards,
listening with astonishment, eyed him with keenest interest.

“That’s it,” he exclaimed, as Harvey recounted the engaging manner in
which Jenkins had assured him he would return in one short month, with a
nautical experience that should make him the envy of his boy companions;
“put it in fancy style, didn’t he? Regular Tom Bowline romance, and all
that sort of thing, eh?”

Mr. Edwards’s eyes twinkled, and he was half smiling, in spite of
himself.

“Well,” he continued, noting Harvey’s athletic figure, “I guess you can
stand a month of it, all right, and no great hurt to you. And, what’s
best, your folks won’t worry. But I tell you, Harvey, it’s going to be
tough on me, if I can’t force this bandit to set me ashore again. I’m in
an awful scrape. My business house will think I’ve been murdered, or have
run away—I don’t know what. And when it comes to work, if we have much of
that to do, I don’t know how I’m going to stand it. You see, my firm pays
my expenses, and I’m used to putting up at the best hotels and living
high. So, I’m fat and lazy. Billiards is about my hardest exercise, and
my hands are as soft as a woman’s. See here.”

Mr. Edwards stretched out two somewhat unsteady hands, palms upward; then
slapped them down upon his knees. As he did so, he uttered a cry of
dismay and sprang to his feet, sticking out his little finger and staring
at it ruefully.

“The thieves!” he cried, angrily. “The cowardly thieves! See that ring?
They’ve got the diamond out of it. Worth two hundred dollars, if ’twas
worth a cent. They couldn’t get the ring off, without cutting it, and I
suppose they couldn’t do that easily; so they’ve just pried out the
stone.”

Harvey looked at the hand which Edwards extended. The setting of the
costly ring had, indeed, been roughly forced, and the stone it had
contained, extracted.

“I wouldn’t care so much,” said Edwards, “if it hadn’t been a gift from
the men in the store.” Impulsively, he turned to Harvey and put a hand on
his shoulder.

“Say, Harvey,” he exclaimed, “when you and I get ashore again—if we ever
do—we’ll go and hunt up this young Mr. Jenkins.”

“All right,” replied Harvey; “but it may not be quite so bad as you
think. We’ll get through some way, I guess.”

Oddly enough, either by reason of the lack of responsibility that weighed
on the spirits of the man, or because of a lingering eagerness for
adventure, in spite of the dubious prospects, the boy, Harvey, seemed the
more resolute of the two.

“Well,” responded Edwards, “I’m sorry you’re in a scrape; but so long as
you’re here, why, I’m glad you’re the kind of a chap you are. We’ll help
each other. We’ll stand together.”

And they shook hands upon it again.

“Now,” said Edwards, “here’s how I came here. I’m a travelling man, for a
jewelry house—Burton & Brooks, of Boston. I was on the road, got into
Washington the other night, and sold a lot of goods there. But one of my
trunks hadn’t come on time, and I was hung up for a day with nothing to
do. Never had been in Baltimore, and thought I’d run down for a few
hours.

“I got dinner at a restaurant and went out to look around. I went along,
hit or miss, and brought up down by the water-front. This chap, Jenkins,
bumped into me and apologized like a gentleman; we got to talking, and he
invited me into one of those saloons along the front. Beastly place, and
I knew it; but I was off my guard. He certainly was slick, talked about
his family and Johns Hopkins, and pumped me all the time—I can see it
now—till he found I wasn’t stopping at any hotel, but had just run in to
town for the day.

“That was all he wanted. Saw the game was safe, and then he and the
fellow that ran the place must have fixed it up together. I’ll bet he
stands in with most of these places on the water-front. He apologized for
the place, I remember; said it was rough but clean, and the oysters the
best in Baltimore. Well, I don’t remember much after that, until I woke
up in that hole on the schooner that brought us down here. I know we had
something to drink—and that, so help me, is the last that anyone ever
gets Tom Edwards to take. Shake on that, too.”

He had a hearty, bluff way of talking, and a frankness in declaring
himself to be the biggest simpleton that was ever caught with chaff, that
compelled friendship.

Harvey again accepted the proffered hand, smiling a little to himself,
and wondering if it were a habit of the other’s profession to seal all
compacts on the spot in that fashion.

“So here I am,” concluded Mr. Edwards, “in the vilest hole I ever was in;
sick from the nasty pitching of this infernal boat; the worst head-ache I
ever woke up with—thanks to Mr. Jenkins’s drug—robbed of $150 in money,
that I had in a wallet, a diamond that I wouldn’t have sold at any
price—and, worst of all, my house won’t know what’s become of me. You
see, I’m registered up in Washington at a hotel there. I disappear, they
find my trunk and goods all right, and my accounts are straight. Nobody
knows I came to Baltimore. I’m not registered at any hotel there. There’s
a mystery for ’em. Isn’t it a fix?”

Harvey whistled expressively.

“You’re worse off than I am, a million times,” he said. “Besides, I’ve
got a little money, if it will help us out any. It’s twenty-five dollars
I had for fare back to Benton, and pocket-money.”

“Where’s that—where’d you say you were going?” asked Mr. Edwards,
quickly.

“Benton.”

“Benton, eh? Well, that’s funny. I’ve been there; sold goods in Benton
lots of times. You don’t happen to know a man by the name of Warren
there, do you? He’s got three boys about your age, or a little
younger—nice man, too.”

Harvey gave an exclamation of surprise and delight.

“Know him? I guess I do,” he cried. “And the Warren fellows, well rather.
Hooray!”

It was Harvey’s turn to offer the hand of fellowship this time; and he
gave Mr. Edwards a squeeze that made that gentleman wince.

“You’ve got a pretty good grip,” said he, rubbing his right hand with the
other. “I guess you can stand some hard work.” Then they reverted to the
subject of Benton, once more, and it brought them closer together. There
was Bob White’s father, whom Mr. Edwards knew, and several others; and
Jack Harvey knew their sons; and so they might have shaken hands at least
a half dozen times more, if Mr. Edwards had been willing to risk the
experiment again.

“Now, to get back to the money,” said he, finally; “you’ve got to hide
that twenty-five dollars, or you’ll lose it. Here, I can help you out.”

He drew forth from a pocket a rubber tobacco pouch, and emptied the
contents into an envelope in one of his inside coat pockets.

“I don’t see how they happened to leave me this,” he said, “but they did,
and it’s lucky, too. It’s just what you need. We’ll tuck the bills in
this, fold it over and over, wrap a handkerchief about it, and you can
fasten it inside your shirt with this big safety-pin. Trust a travelling
man on the road to have what’s needed in the dressing line. It may save
you from being robbed. What are you going to do with that other five?
Don’t you want to save that, too?”

Harvey had taken from a wallet in his pocket twenty dollars in bills,
letting one five dollar bill remain.

“I’m going to use that to save the rest with,” replied Harvey. “Supposing
this brute of a captain asks me if I’ve got any money, to buy what I’ll
need aboard here, or suppose I’m robbed; well, perhaps they’ll think this
is all I’ve got, and leave me the twenty.”

“You’re kind of sharp, too,” responded Mr. Edwards, smiling. “You’d make
a good travelling man. We’ll stow this secure, I hope.”

He enfolded the bills handed to him by Harvey in the rubber tobacco
pouch, wrapped the boy’s handkerchief about that, and passed it, with the
pin thrust through, to Harvey. Harvey, loosening his clothing, pinned the
parcel of bills securely, next to his body.

“That’s the thing,” said Mr. Edwards, approvingly. “That’s better than
the captain’s strong-box, I reckon. I’m afraid we’ve struck a pirate.
Whew, but I’d give five hundred—oh, hang it! What’s the use of wishing?
We’re in for it. We’ll get out, I suppose some way. I’ll tackle this
captain in the morning. I’ve sold goods to pretty hard customers before
now. If I can’t sell him a line of talk that will make him set me ashore,
why, then my name isn’t Tom Edwards. Guess we may as well turn in, though
I reckon I’ll not sleep much in that confounded packing-box they call a
berth. Good night, Harvey, my boy. Here’s good luck for to-morrow.”

Mr. Edwards put forth his hand, then drew it back quickly.

“I guess that last hand-shake will do for to-night,” he said. “Pretty
good grip you’ve got.”

Harvey watched him, curiously, as he prepared to turn in for the night.
Surely, an extraordinary looking figure for the forecastle of a dingy
bug-eye was Mr. Tom Edwards. He removed his crumpled collar and his
necktie, gazed at them regretfully, and tucked them beneath the edge of
the bunk. He removed his black cut-away coat, folded it carefully, and
stowed it away in one end of the same. He likewise removed a pair of
patent leather shoes.

It was hardly the toggery for a seaman of an oyster-dredger; and Harvey,
eying the incongruous picture, would have laughed, in spite of his own
feeling of dismay and apprehension, but for the expression of utter
anguish and misery on the face of Tom Edwards, as he rolled in on to his
bunk.

“Cheer up,” said the latter, with an attempt at assurance, which the tone
of his voice did not fully endorse, “I’ll fix that pirate of a captain in
the morning, or I’ll never sell another bill of goods as long as I live.”

“I hope so,” replied Harvey.

But he had his doubts.

They had made their preparations not any too soon.

A voice from the deck called out roughly, “Douse that lantern down there!
Take this ere boat for an all-night dance-hall?”

Harvey sprang from his bunk and extinguished the feeble flicker that had
given them light, then crept back again. He was young; he was weary; he
was hopeful. He was soon asleep, rocked by the uneasy swinging and
dipping of the vessel. Mr. Thomas Edwards, travelling man and gentleman
patron of the best hotels, envied him, as he, himself, lay for hours
awake, a prey to many and varied emotions.

But he, too, was not without a straw to cling to. He had his plans for
the morrow; and, as tardy slumber at length came to his weary brain, he
might have been heard to mutter, “I’ll sell that captain a line—a line—a
line of talk; I’ll make him take it, or—or I’ll—”

His words ceased. Mr. Thomas Edwards had gone upon his travels into
dreamland. And, if he could have seen there the face and figure of
Captain Hamilton Haley of the bug-eye, Z. B. Brandt, and have listened to
that gentleman engaged in the pleasing art of conversation, he might not
have been so hopeful of selling him a “line of talk.”



                               CHAPTER V
                           THE LAW OF THE BAY


The bug-eye, Z. B. Brandt, lay more easily at anchor as the night wore
away and morning began to come in. The wind that had brought the rain had
fallen flat, and, in its stead, there was blowing a gentle breeze
straight out the mouth of the river, from the west. The day bade fair to
be clear. Still, with the increasing warmth of the air upon the surface
of the water, a vapour was arising, which shut out the shore in some
degree.

To one looking at it from a little distance, the vessel might have
presented a not unpleasing appearance. Its lines were certainly
graceful—almost handsome—after the manner of that type of bay craft. The
low free-board and sloping masts served to add grace to the outlines. The
Z. B. Brandt was a large one of its class, something over sixty feet
long, capable evidently of carrying a large cargo; and, at the same time,
a bay-man would have known at a glance that she was speedy.

Built on no such lines of grace and speed, however, was her skipper,
Captain Hamilton Haley, who now emerged from the cabin, on deck,
stretched his short, muscular arms, and looked about and across the
water, with a glance of approval and satisfaction at the direction of the
wind. He was below the medium height, a lack of stature which was made
more noticeable by an unusual breadth of chest and burliness of
shoulders.

Squat down between his shoulders, with so short and thick a neck that it
seemed as though nature had almost overlooked that proportion, was a
rounded, massive head, adorned with a crop of reddish hair. A thick, but
closely cut beard added to his shaggy appearance. His mouth was small and
expressionless; from under heavy eye-brows, small, grayish eyes twinkled
keenly and coldly.

Smoke pouring out of a funnel that protruded from the top of the cabin on
the starboard side, and a noise of dishes rattling below in the galley,
indicated preparation for breakfast. Captain Haley, his inspection of
conditions of wind and weather finished, went below.

A half hour later, there appeared from the same companion-way another
man, of a strikingly different type. He was tall and well proportioned,
powerfully built, alert and active in every movement. His complexion
showed him to be of negro blood, though of the lightest type of mulatto.
His face, smooth-shaven, betrayed lines that foreboded little good to the
crew of any craft that should come under his command. His eyes told of
intelligence, however, and it would have required but one glance of a
shrewd master of a vessel to pick him out for a smart seaman. Let
Hamilton Haley tell it, there wasn’t a better mate in all the dredging
fleet than Jim Adams. Let certain men that had served aboard the Brandt
on previous voyages tell it, and there wasn’t a worse one. It was a
matter of point of view.

Captain Hamilton Haley having also come on deck, and it being now close
on to five o’clock of this November morning, it was high time for the
Brandt to get under way. Captain Haley motioned toward the forecastle.

“Get ’em out,” he said curtly.

The mate walked briskly forward, and descended into the forecastle. The
two seamen in the upper bunks, sleeping in their clothes, tumbled hastily
out, at a word from the mate, and a shake of the shoulder. The men in the
two lower bunks did not respond. Angrily raising one foot, shod in a
heavy boot, Jim Adams administered several kicks to the slumberers. They
stirred and groaned, and half awoke. Surveying them contemptuously for a
moment, the mate passed them by.

“I’ll ’tend to you gentlemen later on, I reckon,” he muttered. Jack
Harvey, aroused by the stirring in the forecastle, had scrambled hastily
out, and was on his feet when the mate approached. The latter grinned,
showing two rows of strong, white teeth.

“Well done, sonny,” he said. “Saved you’self gettin’ invited, didn’t you?
Just be lively, now, and scamper out on deck. Your mammy wants ter see
you.”

“All right,” answered Harvey, and stooped for his shoes. To his surprise,
he felt himself seized by the powerful hand of the mate, and jerked
upright. The mate was still smiling, but there was a gleam in his eyes
that there was no mistaking.

“See here, sonny,” he said, “would you just mind bein’ so kind as to call
me ‘mister,’ when you speaks to me? I’m Mister Adams, if you please.
Would you just as lieves remember that?”

Jack Harvey was quick to perceive that this sneering politeness was no
joke. He answered readily, “Certainly, Mr. Adams; I will, sir.”

The mate grinned, approvingly.

“Get along,” he said.

Pausing for a moment before the bunk in which Mr. Tom Edwards was still
sleeping, the mate espied the black tailor-made coat which the owner had
carefully folded and stowed in one corner before retiring. From that and
the general appearance of the sleeper, it was evident Jim Adams had
gathered an impression little favourable to the occupant of the bunk.

“Hmph!” he muttered. “Reckon he won’t last long. Scroop’s rung in a
counter-jumper on Haley. Wait till Haley sees him.”

His contempt for the garment, carefully folded, did not however, prevent
his making a more critical inspection of it. Drawing it stealthily out of
the bunk, the mate quickly ran through the pockets. The search
disappointed him. There was a good linen handkerchief, which he
appropriated; an empty wallet, which he restored to a pocket; and some
papers, equally unprofitable. Tossing the coat back into the bunk, the
mate seized the legs of the sleeper and swung them around over the edge
of the bunk; which being accomplished, he unceremoniously spilled Mr. Tom
Edwards out on the floor.

There was a gleam of triumph in his eyes as he did so; a consciousness
that here, in these waters of the Chesapeake, among the dredging fleet,
there existed a peculiar reversal of the general supremacy of the white
over the black race; a reversal growing out of the brutality of many of
the captains, and the method of shipping men and holding them prisoners,
to work or perish; in the course of which, captains so disposed had found
that there was none so eager to brow-beat and bully a crew of
recalcitrant whites as a certain type of coloured mates.

Tom Edwards, awakened thus roughly, opened his eyes wide in astonishment;
then his face reddened with indignation as he saw the figure of the mate
bending over him.

“Would you just as lieve ’blige me by gettin’ your coat on an’ stepping
out on deck?” asked the mate, with mock politeness.

Tom Edwards arose to his feet, somewhat shaky, and glared at the
spokesman.

“I want to see the captain of this vessel,” he said. “You fellows have
made a mistake in your man, this time. You’d better be careful.”

“Yes, sir, I’m very, unusual careful, mister,” responded the mate,
grinning at the picture presented by the unfortunate Mr. Tom Edwards,
unsteady on his legs with the slight rolling of the vessel, but striving
to assert his dignity. “Jes’ please to hustle out on deck, now, an’
you’ll see the cap’n all right. He’s waiting for you to eat breakfas’
with him, in the cabin.”

Tom Edwards, burning with wrath, hurriedly adjusted his crumpled collar
and tie, put on his shoes and coat, and hastened on deck. Glancing
forward, he espied Harvey engaged at work with the crew.

“Here, Harvey,” he cried, “come on. I’ll set you right, and myself, too,
at the same time. I’ll see if there’s any law in Maryland that will
punish an outrage like this.”

Somewhat doubtfully, Jack Harvey followed him. Jim Adams, leering as
though he knew what would be the result, did not stop him. The two
seamen, also, paused in their work, and stood watching the unusual event.
Captain Hamilton Haley, standing expectantly near the wheel, eyed the
approaching Mr. Edwards with cold unconcern. Perhaps he had met similar
situations before.

Under certain conditions, and amid the proper surroundings, Mr. Thomas
Edwards might readily have made a convincing impression and commanded
respect; but the situation was unfavourable. His very respectable
garments, in their tumbled and tom disarrangement, his legs unsteady,
from recent experiences and from weakness, his face pale with the
evidence of approaching sea-sickness, all conspired to defeat his attempt
at dignity. Yet he was determined.

“Captain,” he said, stepping close to the stolid figure by the wheel,
“you have made a bad mistake in getting me aboard here. I was drugged and
shipped without my knowing it. I am a travelling man, and connected with
a big business house in Boston. If you don’t set me ashore at once,
you’ll get yourself into more kinds of trouble than you ever dreamed of.
I’m a man-of-the-world, and I can let this pass for a good joke among the
boys on the road, if it stops right here. But if you carry it any
farther, I warn you it will be at your peril. It’s a serious thing, this
man-stealing.”

Captain Hamilton Haley, fortifying himself with a piece of tobacco, eyed
Mr. Thomas Edwards sullenly. Then he clenched a huge fist and replied.

“I’ve seen ’em like you before,” he said. “They was all real gentlemen,
same as you be, when they come aboard, and most of ’em owned up to bein’
pickpockets and tramps when they and I got acquainted. I guess you’re no
great gentleman. When a man goes and signs a contract with me, I makes
him live up to it. You’ve gone and signed with me, and now you get
for’ard and bear a hand at that winch.”

“That’s an outrageous lie!” cried Tom Edwards, shaking his fist in turn
at Captain Haley. “I never signed a paper in my life, to ship with you or
anybody else. If they’ve got my signature, it’s forged.”

“Look here, you,” answered Haley, advancing a step, “don’t you go an’
tell me as how I lie, young feller. Ain’t I seen the contract with my own
eyes? Didn’t Scroop show it, along with the contract of that other young
chap there? Don’t you go telling me I ain’t doin’ things legal like. I’ll
show you some Chesapeake Bay law.”

“Well, Chesapeake Bay law is the same as the law for the rest of
Maryland, I reckon,” exclaimed Tom Edwards hotly. “You’ve got no law on
your side. I’ve got the law with me, and I’ll proceed against you. You’ll
find Chesapeake Bay law and State law is much the same when you get into
court.”

For a moment something like a grin overspread the dull features of
Captain Hamilton Haley. Then he raised his arm, advanced another step
forward, and shook his fist in the other’s face.

“I reckon you ain’t had no experience with Chesapeake Bay law,” he cried
angrily. “But it’s easy to larn, and it don’t take no books to teach it.
Do you see that fist?”

He brandished his huge, red bunch of knuckles in Tom Edwards’s face.

“Do you see that fist?” he cried again, his own face growing more fiery.
“That’s the law of the Bay. That’s the law of the dredging fleet. There
ain’t no other. Any man that goes against that law, gets it laid down to
him good and hard. There it is, and you gets your first lesson.”

With a single blow of his arm, planting the aforesaid digest and epitome
of dredging law full in the face of Tom Edwards, he stretched him
sprawling on the deck, dazed and terrified.

Captain Hamilton Haley, having thus successfully demonstrated the might
and majesty of dredging-fleet law, according to his own interpretation of
its terms, proceeded now to expound it further. His anger had increased
with his act of violence, and the veins in his neck and on his forehead
stood out, swollen.

“See here you, young fellow,” he cried, advancing toward Harvey,
threateningly, “don’t you go starting out uppish, too. Don’t you begin
sea-lawyerin’ with me. I know the law. There it is, and I hand it out
when needed. There ain’t no other law among the dredgers that I knows of,
from Plum Point down to the Rappahannock. Some of ’em larns it quick, and
some of ’em larns it slow; and them as larns it quickest gets it
lightest. Now what have you got to say?”

Jack Harvey, thus hopelessly confronted, thought—and thought quickly.

“I signed for a cruise, all right,” he replied, returning the infuriated
captain’s gaze steadily, “and I’m ready to go to work.”

“Then you get for’ard, lively now, and grab hold of that winch. You
loafers get back and yank that anchor up. This ain’t a town meetin’. Get
them men to work again, mate. Take him along, too.”

The captain pointed, in turn, to Harvey, to the sailors who had edged
their way aft, to watch proceedings, and to the unfortunate Mr. Edwards,
who had arisen from the deck and stood, a sorry, woe-begone object,
unable physically to offer further resistance.

“Shake things up now, Jim Adams, shake ’em up,” urged Haley. “Here we are
losing good wind over a lot of tramps that costs ten dollars apiece to
get here, and little good after we’ve got ’em. How’s a man goin’ to make
his livin’ dredging, when he pays high for men an’ gets nothin’ to show
for his money? I’d like to get that fellow, Jenkins, out here once,
himself. I’d show him this isn’t a business for school-boys and
counter-jumpers. I’d get ten dollars’ worth of work out of him, and a
good many more ten dollars’ worth that he’s got out of me, or he’d know
the reason why.”

Thus relieving his mind of his own troubles, Captain Hamilton Haley, in a
state of highly virtuous indignation, watched with approval the actions
of the mate. The latter, seizing Tom Edwards, hurried him forward
unceremoniously and bade him take hold at the handle of the winch and
help raise the anchor. Tom Edwards weakly grasped the handle, as
directed, in company with one of the sailors. Jack Harvey and the other
seaman worked at the opposite handle.

Two men could have done the job easily, and the four made quick work of
it. By the time the anchor chain was hove short, the mate and Haley had
got the main-sail up. One of the seamen left the windlass and set one of
the jibs; the anchor was brought aboard and stowed. The bug-eye, Brandt,
began to swing off from its mooring, as the wind caught the jib, which
was held up to windward. Easily the craft spun ’round, going before the
wind out of the harbour and running across the bay, headed for the
Eastern shore.



                               CHAPTER VI
                         THE WORKING OF THE LAW


“Shake out the reefs and get the foresail on her,” called Haley. “Lively,
now, we’ve lost time.”

The mate repeated the order; the two available seamen began untying the
reef-points, which had been knotted when sail had been shortened in the
breeze of the previous day. It was simple enough work, merely the
loosening and untying of a series of square knots. Harvey had done the
like a hundred times aboard his own sloop. He hastened to assist, and did
his part as quickly as the other two. Jim Adams, somewhat surprised, eyed
him curiously.

“You’re a right smart youngster, ain’t you?” he said, patronizingly.
“Reckon you’ll be so mightily pleased you’ll come again some time.”

There was something so insolent in the tone, so sheer and apparent an
exulting in his power to compel the youth to do his bidding, that the
blood mounted in Harvey’s cheeks, and he felt his pulses beat quicker.
But he went on soberly with his work, and the mate said no more.

Ignorant of all things aboard a vessel, and too weak to work if he had
been skilled at it, Tom Edwards stood helplessly by. The humiliation of
his repulse at the hands of the captain, and his dismay at the dismal
prospect, overwhelmed him. He gazed at the receding shore, and groaned.

The foresail was run up, and with that and the mainsail winged out on
opposite sides, the bug-eye ran before the wind at an easy clip. She
responded at once to the increased spread of canvas. Her evident sailing
qualities appealed to Harvey, and lifted him for the moment out of his
apprehension and distress.

“Now you get your breakfas’,” said Jim Adams, and the two sailors
shuffled aft, followed by Harvey and Tom Edwards. Harvey was hungry, with
the keen appetite of youth and health, and he seated himself with a zest
at the table in the cabin. But the place would have blunted the appetite
of many a hungry man.

It was a vile, stuffy hole, reeking, like the forecastle, with a stale
fishy odour, uncleanly and shabby. A greasy smell of cooking came in from
the galley. A tin plate and cup and a rusty knife and fork set for each
seemed never to have known the contact of soap and water. Jack Harvey
recalled the praise which his absent friend, Mr. Jenkins, had bestowed
upon the quarters of the schooner, and that young gentleman’s
disparagement of the comparative accommodations of a bug-eye; and he
endorsed the sentiments fully. Compared with the cabin of the schooner,
the cabin of the Z. B. Brandt was, indeed, a kennel.

There was little comfort, either, apparently, in the association of the
two sailors. The fellow directly opposite Harvey, whom the mate had
addressed once that morning as “Jeff,” stared sullenly and dully at the
youth, with a look that was clearly devoid of interest. He was a heavy
set, sluggish man of about thirty-five years, for whom hard work and ill
usage had blunted whatever sensibilities he may have once possessed.
Evidently he was willing to bear with the treatment, and the poor food
aboard the vessel, for the small wages he would receive at the winter’s
end.

The other man was slightly more prepossessing, but clearly at present not
inclined to any sociability. He had a brighter eye and a face of more
expression than his companion; though he, too, under the grinding labour
aboard the oyster dredger, had come to toil day by day silently, in dumb
obedience to the captain and mate. He was one Sam Black, by name,
somewhat taller and larger than his comrade.

These two paid little heed to the new arrivals. It is doubtful if they
really took notice of their being there, in the sense that they thought
anything about it. Life was a drudgery to them, in which it mattered
little whether others shared or not. They scarcely spoke to each other
during the meal, and not at all to Harvey or Tom Edwards.

Presently there stepped out of the galley an uncouth, slovenly appearing
man, who might have passed as a smaller edition of Captain Hamilton
Haley, by his features. He was, in fact, of the same name, Haley, and
there was some relationship of a remote degree between them, which
accounted for his employment aboard the vessel. He was not so stout as
his kinsman, however, and more active in his movements.

Whatever may have been the latent abilities of Mr. George Haley in the
art of cooking, they were not in evidence, nor required aboard the
bug-eye. Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards were now to behold the evidence of
that fact.

The cook bore in his hands a greasy wooden box, that had once held smoked
fish, and set it down on the table. Just what its contents consisted of
was not at first apparent to Harvey. When, however, the two sailors
reached over with their forks, speared junks of something from the box
and conveyed them to their plates, Harvey followed their example.

He looked at the food for a moment before he made out what it was. It
proved to be dough, kneaded and mixed with water, and a mild flavouring
of molasses, and fried in lard. Harvey gazed at the mess in dismay. If it
should prove to taste as bad as it looked, it must needs be hard fare.
But he observed that the sailors made away with it hungrily; so he cut
off a piece and tasted it. It was, indeed, wretched stuff, greasy and
unpalatable. There was nothing else of food forthcoming, however, and he
managed to swallow a few more mouthfuls.

The cook came to his aid in slight measure. He reappeared, bringing a
pail of steaming, black liquid, the odour of which bore some slight
resemblance to coffee. It was what passed for coffee aboard the bug-eye,
a sorry composition of water boiled with several spoonfuls of an essence
of coffee—the flavour of which one might further disguise, if he chose,
with a spoonful of black molasses from a tin can set out by the cook.

Harvey filled his cup with alacrity, hoping to wash down the mess of
fried bread with the hot coffee. He made a wry face after one swallow,
and looked with dismay at his companion in misery.

“It’s awful,” he said, “but it’s hot. You better drink some of it. It
will warm you up.”

Tom Edwards put out a shaky hand and conveyed a cup of the stuff to his
lips. He groaned as he took a swallow, and set the cup down.

“Beastly!” he exclaimed; and added, “I never did like coffee without
cream, anyway.”

Harvey laughed, in spite of his own disgust. “The cream hasn’t come
aboard yet, I guess,” he said. “But you drink that down quick. You need
it.”

Like one obeying an older person, instead of a younger, Tom Edwards did
as Harvey urged. He drained the cup at a draught. Then he staggered to
his feet again.

“I can’t eat that mess,” he said. “Oh, but I’m feeling sick. I think I’ll
go out on deck. It’s cold out there, though. I don’t know what to do.”

He was not long in doubt, however; for, as Harvey emerged on deck, the
mate approached.

“You tell that Mister Edwards,” he said, “he can jes’ lie down on one of
them parlour sofas in the fo’-castle till we gets across to Hoopers. Then
we’ll need him.”

Harvey did the errand, and the unhappy Tom Edwards made his way forward
once more, and threw himself down in the hard bunk, pale and ill. Harvey
returned on deck. The morning was clear, and not cold for November, but
the wind sent a chill through his warm sweater, and he beat himself with
his arms, to warm up.

“Didn’t get you’self any slickers, did you, ’fore you came aboard?”
inquired the mate.

“No, sir,” replied Harvey, remembering how the man had cautioned him to
address him; “I didn’t have a chance. They sailed off with me in the
night.”

The mate grinned. “That was sure enough too bad,” he said, mockingly.
“Well, you see the old man ’bout that. He sells ’em very cheap, and a
sight better than they have ashore in Baltimore. Awful advantage they
take of poor sailors there. Mr. Haley, he’ll fit you out, I reckon.”

They stepped aft, and the mate made known their errand.

Haley nodded. “He’ll need ’em sooner or later,” he assented. “May as well
have ’em now, as any time. Take the wheel.”

The mate assumed the captain’s seat on the wheel box, and Captain Haley
nodded to Harvey to follow him below. He fumbled about in a dark locker
and finally drew forth two garments—the trousers and jacket of an
oil-skin suit. They were black and frayed with previous wear, their
original hue of yellow being discoloured by smears and hard usage.

“There,” said Haley, holding up the slickers approvingly, “there’s a suit
as has been worn once or twice, but isn’t hurt any. As good as new, and
got the stiffness out of it. Cost you seven dollars to get that suit new
in Baltimore. You’ll get it for five, and lucky you didn’t buy any
ashore. There’s a tarpaulin, too, that you can have for a dollar. I
oughtn’t to let ’em go so cheap.”

Harvey hardly knew whether to be angry or amused. He had not shipped for
the money to be earned, to be sure, and the absurd prices for the almost
worthless stuff excited his derision. But the gross injustice of the
bargain made him indignant, too. He had bought oil-skins for himself,
before, and knew that a good suit, new, could be had for about three
dollars and a half, and a new tarpaulin for seventy-five cents. But he
realized that protest would be of no avail. So he assented.

“There’s a new pair of rubber boots, too,” continued Haley, producing a
pair that were, indeed, much nearer new than the oil-skins. “Those will
cost you five dollars. They’re extra reinforced; not much like that
slop-shop stuff.”

The boots thereupon became Harvey’s property; likewise a thin and
threadbare old bed quilt, for the bunk in the forecastle, at an equally
extortionate price. Then a similar equipment was provided for Harvey’s
friend, Tom Edwards, the captain assuring Harvey that they would surely
fit Edwards, and he could take them forward to him.

Suddenly the captain paused and looked at Harvey shrewdly, out of his
cold gray eyes.

“Of course I provide all this for a man, in advance of his wages,” he
said, “when he comes aboard, like the most of ’em, without a cent; but
when he has some money, he has to pay. Suppose he gets drowned—it’s all
dead loss to me. You got any money?”

Harvey thanked his stars for Tom Edwards’s precaution.

“I’ve got some,” he said, and began to feel in his pockets, as though he
were uncertain just how much he did have. “Here’s five dollars—and let’s
see, oh, yes, I’ve got some loose change, sixty-three cents.” He brought
forth the bill and the coins. Haley pounced on the money greedily. He
eyed Harvey with some suspicion, however.

“Turn your pockets out,” he said. “I can’t afford to take chances. Let’s
see if you’ve been holding back any.”

Harvey did as he was ordered.

“All right,” muttered Haley. But he was clearly disappointed.

“Can that fellow, Edwards, pay?” he asked.

“He told me he hadn’t a cent,” answered Harvey, promptly. “He was robbed
after they got him drugged.”

Haley’s face reddened angrily.

“He wasn’t drugged—nor robbed, either,” he cried. “Don’t you go talking
like that, or you’ll get into trouble. Leastwise, I don’t know nothin’
about it. If he was fixed with drugs, it was afore he came into my hands.
I won’t stand for anything like that. Get out, now, and take that stuff
for’ard.”

Harvey went forward, carrying his enforced purchases. An unpleasant sight
confronted him as he neared the forecastle.

The two men that had been brought aboard the bug-eye, stupefied, had been
dragged out on deck, where they lay, blinking and dazed, but evidently
coming once more to their senses. The mate gave an order to one of the
sailors. The latter caught up a canvas bucket, to which there was
attached a rope, threw it over the side and drew it back on deck filled
with water.

“Let’s have that,” said the mate.

He snatched it from the sailor’s hand, swung it quickly, and dashed the
contents full in the face of one of the prostrate men. The fellow gasped
for breath, as the icy water choked and stung him; he half struggled to
his feet, opening his eyes wide and gazing about him with amazement. He
had hardly come to a vague appreciation of where he was, putting his
hands to his eyes and rubbing them, to free them of the salt water,
before he received a second bucket-full in the face. He cried out in
fright and, spurred on by that and the shock of the cold water, got upon
his feet and stood, trembling and shivering. Jim Adams laughed with
pleasure at the success of his treatment.

“Awful bad stuff they give ’em in Baltimore, sometimes,” he said,
chuckling, as though it were a huge joke; “but this fetches ’em out of it
just like doctor’s medicine. You got ’nuff, I reckon. Now you trot ’long
down into the cabin, and get some of that nice coffee, an’ you’ll feel
pretty spry soon.”

The fellow shambled away, led by one of the crew.

Jack Harvey, his blood boiling at the inhumanity of it, saw Jim Adams’s
“treatment” applied with much the same success to the other helpless
prisoner; and this man, too, soon went the way of the other, for such
comfort and stimulus as the cabin and coffee afforded. Harvey deposited
his load of clothing in the forecastle, and returned to the deck.

In the course of some seven miles of sailing, as Harvey reckoned it, they
approached a small island which he heard called out as Barren island.
Still farther to the eastward of this, there lay a narrow stretch of
land, some two or three miles long, lying lengthwise approximately north
and south. Off the shore of this, which bore the name of Upper Hooper
island, the dredging grounds now sought by the Brandt extended southward
for some ten miles, abreast of another island, known as Middle Hooper
island.

Preparations were at once begun to work the dredges; and Harvey watched
with anxious interest. Here was the real labour, that he had by this time
come to look forward to with dread. He recalled the utterance of the
dismal sailor aboard the schooner, “You breaks yer back at a bloody
winder;” and he saw a prospect now of the fulfilment of the man’s
description of the work.

In the mid-section of the bug-eye, on either side, there were set up what
looked not unlike two huge spools. Wound around each one of these was
fathom upon fathom of dredge line. Each spool rested in a frame that was
shaped something like a carpenter’s saw-horse, and, in the process of
winding, was revolved by means of a crank at either end, worked by men at
the handles. The frame was securely bolted to the deck at the four
supports.

Connected with each dredge line, by an iron chain, was the dredge. This
consisted, first, of four iron rods, coming to a point at the chain, and
spread out from that in the form of a piece of cheese cut wedge-shaped,
and rounded in a loop at the broad end. Fastened to this was a great mesh
of iron links, made like a purse, or bag, This metal bag was a capacious
affair, made to hold more than a bushel of oysters. There were two larger
iron links in the mesh, by which it could be hooked and lifted aboard,
when it had been wound up to the surface of the water.

There was a locking device on the end of the support, so that the spool
would hold, without unwinding, when the handles were released.

The huge spools were set up lengthwise of the vessel. On either side of
the craft were rollers; one of these was horizontal, to drag the dredge
aboard on; one was perpendicular, for the dredge-line to run free on, as
it was paid out, or drawn in, while the vessel was in motion.

Captain Haley, at the wheel, gave his orders sharply. The sailors and Jim
Adams, lifting the dredges, threw them overboard on either side, and the
work was begun. The bug-eye, with sheets started, took a zig-zag course,
laterally across the dredging ground.

Obeying orders, Harvey took his place at one of the handles of a winder;
one of the sailors at the other. Presently appeared Jim Adams, followed
by the disconsolate Tom Edwards. The latter, pale and sea-sick, seemed
scarcely able to walk, much less work; but the mate led him along to the
handle of the other winder. Tom Edwards was not without making one more
feeble attempt as resistance, however.

“See here,” he said, addressing Adams, “you’ve got no right to force me
to work here. I’m a business man, and I was brought down here by a trick,
drugged. You’ll pay dear for it. I warn you.”

Jim Adams grinned from ear to ear, his expansive mouth exhibiting a
shining row of white teeth. He put a big, bony hand on Tom Edwards’s
shoulder.

“Don’t you go worrying ’bout what I’ll get, mister,” he answered; and
there was a gleam of fire in his eyes as he spoke. “I reckon you might as
well know, first as last, that I don’t care where we get you fellows, nor
how we gets yer; nor I don’t care whether you come aboard drugged or
sober; nor whether you’ve got clothes on, nor nothin’ at all. All I cares
is that you’s so as you can turn at this ere windlass. That’s all there
is ’bout that. Now you jes’ take a-hold of that handle, and do’s you’re
told, or you’ll go overboard; and don’t you forget that.”

Tom Edwards was silent. He stood, hand upon the windlass, shivering.

“You’ll be warm ’nuff soon, I reckon,” was Jim Adams’s consolation.

They got the order to wind in, presently, and the men began to turn the
handles. It was hard work, sure enough. The huge iron bags, filled with
the oysters, torn from the reefs at the bed of the bay, were heavy of
themselves; and the strain of winding them in against the headway of the
bug-eye was no boys’ play.

Harvey and his companion at their winder were strong and active, and
presently the dredge was at the surface, whence it was seized and dragged
aboard. There it was emptied of its contents, a mass of shells, all
shapes and sizes. Then followed the work of “culling,” or sorting and
throwing overboard the oysters that were under two inches and a half
long, which the law did not allow to be kept and sold.

“You need a pair of mittens,” volunteered Harvey’s working comrade, as
Harvey started in to help, with bare hands. “You’ll get cut and have sore
hands, if you don’t,” he added. “The cap’n sells mittens.”

The mittens, at a price that would have made the most hardened
shop-keeper blush, were provided, and Harvey resumed work.

The seriousness of the situation had developed in earnest. It was
drudgery of the hardest and most bitter kind.

“Just wait till the month is up,” said Harvey, softly; “I’ll cut out of
this pretty quick. A sea experience, eh? Well, I’ve got enough of it in
the first half hour.”

Spurred on by the harsh commands of the mate, Tom Edwards managed to hold
out for perhaps three quarters of an hour. Then he collapsed entirely;
and, seeing that nothing more could be gotten out of him for the rest of
the day, the mate suffered him to drag himself off to the forecastle.

“But see that you’re out sharp and early on deck here to-morrow morning,”
said Jim Adams. “We don’t have folks livin’ high here for nothin’. You’ll
jes’ work your board and lodgin’, I reckon.”

Thus the day wore on, drearily. The exciting sea experience that Jack
Harvey had pictured to himself was not at present forthcoming; only a
monotonous winding at the windlass—hard and tiring work—and the culling
of the oysters, and stowing them below in the hold from time to time. He
was sick of it by mid-day; and, as the shades of twilight fell, he was
well nigh exhausted.

“And only to think of this for nearly four weeks more,” he groaned. “Next
time—oh, hang it! What’s the use of thinking of that? I’m in for it. I’ve
got to go through. But won’t I scoot when the month is up!”

Toward evening, they ran up under the lee of Barren island, in what the
mate said was Tar Bay, and anchored for the night. Almost too wearied to
eat, too wearied to listen to the commiseration of Tom Edwards, who lay
groaning in his bunk, Jack Harvey tumbled in with his clothes on, and was
asleep as soon as he had stretched himself out.



                              CHAPTER VII
                         DREDGING FLEET TACTICS


Jack Harvey was a strong, muscular youth, toughened and enured to rough
weather, and even hardship, by reason of summers spent in yachting and
his spare time in winter divided between open air sports and work in the
school gymnasium. But the steady, laborious work of the first day at
dredging had brought into action muscles comparatively little used
before, and moreover overtaxed them. So, when Harvey awoke, the following
morning, and rolled out of his bunk, he felt twinges of pain go through
him. His muscles were stiffened, and he ached from ankles to shoulders.

He awoke Tom Edwards, knowing that if he did not, the mate soon would,
and in rougher fashion. The companionship in misfortune, that had thus
thrown the boy and the man intimately together, made the difference in
their ages seem less, and their friendship like that of long standing. So
it was the natural thing, and instinctive, for Harvey to address the
other familiarly.

“Wake up, Tom,” he said, shaking him gently; “it’s time to get up.”

Tom Edwards opened his eyes, looked into the face of his new friend and
groaned.

“Oh, I can’t,” he murmured. “I just can’t get up. I’m done for. I’ll
never get out of this alive. I’m going to die. Jack, old fellow, you tell
them what happened to me, if I never get ashore again. You’ll come
through, but I can’t.”

Harvey looked at the sorry figure, compassionately.

“It’s rough on you,” he said, “because you’re soft and not used to
exercise. But don’t you go getting discouraged this way. You’re not going
to die—not by a good deal. You’re just sea-sick; and every one feels like
dying when they get that way. You’ve just got to get out, because Adams
will make you. So you better start in. Come on; we’ll get some of that
beautiful coffee and that other stuff, and you’ll feel better.”

By much urging, Harvey induced his companion to arise, and they went on
deck.

It was a fine, clear morning, and the sight that met their eyes was
really a pretty one. In the waters of Tar Bay were scores of craft
belonging to the oyster fleet. They were for the most part lying at
anchor, now, with smoke curling up in friendly fashion from their little
iron stove funnels. There were vessels of many sorts and sizes; a few
large schooners, of the dredging class, bulky of build and homely;
punjies, broader of bow and sharper and deeper aft, giving them quickness
in tacking across the oyster reefs; bug-eyes, with their sharp prows,
bearing some fancied resemblance, by reason of the hawse-holes on either
bow, to a bug’s eye, or a buck’s eye—known also in some waters as
“buck-eyes”—clean-lined craft, sharp at either end; also little saucy
skip-jacks, and the famous craft of the Chesapeake, the canoes.

These latter, known also as tonging-boats, were remarkably narrow craft,
made of plank, about four feet across the gunwales and averaging about
twenty feet long. Some of them were already under weigh, the larger ones
carrying two triangular sails and a jib. It seemed to Harvey as though
the sail they bore up under must inevitably capsize them; but they sailed
fast and stiff.

A few of these craft were already engaged in tonging for oysters, in a
strip of the bay just south of Barren Island, where the water shoaled to
a depth of only one fathom. The two men aboard were alternately raising
and lowering, by means of a small crank, a pair of oyster tongs, the jaws
of which closed mechanically with the strain upon the rope to which it
was attached.

To the southward, other vessels were beginning to come in upon the
dredging grounds, until it seemed as though all of Maryland’s small craft
must be engaged in the business of oyster fishing.

With an eye to the present usefulness of his men, more than from any
compassion upon their condition, Captain Hamilton Haley had ordered a
better breakfast to be served. There was fried bacon, and a broth of some
sort; and the coffee seemed a bit stronger and more satisfying. Harvey
urged his comrade to eat; and Tom Edwards, who had rallied a little from
his sea-sickness, with the vessel now steady under him, in the quiet
water, managed to make a fair breakfast.

They made sail, shortly, and stood to the southward, following the line
of the island shores, but at some distance off the land. The hard,
monotonous labour of working the dredges began once more. Jack Harvey,
lame and stiff in his joints, found it more laborious than before.

Tom Edwards, somewhat steadier than on the previous day, but in no fit
condition to work, was forced to the task. He made a most extraordinary,
and, indeed, ludicrous figure—like a scarecrow decked out in an unusually
good suit of clothes. He had no overcoat left him, but had sought relief
from the weather by the purchase of an extra woollen undershirt from
Captain Haley’s second-hand wardrobe. His appearance was, therefore,
strikingly out of keeping with his surroundings.

In him one would have beheld a tall, light complexioned man; with blond
moustache, that had once been trimly cut and slightly curled; clad in his
black suit, with cut-away coat; his one linen shirt sadly in need of
starching, but worn for whatever warmth it would give; even his one
crumbled linen collar worn for similar purpose; and, with this, a bulky
pair of woollen mittens, to protect his hands that were as yet unused to
manual labour.

Watching him, as he toiled at the opposite winch, Harvey could not
restrain himself, once, from bursting into laughter; but, the next
moment, the pale face, with its expression of distress, turned his
laughter into pity. It was certainly no joke for poor Tom Edwards.

Mate Adams brought on the other two recruits, after a time, and they took
their places at the winders. They were not strong enough to work
continuously, however, and the two and Tom Edwards “spelled” one another
by turns.

The wind fell away for an hour about noon, and there was a respite for
all, save for the culling of the oysters that had been taken aboard; and
Jack Harvey found opportunity to speak with the two newcomers.

Theirs was the old story—only too familiar to the history of the dredging
fleet.

“My name is Wallace Brooks,” said one of them, a thick-set, good-natured
looking youth of about twenty years. “I come from up Haverstraw way, on
the Hudson river—and I thought I was used to hard work, for I’ve worked
in the brick-yards there some; but that’s just play compared to this.

“Well, I went down to New York, to look for work, and I fell in with this
chap. His name’s Willard Thompson. He’s a New Yorker, and has knocked
around there all his life. I’m afraid he won’t stand much of this work
here. He was a clerk in a store, but always wanted to take a sea voyage.”

Willard Thompson, standing wearily by the forecastle, did not, indeed,
present a robust appearance, calculated to endure the hardships of a
winter on Chesapeake Bay. He was rather tall and thin and sallow, dressed
more flashily than his friend, Brooks, and was of a weaker type.

“We fell in with a man in South street, one day,” continued Brooks, “and
he told us all about what a fine place this bay was; how it was warm here
all winter, and oyster dredging the easiest work there is—‘nothing to do
but watch the boat sail, dragging a dredge after it,’ was the way he put
it. He didn’t say anything about this everlasting grind of winding at the
machines. Said the pay was twenty-five a month, and live like they do at
the Astor House.

“He fooled us, all right, and we signed with him in New York, and he sent
us down to Baltimore. They put us into a big boarding-house there, with a
lot of men. Well, we found out more what it was going to be like, and we
were going to back out and get away; but they were too smart for
us—drugged our coffee one night—and, well, you know the rest. We’ve waked
up at last. Whew, but’s tough! I wish I was back in the brick-yard, with
a mile of bricks to handle. Isn’t old Haley a pirate?”

They were ordered to work again, soon, and the conversation ended.

Working that afternoon with the sailor, Sam Black, at the winch, Harvey
got a further insight to the devious ways and the shrewdness of the
dredgers, of the type of Hamilton Haley.

There sailed up, after a time, a smaller bug-eye, which ran along for
some miles abreast of the Brandt, while the two captains exchanged
confidences.

“Ahoy, Bill,” called Haley; “what d’yer know?”

“The Old Man’s looking for you,” returned the other.

“What’s he want of me?”

“Wants to see your license.”

“Well, I’ve got it, all right.”

Haley glanced, as he spoke, at his license numbers, displayed on two of
the sails.

“Where is he now?”

“Down below Smith’s Island.”

“Has he boarded you?”

“Yes, looked us all over. We’re all clear.”

“Then,” continued Haley, “I’ll run alongside at sundown; where’ll you
be?”

“Just around the foot of the island.”

“What does he mean?” inquired Harvey. “Who’s the Old Man?”

“Oh, he means the captain of the police tub,” replied Sam Black,
grinning. “They’ll look us over, by and by, just to see if everything’s
straight. It’s one of the state’s oyster navy.”

Harvey’s heart gave a jump. Might not here be a chance for liberty? But,
the next moment, his hopes were dashed.

“Don’t you go reckoning on it, though, youngster,” continued Sam Black,
“for ’twon’t do you a bit of good. There’s no police as slick as Ham
Haley, nor the rest of his crowd. What’s the good of two old police
steamers and a few schooners in goodness knows how many hundred square
miles of bay, with hundreds of harbours to run to and hide, and islands
to dodge ’round, and a score of pirates like Haley to help each other
dodge? And any captain in the fleet willing to tell where the police tub
is?”

“I tell you, it ain’t often they catch a captain napping, no matter what
he’s done. Let ’em swear out a warrant, up in Baltimore, for a captain
that has been beating up his men. Well, I dunno how it does come, hardly;
but, all the same, the news gets down the bay and spreads all through the
fleet like a field of grass afire. Pshaw! By the time they gets him, that
cap’n has got half a new crew, and there isn’t a man aboard as saw the
beating done, except the cap’n and his mate; and if they’ve done any
beating up, you bet they’ve clean forgotten it.”

Harvey’s face looked blanker than before. “Then there isn’t much hope in
the law, no matter what happens,” he said.

“Haley and the rest of ’em have got the law,” responded Black. “Haley
showed that fellow, Edwards, the law. Don’t you get in the way of it.
That’s my advice.”

“All the captains alike?” asked Harvey.

“About a score or so of ’em are downright pirates,” replied Sam Black.
“They’re the kind I’ve fell in with, mostly. There’s good ones, too, I
suppose—or not so bad.”

For all the sailor said, Jack Harvey was not without some faint hope, as
the afternoon wore away and the bug-eye headed for the foot of lower
Hooper Island, that the expected visit of the police boat might afford
him and Tom Edwards the opportunity for escape. He gave the news to Tom
Edwards, at supper time, and that weary unfortunate beamed with renewed
hope.

“It’s our chance,” he said. “Won’t I fill that navy captain full of what
that brute Haley has done aboard here!”

They rounded the foot of Hooper Island, after a time, and anchored in a
bight of the north shore. Presently the craft that had hailed the Brandt
bore up; and, shortly after, still another. The two came alongside, with
their sails fluttering—but they did not let them run.

“There’s two for each of you for the night, and till I get an overhauling
from the Old Man,” called Haley to the captains of the other craft.

A moment later, Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards found themselves hustled from
the deck of the Brandt aboard one of the strange bug-eyes. Likewise, the
men, Thompson and Brooks, found themselves similarly transferred.
Forewarned, Harvey and his companion made neither inquiry nor protest.
They knew it would be of no avail. But one of the others had ventured to
know the reason.

“You jes’ please shut up, and ask no questions,” was the satisfaction
gained from Jim Adams.

The two strange craft made sail again, and stood to the southeast,
through Hooper Strait.

And so, when, next morning, Jack Harvey, looking from the deck of his new
prison, saw a small steamer go by, with the smoke pouring from its
funnel, he knew full well the significance of it; he realized the
opportunity for freedom that was so near, and yet beyond reach. He was no
coward, but a lump rose in his throat that half choked him. Tom Edwards
gazed, with eyes that were moistened.

That day, toward noon, a steamer lay alongside the Brandt; and a captain,
eying Haley with stern disapproval, said, “Oh, yes, you’ve got your
license, all right, Haley, but you’re short-handed as usual. I know—it’s
the same old story. Looking for men, and can’t get them. Now I know you
dredge with more, so you needn’t lie. I suspect it’s lucky for you that I
haven’t time to follow you up. But I warn you, there have been
complaints, and some day you’ll fetch up short, if you don’t treat your
men right.”

“And ain’t that just what I do?” demanded Haley, highly injured. “Don’t I
treat ’em better’n half the captains down the bay? Good grub and easy
work—why, they’re too fat to wind, half the time.”

The captain’s face relaxed into a smile that was half amusement, half
contempt.

“I just warn you; that’s all,” he repeated; and went aboard the steamer.
Haley watched his departure with a chuckle.

“Get her under weigh again, Jim,” he said. “We’ll pick up our crew.”

By noon, the Brandt had run in to the small harbour where the two
bug-eyes were waiting; and, that afternoon, Harvey and the others were
back at work, under the abuse of Jim Adams, hounded on by him, to make up
for lost time.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                           A NIGHT’S POACHING


The days that followed were bitter ones for dredging. There came in fog,
through which they drifted, slowly, while it wrapped them about like a
great, frosty blanket, chilling and numbing them. When the wind was
light, the fog would collect for a moment in the wrinkle at the top of a
sail; then, with a slat, the sail would fill out, sending down a shower
of icy water, drenching the crew at their work. But the mate drove them
on, with threats and the brandishing of a rope’s end.

To make matters worse, the yield of the reefs was disappointing. Bad luck
seemed to be with the Brandt; and, though it was the beginning of the
season, and they should have been getting a cargo rapidly, the day’s
clean-up was often less than twenty bushels; which brought a storm of
abuse from Haley, as though it were the fault of the men.

He took his chances with the law, for several days, and ran down into
Tangier Sound, hidden in the fog, on that part of its great extent where
dredging was forbidden, and only smaller craft with scrapers allowed. But
the Brandt went aground, late one afternoon, on a bar off a dreary marsh
that extended for miles—the most lonesome and forbidding place that
Harvey had seen in all his life.

They were half the night getting clear from here, having to wait for the
flood tide, and the Brandt springing a leak that kept them toiling at the
pump till they were well nigh exhausted. The upshot was, that, early one
morning, with the lifting of the fog, the Brandt, followed by the craft
that had taken Harvey and Tom Edwards aboard, stood off from the Eastern
shore, heading northwest for the mouth of the Patuxent.

To Jack Harvey and his friend, sick and weary of the life they were
leading, every new move, every change of ground, keyed them up to renewed
hope. They watched eagerly the distant shore toward which they were
pointing, and rejoiced, in some small degree, that they were going back
to where they had started from. It seemed as though there must be greater
opportunity for relief in that river, with its more friendly appearing
banks, than amid the wilderness of the marshy Eastern shore, to which
winter gave a touch of indescribable dreariness.

For a day or two, however, following their arrival at the entrance to the
river, there was little change from the life they had been leading, save
that the fog had been blown out to sea, and the bitter cold had abated.
They dredged southward from the lower entrance to the river, along an
inward sweep of the shore, returning to the river at night for anchorage.

Then there came a day, overcast but yet favourable, during all of which,
to Harvey’s surprise, they did no work, but lay at anchor in the river.
Also, the craft that had accompanied them likewise rested, alongside, and
the two captains visited and drank together in the cabin of the Brandt.

What was coming? Haley was not the man to lie idle to no purpose. There
was mystery in the air, and in the manner of the men and the mate. Once,
Jim Adams had looked in at the forecastle, where the crew had been
suffered to remain at ease, and said, grinning broadly, “Youse gentlemen
of leisure, ain’t you? Well, you get something to keep you busy bimeby.
So don’t none of you please go ashore.”

“Go ashore!” It was no joke to them. Harvey and Tom Edwards had gazed
longingly at the banks, with their houses here and there—a tantalizing
sight, so near and yet so hopelessly far away.

“What’s the matter? What’s up?” Harvey inquired once of Sam Black.

The other winked an eye, knowingly.

“I reckon the captain’s going to try to change the luck,” he said.
“There’s easy dredging up yonder, if you don’t get caught at it.”

“How’s that?” continued Harvey.

“Why, running the river, that’s what I guess,” replied the sailor. “It’s
jail, if the law gets you; but he’s done it before and got clear. Take it
easy while you can, that’s my advice. There’ll be no turning in to-night,
I reckon.”

Sam Black thereupon set the example, by stretching out in his bunk and
falling soundly to sleep.

“Well, all I can say,” exclaimed Tom Edwards to Harvey, “is that I hope
we get caught right quick and put into jail, or anywhere else out of this
infernal hole. I’d go to jail in a minute, if I could see Haley go, too.
Wouldn’t you?”

Harvey smiled. “I’d rather be outside the bars looking in at Haley,” he
answered.

Tom Edwards impulsively put out his hand.

“Shake on that!” he cried. “Jack, my boy, we’ll put him there yet. We’ll
sell him a line of goods some day, eh?”

The two shook hands with a will.

That evening they fared better than ordinarily aboard the Brandt. There
were pork scraps, fried crisp, with junks of the bread browned in the
fat, and potatoes; and plenty of the coffee. They made a hearty meal, and
went on deck, at the call, feeling better and stronger than for days.

The night was not clear, yet it was not foggy; the moon and stars were
nearly obscured by clouds. It was comparatively mild, too, and the wind
blowing from the East across the river did not chill them, as in the
preceding days. Opposite where they lay, the gleam of Drum Point
lighthouse shone upon the water; while, out to the Eastward, another, on
Cedar Point, twinkled, more obscured. An island of some considerable size
lay to the northwest, from which there came across the water the sound of
voices, and of dogs barking. There were sounds of life, too, from the
nearer shore, coming out from a lone farmhouse.

The captain of the other vessel came aboard presently, and he and Haley
stood together, earnestly conversing.

“She’s up just the other side of Spencer’s wharf, I tell you,” said the
strange captain, once. “We can hug the other shore and slip past.”

Harvey turned inquiringly to the sailor, Sam Black, with whom, somehow,
he had struck up an intimacy that was almost friendly, despite the man’s
evident contempt for the green hands.

“He means the old Folly, the police boat,” said the sailor, softly.
“She’s just a big schooner. She’s got no power in her. The Brandt can
beat her, on a pinch, I reckon.”

The captain returned to his vessel, shortly, and the order was given to
make sail. Harvey sprang to the halyards with a will. If it were a
poaching venture, it was not his fault—and the best that could happen for
him would be capture. The anchor was got aboard, and the Brandt ran
quickly across to the Eastern bank of the river followed by the other
vessel.

They passed close to Solomon’s Island and skirted as near the shores of
that and the land northward as they could go. The wind was almost
directly abeam, and they made fast way of it. Clearly, the course was as
plain as a man’s door-yard to Hamilton Haley; for he passed at times so
close to land, that it seemed, in the darkness, to be near enough for one
to jump ashore. Jim Adams, in the bow, kept sharp watch, however; and now
and again, rather than run the risk of calling out, he ran back to the
wheel and pointed ahead, where the water shoaled.

Just to the north of the wharf which they had termed Spencer’s, the river
made a bend, and a thin peak of land jutted out. They followed the
curving of the shore, peering across the water toward Spencer’s.

“There she lies,” said Adams, darting aft to where Haley stood. “Listen,
they’re getting up anchor.”

Hamilton Haley, after one quick glance, put the helm down and brought the
bug-eye up into the wind. The other bug-eye drew abreast. Haley pointed
in toward the schooner, barely discernible, and showing a light in its
rigging.

“They’re coming out,” he called softly.

The two vessels headed off again and went on, rounding the point and
running up the river. Haley, picking his course, with accuracy, gazed
astern again and again, with an anxious eye. Presently he uttered an
exclamation of anger. The schooner Folly had, indeed, put forth from its
mooring and, with all sail spread, was taking a diagonal course across
the river, following in the wake of the two poachers.

The shore of the river made a bend to the eastward, at this point,
however, and the river broadened to the width of something like a mile
and a half. So that, by following closely the inward curve of the shore,
instead of setting a straight course up stream, the two bug-eyes could
put the point of land between them and the schooner for a time. It would,
moreover, afford them proof, when the schooner should have passed the
point, whether or not they really were being followed. If the police boat
were merely proceeding on its patrol up river, it would not hug the
eastern bank, and might, indeed, go up on the other side.

The vessels were not left long in doubt, however; for, as the two
skippers peered back through the night, they discerned, after a time, the
schooner heading in north by east, having turned the point.

“Haul her a little closer by the wind, and give her a bit more
centre-board,” ordered Haley, noting with a keen eye the more northerly
slant of the wind, as they sailed. “It’s good for us; we can leave her,
if this holds. Curse the luck! There’s no dredging to-night, with her on
our heels—at least, there can’t but one of us work.”

The mate repeated the orders, and the bug-eye heeled a bit more as a flaw
struck her. She was flying fast, and Haley’s face relaxed into a smirk of
satisfaction, as he perceived the schooner was dropping somewhat more
astern.

For a distance of about four miles the chase proceeded, when the Brandt
suddenly swung into the wind again and waited a moment for its companion,
slightly less swift, to come up. There was a hurried conference, and then
the two went on again. The schooner, by this time, was only to be made
out with difficulty.

The result of the conference was soon apparent; for, as they neared a
point on the eastern bank, a broad creek opened up; and into this the
Brandt steered, leaving the other craft to go on up the river alone.

Proceeding only a little way within the confines of this creek, Haley
guided his vessel with consummate skill into one of its sheltering
harbours, ordered all sail dropped, and everything made snug. The bug-eye
was, indeed, completely hidden; with every appearance, moreover, of lying
by for the night, in case their course should be followed and, by any
chance, they were discovered.

Launching the small boat, Haley ordered Harvey and the sailor, Jeff, into
it. He took his seat in the stern at the steering-oar, and was rowed by
them cautiously toward the mouth of the creek, skirting close to the
bank, not to be seen. Again the thought of escape flashed through the
mind of Jack Harvey; but, perhaps with the same contingency in view,
Hamilton Haley drew from his pocket a revolver and laid it before him on
a thwart. If the hint were intended for Harvey, it was sufficient. He
resigned himself once more to the situation and to the duty before him.

It was soon evident that the manœuvre had deceived the Folly, and had
been successful. Through the darkness, it had not been perceived by the
pursuer that the quarry had separated and taken different courses.
Resting on their oars, at a word from Haley, the three watched. The
schooner, almost ghost-like in the shades of night, swept along past the
creek, following the other vessel, which showed only a faint white blurr
far ahead.

Hamilton Haley motioned for the two to turn back, while his small eyes
twinkled; and he said, smiling grimly, “She’s got the right name, sure.
The Folly, eh? Well, she won’t catch us, nor she won’t catch Bill. Come,
shake it up there with those oars! Ain’t yer learned to row yet?”

Within a half hour, the Brandt was stealing out of the mouth of the creek
and heading for the opposite shore. The river was broad here, but the
wind was free and they were soon across.

And now began the work for which they had come; for which they had risked
capture at the hands of the police boat; and for which they would now
risk the penalty of imprisonment, or, as it might appear, even death,
itself.

It was very dark, the density of the clouds increasing as the night wore
on; and the shore showed a vague, dark smear as they turned and went up
the river. But it was all clear to Hamilton Haley. Born in a little
settlement farther up the river, it was an open book to him by night or
day. There was not an eddy, a cross-current, a deepening or a shoaling of
all its waters for fifty miles that he could not have told you, offhand.
A blur on the landscape defined itself to his eye as with the clearness
of sunlight, bred of familiarity and long experience. He knew when to
stand in close to shore; where to make a détour to avoid the long wharves
that made out from the warehouses. He knew where seed oysters had been
planted, by the owners that planned to tong for them when they should
have grown to sufficient size. He knew when the beds had been planted,
and which to leave untouched, and which would afford fat dredging.

There were no long waits between the winding here, as in many of the
places down the bay. When the dredge went down, it was filled almost
instantly. It was wind in and wind again, and the oysters, big and small,
went into the hold almost as fast as they came aboard.

Harvey and his companions, drenched to the skin with perspiration, sore
and lame, toiled on, driven by the threats of Jim Adams. There was no
waiting for rest—only once in the night, when the cook brought out a pail
of coffee, to keep them up to their work.

There was a ruthless, brutal disregard of the rights and precautions of
the owners of the beds. Stakes and branches of brush, that had been
carefully stuck down to mark the boundaries of this and that planter,
were over-ridden and torn away. The Brandt was reaping a rich harvest,
dodging in and out from shore here and there, making up for the time lost
in the reefs off Hooper Island.

The hours passed, and a steamer, delayed by freight on its trip from
Baltimore, passed along up the river. To Harvey, toiling away at the
winch, in a sheltered sweep of the shore, this boat presented a strange
and mysterious picture. Its lights, gleaming through the mists and the
blackness, made a pretty spectacle. Its white wake looked like a scar on
the dusky bosom of the water. It seemed, with its life and noise aboard,
like a living thing.

A little way up the river, the steamboat drew in to a pier at the end of
a long wharf. Harvey saw the doors of the warehouse on the shore and of
the one on the pier open, and emit a glow of light from several lanterns;
and, through the mingled lights and shadows, figures passed vaguely to
and fro. Wagons rattled up along the country road, and the cries of the
negro stevedores added to the noise.

All work had been stopped aboard the Brandt, and Harvey stood and watched
the landing made by the steamer. The sounds told of business and of home
life; passengers going ashore; once, the voices of young folks in
laughter. Harvey gazed, with eyes that moistened.

Hamilton Haley, also, gazed, but with an earnestness of a different
nature. He had not meant to be here, at the passing of the steamer. He
had planned differently, but the steamer had been late and—well, the
dredging at that moment when he had heard the distant whistle had been
particularly fruitful, and he had waited and taken the chance. Now he
wondered if that one sweep of the steamer’s search-light, as it passed,
had found him out. Had he been espied by the watchful eye of the captain,
keen for river poachers? At all events, he would lose no time in getting
away from the place, once the steamer had gone.

The steamer went on its way, and Haley pointed his vessel up river after
it. A mile above, he resumed his unlawful dredging.

The captain of the river steamer, bound for the port of Benedict, some
fifty miles up from the mouth of the river, and already having lost much
time, had urged the engineer to force all speed between the landings. The
steamer’s funnel belched forth clouds of black smoke and sparks, as the
craft churned its way noisily along. But the captain, eager as he was to
end his long run, had something else on his mind; and the search-light
now shot its shaft far ahead up river, now darted to the left or right,
lighting up the banks and hidden places, so that objects along shore
seemed to leap forth of a sudden as if surprised into life.

Then, as they sailed, and the search-light pointed a long ray far up the
river, like a giant finger, the glare fell on a white object flitting
down stream like the ghost of a vessel. The rays of the light were thrown
full upon it, and the schooner Folly was revealed, returning from its
unsuccessful pursuit of the poacher.

A single bell jingled in the engine-room, and the steamer slowed down;
then, as the schooner came close, another bell, and the steamer lay
motionless in the river.

The captain leaned far out of the pilot-house, as the schooner came
within hailing distance.

“There’s a fellow poaching just below Forrest’s,” he called. “I saw him
with the light, as I came up. I’m sure he was dredging. You may pick him
up on the way down. I couldn’t see who he was, though.”

The captain of the Folly uttered an exclamation of disgust.

“It’s one of the two I chased, coming up, I guess,” he replied. “That’s
the way they work it. The other fellow dodged me, too, up the river here,
somewhere. I suppose he’s turned and gone down again by this time. I tell
you we can’t do much with one vessel against that crowd. Much obliged,
captain; I’ll have an eye out going down.”

Some time after midnight, the bug-eye Brandt, poaching near the mouth of
a small creek, was doing great harvesting. It was easy work; for the
oysters, planted with care, came up clean and fat, and free from waste
shells. The crew sweated at the winders. Jim Adams, alternating between
one and the other winch, kept the tired men up to their work. Hamilton
Haley, losing somewhat of caution with the richness of the yield, and
assisting in the stowing away of the ill-gotten harvest, had relaxed a
little of his usual vigilance.

It was nearly fatal to him. Out of the blackness of the river bank, there
poured suddenly a thin stream of fire, and immediately another. A rifle
bullet passed so close to Haley’s head that for an instant it dazed him.
The bullet chipped a piece out of the main boom and went, zing, across
the river. The other bullet struck the hull of the bug-eye and bedded
itself in the oysters, near the deck. At the same time, a volley of
imprecations came from the thicket on shore, from the angry owners of the
oyster bed.

And now a strange coincidence added to the excitement and to the peril of
Haley and his craft. Almost immediately following the firing from shore,
there came another shot from the direction of up the river. Captain
Hamilton Haley, taken all by surprise, and giving one quick, frightened
glance to where the third shot had come from, beheld, to his
consternation, the vague outlines of the schooner Folly bearing down upon
him at full speed.

Haley was all things bad; but he had his merits as a sailor, and he had
the qualities of command that should have won him success in better
employment. Now he showed what he was made of. Darting across the deck,
he seized Jack Harvey by the shoulder, spun him around and sent him
flying toward the wheel.

“Grab that wheel,” he cried. “Keep her straight down stream.”

Harvey sprang aft.

“Jim,” cried Haley, in the next breath, “get the boys on to the sheets,
there—quick, for your life, or we’re good for doing time. Trim her! Trim
her! We’ve got to jump her, if we ever did. Curse that Folly!”

The next moment, Haley was among the crew with a bound, knocking them
like ten-pins away from the winders, and bidding them jump for the fore
and main sheets, if they valued their lives. Snatching a sheath-knife
from his belt, Haley darted for the nearest dredge-line. With an
exclamation of rage at the loss he was inflicting upon himself, he cut it
with a single slash, leaving the dredge behind in two fathoms of water.
In a moment, he was at the other side. Another stroke of the keen knife
and the second dredge-line was severed.

As the bug-eye, cleared of the weight of the heavy dredges, gathered
headway, the sheets were hauled in, under the command and with the
assistance of the mate. The craft heeled to the breeze and sped away.

And for all this, but for the loyalty of Jack Harvey toward a friend,
Captain Hamilton Haley would have lost his vessel and his freedom. A bit
of heroism had been done that he knew naught of—never would know.

When Tom Edwards, in the first excitement, had seen his friend, Harvey,
dart aft, he had slipped away in the confusion, and followed. With him,
the idea ever was that, come what would, they should stick together—and
so they had sworn. Jack Harvey found Tom Edwards by his side, as he
sprang to the wheel and, obeying orders, held the vessel on its course
down the river.

The next instant, the thought of freedom flashed again into Harvey’s
mind.

“Tom,” he said, “strip off that slicker as quick as ever you can. I’m
ready. I’ll swing her into the wind when you say the word. Then we’ll
jump and swim for it. That’s the Folly. She’ll pick us up, and catch
Haley, too. We’ve got to jump the second I swing her, though, or Haley’ll
shoot us both. We’ve got only a minute. Say when you’re ready.”

Tom Edwards, the vision of freedom opening before his eyes in one brief
instant, gave a groan of dismay and disappointment.

“I can’t do it, Jack, old boy,” he said. “I can’t swim ten strokes
without my heart hammering like a threshing-machine. You go, and I’ll
stay. You can tell them what’s doing aboard here, and they’ll hunt Haley
down and get me.”

Harvey shook his head, while he ground his teeth with chagrin.

“No, no,” he said. “I won’t go, if you can’t. They’d kill you if I got
away, and they didn’t get caught. We’ll try it another time. Get out of
here, forward, now, quick. If Haley catches you up here, you’ll get
hurt.”

Jack Harvey stood resolutely at the wheel, and held the bug-eye to her
course. He saw, with some hope, the Folly creep up through the night upon
the fleeing Brandt. He heard the commands for them to come to, and
surrender. Bullets whizzed past him, from the shore and from the pursuing
schooner. They went through the canvas of the bug-eye and did no other
harm.

He saw, next, with a great sinking of heart, the fast craft upon whose
deck he stood gather headway rapidly and eat its way through the night,
gaining on its pursuer. The wind came sharp in flaws from the bank. The
Brandt heeled over till the deck was awash. Hamilton Haley, springing to
the wheel and displacing Harvey, uttered a cry of exultation.

“Get along for’ard; you’ve done well, boy,” was his way of bestowing
praise.

The Folly fell astern, and the chase was lost.

That was a night never to be forgotten by Jack Harvey; the sudden flush
of hope; its swift vanishing, amid the thin fire of rifles; the cries of
disappointed men, and the quick flaws of wind upon the sails. There was a
thrill—even if one laden with disappointed hopes—in the rapid flight of
the poacher, Brandt, and its wild course down the river, past the black,
shadowy shores.

Dazed and disheartened, however, with the passing of the hours, Jack
Harvey and his comrade, by whom he had stuck manfully, turned in, at the
word, and laid their weary bodies down in the forecastle bunks. The
bug-eye, laden with its spoils, sailed away out of the Patuxent, heading
across the bay for the shelter of the Eastern Maryland shore.

Doomed to disappointment, then. Doomed to disappointment even more
bitter, on a day soon succeeding.

The Brandt was in luck at last. A few days of dredging along Hoopers,
and, by the early part of December, she was fully laden. There were a
thousand and more bushels of good oysters in her hold. The time for the
ending of the first trip was nigh.

Jack Harvey slapped his friend, Edwards, on the shoulder.

“We’ve stuck it out, old chap,” he said, “and we’re alive to tell the
tale, in spite of Haley. We’ll get back inside of the month. There’s one
thing that that scoundrel, Jenkins, didn’t lie about. Hooray! Why, you’re
a better man than when you came aboard, Tom Edwards. You’re stronger, if
we have had awful grub.”

“All the same, I’ll make it hot for old Haley, when I get ashore,”
exclaimed Tom Edwards. “I’ll have the law on him for this.”

Thus they talked and planned, but said naught to the others, lest word of
their contemplated revenge should get, by chance, to Haley’s ears. And
then, one evening, another bug-eye hove in sight as they lay at anchor,
and came alongside.

“All hands out, to unload,” called Haley.

“Look alive here,” repeated Jim Adams; “’spects we’ve got an all night
job before us.”

Taken by surprise, Harvey and Tom Edwards obeyed the summons. The work
they were next called upon to do dumbfounded and appalled them. With a
tackle and fall attached to the mast, the work of unloading the cargo of
the Brandt and transferring it to the hold of the other vessel was begun.

“What does this mean? What are they going to do? Aren’t we going up to
Baltimore with our load?” inquired Harvey, falteringly, of Sam Black.

“Why, you fool, of course not,” was the reply. “Did you think you were
going to quit so soon as this? Think old man Haley lets a man go when he
once gets him, with men so hard to catch? Didn’t you know you were booked
for all winter? Baltimore, eh? Well, when you see Baltimore, my boy, it
will be when the Brandt knocks off for the season. Don’t worry, though,
you’ll come through. You can stand it.”

Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards, gazing into each other’s faces with the
blankness of despair, shook hands silently. They could not speak.



                               CHAPTER IX
                      FACES THROUGH THE TELESCOPE


It was after school hours in the little city of Benton, on a day near the
middle of December, and a party of youths, with skates under their arms,
were walking toward the bank of Mill stream. A huge fire, of pieces of
logs and brush-wood, blazed cheerily by the shore, and welcomed their
approach. The frozen surface of the stream, swept clean by high winds of
previous days, shone like polished ebony, and stretched away to the
northward for a mile before it became lost to view amid high banks, on
its winding course.

The sun, a great red ball, nearing the western horizon, sent a
rose-tinged pathway across the black ice from shore to shore. A score or
more of skaters, some engaged in cutting fancy figures, others swinging
along on the outward roll, others having an impromptu race, made the air
ring with their shouts of hearty enjoyment.

Seated on a log, by the fire, one of the party of boys addressed his
nearest comrade.

“Say, Henry Burns,” he asked, “have you heard anything from Harvey, yet?”

Henry Burns, a rather slight but trimly built and active youth,
apparently a year or two younger than the boy who had spoken, paused in
the adjustment of the clamp of his skate, and looked puzzled.

“No,” he answered, “and, what’s more, I don’t expect to, now. Jack Harvey
rather take a licking than write a letter, anyway. And, another thing,
he’s having too much fun, I suppose, to stop to write.”

“Still, it’s queer,” he continued. “I didn’t think he’d go off the way he
did. He told me he wouldn’t go, no matter how much his folks urged him.
Said he knew he’d have more fun here with us this winter than poking
’round Europe with his father and mother; said his mother wouldn’t let
him wear his sweater in art galleries and in stores—rather skate, and
fish through the ice, than dress up and go around looking at things in
shop windows and museums.”

“Well, they must have got him to go, after all,” said the first boy.

“Too bad,” commented Henry Burns, standing up on his skates. “He’s
missing lots of fun. It scared my aunt, too, for a few days. She thought
he might have got lost. Just as though Jack couldn’t take care of
himself. But she remembered they said if he didn’t come back she could
know he’d gone on the steamer to Europe. So she’s feeling all right now.
I’d like to know what they offered Jack, to get him to go, though.”

Henry Burns’s companion, George Warren, having adjusted his skates, arose
and glided down the bank to the ice.

“Come on, Arthur,” he said, calling to a brother, a year or two younger,
who was still lingering by the fire; “we’ll give Henry a race up to the
bend. He thinks he knows how to skate.”

The brothers started off, with Henry Burns soon in swift pursuit; the
three went rapidly up the stream, the keen edges of their skates cutting
the glare ice with a crisp, grinding hum. Henry Burns caught the two by
the time they had gone half a mile, for he was a youth whose wiry muscles
seemed never to tire; and the three linked arms and went on together.

Presently a still younger boy came hurrying down to the shore, in a state
of activity that had left him short of breath. He was smaller, but
heavier of build than the others who had gone before, with a plumpness of
cheeks that told of evident enjoyment of good dinners; also, his was a
temperament, one would have guessed, that was more inclined to ease than
to any great exertion. But now he fastened on his skates hastily and
joined the party of skaters in mid-stream.

“Seen George and Arthur?” he inquired of a group of boys.

“Gone up-stream with Henry Burns,” was the reply.

The boy started off, bending forward and making his best time. Some
fifteen minutes later, the three, returning, saw him coming.

“There’s Joe,” said George Warren. “Looks as though he was skating for a
dinner. He’ll get thin if he doesn’t take care. Let’s give him a
surprise.”

The three quickly hid themselves behind some alder bushes and cedars that
fringed the bank. Young Joe Warren came on, unconscious of their
presence. He realized it presently as he came abreast. A snow-ball,
thrown with accuracy by Henry Burns, neatly lifted his cap from his head;
one from George Warren attached itself in fragments to his plump neck;
the third smashed against his shoulder. The combined effect of which,
with the surprise, so disturbed the equilibrium of the skater that his
feet suddenly flew out from under him, and he came down with a thump,
seated on the ice, and slid along in a sitting posture for nearly a rod.

“Too bad, poor old Joey,” said George Warren, sympathetically, gliding
out to his brother’s assistance; “somebody threw a snow-ball and hit you,
I guess. Get up on your feet and we’ll all go after him.”

Young Joe, angry at first, was not wholly unmindful of the humour of the
situation, as viewed from the position of the group that now tenderly
offered their assistance. Moreover, he had had a taste of this sort of
thing before.

“That’s all right,” he said, “never you mind about helping me up. I don’t
need any help. I’ll pay that fellow off some other time.” He reached a
hand in his coat pocket and drew forth an envelope, eagerly.

“You don’t deserve this, George,” he said, “and like as not you wouldn’t
get it until you got home, if I didn’t want to see what’s in it. Gee!
fellows, what do you think? It’s a letter from Jack Harvey. Oh, I haven’t
read it, George. It’s for you. But I know it’s from Jack, because it’s
from Baltimore. That’s the post-mark.”

“Baltimore!” exclaimed Henry Burns. “Then there’s something the matter.
Why, he ought to have left Baltimore weeks ago. Whew! You don’t suppose
he’s got hurt, after all?”

“And say,” he added, wonderingly, “what’s he writing to you for? Why
didn’t he write to me or my aunt? Perhaps someone is writing for him.”

The boys, in a high state of excitement, gathered close to George Warren
while he tore open the envelope, which was, sure enough, stamped with the
Baltimore post-mark, and was addressed in a bold, plain hand to George
Warren.

George Warren gave a whistle of surprise the next moment; Henry Burns, an
exclamation of mingled relief and disappointment.

“It isn’t from Jack, nor about him,” they cried almost in the same
breath. And George Warren added, buoyantly, “Say, it’s all right.
Fellows, Cousin Ed wants us to come down for the holidays and visit him.
My! But I’m glad there’s nothing the matter with Jack. Here’s what Ed
says:

  “Dear Cousin George:—Isn’t it about time you youngsters made me that
  visit you’ve been promising? You’ve never been here, and you ought to
  see the place, though it isn’t what it used to be in the old days. This
  isn’t just the time to see the country at its best, of course, but it’s
  a dull time with me, and I won’t have anything to do but give you
  youngsters a good time.

  “I’m all alone for the next two months, except Old Mammy Stevens to
  keep house for me. She can cook a turkey so it will just jump right
  down your throat; and corn fritters, the way she fries ’em, just melt
  in your mouth—”

Young Joe interrupted with a squeal of approval. “Let’s go, George,” he
exclaimed.

“Shut up! Joe, and let George go on,” admonished his brother, Arthur.
George Warren continued:

  “We’ve got plenty of room for you and Arthur, and if Joe should come,
  why he could sleep out in the stable with the cattle—”

A howl of indignation from Young Joe.

“Let’s see,” he cried, reaching for the letter. “He doesn’t say any such
thing, I’ll bet.”

“Well, perhaps not,” admitted George Warren. “Here’s what it is.” He
began again:

  “There’s plenty of room in the old house for you three, and anybody
  else you’ve a mind to bring. I’ll be glad to see any friend of yours.
  We’ll shoot some rabbits and have a high old Christmas. Make Uncle
  George let you chaps all come for the winter vacation. I’ll look out
  for you. I’m going back home from the city to-morrow.

                                            “Affectionately your cousin,

                                                         “Edward Warren,

                                            “Address, Millstone Landing,

                                            “St. Mary County, Maryland.”

“Whee!” yelled Young Joe. “I’m going to put for home, and ask father.
Say, I wonder what kind of syrup they have on those corn fritters.”

“Tobacco syrup,” replied George Warren, solemnly. “That’s what they raise
on all the farms down there. It’s awful bitter, too, at first, but you
get used to it, so they say.”

“You think you’re funny, don’t you?” said Joe. “It’s corn syrup; that’s
what it is. I want to go, don’t you?”

“Well, perhaps so,” replied George Warren. And, turning to his companion,
asked, “What do you say, Henry?”

“Why, I’m not invited,” replied Henry Burns.

“Oh, yes, you are, isn’t he, fellows? Ed said bring anybody we wanted.
Well, we want you.”

The brothers chimed in, heartily.

“Why, I’d like to go, first rate, if I can,” said Henry Burns.

“Then we’ll do it,” said George Warren—“that is, if the folks will let
us. You’ll like Ed. He’s older than we are—about twenty; but he likes fun
as much as we do. It’s a big old farm house, with open fire-places and
things. We’ll make the place hum. Come on, let’s go home.”

There was little peace in the Warren household that night until the
matter had been duly discussed in all its phases, and the coveted
permission granted; whereupon, there was a departure in force for the
home of Miss Matilda Burns. There, however, the resistance was stronger.

Henry Burns’s aunt did not yield consent without reluctance nor without a
struggle. There was Jack Harvey, she said, who went to Baltimore and
never came back. Goodness knew where he might be. She didn’t believe in
boys going off without someone to look after them.

There was, in reply, positive assurance from all hands that Jack Harvey
was all right and having the finest time of his life, travelling about
Europe.

It was an unequal contest, and the opposition was finally overcome.

“See that you don’t run off to Europe—or anywhere else, though, except to
Mr. Warren’s,” Miss Matilda added, smiling. “And, Henry, you’ve got to
write me twice a week.”

Henry Burns groaned, but promised.

“She didn’t say how much to write,” he commented, inwardly, with a vision
of a sheet of paper bearing the words, “Dear Aunt, I’m all right,” in his
mind.

With which successful turn of affairs, the four let out such a series of
shrieks of triumph that poor Miss Matilda Burns nearly fell out of her
chair.

Four days later, there arrived in Baltimore four smiling youths, vastly
elated at their freedom; vastly puffed up with the importance of being
travellers at large, without a guardian.

It was a sharp, crisp winter morning, of the 15th of December, to be
precise; the old river boat of the Patuxent line lay in its berth at
Light street, making its own hearty breakfast off soft coal, and pouring
out clouds of black smoke from its funnel, with vigour and apparent
satisfaction. The cabins were warming up, and the last of a huge pile of
freight was being stowed away below. The four boys, shortly before half
past six—the early hour of departure—made their way aboard.

There was a jingling of bells, the lines were cast off, the gang-planks
drawn in, and the steamer was on its way down Chesapeake Bay.

The day passed pleasantly, for it was all new to them, and the bay, with
its peculiar craft, presented many attractions. They were hungry as
tigers, too, as they seated themselves at the cabin table for dinner.

“You’ve got the wrong side of the cabin, young gentlemen,” said the
coloured waiter, politely. “That other side’s the one for white folks.”

They changed places, accordingly.

“Wonder what would happen to us, if we sat over there?” remarked Arthur
Warren.

“Perhaps we’d turn black,” said Henry Burns.

“Well, Joe always eats till he’s black in the face when he gets a good
dinner,” said George Warren.

Young Joe sniffed, contemptuously.

After dinner they strolled about the boat. There were not a great number
of passengers aboard, and the four kept their own company. The only
exception for the afternoon was in the case of a young man, who accosted
the party as they happened to pause for a moment in front of the open
door of his state-room. He was a youth of about nineteen years, but with
the manner of a man of the world. He sat, with his feet up on the foot of
the bed, smoking a cigar and filling the room with clouds of smoke. A
derby hat was perched rakishly on the back of his head. His dress was
smart in appearance, though not new, and his coat thrown back revealed a
waist-coat of brilliant hue and flaring design.

“How’d do,” he said, removing his cigar, and waving a hand rather
patronizingly to them. “Step in. Strangers down this way, I see. Have a
smoke?”

He motioned to a table on which there was a box of the cigars.

“No, thanks,” replied George Warren. “Don’t smoke.”

They would have passed on, but the young man was not to be wholly denied.
He had a free and easy flow of conversation, which would not be stopped
for the moment, and which culminated in the offer—indicating his design
from the first—of a game of cards with them, which, he assured them,
should not cost them but little, if anything, with the alluring
alternative that they might be fortunate enough to win his money.

“Say,” interrupted Henry Burns at this point, “why don’t you fix your
neck-tie?”

The youth, surprised at the interruption, paused and laid down his cigar
on the edge of the table. He put both hands to the tie, a gaudy one tied
sailor fashion, and turned to Henry Burns.

“Why, what’s the matter with it?” he asked, in a tone of wonderment.
“Isn’t it all right?”

“Why, yes, it looks so,” replied Henry Burns, coolly and without changing
countenance; “but I thought perhaps you might like to untie it and tie it
over again. Come on, fellows.”

The consciousness that he had been made game of by the youth flashed upon
the stranger, as the boys moved on. He half arose from his seat, while a
flush of anger spread over his sallow face. A person on the threshold
accosted him at this moment. He looked into the face of a tall man, who
was smiling in at him.

“Why, hello, Jenkins,” said the man. “What’s up? You look as though your
dinner didn’t set right. What are you doing down this way?”

Mr. Jenkins returned the man’s smile with a scowl.

“Nothing’s the matter,” he said, surlily. “Come in and have a smoke. I’m
going up the river for a week. I used to live up that way, you know.
Business is dull, and I’m going up to the old place for Christmas. Shut
that door, and we’ll have a talk.”

The four boys from Benton had had their first meeting, brief and
fleeting, with Arthur Jenkins.

It was still daylight when the steamer turned the Drum Point light-house
and headed into the Patuxent river. It was a picturesque sight that the
four boys looked upon. Scattered here and there over the water, and
coming into harbour for the night, was a fleet of dredging vessels. Some
of them, rivals in speed, were racing, with all sail set, heeling far
over and throwing up little spurts of water at their bows. The sight
captivated Henry Burns, and he gazed with interest.

“My! but I’d like to be aboard that fellow,” he cried, as a fleet bug-eye
crept up on a rival craft and swept proudly and gracefully past.

“Not much you wouldn’t,” exclaimed a voice beside him.

Henry Burns turned. The genial, kindly face of the steamboat captain met
his gaze.

“It looks very pretty and all that, young man,” said the captain; “but
it’s a hard life they lead aboard the dredgers. It’s knock-down and drag
out all winter long, with bad food and little to show for it in wages
when the winter’s done—that is, for the most of them. It’s not much like
what you think it is, I reckon. But they do look pretty coming in; that’s
a fact.”

The dredger, Z. B. Brandt, coming in from down along shore, may have,
with others of its kind, presented a pretty sight as viewed from the deck
of the river steamer. Most assuredly, the steamer, viewed from the deck
of the dredger, looked good and inviting to the weary crew of the sailing
vessel. To them, watching its approach, it represented all that they
longed for—comfort, good food, freedom from abuse; and was a thing that
would transport them home—if they could only, some day, reach it.

Hamilton Haley, eying the steamer from a distance, suddenly uttered an
exclamation of amazement. A figure that, in dim outline, suggested
someone whom he had seen before, stood out against the sky, as the person
leaned against the steamer’s rail.

“I’m blest if I wouldn’t swear that ere was young Artie Jenkins!”
exclaimed Haley. “It’s him or his ghost. I’ll have a look at the chap.
Here you, Harvey, skip down into the locker, starboard, forward, and
fetch me up that glass. Lively now. I want it quick.”

Jack Harvey, who had long ere this learned the necessity of quick
obedience aboard the dredger, hastened to obey. He brought the telescope
and handed it to Captain Haley.

The latter, adjusting it to suit his eye, gave one long, careful look
through the glass, then took it from his eye with another muttered
exclamation.

“Well, I swear!” he said. “I knew it was him the minute I clapped my eye
on him. I’d know his rakish rig anywhere. I wonder what mischief he’s up
to down here.”

And he added, as he looked angrily at the steamer, “Wouldn’t I like to
have you aboard here, young feller! Wouldn’t I have it out of you, for
some of the counter-jumpers you’ve made me pay high for.”

Jack Harvey, watching Haley with curiosity as the captain surveyed the
steamer and as his face wrinkled with anger, wondered what he had seen
aboard to excite his wrath. It could not be anybody that Harvey had ever
known, but still he had a curiosity, an over-mastering desire, to take a
look for himself. As the glass was returned to him by Haley, he paused a
moment and asked, “May I have a look, sir?”

Haley nodded.

“Handle that glass easily, though,” he snarled. “Break that, and you’ll
wish you’d never been born.”

Harvey raised the glass to his eye, and levelled it at the deck of the
steamer. He had never looked through a large telescope before, and it was
wonderful how clear it brought out the figures aboard. He seemed to be
looking into the very faces of men and women—all strangers to him.

Strangers? Strangers? The telescope, as it was slowly moved in Harvey’s
hand, so that his glance took in the row of faces from one end of the
boat to the other, rested once on a group of four boys standing close by
the rail. For a moment Jack Harvey stood, spell-bound. The next moment he
forgot where he was; forgot the presence of the wrathful Haley; forgot
all caution. Taking the glass from his eye, he brandished it in the air,
and yelled at the top of his voice:

“Henry Burns! George Warren! Hello, it’s—”

The sentence was unfinished. Hamilton Haley, springing from the
wheel-box, was upon him in an instant. He snatched the telescope from
Harvey’s hand and, stooping, laid it on the deck. The next instant he had
dealt Harvey a blow in the face that knocked him off his feet. Harvey
fell, rolled over, half slid off the deck into the water; but he clutched
at the inch of plank that was raised at the edge, held on, and Haley
dragged him aboard again.

Holding him at the edge of the vessel, Haley shook him like a half
drowned dog.

“Another cry out of you, and down you go!” he said. “I’d put you under
now, if you hadn’t made good, up the river the other night. You get
below, and don’t you let me hear a yip out of you. What’s the matter with
you—crazy?”

Jack Harvey, half out of his wits with amazement, dazed from the blow,
and chilled with the sting of the icy water that had wet him to the
shoulders, stumbled below, without reply.

And aboard the steamer, Henry Burns turned to the captain, in dismay.
Neither he nor his companions had distinguished the cry sent forth to
them from the deck of the bug-eye, but they had seen a strange thing
happen aboard the vessel they were watching.

“Captain,” said Henry Burns, his face flushing with indignation, “I guess
what you said about rough treatment aboard those vessels is true. Why, I
just saw the man at the wheel strike some one and knock him down.”

“The brute!” exclaimed the steamer’s captain. “I told you so. But it’s
nothing new. It happens every day.”

“I’m sorry for the chap that got it,” remarked Henry Burns. “I hope he
gets square with the captain, some day.”

And for half that night, Jack Harvey, tossing in his bunk, unable to
sleep, wondered if what he had seen could have been true; wondered if his
eyes had deceived him; wondered, even, if his brain was going wrong under
his hard treatment.

Once he got up and roused Tom Edwards.

“Tom,” he said, “have you noticed anything queer about me lately?”

Tom Edwards sat up and looked at his friend in astonishment.

“Queer!” repeated Tom Edwards. “Of course I haven’t. You’ve been just the
same as ever. Why, what’s the matter, Jack? Are you sick?”

“I guess perhaps I am,” replied Harvey, dully. “I’ve heard about sailors
seeing mirages and things that didn’t exist. I saw something on a
steamer, as we came in, that couldn’t have been true. I thought I saw
some friends of mine that live way up in Benton in the state of Maine.
They can’t be down here in winter—hold on, though. They might be, after
all. Yes, sir, perhaps they’ve come to look for me. I’ll bet that’s it!”

“But,” he added, ruefully, “I don’t see how that can be, either. They’d
have come long before this, if they were looking for me. But I saw them.
I saw them, Tom Edwards, just as clear as I see you now.”

“Well, you don’t see me very clear in this dark forecastle, Jack, old
chap,” replied Tom Edwards. “Turn in and go to sleep, and see what you
can make out of it to-morrow.”



                               CHAPTER X
                          FLIGHT AND DISASTER


When Jack Harvey awoke, the next morning, it was in a confused state of
mind that he turned out of his bunk. The reason for this was at once
apparent. A heavy south-easter was on, and a rough sea was tumbling in
between the two projections of land that marked the entrance to the river
from the bay—Drum Point and Hog Point. Lines of white breakers were
foaming and crashing about the light-house.

The bug-eye, Brandt, lying well out in the river, and exposed to the sea,
had been tossing about violently, although Haley had given the
anchor-rode good scope, in order to ease the strain. The unconscious
sleepers in the forecastle had been thrown about against the hard wooden
sides of the bunks in which they lay; and Harvey found himself bruised
and lame. He put his head out of the companion-way just as a sea sprayed
over the vessel, wetting him. He rubbed the salt water from his eyes and
hair, and looked out into the bay beyond.

It was certainly rough, outside. As far as he could see, the broad
expanse of water was rioting in high frolic. Seas leaped and tumbled in
wild confusion. The sharp flaws of the south-easter whipped the white
caps from the curling breakers and sent the scud and spindrift flying.

Far out, a few stray vessels, close reefed and rolling heavily as they
ran, were making for the harbour; the ends of their lean booms, with
sails tied in, looked like bare poles. Jack Harvey noted one thing, with
especial satisfaction. Not a single craft in all the harbour fleet was
going out, or making any preparation therefor. Harvey gave a sigh of
relief, as he went below again.

“Tom,” he said, as he stepped to his comrade’s bunk and roused him, “Tom,
we’re in luck. It’s blowing a gale outside. No dredging to-day. Hooray!”

Tom Edwards sat up, and groaned.

“Oh, but I’m lame,” he said. “What with that tough day’s work, yesterday,
and this confounded slatting about, I’m just about done for. Haley’ll
kill us yet, if we don’t get away.”

Tom Edwards, erstwhile travelling man and frequenter of good hotels,
stepped stiffly out on to the floor and proceeded to rub his arms and
joints, to limber them up.

“Jack,” he said, “I’m sorry now that you didn’t take the chance up the
river, that night, and swim for it. You’d have got away, and they’d be
after us all by this time. Jack, I tell you, we’ve got to get out of here
pretty soon, or there’ll be no Tom Edwards left to go anywhere. I can’t
stand this much longer.”

Harvey stepped to the side of his friend, and whispered softly.

“Neither can I, Tom,” he answered, “and what’s more, I don’t intend to.
We’ll get away. We’ll escape.”

To their surprise, the conversation was interrupted by the sharp call of
the mate for them to hustle out and help get the bug-eye under weigh.
They looked at each other in astonishment, for one moment. Then Harvey
reassured his friend.

“It’s all right,” he said. “We can’t be going out. Haley wants a snugger
berth. We’re getting too much of the sweep here.”

Harvey’s conjecture proved correct. They were lying at a bad anchorage
for a south-easter, and Haley, to his chagrin, had observed the signs of
wind and sky and knew the weather was growing heavier instead of
clearing.

The anchor was hove short and brought up to the bow, while a jib and the
main-sail, both reefed, were set. The Brandt, with Haley at the wheel,
stood in nearer to the southern shore of the river, within a quarter of a
mile of the bank. The anchor went down again, and sails were once more
made snug.

They lay more comfortably here, in the bight of the southern river bank.
But it was a tantalizing sight to the prisoners on the Brandt—the near
and friendly looking shore, with an occasional house in the distance, the
smoke of hearths blown from the chimney tops, and now and then a
traveller going on up a country road.

And to what mad act Jack Harvey might have been wrought, could he have
seen, in his mind’s eye, the interior of one of these same houses, and a
certain one of these hearths, encircled by a certain group of boys, is
beyond all conjecture. But he only gazed longingly in ashore, and wished
he were there.

There was more definiteness to his thoughts when, an hour or two later,
following the wretched breakfast served—all the meaner and more wretched
because there was no work to be gotten out of the crew for the day—he saw
Haley and the mate launch the small skiff, bring it alongside and get in
and row away.

Not that there was any immediate purpose of escape in his mind. For, just
before his departure, Haley had designated where he was going—a small
shed just back from shore was his object, where a man kept some trifling
supplies that he wanted.

“And I’ll be in sight of this vessel from start to finish,” Haley had
added, and winked significantly at Jim Adams.

But the small boat and its possibilities was imprinted on Harvey’s brain
as he watched it toss flimsily about, while the captain and mate sculled
ashore. He had thought of it before, but no good opportunity had offered.

There had been chances, to be sure, down along the marshy intricacies of
the eastern shore. Once, when they had lain in Honga river over night,
inside Middle Hooper island, he had thought strongly of rousing Tom
Edwards and attempting flight to shore. But the country around had been
too forbidding. Wild salt marshes bordered the eastern coast of Hooper’s,
and across on the land to the east it was so shelterless, with salt
marshes on shore and a great fresh water marsh inland, that he had given
over the project for the time.

Occasionally, on a Saturday night, when the bug-eye lay in the Patuxent,
it was the habit of Haley and Jim Adams to take the skiff and go ashore.
Sometimes they spent the night, and were back again Sunday morning.
Sometimes they passed the greater part of Sunday back inland. There lay
Harvey’s hope. Yet he hardly knew how to work out a plan of escape. To
attempt to make sail on the bug-eye and run her either to shore or up the
bay, would, he discovered, be useless. It would involve making a prisoner
of the cook and the man, Jeff, and, possibly, Sam Black, also; though
Harvey looked for no great interference from him.

The cook and the sailor, Jeff, he found, had a certain dogged loyalty to
Haley. The former surely would stand by the vessel under all
circumstances; the latter, it was certain, would not compromise himself
with the authorities of the state by any attempt to take possession of
the craft in Haley’s absence.

But, with the mate and Haley away, there must be some means, surely, of
gaining one of the shores of the river. In milder weather, Harvey would
have thought nothing of swimming the distance, even of a mile, from the
middle of the wide part of the river; but the weather and the icy cold
water precluded that way of flight now. At least, Harvey did not care to
venture it, especially as, once on land, he would know not where to seek
shelter; for he knew that, bound by many mutual ties of interest, the
dredgers and the settlers along shore—unless the latter had oyster beds
to be robbed—worked for each other’s interests.

“Tom,” said Harvey, quietly, indicating the skiff with a glance, “that’s
the way you and I are going ashore one of these nights, and take our
chances when we get there. And,” he added, eagerly, “isn’t it lucky you
warned me to hide that money? That will help us out, when we do escape.”

Tom Edwards glanced at the bobbing skiff, that looked to his eyes about
as substantial as a child’s toy boat, and shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ll try it, if we get the chance,” he said, somewhat dubiously; “but I
don’t like the looks of it.”

Harvey laughed. “You’re a landsmen, sure enough,” he said. “Why, that’s
an able little boat as a man might want, in a river like this. Look how
nicely it rides the waves.”

“Oh, I’d go on a bunch of shingles, if it would only take me out of
this,” exclaimed Tom Edwards—“that is, I think I would now. But you’ll
have to run the thing. I’ll confess, I don’t know one end of a boat from
another, except what that brute, Jim Adams, has ground into me.”

Harvey’s hopes, which had been raised by the shifting of the anchorage of
the vessel nearer land, were dashed late that afternoon, with the return
of Haley and the mate. Rain mixed with sleet poured down in torrents, and
drove laterally across the vessel. It was as much as one could do to keep
his footing on the slippery deck, even with one hand clutching a rope.
The sleet stung as it struck Harvey’s face, and made it smart as though
from a volley of small pebbles. He was only glad to seek shelter below,
even in the dreary forecastle. He learned, that night, how all
circumstances are relatively good or harsh. From the boisterous night
outside, the forecastle of the Brandt was a refuge that seemed almost
cheery.

The next morning, it was apparent that the strength of the storm was
wearing away. Moreover, there was a sudden peculiar change in the
weather. The wind had swung around more to the southward; and, with that,
there had come a decided moderation of the temperature. But the change
was of no immediate advantage to Haley, for there rolled in a heavy fog,
and a dense mist also rose up from the surface of the river.

Again Haley gave the order to make sail and raise the anchor. Once more
the bug-eye got under weigh, stood out toward the middle of the river and
cast anchor again, just beyond the path of any passing steamer. Captain
Haley, ever watchful, ever suspicious, was taking no chances. His rule
was invariable, in any kind of smooth water—to lie for the night beyond
swimming distance from shore. At least, to offer little chance for that.
He had known desperate, venturesome men to attempt it, even then.

He was in a bad humour, was Haley, that day. There was nothing to eat,
for the crew, but the bread, or dough, fried, and a few scraps of pork
mixed with it. It was Saturday, and, about the middle of the afternoon,
he and Jim Adams took the skiff again and went ashore. They were out of
sight in the fog before they had gone two rods, but the wind sufficed to
give them their direction for the distance they had to go.

“Tom,” said Jack Harvey that night, as they turned in, “keep your shoes
on, and don’t go to sleep.”

Tom Edwards looked at his young companion, in surprise.

“We’ve got a chance,” explained Harvey, “as good as we’ll ever get,
perhaps. We’ve got to break away from here some time. The sooner the
better.”

“In this beastly fog?” interrupted Tom Edwards.

“Of course,” replied Harvey. “It’s just what we want. The wind’s
southerly and will take us across to the Drum Point shore. We can’t help
hitting that, or Solomon’s Island. We’ll have the chance, too. I heard
Jim Adams say we’d put out of here early to-morrow morning, if the fog
lifts. Haley’s lost so much time, he won’t stay ashore Sunday. They’ll be
back with the skiff late to-night, or toward morning. We’ll give them
just time to go off to sleep and then make a try for it.”

The crisis thus suddenly facing Tom Edwards, he pulled himself together.

“Good for you!” he said. “I’ll go, if we have to row across the
Chesapeake. Anybody with us?”

“Not a soul,” said Harvey. “The skiff will hold only us two. And we
can do it better alone. Now you sit up first, will you, and let me
get two hours sleep, and then you wake me and I’ll keep watch,
because—because—”

Tom Edwards laughed good-naturedly.

“I know,” he said. “You’re afraid that I’d fall asleep later on, and we’d
miss the chance.”

“Well,—well,” stammered Harvey, “you are an awful sound sleeper when you
get a-going, you know. I didn’t mean anything—”

“You’re all right,” exclaimed Tom Edwards, softly, but with heartiness.
“You turn in. Let me have your watch. I’ll wake you, say, at eleven.”

Jack Harvey’s nerves were good, and he was not one to worry over coming
events. He turned in, and, in ten minutes, was sound asleep. Tom Edwards,
sitting uncomfortably in his bunk, counted the minutes as they dragged
away, drearily. It was a lonesome vigil, with only the sleeping crew for
company. He started up now and again, as some sound in the night outside
seemed to his active fancy a warning of the returning skiff.

Ten o’clock came, and then eleven; he arose and awakened Harvey.

“Too bad, old chap,” he said, “but it’s your turn.”

Harvey roused and turned out, sleepily.

“Tom,” he said, “I had the queerest dream. I dreamed we were chasing that
fellow, Jenkins, through miles of swamps, and every time we’d get near
him, he’d turn into Henry Burns and laugh at us. Then we’d see him again
a little way ahead.”

“You’re thinking of that chap you thought you saw through the telescope,
eh,” suggested Tom Edwards.

“He’s on my mind sure enough,” replied Harvey. “I can’t quite make it
out, though, whether I saw him or not.”

Tom Edwards rolled into his bunk, and Harvey, stretching and yawning,
began his watch. He didn’t dare tell Tom Edwards till long afterward; but
he went off soundly to sleep once, some time later, and woke with a
fearful start. What if he had been the one, after all, to upset their
plans by his carelessness!

He stole cautiously out on deck, and tip-toed aft. He breathed a sigh of
relief when there was no sign of the skiff. He hurried back to the
forecastle and struck a match, to read the face of his watch. It was
half-past twelve o’clock. He dared not trust himself, then, to return to
his bunk, but crouched down at the foot of the companion ladder, with the
sting of the night air in his face.

Suddenly a steady, creaking sound came to his ears. He started up and
crawled to the top of the ladder. It was the sound of an oar. Then his
heart gave a bound, as he heard voices through the fog.

“There she lies,” came the words in the voice of the mate. “I tells you,
Mister Haley, I’s pretty extra good on findin’ my way ’bout this river.
We’re goin’ to get a good day, all right, too. This wind be shiftin’
right; swingin’ round with the sun to the west by mornin’, sure’s you
born.”

They came indistinctly into view of the boy, as he crouched in the
companion-way, just peering over so he could see across the deck. The
skiff scraped alongside. The two men sprang out, shaking the fog and wet
from their coats. Harvey, still as though frozen to the spot, noted with
joy that they did not fetch the skiff aboard, but made the painter fast
near the stern. They hurried below, and a light gleamed in the cabin. It
burned a few minutes, only. Then the vessel was in darkness again, save
for the lantern in the foremast shroud, to warn any chance craft where
they lay.

Harvey waited. The minutes seemed like hours. Fifteen minutes were ticked
off by his silver time-piece; then fifteen more. It was a quarter past
one o’clock when he stole back, shivering, and awoke Tom Edwards.

“Sh-h-h!” he warned. “Don’t speak. They’re here; turned in half an hour
ago. Come on.”

They had no belongings to gather up; only their coats to button about
them. They crept out on deck and stood for a moment, waiting and
listening. There was no sound aboard the bug-eye. They darted quickly
aft. Tom Edwards stepped nervously into the little skiff, Harvey
following. Harvey cast off, took his seat astern, pushed away and began
sculling.

Two rods off from the bug-eye, they could discern the thin lines of its
masts and a dull blur that was its hull. Harvey gave a little murmur of
exultation, and paused in his sculling. But the next moment he uttered a
cry of surprise and alarm. He rose from his seat, and peered anxiously
through the fog.

“What’s the matter? What is it, Jack?” asked Tom Edwards, almost
breathless.

“Something’s coming!” exclaimed Harvey. “Don’t you hear that rushing
sound? Oh, hang this fog! If it would only lift a little.”

Suddenly Harvey dropped to his seat and began plying the single oar in
the scull-hole, with desperation. Then he sprang up again and gave a
warning call as loud as he dared.

It was too late. Out of the fog and mist there rushed a craft—so swiftly
that it was upon them before they had half seen it. It was a long, narrow
canoe, with full sail set, the wind on its quarter, flying for the mouth
of the river. Harvey had one fleeting glimpse of a man in the stern of
the craft, springing up and uttering an exclamation of rage and fright.
Then Harvey jumped from his own seat, literally tumbling over Tom
Edwards.

The man at the stern of the fleeing canoe had jammed the helm hard down,
at his first sight of the little skiff. But he could not clear it wholly.
There was a crash and a splintering of wood; the skiff half upset, and
took in nearly half a barrel of water. The main boom of the canoe swept
across the skiff, knocking both its occupants into a heap.

The next thing they knew, the man at the stern of the canoe and another
by the foremast were standing up, uttering maledictions upon the
unfortunate victims of the collision.

“Help us! Don’t leave us! We’re sinking!” called Harvey, in desperation,
as the canoe kept on its course. The only answer was a wrathful shake of
his fist from the skipper of the canoe. Another moment, and it was gone.

Harvey and his companion, ankle-deep in water, scrambled up, and Harvey
turned anxiously to the stern of the skiff. There was a hole there, and
the boat seemed to be sinking under them. They stripped off their outer
jackets, prepared to swim for their lives. But Harvey quickly reassured
his comrade.

“It isn’t coming in very fast,” he said. “We can get back to the bug-eye,
if we work lively. You take your hat and bail. I’ll jump her all I can.”

He gave a cry of dismay as he seized the oar, which was floating in the
bottom of the skiff. The blow from the canoe had broken half the blade
away. It was still of some use, but he could not make fast time with it.

Heartbroken and fearful of what awaited them, they turned the skiff in
the direction whence the wind was blowing, and toiled with desperate
energy. The water leaked steadily into the little craft, but Tom Edwards
dashed it out by hat-fulls, as he had never worked in all his life—not
even at the dredges under the eye of Jim Adams.

The bug-eye came more plainly into view. They neared it with quaking
hearts. Already they could seem to hear the torrent of imprecation that
awaited them from Haley and the mate, and could feel the hurt and pain of
“dredging fleet law.”

To their amazement, silence reigned aboard the vessel. That silence was
unbroken as they struggled up alongside. With not a sound aboard, they
grasped the foot of a shroud and Harvey sprang noiselessly to the deck.
Tom Edwards followed. Harvey took a quick turn with the painter. The half
submerged skiff was made fast, where it had been before.

They fled along the deck, and down into the forecastle, on the wings of
fear. Wet and exhausted, they tumbled into their bunks. It was some
moments before either of them could find breath to speak.

“Oh, the brutes!” murmured Tom Edwards, after a time. “How could any
human being do a thing like that? They left us to drown, Jack, and didn’t
care.”

“Of course they did,” answered Harvey, “and good reason. I know why.
Don’t you? Did you see the load they had aboard? They’d been lifting an
oyster dump. Some fellow’ll find his week’s tonging of oysters gone, when
he looks for them. They were poachers. They’d have killed us in a minute
if we’d stood between them and getting away. Cheer up, old Tom. We’re in
the greatest luck we’ve ever been in all our lives. Is your back cold?
Well, how would it feel, think, if Haley had caught us? Did you ever hear
Sam Black tell how he’s seen men rope’s-ended for trying to run away?
Wait till Haley sees that skiff in the morning. You’ll be glad you’re
alive. Never mind. We’ll escape yet. I’m going to sleep when I get these
boots off.”

Captain Hamilton Haley, standing by the wheel, some hours later, when the
sun had risen and the fog was lifting over the river, was not a pleasing
object to behold. What he had to say about poachers and their ways and
habits and carelessness would have warmed the water under the bug-eye, if
it hadn’t been in the dead of winter. To have heard his outburst of
indignation, over the evils of poaching and night sailing, would almost
have convinced a listener that he was the most averse to that habit of
any man in Chesapeake Bay. Also he berated Jim Adams, as much as he
thought that gentleman would stand, for not bringing the skiff aboard.

Haley bargained for a new skiff that day, and gave Jim Adams another
dressing down,—and Jim Adams took it out of the crew, for which Harvey
and Tom Edwards were sorry—although they got their share. And so their
night adventure passed into the history of the cruise; and there even
came a time, long afterward, when the two laughed at it—that is, when
they thought of Haley. The remembrance of their own fright remained, to
dream of, for many a night.

Two days afterward, there happened one of those sudden, mysterious
changes that told of the comradeship of a certain clique of the dredging
captains, and of their facility for dodging trouble.

Down along the western shore a strange craft sailed up, and Haley took a
man aboard from it; though not without some warm words with the strange
captain. He seemed not to welcome the recruit. But he took him, and
exchanged one of his own crew, the sailor, Sam Black, for the man. This
latter recruit was a swarthy man, tall and muscular. His face was
discoloured, as though by blows; and a long scar, freshly made, showed on
the back of one hand and wrist. He obeyed Haley’s and the mate’s orders
sullenly. Why he was aboard, none knew except the mate and captain. But
it was plain enough, the captain of the other craft had wanted him out of
the way.



                               CHAPTER XI
                    HARVEY SENDS A MESSAGE TO SHORE


Henry Burns and the Warren brothers, arriving at Millstone Landing on the
evening when Jack Harvey had seen a strange vision through Haley’s
telescope, found a young man on the wharf awaiting them. He hailed them
with a hearty shout of welcome the moment the steamer came to its
landing. He was a tall, somewhat spare man, but with broad, muscular
shoulders, and a general build that told of unusual strength. He had a
mop of short, almost curly hair, under a soft felt hat, a dark, clear
complexion, brown eyes that twinkled with fun, and an expression of
geniality that won the heart of Henry Burns at first glance.

The young man nodded smilingly to the river captain, and swung himself
aboard before the steamer had its gang-plank out; and he was up the
stairs and in the cabin in a twinkling, where he grasped George Warren
and the brothers, one after another, and welcomed them heartily.

“And this is our friend, Henry Burns,” said George Warren, introducing
his comrade.

“I’m right glad to meet him, too,” responded Edward Warren. “He’s just as
welcome as you are—and that’s saying all anybody could. Well, I’d know
you youngsters anywhere. You haven’t changed much since I was up north,
four years ago—except you’ve grown some. There’s Joe—my, but he’s growing
like a corn-stalk! Don’t it almost make your bones ache, to grow so fast,
Joey?”

Edward Warren was, all the while, assisting them with their bags and
bundles of coats and luggage, and steering them across the gang-plank to
the wharf, like a drove of frisky young cattle.

“Joe wants to know if you’ve brought any of those corn fritters down with
you, Cousin Ed?” said George Warren.

“No,” laughed Edward Warren, “but there’s a stack of them up in the oven,
keeping hot, as high as your head, almost. Here, sling your stuff into
this wagon, and Jim will take it up. Anybody that wants to ride, too, can
jump aboard. But I’m going to walk. It’s only about a mile, and I’d
rather walk a night like this, anyway.”

“Well, I’ll ride up and be making the acquaintance of Mammy Stevens,”
said Joe, grinning broadly, and springing up on the seat beside the
coloured driver. The others elected to walk, with Edward Warren.

He set off at a brisk pace along the road that skirted the shore,
bordered much of its way by ponds extending some distance inland. He had
spoken of a mile walk as though it were the merest trifle, and the pace
he set for his younger companions indicated that he so regarded it. But
they were good for it, too, although he had them breathing hard by the
time they had gone half a mile; and the four made quick time of it up
from the landing.

“You chaps are pretty good walkers,” he said, laughing quietly and
slowing down a little. “Thought I’d see how city life agreed with your
wind and legs. You’re sound in both wind and limb, as we farmers say of a
good horse. We’ll take the rest of it a little easier.”

There yet lingered in the mind of Henry Burns an indignation born of the
act he had seen on the passing vessel.

“Say, Mr. Warren,” he began, as they walked along along—

“Don’t call him ‘Mr. Warren.’ Call him ‘Ed,’” interrupted George Warren.

“Yes, that’s right,” responded Edward Warren, good-naturedly.

“I saw a man knocked down on a vessel as we sailed into the harbour,”
continued Henry Burns. “Isn’t it a shame to treat men like that?”

Edward Warren paused, and clenched a big, strong fist. He raised it and
gestured like a man striking someone a blow.

“Shame!” he repeated. “It’s downright wicked, the way those dredging
captains—or a good many of them—treat the men. Why, we get them on shore
here, through the winter, half starved, and half clad, begging their way
back to Baltimore. If a man is taken sick out aboard, and isn’t fit to
work any more, why, the captain takes him ashore, to gather wood, or
something of that sort. Then he cuts and leaves him to starve or freeze,
or get back to town the best way he can. And sometimes, they don’t take
even that trouble, if they’re safe down the bay—just let a man slump
overboard—accidentally, of course,—and that’s the last seen of him.”

“Don’t his friends ever get track of him?” asked Henry Burns.

“Not often,” replied Edward Warren. “They’re almost always poor chaps,
without any friends that can do them any good; fellows that are reduced
to poverty in the cities, or men who have been dissipating and gone to
the bad. And those don’t last long with the life they lead aboard the
dredgers.”

“Well, that poor chap that I saw knocked down would have one friend if I
could help him,” exclaimed Henry Burns.

“He needs it, I’ve no doubt,” said Edward Warren. “And they make the men
do their underhand work for them, too—the captains that go poaching. Why,
I took a shot at a craft, just the other night, up above Forrests,
myself. I was up to Wilkes’s place, over night, and we caught a fellow
poaching in on the beds. Gave him a close call, too. We had him between
us and the Folly for a few minutes; but he was smart and got away.”

The lights of the old farm house were gleaming by this time, and in a
moment or two they were within its hospitable walls. It was a pleasant,
old-style house, with some pillars at the front, and a broad verandah;
the main house of two stories in height, and a series of rambling
extensions, of a story and a half, extending in the rear; stables and two
barns not far away—in all, an air of comfort and prosperity, if not of
great means. The land on which the house stood overlooked the river, now
gleaming with the harbour lights of many vessels, and some small ponds
along shore.

They entered at the big front door, stepping into a wide hall that ran
the entire length of the first floor of the main part. The hall ended in
a wall in which a huge open fireplace, built of the stones taken from the
land, now gave forth a blazing welcome.

But they did not linger long before this inviting blaze, for old Mammy
Stevens had them all out in the dining-room before many minutes. This
room was equally cheery, with a hearth fire snapping and singing there,
also; and there sat young Joe, gloating in anticipation over an array of
good things, including the heaped up platter of corn fritters, with a
pitcher of syrup squatted agreeably close by.

They fell to and ate till Mammy Stevens’s face lighted up and shone like
a piece of polished ebony; and she laughed and chuckled till she was
almost white to see young Joe tuck away corn fritters and country
sausage. And all the while they were making merry and enjoying comfort
and warmth, Jack Harvey, not far away, on the bug-eye, Brandt, was
climbing into his bunk, wet from his drenching, and sore from the blow
Haley had given him.

A vessel, seen from the old farmhouse, anchored in near shore the
following afternoon, but it had no special interest in the eyes of the
newcomers, nor had it as it sailed away again when the fog had lifted.

“Cap’n,” queried Jim Adams, removing his pipe from his mouth and pointing
the stem of it forward in the direction of the stranger who stood by the
foremast, “what’s happened? What have we got him for?”

Haley shrugged his shoulders and squinted one eye, significantly. “Bill’s
in trouble again,” he answered. “This fellow and a pardner tried to get
away. The pardner got it a bit hard—Bill had to put him ashore below in
St. Mary’s. This one goes, too, when we get a good chance to land him
where he’ll be a long time walking up to Baltimore. Oh, it’s all right,
so long as the two don’t get together. The pardner can’t make any more
trouble by himself.”

Jim Adams, rightly construing Haley’s remarks to mean that the “pardner”
had been badly hurt, perhaps crippled—or worse—and had been landed in
some convenient spot away from any town, resumed his pipe, and asked no
more questions. But he added, as he surveyed the muscular frame of the
man forward, “He’s a sure enough good man at the winders, I reckon. I’ll
make him earn his board and lodgin,’ if he stays.”

Jim Adams grinned, and showed his fine, white teeth.

“You’re the boy to do it,” commented Haley.

It was afternoon, and the bug-eye, Brandt, was coming up to the Patuxent
for a night’s harbour. Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards, eyeing the stranger,
who remained sullenly by himself, felt a depression of spirits as they
noted the appearance of the man. His bruises and the fresh scar, and
indeed the very fact of his being there, were evidence to them of the
cause that had brought him aboard. They had become familiar enough with
the ways of the dredging fleet to know what it meant.

What the stranger thought of them, no one would ever know. But theirs was
perhaps not altogether a favourable appearance by this time. There was
less of incongruity in the dress of Tom Edwards now than when he had
begun work. Daily toil at the dredges, drenching in icy spray, the wear
and tear of the life aboard the Brandt, had wholly obliterated whatever
of newness and stylishness there had been to his clothing. He had taken
on the shabby, rough, wretched characteristics of the ordinary dredger.
His one collar had long ago been discarded. He looked the part into which
his ill fortune had cast him.

Nor had Harvey fared better. His clothes were torn and worn and
discoloured by the salt water. His face, like that of Tom Edwards, was
reddened and roughened and weather-beaten. His hands were roughened and
scarred from hard work, with the broadening and flattening at the finger
tips acquired through handling the heavy iron dredges and through
knotting ropes.

The two friends were still depressed with the disappointment of their
failure to make their escape, but they were not hopeless. They talked of
it whenever they dared, and planned for another attempt when opportunity
should offer.

The bug-eye ran up into the mouth of the river, and came to anchor off
the northern shore, that being the lee with the wind from the northwest.
It lay about half a mile out from the Drum Point shore and about the same
distance to the eastward of Solomon’s Island. There was little sign of
life or habitation on the land about the light-house, save that Harvey
noticed one large house which set up on the hill, overlooking the
surrounding country. But the many lights on Solomon’s Island and the many
small craft at their moorings close to its shore indicated that there was
quite a settlement there. Later in the evening, there came out to him,
once or twice, with the wind, the sounds of jigging music, as from banjos
and fiddles; and once he thought he heard, faintly, the sound of a piano,
played noisily.

These suggestions of freedom and of merriment, though borne to him all
indistinctly, filled Harvey’s mind with the old longing to escape. He
could seem to see the interior of the town hall, perhaps, whence the
sounds came; the lamps about the sides of the room; the fishermen’s
daughters waiting for partners for the dance; the fiddler at the end of
the hall, calling off the numbers. He had seen the like away up in
Samoset bay, and had taken part in the fun.

He looked down at the side of the vessel, where the black water of the
bay tossed gently, and away off to shore, indistinct save where a light
gleamed here and there. There was the icy sting and nip of winter in the
air. The water looked forbidding. It was out of the question to think of
swimming—and, besides, there was Tom Edwards whom he could not desert.
But, for all that, Harvey turned in for the night with greater reluctance
than ever before; and he lay for a long time, uneasy, not able to sleep.

It could not have been very late in the night, though he knew not the
time, when he roused up from a light slumber. Something had awakened him.
The picture he had fancied of the dance hall ashore leaped into his mind,
and something seemed to impel him to turn out and take another look.

Then he thought he heard some slight sound over his head on deck.
Grumbling at himself at his seeming folly, he stepped out on to the
forecastle floor and went softly up the companion ladder to the deck.

He was dressed, for he had turned in with his clothes on, as usual. But
the night air chilled him, and he shivered as he crept out and looked off
toward the land. He turned his collar up about his throat, and stepped
over to the side of the vessel.

An instant, and he was conscious of someone near. He turned just as a
figure leaped out at him from the shadow of the forecastle. Harvey was
quick and strong. Realizing a sudden peril—he knew not what—he darted to
one side as the figure sprang toward him, and struck out at the same
moment with his left arm.

He was not a second too soon. There was disclosed to him the tall,
swarthy stranger they had taken aboard that afternoon. The man, his arm
uplifted and holding an open knife in that hand, made a lunge at him.

The blow missed Harvey, and his own blow, aimed at random, caught the
man’s shoulder and stopped his rush. At the same moment, the man
recognized the boy and stood still and silent, peering at him, wondering
and surprised.

Harvey, alert to the situation, thought quickly and spoke—in a half
whisper.

“Don’t strike me,” he said. “If you want to escape, I’ll help you. I’m
not to blame for your being here.”

The man did not reply, but he seemed to understand. Yet he was not taking
all for granted. He stepped to Harvey’s side, holding the knife
threateningly. He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and peered into his
face. Then he put a finger to Harvey’s lips and raised the knife again.

Harvey nodded. “I’ll keep quiet,” he whispered. “What are you going to
do, swim?”

The man clearly did not understand what Harvey had said, but he caught at
the one word.

“Swim,” he repeated, and nodded. “Swim. I swim.” And he made a sweeping
gesture with one arm.

Harvey nodded his head vigorously, as if to indicate his sympathy with
the attempt, and further emphasized it with a shake of his fist in the
direction of the captain’s cabin. The man seemed assured. His lips parted
in a half smile, which changed to an expression of anger and fierceness
as he in turn shook the hand that clutched the knife in the direction of
Haley’s quarters. Then he thrust the knife back into his belt.

Another thought came swiftly to Harvey then. If he could only get a
message ashore by the man—that is, if the stranger should succeed in what
seemed an almost hopeless attempt. But how could he make the foreigner
understand? He stepped close to him, stretched out his left hand and made
the motions of writing upon the palm of it. Then he pointed to himself,
to the man and to the shore.

“Take a letter for me,” said Harvey. “A letter,” and he again made the
motions of writing.

To his surprise and delight, the man repeated the word “letter” plainly,
and himself made the motions of writing with his right fore-finger upon
the palm of his left hand.

“Yes, that’s it,” said Harvey. “Take a letter ashore for me?” And he
pointed again toward shore.

The man nodded. Harvey pointed to the forecastle, repeated the gesture of
writing and looked at the man inquiringly. The man nodded once more. But
again he drew forth the knife, put a finger to his lips and made a
significant gesture. Harvey understood. He stepped forward, put out his
right hand to the man, and the stranger grasped it. It was a compact he
understood. Harvey stole softly down into the forecastle.

He roused Tom Edwards, who asked drowsily what was wanted.

“Tom,” said Harvey softly, “be quick. Find that little order-book with
the pencil in it that you had when you came aboard. You stuck it up in
the bunk somewhere, weeks ago. The man we took aboard this afternoon is
going to swim for shore. Hurry, Tom, he may be gone while I’m below
here.”

Tom Edwards fumbled about and produced the book—one of the few things
that had been left to him in the rifling of his pockets—left to him as a
thing of no value to the men who had trapped him. Harvey seized it
eagerly and ran up on deck again. The man was still there.

There was no light to write by, but there was no time to be lost. Harvey
tore a page from the book, took the little pencil from its leather
socket, laid the paper down on top of the forecastle house and held his
face close down to it. The white patch was sufficiently discernible
against the wood to enable him to scrawl a few words. He wrote:

  “I am trapped out aboard the bug-eye Z. B. Brandt by Capt. Haley. Send
  word to Benton, Maine.

                                                          “Jack Harvey.”

He folded the scrap of paper and handed it to the swarthy stranger. The
man took it, held it for a moment as though deliberating, then removed
the cap he wore, tucked the paper within the lining and replaced the cap
on his head. He had taken off his heavy shoes, which he proceeded to tie
across his back, with a line passed across one shoulder and under the
other arm-pit. He had stripped off his coat and held it now in one hand,
doubtfully.

He looked across to shore, shook his head as if to say that the distance
was too great to encumber himself with the weight of the garment, even
though tied across his shoulders. He threw it on the deck with a gesture
of disappointment, and stepped to the side of the vessel.

Harvey followed, and again put out his hand. The man grasped it, and they
shook hands warmly. Harvey would have given half his store of hidden
money at that moment to have been able to wish him good luck in a tongue
that the man could understand. But he slapped him on the shoulder, and
the man understood that. He made a sweeping gesture of farewell, swung
himself off noiselessly into the icy water and began swimming away, with
long, powerful strokes.

Instinctively, Harvey reached down and put his hand into the water. Its
coldness fairly stung him, hardened as he had become, with work at the
dredges. He stood, shivering, with the cold of the night intensified by
his excitement. It seemed as though no human being could live to get to
shore in that water. But the man kept on.

“He must be a fish,” muttered Harvey. “I hope he sticks it out, but how
can he?”

The stars twinkling coldly overhead gave little light upon the water. But
the figure moving slowly away was discernible some distance. Harvey
watched it until the tiny black speck where the man’s cap showed faded
away and was lost to view. Harvey’s teeth was chattering. His eyes
smarted and watered with the strain of peering through the darkness. He
longed to call out, to know if the swimmer still lived. But he turned and
crept back to his bunk, giving the news to Tom Edwards, who shivered at
the very thought of it.

“Poor chap, he’ll never get to shore,” he murmured. “But he’ll die game.”

Up in the big house that overlooked the Drum Point lighthouse, in a
chamber room, a young man of about thirty sat reading before a fire. A
clock ticking in one corner indicated the time of night as half-past
eleven. The man paused in his reading, yawned and stretched comfortably,
arose and stepped to a window facing the harbour.

“What a glorious night!” he said.

He stepped back and sat down again.

A strange thing, unseen by him, had happened down at the shore toward
which he had looked. Something moved, like a great fish, in the water, a
rod out from the land. It sank once almost out of sight, then thrashed
the water and struggled in desperately. A man, feeling the solid earth
under his feet, stepped out upon the shore and staggered as though about
to fall; caught himself; then fell; but arose and walked unsteadily in
the direction of the light from the window.

The young man who was reading suddenly sprang up from his chair and
listened. There was a muffled rapping at the door below. The man threw up
the window and put his head out.

“Who’s that? What do you want?” he called.

A reply, unintelligible, came up to him. He closed the window and turned
toward the door of the chamber.

“It’s the same old story,” he said, with a touch of indignation in his
voice. “Some poor chap from the dredging fleet, I suppose—beaten up, half
starved, and trying to get back to Baltimore.”

He descended the stairs, lighted a lamp and went to the door. When the
lamp-light fell upon the figure that stood before him, he started back,
thunderstruck. A man, drenched to the skin, ghastly pale, shivering,
almost speechless, his tangled, dripping hair falling about his eyes,
stood there. He stretched forth an arm, appealingly, and almost fell.

The man with the lamp caught him with one arm and assisted him within;
half dragged him out into an old-fashioned kitchen, where the man slumped
all in a heap before the fire. The man of the house, setting down the
lamp on a table, went to the closet and brought out a cup; filled it with
coffee from a pot that set back on the stove, knelt by the stranger’s
side and, rousing him up, held the cup to his lips and made him drink.

The man shivered, sat up a little and uttered the one word, “Swim.”

The other uttered an exclamation of anger.

“It’s a shame! A cruel shame to treat men so they’d rather die than lead
the life they do aboard the dredgers,” he cried. “How far did you swim?”

The man shook his head, indicating he did not understand.

“Well, no matter,” said the other, compassionately. “I’ll fix you up. But
you’ve just come through, and that’s all. You’re pretty near being a dead
man.”

An hour later, the stranger, wrapped in warm blankets, his ragged
garments drying by the fire, dozed, while the man of the house stood,
watching him.

“Well, he’s all right now,” he said. “I’ll turn in and let him sleep
there for the night.”

But the man suddenly moved, sat up on one elbow and then struggled into a
sitting position. He fumbled at his head and said something in a foreign
tongue. He gesticulated, and pointed down toward the shore.

The young man laughed.

“Well, I declare if you aren’t worrying about a cap,” he cried. “I know
what you mean—lost your cap, eh? Well, you ought to thank your stars you
didn’t lose your life. We’ll get the cap to-morrow, if it’s down by the
shore. To-morrow, see?”

The man repeated the word “to-morrow,” and shook his head as vigorously
as he could. “No to-morrow,” he repeated. And he struggled to his feet.
Wrapping the blanket about him, he started doggedly toward the door.

“Well, confound you for an obstinate mule!” exclaimed the young man. “I
don’t wonder you got ashore, with all that stubbornness. Go lie down
again. Hang it, if you’re so worried as all that about your old cap, I’ll
go look for it.”

Half angry, half amused, he took down a lantern from a hook, lighted it,
and went out into the darkness. In a few minutes, he reappeared. In his
hand he held a bedraggled, shabby fur cap, that bore more resemblance to
a drowned cat than any article of wear.

“There’s your cap, you mule!” he exclaimed, and threw the wet object down
upon the floor.

To his surprise, the man caught it up eagerly and, turning it inside out,
felt within the lining. He uttered a little cry of disappointment as he
drew forth a piece of wet, torn paper. He dropped it on the floor and
drew out two other pieces. Then he shrugged his shoulders and looked up
at his rescuer, helplessly.

The young man stooped and picked up the pieces of paper.

“Aha! I see,” he said. “There was a method in your stubbornness after
all. Let’s look.”

He held up the pieces of paper and turned them in his hand. He took them
to the table and placed them on an earthen platter, with the torn edges
joining. Then he whistled with surprise. The paper, wet and torn, still
bore, blurred and barely readable, written words. He made out the
message:

  “I am trapped aboard the bug-eye Z. B. Brandt by Capt. Haley. Send word
  to Benton.

                                                             “Jack Har—”

The remainder of the last name had been torn away. They searched for it,
but it was not to be found.

“Whew!” exclaimed the young man. “Another case of shanghaiing. Well,
there’s enough to work on. I’ll have to look into it, though I suppose
it’s not much use. When a man gets out there, it’s hard finding him. I’ll
save the paper, though, and dry it out.”

And then he added, eying the stranger with a different expression,
“You’re a good sort, after all. You’re a true blue comrade to somebody.
Hang it! I wish you could talk the United States language.”



                              CHAPTER XII
                             ESCAPE AT LAST


The old Warren homestead, alight with many lamps from parlour to kitchen,
presented a cheery and genial aspect to whoever might be passing by along
the road, on the night of December 24. The shades, half drawn in the
front room, revealed the glow of a big hearth fire, reddening the light
of the lamps, and adding its cheer and welcome to the general atmosphere
of comfort within. From the kitchen there came the sound of banjos
tinkling, and the laughter from a merry company of coloured servants, the
Christmas eve guests of Jim and Mammy Stevens. The whole house, in fact,
was keeping holiday.

But if the appearance, viewed from the exterior, was one of brightness
and Christmas warmth, it was doubly so within. The large room, that
fronted on the bay and commanded a view from its windows of Drum Point
lighthouse and a sweep of the river, was a comfortably furnished,
old-fashioned affair; with quaint, polished furniture; mirrors that
reflected the dancing fire-light; a polished oak floor that shone almost
as bright as the mirrors; and, in one corner, a tall clock, that ticked
away in dignified and respectable fashion, as befitting a servant that
had belonged to the Warren family for a hundred years, and had descended,
as a precious heirloom, from father to son.

From the upper panelling of the walls there hung, in festoons, some
trailing vines, ornamented with bright berries, gathered from the woods
back on the farm; and sprigs of holly also decorated the mirrors and a
few portraits of one-time members of the household.

Edward Warren, stretched comfortably before the fire in a big chair,
gazed about the room approvingly, and then at his younger companions.

“Well,” he exclaimed, heartily, “you’ve saved me from spending a dull
Christmas, sure enough. What with the folks away, I don’t know what I’d
have done without you. Say, can’t you young fellows give us a song? We
don’t want to let them make all the noise out in the kitchen.”

“Go ahead on Old Black Joe, Henry,” said George Warren. “We’ll all join
in.”

So Henry Burns led off on the plantation melody, and the brothers joined
in with a will. Edward Warren came in with a fine bass effect, and
altogether they did Old Black Joe in a way that almost made the faces in
the oil paintings on the wall smile.

Then, on the second verse, the banjos in the kitchen, and a guitar that
had been added to the group, took up the refrain, and all the darkey
melody in that part of the house concentrated itself on the same tune. So
that the old house fairly rang from one end to the other with the
plantation music, and the sounds floated off on the crisp night air far
and around.

In the midst of which, it was suddenly discovered by the others that
young Joe had disappeared from the front room, and a hurried search was
begun for the missing youth. It resulted in his discovery, in a pantry
off the dining-room, gloating over the contents of the Christmas box that
had been sent from home to the brothers. From this young Joe had
abstracted a generous slice of nut cake, which was rapidly disappearing
down his throat.

Howls of wrath from George and Arthur Warren were united with yells of
dismay from Young Joe, as he was dragged from his hiding place, still
holding a piece of the cake in his hand, loth even then to part with the
evidence of his guilt.

“Ow, wow!” yelled George Warren. “Pilfering from to-morrow’s feast, are
you, Joey? Say, what’ll we do with him, Arthur?”

“Invite him out into the kitchen and make him eat some of those raw
oysters that Mammy Stevens has to stuff to-morrow’s turkey,” replied
Arthur Warren, who always had some original idea in a matter of this
kind.

Young Joe gave another howl of dismay, and made a bolt for a side door
that led out into the yard. The mere thought of raw oysters caused him to
drop the slice of cake and consider nothing but flight. The brothers and
Henry Warren darted after him, but he slipped the catch of the door,
opened it—and, with head down, butted all unexpectedly into a thick,
short, burly man, who had been about to knock for admittance at the very
moment.

The result was, that the stranger lost his balance and fell off the
stoop, rolling over and over on the ground. He was unhurt, for he sprang
up quickly, shook his fist at the surprised youth, and roared out in a
hoarse sea voice.

“Confound you, for a clumsy, butting young lubber!” he cried, rubbing the
pit of his stomach, and glaring at Young Joe. “What kind of a way is that
to treat folks as comes to your door? Ain’t you got eyes? If you has ’em,
why doesn’t you use ’em, and not be a ramming heads into other folks’s
stomachs?”

The man, in his wrath and excitement, spoke as though there had been
several Young Joes and at least a half dozen of himself, engaged in a
most extraordinary encounter—all of which did not tend to abate the mirth
of Young Joe and his companions, who also had caught a glimpse of the man
rolling over on the lawn.

“He has a habit of doing that,” spoke up Henry Burns, in a quiet, serious
tone. “We haven’t been able to break him of it ever since he was a kid.
We keep him chained up most of the time, but he just got loose.”

The man, flushing redder, turned an angry eye on Henry Burns.

“Who asked you what was the matter?” he demanded. “You’d get chained up,
if I had you out aboard. You wouldn’t be talking so smart to folks as has
their stomachs run into by a crazy, June-bug booby of a boy. I reckon the
end of a jib halliard would teach you some manners.”

The man’s reply surprised Henry Burns, and interested him. He looked at
the squat, chunky figure, the big, round head with its shock of reddish
hair, and the dull gray eyes that glinted angrily at him. His retort was,
on its part, a surprise to the man.

“Do you knock your crew down?” he asked, in a matter-of-fact way, as
though he had been merely inquiring the time of day.

The stranger was too taken aback for a moment to reply. It was a new type
of boy to him—one who could put a query of that kind as calmly and
dispassionately as though he were a lawyer, trained to keep his temper.
Then the man advanced, with hand raised threateningly.

“Get out of my way, you young rascals!” he said. “Where’s the man as
lives in this ere house? His name’s Warren, isn’t it—where is he?”

Edward Warren, who had remained in the background, amused at the unusual
situation, now stepped to the door and inquired what the man wanted.

“I want to do some trade,” replied the man. “At least, that’s what I came
for, when that boy, he comes out at me like a crazy steer. I hear you
have some potatoes to sell. My name is Haley, and I’m lying off shore
there.”

He pointed with a jerk of his thumb out toward the river, evidently
intending to convey the idea—somewhat different from his words—that it
was his vessel, and not himself, that was “lying off shore.”

“Well,” answered Edward Warren, “it’s a time I don’t usually do business,
on Christmas eve, but since you’ve come up, I guess you can have them.
I’ve got two or three barrels in the cellar. Come on out.”

Captain Hamilton Haley, muttering a retort that Christmas eve was as good
a time for buying potatoes as any other, so far as he knew, so long as he
had a chance to come and get them, followed Edward Warren away. A third
man, who had remained in the background, went along with them. It was Jim
Adams, the mate.

The bargain was made, Haley saying that he would be back the day after
Christmas for the potatoes; whereupon he and the mate went on again up
the country road. Edward Warren returned to the house.

“That’s a rough customer, that man Haley,” he remarked, as he resumed his
seat by the fire. “He’s a specimen of the dredging captain that gives the
fleet a hard name.”

“The kind that knocks his men down,” remarked Henry Burns.

“That seems to have made a great impression on your mind,” said Edward
Warren, turning to the boy. Henry Burns’s face was serious, and he spoke
with unusual demonstrativeness for him, for he doubled up his fist and
struck the arm of his chair with it.

“Ever since I saw that fellow knocked down,” he replied, “I’ve wanted to
tell one of those captains what I think of it. I’d have done it to-night,
if he hadn’t said he came to trade with you.”

Edward Warren laughed. “You could have told him anything you liked, for
all of me,” he said. “But you chaps better turn in pretty soon. We’re
going after rabbits, to-morrow forenoon, you know. Mammy Stevens makes a
rabbit saddle roast that beats turkey.”

“Great!” murmured Young Joe.

The darkness that enveloped the old Warren homestead, when, one by one,
its lights went out and the household sank into stillness, was illumined
by brilliant starlight in the heavens. It was a glorious Christmas eve,
clear, frosty, cold—just the night a traveller on the road, warmly
dressed and well fed, might enjoy to the utmost. The wind had died down
and the night was very still. The vessels in the Patuxent swung lazily
with the tide. Now and then the sound of an untiring banjo, or guitar or
accordion, or a snatch of song, came across the black water to those that
lay nearer the Solomon’s island shore. Across on the western shore, all
was still, save for the occasional barking of a dog in some farmyard.

The bug-eye Brandt, for the convenience of its owner in going up country
after some supplies, lay nearer the latter bank of the river, though with
the usual discretion in the matter of distance—greater even than
customary, following the escape of the mulatto seaman. There was no other
craft near by. All aboard were apparently asleep, and not even a light
showed in the fore-rigging, to warn others where she lay.

Down in the dingy forecastle, however, two persons were astir. They moved
about quietly, not to disturb the other sleepers, though the latter
slumbered heavily and would not be easily aroused.

“Well, Jack,” said the taller of the two, buttoning his coat and
proceeding to thrust his legs into a pair of oil-skin trousers, “this is
the night we celebrate, eh?”

Jack Harvey turned a face, set with determination, toward his companion,
and answered, huskily, “Tom, old man, I’m going ashore to-night, if I
have to swim for it. Celebrate! You bet I’m going to celebrate—and so are
you. We can do it, too. I’ve watched and watched, and it’s our chance.
Haley and Jim Adams both gone, and no one here to stop us.”

“Except the cook,” interrupted Tom Edwards.

“Let him try it!” exclaimed Jack Harvey, his face flushing angrily at the
mere suggestion. “Just let him try it! I tell you I’m going ashore
to-night, Tom Edwards, and there isn’t any George Haley in Maryland that
can stop me.”

Tom Edwards slapped the boy on the shoulder.

“That’s the way to look at it, when we once start,” he said. “My muscles
aren’t so soft, either, as when I came aboard. I guess I could do
something on a pinch. But he’s got a revolver, probably.”

Harvey shrugged his shoulders.

“He can’t stop us this time,” he said. “I tell you it’s Christmas eve,
and we’re in luck. Haley’s left us a Christmas present of that old float
and junks of fire-wood and odds and ends of stuff, in the hold; and we’ll
sail ashore on it like sliding down hill. Come on.”

They went cautiously out on deck.

“My! but it’s chilly,” muttered Tom Edwards, turning the collar of his
slicker up about his neck. “If we didn’t have these oil-skins we’d pretty
nearly freeze to death.”

“We’ll warm up when we get to work,” replied Harvey.

The two proceeded to the main hatch, through which the most of the
oysters were put into the hold, and lifted it a little. It was a huge
affair, and so heavy it took their united strength to stir it and drag it
away, so they could have access to the hold.

“We’ve got to have that lantern,” said Harvey, and he went and got the
one from the forecastle. Then he sprang down into the hold.

“I’ll pass the stuff up to you,” he said, “and you set it down on the
deck. But look out and don’t drop any.”

Hanging the lantern so he could see to work, Harvey presently passed a
piece of timber out to Tom Edwards. This was followed by several pieces
of planking, exceedingly heavy, bits of board and even some long sticks
of firewood—branches of oak that had been picked up by the crew down
along shore. It was all more or less soggy with the dampness of the hold;
some of it seemed to be completely soaked through. It nearly proved their
undoing.

Tom Edwards, disregarding Harvey’s admonition to wait till he could
assist in carrying the wood to the side of the vessel, started with a
stick of the timber. Of a sudden, a rotted edge of it crumbled and broke
away in his hands. The heavy stick slipped from his grasp and slammed
down upon the deck. The next moment Harvey leaped out on deck, in alarm.

“Tom, that made an awful racket!” he said, anxiously. “Listen. By Jove!
we’re in for it now. There’s somebody stirring—it’s in the cabin. Tom,
you get down into that hold quicker’n scat; and if Haley comes, you talk
to him, but don’t let him see you. I’ll take care of him.”

It was an odd situation, that the positions of man and boy should be
reversed at the crisis. But Tom Edwards was not the equal of Jack Harvey
in strength, and he knew it. Years of activity, at baseball, swimming,
yachting and the like, had developed Harvey into an athlete of no mean
proportions, as the muscles that played beneath his sweater denoted; Tom
Edwards had been flabby and easily winded when he came aboard the
dredger, and he had had little chance to gain strength with the bad food
that Haley provided. Now he obeyed Harvey, without a question. He sprang
into the hold, and Harvey darted back and hid behind the shadow of the
forecastle.

They were not much too soon, nor had Harvey been deceived in the sounds
he had heard. The cook, awakened by the noise, and mindful of the parting
injunction of Hamilton Haley that the vessel and crew were in his
keeping, stepped out of the companion and looked forward. In his right
hand he held Haley’s revolver.

He started, as his eye fell upon the mass of wood heaped at the edge of
the hatchway. He advanced quickly, holding his weapon ready. At the edge
of the hatchway, he stopped and listened. Then he aimed the revolver into
the lantern light and called out, “Here you, who’s down there? You’re
caught. I’ll shoot the first man that tries to escape.”

The answering voice of Tom Edwards came from the hold.

“I’m down here—Tom Edwards. I’ll come out, all right. Don’t shoot. I’m
wedged in here, though. I can’t be quick.”

“Well, the lubber!” exclaimed Haley, in surprise. “You’re the last one
I’d have expected—” He broke off and stooped, to peer into the hold.

The next moment, the cook felt himself thrown violently backwards on the
deck. The revolver was wrenched from his hand, and Jack Harvey stood over
him.

“Don’t you make any cry,” muttered Harvey, “or you’ll get hurt. Come on
out, Tom, I’ve got Mr. Haley.”

The cook, lifting himself to a sitting posture and gazing at the two in
astonishment, still sought to intimidate them.

“Don’t you go trying to escape,” he said. “You’ll get the worst of it.
Haley’ll make trouble, and you’ll be back here again inside of a week,
and you’ll get it worse than ever. Besides, you can’t get ashore on that
stuff.”

He changed his tone to a wheedling, mollifying one.

“Just you go back now, like good fellows,” he said, “and I’ll promise
Haley I won’t say a word about it. And I’ll promise you the best grub you
ever tasted, all the rest of the season. There won’t be anything too good
for you two.”

Harvey laughed softly.

“It’s no use,” he replied. “You’ll have to settle with Haley when he
finds us gone. I hope he takes it out of you, too, for the stuff you’ve
made us eat. Get up, now, and march aft.”

Haley, whimpering, threatening and begging by turns, obeyed orders. They
escorted him back to the cabin. In five minutes, Harvey had him tied up
as ship-shape and as securely as ever a captive was bound. They laid him
down on a bunk and left him.

With the revolver in their possession, there was no longer need of
caution or quietness. Boldly they worked away, with the stuff from the
hold, hitching it with bits of rope and making a raft of it alongside the
vessel. They laid a flooring of the stuff and Harvey stepped on to it. To
his chagrin, the raft sank under his weight.

“It’s water-soaked!” he exclaimed to Tom Edwards, as he scrambled aboard
again. “Well, we’ll lay a cross-flooring and see what that will do.”

They threw over the rest of the planks and wood, cross-wise, on the raft
they had made. Harvey again stepped on to it.

It was, alas, little better than before. The wood, rotten and water
soaked, had scarce sufficient buoyancy to float itself, let alone support
two of them. Of its own weight, it sank so that the upper tier of wood
floated clear of the lower.

Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards looked at each other, silently. Harvey’s face
was drawn with disappointment.

“Tom,” he cried, desperately, “I’ll take an axe and chop the old cabin of
the Brandt apart before I’ll give up. Come on, we mustn’t lost time.”

Tom Edwards, whose wits had been trained in years of successful business,
proved more resourceful.

“What’s the matter with using that hatch cover?” he said, pointing to it.

Harvey stopped short and gave a roar of delight. “Tom Edwards,” he cried,
“you’re a daisy. I’m a simple-minded, brainless, wooden-headed,
thick-skulled land-lubber. I never thought of that hatch, and there it
was all ready to use. Here we’ve been working like dogs, and that old
hatch will float us ashore like a ship. Come on. In with it.”

It cost them some effort, for the hatch was a big one. But it floated
buoyantly when they had dragged it overboard; and it scarcely sank at all
under Harvey’s weight; and it held him and Tom Edwards when the latter
had stepped cautiously off on to it. They made it fast alongside, with a
piece of rope cut from dredging gear. Then they ran joyously for the
cabin.

The cook met them with a flood of protestations, but they shut him up in
short order. With the lantern light, they helped themselves to the meagre
stores of the Brandt, and stuffed their pockets with biscuit and corn
bread, baked for Haley and the mate. They also took matches, and they
exchanged their ragged oil-skins for better ones. They had earned them
ten times over, and they were leaving without a penny of wages for all
the hard labour they had done.

“Say good-bye to Haley for me,” said Tom Edwards, pausing a moment before
the helpless captive. “And tell him I hope to meet him again some day.
And if I do, he’ll be sorry.”

They carried the cook into his galley, and shut him in. Then they found
an extra pair of oars, stepped aboard the inverted hatch, the finest
craft in all the world to them, and pushed for shore.

It was not easy, sculling the clumsy hatch, but Harvey made fair work of
it, after he had cut a scull-hole in the combing, with his knife; and Tom
Edwards aided by paddling on either side, making up with energy what he
lacked in skill. The work warmed them, and they threw off their oil-skin
coats.

The tide was running up the river and carried them some distance out of
the course they had tried to make; but they came in to land finally and
sprang out on shore. Harvey stooped and picked up a handful of the coarse
dirt and gravel, and handed it gravely to Tom Edwards.

“Merry Christmas, Tom Edwards,” he said. “It’s the real thing—the
shore—the dry land once more. Isn’t it bully?”

Tom Edwards threw his arms about his stalwart companion and fairly hugged
him.

“Harvey,” he said, “you’re a comrade worth having. You’ve stood by
through thick and thin, and you’ve lost chances to escape in order to
stand by me. I won’t forget it.”

Harvey, freeing himself from his friend’s grasp, offered his hand and
they shook heartily. They started off, but Harvey turned back once and,
seizing one of the oars, shoved the hatch out into the stream. Then he
threw the oars after it.

“We owe Haley that much,” he said—“and more. He’ll have to follow the
tide up river some time before he finds that stuff. Now, Tom, what shall
we do? We’re ashore—by Jove! there was one time I began to think we’d
never get here. And now we’re here, I’m blest if I know what to do next.”

“Well, we’ll stop and hold a council of war,” said Tom Edwards. So they
paused at the top of the little bank they had ascended, adjusted their
oil-skins once more, and looked off on to the river and the vessel that
they had left behind.

Harvey whistled a tune and looked at his comrade, jubilant in spite of
their perplexity.

“It’s a regular jim-dandy Christmas eve!” he exclaimed.

“I’ll remember it as long as ever I live,” replied Tom Edwards.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                     HENRY BURNS MAKES A DISCOVERY


It was after eleven o’clock when Harvey and Tom Edwards paused to rest
and consider what they should do. The night was very still and clear,
and, with the approach of Christmas day, there was already a perceptible
change in the temperature. It was growing milder. With that, and the
relief from their long oppression,—the sensation of being once more
free—they felt a great buoyancy of spirit.

“I could sit right here all night,” exclaimed Harvey, breathing deep and
looking off exultantly at the river. “There’s the old Brandt—bad luck to
her! You can see the masts against the water, as she swings. Whew! But
we’ve had a time of it. I’d like to see Haley when he finds us gone, and
his hatch missing.”

“Well, you are young and tough and you may not want a place to sleep,
to-night,” replied Tom Edwards; “but I don’t mind saying that I do, and I
want it soon as I can get it. I’m dead tired, and I’m dead sleepy. I
wonder which one of these houses we’d better try.”

“That’s what bothers me,” answered Harvey. “Sam Black told me once that a
good many of these people along shore own shares in some of the dredgers,
and they’d give a sailor up, if he ran away.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Tom Edwards.

“I’m not so sure he wasn’t trying to keep me from trying to escape,”
admitted Harvey. “I dare say some of these folks would be glad to see us
get away. Let’s try that little house over there, through the trees.”

He pointed to a house a few rods up on a road that led from the shore,
and they proceeded towards it. It was all in darkness, and, indeed,
seemed almost deserted. They passed in through a half tumbling gateway,
with rotting posts on either hand, and Tom Edwards knocked at the door.

There was no answer, and he knocked again. They heard some one stirring
within. Presently a chamber window was thrown up, and an old woman poked
her head cautiously out.

“What do you want, this time of night?” she asked.

“Madam, we want a night’s lodging,” replied Tom Edwards, removing his
tarpaulin, and making as polite an appearance as his fisherman’s
oil-skins would permit.

“Hey?”

“A night’s lodging, madam. We have left the vessel, and we haven’t any
place to stop.”

“Oh, you be sailor men, eh—but you talk like a man as tried to sell me a
sewing machine once—sort of smooth like. Well, I’m a lone woman, and I
haven’t any lodgings for anyone. You’ll have to go along.”

“We can pay,” ventured Harvey.

The woman shook her head.

“I’ve heard they do beat ’em dreadful on the dredgers, oftentimes,” she
said, “and I don’t know as I blame you for running off, if that’s what
you’ve been doing. But you’ll have to try somewhere’s else. I guess you
couldn’t pay much, by the looks of you.”

Harvey and Tom Edwards looked at each other. Tom Edwards shook his head.

“It’s no use, Jack,” he said. “She won’t let us in.” Then he turned to
the window once more and made a sweeping bow, with his greasy tarpaulin
in hand.

“Allow us to wish you a Merry Christmas, madam,” he said.

“Hey?”

“A Merry Christmas, I say.”

The old woman suddenly withdrew her head from the window, and they
started to go away; but she reappeared and called to them.

“Here,” she said, “catch this.” And she tossed something out of the
window.

A coin fell at Harvey’s feet, and he stooped and picked it up. It was a
quarter of a dollar.

“If that will do you any good, you are welcome,” she said. “It’s all the
Christmas I can afford to give you.”

Then she shut the window.

Harvey and Tom Edwards, amused and disappointed, passed out of the
gateway and went on.

“Well, we’re a quarter better off,” laughed Harvey, untying his oil-skins
and stowing the coin away in a trousers’ pocket.

“Oh, hang the quarter!” exclaimed Tom Edwards, sleepily. “I’d give ten
dollars for a good night’s lodging, a bath and a shave—that is, if I had
the ten,” he added. “What shall we do, Jack?”

“I know,” replied Harvey, promptly. “I’ve seen a big old farmhouse, with
a lot of barns and hen-houses and cattle sheds and things, when we’ve
been lying off shore, and it looked mighty comfortable and home-like.
It’s down the shore a piece. Let’s go there. We won’t ask for lodgings,
though. We’ll get into one of the barns, and make ourselves comfortable.
They can’t find us until morning, anyway.”

“Go ahead. I’m with you,” said Tom Edwards.

Harvey led the way, across the open country, through a series of little
hills and hollows, to the eastward of where they had landed. Tom Edwards,
wearied and burdened with the weight of the cumbersome oil-skins,
followed doggedly, nearly falling asleep as he walked.

They came presently to the outskirts of a farm of some considerable size,
fenced in, and skirted with small trees and bushes. From the shelter of
these, they could look across some ploughed land, with the old stubble of
corn-stalks showing, to the farmhouse and out-buildings. There were, as
Harvey had noted, several of these.

“I wonder if there are any dogs,” muttered Harvey, as he surveyed the
prospect. “If there are, we’re done for—unless we have better luck than
we did before.”

He gave a low whistle, not to be audible far, but which might carry in
the still night air to the buildings. Then they waited anxiously. There
was no answering bark. They stole quickly across the open fields and came
within the shadow of one of the barns. There they paused again, listening
intently for any sound that might come from the house. The place was
silent, save for the stirring of some cattle within the barn.

This barn was one of the larger ones, evidently built for storing hay,
with a part of it used for cattle. It was nearest the farmhouse—only a
few rods distant. They made the round of three sides of it, keeping close
within the shadow of its walls, looking for a possible means of entrance.
To their disappointment, there were no windows large enough to admit of
the passage of even a boy—only some small ones, high up, that admitted
light and air for the cattle.

At the farther end, however, they discovered two doors; the larger one on
the ground floor, used for teams and farm wagons, and, high above that, a
smaller door that opened on to the second floor, used for hoisting in
hay. The smaller door they perceived to be slightly ajar—evidently
through the oversight of some farm hand.

Tom Edwards pointed to the door, half-heartedly.

“Isn’t that tantalizing?” he said. “Of course, it’s the door that’s out
of reach that’s open.”

“We’ll make it,” replied Harvey. “Whoever heard of a farm without a
ladder of some sort?”

They found one, after a cautious hunt, lying alongside another shed. In a
twinkling, they had raised it to the upper window, ascended, and were
inside.

There was absolutely no way of telling where they were, save that they
were in some sort of a hay-loft, with a window at the farther end,
through which the stars gave scarcely any light at all. They ventured to
strike one match, but it gave them only a transient, shadowy view of
their surroundings; and they dared not repeat the experiment amid the dry
hay.

There were cattle and perhaps other stock on the floor below, judging by
the sounds. There was hay scattered all about them, and a huge mow of it
on one side. There was a bucket filled with sand that Harvey discovered
by bumping his shins against it. A rope went up from this to the beam
above. Harvey knew the contrivance, for he had seen the like in barns at
home. The rope ran through a big block fastened to a beam overhead, and
passed down again from that pulley through a hole in the floor, to the
room below. There it connected, he knew, with a barred door, like a large
gate, that was used in summer nights, instead of the regular sliding
doors, to admit of a free supply of air into the barn. The rope connected
with it like a window cord, and the bucket of sand answered for the
weight. This much of their surroundings was apparent. All the rest was
hidden in darkness.

Tom Edwards unbuttoned his oil-skin coat, removed it, and dropped upon a
little pile of hay, using the coat to cover him.

“It’s gorgeous! Jack, my boy,” he exclaimed. “It beats any bed in the
Parker House in Boston. Turn in. There’s room for two, and not a cent to
pay. My, but I’m tired!”

“I’m with you,” answered Harvey, “but I’ll just close that door a bit
more. We haven’t got much bed-clothing.”

He stepped to the door and shut it almost tight. Then he started back,
for where Tom Edwards lay. It was dark, and he could not see his way. He
took a few steps, when something impelled him to stop abruptly. The next
moment he discovered he was at the top of a pair of stairs leading down
to the lower floor.

“Jimminy! Tom,” he cried softly, “I came near taking a flying trip that
time. Here’s a pair of stairs.”

He retraced his steps a little, and stumbled against a pitchfork, that
was leaning against the side of the barn.

“Tom,” he laughed, “where are you, anyway? This is the easiest place to
get lost in I ever saw.”

Before Tom Edwards had opportunity to reply, Harvey had taken a few more
steps in the darkness. Then Tom Edwards heard him utter a startled,
frightened, half-smothered cry. There was a queer, scraping sound, and a
heavy thud somewhere on the floor below.

Tom Edwards sprang to his feet, in alarm.

“Jack,” he cried, “what’s the matter? What’s happened?”

There was no answer. He groped his way across the floor.

“Jack,” he called again, anxiously, “where are you? What’s happened? Are
you hurt?”

He peered into the darkness, and listened. Then he heard the frightened
whinny of a horse, followed by a clatter of hoofs on the barn floor. Tom
Edwards made his way in the darkness to the top of the stairs.

“Jack, Jack,” he called.

To his inexpressible relief, the voice of Harvey came up to him; then the
vague figure of Harvey, himself, ascending the stairway. He was limping,
but taking two stairs at a jump.

Tom Edwards seized him by an arm as he arrived at the top.

“Good gracious, my boy, what happened?” he asked.

Harvey gasped.

“I’m more scared than hurt, I guess,” he said, panting for breath.
“Cracky! How I did go. Dropped down one of the chutes that they feed the
hay down into the stalls through. It was all over in a minute. I thought
I was going clear to China, and then I struck and landed in a manger.
Scared? You bet! But the horse in that stall was scared worse than I was.
He gave a snort and jumped to his feet, broke his halter and cleared out
of that stall quicker than scat. There he goes about the stable, making a
racket to wake the whole farm. I’ve done it, I expect. Say, Tom, we’ve
got to hide, and hide quick.”

“Where’ll we go—down the ladder and make a run for it?” asked Tom
Edwards.

“I can’t do it,” answered Harvey. “I’ve got a bad ankle. I know what.
Where’s that pitchfork?”

He groped his way cautiously to the side of the barn, and had the good
fortune to put his hand on the handle of the fork.

“Lie down there again, Tom,” he said. “I’ll heap the hay over you. Here,
take my coat, too. I’ll cover you, and then I’ll go up the rope. I can
climb, if I can’t run.”

Tom Edwards, confused by the sudden turn of affairs, obeyed instructions.
Harvey hurriedly pitched a quantity of the loose hay over the form of his
friend, pressed it down until Tom Edwards begged for mercy, vowing he
should smother, then tossed the pitchfork aside. Grasping the rope,
Harvey went rapidly up, hand-over-hand, until he could seize the beam. He
drew himself up, caught one leg over the beam and swung himself astride
of it. Then he stretched himself out at length upon the beam, holding to
the block for safety. It was an easy accomplishment for him. He had done
a similar feat in the gymnasium at home a hundred times; and the fear of
discovery now lent him strength which made little account of the extra
weight of clothing that encumbered him. It was dusty and uncomfortable on
the great beam, but he could stick.

Sometime after midnight, Henry Burns and young Joe Warren, asleep in that
corner room of the old Warren house that was nearest the big barn, awoke
suddenly. Of one accord, the two sat bolt upright in bed and wondered if
the house were tumbling down about their heads. Then they realized that
the noise was outside the house—a most extraordinary racket, as of a
stampede of cattle, or a horse galloping through a covered bridge at full
speed. They sprang out of bed and ran to the window.

Henry Burns laughed.

“It’s all right, Joey,” he said. “It isn’t an earthquake nor a cyclone. I
thought we were all going in a heap for a moment, though. It’s out in the
barn—one of the horses got loose, I guess.”

They heard sounds of stirring in the room opposite, and presently Edward
Warren called out to them.

“Don’t be scared, boys,” he said. “It’s old Billy, got loose, somehow.
Funny, too, I hitched him all right last night. What on earth is the
matter with him? He’s scared at something, sure. I reckon it isn’t
thieves, for they don’t steal horses around here. I’ll have a look pretty
quick, though. There’s something wrong.”

“Come on, Joe,” said Henry Burns. “Let’s see what’s the matter.”

But Young Joe was not eager. He yawned and returned to bed. Henry Burns
dressed and hurried out into the hall. A few moments later, Edward
Warren, carrying a lantern, and George and Arthur Warren and Henry Burns
made their way out of the back door and entered the barn at the door
facing the house.

As they threw open the sliding door and entered, with the lighted
lantern, the whinny of a horse greeted them. Then old Billy, recognizing
his master’s voice, came ambling up and thrust his nose into Edward
Warren’s hand.

Edward Warren gave an exclamation of surprise.

“That’s queer,” he said. “Look at that halter. If he hasn’t broken it
short off. I never knew him to do that before. What’s the matter,
Billy—had bad dreams?”

“You don’t think anybody has broken into the barn?” suggested George
Warren, peering into the dancing shadows cast by the lantern.

“Oh, no,” replied Edward Warren. “I never knew that to happen here. This
door was fastened, and so is the one at the farther end.” He held the
lantern aloft and threw the light across the barn. “That’s fastened up
tight,” he said.

“Come on, Billy,” continued Edward Warren, “I’ll hitch you up again.
Confound you, old scamp, what do you mean by acting this way?”

The horse, led by his master, followed quietly; but at the entrance to
the stall he stopped and danced about, trembling. It was with difficulty
that he was dragged to the manger and hitched up.

“That’s queer, sure enough,” said Edward Warren. “There’s something about
that manger he acts afraid of. I’ll just step up-stairs, pitch him down a
feed of hay, and quiet him.”

He took the lantern and ascended to the floor above, leaving the boys in
darkness.

Jack Harvey, stretched at length on the beam, heard the footsteps, with
alarm. Peering down, he caught the gleam of the lantern. He clung rigidly
on his perch, till every bone and muscle in his body seemed to be aching.
He saw the man hunt for his pitchfork, heard him remark impatiently when
he did not see it in its place against the wall; saw him pick it up from
another part of the loft, on the floor. Then, to his dismay, he saw the
man turn toward the pile of hay that he had thrown over Tom Edwards.

But the man stopped, gathered up a fork-full from the floor and thrust it
down the chute.

“That will be enough to quiet the old boy,” he muttered, and departed
down the stairs. Harvey felt a shiver of relief run through him.

“Lucky I closed that door,” he muttered. “If he’d gone to that and seen
the ladder, we’d have been done for.”

A few minutes later, the little party from the house had shut and locked
the barn door again and returned to their beds. Harvey, stiff in every
joint, managed to slide down the rope into the arms of Tom Edwards. A
moment more, and they were both snug in the hay, exhausted but thankful.

Sleep soon overtook them, and they rested till the morning light came in
through the window. Then they aroused and scurried down the ladder,
setting off on as brisk a run as Harvey could manage with his lame ankle,
across the fields to the woods, without stopping to remove the ladder.

“That was a close call, Tom,” gasped Harvey, as they rested a half hour
later. “Supposing they had caught us? We’d be in the town lock-up, like
as not.”

Later that morning, a group of boys stood with Edward Warren, gazing at
the ladder raised to the upper barn door.

“And only to think there was somebody in there all the time,” said Henry
Burns. “Too bad you didn’t catch them, Mr. Warren. What do you suppose
they wanted?”

“Tramps,” replied Edward Warren, “and old Billy didn’t like ’em.”

Christmas day came in warm and genial. It was a wonderful day for winter,
even in Maryland. The party went into the woods and fields in the
morning, and returned with game for Mammy Stevens to roast. The Christmas
dinner followed. Young Joe dragged himself from the dinner table, fairly
groaning with his cargo of good things. The others were hardly better
off. They stood together on the Warren verandah.

“Well, what shall it be?” inquired Edward Warren. “Anything you chaps
say, you know. Got enough gunning?”

They demurred.

“Couldn’t walk half a mile after that dinner,” said George Warren.

Even Henry Burns declared himself unequal to so much activity, though he
was ever the last to tire or balk at exertion, being slight and wiry and
surprisingly strong.

“How about a sail?” ventured Edward Warren.

To his surprise, a shout of approval answered him.

“Oh, I forgot you chaps were sailors,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d
venture it on a winter day. You sail up in your bay, summers, don’t you?”

“I should say we did,” answered George Warren. “Jack Harvey and Henry
here own a fine yacht together. Jack Harvey’s gone to Europe this winter.
And we fellows have a craft of our own, too. We keep them going lively in
summer. We’d just like to try that canoe of yours, Ed. Do you mean it?”

“Why, certainly,” said Edward Warren. “She’s all ready; nothing to do but
get sail on, and go. I keep her moored in the cove, to run over to Drum
Point occasionally in, and to Solomon’s Island. It’s a fine afternoon for
a sail, if you get some oil-skins on. They keep the cold wind out.”

Edward Warren had made the proposal half in fun; but the opportunity for
a sail on a Christmas day such as this was not to be lost by the Warren
brothers and Henry Burns, who were, indeed, enthusiastic yachtsmen. The
novelty of a sail in winter, too, appealed to them. They lost no time in
equipping themselves with oil-skins and heavy jackets, provided by Edward
Warren, and soon the entire party was down by the shore.

“She’s no fancy yacht,” said Edward Warren, pointing to the canoe drawn
in to the bank and moored with a line carried up and hitched to a tree,
“but she can go some. She’s won many a touch-and-go race up and down this
river with different fleets of tong-men, if she hasn’t got any silver
cups to show for it.”

The canoe, a craft of about twenty feet in length and narrow, after the
type of canoe common to Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, and carrying two
leg-o’-mutton sails and a jib, was not exactly a handsome boat, to be
sure. It was built of planking and finished up rather roughly, for use in
oystering; but it had, for all that, lines that denoted speed, and the
boys were eager to be off in it. They scrambled aboard, got up sails on
the slender, raking masts, and, with Edward Warren at the tiller, darted
across the river.

It was remarkable, in the eyes of the youths accustomed to a type of
craft altogether different, how the narrow, crank looking canoe stood up
so stiffly, withstood the wind flaws and sailed so well. Some tongmen
came down the river presently, and Edward Warren joined their little
fleet, stood along with them, and drew ahead of them all. It was evident,
as he had said, that he had a fast canoe.

“How would she behave out in the bay?” asked Henry Burns.

“Fine as a ship,” answered Edward Warren. “The men around here cross the
bay in them in pretty rough weather. We’ll go out and take a few seas,
and let you see how cleverly she rides.”

They headed out toward the mouth of the river, passed beyond the
lighthouse, into the open waters of the bay. It was not rough, but there
was some sea running. The canoe weathered it all surprisingly. They
followed up the shore of the bay for a mile or two.

Time passed quickly, and it was late in the afternoon when they left the
light on their starboard hand in running back again. Edward Warren looked
at his crew and laughed.

“You stood it well,” he said. “But you’re a frozen looking lot, for all
that. Winter’s a chilly time for yachting, at its best. I tell you what
we’ll do. Do you see that house up on the hill? My old friend, Will
Adams, lives there all alone. He’ll be pleased enough to see us. We’ll
just stand in and land and make him a call, get some coffee and thaw out
by his fire before we run home.”

He turned the canoe in and ran up to a little landing not far from the
Drum Point lighthouse; they disembarked and walked briskly up the hill. A
young man of about thirty, standing in the doorway of the big house they
were approaching, hailed them as they drew near.

“Hello, Ed,” he called cheerily, “I saw you out on the river. Got a crew
with you, eh? Pretty cold yachting for a raw crew, isn’t it? Come in, I’m
glad to see you. There’s a good fire going. Cousins, you say, and Henry
Burns—all from Maine. I’m glad to meet you all. Take off your duds.
You’ll stay to supper with me, you know. It’s a dull life I lead here,
and I’m glad to have company.”

There was no doubt of the heartiness and sincerity of his welcome. There
was cordiality in his voice, and a genial smile on his face. He was a
large, powerfully built man, hearty and free in all his actions and
words. The boys threw off their outer garments, and gathered about the
open fire in the sitting-room.

Edward Warren was for getting home before dark, but Will Adams wouldn’t
hear of it. He started the two servants on an early supper, and his
guests sat down to table with him, an hour later, enjoying the best that
his house afforded.

“I don’t have much company, nowadays,” he explained, as he sat offering
them his hospitality in the cheery dining-room. “I lead rather a lonely
life, in fact. About the only strangers that come to my door are a few
poor fellows from off the dredgers—got clear by hook or crook, and coming
begging, rousing me up at all hours of the night, asking a night’s
shelter or a dollar to get up the bay with.”

Henry Burns listened eagerly.

“Are there many that get away when they’re beaten?” he asked.

Will Adams paused a moment, while his face darkened.

“There’s some that get away,” he answered, “who never come farther ashore
than just beyond the reach of the tide. Down on that shore yonder there’s
eight of the poor chaps buried. They were washed ashore, and we found
them. Some of them had the marks that showed they had been knocked
overboard—beaten—abused shamefully. That’s the way some of them escape.

“Others do get away, with never a cent in their pockets, half starved and
half clad. I help a few of them along.

“Sometimes in the still summer nights, I hear a man crying for mercy out
aboard a dredger. I know what’s happening to him—tied up to the mast and
getting a lashing. Sometimes an entire vessel’s crew is beaten up, by the
captains and mates of four or five vessels that work together. Hard life?
Well, it’s about the hardest I know of.

“You wouldn’t think a man would swim ashore on a winter night, half a
mile or more, in water you could hardly bear your hand in? Well, I’ve
known them to do that. Had one come the other night. He was nearly dead
when he got here—say, that was the queerest of all. He brought a note
ashore, in his cap, and lost the cap down by the shore; and I had to go
out with a lantern and find the cap for him, to keep him from going back,
half dead as he was. I’m going to give that note to the authorities. I’ll
show it to you, if you’ve any curiosity.”

Will Adams arose and went to a desk, took therefrom a sheet of paper on
which he had pasted three other torn pieces, and handed it to Edward
Warren. The latter took it, ran his eye over it hastily, then sat up and
read it again slowly.

“Well, that’s queer,” he exclaimed. “What does that say? ‘Send word to
Benton,’—Benton! Why, that’s where these youngsters come from. What is
this—a joke? Look at that, Henry. Come around here, George. It’s a joke,
or it’s the oddest thing that ever happened.”

Henry Burns took the sheet and deciphered the message. He held it for a
moment, as though he could not believe what he read. Then he handed it to
George Warren and said, calmly and deliberately, “It’s from Jack Harvey,
George. He hasn’t gone to Europe. He’s out on that man Haley’s dredger.”

One unacquainted with Henry Burns might have thought, by his voice and
his deliberation, that he was strangely unmoved at his astounding
discovery. George Warren, who had known him for years, knew by that same
unusual deliberation, by the set look of his face, and by his eyes, that
something extraordinary had aroused him.

George Warren gave one glance at the paper, and uttered a cry that rang
through the rooms:—

“Jack Harvey! Carried off on a dredger, Arthur. What do you think of
that? Why, he’s our friend, Mr. Adams. He’s from Benton, where we live.
We’ve got to hunt for him? What’ll we do?”

“Haley, Haley,” repeated Edward Warren, “where have I seen him? Why, of
course, that fellow that came for the potatoes. You fellows remember him.
His vessel was off shore. Will, I think we can get that fellow to-night.
What do you say?”

“No, you can’t—not to-night,” said Henry Burns, in a tone of deep
disappointment; “I saw him get under weigh from Solomon’s Island just as
we came back into the river, not more than two hours ago. He’s gone down
the bay somewhere. I know the craft. I took notice of it this morning, on
account of that trouble at the house the night before, when Joe ran into
him.”

“George,” he added, “don’t things happen queer, though? Jack out aboard a
dredger—and we close by, all the time he’s been off there. And we thought
he was in Europe! And to think that he’s been trapped by the very man we
fell in with—that brute, Haley.”

Henry Burns turned to Edward Warren and Will Adams. “What can you do?” he
asked. “We’ve got to get Jack off quick. How are we going to do it?”

“Well, sit down here,” answered Will Adams. “We’ll talk it over.”



                              CHAPTER XIV
                        HARVEY MEETS WITH A LOSS


Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards had made good their escape—escape from their
own friends. Alas, they knew not how near they had been to the end of all
their troubles. As it was, now that they were out of sight and sound of
the farmhouse, the whole adventure seemed amusing. Harvey leaned against
a tree and roared with laughter.

“You’re a sight!” he exclaimed to his companion. “I’d like to see you
walk into a store now and try to sell a man some goods. Oh, but I’m
winded. How we did scoot.”

Tom Edwards was, indeed, nearly used up, from the dash across the fields.
His shabby garments were covered with wisps of hay and straw; his very
hair was filled with it. His face was stained with the dust of the
hay-mow and the exertion of running. Altogether, he looked not unlike
some huge fowl, half plucked, with short feathers sticking out here and
there. His shoes, much worn and breaking through, were miry with the soil
of the corn field. He looked himself over, as Harvey spoke, and a grim
smile overspread his face.

“I nearly died under all that hay,” he said. “And when that chap came
into the mow and walked toward me, I had to hold in with might and main
to keep from letting out the biggest yell I ever gave in my life. I
expected that pitchfork to go into my leg every minute. If it had,
there’d have been one scared farmer in Maryland, I tell you.”

Harvey roared again. Then his face grew serious.

“Poor old Tom!” he exclaimed. “You’ve had the hardest time of it right
along. I thought, one time, you wouldn’t stand the winter at the dredges.
Well, we’re through now, though. Lucky I saved that money. We’ll get down
to the shore, and find out about the boat. Then, hooray for Baltimore!”

“And after Haley!” added Tom Edwards, emphatically. “I’m going to put him
where he belongs.”

“And I’m going to put this where it belongs,” remarked Harvey, drawing
forth a biscuit, from his pocket. “I’m hungry enough to eat some of that
hay, back in the barn. Here’s a piece of corn bread, too. It’s good, if
George Haley did cook it. It wasn’t meant for the crew, that’s why.”

Tom Edwards producing other of the food taken from the Brandt, they made
a breakfast in the open, without stopping to build a fire; and they
quenched their thirst from the water of a little stream that trickled
down through the wood.

“This will do well enough for now,” said Tom Edwards, as he bolted a
piece of biscuit, hungrily; “but just you wait till we get into
civilization once more, Jack, old fellow. I’m going to take you to Boston
with me, and we’ll go to the best hotel there, and I’ll order a big
sirloin steak as thick as your two hands, and we’ll sit and eat till we
choke.”

“Hooray!” mumbled Harvey, biting into a piece of corn bread; “isn’t it
good to be free?”

When they had eaten, they started back into the country, on a long détour
to avoid the farmhouse, to make their way to the shore in the
neighbourhood of the steamboat landing. They walked across a somewhat
uneven country, broken here and there by little streams that flowed down
into the creeks that cut into the shore line. Some of these were frozen
so as to bear their weight; others had open water, so they were forced to
walk some distance in order to find a crossing place. Once they ascended
a hill of perhaps a hundred feet, from which they could see the
surrounding country and the river, plainly.

There were several smaller hills lying to the eastward of this, between
one of which a stream of some considerable size ran down into a large
creek above Millstone landing. They could see the farmhouse from this
hill; and, with the coming in of the morning, they saw a sight that
thrilled them—that made them burn with exultation—the bug-eye Brandt,
making sail and going across the harbour to Solomon’s Island. They
watched the craft with satisfaction for a long time. Then they slowly
descended the hill in the direction of the landing.

Crossing more uneven country, Harvey and Tom Edwards came finally into a
road that trended down toward the shore. They followed that for about
three quarters of a mile, till another road crossed it at right angles.
At this point, they espied, coming down the road that intersected the one
they were on, a man, carrying a gunny sack over one shoulder. They
halted, and waited for him to come up.

The man was ill favoured, roughly dressed, stooping and almost stealthy
in his gait, looking about him from side to side. As he approached, he
eyed them slyly out of the corners of a pair of sharp, black eyes,
turning his head and giving them no direct glance. He would have passed
them without speaking, but Tom Edwards hailed him.

“Can you tell us what time the boat will go up the river to-day, sir?” he
asked.

The man stopped, lowered his sack to the ground, and stood, darting
glances at them, without replying for a moment. Then he answered, curtly,
“’Twon’t go up at all to-day.”

Tom Edwards and Harvey looked at each other, with keenest disappointment
on their faces.

“When will it go up?” continued Tom Edwards.

“Day after to-morrow—it will, if the weather’s right. If it isn’t, it
won’t. Where d’yer want to go?”

“We want to go to Baltimore,” replied Tom Edwards; and added, by way of
explanation, “we’ve come ashore from a vessel.”

“Hmph!” ejaculated the stranger. “Reckon you’ll stay right here to-day.”
He eyed them shrewdly for a moment, in silence. Then he said, “Off a
vessel, eh? You ain’t flush with money, then. Couldn’t pay for a night’s
lodging, I suppose.”

“Yes, we can,” answered Harvey, promptly. “We haven’t got much money, but
we can pay for that, and for a dinner, too. Do you know where we can get
it?”

The man’s appearance bespoke poor hospitality that he might have to
offer; but they had met with ill success, in seeking shelter, and
anything would be better than a night in the fields.

“Hm! What might you be willing to pay for keeping you over a night, with
meals?” inquired the man, casting doubtful glances at their shabby,
mud-stained clothing.

Harvey looked at Tom Edwards. The latter made answer.

“We’ll give you a dollar for dinner, supper, night’s lodging and a
breakfast to-morrow,” he said. “Then we’ll see about what we’ll do.”

The man’s eyes twinkled shrewdly.

“Make it two, and it’s a bargain,” he said.

“All right,” said Harvey.

“Well, I’m going down to the shore,” said the man, “and I’ll be back this
way. You can come along, or wait for me here. I won’t be gone long.”

“We’ll wait for you,” replied Tom Edwards.

The man shambled off down the road toward the landing.

“It doesn’t look very inviting,” said Tom Edwards, as their new-found
host went on his way, “but we’ve got to take what we can get. We’ll make
up for it when we get to Baltimore.”

The man’s promise to be back soon was not fulfilled, for it was more than
an hour before they saw him returning. He was burdened, however, with the
weight of the sack, which he had evidently been to the warehouse to fill.
He set it down as he came up to them, and Harvey offered to carry it a
way for him—an offer which was accepted promptly.

“I’m not so spry as I used to be,” he remarked; “and you’re young and
rugged.”

He started up along the road he had first come, and the two followed,
Harvey carrying the sack, which proved to be filled with potatoes. They
proceeded for about half a mile, when Harvey, wearied with his load,
inquired how much farther they had to go.

“Oh, just a leetle piece,” responded the man, cheerfully. He did not
offer to relieve Harvey of the sack, however. The “leetle piece” proved
to be fully a half mile more, when the man turned from the road and
followed a wheel track through the fields. They proceeded along that for
about a quarter of a mile.

“I guess I’ll stop and rest for a minute,” said Harvey presently. “This
sack is pretty heavy.”

“Sho!” exclaimed the man. “You’ve been carrying it a long way, haven’t
you? I’ll take it the rest of the way.”

He gave a grin, as he spoke, the reason for which was soon apparent. They
had gone on for only a rod or two more when they espied, in a clump of
trees, a dingy, weather-beaten house. It was of one story in height,
leaning over at an angle that threatened its complete collapse at no
distant day. The hearts of Tom Edwards and Jack Harvey sank. It was not a
pleasant prospect for Christmas.

Throwing open the door, the man invited them to enter. They found
themselves within a shabby room, bare of furnishing, save a wooden table,
some chairs, strengthened with pieces of board, and a horse hair sofa in
one corner, the springs of which had broken through and were touching the
floor.

“You’re welcome, misters,” said the man, “to such as it is. It ain’t
nothing to boast of, but it’s a sight better than some dredgers I’ve
seen. Had breakfast?”

Harvey nodded. The place left him little appetite.

It was some time before the man spoke again. He seemed to be considering
something. Then he said, somewhat hesitatingly, “Misters, I know as how
you are all right, by the looks of you—sailors, eh, but not such as would
take advantage of a poor man. But bein’ as you are strangers, why it will
have to be pay in advance—and no offence intended. Besides, I don’t keep
much on hand, as I live alone; and I’ll have to go along up the road a
piece, and buy a bit of meat.”

Harvey was prepared for it. In the absence of the man on his errand to
the warehouse, he had carefully withdrawn four one dollar bills from the
money pinned into his clothing, and now he had the two dollars ready. He
handed them over.

The man snatched the money greedily, while his eyes twinkled. He took
down his slouch hat from a peg, and prepared to be off again.

“Will you make yourselves at home, misters,” he said, more deferentially
than before. “I’ll be after a bit of meat for dinner. The old house isn’t
much to look at, but it don’t leak rain, and it’s warm. You keep the fire
going, and I’ll promise you’ll have a dinner that beats dredgin’ grub by
a long sight.”

He went out and left them alone. They sat for a moment in silence. Then
Harvey laughed, as he surveyed the dingy room.

“Merry Christmas! Tom,” he said.

It was Tom Edwards’s turn to smile now.

“The same to you, Jack, old boy,” he exclaimed, heartily. “I guess the
old cove is right, after all. It does beat Haley’s dredger—but not by
such a big margin.”

They explored the ramshackle house, together. There was a room opening
off the one they were in, a sleeping room, with a rough cot in it that
might accommodate two, on a pinch. A wood-shed led off from the first
room, also. That was the extent of the cabin. They returned to the living
room, which, with a small cook-stove set up in it, answered for
dining-room, parlour, and kitchen in one. They replenished the fire-pot
with wood, from a box, and stretched themselves out at length on the
floor beside the fire. The room was at least warm, and they were still
weary from lack of sleep.

The hours passed, and it was near noon when they heard the returning
footsteps of their host. He came in and busied himself with preparations
for dinner, setting out a coffee pot on top of the stove and cutting some
strips of bacon to fry in a pan. He took from a closet a few cold boiled
potatoes, and sliced these into the pan, with the bacon.

That was their Christmas dinner; but they were hungry, and ate heartily.
Toward the end of the meal, their host eyed them slyly, but critically.
He noted their clothing, their shoes, even the wisps of hay still
clinging to their hair. He arose and pretended to be busy about the fire,
but cast sidelong glances at them.

“I heard that there were tramps got into Warren’s barn, over yonder, last
night,” he said, in a matter-of-fact tone. “We don’t have much of that
around here. Neighbour Darrell says Warren would give a dollar, and
perhaps more, to catch them. But I says, ‘Probably the poor fellows
didn’t have nowheres else to go, and I wouldn’t tell on ’em, if I knew
where they were.’”

Again the man stole a stealthy glance at his guests.

“I wouldn’t take money for that,” he added, “though I reckon it would be
worth a dollar to the chaps, themselves, to keep out of the lock-up.”

Harvey, and Tom Edwards exchanged significant glances. It was only too
clear what their host was driving at. But Harvey waited for some time
before he yielded. It was half an hour later, when they had finished
dinner and were sitting by the fire, that he met the sly demand.

“Look here,” he said, suddenly, as though the thought had just struck
him, “you’re giving us the best you can, and we haven’t paid you enough.
Here’s another dollar. I’d give more than that, if we could afford it.”

He held out the dollar. The man took it, eyed it avariciously and stuffed
it into a pocket.

“I wouldn’t take it if I wasn’t as poor as poverty,” he said.

Late that afternoon, he took down his hat and said he would go “up the
road” again, and be back shortly. They watched him till he was out of
sight. Then Tom Edwards turned to Harvey, his face clouded with anger.

“Jack,” he said, “we’ve got to get out of here, and now’s our chance. I
wouldn’t trust that old rascal another minute. He may be lying about the
lock-up he spoke of—I don’t believe there’s one for miles around. But
he’d sell us to the first captain that came along. What do you think?”

Jack Harvey nodded, wearily.

“You’re right,” he said. “It’s a beastly shame, though. I want a night’s
sleep. But we can’t get away from here any too soon, I’m thinking. Come
on. Let’s bolt.”

They started off, running along the wheel track, and thence down the road
they had come before. It was already growing dark, and their hearts sank,
as they hurried on, wondering anxiously where they should spend the
night.

They followed the road down to the landing, because they knew not where
else to go. They came finally to the wharf, with its warehouse at the
farther end. This was shut fast, and no sign of life about it. They sat
down for a moment, to rest.

“Well?” queried Harvey, “what do you think?”

“Try another farmhouse?” suggested Tom Edwards.

“I’m scared to do it,” replied Harvey. “There’s an old barn, or factory
of some sort over yonder, however, that looks deserted. Anything will do
for a night. Let’s go and see.”

They made their way over to the eastward of the wharf, for a distance of
several rods, and came up to an old canning factory, which had been some
time out of use and was closed. They forced the shutter of a window and
entered, finding themselves almost in darkness.

What sort of a place they were in, what it consisted of, and whatever
accommodations it might afford them for a night’s lodging, they had no
means of finding out. They had only a few matches, and these would serve
them but little. They feared to wander about, lest some rotten timbers
should let them through to the cellar, or whatever might be beneath. The
single match they lighted sufficed to show them all they needed.

The little patch of light fell upon a litter of old straw, as though from
packing boxes of some sort. Tired and sleepy, they crept into this,
devoured the remaining biscuits they had in their pockets from the
Brandt’s cabin, and fell sound asleep.

Both awoke shivering, the following morning, for there had been scant
covering to their bed, and the building was cold. They hastened out into
the sunshine, going around to the southern exposure of the cannery, where
the warmth was greatest. Again, Harvey took the precaution of dividing
the money in his small and very private bank, drawing on the account
pinned to his undershirt, for three dollars, leaving fourteen thus
secured.

He had hardly accomplished this transfer when they heard voices, and
three men came past the corner of the old cannery, going off to the right
in the direction of a great creek. Harvey halted them, with a call, and
they turned in surprise. They were negroes, and evidently oystermen of
some sort.

“Hello, what be you two doing here?” inquired one of them, who seemed by
his manner to be the leader of the three.

“We want to get to Baltimore,” replied Harvey.

The man shook his head.

“Boat don’t go to-day,” he said.

“We want something to eat,” said Tom Edwards. “You fellows got anything
to sell?”

“Mebbe a little bread, and sure enough some oysters,” answered the man.
“They’s down ’board the boat, though. You’ll have to come and get ’em.”

The three negroes started on again, Tom Edwards and Harvey following. The
three apparently paid no more attention to Harvey and his companion—at
least, they did not arouse the suspicion of the two. Nevertheless, one by
one, as they walked along, the three turned and looked the strangers
over. Then they conversed together, softly, but with more than ordinary
interest.

Arrived at the creek, there appeared a great canoe drawn up to shore,
with perhaps a bushel of oysters lying in a heap in the bottom. It was a
canoe of unusual size, at least twenty-four feet long, and broad of beam.
The man who had spoken handed over to Tom Edwards half a loaf of bread,
while another of the men began shucking some of the oysters. He passed
these to them, and they devoured them hungrily.

“You want to go to Baltimore right away?” asked the negro, suddenly,
turning to Tom Edwards.

“Quick as we can get there.”

“Jim,” said the man, addressing one of his companions, “what time this
afternoon does that Potomac river steamer get ’round to Otter Point?”

“About five o’clock,” answered the man promptly.

“You know Otter Point?” asked the first man, of Tom Edwards.

The latter shook his head.

“I know,” said Harvey. “It’s a long way down.”

“’Bout eighteen miles,” said the negro. “Good offshore wind this fo’noon;
take you down in ’bout three hours, you catch the afternoon steamer, get
you into Baltimore to-morrow mo’ning.”

“How much will you charge?”

“Guess it’s worth ’bout a dollar.”

“What do you say, Tom?” asked Harvey.

“I say, let’s go,” answered Tom Edwards.

“All right,” said Harvey. “When will you start?”

“Jes’ as soon as you get aboard,” replied the negro.

Harvey handed a dollar to the man, and they stepped into the canoe. The
men shoved off, the sails were set and the canoe glided out of the creek,
through a narrow opening, into the bay. There was a smart breeze coming
up, off the land; and the canoe, with the wind about abeam, headed down
along shore. It was fast, and they made good time. Some three hours
later, at about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, they ran between two
points of land, into a creek that spread out broadly for over a mile in
width, and extended northward for some three miles.

They ran for something like a mile northwesterly, and turned into one of
the numberless coves, to where a small cabin stood, a little way back
from shore. The country round about was desolate. There was not another
sign of habitation in sight.

They went up to the cabin, with the three negroes, and entered. It was a
mere fisherman’s shack, with some bunks on two sides, filled with hay for
bedding. A cook stove warmed it. There was a table in the middle of the
floor, with some empty boxes to serve as seats.

Despite the barrenness of it, however, Harvey and Tom Edwards made a good
dinner, about two hours later, of fried fish and bread and hot coffee.

They were in good spirits, when they stood, at a quarter to five that
afternoon, at Otter Point, awaiting the steamer.

But there was no wharf there—nothing but a rude framework of poles, at
which a small boat might moor.

Harvey turned to their one companion, in surprise.

“A steamer can’t land here,” he exclaimed.

The leader of the three negroes, who had accompanied them from the cabin,
answered, with assurance.

“The landing was over yonder,” he said. “It was carried away, and they
just puts folks ashore and takes them on here. We has to send a boat
off.” He took out a pipe and began smoking stolidly.

Five o’clock came—and six—and there was no steamer. Night had settled
down. The negro answered their questions by asserting that “something
mus’ have hap’nd; that boat was always on time befo’.”

They waited a little while longer, with fast dying hopes. It was all
guesswork to them. They could not know that, at six o’clock in the
evening, by its schedule, the Potomac river steamer bound for Baltimore
was twenty miles back on its course, coming out of St. Mary River, into
the Potomac; that it never did stop at the creek where they were
anxiously waiting, and that it would go by sometime in the night. At
half-past six o’clock they gave it up and rowed back with the negro, in a
skiff, to the cabin.

“Jack,” said Tom Edwards, as they turned in for the night, in bunks, one
above the other, “I’m afraid they’ve played a trick on us, though I don’t
know what for. I don’t like the looks of this place.”

“Nor I,” said Harvey. “I’m going to keep awake for an hour or two, and
watch. I’ve got Haley’s revolver.” He took it from his pocket and hid it
in the straw under his head. “We’ll be ready for them, anyway,” he
muttered.

But they had reckoned without their weariness. In less than an hour, they
were both fast asleep.

Nothing evil befell throughout the night, however. The morning found them
undisturbed. The negroes were stirring, and the odour of cooking brought
them to their feet, hungry and refreshed.

That day seemed endless. There would be no boat up river until
to-morrow, they were now assured. They could only wait. They were
suspicious—alarmed. The place was so out of the way, and so dreary. But
they decided to wait the one more day, and then, if no boat came, to
strike off across country for themselves.

Harvey slept soundly that next night, for several hours. Then
something—he knew not what—roused him. He stirred sleepily, half awoke
and turned in his bunk. A figure stole away from him, in the darkness,
toward the door. It is probable that Harvey would have relapsed into
sound slumber once more had he not felt cold. He awoke, shivering, and
felt a draft of cold night air blowing in on him. Then he saw a patch of
moonlight streaming in through the half-opened door.

Harvey, fully dressed, as he had turned in, rolled out of the bunk and
stepped to the door. Some distance away, two men were going down to the
shore. The next thing he saw sent the blood leaping through his veins.
Out in the creek, the moonlight was reflected on the sail of a bug-eye.
It was rounding to, coming up into the wind. Harvey darted back into the
cabin and awoke Tom Edwards, shaking him vigorously.

“Tom, get up, quick!” he said; and dragged him from where he lay.

“There’s a vessel coming in, Tom,” he cried, “and the men from here are
going down to meet it. They’re after us—that’s what. Tom, we’ll be sold
again to a dredger if we don’t get out of here. That’s what they got us
down for.”

They had, fortunately, no clothing to put on, for they had turned in
dressed, even to their shoes. They waited only for a moment, snatching up
some pieces of dry bread that remained on the table from the supper. Then
they hurried out of the door.

They were not a moment too soon. Perhaps the third man had been about the
cabin somewhere and had given the alarm. As they stepped outside, the
three negroes came plainly into sight, in the moonlight, armed with short
poles which they brandished as clubs, running back toward them and crying
out for them to halt.

There was a sharp surprise for the three, however. Tom Edwards, made
desperate by the crisis, had drawn a fish knife that he had taken from
the cabin of the Brandt; Jack Harvey stood coolly in his tracks, holding
Haley’s revolver.

“Stand back there, or I’ll shoot,” he cried.

The negroes stopped short and stood, holding their clubs in hand. They
were clearly taken all by surprise. The leader, balked of his prize money
for two able-bodied men for the dredger, was not to be beaten, off-hand,
however. His eyes flashed with anger, as he advanced a step.

“That thing isn’t loaded,” he asserted. “You can’t fool us. It won’t
shoot.”

“Won’t it?” said Harvey. “Let’s see.” He raised the weapon, aiming it
over the man’s head, and pulled the trigger. The report of the weapon
sounded afar in the still night air, ringing out across the water. The
man sprang back, in terror, and, the next moment, the three started
running for the shore toward the vessel.

“Tom,” cried Jack Harvey, “get your wind for a run now. We’ve got to get
out of here before they bring the captain and mate and his men after us.
We’ll have to run and trust to luck.”

They started off across country, away from the shore, as hard as they
could run. The moonlight, fortunately, showed them the ground over which
they ran—though they knew not whither they were travelling.

All that night they proceeded, coming to a road, after a time, that went
northward. They followed along that. Not until daybreak did they pause to
rest.

Poor Tom Edwards was groaning, and gasping like a fish out of water.

“The luck’s against us, Jack, old boy,” he murmured. “Here we are, twenty
miles worse off than we were before—and, only to think, that other boat
goes up to-morrow from Millstone, and we won’t be there in time.”

“Never mind,” said Jack Harvey, stout-heartedly, “we’ll get out of it
some way. We’ll follow the road, and we won’t starve. I’ve got the money
to pay for food along the way.”

He thrust his hand under his waistcoat, as he spoke—and uttered a cry as
he did so.

“Tom,” he shouted, “I haven’t got the money. I’ve been robbed! It’s
gone!”

He felt through his clothing, feverishly. He drew forth from one pocket a
single dollar bill and a small amount of change. It was all he had left.
The money that had been pinned to his clothing had been taken, pin and
all, while he slept. The dollar left to him had been in the trousers
pocket, protected by his body.

They were too poor now to pay their fare up the river. They were worse
off than before against the cold or any storm that might arise; for they
had left their oil-skins back in the cabin, in their flight.



                               CHAPTER XV
                         HENRY BURNS IN TROUBLE


Will Adams, stirring the coals in the fireplace of his cheery
dining-room, added two sticks of oak to the blaze, resumed his seat and
addressed his guests.

“I’ve been wishing for years,” he said, “that I could have a chance to
catch one of these dredging pirates that misuse their men so. Why, I’ve
lain in bed on summer nights and heard those poor fellows out aboard
begging for mercy—and I couldn’t do anything to help them. It’s hard to
catch a captain in the act of beating a man, and they have all kinds of
tricks to escape; the worst ones stand together and help one another out.
But we’ll get this man, Haley, because he comes into the river, you say.
I don’t remember him, at all, but I think I know the boat, as you
describe it.”

“We’ll get a warrant for him, the first thing,” said Edward Warren.

“Well, that’s what we’ll have to depend on,” replied Will Adams; “but
that’s a slow process, and we may be able to do better, in the meantime,
ourselves. We want to get young Harvey, right off, before he has any more
of Haley’s rough handling.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Ed. You take the boat, day after to-morrow,
for Baltimore, swear out the warrant, and get back here as quick as ever
you can. That will start the authorities after the fellow. But I warn
you, they’re rather slow. They’ll have to put a steamer on Haley’s trail,
to make sure.

“You see, news has a way of leaking out up in Baltimore. I don’t know how
they do it—politics, I suppose. But as soon as a warrant is out, somebody
gets word of it on the water-front and then the news travels down the bay
like wildfire. One captain passes it along to another. Why, the chances
are, Haley might have young Harvey out of the way aboard some other
craft, or set ashore down in the Eastern shore swamps, before any police
captain came up with him.

“That’s why I say I hope we can get the boy off, ourselves, in the
meantime. Now I’ve got a sloop up in the creek back of Solomon’s Island,
that I can fit out and have ready by to-morrow afternoon. She’s a good
one, too, is the old Mollie. She’s fast, and she can go across the bay in
anything that ever blew; thirty-seven feet long; a good, roomy cabin that
will sleep six of us easy, and seven on a pinch, by making up some beds
on the cabin floor. She’ll carry sail, too, and if it comes to a brush
between us and Haley’s craft, why the Mollie will show up surprisingly.
He’d have hard work to give us the slip, altogether, unless night came
on.

“Yes, sir,” exclaimed Will Adams, arising and squaring his broad
shoulders, “we’ll fit out the Mollie like a regular sloop-of-war. I’ve
got three shot-guns and any number of revolvers, and you’ve got a good
rifle, Ed. Why, we could show enough force to capture a Malay pirate, let
alone Haley. We may get him easier than that, right here in the river—and
then again we may not. We’ll be ready for anything. What do you say?”

“Well,” said Edward Warren, “I’m for capturing the man wherever he shows
himself, if we can; but I’m not so sure that I ought to let these
youngsters run the risk of getting into a fight like that.”

Will Adams smiled.

“Perhaps I put it a little bit strong,” he said. “I don’t really think
there would be very much fight about it. Haley is a coward, I’ll venture
to say, if it comes to a pinch. Most bull-dozing men like that are. We
won’t give him a chance to fight, if we can help it; just take him of a
sudden, and he’ll give up.”

“Don’t you worry about us, Cousin Ed,” said George Warren. “We are old
enough to take care of ourselves. We don’t mind running some risk, if we
can only get Jack out of his scrape.”

“Well,” replied Edward Warren, “you fit up the Mollie, Will, and wait
till I get back from Baltimore before you start off anywhere. Then we’ll
see.”

“I wish we could start to-night,” said Henry Burns.

It was surprising, the change that had come over this usually coolest and
most deliberate of the boys. He and Jack Harvey had not always been
friends; but now that circumstances had brought them together, and they
had cemented their friendship by a summer together and a partnership in a
fishing enterprise, they were loyal comrades. Henry Burns would have set
out on the moment, for Solomon’s Island and the sloop Mollie, and have
worked all night to get her ready, if Will Adams had only said the word.

But there was, plainly, nothing to be done until morning; and so, with a
hearty handshake all round, the boys and Edward Warren left the big house
on Drum Point and headed homeward across the river in the canoe.

There was no time lost, on the following morning, however. They were up
and across the river at an early hour; and, taking Will Adams into the
canoe, they all went along by the shore into the creek where the Mollie
lay at her mooring. She was stripped of her sails and some of her
rigging, out of commission for the winter season.

The young yachtsmen recognized her for what she was, a smart sea boat;
and they went to work with a will to assist in getting her ready for
cruising. From a loft on Solomon’s Island they carried down the big
main-sail and the jibs and a single topsail. They lugged the big
anchor-rode and two anchors, including a spare one, carried for
emergency, down to the shore, and rowed the stuff out aboard. They
assisted in bending on the sails; lacing them to boom and gaff; in
reeving rigging; splicing a rope here and there; trying the pump and
putting on a fresh leather to the sucker rod; greasing the foot of the
mast, where the hoops chafed; putting aboard water jugs and spare
rigging—in short, the score and more things that went to make the craft
fit and safe for winter cruising.

By early afternoon, the sloop, Mollie, was spick and clean and
ship-shape, with a brand new main-sheet and topping-lift, that would
stand a winter’s squall; her ballast stowed in, as some of it had been
taken ashore. Everything was in readiness for the cruise, even to the
starboard and port lights, for use at night, and some charts of the bay
provided by Will Adams. They locked the cabin, and went back in the
canoe, first to Will Adams’s landing and then across to the other shore.
George Warren held the tiller, in the absence of Edward Warren, who had
remained at home, preparing for his trip to Baltimore the following
morning.

Through all that afternoon and until darkness settled over the river,
there was not a half hour that did not find Henry Burns either at a
window or out in the dooryard, gazing off through Edward Warren’s
spy-glass. He looked longingly for the sight of a craft, the image of
which, with its exact lines and the cut of its sails, was clear and
distinct in his mind.

George Warren pointed out at him, once, and called Edward Warren to look.

“He’s all cut up about poor Jack,” he said. “I never saw him so worked up
about anything. You’d better hurry back from Baltimore, Cousin Ed, or
he’ll be sailing off alone in the Mollie after Haley’s bug-eye.”

Edward Warren laughed.

“I’ll risk that,” he said. “Don’t you boys worry; we’ll get Haley, all
right. We’ll have young Harvey ashore here before many days, or I miss my
guess.”

That very afternoon, the bug-eye, Z. B. Brandt, was coming slowly up the
coast, heading for Cedar Point, the lighthouse on which marked the
turning-point for vessels bound into the Patuxent. Hamilton Haley,
sitting gloomily at the wheel, turned a sour face upon the mate, as the
latter stepped near.

“I never did see such all-fired mean luck since I took to dredging!” he
burst out, glowering at the mate, as though Jim Adams were in some way at
fault. “First it’s that sneaking foreigner, that we took to help Bill
out, that gets away. Who’d have thought he’d ever swum for it, a night
like that, and all that way from shore? I hope he drowned! I hope he
drowned and the dog-fish ate him. That’s what.”

“He’d make pow’ful bad eatin’, I reckon,” suggested Jim Adams.

“Yes, but he could have turned a handle of the winch like a soldier,”
said Haley. “And he’s a dead loss, being as I’m bound by the law as we
make ourselves, and swear to, to leave Sam Black aboard Bill’s boat, so
long as I’ve gone and lost Bill’s man.”

“I didn’t think that youngster, Harvey, and that business chap, Edwards,
had the nerve to do what they did,” said Jim Adams.

Hamilton Haley snorted. The subject was like a match to gun-powder.

“’Twas that young rascal, Harvey, that did it!” he cried. “I didn’t beat
him up enough. I wish as how I had him lashed up for’ard there now.
’Tother chap wouldn’t have gone and done it. ’Twas the youngster’s work.
And p’raps it didn’t cost me a penny!”

Haley pointed, with high indignation, to a new hatch which replaced the
one on which Harvey and Tom Edwards had floated to shore.

“Seven dollars for that!” he exclaimed, “to say nothing of the time it
took to make it. And ten dollars apiece to Artie Jenkins for the two of
’em that’s gone. And Sam Black worth as much more. I tell you it ain’t
right for a poor dredger, as earns his money by hard work and tends to
business, to get such luck as that dealt out to him.”

Haley was half whining. From his view-point, the fates had, indeed, been
unkind.

“There’s someone coming down,” remarked the mate.

Haley took a long look ahead, at a craft visible nearly a mile away.

“It’s Tom Noyes’s boat,” he said, finally. “I’d know his masts anywhere.”

The other craft, a bug-eye somewhat smaller than the Brandt, came dead on
toward them. The distance between them rapidly diminished, and they came
presently within hailing distance. The other craft did not merely hail,
however. It came up into the wind and lowered a boat. Haley brought the
Brandt into the wind, also, and the small boat came alongside. A man
stepped aboard and said something to Haley. The latter jumped as though a
shot had been fired at him. A grin of satisfaction overspread his dull
face.

“You don’t mean it, Tom!” he cried. “Hooray! I’d rather get him than ten
bushels of oysters in one heap. Come below. Jim, you take the wheel.”

The two captains descended into the cabin, leaving Jim Adams to hold the
bug-eye into the wind. They remained below some minutes, conversing
earnestly; and when they reappeared Haley was in a good humour that made
Jim Adams stare.

“Jim,” he said, slapping the mate on the shoulder with a jocularity all
unusual to him, “you’re a right good mate. We’re going up the river
to-night—away up. We’re going to ship a good man—a right good man, Jim.
You never saw such a rare fellow at a winder as he’ll be. Ho! Ho! I
reckon the rest of ’em won’t have to work at all with him aboard.
Good-bye, Cap’n Tom. I’ll see you down on the Eastern shore. We’re going
to quit around here. The reefs seem all played out. Good luck!”

Haley, seeing his guest off, turned to Jim Adams and proceeded to impart
to him a piece of information that brought a broad smile to his features,
also. The two had emerged thus suddenly from the depths of gloom and
discouragement into a feeling almost of hilarity. The bug-eye was brought
by the wind once more, and they went on up the bay.

The night falling, Henry Burns, up at the old farmhouse, gave over
looking for any sail and went in to supper. It was a serious looking
party at table that night. The next few days might mean much to them, or
little, according as fortune favoured. The boys urged upon Edward Warren
to lose no time in returning to them.

“And you look out for yourselves, while I’m away,” he cautioned. “If you
see anything of Haley, just take the canoe and scoot for Drum Point. Then
let Will Adams handle the thing. He’s careful and he knows everybody
around here, and just what to do.”

“We will,” replied George Warren. “We’ll be all right. Don’t you worry.”

They were off to bed in good season, though Henry Burns would have sat up
and gone down to the shore from time to time. He was persuaded by Edward
Warren that it were better to turn out at daybreak and look for the
vessel, before she should get under weigh, if she should happen to come
in during the night.

Henry Burns was usually the soundest of sleepers. He had a way of
dismissing care for a night, when he knew there could be nothing affected
by lying awake. He could have slept at sea in the hardest of storms, once
satisfied that the vessel was staunch and weathering the gale. But
to-night it was different. He had at first suggested that they watch
through the night, by turns; but Edward Warren had not approved. His mind
was set on the warrant and the action by the authorities.

Therefore, Henry Burns was restless. Once he arose and sat for a time by
the window, Young Joe slumbering peacefully in the bed. The moon was
beginning to show above the horizon, and it made a fine sight. But Henry
Burns thought of Jack Harvey out aboard Haley’s bug-eye, and the night
had little of beauty in it for him. He turned in and slept, lightly, for
an hour or two. Then the impulse to arise again was too strong. He crept
out of bed, wrapped a blanket about him, and seated himself in a big
armchair by the window.

Sleep overtook him as he sat there, with the picture of the moonlight,
lying across the river in a great flooding pathway, before his eyes as
they closed.

Again he awoke. The picture was still there. The moon had risen higher,
however, and the pathway of silver light across the river was more
diffused. The river rippled and danced beneath the mellow flood. But the
picture was not just the same, either. There was something in it which he
had not seen before—the masts and rigging of a vessel, clearly outlined
in the moonlight. Henry Burns gave one look, rubbed his eyes to convince
himself that he was really awake, then sprang to his feet.

“It’s the Brandt,” he said, softly. “I can’t be mistaken. I’ll just slip
down and make sure.”

It was, indeed, Haley’s bug-eye, anchored for an hour, for Haley to pick
up some stuff he had left up on the bank—a bit of rigging and a small
anchor he had bought—for he would not stop on his way down the river, but
would make all sail for the Eastern shore.

Henry Burns dressed himself hurriedly, but quietly, without waking Young
Joe. He would make sure, before arousing the household. If he should get
them up and then prove to be mistaken, he knew what Edward Warren would
think. He was warmly clad, but he found a short reefer, which was a
thick, warm overcoat, on the rack in the hall below, and he put that on,
for the night was sharp.

Cautiously, he slipped the bolt of the front door and stole out of the
house, closing the door gently after him. Then he set off for the shore
at a rapid pace.

He came to the bank overlooking the river, shortly, and crouched down by
some bushes, looking off at the vessel carefully. He was sure he could
not be mistaken in her. She lay not over quarter of a mile off shore, and
he could see her lines and rig sharply defined.

“I’d stake my half of the Viking on its being the Brandt,” he murmured.
“I’d like just one glimpse of her name, though, to make sure.”

As he spoke the words, there flashed into his mind the idea of going out
to see. It was easy. There was the skiff that went with the canoe, on
long trips. It lay at a stake, just a few feet from the canoe. He knew
where the sculling oar was hidden, under a log at the foot of the bank.
Henry Burns arose and stole quickly down to the shore, a short distance
up river from where he had been hiding. In a moment more, he was seated
in the skiff.

He was no novice in small boat handling. It was the work of but a few
minutes for him to be close upon the bug-eye. He waited a moment, a few
rods away, listening intently. There was no sound aboard. There was no
light showing. He drew nearer, and drifted alongside. There was no
mistaking the craft now. There, in dull and worn lettering, but plainly
to be read, was the name on the bow, “Z. B. Brandt.”

It was an exciting moment for Henry Burns. Two ideas met in conflict in
his brain. One was, to hasten ashore and alarm the Warren household; the
other, to slip aboard the vessel and see if he could not arouse Harvey in
the forecastle, and carry him off triumphantly then and there. The second
idea overmastered him. It was too tempting to be resisted. Think of
appearing in one brief half-hour at the old house, presenting Jack Harvey
to their astonished gaze and saying, proudly, “Here he is—and without a
warrant.”

Henry Burns, cool enough at a crisis, made his skiff fast forward, and
climbed aboard. Another moment, and he had stepped to the companion-way
and slipped below.

At the same moment, two figures on the shore, who had been watching his
manoeuvres, in astonishment and wrath, stepped into another skiff and one
of them sculled harder than he had ever sculled before, for the bug-eye.

Henry Burns, groping down into the forecastle, called softly, “Jack, Jack
Harvey. Jack, old boy, where are you?” There was no response, only a stir
in one of the bunks and a murmur from some drowsy sleeper. The sailors of
the Brandt, worn out with work, were seizing the short stop on the way up
the river for a snatch of sleep, and were slumbering as only tired
sailors can.

Henry Burns felt through his pockets and produced a match, which he
lighted and held to the faces of three of the sleepers in turn. No Jack
Harvey! The match burned out, and he lighted another, and yet one more.
When he had seen the last match flicker out on the face of the one
remaining man in the forecastle, and that one was not Jack Harvey, Henry
Burns felt his heart drop clear down till it seemed to leave his body. A
sense of disappointment and alarm overpowered him. His legs were weak.
There was no Jack Harvey in the forecastle! What had become of him?

Henry Burns, his brain in a whirl, climbed the companion steps weakly. He
put his hand on the side of the hatch at the top and took one step on
deck. As he did so, a rough hand grasped his wrist; another seized upon
his throat so he could utter no sound, while the hoarse voice of Hamilton
Haley sounded in his ears, “You little thief! Stealing, eh? I know you
young shore-rats, always looking for a chance to run off with stuff. You
won’t get away so easy this time. You’ll get a bit of dredging for this.
Hang you! You can cull oysters, if you give out at the winders. Take
that, and stay below till you’re called for.”

The heavy fist of Hamilton Haley shot out. Henry Burns, sent spinning
down the companion way by the blow, landed in a heap on the forecastle
floor, stunned, senseless. A moment more, and he was tossed into a bunk
like a sack of dunnage. There was a call for the crew to turn out.

The bug-eye, Brandt, was going on up the river—not secretly this time,
under cover of fog, but boldly in the full moonlight, in the middle of
the river, getting the benefit of the flood tide, coming in with the
rising moon.

Captain Hamilton Haley had nothing to hide—not now. He was merely going
after another recruit. And he had gained still another, all unexpectedly.
Luck seemed to be turning.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                       ARTIE JENKINS COMES ABOARD


Early in the afternoon, on the day of the events just related, a bug-eye
had turned in at a little cove at a place some ten miles up the Patuxent
river called Sotterly. The sails were dropped and a boat was lowered. A
tall, sharp featured, keen-eyed man, who had been giving orders, called
out to one of the sailors. “Get into this skiff, Sam Black,” he said; “I
want you to row me ashore.”

“Aye, aye, Cap’n Bill,” responded the man. He shuffled to the side of the
vessel, stepped into the boat alongside, and took his seat at the oars.

When the skiff had reached shore and had been drawn up on land, “Cap’n
Bill” tossed an empty gunny sack to the sailor.

“Going back up to Hollywood,” he remarked. “I reckon you won’t cut and
run on me, eh?”

“I reckon not, with the season’s wages coming to me from Haley,”
responded the sailor, and added, gruffly, “It’s the third winter I’ve
been oystering with Haley. He and I get along. He don’t bother me none.
When he growls at me, I give it back to him, I do. That’s the way to get
along with him. There ain’t many as dares do it, though.”

Captain Bill gave a chuckle.

“You’re shrewder than you look,” he said. “But you’re all right. Ham
Haley says you’re the best man he’s got aboard. When you get sick of the
Brandt, you come and sign with me. Good men are sure enough scarce.”

“I reckon we’d get along, too,” assented Sam Black.

With this somewhat unusual exchange of cordiality, captain and sailor
went on together up the road leading back inland from the shore. After
walking about a mile, they turned off on a cross-road that led more to
the southward, and proceeded along that for a distance of some three
miles. They passed a score of houses on either side of the road, and came
at length to a settlement comprising about twenty houses at the junction
of cross-roads.

Fetching up at a building which, by its display of dusty boxes seen
through still more dusty windows, proclaimed itself to be a country
store, Captain Bill entered, followed by Sam Black. The latter, seating
himself on an up-ended cracker box at the farther end of the store,
proceeded to solace himself with a black, short-stemmed pipe, while
Captain Bill entered into conversation with the proprietor.

Their negotiations were interrupted presently by the entrance of a young
man, who sauntered in, with an air of importance as befitting one who was
evidently from the city and impressed with his own superior worldliness.
His dress, though of a flashy character and glazed by wear at elbows and
knees, was yet distinctly of a city cut, and he displayed certain tawdry
jewelry to the most advantage. He nodded patronizingly to the keeper of
the store.

“How’d do, Artie,” said the storekeeper. “When are you going back?”

“About as soon as I can get there now, Ben,” replied the youth, yawning.
“I like to come up and see the folks, all right, but it’s deadly dull
here. I want a little bit more of the electric lights and something going
on at night. Not much like Baltimore down here.”

“No, I guess not,” admitted the other. “I hear you’re doing pretty well
up there—let’s see, what is it you’re in?”

The youth paused a moment, then replied, “Oh, I’m running things for a
contractor. Expect I’ll go in with him some day, when I get a couple of
thousand more put away.”

Captain Bill, turning to observe the youth who was speaking, gave a start
of astonishment. He turned away again, but cast several sharp glances at
the young man from the corners of his eyes.

“Well, I’m blest if it isn’t Artie Jenkins,” he muttered. “The measly
little crimp!”

Which term, be it known, is that applied to those engaged in that
peculiar calling in which young Artie Jenkins was a bright and shining
light—the trapping of unfortunate victims and selling them to the
dredgers and such other craft as could make use of them.

Some time later, Captain Bill followed the youth outside the store and
hailed him, as the latter was walking away.

“Hello,” he said, “wait a minute.”

The young man turned and stared at the stranger in surprise.

“You don’t know me, I reckon,” ventured Captain Bill, extending a hand,
which the other took carelessly.

“Can’t say I do,” was the reply.

“Well, I know you, just the same,” continued Captain Bill. “You’re name’s
Jenkins, if I’m not mistaken. The fact is, Jenkins, you may not remember
it, but you did a little business for me once in your line up in
Baltimore, and I may say, I never did see such good fellows as you
shipped down to me—every one of them good for dredging and willing enough
to work, when they got used to the business.”

Artie Jenkins’s manner became more friendly. It was not his fortune to
meet, usually, with a captain who had a good word of this kind to say to
him. He smiled affably.

“Well, I try to suit my clients, the captains, as best I can, and be fair
and square with them,” he said. “But I can’t say as I remember you.”

“It was some time ago that we did business,” explained Captain Bill. He
made an inward comment, also, that it was a bargain he had never
forgotten, in which three men already ill had been shipped down to him by
the clever Mr. Jenkins, causing him a total loss of thirty dollars,
besides the trouble of getting rid of the men again, before they all died
aboard.

“See here, Jenkins,” he went on, “I’m right glad I fell in with you.
Here’s a chance for you to turn a dollar down here. I need a man. Can you
get him for me?”

Artie Jenkins’s eyes lighted up with cunning; then an expression of doubt
overcast his face.

“I sort of hate to do it down here,” he said. “They all know me, and most
of ’em know what the dredgers are like. I might do something if a
stranger happened along, but that isn’t very likely this time of year.
Still, I’ll be on the lookout; something might turn up. You’re down at
Sotterly, eh? Be there till to-morrow noon? All right, I’ll look around,
anyway. If I do anything I’ll be down. Will fix you, anyway, soon as I
get back to Baltimore. Good day.”

“Good day,” responded Captain Bill.

Watching until he saw Artie Jenkins turn off on the road and disappear,
Captain Bill returned to the store, and beckoned to Sam Black. The sailor
came forward.

“Did you see that young chap I was talking to?” inquired Captain Bill.

Sam Black nodded. “The little dude,” he said, contemptuously.

“Did he get a look at you, think?” asked Captain Bill.

“Why, no, he didn’t see me, I reckon,” said the sailor, with surprise.

“Good!” exclaimed Captain Black. “Pick up that sack and come on. I’ll
tell you what I want, on the way.”

Sam Black shouldered the sack, and they started back in the direction of
the shore.

“That little rascal, Artie Jenkins, is the meanest crimp in Baltimore!”
exclaimed Captain Bill. “Fools us, right along,” he added, with virtuous
indignation. “What’s the use of crimping a man as won’t be any good when
he’s down the bay? That’s what I want to know. He does it right along. I
say as how it’s a shame to knock a man out and use him like they do,
unless he’s going to be some good to us, when we get him. That’s why Ham
Haley and I have got it in for Artie Jenkins.”

“Now,” continued Captain Bill, “I’m going to send you back there again,
to ship with him aboard my bug-eye. Do you understand? He’ll come down
with you here to-night, and we’ll attend to the rest. You don’t know
anything about me nor my dredger—understand?”

Sam Black grinned.

“I’ll fix him,” he said. “I’m against all crimps.”

It was three o’clock when captain and man went aboard the dredger at
Sotterly. A half-hour later, there emerged from the cabin an individual
resembling Sam Black only in face and form; he was dressed in “shore”
clothes, furnished from the captain’s own supply. Save for a bit of a
roll in his gait, he might have passed for a farmhand. He went rapidly,
with long strides, up the road he had come shortly before.

At five o’clock that afternoon, Artie Jenkins stepped from a dooryard in
the town and walked slowly down the road in the direction of the store.
He toyed with a lighted cigarette, and seemed thinking, deeply.

“I’m afraid I can’t make it,” he murmured. “My own town, too. Still
business is business—there’s Tom Carver—no, I couldn’t get him. Hang the
luck—”

He was interrupted, unexpectedly. A man suddenly appeared from the side
of the road, and waited for him to come up. It was dusk, but Artie
Jenkins perceived that the man was a stranger in the town. He noted his
appearance. Could this be a stroke of luck?

“What might the name of this place be?” inquired the stranger.

“Hollywood,” replied Artie Jenkins. “Never ’round these parts before?”

“No,” said the man. “I come from up yonder, Hillville. Lost my job on a
farm there. Nothing doing now. Know of anyone that would like a good man
to work around a place?”

Artie Jenkins puffed at his cigarette, while his sallow cheeks, unhealthy
and pale, showed a tinge of colour. He turned to the man and put a hand
on his shoulder, patronizingly.

“Well, if you’re not in luck!” he cried. “You hit on the one man in all
Hollywood that can help you out. There isn’t a job in town for a farm
hand now, but I can get you a nice, easy berth on an oysterman for the
rest of the season. Ever on one?”

“Never was off land but once on a steamer,” replied the man. “Always
thought as how I’d like to go a voyage, too. Kind of hard work, though,
isn’t it?”

“A sight easier than farming,” answered Artie Jenkins. “Easiest in the
world, if you get the right captain. Funny how you happened along. Why,
it wasn’t but a few hours ago that I met a captain I know, that wanted a
man. He’ll pay twenty-five a month, and everyone says Captain Bill feeds
his men like aldermen. Fresh meats and vegetables and a bit extra on
Sundays and holidays.”

“He does that, eh, this ere Cap’n Bill you speaks of?” said the stranger.

“That’s his reputation,” assured Artie Jenkins.

The man turned his head away, to hide a grin.

“I guess I’ll try it,” he said, “if you’ll go along and fix it up for
me.”

“Sure,” said Artie Jenkins. “I like to oblige a man when I see he’s in
hard luck. You wait down there at the store for me, till I get my big
coat. I’ll be along soon. By the way, what’s your name?”

“Sam Black,” replied the stranger.

Sam Black, seating himself discreetly outside the store, on a step, not
to be observed from within, allowed his grin to expand and give vent in a
hoarse guffaw, as Artie Jenkins was lost to view.

“Reckon I’ll like them extras on Sundays and holidays,” he muttered, and
roared again. “And p’raps somebody else will like ’em too—if he gets
’em.”

Half an hour later, Artie Jenkins and his prize went along down the road
in the dark of early nightfall, in the direction of Sotterly landing. It
was nearly eight o’clock when they arrived at the shore of a cove some
distance across from the wharf, and made out the masts and hull of the
bug-eye. It lay a little off from shore, with a lantern in the
fore-shrouds.

Artie Jenkins put his fingers to his lips and gave forth several shrill
whistles. The figure of a man presently appeared, in the light that
gleamed from the cabin, and stepped on deck.

“Hello, hello, Captain Bill,” called Artie Jenkins.

The man replied; they saw him step into a small skiff alongside and row
toward them. He drew the skiff to shore, a few minutes later, and
approached.

“Good evening, Mr. Jenkins,” he said. “Who’s this—somebody that wants to
ship?”

“Yes, and a good man, too,” replied Artie Jenkins. “He’s been farming,
and thinks he’d like oystering with you better. I’ve known him two years;
he’s been at work up in Hillville. His name is Sam Black.”

Captain Bill’s chuckle was unheard by Artie Jenkins.

“You’ll know him a lot better,” he said to himself; and added, aloud,
“All right. Kind of you to fetch him down. Come out aboard and have
something.”

The three got into the skiff, and Captain Bill rowed them out to the
bug-eye.

“I’ll see you in a minute or two,” he said to Sam Black, motioning to him
to go forward. “Come on down, Mr. Jenkins;” and he whispered, “I’ve got
the ten dollars ready for you, and a drop of something for the cold.”

The two descended into the cabin.

A moment later, Captain Bill’s mate quietly drew the anchor off bottom,
took a turn with the rope about the bitts, then stepped to the halyards
and raised the foresail a little. The bug-eye drifted out into the
current, caught the tide and was carried a way up-stream. The foresail
was run up till it was all set. Sam Black had crept cautiously aft to the
wheel, and the craft now turned, under headway, and began creeping
downstream, slowly.

“Here’s the money,” said Captain Bill, fumbling about in a wallet that he
had produced. ”Sit down. Make yourself at home. You’ve had a long walk—”

Artie Jenkins suddenly sprang to his feet.

“You’re drifting, aren’t you, Captain Bill?” he said. “You’re dragging
your anchor, I think.”

“No, I guess not,” replied the other. “Sit down. I’ll ask the mate,
anyway.”

He stepped to the companion and called out.

“Give her a bit more scope, mate,” he cried. “Guess she is dragging a
bit.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” responded the mate, and went on cautiously and quietly
raising the foresail. The bug-eye was nearly in mid-stream.

Artie Jenkins suddenly sprang from his seat again, and started for the
companion. A powerful hand on his shoulder restrained him.

“Let me go!” he cried, fiercely. “What kind of a trick do you call this?”
He wrenched, to free himself from the other’s grasp; but he was drawn
back. Captain Bill seized him by the throat and forced him down on one of
the bunks.

“You’re not going ashore this trip,” he said, sharply. “Captain Ham Haley
and I have got a bone to pick with you.”

Trapped at last, Artie Jenkins fought with all his strength; but he was
no match for the stalwart captain. Exhausted, battered and thoroughly
terrified, he sank back on the bunk and begged for mercy.

“It isn’t right, Bill,” he pleaded. “You ain’t playing the game fair. How
are you going to get men, if you go and nab a man that’s in the business
with you? Nobody ever did that before? Haven’t I always used you right?”

“No, you haven’t,” exclaimed Captain Bill; “and you’re going down the
bay. Now you just keep below and stay quiet. You know what they get if
they holler.”

Captain Bill, with this parting injunction, went on deck. The bug-eye’s
sails were all set and she was going down the river.

Several hours later, a forlorn figure appeared at the companion-way,
cautiously, ready to dodge a blow from Captain Bill’s boot.

“Bill,” said Artie Jenkins, plaintively, “Haley won’t stand for this. He
knows it isn’t the way to play the game.”

“No?” queried Captain Bill, contemptuously, “you can ask Haley, yourself.
Here he comes now.”

The bug-eye, Brandt, was indeed coming up the river, near at hand,
standing out from behind a point of land. The two vessels were soon side
by side, drifting for a moment up with the tide.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                      ARTIE JENKINS AT THE DREDGES


Captain Hamilton Haley, stepping eagerly aboard the other bug-eye,
accosted Captain Bill.

“Have you got him?” he asked.

“Reckon I have,” said Captain Bill; “and he’s been squealing like a baby.
Just like those chaps as are always trapping other chaps; once they get
it, themselves, they go all to pieces. You met Tom Noyes, then, all
right? I sent word down by him. I thought I’d get Artie.”

“Yes, and I’ve got another one, too,” said Haley. “He’s stowed in
for’ard; I haven’t got a good look at him yet. Caught him trying to rob
the men in the forecastle; he’d sneaked out from shore. I reckon he won’t
be any great hand at the dredges, but I’ll make him work his passage, all
right. Bill, you’ve done me more good catching that little crimp, Artie
Jenkins, than it would to find a brand new reef that no dredger had ever
touched before. Get ’em to fetch him aboard.”

Jim Adams escorting him, with a big, black hand at the scruff of his
collar, and Sam Black walking alongside, grinning at the success of his
part of the plot—admonishing the youth as to what would befall him should
he utter a cry—there appeared Artie Jenkins, his knees wabbling under
him, the drops of perspiration standing out on his forehead. They marched
him down into the cabin, where, a moment later, descended Captain
Hamilton Haley. The other bug-eye cast off, and the two vessels resumed
their course down the river at full speed.

Hamilton Haley, standing with arms akimbo, his great round head thrust
forward, his gray eyes twinkling with a cruel light, surveyed the young
man before him, much as a spider might eye a fly that had become
entangled in its web. A look of intense satisfaction overspread his face.

“Well,” he said, hoarsely, “thought you’d come aboard, did you, Artie?”

Artie Jenkins, the heart all taken out of him, trembling and weak-kneed,
essayed a feeble smile, which made his sallow face take on a more
unprepossessing expression than ever.

“I say, Haley,” he said in a shaking voice, “this is a beastly joke you
and Bill are playing—a joke I don’t like. It’s got on my nerves. You
wouldn’t lug me off down the bay—you know you wouldn’t, Haley. ’Twouldn’t
be the square thing. Nobody ever did a trick like that. Come on, old man,
say you’re going to put me off down below. I’ll stand for the joke all
right. Just say it’s a joke, will you?”

The tears were rolling down Artie Jenkins’s cheeks, and he was begging
like a child. Hamilton Haley eyed him with a contempt that could not be
expressed in words. But there was no suggestion of relenting in his gaze.

“Of course it’s a joke, Artie,” he said, sneeringly. “It’s a joke, all
right, and it’s what I call a downright good one. Ha! ha! A joke, eh?
Well, if it isn’t a joke, I’d like to know what they call one.” Then his
voice grew louder and more threatening as he continued. “It’s a joke like
some of those jokes you’ve been a-playing on Bill and me for the last
eight years.”

Haley clenched his fist and shook it at the cowering youth. “That’s the
sort of a joke it is,” he continued; “it’s like them ere jokes of yours
as have been costing me and Bill ten dollars apiece. Good, able-bodied,
rugged men for dredging that we’ve paid for in honest, hard-earned
money—and what have they turned out to be when we gets ’em down the bay?
A lot of counter-jumpers and boys that get sick on us with a week’s work
at the winders. That’s what!

“Now you get up and quit snivelling and go for’ard; and don’t you make
any fuss, or you’ll never get back to Baltimore, as sure as my name’s
Haley. Here, Jim, show him where he’ll bunk.”

Jim Adams, seizing the shrinking form of Artie Jenkins by the convenient
collar, dragged him forth from the cabin. True to his method, Jim Adams
assumed his customary mock politeness.

“Be jes’ so kind as to walk for’ard, Mister Jenkins,” he said, and turned
the young man toward the forecastle. A recklessness, inspired by
desperation, seized upon Artie Jenkins. He wrenched violently at the hand
that held him, and for a moment freed himself.

“I won’t go down into that dirty forecastle,” he cried. “You can’t make
me.”

Jim Adams’s bony hand again grasped him and spun him around till his head
swam. At the same time, a short piece of rope swung by the mate sang in
the air, and Artie Jenkins felt the sharp sting of it across his
shoulders. A series of blows followed, mingled with the scoffing words of
the mate.

“Won’t you please ’blige me by stepping down into that fo’castle, Mister
Jenkins?” he said. “I’s sorry to trouble you, but I wish you’d jes’ step
down to ’blige me.”

Artie Jenkins, under the merciless lash of the mate, lost little time in
obeying. Cringing and crying, he darted down into the dark, damp
forecastle and stowed himself away in the first available bunk. The
taunting words of the mate sounded in his ears for a moment: “Thank you,
Mister Jenkins; I’m much ’bliged to you, sah. You saves me the trouble of
using force to carry out the orders of Cap’n Haley, sah.”

The bug-eye, Brandt, with its companion craft, skimmed down the Patuxent
like a bird. Captain Haley, with a huge satisfaction in his heart, turned
into his own bunk, leaving the wheel to Jim Adams, and slept the sleep of
the just. The night had been satisfactory. Life was not all one
disappointment. He could sleep well.

The bug-eye, with its trim lines, its picturesque rake of masts, its
sails filled with the smart breeze that made the vessel heel gracefully,
and the now waning moonlight casting a faint gleam on its sails, made a
pretty picture as it glided down the river. One standing on the Drum
Point shore, as the vessel went by in the early hour before dawn, would
have admired the sight. Jim Adams hummed a jolly rag-time tune as the
Brandt passed out by the lighthouse, into the open bay, and headed for
Tangier Sound.

Some time later, a shaft of sunlight streaming down the companion-way
awoke Henry Burns. Once asleep, he had slept soundly, the blow he had
received having only stunned him and done him no great harm. The bug-eye
was pitching in a heavy chop-sea, and a youth in the bunk near him was
groaning; but Henry Burns, accustomed at home to bay sailing, felt no ill
effects from the thrashing of the boat.

For a moment he wondered what was the matter with the old Warren
farmhouse. Then the memory of the events of the night came back in a
flash. Henry Burns sprang up and darted out on deck. It was all too true.
He was a prisoner aboard the bug-eye; they were leaving Drum Point far
astern.

Henry Burns shrugged his shoulders and seated himself on the forecastle
hatch. He was in for it—whatever might happen—and it was not in his
make-up to worry over what he could not help.

A step on the deck, as a man emerged from the cabin, caused him to look
up. The figure that his eyes rested upon gave him a start of surprise.
Where had he seen the man before? Then he remembered. It was the man whom
Young Joe had butted in the stomach in darting out of the Warren door—the
Captain Haley, of whom he had an unpleasant recollection. Henry Burns
gave a low whistle of evident concern.

Seeing the boy sitting, watching him, Hamilton Haley strode forward. When
he had approached near, he, too, stopped and eyed him with surprise. Then
his face darkened.

“Well, I’m jiggered!” he exclaimed. “It’s you, is it, Young Impertinence?
What sent you sneaking aboard here in the night? Confound you, if I’d
a-known it was you, I’d just have chucked your overboard neck and crop.”

For once, Hamilton Haley seemed perplexed. Here was someone he evidently
didn’t want. He glanced back toward the harbour, as if estimating how far
they had come from land. Then he shook his head. To Henry Burns’s
surprise, Captain Haley turned abruptly, without another word, and went
back to the wheel, where Jim Adams was seated, yawning.

The two men talked together, earnestly. It was clear Haley did not wholly
favour the idea of carrying off a boy from the Patuxent harbour, from
people that would make trouble. It was risky business; there was bound to
be trouble. Jim Adams seemed not to encourage it, either; but the bug-eye
was miles out from the river now, and the breeze was favourable. After
further conversation with the mate, Haley went forward again.

“See here, youngster,” he said, “I’m a man as does an honest business of
dredging, and I don’t kidnap boys for the work. But here you are, come
aboard, and it ain’t my fault. You know that for yourself. Hang me, if I
didn’t take you for one of them little rats as steal stuff when they gets
a chance. I’d have chucked you overboard quick, if I’d a known it was
you—what were you doing out here, anyway? That’s what I’d like to know.”

Henry Burns thought quickly. To say that he had come to look for Jack
Harvey would be to reveal the fact that he was aware of Haley’s
character; that he was a witness who would appear against Haley when the
time came; that his very existence was a danger and a menace to Haley,
who was now bound for the wilderness of the Eastern shore.

“I was just looking around,” he said.

“You’re a little, meddlesome fool!” cried Haley. “I don’t want you here,
confound you! But you’re here. You came aboard, yourself. I didn’t carry
you off. You’ve got to stay now. I won’t turn back, if I go to jail for
it. But I tell you what I will do; I’ll fetch you back the first time I
come. You’ll fare no worse than the rest of the crew. But you’ll work
your passage, mind you. This is no free lodging house. Go on and get
something to eat.”

“Better set me back,” said Henry Burns, calmly.

“No, I’m busted if I will!” cried Haley. “You’ll go the trip now, though
if I hadn’t cut your skiff loose I’d set you adrift in it. It’s your own
fault.”

Henry Burns saw it was useless to argue. He went aft, as indicated by
Haley, and ate his breakfast. It was sorry stuff, but he was hungry and
he ate what was set before him.

Henry Burns was not a youth to remain inactive, although carried off
against his will. Having finished breakfast, he went on deck and walked
forward, to where Jim Adams was at work with a piece of rigging,
attempting, at the same time, to explain to two sailors what he was
doing.

“You unlay that strand,” he was saying, “and you lead him back, so
fashion. Then you picks up that ere strand, and you lays him up in the
place where t’other strand came from. See?”

The two men looked on, blankly. It was evident the process was blind to
them.

“Why, hello, sonny,” remarked Jim Adams, as Henry Burns came up. The
mulatto, tireless and hardened to the life, after three hours’ sleep on
relief from the wheel, happened to be in a good humour. He continued,
“Reckon you’s the new boarder at our hotel, eh? Ha! ha! Specs you never
saw nothin’ like that befo’?” He held up the work he was doing.

“Oh, yes,” replied Henry Burns, “you’re putting a long splice in that
halyard so it will reeve through that block. You’ve parted your throat
halyard.”

Jim Adams dropped his work, put both hands on his knees and stared at
Henry Burns, while a broad grin overspread his face.

“Sho now,” he exclaimed, “I jes’ wonder what Boss Haley he’ll say when he
finds he’s got another cap’n aboard here. I guess you’ll get my job
pretty quick an’ I won’t be first mate no mo’. Where you larn all that,
sonny?”

Henry Burns smiled. “I picked it up, yachting,” he said.

“That’s a smart little kid,” said the mulatto. “Reckon you might go and
finish up that splice, eh?” He held up the rope, half skeptically, to
Henry Burns. The youth took it, seated himself on the deck, removed a
pair of heavy gloves he wore, and took up the splicing where Jim Adams
had left off. He found it hard work, in the chilling winter air, and his
hands were nearly numbed before he had finished. But he beat them against
his body until they tingled, went on with the work, divided his strands
neatly at the finish, cut the ends and handed back the piece of rigging,
neatly spliced.

Jim Adams burst into a roar of laughter.

“That sho’ is the funniest thing I ever saw,” he said. “Why, youse
nothin’ but a little kid.”

Henry Burns had at least found some favour in the mate’s eyes. Some time
later, he was accosted by one of the men that had been standing by.

“I wish you’d show me some of those tricks,” said the fellow. “I’m having
it pretty rough aboard here. I can’t understand when that mate shows us a
thing. He does it so quick, you can’t see how it’s done; and then he
curses us for not understanding. Maybe if I learned a few things like
that, I’d get treated better.”

Henry Burns looked at the speaker, and found him a young man of about
twenty years, thick set, a good-natured expression, somewhat dulled and
set by rough usage at Haley’s and the mate’s hands.

“My name’s Wallace Brooks,” continued the young man. “I got carried off,
too, from Baltimore. I can stand the winter out, I guess, because I’m
tough; but it’s the hardest work I ever did.”

“I’ll show you anything I know,” replied Henry Burns, “and I’ll be glad
to do it. I guess I’ll need a friend to stand by me. I don’t know how
I’ll last at this sort of work.”

They shook hands on the friendship.

Henry Burns saw another side of the mate’s nature, not long after. There
was a commotion in the forecastle, and there emerged Jim Adams dragging
Artie Jenkins by the scruff of the collar. He threw him sprawling on the
deck, caught up a canvas bucket, with a line attached, threw the bucket
overboard, drew it in half-filled with sea water, and dashed it in the
face of the prostrate youth.

“You mustn’t go gettin’ balky, Mister Jenkins,” he said. “Youse goin’ to
work, like the rest of the folks. Won’t you please jes’ go down and get
you’ breakfas’ now, cause I want you pretty soon on deck, when we get off
Hooper’s.”

Artie Jenkins, bellowing with rage and fright, scrambled to his feet and
fled as fast as his legs would carry him for the cabin. The mate gave a
grin of delight.

“They sho’ can’t fool me,” he said. “Reckon I knows when a man is seasick
and when he’s shamming.”

They arrived at the dredging grounds within two hours, and the work
began. Henry Burns was not set at the winders at first. There seemed to
be some understanding between Haley and the mate that he should not be
treated too harshly. He was put at the work of culling the oysters that
were taken aboard—a dirty and disagreeable task, but not so laborious as
the winding.

Artie Jenkins got his first taste of the work, however. He was driven to
it by the threats and blows of Jim Adams. He was a sorry sight. Clad in
oil-skins too big for his lank figure, a flaming red necktie showing
above the collar, and a derby hat out of keeping with the seaman’s
clothes, he presented a picture that would have been ludicrous if it had
not been miserable.

The mate suffered him not to lag; nor did he cease to taunt him.

“Youse a sho’ ’nuff born sailor, Mister Jenkins,” he said, and repeated
it over several times, as the unwilling victim worked drearily. “You
looks jes’ like one of them able-bodied seamen that you been sending down
from Baltimore.”

Artie Jenkins groaned, and toiled, hopelessly. He gave out, some time in
the afternoon, and Henry Burns was made to take his place. At dusk they
stowed away the gear and ran for harbour, in through Hooper strait.

The next day, unusual in the winter season, there fell a dead calm. There
was no getting out to the grounds, and the day was spent in overhauling
the gear, wrapping parts that were worn with chafing, etc. It was some
time that forenoon that Henry Burns, getting a good look at Artie
Jenkins, recognized him. It was the young man he had seen on the river
steamer, and whose invitation he had resented. Something about the youth
repelled him more than before, and he made no attempt to renew that brief
acquaintanceship. Yet, observing the treatment Artie Jenkins was
receiving, he was sorry for him.

“What makes them so hard on that chap, Jenkins, I wonder?” he asked of
Brooks, as they stood together, that afternoon. “It makes my blood boil,
but I don’t dare say anything.”

“Hmph!” exclaimed Brooks. “Don’t you let your blood boil for him. He’s
getting what he deserves, all right. Didn’t you hear what Jim Adams
called him? He’s a crimp.”

“A what?”

“A crimp. Don’t you know what that is? It’s a fellow that drugs men up in
Baltimore, and ships ’em down here for ten dollars apiece, when they
don’t know it. They wake up aboard here. That happened to me, though this
chap didn’t do it. He did the trick, though, for two men that got away
the other day. I heard them say it was a fellow named Artie Jenkins that
trapped them. One was named Edwards; he was a travelling man of some
sort. My, how he did hate the winders. T’other was a young chap; Harvey
was his name.”

Henry Burns gave a cry of astonishment.

“Then Jack was aboard here—and he got away, do you say?”

It was the other’s turn to be surprised.

“Why, yes, Jack Harvey was his name,” he said. “Did you know him?”

Henry Burns briefly told of his friendship and his hunt for his missing
friend. “I thought there must be some mistake,” he said, “when I didn’t
find him aboard here. But tell me, how did he get away?”

Wallace Brooks related the circumstances of the escape, as George Haley,
the cook, had told of it; of the flight to shore on the hatch, and of
Haley’s rage at losing both men and property.

Henry Burns smiled at that part of the adventure, despite his chagrin.
Then he grew serious.

“I’ll bet it was poor old Jack and Edwards who slept in Edward Warren’s
barn,” he said. “There were two strangers seen about the landing the next
day. Where could Jack have gone to? Up river, I suppose, on a steamer—and
here I am in his place! Isn’t that a mess?”

That same afternoon, Artie Jenkins, in passing Henry Burns, remembered
that his face seemed familiar. He halted and stared for a moment. Then
his face lighted up with a certain satisfaction in the other’s plight.

“Hello,” he said, “so you landed here, too, eh? I reckon you’re not quite
so smart as you thought you were, coming down the river.”

“Yes, I’m here,” answered Henry Burns, coolly; “too bad you didn’t make
ten dollars out of it; now wasn’t it?”

“What’s that to you?” snarled Artie Jenkins, angrily. “I don’t know what
you mean, anyway.”

“Oh, yes, you do,” replied Henry Burns. “I know what you are, and so do
the crew. It’s almost worth while being here, to see a crimp work at the
dredges.”

Artie Jenkins, furious at the reply, and observing that the speaker was
younger and smaller than himself, darted at Henry Burns and struck out at
him. Henry Burns easily warded off the blow and, unruffled, returned one
that sent Artie Jenkins reeling back. The next moment Jim Adams rushed
between them.

“What’s all this about—fighting aboard here?” he cried.

But Captain Hamilton from the other end of the vessel had likewise
observed the quarrel. He came forward now, blustering, but with a shrewd
twinkle in his eyes.

“Let ’em fight, Jim,” he said; “let ’em have it out. Peel off those
oil-skins, you young rascals. I’ll teach you both to disturb the peace
and quiet aboard this ere respectable and law-abidin’ craft. You’ll fight
now, till one or t’other of you gets his licking. Rip ’em off, I say.”

But Artie Jenkins, having felt the force of Henry Burns’s blow and noted
his skill in avoiding his own, was not so eager for the fray.

“I don’t care about fighting a boy smaller than I am,” he stammered,
fumbling at the strings of his slicker. “I don’t want to hurt him.”

Haley bawled in derision. “Oh, you don’t, eh?” he cried. “Well, you look
out he don’t hurt you. Do you see that piece of rope?” He dangled an end
of rigging in his hand. “Well, the first one of you that tries to quit,
gets a taste of that.”

Henry Burns had not expected to be drawn into a fight with Artie Jenkins,
but he had no fear of him. He had observed the youth’s cheeks pale as he
returned his blow. He knew he was cowardly. He thought of Jack Harvey,
tricked into the slavery of dredging at Artie Jenkins’s hands. He threw
off his oil-skins and waited for the word. He looked Haley squarely in
the eyes and remarked, calmly, “If you see me quitting, just lay it on
good and hard.”

“You bet I will!” blustered Haley; but he knew, full well, there would be
no need.

Artie Jenkins was cornered and desperate. He dared not wait till his
courage should cool, but made a rush at Henry Burns the moment he had
divested himself of the heavy oil-skins. They struggled for a moment,
exchanging blows at short range. They were both hurt and stinging when
they broke away, to regain breath. The difference was, however, that
Henry Burns was smiling in the most aggravating way at his antagonist.
The blows meant little to him. He was avenging Jack Harvey—and he had a
most extraordinary control of his temper. Artie Jenkins was smarting and
furious.

“Get to work there,” bawled Haley, swinging the rope.

They were at it again in earnest. But the advantage even now was with
Henry Burns. He was wiry and athletic; a strong runner, and a baseball
player; and he had boxed with George Warren and Tom Harris by the hour,
in the barn they used as a canoe club in Benton. Artie Jenkins’s training
had consisted largely of loafing about the docks, smoking cigarettes.

Seeing that his adversary was no longer strong enough to rush him, Henry
Burns tried tactics to tire him out. He darted in, delivering a quick
blow, and stepping back out of reach of the other’s arm. He warded off
the other’s wild blows, and left him panting and bewildered. Worse than
all, he continued to smile at him, provokingly.

In an unfortunate moment, Artie Jenkins rushed in, clinched and tried to
throw his smaller adversary. It was the worst thing he could have
attempted. A moment more, and he lay, flat on his back, half stunned.

Henry Burns waited for him to arise; but Artie Jenkins lay still. He had
had enough.

“Get up there; you’re quitting!” cried Haley, standing over him and
brandishing the rope’s end. But Artie Jenkins only half sat up and
whined. “I can’t go on,” he whimpered; “I’m hurt.”

Haley swung the rope and brought it down across Artie Jenkins’s
shoulders. The youth howled for mercy.

“Get up and fight, or you’ll get more of it!” cried Haley.

Artie Jenkins suddenly scrambled to his feet. But he did not face Henry
Burns, who was waiting. Beaten and thoroughly humbled, Artie Jenkins
sought relief in flight. Dodging the uplifted arm of Haley, he darted for
the forecastle, tumbled down the companion and dived into a bunk.

Hamilton Haley, undecided for a moment whether to follow or not, finally
turned and walked aft. There was a hard smile of satisfaction on his
face.

The next day was as wild as the preceding had been calm and placid. The
wind came up from the east with a rush, in the early morning, and the bay
was tossing and white-capped as the crew of the dredger came on deck.
There would be no work that day, they thought. But they were
disappointed. Haley ordered sail made, and the bug-eye, with reefs in,
bore up under the lee of Hooper island.

It was cruel work at the dredges that day. The men toiled by turns till
exhausted, when Haley allowed them a reluctant refuge, to thaw out, by
the cabin fire. Then he drove them to work again. The storm brought
mingled sleet and snow. It caught in the folds of the sails and came down
upon their heads in little torrents with the slatting of the canvas.
Sleet and snow drove hard in their faces. But the work went on.

Artie Jenkins shivered at the winders, even as the perspiration was wrung
from him with the unusual exertion. He suffered so that Henry Burns and
the crew pitied him; but Haley and the mate showed no mercy. They had
seen men suffer before—men that they had paid ten dollars apiece to Artie
Jenkins for. He gave out by afternoon, however, and the mate had fairly
to drag him below. He moaned that he was sick, but they did not believe
him.

That night he ran out of the forecastle on deck, delirious, and wakened
Haley out of sleep. Haley saw that he was really ill, and gave him
something to take, from a chest of patent stuff he had aboard. Artie
Jenkins fell in a heap on the cabin floor, and Haley let him lie there
the rest of the night.

The next morning, Haley and the mate, standing over Artie Jenkins, looked
troubled. The sufferer lay moaning and feverish. Jim Adams bent over and
examined him.

“He’s bad—downright bad, boss,” he said, looking up at Haley. The other
scowled, but with some anxiety in his face. “He’ll come around all right,
won’t he?” he asked. “Specs he may,” replied the mate; “but I’ve seen ’em
like that, feverish, before, and it’s a bad sign down here.”

“Hang him!” exclaimed Haley. “What’ll we do with him?”

“Well,” replied Jim Adams, “if he was mine, I’d let him go, seeing as he
didn’t cost any money. Tom’s going across to t’other shore to-day. Why
not let him have him and leave him? We don’t want to land him down here.”

Haley grumbled, but acquiesced.

“Take him out,” he said. “He’s no good, anyway. I’ve got square. That’s
what I wanted.”

Jim Adams lifted Artie Jenkins bodily and carried him out of the cabin.

A bug-eye that ran across from the eastern shore that afternoon carried
the unfortunate Artie Jenkins as a passenger. He lay asleep in the cabin.
Toward dusk the bug-eye reached the other shore, and anchored near land.
A skiff left the side, with Artie Jenkins in the bottom of it. It landed,
and two men carried the youth up to an old deserted shanty by the shore
of a small creek in St. Mary County, some five or six miles above Otter
Point. They left him there, alone, threw some mouldy blankets over him,
and departed.

Artie Jenkins’s dredging experience was over.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                     THE BATTLE OF NANTICOKE RIVER


The morning after Artie Jenkins was shipped away across the Chesapeake,
Haley’s bug-eye lay in Hooper strait, discharging her cargo of oysters
into another craft alongside. Four other craft waited near by; and, when
the Brandt had finished, they, likewise, unloaded the oysters they had,
aboard the carrying vessel.

“What’s Haley unloading now for?” asked Wallace Brooks of the sailor,
Jeff, as they were swinging a basket of the oysters outboard. “He’s got
only half a cargo, anyway.”

“How do I know?” was the somewhat gruff reply. “Reckon we’ll see when the
time comes. There’s something up, though, like as not,” he added; “I
heard Haley ask Jim Adams how he thought the Brandt sailed best—with a
quarter of a cargo in her, or a little more. That’s just so much more
ballast, you know. So I guess that when Haley wants to sail his best, he
expects someone to follow; and if someone follows, I reckon he’ll want to
get away as slick as he can. Do you see?”

Wallace Brooks nodded.

“Going to dredge some more at night, eh?” he said.

“Well, you know as much as I do about it,” replied the sailor. “All I
wish is, that I was bullet-proof,” and he shrugged his shoulders.

The surmise of the seaman was perhaps correct; for, as soon as the last
bug-eye had cast loose from the carrying vessel, the four swung in
together, drifted along, and the four captains gathered in Haley’s cabin.
There were, besides Haley, Tom Noyes, Captain Bill and another whom Haley
addressed as Captain Shute. The latter bore in one hand a chart which he
spread out on the cabin table before them. It was a large sheet, covering
a wide area of that part of the bay, much worn, and marked by many lines
where cross-bearings had been taken and partly erased.

“There’s Nanticoke,” he said, laying a thick, stubby finger on the chart.
“It’s buoyed out for some ten miles, and there’s good water clear to
Vienna; that’s twenty odd miles up.”

“Stow the chart, Shute,” said Haley, impatiently. “I tell you Jim Adams
knows the river better than any figuring can cover it. He ran it for
three years, canoeing and tonging in the fog”—Haley winked significantly.
“He’ll put us up there. The question is, will you go?”

“I’ve said as how I would go, once, and I sticks by my word,” answered
Captain Bill forcibly. “The others will go, too. I’d follow Jim Adams’s
wake and be sure of good water, anywhere.”

“And we stick it out, steamer or no steamer,” said Haley, looking at the
others, earnestly. The captains nodded. Haley leered, as though gratified
at the decision. “There’s no police tub can hurt us, if we stick together
and fight,” he exclaimed; “and like as not we’ll get clear without it.”

There was some further conference, following which the three visiting
captains returned to their vessels and the lines that held them together
were cast off.

The day passed easily for the crews. There was but little dredging,
though Haley and the others would not have them wholly idle. They worked
in desultory fashion along the foot of Hooper island throughout the day,
and toward evening sailed in slowly through the strait.

There had been no definite orders given to anybody aboard the Brandt, yet
it was known to all that there was something on foot for the night. The
let-up in the work of the day indicated that; furthermore, there was an
air of mystery, of something impending, throughout the craft, that was
felt and understood.

With the coming of night there rose up a mist from the surface of the
water that dimmed the vision, though the stars showed clear in the sky. A
thin fog gave an indefiniteness to the shore lines and made distant
lights here and there twinkle vaguely.

The four vessels, the Brandt leading, sailed eastward as night fell,
passing through the strait across the head of Tangier Sound. Jim Adams
held the wheel and Haley gave orders to the crew, trimming the sails or
easing off as the course varied.

Jim Adams, evidently glorying in the adventure, which defied the law that
he despised, noted the points along the course with a series of chuckles.

“There’s old Sharkfin,” he called jubilantly, as the gleam from the
lighthouse on the shoal of that name showed ahead. “We just goes
east-no’th-east, sah, after we leave old Sharkfin Shoal a half mile to
the eastward, and then we goes up between Nanticoke Point Spit and Clay
Island Shoal like walkin’ up a meetin’ house aisle.”

Haley gazed ahead through the light mist.

“I’ve only been up the Nanticoke twice,” he said. “There’s buoys, I know,
for some ten miles up, and then it takes a native born to find the rest
of the way.”

Jim Adams chuckled. “I don’ need ’em,” he said, “not ’round this river. I
can feel my way up; an’ they can paint the spars all black and it
wouldn’t fool me, not a bit.”

Passing the lighthouse and leaving it astern some miles, the four
bug-eyes took a more northerly course, entering the river. They carried
no lights, and the cabin and forecastle lamps had been put out, so that
no gleam showed from the ports. A fresh breeze from the west, blowing
almost directly across the river, carried them up at a fair clip.

“There’s land close aboard, off the starboard,” said Haley, after they
had gone some three miles up.

“Yessah,” responded the mate; “that’s Roaring Point, for shuah. You look
sharp, Mister Haley, and you’ll see the buoy, a red spar when the sun
shines, but I reckon it’s pretty black to-night. Couple of miles above
that, and I specs there’s some pow’ful nice oysters a-sittin’ up and
waitin’ for us to call.”

Jim Adams pointed, as he spoke, to where there showed the low sand spit
of Roaring Point on the right as they sailed, with some trees growing,
back from the shore. A landing made out from the south bank of the point,
and a thin sprinkling of houses was scattered here and there in the
vicinity. The vessels sailed noiselessly and darkly past these, and went
up the river, turning the point.

Not long after, the order given by Haley for all hands to make ready told
that the business of the night was about to be begun in earnest. On the
eastern bank of the river were extensive oyster beds, private property,
carefully planted and nursed, and rich in their yield.

Hamilton Haley, engaged in his favourite pursuit of poaching, was in rare
good humour. Moreover, he had cause for self congratulation in that he
had regained his man, Sam Black, from Captain Bill’s bug-eye, and yet
another man, Captain Bill having taken on two men from Hooper island.

Soon the cry of the winch and the clank of the dredging chain broke the
stillness of the night, as the Brandt, with sheets started, drifted
slowly in a zig-zag course along the river bank. The other vessels worked
likewise. There was no rest for anyone then. They worked like galley
slaves under the whip. The dredge was hardly down before the command came
to wind. It came up heavy with the ill-gotten spoil from the beds. Henry
Burns found no favour in the eyes of Haley this night. He toiled with the
others, now turning wearily at the winch, now helping to drag aboard the
dredge, now sweating in the foul hold, stowing away the plunder.

Some time in the night, as he turned, with back and arms aching, at the
handle of the winder, a strange humming, singing sound filled his ears.
It was like an angry wasp darting about his head. Then a sharp report
came from the neighbouring bank. It was followed by others. The sound as
of wasps filled the air as a dozen bullets passed harmlessly over the
heads of the crew of the Brandt.

Haley gave a cry of surprise and anger.

“They’ve found us,” he said, and ran for the cabin. He reappeared
quickly, carrying a rifle in either hand.

“Here, you, Sam Black,” he called, “take this wheel, smart now. Let those
sheets run way off there—no skulking into the forecastle, you men, or
you’ll get a shot from me. Jim, here’s a gun; you’re a good shot. Give
’em an answer. Let her go along easy, Sam. We’ll show ’em we can play at
shooting as well as they.”

Haley, issuing his commands in short, angry sentences, and seeing the
vessel running as he wished, called to the crew to lie flat on the deck,
but to be ready to jump at his word. Then he and the mate, reinforced by
the cook, likewise armed with a rifle, proceeded to return the fire from
the shore from the shelter of the after-house.

The other craft had swung into line of battle, similarly, and one of
them, Captain Bill’s bug-eye, had already opened fire on the party
ashore.

A running fight now ensued. The dredgers, emboldened by their numerical
strength, had no thought of quitting the reefs. The attacking party, on
the other hand, seemed to be constantly recruited in numbers, and the
fire from the river bank grew in volume. The dredgers, with booms far
out, kept barely under steerage way, following one another closely.

Coming up under the lee of a promontory of the river bank called Ragged
Point, the leading vessel headed into the wind; the sheets were hauled
aft and the craft came about, heading down stream once more, to return
into better range of the enemy. The others followed, in turn.

An unexpected thing happened, however, just as the Brandt was swinging
into the wind, with Haley hauling on the main sheet. A chance bullet,
whistling across the stern, clipped the sheet fairly in two; Haley,
straining at the rope as it parted, was sent sprawling on the deck,
rolling over and over.

He sprang up in a great fury, but equal to the emergency. Still holding
the end of the sheet in one hand, he darted to the stern, untied the
painter of the skiff that was towing and drew the skiff alongside.

“Here you, youngster,” he called to Henry Burns, who happened to be
nearest, “jump in there! Take this sheet and make it fast around the end
of that boom. Lively now!”

Henry Burns obeyed, in lively fashion, as ordered. Making the end of the
rope fast to the thwart in front of him, he sculled the skiff a few
strokes, seized hold of the swinging boom, loosed the sheet again, took a
clove hitch around the boom and was back on deck in a twinkling. Haley
growled an approval, as he hauled the boom aft and the bug-eye went off
the wind a little to make headway so as to come about.

The accident, however, had caused the vessels to separate for the time,
the three other bug-eyes having already gone down stream some little
distance. With this a new peril confronted the Brandt. Seeing the craft
thus cut off from its allies, the party ashore had resolved on a bold
venture. A half-dozen small boats suddenly darted out from the shadow of
the bank, making straight for the Brandt, rowed by strong arms.

The situation was one of danger to the Brandt. The leading row-boat,
propelled by two oarsmen, and with two other men crouched in the bottom,
armed with rifles, were already near. Yet the Brandt must keep on its
course for a minute longer, to enable it to come about, and not mis-stay.
To do so, brought it still nearer the approaching boat.

Hamilton Haley, leaping down into the cabin and emerging with a horn in
one hand, gave several blasts with it. Then he sprang to the wheel and
took it from the hands of Sam Black. His eyes twinkled with cunning, as
he threw the bug-eye still further off the wind, directing it now full
against the approaching boat. The manœuvre was all unexpected. The rowers
vainly tried to swing their boat out of the way. They were too late.
Striking the small craft with its sharp bow, the bug-eye smashed it clean
in two, riding over the halves and submerging the occupants. The next
moment, the Brandt had swung into the wind, come about and headed down
stream.

The fleet of row-boats paused to rescue the struggling and half-drowned
men from the icy water; the other bug-eyes, alarmed by Haley’s signal,
had turned and come up to meet the Brandt. The four vessels opened fire
on the row-boat fleet, even as they were engaged in the work of rescue.
Defeated in their plan to cut off the single bug-eye, the rowboats put
back to shore and the party scrambled into hiding.

Warned by this attempt, however, the captains of the poaching fleet now
resolved to make sure against any similar boarding party. Taking a
position in the river where the fire was hottest, and the owners of the
oyster beds seemed to be gathered in greatest numbers, judging by the
fire, the bug-eyes drew close together, side by side; an anchor was
dropped from the one farthest down-stream, Captain Bill’s vessel, and
lashings were passed to hold them together. This position, as the decks
were flush, would allow the united crews of the four to concentrate on
any single deck to resist boarders.

Hitherto, the dredgers had escaped serious harm; but now a rifle bullet,
landing in a number of men bunched on the second dredger, wounded two of
them and they fell to the deck, uttering cries of pain. Another bullet
cut the cheek of Sam Black, who had resumed the wheel of the Brandt; but
he held to his post, with a handkerchief bound about his head. The party
on shore gave no evidence of the injuries they may have received.

That the attacking owners were being driven from their position by the
concentrated fire from all four vessels was apparent, however. Gradually
the fire from shore grew less and less. The dredgers, after discharging a
few more volleys and waiting for a quarter of an hour, without being
fired on, cast loose once more and resumed their dredging.

But they were not suffered to work unmolested for more than an hour. At
the end of about that time, the river bank was illumined again with a
line of flashes, and the crack of rifles smote upon the air. But now the
fight was even more uncertain and the firing still more a matter of
chance. For the wind was drawing around to the southward and a fog was
slowly drifting up the river, blown at first in detached patches which
blotted out the shore one moment, then left it partly cleared.

The dredgers resumed their position, lashed together and at anchor, so as
not to lose sight of one another in the fog, and directed their fire more
by the sound of the enemy’s firing than by sight. The weird, uncertain
battle made a strange picture, with the streams of rifle fire penetrating
the fog and the smoke of powder arising through the fog banks.

And then, amid a momentary lull in the firing, there came suddenly out of
the fog in the direction of down the river, the unmistakable jingle of a
bell. They knew the sound. It came from an engine-room. Some steamer was
approaching. The captains waited apprehensively. There could be little
doubt of the nature of the craft.

If doubt there was, however, it was soon dispelled. There came a flash in
the mist, a ball from a one-pounder hummed through the rigging and tore
away a main-mast shroud. The report of the piece, mounted in the bow of
the police steamer, followed. Then a voice came through a megaphone,
“Ahoy there! I’ll give you captains just two minutes to launch your
skiffs and come aboard here, or I’ll sink you.”

Captain Hamilton Haley, raising his rifle to his shoulder, aimed
deliberately and fired in the direction of the voice. The bullet must
have gone close to the captain of the steamer, for there came a sound as
of shattered glass. The shot had hit the window of the pilot-house.

There ensued a silence of a moment, and then there came a heavy rifle
fire from the steamer, mingled with the heavier crash of the one-pounder.
The bug-eyes took up the firing; and the air was alive with bullets.
Moreover, the party ashore, jubilant at the reinforcement through the
strong arm of the navy, sent up an exultant shout and poured a volley
from their ambush.

For a half-hour the battle waged, the steamer alternately drawing near
enough to be clearly seen through the fog, and then backing water as it
was met by a staggering fire from the four vessels. It seemed as though
the fight might even be won by the sailing captains, outnumbering as they
did the crew aboard the steamer.

Hamilton Haley, aroused to fury by the desperate position in which he
found himself, no longer sought concealment behind house or mast. His
craft lay farthest up-stream in the line of vessels, but he had crossed
decks to that of the nearest bug-eye and stood boldly erect, firing
steadily whenever a flash from the fog gave indication of a possible
mark.

Again, he was not unmindful of the fate of his own vessel; and, as the
fire slackened for a time, he returned to the deck of the Brandt.
Perceiving his advantage at the end of the line, he ordered the lashings
made ready for easy slipping.

“Here, you youngsters,” he said to Henry Burns and Wallace Brooks, who
were lying flat on the deck, “you get aft there, ready to give Sam Black
a hand if he needs it. He’s hit, and may peter out. You jump on to that
wheel if I call, or I’ll know why. And one of you be ready to tend
sheet.”

Haley brandished his rifle as he spoke, and the two youths made haste to
obey, taking up their positions aft. The captain returned to the side of
Jim Adams on the deck of the bug-eye of Captain Bill.

Again the firing from the steamer ceased abruptly and the sound of the
engines was stilled. The captains and their mates ceased firing also, and
waited for action on the part of the steamer. They were wearied by the
strain of the conflict and were glad of the respite. They were making a
successful fight, however, it seemed, although they had had by this time
six men wounded in some way or another.

“We’re beating him off, I reckon,” said Captain Bill, seating himself on
the deck, with his rifle laid beside him. “We’re too many for him; but it
gravels me how we’re going to get out of this ere river, with him below
us.”

“We’ll get out,” declared Haley, confidently. “Only wait till the wind
blows up a bit more. It’s coming around square to the south’ard, and the
fog’s getting thicker every minute. We’ll slip past him by and by, when
he gets enough of trying to shoot holes through the sky—hello, there’s a
bell. He’s coming up again, I guess.”

A single bell in the engine-room of the police steamer had given the
signal for her to move ahead slowly. They knew the steamer was coming
toward them, although as yet she was not visible. Then, to their
astonishment, there came the jingle of another bell.

Hamilton Haley and Captain Bill called to their men to be ready.

“He means business sure enough this time,” muttered Haley. “He’s given
him the speed bell. He’s coming on the run.”

The words were hardly uttered when the steamer rushed forth into view
from the fog. She was, indeed, coming on at full speed, without firing a
gun. Not until she was almost upon them did the bug-eye captains realize
what was intended. They had sent a volley at her, to which she paid no
heed, but was coming silently and swiftly on.

Gathering speed as she came, the smoke pouring in black clouds from her
funnel, the steamer rushed directly at the nearest bug-eye which lay
broadside in her path.

“Get back! Jump, boys! The rascal’s going to ram us!” shouted Haley,
darting back across the decks to his own vessel.

The crews scattered, and the deck of the bug-eye was cleared. They were
not a minute too soon. On came the steamer, tearing through the fog, with
the sparks flying from its stack, lighting up the black smoke. There was
a crash that could be heard far ashore as its iron bow splintered the
side of the bug-eye, buried itself in the yielding planks and cut the
craft half in two.

The bug-eye reeled under the shock and groaned as if in mortal agony. The
steamer’s bell jangled twice and the craft backed away, leaving a great
hole through which the water poured in a torrent. Another bell, and the
steamer was going astern at full speed. Some distance away she reversed
again, and once more came on. Into the same gap she steered; her iron bow
once more rent and tore the planking asunder. Again she backed away.

The vessel, rapidly filling, broke from the lashings that held it to its
companion and sank to the bottom of the river.

Thrown into the utmost confusion and dismay at this unexpected turn of
affairs, the captains now thought only of safety in flight. The seamen of
the foundered vessel scattered through the three remaining ones; there
was a frantic rush to lashings and halyards; knives were drawn and
lashings cut when that was easier and quicker. Sails were run up and
orders shouted hoarsely amid the confusion. The two anchors were slipped,
and left. There was no time to get them aboard.

There seemed to be no escape, however, for at least one other of the
bug-eyes—the one that lay nearest the steamer. The latter craft was even
now manœuvring to reach a point from which to ram the bug-eye, only the
sunken vessel that lay between preventing her from repeating her success
at once. Tom Noyes, in command of the imperiled vessel, was driving his
men to their utmost to get sail on before he should be cut down.

But for the fog he would have had little chance. The steamer worked
cautiously out into the river and turned, heading for Tom Noyes’s bug-eye
just as she began slowly to make headway, under foresail and jib. The
steamer gave the signal to go ahead, slowly, then another for full speed.
The bug-eye was standing slowly in toward the bank, endeavouring to put
the wreck once more between itself and its foe.

At this critical moment, Hamilton Haley, whose craft was already under
weigh and standing across to the opposite shore, could not resist taking
a parting shot at his enemy, even though it might imperil his own
chances. He raised his rifle and fired in the direction of the steamer’s
pilot-house. It was a chance shot, for he was even then losing sight of
the steamer in the fog. Yet, with the report, there came a cry of pain
from the steamer. Haley bawled exultantly. He knew not what he had done,
but the sound told him of some success of his shot. It had, indeed,
struck the arm of the pilot, inflicting a wound that caused him to drop
the wheel and fall back, fainting.

The steamer, now at full speed, veered in its course. Before the captain
could signal for the engines to slow down or could right the steamer on
its course, the police boat had run afoul of the wreck and had become
entangled, its bottom resting on the after-house of the sunken bug-eye.

The next moment, Haley passed exultantly down stream. Tom Noyes, rounding
the wreck inshore, went on his way; the other bug-eye slipped past the
steamer, and the fog hid them from view.

Yet they were not to get off scot free. Even as he stood, chuckling at
their success, a bullet from the farther shore grazed the head of Jim
Adams; and, stunned, he lurched and went overboard. Henry Burns, seeing
him fall, and springing to the side as the negro’s body was swept astern,
caught a hand in his clothing and held on. Haley, running to the rescue,
seized the mate’s arm, and, together, they dragged him aboard. Jim Adams
had had a close call. The bullet had stunned him. An inch more and it had
gone through his head. He came to, a half-hour later as they went down
stream, groping their way in the fog; and, in half an hour more, was able
to “feel” the way, as he called it, out to the mouth of the river.

The escape was made. They were free. But Captain Bill had lost a vessel.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                       SURPRISES FOR JACK HARVEY


Jack Harvey and Tom Edwards, standing in the middle of the road that
extended drearily northward before them through St. Mary county, on the
cold winter morning of December 28, gazed at each other ruefully. They
were aching from the exertions of their escape and of the night spent
without sleep, wandering across country. They were lame, foot-sore, and
hungry, and the cold now began to penetrate their garments, unprotected,
as they were, for lack of oil-skins or heavy coats. The discovery that
they were also now almost penniless, and in an out-of-the-way and
sparsely settled section of Maryland, was well-nigh appalling. They cast
anxious glances over the fields and low rolling hills, to see if they
could discover shelter.

Off to the left of the highway, there wound a thin ribbon of frozen
stream, going down to the southwest, through some irregular ridges;
twenty rods away, on the southern bank of this stream, the roof of a
small house showed, with a chimney sending up a light coil of smoke.
Harvey and his companion left the road and made their way toward the
house.

The occupant of this dwelling, whoever he might be, would not be taken
unawares by their coming, surely, for there bounded out toward them three
dogs, barking. Harvey and Tom Edwards halted, then proceeded slowly. The
dogs did not offer to molest them, but ran close by their side, as a sort
of escort.

A man appeared in the doorway, warned by the dogs, and called to the
three to come away. Then he gave a greeting to the two travellers.

“Don’t mind the dogs,” he called; “they’re not savage. We’re not
accustomed to seeing travelers often, though, and it makes them excited.”

The speaker was a middle-aged, well-built man, of medium height, bronzed
by sun and wind, with an expression and bearing that told of a condition
in life above that of the poor settler. He spoke, too, in accents
different from what they had been accustomed of late to hear. He eyed
them shrewdly, as they came to the door.

“Come inside,” he said, holding the door ajar for them. “You’re fishermen
by your dress—and you’re not. Am I right? If I were to guess, I’d take
you to be northerners, though what you’re doing away down in this
lonesome place is what puzzles me. You’ve been on the bay, perhaps, but
you don’t look like bay men.”

All the while he spoke, his keen, brown eyes were bent critically upon
them, as if the two afforded him an interesting study.

“You’re right, sir,” answered Tom Edwards, “we have been fishermen, but
we’re not now; and what’s more, I hope we never shall be again. We’ve
escaped from a dredger. And, sir, if you will allow me, you don’t look
like a man that toils hard for a living. You’ve got a business hand.”

The man smiled and nodded. “You and I are regular Sherlock Holmeses,” he
said. “Sit down by the fire. No, I’m not a resident here. I’m an invalid.
Do I look it?”

He threw out his chest and laughed heartily.

“You certainly do not,” answered Tom Edwards.

“Well, I was,” continued the stranger. “My name is Phillips, and I live
in New York. I’m a lawyer, and I’m taking a year off for my health. I had
spent many vacations, shooting and fishing about the Chesapeake, and when
I had to give up work for a year, I came down here with my dogs and gun
and rod. I hired this old house and set up as monarch of all I
survey—including an old darkey servant who does my work and cooking. I’m
a pretty lusty invalid, I can tell you. Now where did you come from?”

“It’s a long story,” said Tom Edwards, stretching out comfortably in his
armchair before the hearth fire, “but I’ll make it brief.” And he
sketched rapidly the adventures that had befallen himself and Harvey
since their captivity aboard the dredger. Their host listened intently.

“That’s a strange story, sure enough,” he said, when Tom Edwards had
finished; “but I’ve heard of cases like it before. It’s a bad state of
affairs. I’d like to help prosecute that man, Haley. What a rascal he
must be!”

Mr. Phillips arose, stepped to a closet and produced from a shelf a
bottle and a glass.

“Mr. Edwards,” he said, “I won’t offer this to your young companion, but
you look played out. I keep it on hand, for cases just like this.”

So saying, he poured the glass partly full and handed it to Tom Edwards.
The latter took it, arising from his chair as he did so, and started to
raise it to his lips. To his utter astonishment, and that of the host,
Jack Harvey stepped to the side of his elder companion, drew back his
right arm and planted a blow on Tom Edwards’s shoulder that nearly sent
him off his feet, knocked the glass from his hand and sent it crashing to
the floor.

Tom Edwards recovered his balance, flushed angrily and turned on Harvey,
who stood, chuckling at the effect of his unexpected blow.

“Look here,” cried Tom Edwards, confronting his friend, threateningly,
“what kind of tom-foolery do you call that? What’s the matter with you?
Have you gone crazy?”

Mr. Phillips, seeing the fate of his liquor and his glass, had also
flushed with resentment and stood glaring at Harvey. Harvey laughed.

“You asked me to do it, Tom,” he said.

“What’s that!”

“I did it just to oblige you,” insisted Harvey. “Don’t you remember the
first night we met in that beastly old forecastle of the Brandt? You said
if I ever saw you try to take a drink again to punch you good and hard.
Well, I did the best I know how. Truly, though, Tom, I’m sorry if you’re
angry. I just happened to remember it, and I did it for fun, right off
quick. Say you’re not mad, will you?”

Tom Edwards, thus confronted with his own words, stood, open-mouthed with
surprise. Then a smile overspread his face. He turned to his host,
somewhat embarrassed; the expression on his face became serious.

“Mr. Phillips,” he said, “the boy is right. I asked him to do it. And
what’s more—though I owe you an apology, sir—I’m glad he did it.”

He turned to Harvey and extended his hand.

“Jack, old chap,” he said, “you did just right. Upon my word, I forgot. I
meant that, when I said it aboard the Brandt, and I did intend to stick
to it, upon my word. The fact is, Mr. Phillips, if it hadn’t been for
that stuff, I never should have been caught in this plight. I swore I’d
never touch another drop; and if you’ll excuse me, sir, I’ll start all
over again. Jack, here’s my hand on it. I’ll stick to it this time, as
long as I live.”

Mr. Phillips, seating himself in his chair, doubled up with laughter.

“Excuse you, why, of course,” he roared. “Bless me, if that wasn’t the
most effective temperance lesson I ever saw in my life. Young fellow, if
you can convert ’em as quick as that, you ought to go into the business.”

“I was only in fun,” said Harvey, apologetically. “I thought it would
surprise Tom, to give it to him, just as he said.”

“Surprise!” roared Mr. Phillips, “I never saw such a surprised man in all
my life.” And the lawyer leaned back in his chair and roared again.

“Well,” he said, finally. “I’ll try you on the food question. You’re both
hungry enough, I dare say. Just make yourself comfortable and I’ll have
my man start breakfast.”

Harvey and Tom Edwards settled back in their chairs, warm and grateful.
It seemed too good to be true, to be comfortably housed and with the
prospect of a good breakfast, after the hardships they had gone through.
And when they sat down to the table some time later, with coffee and eggs
and bacon and hot rolls and crisp fried potatoes arrayed appetizingly
before them, they could hardly believe they were not dreaming. Hope and
courage grew anew within them, and already their troubles seemed at an
end.

They were glad enough, when they had finished, to accept the proffered
hospitality of a bed; and they went off to sleep, wearied and worn but
vastly content in the consciousness that they were safe, and might rest
unmolested. They slept the most of that day, and roused up at evening
only, to partake of a bit of supper and then turn in again, for a long
night of sleep and rest.

The next day, the easterly storm blew up that had made life miserable
aboard the dredger, Brandt, away across the bay on the eastern shore. How
far from their minds was the thought that, while they sat, comfortably
sheltered against the snow and sleet, the youth, Artie Jenkins, who had
brought all their troubles upon them, was, himself, toiling miserably and
wretched, at the winch aboard the Brandt. By no stretch of the
imagination could Harvey have pictured his friend, Henry Burns, under
bondage to Haley, as he himself had been.

Harvey and Tom Edwards, urged to remain until they were fully refreshed,
and until the weather softened to admit of their travelling without
danger or great hardship, gladly accepted. They remained that day and the
next under the roof of their good host. He, on his part, was glad of
their company, and would have had them remain even longer.

On the fourth day, however, the weather moderating and not enough snow
having fallen to make the road impassable, Harvey and his companion
determined to set out. They were in high spirits, for their generous host
had lent them money for their passage to Baltimore and to purchase what
they might need on the way. Moreover, he had given them the name of a man
at a small settlement called Trap, a mile or two up the road, who owned a
horse, and who, he thought, would drive them northward. In the forenoon,
then, they started, with a cordial farewell and wishes for good luck.

Lawyer Phillips had been a generous and thoughtful friend. The shabby,
sea-worn clothing that the two had worn on their arrival at his home had
been replaced by garments from his own wardrobe—second-hand, to be sure,
but far better and warmer than what they had. Over his shoulder Harvey
carried a small sack which contained half a boiled ham, two loaves of
bread, some corn biscuit and a big bottle of coffee. They were rested and
had been well fed; and they went along the icy road in high spirits.

In a little more than an hour they had reached the settlement to which
they had been directed, consisting of some three or four houses. They
went in to the door of one of these, and knocked. A man opened the door.

“We are looking for Mr. Stanton,” said Tom Edwards.

“That’s my name,” responded the man; “what’s wanted?”

They told him Mr. Phillips had sent them, and informed him of their
errand. The man shook his head.

“I’d do anything for Mr. Phillips,” he said, “but my horse can’t travel
clear to Millstone and back over this road, this time of year. But I tell
you what I will do; I’ll take you by water. My canoe is down at the creek
yonder. We can run up in four hours, I guess; and I’ll put you up with
friends of mine when we get there, and you can stay till the boat comes.
How will that suit you?”

“Suit us!” exclaimed Tom Edwards, “nothing ever suited us half so well in
this world. When can you start?”

“Right away, as soon as I throw a few things into a bag.”

Five minutes later, the three were going along a road that led off from
the highway to the right, diagonally toward the shore. Their guide and
new acquaintance, a small, undersized man, led the way at a brisk pace.
The entrance to the creek, a quite extensive sheet of water, bordered by
salt marshes, was about two miles distant. When they had come to within a
quarter of a mile of this, a small cabin could be seen, squatted down
among the reeds by the shore.

Suddenly their guide stopped short, gazed off to the side of the road,
and uttered an exclamation of surprise. Then he pointed to an object a
short distance away, and ran toward it. Harvey and Tom Edwards followed.
What they saw was the figure of a man, or youth, lying on a little patch
of underbrush, where he had evidently fallen.

The heavy breathing of the person told the three, as they bent over him,
that he still lived; but he seemed to be in a sort of stupor. Mr. Stanton
turned him over and looked at his face.

“I knew it,” he said. “He’s a stranger; some poor chap from a dredger,
sure as you live. He’s not the first one that’s been put ashore down
here. We’ve got to get him into the cabin and give him something hot
pretty quick, or we won’t save him.”

“Lift him up on my shoulders, and I’ll carry him,” said Harvey. “It isn’t
far, and he doesn’t weigh much.”

They lifted the youth up and Harvey started toward the cabin, carrying
him over his shoulder, while the others steadied the swaying figure. He
was, as Harvey had said, not heavy—a youth of about twenty, perhaps,
slender and sickly looking. His face seemed swollen, as though from blows
or from being frost-bitten. As Harvey, strong and athletic, carried him
over the uneven ground, he groaned and muttered something unintelligible.
The jolting had roused him partly from his stupor.

The cabin proved to be a rough affair of boards—with wooden bunks on
either side, and a sheet-iron stove in one corner—used merely as an
occasional shelter by tong-men. Harvey laid his burden down and made
haste to start a fire. Tom Edwards produced the coffee from the bag, and
poured some into a tin can that he found in one corner of the cabin, in
order to heat it on the stove. The man, Stanton, began untying the shoes
and loosening the clothing of the unknown youth, who now stirred slightly
and half opened his eyes. There were two tattered blankets by the
doorway, and Mr. Stanton spread these by the stove, where Harvey soon had
a fire roaring, and they laid the youth down on them.

“It’s just as I thought,” exclaimed Stanton, indignantly, turning down
the youth’s coat and shirt, so that a part of his bare shoulder was
exposed; “he’s been beaten with a rope’s end. It’s a disgrace, the way
they treat men.”

Harvey’s face flushed, as he looked.

“We know how to sympathize with the poor fellow,” he said. “We know what
dredging is like, eh, Tom?”

“Well, I rather think we do,” responded Tom Edwards. “We’ve got some
scores of our own to settle with a few men, when we get back to
Baltimore.”

Tom Edwards advanced now with the coffee.

“Hold him up, Jack,” he said. “This will warm him.”

Harvey put his hand under the youth’s head, raised him to a sitting
position, and Tom Edwards held the tin to his lips. The youth opened his
eyes and looked them in the face. As he did so, Harvey fairly gasped and
nearly let him fall back.

“Tom,” he exclaimed, “look! See who it is!”

Tom Edwards set the tin down on the floor.

“Why, I’ve seen him before,” he cried. “He’s the chap I met in Baltimore,
or his twin brother. How can that be, though? Jack, what do you say? Who
is he?”

“Artie Jenkins!” exclaimed Harvey. “I’d know him, no matter where he was.
He’s the chap that trapped me—and of all places to find him! Say, you’re
Artie Jenkins, aren’t you?”

He looked the youth in the eyes and shook him. The youth nodded, feebly.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“Well,” said Tom Edwards, lifting the tin again, “you get the coffee,
just the same—but hang me if I ever thought I’d do that much for you.
Hold him up, Jack. Here, drink this.”

Artie Jenkins, choking and breathing hard between his efforts, drank the
tin-full of hot coffee, and they laid him down again. They rubbed his
legs and arms till they were warmed with renewed vitality. Then they
rolled him in the blankets and let him lie by the fire.

“He’s all right, I guess,” said Stanton, “but he had a close call.
Another hour out there in the cold and he never would have waked up. It’s
funny, though, that you know him; how did it happen?”

“Yes, he’s an old friend of ours,” said Tom Edwards, smiling; “we’re sort
of old Johns Hopkins chums, he and Harvey and I. We went to school with
him—on the Baltimore water front.” And he narrated the story of their
acquaintance with Artie Jenkins. “Jack and I had a score to settle with
him,” he said in conclusion; “but it looks to me as though someone had
settled it for us. Judging by the looks of our friend, I guess he’s had
enough, eh, Jack?”

Harvey nodded.

“I guess we’ll call it even,” he replied. “But what puzzles me is, what
are we going to do with him?” Harvey looked at Mr. Stanton, inquiringly.
The latter did not answer, but started suddenly toward the door.

“There’s a sloop coming to anchor just outside,” he said. “Perhaps they
know something about him. Just keep close, now. There’s a skiff coming
in, with two in it. I’m a justice of the peace. I reckon this revolver
will be a good argument for them to stop. I’ll hold them until that chap,
Jenkins, is able to sit up again. If he identifies them as the ones that
brought him in here, I’ll put them under arrest. Have you got a weapon?”

Harvey produced Haley’s revolver.

“Good!” exclaimed Mr. Stanton, “keep it handy and stand by. When I step
out, you follow.”

Peering through the doorway, they saw the skiff come in to shore and two
persons step out—one a large, powerfully built man, the other a youth of
about Harvey’s age. The two came up a path leading from the shore, toward
the cabin. Their boots crunched the ice just outside the door when Mr.
Stanton, motioning to Harvey, stepped quickly outside. Harvey followed.

“Hold up there,” cried Mr. Stanton, “I put you two under arrest till I
find out—”

He stopped abruptly and jumped with surprise when Jack Harvey, uttering a
whoop and a yell, darted past him.

“George Warren!” bawled Harvey, rushing up to the astounded youth; “where
did you come from? How in the world did you ever get here? Any more of
the fellows with you? Is Henry Burns out aboard? I was right. I saw you
weeks ago through Haley’s telescope. Tom, come on out. They’ve come for
us. Hooray!”

Mr. Stanton, wide-eyed with wonder, lowered his weapon and bowed to the
man with George Warren.

“The arrest is off,” he said. “I apologize, sir. Come inside and I’ll
explain.”

George Warren, embracing his friend Harvey, was almost too dumfounded to
speak. But Harvey continued to ply him with questions.

“How did you happen to come to look for me?” he asked.

“We didn’t,” replied George Warren, while an expression of anxiety
overspread his face; “we are looking for Henry Burns.”

“For Henry Burns!” repeated Harvey. “Why, what’s become of him—you don’t
mean he’s been carried off, too? Say, it’s making my head swim. Come in
and explain.”

The four entered the cabin where Artie Jenkins lay sleeping by the fire.
George Warren introduced his companion as Will Adams. Then he turned to
Harvey.

“Who’ll explain first, you or I?” he asked.

“Why,” replied Harvey, “you know about us, or you wouldn’t be here—you
got the note I sent ashore, I suppose. It’s a long story, all that’s
happened. I want to know about Henry Burns. Is he lost?”

George Warren recounted the events leading up to the disappearance of
their friend; and then, how they had discovered, on the morning of the
27th of December, that Henry Burns was missing; how they had found the
skiff adrift in the Patuxent; how they had learned, by questioning the
river men, that Haley’s bug-eye had been seen that night in the Patuxent;
and how they had set out in the sloop, Mollie, to hunt for him, after
notifying the authorities. There were, out aboard the sloop, the other
two Warren boys and Edward Warren, their cousin.

“And you’ll have to make room for two more,” cried Jack Harvey. “Tom
Edwards and I can tell Haley’s old bug-eye a mile away. You won’t find
him on this shore, though. He’s on the Eastern shore, among the islands.”

“That’s what we thought most likely,” said Will Adams, “but we thought
we’d clean up this side first, to make sure. We saw your smoke and ran in
to inquire—”

He stopped abruptly and turned to Tom Edwards.

“Say, was it you two that slept in Warren’s barn?” he asked.

“I guess it was his barn, sure enough,” replied Tom Edwards; “and wasn’t
it a piece of hard luck that he didn’t catch us? We’d all be home by this
time,—and they wouldn’t have lost the other boy. What a shame!”

“Things do happen queerly, sure enough,” said Will Adams. “But who’s this
man asleep here?”

Tom Edwards turned and pointed to Artie Jenkins, shaking his finger at
the sleeping figure.

“That chap,” he said, “is the cause of it all. Isn’t it a queer
situation, that he should be here too?”

He told the story of their experience with Artie Jenkins.

“And what are you going to do with him?” asked Will Adams.

Tom Edwards knelt by the sleeper and turned down his shirt collar.

“Take a look here,” he said, pointing to the red marks upon the youth’s
shoulder. “When I was out aboard Haley’s bug-eye,” he continued, “I used
to spend hours thinking what I’d like to do to this fellow, if I ever
found him. I had nine hundred and ninety-nine different ways all thought
out of making him pay for my troubles. But”—Tom Edwards arose and folded
his arms—“I think he’s had his punishment. Somebody put him just where he
put us—aboard a dredger; and he must have struck a Tartar as bad as
Haley. I think we’ll let him go. That is, if we can. Mr. Stanton, what do
you say? We shall not need your help now, to get to Millstone. We’re
going with this sloop to the Eastern shore; but we can’t leave this
fellow, Jenkins, here, deserted.”

“Leave him to me,” replied Mr. Stanton. “He won’t be the first one we’ve
had on our hands. I’ll go back and hitch up the horse and take him to the
settlement, and we’ll ship him up the bay the first chance we get. But
you ought to prosecute him. Ten to one, if he ever gets his health again,
he’ll go back to the business.”

Tom Edwards shook his head vigorously.

“No, he won’t,” he said; “I’d stake my last dollar that he’s had enough
of it. He’s been beaten, and he’s had the heart all taken out of him. He
hasn’t got the nerve left to try it again.”

And Tom Edwards was right.

They shook hands with Mr. Stanton, took a last look at the unhappy object
by the fire, and went down the path to the landing. Soon the sloop
Mollie, with her new recruits aboard, was standing away from the creek,
tossing the spray as the search for Haley’s bug-eye and for Henry Burns
was resumed.



                               CHAPTER XX
                       THE PURSUIT OF THE BRANDT


There was a warm welcome for Harvey aboard the sloop, although Arthur and
Joe Warren could hardly believe their eyes at first, when they saw him
step over the rail on deck. When they did recognize, in the
weather-beaten, bronzed and rough-looking figure, their comrade of
Benton, they fell upon him and dragged him below into the cabin, followed
by Tom Edwards and Will Adams.

And as they sailed across the Chesapeake a little later, on their long
course, east by north in the direction of Hooper strait, Harvey recounted
his adventures—assisted by Tom Edwards, who filled in the parts which
Harvey omitted, recounting in glowing terms how Harvey had stood by him
through thick and thin, refusing to desert his friend when the
opportunity had offered for him to escape, alone.

Edward Warren looked serious, as Harvey described the life aboard the
Brandt, and the treatment of the men at Haley’s hands.

“I wouldn’t have had young Burns taken off on that craft for all the
money in Maryland,” he said, gravely. “I feel somehow to blame for it,
too,” he added, “though I hadn’t the least idea he would attempt to leave
the house at night. Give her all the sail she’ll stand, Will,” he called
to Will Adams, who, with George Warren, had returned on deck; “let’s get
across as quick as we can.”

“She’s making good time,” replied George Warren, hurrying down below
again, to hear the story; “we’ll be in the strait by early afternoon.”

The old Mollie was, indeed, doing her prettiest, and carrying a “bone in
her teeth” under a fresh westerly breeze.

George Warren vowed vengeance on Haley, for his hard treatment of Harvey
and Tom Edwards. Young Joe groaned in sympathy as Harvey told of the food
served to the crew of the Brandt.

“There’s a big chicken pie, over in that locker, Jack,” he said, with a
longing look in the direction indicated.

“No, thanks, Joe,” laughed Harvey; “we had a good, square meal before we
set out this morning; and we’ve been making up for what we lost, these
last few days.”

“No use, Joe, you’ll have to wait till dinner time before you get any
more of that pie,” said Arthur Warren, slyly.

Young Joe scowled in high indignation.

“I didn’t want any,” he declared.

“Well, I’ve done all I can,” said Edward Warren. “I’ve put the
authorities on the track, and a police boat will pick up Haley, I expect,
before we do. We’ll have some news as soon as we get over among the
dredging fleet.”

“I’m not so sure about Haley’s being caught right off,” returned Will
Adams. “It all depends upon whether he thinks he’s being hunted or not.
This bay is a mighty big sheet of water, and there are a thousand and one
places to run to for hiding. And as I say, these fellows have a way of
warning one another. We may get word of him soon, or we may not. We’ll
have to wait and see.”

They ran in through Hooper strait that afternoon, in company with quite a
fleet of oyster fishermen; a score of bug-eyes, picturesque and spirited
under full sail; several sharp-stern punjies; and, in Tangier Sound,
other smaller craft. Harvey, on deck, as lookout, watched eagerly, using
Will Adams’s telescope now and then, for the familiar rig of the Brandt.
Will Adams, at the wheel, rejoiced in the acquisition of one who would
know the craft at a distance, instead of their having to trust to chance
report of the vessel from some passing skipper.

But there was no Brandt to be seen that afternoon. They came to anchor in
Tangier Sound at dusk, and made ready for the night, impatient to resume
the search upon the morrow.

“Not much like the Brandt, old fellow, is it?” remarked Harvey to Tom
Edwards, as they turned in on some blankets on the cabin floor.

Tom Edwards gave a yawn and a murmur of satisfaction.

“It’s fine and comfortable,” he said—“but I won’t be sorry to be back in
old Boston once more—if we ever get there. I wasn’t cut out for a
sailor.”

They started out again in good time, the following morning, following the
track of the dredging fleet, cruising in and out among the vessels.
Perhaps their appearance cruising thus, apparently idle, with no fishing
equipment, may have excited some suspicion. Certain it is, they got
little assistance from the captains they hailed, as Will Adams had
feared.

“Hello, ahoy there!” Will Adams would call, through a big megaphone.

“Ahoy, the Mollie!”

“Seen anything of the Z. B. Brandt?”

“No.”

The answer would come short and sharp.

Sometimes they would sail along with a dredger, as it heaved and wound in
its dredges, making inquiries; but, despite the fact that someone in
these waters, of whom they asked, must, it would seem, have known a craft
that was a regular dredger thereabouts, no one could, or would, enlighten
them.

That evening, however, as they sought a berth for the night, in company
with some dozen other craft, in a cove at the upper end of Bloodsworth
Island, they got a hint of what seemed like a clue. They had come to
anchor and night had fallen. Smoke was pouring out of the funnels of a
cluster of oystermen some few rods away, and light shone cheerily from
cabin companions. Will Adams lifted his megaphone to his lips and called
out his inquiry if anyone had seen the Brandt. The reply came “Who are
you?” Will Adams answered. The response to this was vague and
unintelligible, but the tone was one of contempt. Yet, amid a confusion
of voices, Will Adams caught this remark:

“Reckon Haley’s gone up the Nanticoke again, where it’s easy dredging.”

This was followed by a chorus of rough laughter.

By the light of the cabin lamp, that night, the yachtsmen aboard the
Mollie studied the Nanticoke river on their chart. Edward Warren and Will
Adams looked at Harvey, inquiringly.

“We never went up there while I was aboard,” said Harvey. “Haley did most
of his poaching in the Patuxent and Tangier Sound; but it’s not an
unlikely place. We might get word of him there.”

They sailed northeast from Bloodsworth island next day, and started up
the Nanticoke river, running by the buoys half-way to Roaring Point. Some
tong-men in their canoes were at work in the chilling water, on the east
bank at a bend of the river, and the Mollie was swung into the wind for a
word with them.

The occupant of one of the canoes straightened up, at their inquiry, and
eyed them shrewdly.

“You needn’t look fer no Brandt up this river,” he replied, in a drawling
tone; “they do say as she was one of them as had the fight up above here,
with the patrol; but if she was, she got away, all right. At any rate,
she was going south, by Deal Island, the last I heard of her. If you’re
after her, I hope you get her—and bad luck to the skipper that runs her,
being as he’s a poacher by reputation in these parts.”

The Mollie headed back down the river, almost due south into Tangier
Sound. They had struck the trail at last. But the trail was a winding
one. It led some nine miles southward, and then through a great stretch
of bay off to the eastward, skirting countless acres of salt marshes,
whither they were directed by a passing vessel. The captain knew Hamilton
Haley, and added gratuitously that he knew no good of him; by which it
seemed Haley had his enemies in the bay, as well as friends.

Then the trail led away in a great sweep, some ten miles to the
southwest, toward Smith Island, where the bug-eye had been seen heading.
They made this island on the forenoon of the next day. There they got
trace again of a bug-eye answering the description of the Brandt; but it
had made sail that morning to the eastward. They followed, in turn,
across six miles of Tangier Sound to the shore of another broad extent of
salt marsh, called Janes Island. They sailed southward along that, about
dusk. Below them, by the chart, lay a good anchorage for the night,
Somers Cove, at the mouth of a river. Already, in the gathering darkness,
a mile ahead, there gleamed the rays of Janes Island lighthouse, marking
the entrance to the harbour.

A half-mile ahead of them, making for this same light, sailed a vessel.
They had had a glimpse of it before dusk set in, but not clear enough to
make it out.

Then, as they sailed, the faint cry of someone in distress came to their
ears—a startling, puzzling cry, that seemed to come up from the very
depths of the dark waters.


Hamilton Haley, running his vessel out of the mouth of the Nanticoke, on
the night of the disastrous fight with the police steamer, was at first
about equally divided in mind between exultation and anger. He smiled
grimly as he thought of the battle that had been waged with the owners of
the oyster beds, and of the several score bushels of oysters plundered
before the arrival of the steamer. He chuckled as he pictured again the
escape in the fog, from the victorious steamer. But he muttered
maledictions on the head of the skipper that had sunk the bug-eye, and
who might have surmised, or might now be able to discover who the
confederates of the unfortunate captain had been. He crowded on sail,
once clear of the river, and went flying southward, in the early morning
hours, along the shores of Deal Island.

The bug-eye turned the southern point of Deal Island and passed in
through a narrow stretch of water called the Lower Thoroughfare, which
ran between Deal Island and a smaller one, known as Little Island.
Threading this thoroughfare, Haley sailed east and then northward, into a
harbour called Fishing Creek. Here he dropped sail, came to anchor and
prepared to lie snug, to rest and reflect upon what course to take.

In spite of his successful escape, Haley was worried—almost alarmed; and,
as he considered the situation, throughout the day, his anxiety
increased. There were several things that worried him; and, now that
troubles began to press, he thought of them all at once, as impending and
immediate dangers. Perhaps, unconsciously, he had lost nerve. He thought
of possible pursuit from the steamer. He thought of a hunt that might
have been set on foot for Henry Burns, the youth he had carried off from
the Patuxent. He thought of Harvey and his companion, safely ashore, and
perhaps long ere this having set on foot a search of reprisal.

Several times during the day, as Haley encountered Henry Burns about the
deck, he stopped abruptly and seemed to be lost in thought. It would have
disturbed the calmness of even that youth, could he have read Haley’s
mind; could he have known that, of all his troubles, Captain Hamilton
Haley regarded Henry Burns as the one that most menaced his safety. But
it was so. Other things might be denied. The evidence would be hard to
gather; but here was the stolen youth, evidence in himself of Haley’s
act.

What Haley decided as best for his safety was expressed by Haley,
himself, in answer to a question by Jim Adams, that afternoon.

“I’m going south—farther south,” he said, “down into Virginia waters,
across the line. The police tubs won’t follow below that. We’ll stay for
a while. I don’t know how long—till the trouble has had time to blow
over, anyway.”

Nevertheless, when sail was made again, that afternoon on the bug-eye,
the course was not southward, but off to the east, following the shore
line of the great sweep of bay leading into a wide river; and Jim Adams,
mate, wondered. He was free with Haley, for he had come to be well-nigh
indispensable to him; and he made bold to ask the reason for Haley’s
change of mind. Haley’s eyes flashed with a hard light.

“That’s my business,” he answered, shortly.

Twilight came early; they had run in past St. Pierre island, rounded a
point on the eastern bank of the river, and come to, in a small cove.
Haley gave the wheel to Jim Adams.

“Hold her where she is,” he said. He went to the stem, and drew the skiff
down alongside. “Come here,” he called to Henry Burns and the sailor
Jeff. They came aft, in surprise.

“Get in there!” Haley commanded, roughly. “We’re short of wood. I want
you two to come with me and get some.”

It was a strange hour for wood gathering; it was already beginning to
grow heavy with the dusk. Furthermore, there was no wood-land in sight.
The shore seemed lined with marshes, and barren. But the two started to
obey, and Haley prepared to enter the skiff with them. A most unexpected
thing happened, however. Jim Adams left the wheel and stepped to the side
of the bug-eye.

“Come here, Mister Haley, if you please,” he said, still simulating a
politeness of address and manner, but with an insolent expression on his
face. “Come back here, Mister Haley, I want to speak with you.”

Haley, glaring at him, ignored his words and started to cast off the
line. Jim Adams sprang and caught it. “You jes’ got to come back here a
moment, Mister Haley,” he said.

With an exclamation of wrath, Haley sprang back on deck and advanced upon
Jim Adams.

“What do you mean, interfering with me, you nigger?” he cried.

Jim Adams, mysteriously beckoning him to follow, retreated across the
deck, to the side of the after-house.

“Mister Haley,” he said, softly, “I got something to say to you. I know
what you come in here for now. There don’t no wood grow hereabouts. You
thinks this would be a mighty fine place to leave that youngster that
came from the Patuxent. But I ain’t goin’ to let you do it, Mister
Haley—leastways not yet. I reckon Jim Adams wouldn’t be here now if it
wasn’t for that youngster hauling him back aboard when he came out of the
Nanticoke.”

Haley, taken utterly by surprise, glared at the mate for one moment
without being able to find words to reply. Then he cried out that he
would knock him overboard, and raised his fist for a blow. The agile mate
caught his wrist and held it in a grip that Haley could not shake off.
They struggled for a moment, and then Haley, breaking loose, stood,
trembling with rage.

“Jim Adams,” he said, huskily, “what ails you—have you gone crazy? You’ve
always been a good mate. Don’t be a fool now. Don’t you know the boy’s a
danger to us, here? Do you want to go to jail on account of him?”

“Sho’ no, I don’t at all, Cap’n Haley,” answered the mate, with
assurance. “See here,”—and he assumed a more civil, urgent tone,—“I want
to get clear of that young chap just as bad as you do, Mister Haley; but
I jes’ don’t like to see him go ashore now, cause there ain’t nothin’ but
ma’sh land hereabouts, and I know he’d starve to death, or drown. And I
reckon Jim Adams owes him that much, to see as he’s put ashore where he
can get away, somehow. That’s all I want. Wait till we get down into
Virginny, Mister Haley, and I won’t make no trouble—but I guess you and I
will fight pretty bad if he has to go here.”

The mate’s manner was both threatening and wheedling. Clearly, he had no
fear of Haley. It was man against man. Haley waited some moments, eying
the mate as if to read his mind. Evidently what he saw, in the snapping
eyes that returned his gaze, convinced him that Jim Adams was not to be
turned aside without a struggle.

“All right,” he said, “but I’ll get square for it. Let your anchor go.
Come aboard here, you men. We’ll get our wood down yonder. Drop those
sails and turn in.”

Sullenly, leaving the mate to make all snug, Haley went below. Jim Adams,
turning his eyes upon Henry Burns as the boy slipped down into the
forecastle, muttered softly to himself. He had a queer kind of
cold-blooded logic, had Jim Adams.

“There,” he said, “you and I am square, young fellow. You saved my life,
and now I’ve saved yours. That makes us even, I reckon. The next time, I
guess you’ll have to go ashore.”

Into this bay and out again, the course of the Brandt now continued, as
the sloop Mollie traced it later. A vessel that passed here and there,
despite Haley’s precautions, sufficed to give the clues he fain would
have hid. There is fate in all things, and it was Haley’s now to leave an
open trail where he sought concealment. He ran to Smith Island, and the
Mollie got trace of him there. He sailed southward, and the Virginia line
was not so many miles away. Of an evening, as darkness was shutting down,
he perceived far astern a sloop coming in his wake. He noticed it, but
gave it little thought. He had one other idea in his mind, and that
overshadowed all else. The boy that was a peril to him must be gotten rid
of.

The Brandt was running free, with the wind directly astern—a fresh
evening breeze that was sending her along at a fair clip. Hamilton Haley
had the wheel. Jim Adams was below. Sam Black was on deck, forward. Henry
Burns was on deck. Wallace Brooks was on deck. Haley watched and waited.
By and by, Brooks stepped to the companion and went below. Haley called
to Henry Burns. There was a tangle of gear near the after-house.

“Here you, youngster, straighten out that line and coil it up neat,”
ordered Haley. Henry Burns went to work. Haley stood silently by the
wheel. The minutes passed, and Henry Burns worked on. His back was toward
the captain.

The booms were out on the starboard side. Watching the boy sharply, Haley
stooped and grasped the main-sheet, and drew it in a little. The
main-sail shivered, as the breeze caught it slightly aback. Cautiously,
Haley put the helm up a trifle; the bug-eye headed more to the starboard,
and the sail shivered still more. Henry Burns, intent upon his work,
however, failed to notice the manœuvre.

Then the main-sheet slackened suddenly in Haley’s hand, as the boom
started to swing inboard. Haley dropped the sheet and put the helm hard
up. Swiftly the heavy boom jibed across the stern. Haley ducked his head
as it swung past. The change of motion in the vessel was now apparent to
Henry Burns. One glance, and he saw the shadow of the sail as the boom
crashed upon him, with a swiftness he could not evade. He had barely time
to dodge when the boom caught him, grazing the top of his head and
hurling him overboard into the icy water. He had saved his life, but he
was momentarily stunned—and the bug-eye, Brandt, was disappearing in the
darkness when he came to his senses, choking, and stinging with the slap
of the winter seas.

The bug-eye swerved and laid over, with the jibing of the booms. But the
wind was not heavy; the sheets held, and Haley had her on her course in
another moment.

Henry Burns’s smothered cry was unheard save by Haley. It was not until
another hour, when the Brandt rounded to in Somers cove, that the boy’s
loss was discovered. Jim Adams, hardened as he was, faced Haley solemnly.

“Mister Haley,” he said, “I’ve seen you pay two men the wages that was
due them, with that ere main-boom, since I’ve been aboard this craft, and
they was not much account; but sure I think we’ll have bad luck now,
’cause we could have got rid of that youngster without that.”

For better or worse luck, however, the bug-eye Brandt made snug for the
night. There was a good berth to lie in; it was a quiet night, with only
a gentle breeze blowing. A lantern was set in the shrouds, and all hands
turned.


Henry Burns, knocked overboard by the blow of the boom, sank in the
chilling water, then rose again. He was not badly injured, but was
choking with the water he had swallowed. He had strength enough to cry
out only feebly. There was no salvation in that. He husbanded his
strength and struck out, to keep himself afloat. Fortunately, he was not
encumbered with oil skins, or he would have sunk.

Terror seized him; there seemed to be no chance for life in the darkness.
Yet he struggled to keep afloat. Then the shadow of some object came
before his eyes. It was a small cask, rolled off the deck of the Brandt
as she had heeled with the jibing of the boom. Henry Burns grasped it, as
it floated close, and clasped his arms over it. It sufficed to float him,
with the most of his body under water. It was a forlorn hope, yet he
clung with desperation.

Minutes that seemed like hours passed. His hold slipped, as his fingers
became numbed. He gave a cry of despair, struggled with all his strength
and regained his hold. Again he clung for what seemed to him hours. But
his strength was waning. The cold was robbing him of strength—of life. In
despair, he cried aloud again and again, over the waste of waters. He
could not hold out longer.

Then, out of the blackness there came a rushing sound, as of some large
body moving through the waves—and then—an answering call.

A cry from the blackness of the sea! Will Adams, at the wheel of the
Mollie, felt his hair rise on end. Jack Harvey, forward, on watch, felt
the cold perspiration stand out all over him. It seemed something
unearthly—impossible.

But the cry came again, and again. The sloop headed in the direction of
the sound, and there came into view the vague figure, floating, clinging
to the cask. They drew the castaway aboard presently—and then Jack Harvey
set up a shout that almost reached to Haley’s bug-eye.

“Henry Burns!”

They had him down in the warm cabin in a twinkling, and between blankets,
with hot drink to restore his strength. Edward Warren fairly wept for joy
and relief from anxiety. The Warrens and Jack Harvey tried hard to keep
the tears from their eyes, but didn’t all succeed. Will Adams stood by
the wheel, but called for news every moment from the rescued one, and
fairly shouted with exultation when Henry Burns gave the tidings that the
Brandt was just ahead, making for Somers Cove.

They turned the point and stood into the harbour. The sight that greeted
their eyes made their blood tingle. Under the lee of Long Point, there
lay a vessel at anchor, betrayed by its harbour light.

“It’s the Brandt,” exclaimed Harvey, as they neared it.

But, even as they spilled the wind from their sails, luffing, to consider
their plan of attack, there came voices from the Brandt, and two men
appeared on deck. So, to avoid suspicion, the Mollie ran in past the
Brandt for some rods, and came to anchor ahead of her. Quickly, sails
were made snug and lights doused in the cabin, a single small lantern
being set for a harbour light. Then the crew of the Mollie gathered for a
conference in the cabin.

Jack Harvey, eager to be avenged for his wrongs, was for standing over
boldly and attacking the bug-eye then and there; but Will Adams and
Edward Warren, older and wiser, were for waiting.

“We’ll never let him sail away,” said Will Adams, reassuringly; “depend
on that. But every minute we wait, saves a blow. They may be suspicious
for a while, but they’ll not watch all night.”

“But how can we reach them without giving warning?” asked Tom Edwards.
“They’ll hear us if we try to make sail, and one small skiff won’t hold
us all.”

Will Adams pulled out his watch and noted the time. “In two hours it will
be easy,” he answered. “In two hours the tide will begin to ebb out of
the river. We’re above the Brandt. When the tide turns, we’ll just start
the anchor off bottom and drop back on her. Get out the guns and make
ready—but be quiet.”

They worked silently, and watched the hands of Will Adams’s watch move
slowly around the dial. It seemed as though an hour would never go. Sixty
more long minutes, and, as Will Adams had foretold, the vessels were
swinging. Now their bows were no longer pointing out of the cove, but
up-river.

Will Adams, in stocking feet, crept cautiously out on deck and
extinguished the harbour light in the shrouds.

“We’ll see if they take notice of that,” he whispered, as he crept back
again.

There was no sound of life aboard the Brandt, which swung idly at its
mooring.

Gathering his force now, Will Adams instructed them in the parts each
should play. He sent Jack Harvey astern to the wheel.

“You know how to steer her when she’s going astern?” he asked—“Just the
reverse of the usual way.”

“Sure, I know,” replied Harvey, and crept to his post.

Edward Warren, armed with a rifle, and the others, carrying the equipment
of shot-guns, took up their positions on the companion stairs, ready to
rush out at the word. At the top, a dangerous post, crouched George
Warren, holding a coil of rope, one end of which had been made fast to
the foremast. Will Adams stole forward and slowly hauled in on the
anchor-rode. The Mollie went ahead, leaving a greater distance between
herself and the Brandt.

All at once, however, she began to drift slowly back again. Will Adams
had the anchor off bottom. Harvey turned the wheel slightly, this way and
that. The Mollie was dropping down upon the Brandt.

Gently the stern of the sloop grazed along the side of the bug-eye.
George Warren leaped upon the deck of the Brandt and made fast the line
about its foremast. Will Adams, running aft, snatched up a boat-hook,
and, with that in his right hand and holding a revolver in his left,
stepped aboard the Brandt. The boys, under orders, ranged themselves
quickly on the deck of the sloop, crouching low, holding the shot-guns.

Almost at the moment, there came darting from the cabin of the Brandt a
lithe, powerful figure, while the voice of Jim Adams called to Haley to
follow him. But he was a moment too late. Will Adams, swinging the
boat-hook, felled the negro with a single blow, stunning him.

Capt. Hamilton Haley, tumbling up from the cabin, half dressed, found
himself staring into the muzzle of Edward Warren’s rifle. He dropped the
weapon he carried, at the sharp command, seeing himself covered.

The crew of the Brandt, not over-loyal to Haley at best, showed no
inclination to fight, under the range of fire from a battery of
shot-guns. They called out, in fear, that they would give up.

They came forward, one by one, and submitted to being bound by Jack
Harvey, who performed that function in good sailor fashion.

But when it came to Hamilton Haley, Harvey found himself pushed aside.
Tom Edwards stood before him.

“Jack, old fellow,” said Tom Edwards, blithely, “let me have the
satisfaction of tying up that brute that made me slave at the dredges.”

“But you don’t know how,” protested Harvey.

“Don’t I, though!” exclaimed Tom Edwards, smiling. “Why, I used to tie up
a hundred bundles a day when I worked in a dry-goods store in Boston. Put
out your wrist, captain, I’ll show you what a counter-jumper can do.”

And Tom Edwards, with vast satisfaction, did up Hamilton Haley like a
package for the express.

They had not fired a shot—and the bug-eye was theirs. The cruise of the
Brandt was at an end.

Next day, with Henry Burns recovered sufficiently to be about and on
deck, the two craft started northward, keeping close in touch with each
other. The skipper of the Z. B. Brandt was Jack Harvey; and he had a
mixed crew, made up of one or two of the Brandt’s men that could be
trusted, and Edward and George Warren. The Mollie still obeyed her helm
directed by stalwart Will Adams. Back they went over the waters they had
travelled, running by daylight only, until they reached the upper waters
of Tangier Sound. There a welcome police-boat relieved them alike of the
Brandt and her former skipper and mate and crew.

A week later, there filed into a court-room in Baltimore a sun-burned,
weather-beaten looking party, conspicuous among which were Jack Harvey
and Henry Burns and Tom Edwards, and consisting otherwise of the Warrens
and Will Adams. They confronted two men there, long notorious for
wrong-doing among the dredging fleet. It was the beginning of the end for
Captain Haley and for Jim Adams, mate. They were held for trial. That
trial, months later, had its natural conclusion. The doors of the state
prison closed upon the pair for a long term of years.

And, in the meantime, two days following the preliminary hearing in
court, a train rolled into Benton, bearing a party of youths at once
joyous and serious. One of these, Jack Harvey, had parted for the time
being from a friend whom he had met in adversity and whom he had come to
love as an elder brother. That friend was Tom Edwards, no longer clad in
oil-skins and weary of life, but well dressed and well fed, and eager to
be back to the world of business from which he had been so rudely
spirited away. And it may be truly said that there were tears in the eyes
of Tom Edwards, as Jack Harvey, grasping his hand to say good-bye, gave
it a grip as though he were turning the handle of Haley’s winch.

There was someone at the train to meet Henry Burns, as well as the
parents of the Warrens. It was a slender spinster, Miss Matilda Burns,
who had the care of the youth. She wiped her eyes with a lace-trimmed
handkerchief, as she tried to look sternly at her nephew.

“Henry Burns,” she said, “where on earth have you been all this time? You
haven’t written me those two letters a week that you promised. I believe
you’ve been off somewhere, away from that farmhouse of Mr. Warren’s,
where you were going.”

“Yes’m, I have,” responded Henry Burns.


                                THE END.



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                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Silently corrected a few typos (but left nonstandard spelling and
  dialect as is).

--Rearranged front matter (and moved illustrations) to a more-logical
  streaming order.

--Replaced one reference to "Tom Adams" with "Tom Edwards"





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