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Title: Reube Dare's Shad Boat - A Tale of the Tide Country
Author: Roberts, Charles G. D., Sir
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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http://www.pgdpcanada.net with images provided by CANADIANA



                          BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


               THE RAID FROM BEAUSEJOUR,
                   and How the Carter Boys Lifted
                   the Mortgage. Two Stories of
                   Acadie. Illustrated              $1 00



                         REUBE DARE’S SHAD BOAT


                       A Tale of the Tide Country


                                   BY

                         CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS


                             [Illustration]


                         NEW YORK: HUNT & EATON
                      CINCINNATI: CRANSTON & CURTS
                                  1895



                              Copyright by
                             HUNT & EATON,
                                 1895.



                      Composition, electrotyping,
                        printing, and binding by
                             HUNT & EATON,
                       150 Fifth Ave., New York.



                               CONTENTS.



                                                     PAGE
                               CHAPTER I.
                The _Dido_ Goes Adrift                  9

                               CHAPTER II.
                The Red Bull                           21

                              CHAPTER III.
                The Chase of the _Dido_                32

                               CHAPTER IV.
                The Cave by the Tide                   41

                               CHAPTER V.
                A Prison House                         53

                               CHAPTER VI.
                The Blue Jar                           63

                              CHAPTER VII.
                Mart Gandy Hacks the Shad Net          75

                              CHAPTER VIII.
                A Midnight Visitor                     86

                               CHAPTER IX.
                The _Dido’s_ First Fishing Trip        96

                               CHAPTER X.
                Besieged on the Sand Spit             107

                               CHAPTER XI.
                Foiling the Sharks                    115

                              CHAPTER XII.
                The Shot from the Rocks               125

                              CHAPTER XIII.
                Gandy is Rescued from the Honey Pots  135



                             ILLUSTRATIONS.


          “She’s adrift!” he shouted. “Come on! Come on!”
          The bull swerved slightly and shot past
          Will marched ahead, carrying the torch
          It was coin—all coin!
          Then came the shining, silvery sides of a dozen shad
          “I think we’ll make it,” he said to himself
          Will and Reube bent their bodies to the pull



                        REUBE DARE’S SHAD BOAT.
                      A Tale of the Tide Country.



                               CHAPTER I.


                        The “Dido” Goes Adrift.

THE road from Frosty Hollow to Westcock, after climbing the hill by
the red creek and passing Mrs. Carter’s yellow cottage, ran through a
piece of dark and ancient fir woods. With the sighing of the firs there
mixed a deeper sound, the voice of the wild tides of the changing
Tantramar, unseen and far below. Turning sharply to the right, the road
presently emerged from the woods and came upon a very different picture
from that which it had left behind. It traversed the face of a long,
wide, steep slope of upland, set here and there with a gray or white
cottage, here and there a little grove. From the upland foot a mile-wide
belt of marsh stretched to the waters of the open bay. The pale-green
marsh was divided sharply from the yellow and flashing waves by the long
lines of the dike, to which it owed its existence as good dry land. At
intervals could be seen small creeks winding through the grassy level.
Every creek mouth formed a little haven, clustered about with net reels,
and crowded with the boats of the shad fishers.

Out from the whispering wood and into the fresh June sunlight of the
open came two tallish youths, walking slowly and talking with the joyous
zest of old friends who had been long parted. The older-looking of the
two was Will Carter, just home from college for the summer vacation. Two
years of college life had changed him little. He was the same slim,
thoughtful, discreet, yet blithely dauntless lad who had lifted the
mortgage from his mother’s farm and punished the ruffian Baizley, and
softened the hard old heart of Mr. Hand.[A] College study had increased
the somewhat scholarly pallor of his face, but college athletics had
added poise and grace to the movements of his well-knit muscles. He had
hastened home to his mother immediately on the close of the college,
leaving his brother Ted to take a month’s canoe trip through the inland
waters.

Will’s present companion, Reuben Dare, was a chum only second to Ted in
his love. Reube Dare was just eighteen. He was about the same height as
Will, but of a much heavier build. His was also a heavier and slower
nature, but one of faithful loyalty and courage combined with strong
common sense. His hair was light like Will’s, but his face was round and
ruddy. At a hasty glance one might fancy that he was good-natured to the
verge of being “soft,” but there was a steady, controlling gleam in his
light gray eyes which made folk very slow to presume on his good nature.
In fact, his eyes gave one the peculiar impression of having reached
full manhood before the rest of his face. He swung his long arms loosely
as he walked, and occasionally he stumbled in the ruts, being too much
absorbed in watching his comrade’s words to note just where he was
stepping.

It had long been Reube Dare’s keenest ambition to put himself through
college, but the poverty of his widowed mother—the population of that
land of sailors and fishermen is largely made up of widows—had stood
sternly in the way. The success of the Carter boys, however, in
reclaiming that rich marsh by the creek had proved a strong stimulus,
and given him new hopes, with results which this story will show.

All at once Will Carter, who had been talking eagerly for the last half
hour, stopped short, wiped his forehead, and perched himself on the rail
fence under a shady roadside maple. Reube leaned against the fence, and
took off his round straw hat.

“Now, Reube,” said Will, “it’s your turn. I’ve talked myself dry, and
gabbled right along like the ‘crick’ at low water. Your letters, you old
oyster, have told me mighty little. What have you been up to all
winter?”

“Building my shad boat,” answered Reube.

“Mother told me something about it. It’s great, old man!” said Will.
“But you don’t mean to say you built her all yourself.”

“Well, pretty near,” replied his friend. “Old Chris Boltenhouse helped
me with the frame, and set me right whenever I got in a muddle. It was
hard work, but I tell you, Will, it was so interesting I could hardly
take time to eat. I’ve thought of nothing else for months, except when I
was worrying over mother’s eyes, and now—”

“I heard about your mother’s trouble with her eyes,” interrupted Will,
sympathetically. “I do hope it’s not going to be serious.”

“Worries me a lot,” said Reube, gloomily. And then, his face brightening
again, he went on, “But now I’ve got her done, and rigged and tarred and
afloat at Wood Creek landing.”

“Reube,” interrupted Will again, and this time in a tone of severe
surprise, “what a singular way to treat your mother! I cannot imagine
that dignified lady in any such absurd situation as you speak of.”

“Come off!” retorted Reuben, very literally, as he caught at Will’s
ankle and, with a quick twist, jerked him from his perch. “I’m not
talking of mother, but of the _Dido_, and I say there’s not a trimmer
craft will go shad fishing from Westcock this season. I tell you, Will,
I’ve just put my heart into that boat. If it were not for that grove of
Barnes’s we could see her now, lying with the others, in the mouth of
the creek; and even at this distance you could pick her out from the
rest.”

“Well,” said Will, “let’s get along and inspect her as soon as possible.
I’m as tickled about her as if I’d built her myself; and I’m going to
help you with the fishing all I can, as my holiday diversion. Did she
cost you much? Is she going to _pay_, like _new marsh_?”

“If she has a lucky summer,” answered Reube—“and they do say there’s
going to be a great run of shad this season—I’ll have her all paid for
and quite a lump of money in the bank this fall.”

“And then!” said Will, in a voice of joyous anticipation. “What then?
College with us, for the winter term, anyway! And maybe a scholarship
that will still further simplify matters!”

“No!” exclaimed Reube, shaking his head gravely. “No college for me till
I have had mother away to Boston or New York, to get her eyes properly
seen to.”

Will’s face fell a little. “That’s so, old man. The eyes must be fixed
up first of all, of course. But if the boat’s a success, another season
will straighten it all out, eh? And when you come to college you’ll be a
freshman, while I’m a senior! Won’t I haze you though?”

“Come and practice a bit now!” said Reube, grimly.

Will ignored this invitation.

“What did you say you called the boat?” he queried.

“The _Dido_,” answered Reube.

“Imagine the stately queen of Carthage going out shad fishing!” chuckled
Will. “What struck you to choose that for a name?”

“O,” said Reube, gravely, “it will serve to keep my aspirations before
my mind’s eye, even when I am occupied in the prosaic task of splitting
shad.”

At this moment a long, shambling figure was seen climbing a fence some
distance down the hill, to the left of our pedestrians. Long, lank black
hair fell on his shoulders from beneath a black and greasy slouch hat.
Immediately the fellow disappeared in a choke-cherry thicket, after
turning a furtive, swarthy face for one moment toward the road.

“How’s your hereditary enemy behaving himself these days, Reube?”
inquired Will.

“Well,” said Reube, “Mart Gandy’s Mart Gandy, same as he always was. But
it seems to me that of late he has been troubling his neighbors less and
himself more than he used to. They say he’s seldom quite sober. He’s
left us alone pretty much all winter, though he did shoot one of my best
sheep in the upper pasture along in the first of the spring.”

“But didn’t you punish him for it?” asked Will, indignantly, glaring
back at the cherry trees wherein Gandy had vanished.

“I didn’t actually catch him, or I would have,” said Reube. “And I
didn’t want to have him taken up, for, bad lot as he is, he does look
after his mother and sisters in a kind of a way, and he is all they have
to depend on; for his drunken old father has become a regular idiot,
doing nothing but sit in the sun, pick at his beard, and whimper for a
drink.”

By this time they had reached the top of a knoll, whence the whole shore
line was visible.

“There’s the _Dido_!” exclaimed Reube, proudly, turning with a sweep of
the hand toward the mouth of Wood Creek. But the words ended in a cry of
anger and anxiety. “She’s adrift!” he shouted. “Come on! Come on! We
must catch her before she gets out of the creek. The wind’s right down
the bay!”

As he spoke he vaulted over the fence and started on a run across the
fields. Will was at his side in an instant.

“How can it have happened?” he asked.

“Gandy’s work, I’ll be bound!” muttered Reube, between his teeth; and
his eyes grew pale and bright like steel.

-----

[A] Professor Roberts has already told the spirited story of “How the
Carter Boys Lifted the Mortgage,” in a volume, _The Raid from
Beauséjour_, which is published by Hunt & Eaton, New York.



[Illustration: “She’s adrift!” he shouted. “Come on! Come on!”]



                              CHAPTER II.


                             The Red Bull.

THE short cut which Reube was taking across the fields and marshes was
calculated to diminish by a good half mile the distance which separated
him from his beloved boat. But it was a path beset with obstacles. Will
Carter saw all these—the long strip of bog and alders at the foot of
the upland; then the gluey stretch of “broad-leaf” marsh, passable
enough at a later season, but now a mire with the spring rains; and
beyond, furrowing the firm levels of young timothy and clover, the
windings of a creek which he knew was, in most places, too wide to jump,
and too deep to ford. With what breath he could spare—for his excited
comrade was setting a terribly stiff pace—he spasmodically exclaimed,
“We’d save time, Reube, by keeping to the road. We’ll be tangled up and
stuck here the first thing we know; and the _Dido_ will be off on her
own hook to seek the ruins of Carthage.”

But Reuben made no answer. He saw no obstacles. All he could see was the
far-off red stream, with the _Dido_, only a little way inside the line
of the dikes, veering gently and aimlessly from one green bank to the
other, but steadily creeping seaward with the current. Well he knew how
soon, with the falling tide, this current would quicken its pace. Once
let the _Dido_ get outside the creek, and he knew not what might happen
to her. She would certainly be off down the bay at a speed which it
appalled him to think of.

And now, running in grim silence, Reube and Will drew near the foot of
the uplands. Heavily, and with no waste of energy, they flung themselves
over a peculiarly massive rail fence, and entered a spacious pasture.
The field was dotted with mossy hillocks and a few low spruce bushes,
between which the grass grew short and thick. Two or three wide-armed
maple trees, standing far apart, relieved the vacancy of the sloping
expanse, which ended in a broad fringe of alder swamp, spreading its
labyrinth of black roots and bog holes a hundred yards out upon the
marsh.

As they ran, threading their way among the bushes, and springing from
hillock to hillock, they heard an ominous grunting bellow on their
right, and turning sharply they saw a large dark-red bull stepping out
from under the shade of a maple tree. The animal bellowed again, deep in
his throat; and running his horns into the nearest mound, tossed into
the air a little shower of turf and moss. This was an honest challenge,
but our runners were in no mood to accept it.

“This seems to be his bullship’s private domain!” panted Will. “I wonder
if he’s really as mad as he looks, or just bluffing?”

“No bluffing there!” muttered Reube, in a voice of anxious concern.
“It’s Barnes’s bull, and he means every word of it! We’re in a muss, and
we’ve just got to run for all we’re worth. I wish we’d stuck to the
road!”

As he spoke the bull, seeing his challenge unanswered, charged like a
great red thunderbolt. The boys rose into a fine burst of speed; but ere
they were halfway across the field Reube felt his legs and wind failing.
He vowed inwardly that he would not, could not break down, and he
wondered in his heart how Will was holding out. Will was a little ahead,
being the lighter runner; but his pace was flagging, and the bull was
now gaining upon them with dreadful rapidity. Under fair conditions the
fierce and active animal could have given his rivals a hard race; but
now, fagged from their long run down the hill, they were no match for
him. He was not more than fifty feet behind them, when their course took
them right under one of those spreading maples.

“No use!” gasped Will. “Up with you, Reube!” And springing desperately
into the air, he caught a branch and swung himself up into safety.

But Reube was not one who could change his purpose thus rapidly. “The
_Dido_!” he groaned; and, pausing under the tree, he glanced
irresolutely from the sea to his pursuer.

“Come up, quick!” yelled Will, his voice as sharp and inflexible as an
ax blade. Reube saw that there was no help for it. His eyes glared fury
at his pursuer, as a tiger glares at the hunters when he reluctantly
retires before them, and he started to climb the tree. But his
stubbornness was all but fatal. He grasped at a branch, and, missing his
hold, fell back. He repeated the attempt, this time more eagerly, but
again he would have missed and would have felt the bull’s horns pinning
him to the tree had it not been for Will’s readiness of action. Locking
his legs between two branches, Will reached down, grasped his comrade
under the shoulders, and with a mighty effort swung him around to the
other side of the trunk. The bull swerved slightly and shot past. Half
climbing, half dragged up by Will, Reube found himself safe among the
branches ere the bull had checked its rush and returned to the attack.

“You saved me that time, Will,” said Reube, in a somewhat shaky voice,
grasping his companion’s hand and wringing it hard. “But that was an
awful grip of yours. I think every finger took a piece out of me!”

Will grinned inscrutably, and it flashed across Reube’s mind that the
severity of the grip had had some connection with his own obstinate
delay in seeking safety. But the next instant all else was forgotten in
his anxiety about the _Dido_, which was plainly visible through an
opening in his leafy refuge. The boat had grounded for a moment on a
grassy point, and now the quickening current wrenched her off again and
carried her with slow gyrations beyond the very last of the landing
slips. Fifteen minutes more, at this rate, and she would be in the open.

“I can’t stand this, Will! I must try another dash,” he groaned.

Immediately beneath was the bull, snorting and bellowing, thrusting with
his great forehead against the trunk, and pawing the young turf so
energetically that it seems as if he aimed at uprooting the tree.

“All right, old man,” said Will. “Run right along now, and I’ll wait
here for you. Or perhaps you will mount the gentle steed beneath us and
ride to your destination.”

To this Reube vouchsafed no answer. He sat silent on his branch,
glowering across the marshes, and eating his heart in helpless wrath,
while Will, stretched face downward across the limbs, eyed the bull
pensively, and cudgeled his brains for a way out of the dilemma.

Suddenly he straightened himself with a radiant face, and exclaimed:

“I have it, Reube! We’ll trick his exasperated bullship and catch the
_Dido_ yet!”

But while the words were yet on his lips the bull lifted his head high,
gazed out across the field for a second or two, and then dashed off at
the same terrific gallop which had so nearly proved disastrous to our
heroes. He had seen a burly, red-shirted figure traversing the upper
corner of his field. It was seldom, indeed, that anyone other than his
master, the only man he feared, presumed to enter the precincts of his
sway, and here, in one morning, were three trespassers. The bull, blind
with rage, charged upon the red-shirted figure, and the red-shirted
figure, after facing him for a few seconds, turned and fled for the
fence.

“It’s John Paul! He’ll get away safe enough,” said Reube. “But what’s
your plan?”

“Got a better one by this time, old man,” replied Will, dropping out of
the tree—“just to cut while his bullship is otherwise engaged.” And
side by side the two sped on toward the shelter of the alders.

Before they got far the bull, having routed red-shirt and snorted at him
loudly through the rails, turned, discovered their flight, and came once
more thundering at their heels. But this time he had allowed his rivals
too much handicap. Before he could get anywhere near them Will and Reube
were among the alders. Once there, the big red bull could not match
their speed. He floundered, foaming and grunting, through the shallow
pools, and the deeper ones he had to skirt.

The boys, on the other hand, sprang lightly from root to hillock, from
hillock to elastic, reedy tuft, swinging across the pools on the long,
bending stems of the alders, and soon leaving their persecutor far
behind. They reached the fence, vaulted it, emerged upon the open marsh,
and there before them, still half a mile away, was the _Dido_, wheeling
gracefully out from the mouth of the creek.



[Illustration: The bull swerved slightly and shot past.]



                              CHAPTER III.


                        The Chase of the “Dido.”

REUBE uttered a cry of something like despair.

“Now, old man, what’s the matter with you?” queried Will, reprovingly.
“Do you suppose the _Dido’s_ gone? Why, you old chump, we’ll take one of
the other boats and go after her. With this wind we’ll catch her before
she goes half a dozen miles. She won’t get past the Joggins, anyway,
I’ll bet you a red herring!”

Reube’s face brightened, beamed broadly, and resumed its old boyish
frankness.

“Why, that’s so!” said he. “That’s just what we’ll do. What a perfect
fool I’d be sometimes, Will, if you didn’t keep an eye on me!”

That half a mile across the marsh proved a long one owing to the many
detours which our runners, now trotting slowly and deliberately, were
forced to make by the windings of the full creek. At last they reached
the landing place where the _Dido_ had been moored. About the rickety
old wharf stood four or five high reels, skeletons of light gray wood
wound with the dark-stained folds of the shad nets. The fishing season
was right at hand, but had not yet begun. Around the boats and the reels
were many half-obliterated footprints, left by the feet of those who had
been winding the nets and pitching the seams of the boats. Of fresh
tracks there was but one set—the tracks of someone with long, narrow
feet, who walked without turning out his toes. To these tracks Reube
pointed with grim significance of gesture.

“Yes,” said Will, “I understand. Did you ever see a plainer signature
than Mart Gandy makes with his feet?”

The smallest of the fishing boats at the wharf was a light “pinkie”—a
name given by the Tantramar fishermen to a special kind of craft with
the stern pointed like the stem. The pinkie, painted red and white
instead of blackened with tar like the other boats, was a good sailer.
She belonged to Barnes, the owner of the red bull; and to Reube’s
judicial mind it seemed appropriate that she should be taken without
leave. There was a further inducement in the fact that she could be got
afloat more easily than any of the other boats. The tide had fallen so
that her keel was high and dry; and the fine mud of Tantramar gripped it
with astonishing tenacity. But after a few minutes of such straining as
made the veins stand out on Will’s forehead, and brought a redness about
Reube’s steel-gray eyes, she was afloat.

Up went her dainty jib; up went her broad white mainsail; and presently
the red-and-white pinkie with Reube at the helm was nimbly threading the
sharp curves of the creek. After a succession of short tacks the channel
straightened, and heeling far over with the strong wind on her quarter
the pinkie ran into the open with the tawny surf hissing at her gunwale.
Reube held his course till they were a couple of hundred yards out,
dreading some hungry shoals he knew of. Then he let out the sheet, eased
up on the tiller, and put the pinkie’s head straight down the bay on the
_Dido’s_ track. Will loosened out the jib, belayed it, and lay down on
the cuddy in its shadow. The _Dido_ was out of sight beyond the rocks
and high oak trees of Wood Point.

A stern chase, as has been said from of old, is a long chase; and while
the red-and-white pinkie was scudding before the wind and shearing the
yellow waves with her keen bow, Reube and Will had to curb their
impatience. They did not even whistle for more wind, for they had all
the wind the pinkie could well endure. When their ears had grown used to
the slap and crumbling rush of the foam-wave past their gunwale they
spoke of Mart Gandy.

Reube Dare’s father, whose farm adjoined that of the Gandys, had got
himself embroiled with old Gandy over the location of the dividing line.
While Reube was yet a very small boy old Gandy had pulled down the
dilapidated line fence during one of Captain Dare’s absences, and had
put up a new one which encroached seriously on the Dares’ best field. On
Captain Dare’s return he expostulated with Gandy; and finding
expostulation useless he quietly shifted back the fence. Then his ship
sailed on a long voyage to the Guano Islands of the Pacific; and while
he was scorching off the rainless coasts of northern Peru, Gandy again
took possession of the coveted strip of field. From this voyage Captain
Dare came back with broken health. He gave up his ship, settled down on
the farm overlooking the marshes, and called in the arm of the law to
curb old Gandy’s aggression. The fence had by this time been moved
backward and forward several times, each time leaving behind a redder
and more threatening line of wrath. When the case came into court the
outcome was a surprise to both contestants. There were rummaging out of
old titles and unearthing of old deeds, till Captain Dare’s lawyer made
it clear not only that Gandy’s claim was unfounded, but also that before
the dispute arose Gandy had been occupying some three acres of the old
Dare property. The original grant, made a hundred years earlier to
Captain Dare’s grandfather, required that the line should run down the
middle of old Gandy’s sheep pasture—a worthless tract, but one which
now acquired value in Gandy’s eye. Down the pasture forthwith was the
new fence run, for Captain Dare, fired to obstinacy by his neighbor’s
wanton aggression, would take no less than his rights. Then, the victory
assured to him, the captain died, leaving to his widow and his boy a
feud to trouble their peace. The farm was productive, but for some years
old Gandy had vexed them with ceaseless and innumerable small
annoyances. When the old man sank into imbecility, then his son Mart, a
swarthy and furtive stripling, who betrayed the blood of a far-off
Indian ancestor, took up the quarrel with new bitterness. In Mart
Gandy’s dark and narrow soul, which was redeemed from utter
worthlessness by his devotion to his family, hatred of the Dares stood
as a sacred duty. It was his firm faith that his father had been tricked
by a conspiracy between judge, jury, and lawyers. The persistency of his
hate and the cunning of his strokes had been a steady check upon the
prosperity of Reube and his mother.

In answer to a remark of Reube on this subject Will exclaimed, “But
you’ve got him all right this time, old man. There can be no difficulty
in identifying those footprints.”

Reube laughed somewhat sarcastically.

“Do you suppose,” he inquired, “that the tide is going to leave them as
they are while we go after the _Dido_, fetch her back, and then go and
get those holes in the mud examined by the authorities?”

“Well, perhaps my suggestion was hasty,” acknowledged Will.

After an hour’s run Wood Point was left behind, and there was the _Dido_
not a mile ahead and well inshore. She had been delayed in the eddies of
the cove below the Point. Reube gave a shout of joy and twisted his helm
to starboard, while Will warned him to look out for the mud flats with
which the cove was choked.

“O,” said Reube, confidently, “I know the place like a book.”

The red-and-white pinkie was now rapidly overhauling the vagrant craft
when a stiff current caught the latter and she began to race along the
curve of the farther shore. Reube was anxious to catch her before she
should round the next headland, and get back into rough water. The
headland was a low, humped promontory of mingled plaster rocks and
yellowish sand, without a tree upon its grassy crest. Shifting his
course to intercept the _Dido_, Reube steered the pinkie straight for
the point. Just then the _Dido_ was seen to give a lurch, stop short,
and keel over to the gunwale.

“She’s run aground!” cried Will.

“But we’ve got her safe and will sail her back on next tide,” said
Reube, heaving a sigh of relief as he saw that his beloved craft stood
still, refusing to be rolled over by the push of the yellow tide upon
her ribs.

The pinkie was sailing at a great pace.

“Better take in the jib, Will,” said Reube.

Will sprang up to obey. Just as he rose there was a staggering shock.
The pinkie buried her nose in a hidden mudbank. The waves piled over her
gunwales; the mast bent without breaking, like the brave, tough timber
it was; and Will shot overboard headlong into the foam.



                              CHAPTER IV.


                         The Cave by the Tide.

ACTING instantly on the impulse of an old sailor, Reube had sprung
forward almost with the shock, and started to haul down the mainsail in
order to relieve the strain. The next moment, however, while the
half-lowered sail was bulging and flapping, he leaped into the bow to
help Will. The latter rose with a gasp and stood waist deep, clinging to
the bowsprit. His head and arms were bedaubed grotesquely with the mud
into which he had plunged with such violence. He gazed sternly at Reube,
and exclaimed:

“Perhaps you’ll claim that you know these mud banks as well as I do! I
earnestly hope you may, some day, gain the same intimate knowledge of
them!”

Then he climbed aboard and finished the furling of the sails, while
Reube rolled convulsively in the bottom of the boat, unable to control
his laughter. He recovered himself only when Will trod upon him without
apology, and threatened to put him overboard.

When the sails had been made snug, and the pinkie bailed out, and the
mud cleaned with pains from Will’s face and hair and garments, there was
nothing to do but watch the _Dido_ in the distance and wait for the tide
to fall. In another half hour, or a little more, only a waste of red
flats and yellow pools separated the two stranded boats. Reube took off
his shoes and socks, rolled his trousers up high, and stepped overboard.
These precautions were for Will superfluous; so he went as he was, and
congratulated himself on being able to defy all hidden clam shells.
Before he went, however, he took the precaution to put out the pinkie’s
anchor, for which Reube derided him.

“The pinkie’s no Western stern-wheeler, to navigate a field of wet
grass!” said he. “I fancy she’ll wait here till next tide all right!”

“Yes—but then?” queried Will, laconically.

“Then,” replied Reube, “we’ll come back for her with the _Dido_.”

“There’s lots one never knows!” said Will, as he looked carefully to the
anchor rope. And as things turned out it was well he did so—a fact
which Reube had to acknowledge penitently.

The distance between the stranded boats was little more than a quarter
of a mile, yet it took the boys some time to traverse it. The bottom of
the cove was for the most part a deep and clinging ooze, which took them
to the knee at every step, and held their feet with the suction of an
airpump. Here and there were patches of hard sand to give them a
moment’s ease; but here and there, too, were the dreaded “honey pots”
for which that part of the coast is noted, and to avoid these they had
to go most circumspectly. The “honey pot” is a sort of quicksand in
which sand is replaced by slime—a bottomless quagmire which does its
work with inexorable certainty and deadly speed. Both Reube and Will
knew the strange, ominous olive hue staining the red mud over the mouths
of these traps, but they knew, also, that all signs sometimes fail, so
they took the boathook with them and prodded their path cautiously. At
last, after wading a long, shallow lagoon, the bottom of which was thick
with shells, and unfriendly to Reube’s bare feet, they reached the
runaway _Dido_.

Breathless with anxiety, Reube climbed over the side, suddenly imagining
all sorts of damage and defilement. But his darling was none the worse
for her involuntary cruise. She had shipped some muddy water, but that
was all that Reube could grumble at. Gandy had been too shrewd to do
anything that might look like malice aforethought. In a trice the trim
craft was bailed out and sponged dry. Then Will admired her critically
from stem to stern, from top to keel, asking a thousand learned
questions by the way, and feeling almost persuaded to build a boat
himself. But even this interesting procedure came to an end, and at
length the comrades threw themselves down on the cuddy roof, and
realized that they were hungry. It was long past their dinner time. The
tide was not yet at its lowest ebb, and it would be four or five hours
ere they could hope to get the boats again afloat.

The only thing they had to eat was a pocketful of dried dulse which
Reube had brought with him. This they devoured, and it made them very
thirsty. They decided to go ashore and look for a spring. Far away, on
the crest of the upland, were some houses, at which they gazed hungrily,
but the idea of leaving the _Dido_ and the pinkie for any such long
jaunt was not to be entertained for a moment. As they again stepped out
into the mud Will repeated the precaution which he had taken in regard
to the pinkie. He put out the little anchor, and paid no heed to Reube’s
derision. To be sure, Reube was both owner and captain, but Will stood
not on ceremony.

Not far from high-water mark our thirsty explorers found a clear, cold
spring bubbling out from beneath a white plaster rock. The water was
very hard, carrying a great deal of lime in solution, and Will lectured
learnedly on the bad effect it would have upon their stomachs if they
drank much of it. As usually happens, however, this theorizing had small
force against the very practical fact of their thirst. So they drank
till they were perfectly satisfied, and were afterward none the worse.
This, Will insisted, was thanks to the abundance of sorrel which they
found amid the grass near by, whose acid was kind enough to neutralize
the lime which they had swallowed.

“But I say,” urged Reube, “there are folks back yonder who drink water
like this all their lives. The wells in this plaster belt are all hard
like this, and some of the people who drink from them live to over
ninety.”

“That proves nothing,” said Will, “except that they are a long-lived
stock. If they had sense enough to go somewhere else and drink soft
water they might live to over a hundred!”

Reube cared little for argument, always finding it hard to know whether
Will was in earnest or not. He lazily changed the subject.

“By the way,” he remarked, “now’s just the chance to visit the cave at
the end of the Point!”

“Cave!” cried Will, jumping up from the grass. “What cave? How can there
be a cave round here without me knowing it?”

“Why, I only heard of it myself last fall,” said Reube. “You see, the
mouth of it isn’t uncovered till near low water; and nobody comes near
this point at any time, there being nothing to come for, and the shoals
and eddies so troublesome. I’ve sailed round here a good deal at high
and half tide, but no one comes near it when tide’s out. You see all the
broken rocks scattered away out across the flats from the Point. And as
for the “honey pots” between them—well, old Chris Boltenhouse, who told
me all about the place last fall, said they were a terror. You couldn’t
step without getting into one. Chris also told me that the Acadians, at
the time of their expulsion, had used the cave as a hiding place for
some of their treasures, and that when he was a boy quite a lot of coin
and silver ornaments had been found there.”

“Queer, too,” muttered Will, “how things like that drop out of people’s
minds, come back, and are forgotten again! Well, let’s look into the
hole while we’ve got time;” and the two ran hastily to the narrow end of
the turf.

Over the slippery rocks below tide mark they had to move more
deliberately, but in a short time they reached the foot of the
promontory and stood on the verge of the flats not half an hour above
low water. Very villainous indeed looked the flats, with the olive-hued
menace spread over them on every hand. But there was no sign of a cave.
Scanning the rocks minutely, our explorers skirted the whole front of
the headland, but in vain. Then they started to retrace their steps,
inveighing against the falsity of traditions. But now, their faces being
turned, the rocky masses took on for them a new configuration, and they
discovered a narrow strait, as it were, behind a jutting bowlder. It was
a most unlikely-looking place for a cave entrance, but Will poked his
nose into it curiously. The next moment he shouted:

“Found!”

Reube sprang to his side. There, behind the sentinel rock, was a narrow,
triangular opening of about the height of a man. Its base, some four
feet wide, was thickly silted with mud, and its sides dripped
forbiddingly. Will stepped inside, and then turned.

“It’s darker than Egypt!” he exclaimed. “How are we going to explore it
without a light?”

“Ah,” said Reube in tones of triumph, “I’ve got ahead this time, Will! I
happened to bring a whole bunch of matches from home in my pocket to
supply the _Dido’s_ cuddy. And I picked up this on the Point when you
were running ahead in such a hurry.” And he drew a sliver of driftwood
pine from under his jacket.

“Good for you, old man!” cried Will, joyously. In a second or two the
sliver was ablaze, and the explorers plunged into a narrow passage whose
floor sloped upward swiftly.



[Illustration: Will marched ahead carrying the torch.]



                               CHAPTER V.


                            A Prison House.

IN their eagerness they forgot to look around before entering the
cave. They forgot to look at the tide, which had already turned and was
creeping swiftly over the treacherous levels. They forgot everything
except that they were in the cave where once undoubtedly had been
Acadian treasures, and where, as each dreamed in his heart and denied on
his lips, some remnant of such treasures might yet lie hidden.

Will marched ahead carrying the torch and peering with eager enthusiasm
into every crevice. The cave was full of crevices, but they were shallow
and contained nothing of interest but some fair crystals of selenite,
which gleamed like diamonds in the torchlight. A few of these Reube
broke off and pocketed as specimens. The cave widened slowly as it
ascended, and the slope of its floor kept it well drained in spite of
the water ceaselessly dripping from roof and walls. Its shape was
roughly triangular, and our explorers sometimes bumped their heads
smartly in their haste.

Presently they reached a point where a narrow gallery ran off from the
main passage. Which to take was the problem.

“It seems to me,” said Reube, “that if there was any of the old
Acadians’ stuff here it would be most likely to be hidden in the smaller
passage.”

“Acadians’ stuff!” sniffed Will, sarcastically. “A lot of that we’ll
find!”

But, none the less, he acted on Reube’s suggestion, and led the way up
the side gallery. After running some twenty-five feet the gallery turned
a corner and ended in a smooth, sloping face of rock. There was no sign
of crevice or hiding place here. Across the sloping face of the rock
there ran a ledge about a foot wide some five or six feet above the
floor, and the roof of the gallery at this point ascended steeply to a
narrow and longish peak.

“No risk of bumping our heads here,” said Will, as he flung the
torchlight along the ledge and showed its emptiness.

“Better hurry back and try if we can’t finish the main cave before the
light goes out,” said Reube, pointing to the pine sliver, already more
than half consumed. Shielding the flame with his hand to make it burn
more slowly, Will led the way with quick steps back to the larger
gallery. This now became more interesting. Its walls were strewn with
most suggestive-looking pockets, so to speak, full of silt and oozy
_debris_, into which Will and Reube plunged their hands hastily,
expecting to find a coin or a silver candlestick in every one. So
fascinated were they by this task that they paid no heed to the torch
till it burned down and scorched Will’s fingers. He gave a startled cry,
but had presence of mind enough not to drop it. To make it last a little
longer he stuck it on the point of his knife and then exclaimed, in a
tone of disappointment:

“Reube, we must get out of this while the light lasts—and that’ll have
to be pretty quick!”

“Rather!” assented Reube. “Hark!”

The word was barely out of his mouth before the two lads were running
for the cave mouth, their heads bent low, their hearts beating wildly.
The sound which they had caught was a hollow wash of waves. In a few
seconds the torch went out, but there was a pale, glimmering light
before them, enough to guide their feet. This puzzled them by its
peculiar tone, but in half a minute more they understood. It came
filtering through the tawny tide which they found seething into the
cave’s mouth and filling it to the very top. Will gave a gasp of horror,
and Reube leaned in silent despair against the wall of the passage.

“The tide will fill this cave to the very top, I believe,” said he.

“Yes,” answered Will, in a voice of fixed resolve; “there’s nothing for
it but to try a long dive right out through the mouth and into the
rocks. We may get through, and it’s our only chance!”

“Go on, then, Will. Hurry, before it’s too late! And—have an eye to
mother, won’t you?” Here a sob came into Reube’s voice. “You know I’m a
poor swimmer and no diver. Good-bye!” and he held out his hand.

But Will was coolly putting on his coat again.

“I forgot that,” said he, simply. “Well, we’ll find some other way, dear
old man. Bring along your matches;” and he turned back toward the depths
of the cave.

For answer Reube merely gripped his arm with a strong pressure and
stepped ahead with a lighted match. He could not urge Will to carry out
the plan just proposed because in his heart, for all his confidence in
Will’s powers as a swimmer, he could not believe it feasible. He saw, in
imagination, his comrade’s battered body washing helplessly among the
weedy and foaming rocks; while in the cave, for all the horror of it,
there would certainly be some hours of respite—and who could say what
they might not devise in all that time? He had a marvelous faith in
Will’s resources.

In grim silence, and husbanding every match with jealous care, they
explored the main cave to its end. Its end was a horrid, round, wet
hole, a few feet deep, and not large enough to admit them side by side.
They looked each other fairly in the eyes for the first time since that
one glance when they had learned that they were entrapped. Reube’s eyes
were stern, enduring—the eyes of one who had known life long. The boy
had all gone out of them. Will’s eyes looked simply quiet and kind, but
his mouth was set and his lips were white.

“This is just a rat hole, Reube,” said he. “We won’t stay here anyway.
Seems to me it would be better to have room to stand up and meet it like
a man.”

“Yes,” replied Reube, his voice choking with a sort of exaltation at his
comrade’s courage; “we’ll go back to the little gallery with the high
roof. We’ll get up on that ledge and we’ll fight it out with the water
to the last gasp, eh? It’s pretty tough—especially for mother!”

“Well,” said Will, with a queer, low tone of cheerfulness which seemed
to his friend to mean more than cries and tears, “when I think of mother
and Ted it sort of comes over me that I’d like to say my prayers—eh?”
and for a minute or two, standing shoulder to shoulder, he and Reube
leaned their faces silently against the oozy rock in the darkness. Then,
lighting another match, they made all haste possible back to the side
gallery, ascended it, and climbed upon the ledge. Hardly had they got
there when they heard the tide whispering stealthily about the entrance
of the passage. They felt that it was marking them down in their new
retreat.

When the next match blazed up—for they could not long stand the
darkness with that creeping whisper in their ears—Will gazed steadily
at the peak of the roof above his head. The match went out.

“Another!” he cried, in a voice that trembled with hope.

“What is it?” asked Reube, eagerly.

“Roots!” shouted Will, leaping to his feet. “Tree roots coming through
the roof up there! We must be near the surface, and there is evidently a
fissure in the rock filled up with earth. We’ll dig our way out with our
knives and our fingers yet!”

“But there are no trees on the Point,” urged Reube, doubtfully.

“Thunder, Reube! but can’t there be old roots in the soil?” cried Will,
impatiently. “Dig, man, dig!” And he began clawing fiercely at the earth
above his head. Reube aided him with fervent energy, and the earth,
though hard and clayey, came down about them in a shower. Presently they
could reach no farther up.

“We must cut footholds in this rock,” said Will.

The rock was plaster, but hard, and this took time. When it was
accomplished they again burrowed rapidly toward the surface and air and
light. They were working in the dark now, because with the rise of tide
in the cave the air was growing close and suffocating. Three times they
had to cut new footholds in the rock. They toiled in silence, hearing
only each other’s labored breath and the falling of earth into the water
beneath them. The tide was now crawling over the ledge where they had
first taken refuge. There it stopped; but this they did not heed. The
fear of suffocation was now upon them, blotting out the fear of
drowning. Their eyes and ears and nostrils were full of earth. They
worked with but a blind half-knowledge of what they were doing. All at
once there came a gleam of light, and Reube’s hand went through the
turf. He clawed at the sod desperately, and a mass of it came down about
their heads. It troubled them not. There was the clear, blue sky above
them. A sweet wind caressed their faces. They dragged themselves forth
and lay at full length on the turf with shut eyes and swelling hearts.



                              CHAPTER VI.


                             The Blue Jar.

IT was some minutes before either spoke. All they knew was that they
were once more in the air and light. Then, with a start, Reube sat up
and looked about him. He looked, of course, for the _Dido_. To his
inexpressible relief the cherished craft was there in plain sight,
riding safely at her anchor, some fifty yards from shore. And there,
farther out, rode the pinkie. Reube blessed his comrade’s foresight.

“Will, where would the boats be now?” said he, “if you hadn’t insisted
on anchoring them?”

Will sat up and surveyed the situation, thoughtfully clearing the mud
from his eyes with little bunches of grass.

“It was just as well we anchored them,” he assented. “And now that I’ve
got my wind, I think I had better swim out to the _Dido_ and bring her
in for you. I feel as if I wanted a bath anyway; don’t you?”

“I’ll be with you in half a minute,” said Reube. “But first I want to
explore the cave a little more. It seems to me we came away in something
of a hurry!”

He let himself cautiously down in the hole, feet first.

Will stopped his undressing and stared at him in amazement.

“Are you crazy?” he cried. “Do come out of that beastly hole! The idea
of it makes me quite ill!”

“O, I’m not going far,” said Reube, “and I won’t be gone long, either.
Don’t be alarmed.”

As his head disappeared Will ran to the hole and looked down, anxiously
and curiously. He saw Reube groping in a crevice filled with soft earth,
about three feet below the surface.

“What in the world are you after, Reube?” he inquired.

“That!” replied Reube the next instant, holding aloft triumphantly a
small blue jar of earthenware. “Take it, and give me a lift out of
this!”

Will deposited the old jar reverentially on the turf, and turned to help
Reube up. He half expected that the jar would vanish while his back was
toward it; but no, there it was, plain and palpable enough. It had a
cover set into the rim, and sealed around the edges with melted rosin;
and it was heavy.

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

“Probably some good old Evangeline’s pet jar of apple sauce!” said he.

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

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

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

[Illustration: It was coin—all coin!]

“That’ll be three hundred dollars apiece,” said Reube, with eyes
sparkling; “and I’ll be able to take mother to Boston and go to college
too!”

“Three hundred dollars apiece!” said Will. “Indeed, I don’t see what I
had to do with it. You found it. You had nerve enough to take notice of
it when you were more than three quarters dead. And you went back and
got it. I’ve no earthly claim upon it, old man.”

Reube set his jaw obstinately.

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

“O, don’t get on your dignity that way, Reube,” said Will. “If I must,
why, I suppose I must! And if I can’t take a present from you, I don’t
see whom I could take one from. But I won’t take half, because I didn’t
do half toward getting it, and because you need it enough sight more
than I do. A couple of years ago I’d have spoken differently. But I’ll
divide with you, and as to the proportions, we’ll settle that on the way
home. Now I’m off for the _Dido_!” And having thrown off his clothes as
he talked, he ran down the bank and plunged into the sea.

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

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

The wind being still down the bay and the tide on the turn, they decided
not to attempt the all-night task of beating up against it. It took
them, indeed, two tacks to reach the pinkie. Will went aboard the latter
craft, leaving Reube in his darling _Dido_. The two boats tacked
patiently back and forth, in and out of the wide cove, till they gained
the shelter of a little creek under the lea of Wood Point. Here they
were secured with anxious care. Then Will and Reube started for home by
the road, pricked on to haste by the thought of how their mothers would
be worrying, by the sharp demands of their empty stomachs, and by the
elating clink of the coins that filled their pockets. When they reached
Mrs. Dare’s cottage Reube rushed in to relieve his mother’s fears, for
she had indeed begun to be anxious. Will hurried on toward Frosty
Hollow, munching a piece of Mrs. Dare’s gingerbread by the way.

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

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

“I hope,” grinned Barnes, “you’re not put out at old Ramses for bein’ so
oncivil in the pastur’! But as for the pinkie, of course you did quite
right. Only I’ll want you chaps to get her back to the creek by
to-morrow mornin’s tide, as I’m goin’ to drift for shad to-morrow
night!”

“Of course,” said Will; “we’ll go after her the first thing in the
morning. That’s just what we planned on.”

“That there’s a smart boat Reube Dare’s built. And he’s a right smart
lad, is Reube,” remarked Jerry Barnes.

“There’s where your head’s level,” agreed Will, warmly.

“And do you know when he’s goin’ to drift?” asked Barnes.

“He won’t be quite ready for to-morrow night,” said Will. “But we count
on getting out the night following.”

“Well, now, a word in your ear!” went on Barnes, leaning over
confidentially. “I’ve no manner of doubt Mart Gandy cut the _Dido_
loose. And now Reube had better keep his eye on his nets after the boats
get away to-morrow night. I shouldn’t wonder a mite if Gandy’d try
slashing ’em, so as to give Reube an unpleasant surprise when he starts
out for the _Dido’s_ first fishing.”

“I say,” said Will, “I never thought of that! We’ll ‘lay’ for him, so to
speak, and give him a lesson if he tries it on.”

“A nod’s as good as a wink,” remarked Jerry Barnes, mysteriously, as he
set Will down at Mrs. Carter’s door.

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

“Of course, dearest boy,” said Mrs. Carter, “you did quite right to want
Reuben to take all the treasure, since he alone found it. But where
would he have been but for you? Reuben is a fine boy, if his grandfather
didn’t amount to much. He takes after his mother’s family the most. I’m
glad he made you take a share of these lovely old coins.”

“We’ll be able to have some sort of a jolly lark on the strength of it
when Ted comes home,” said Will.

“We might take a run to Boston!” suggested his mother. “I want you boys
to see the city; I want to see it myself. And I might—Mrs. Dare, you
know, might want a friend near her if the operation proves at all
serious, which I hope it won’t.”

“You dear, that’s just like your thoughtfulness!” cried Will, jumping up
and kissing her. And so it was agreed upon, subject, in a measure, to
Ted’s assent.



                              CHAPTER VII.


                     Mart Gandy Hacks the Shad Net.

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

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

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

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

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

“And he’ll be able to see that we don’t get cheated,” added Will. “I
fancy some of those coins will be wanted by collectors, and so be worth
a lot more than their face value.”

“I tell you, Will,” exclaimed Reube, “I can’t even yet quite get over my
astonishment at the way you swear by old Hand; or, perhaps I should
rather say, at the way the old fellow seems to be developing qualities
of which he was never suspected until you begun to thaw him out.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I cannot pound the scoundrel now that I’ve got him down,” said he,
turning his face toward Will. “What shall we do with him? You can’t
lather a chap that doesn’t resist and that has his head down in the mud.
It’s brutal!”

“We’ll tie his hands to the reel and give him a taste of this rope’s
end,” suggested Will, judiciously.

“I don’t exactly like that either,” said Reube, rubbing his captive’s
head again in the slime. “It’s too much like playing hangman. He
deserves the cat-o’-nine-tails if ever a scoundrel did, but I don’t like
the dirty work of applying it. We’d better just take him to jail. Then
he’ll get a term in the penitentiary, and be out of the way for a few
years. Fetch me that cod line out of the cuddy, will you?”

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

“Lick me! Lick me all you like!” he cried, in his queer, high voice. “I
kin take a hidin’; but don’t send me to the penitentiary! What’d the old
man do, as hain’t got his right senses no more? An’ the old woman’d jest
plumb starve, for the gals they ain’t a mite o’ good to work. Le’ me off
this time, Reube Dare, ’n’ I declare I won’t never do it ag’in!”

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

“There’s something in what the rascal says, Will. If Mart goes to the
penitentiary his family’s going to suffer more than he. I’ve a mind to
let him off this time, after all.”

“Well,” grunted Will, “just as you say. But it would be nothing short of
iniquitous to let him off altogether. You’d better give him a good
ducking, to let him know you’re in earnest, anyway.”

Reube pondered this a moment.

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

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

“Can you swim?” he asked, curtly.

“No,” said the fellow, eyeing him sidewise.

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

“Well,” said Will, “if he isn’t lying we’ll fish him out again, that’s
all.”

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

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

“He’s putting that all on,” said Reube.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



                             CHAPTER VIII.


                          A Midnight Visitor.

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

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

“Are you quite sure,” asked Mrs. Dare that evening, “that Gandy won’t
make another attack on the shad boat or the net?”

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

“Well, dear, I hope you are right,” said his mother. “But I must say I
think Mart Gandy is more dangerous than you give him credit for being. I
want you to be very careful how you go about alone at night. I know that
blood, and how it craves for vengeance. Be watchful, Reube, and don’t
make the mistake of undervaluing your enemy.”

“No, mother, I won’t,” answered Reube. “I know that wise head of yours
is generally in the right. If you think I ought to keep my weather eye
open, why, open I will keep it, I promise you. And now it’s my turn!
What were you doing out so late alone, when it was almost dark, with
those poor eyes that can’t see much even in broad daylight?”

“I know it was imprudent, Reube, and I did have some trouble getting
home,” confessed Mrs. Dare. “But, dear, I couldn’t help it. I heard
quite late in the afternoon that Jim Paul was on a spree again, after
keeping steady for a whole year. He has been drinking hard for a
week—drunk all the time—and his wife sick in bed, and nothing to eat
in the house. I went right down with a basket, and I was glad I went.
The children were crying with hunger. And such a house! And Mrs. Paul
lying on the floor, white as a ghost, where she had just fallen! She had
got out of bed and tried to make some porridge for the children—there
was nothing in the house but a little corn meal. Her husband was out,
and she was trembling with fear lest he should return in a drunken
frenzy and beat them all. Poor woman! And Jim Paul is a good husband and
father when he is sober. You see, Reube, it took me a long while, blind
as I’m getting, to find the children and straighten things up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing else to be done, mother,” he said, quietly. “Don’t be scared!
He won’t bother me, whoever he is!” And as his mother looked at him she
felt strangely reassured. Or, perhaps it was something in his voice
which satisfied her. She snatched up her big Paisley shawl, flung it
over her nightgown, and followed Reube at a discreet distance.

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

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

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

“Give me that ax!” said Reube, quietly.

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

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

“I’ll take care of it till you’re sober enough to put it to its proper
use,” said he.

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

“No you don’t, Jim!” interrupted Reube at this point. “You’ll stay right
here where I put you for the rest of this night. And you’ll go home to
your family in the morning if you’re sober enough, but not otherwise.”

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

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

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

“Good night, mother dear. He’s all right where he is now, and I’ll have
a talk with him in the morning.”

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

“I know I was just crazy drunk las’ night, but I kinder reck’lect what
happened. When we wuz all drinkin’ down to Simes’s, an’ I’d licked three
or four of the fellers, Mart Gandy says, says he, ‘There’s a lad
hereabouts as yer cain’t lick, Jim Paul, an’ him only a kid, too!’ In
course I fires up, and says I, ‘Show him to me, an’ I’ll show yous all!’
Some more words passed, till I was that riled I was blind, an’ then Mart
Gandy says, says he, ‘Yer cain’t lick Reube Dare!’ Off I started to
once’t, an’ you know’s well’s I do that I’d never ’a’ lifted a finger
agin this house ef I hadn’t bin jest blind crazy! But I’ll remember what
I might ’a’ done ef you hadn’t jest bin able to make me mind; an’ ’fore
God, I’ll try to keep straight. But you mark my words. Look out fer that
ther Gandy! He’s up ter mischief, an’ he ain’t the one to stick at
anything.”

“Thank you, Jim,” answered Reube, holding out his hand. “We’ll say no
more about last night, but I’ll remember your warning, and I want you to
remember the promise you’ve just made me!”



                              CHAPTER IX.


                     The Dido’s First Fishing Trip.

JIM PAUL’S warning made an impression on Reube’s mind. When Will
Carter heard of it he exclaimed:

“That fits in with my own ideas exactly, Reube! There’s some alien
streak in that Gandy’s blood that makes him more likely to knife you in
the back than fight you to your face; and that being a kind of enemy you
don’t understand, you’ve got to be all the more careful, old man.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A reef right ahead! Bring her about, quick!”

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

“Let go the jib!”

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

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

“That was something of a close shave,” remarked Reube.

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

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

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

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

“I say,” exclaimed Will, a few minutes later, yawning, “this sun’s
getting mighty hot! How long have we been drifting?”

“A little over two hours,” replied Reube.

“How long is one expected to drift?” asked Will.

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

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

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

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

“If the _Dido_ keeps it up like this she’ll be as good as your diked
marsh,” cried Reube, gloating over his prizes.

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

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



[Illustration: Then came the shining, silvery sides of a dozen shad.]



                               CHAPTER X.


                       Besieged on the Sand Spit.

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

“That’s quite a swim for me, Will,” said Reube, doubtfully, eyeing the
tide.

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

“I just wish you would,” said Reube. “I don’t seem to really get hold of
myself in the water. I have to work frightfully hard to keep up at all,
and then I’m all out of breath in less than no time. Why is it, I
wonder?”

“Well,” answered Will, “we’ll see right now. You swim over to the bar
yonder, and I’ll stand here and watch your action. I fancy you don’t use
your legs just right.”

“It’s too far. Pull her in a little way,” urged Reube.

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

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

“How’s that?” asked Reube.

“O, it’s all wrong! If it was anyone less obstinate than you he wouldn’t
keep afloat half a minute struggling that way,” answered Will. “But wait
a moment and I’ll show you what I mean.”

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

“Now,” said he, “get in there in front of me when the water comes up to
the lower part of your chest. You use your legs wrong, and your arms
too. Your arms don’t make a quarter the stroke they ought to, and your
fingers are wide open, and your hands press out instead of down on the
water too much. Keep your fingers together, and turn your palms so that
they tend to lift you, instead of just pushing the water away on each
side. And, moreover, finish your stroke!”

“And what about my legs?” asked Reube, humbly.

“Never mind them till we get the hands right,” insisted Will. “Now lean
forward slowly, with your back hollowed well and chin up, your arms out
straight ahead, and straighten your legs. Right! Now round with your
arms in a big, fine sweep, drawing up your legs at the same time. That’s
more like it. But your legs—you draw them up right under you with the
knees close together. That’s all wrong. Didn’t you ever watch a frog,
old man? As you draw up your legs spread your knees wide apart like one
of those tin monkeys shinning up a stick. Try again. M-m-m! Yes, that’s
something like what I want. You see, with the knees doubled up wide
apart they have their separate motions as you kick them out again. The
legs press the water down, and so do some lifting. The feet push you
ahead, and at the same time you thrust a wedge of water backward from
between your legs as they come strongly together.”

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

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

“Come here quick, quick, Reube!”

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

“I’m all right now,” said he.

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

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

Reube turned and glanced behind him.

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

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

“I understand,” said he. “If I’d got flurried in the water I would have
forgotten the lessons you have just given me, and couldn’t have got to
shore fast enough.” And in the love and admiration which glowed in his
eyes Will read sufficient thanks.

“Now the question is,” mused the latter, “how we’re going to get to the
boat.”

“Seems to me we’d better stay right here for the present,” said Reube,
drily.

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

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

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

“I don’t see what we’re going to do about it,” said Reube presently,
after they had gazed at their dreadful besiegers in gloomy silence. “But
there’s something in the way of a weapon which we might as well secure
anyway.” And running to the other side of the sand spit he snatched up a
broken picket which had been left there by the previous ebb. “It’s
better than nothing,” he insisted.

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

“No,” said Reube, doggedly, grasping the other firmly by the shoulder.
“You just wait here. We’ll fight this thing out side by side, as we have
fought things out before. Remember the cave, Will! And we won’t fight
till we have to. We’re safe for a half hour yet anyway.”

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

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

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



                              CHAPTER XI.


                          Foiling the Sharks.

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

“She’ll swing over to us yet,” asserted Reube, confidently. “She isn’t
going to desert us in such a horrible scrape as this!”

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

“You’d better give that stake, or picket, or whatever it is, to me,
Reube,” he suggested. “You’ll have enough to do just swimming. I, being
perfectly at home in the water, will be able to make the best use of it,
don’t you think? If I can manage to give each of those brutes a solid
jab in the belly, maybe they’ll get sick of their undertaking and
depart.”

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

“You’ll have to fight for yourself and me too, that’s all,” he
continued.

“I’ll make a fight anyway,” said Will. “And I dare say I can drive them
both off. In these well-stocked waters they can’t be very hungry or very
fierce.”

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

“Come up there where it is wider,” said Reube.

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

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

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

“Can we?” inquired Reube, doubtfully.

“Yes,” said Will, “and the sooner the better. But now look, Reube; keep
cool. Don’t try to hurry too much. Take the long, slow strokes. And
remember, I’ll keep behind, and, if the brutes do get around too quick
I’ll keep them busy a minute or two, never fear. Then you can come to my
rescue with one of those fence stakes yonder. Come on, now!” And side by
side they slipped swiftly into the water.

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

[Illustration: “I think we’ll make it,” he said to himself.]

By the time our swimmers were fairly half way across, or perhaps a shade
better, Will saw the fins come round the foot of the sand spit.

“I think we’ll make it,” he said to himself, measuring the distance with
cool eye. But he refrained from telling Reube what he saw. A moment
later, however, as he marked the terrible speed of the approaching
peril, he could not help saying, in a voice which he kept quite steady
and casual:

“You’re doing finely, Reube. Don’t hurry your stroke, but put a little
more power in it for a spurt and we’re safe.”

Reube wasted no breath for a reply. He knew this adjuration of Will’s
meant that the danger was drawing very near; but his companion’s anxiety
as to his nerves was quite unneeded. He struck out as steadily as ever,
but with all the force which his muscle and his will power together
could create, and went ahead so fast that Will had to really swim to
keep up with him. In half a minute more—to them it seemed a long
time—Reube struck bottom in shallow water and dragged himself to land.
The sharks were now so near that for an instant Will hesitated. Would he
have time to get out, or must he turn and defend his legs? But his
decision was instantaneous. With a mighty thrust of his legs and one
free arm he flung himself forward, felt the mud beneath his hands,
jerked his feet under him, and stood up just in time to turn and deal
the nearest shark a desperate blow with the pointed stake as it half
turned over to seize him. Astonished and daunted, the great fish
recoiled, and before its fellow could join in the attack Will had sprung
out of reach.

“It’s a blessed thing,” said Will, “to get ashore with a whole leg,
isn’t it?”

His light manner was but the froth on the surface of his deeper
emotions. He was trembling from the long strain and stern
self-repression.

Reube drew a deep, slow breath.

“Verily,” said he, with a grave face, “that was pretty nearly as bad as
the cave while it lasted!”

“O, surely not,” objected Will. “We had the free air and sun, and a
chance to fight for our lives. But it makes me mad to think what fools
we were in the first place.”

“How so?” asked Reube.

“Why,” answered Will, “if we’d come, this way on the first arrival of
those beastly leviathans we would not have had half so far to swim, and
our pursuers would have had nearly twice as far to go. It would have all
been as simple and easy as falling off a log, and our hearts wouldn’t be
going like trip hammers now, the way they are.”

“That’s so,” agreed Reube, in a tone of disgust. “But now I’m wondering
what other scrapes we can manage to get into between here and home. I
never realized till now the truth of the proverb—generally I despise
proverbs—which says ‘It never rains but it pours!’ It seems to me I
have been at steady high pressure the last few days, and lived more and
felt more than in all the rest of my life put together.”

“My idea is that fate’ll let us alone for a while now,” remarked Will,
with the air of a philosopher. “The law of probabilities is all against
any further excitement on this trip.”

“So be it!” said Reube. “But let’s get to the _Dido_—and our clothes!”

Trotting up the lonely shore of the creek for half a mile, they came to
an _aboideau_, and crossed to the other shore of the stream. Following
down the bank, they soon came opposite the _Dido_. The sharks were
nowhere to be seen, and the _Dido_ presently swung so near that a short
plunge put them safely on board. Dressing hastily, they got up the
anchor and sailed out of the creek with their bowsprit pointing
homeward. As they did so the sharks appeared again, pursuing them. Will
tied a piece of pork to a dry block, tossed it overboard, and snatched
up his rifle. The bait floated a moment unmolested, then the nearest
shark, darting upon it, turned over and engulfed it in his murderous
mouth. At the same moment Will fired. The ball, with deadly precision,
entered the brute’s mouth and pierced its brain. With a convulsive
flurry it rolled over stone dead.



                              CHAPTER XII.


                        The Shot from the Rocks.

THE other shark, taking alarm, darted away at once.

“That’s a trophy we must secure!” exclaimed Reube. “You don’t have a
chance to shoot a shark every day.”

Will was already noosing a couple of ropes. The _Dido_ was brought
alongside the rolling carcass, and after a great deal of difficulty the
nooses were made fast to its head and tail. In the effort to hoist the
heavy mass aboard the boat was nearly swamped; and at one time Will
offered to give up the job. But Reube generously insisted on continuing.
At last, by waiting till a wave rolled boat and carcass, together in
just the most propitious way possible, the thing was accomplished with a
sudden hoist. Along with the great fish a barrel or two of water came
aboard; and while Reube steered, Will was kept busy for a half hour
bailing the boat out.

This accomplished, Will discovered that the hot sun, the excitement, or
possibly the motion of the boat, had given him a violent headache.

“O, it’s all very well, but you know you’re seasick,” gibed Reube, as he
sat at the helm.

“Maybe so,” assented Will, undisturbed at the imputation. “Anyway, I’m
going to lie down here under the shade of the mainsail to sleep it off.
Even if I snore don’t wake me, as you value your life!”

With the aid of a blanket he made himself comfortable, and in a few
minutes was sound asleep. Steering the _Dido_ and watching the shores
slip by, and building plans for the coming year, Reube was well content.
The wind, after having almost died away, had shifted a few points and
was blowing gently but steadily. With this wind on her beam the _Dido_
sailed fast, heeling smoothly, and sending the waves past her gunwale
with a pleasant murmur. Reube took little account of time just now. Life
seemed a very attractive dream, and he was unwilling even to stir. But
his hand on the tiller was firm, and there was no smallest danger of him
dropping to sleep.

This lotus-eating mood, with a few intervals, must have lasted four or
five hours. The tide had turned and been a good three hours on the ebb.
At last he observed vaguely that he was just off the promontory where he
and Will had been caught in the cave. Thinking of the dangers of the
locality, he steered a point or two further out to give the sunken reefs
a wide berth. As he did so he noticed that the tide was out as far as
the foot of the bluff, and that the cove flats were all uncovered. He
was fairly past the point when out of the tail of his eye he caught a
movement among the rocks just where the cave mouth lay. Turning his head
quickly, he saw Mart Gandy step forward and raise his great duck gun to
his shoulder.

The distance was scarcely fifty yards, and Gandy was a first-rate shot.
There was no time to think. Like a flash Reube dropped forward upon the
bottom of the boat, letting the tiller swing free. At the same instant
there was a loud, roaring report from the big duck gun, and the heavy
charge of buckshot, passing just over the gunwale, tore a black hole in
the sail.

Reube had fallen just in time. He picked himself up again at once,
recaptured the tiller, and tried to put the _Dido_ before the wind in
the hope of getting out of range ere Gandy could load up for another
shot. But the boat was pointing straight for the shore, and came round
very slowly. Ere Reube could get her on a new course Will appeared from
behind the sail, astonished at the noise and the confusion.

He took in the situation at once. Gandy, who was reloading in fierce
haste, stopped for a moment with paling face at Will’s unexpected
appearance. He had evidently been under the impression that Reube was
alone, or doubtless he would not have committed himself by such an
attack. Then he made up his mind that he would see the thing through.
Flinging down his powder horn, he rammed home the wadding fiercely, and
reached for the heavy shot pouch at his side.

“To shore, Reube! Straight ashore with her!” said Will, in a low,
intense voice.

Reube obeyed instantly, seeing that his former intention had been a
mistake. Mart Gandy wadded home the buckshot in his great gun barrel.
The charge was a terrific one. Will stooped, like a wild-cat crouching
for a spring. The _Dido_ rushed straight on, and both Reube and Will
declared afterward that they knew just what it was like to charge a
battery.

As Will’s keen eye saw Gandy’s finger feel for the trigger, he yelled,
“Down! Reube!” and dropped beneath the gunwale. On the instant Reube
fell flat in the stern. The great roar of the duck gun shook the air at
the same moment. But the charge flew wild and high, and a black hole
appeared in the upper part of the sail. The report was followed by a
yell of pain, and the big gun clattered on the rocks. Gandy staggered
back. The breech of the gun had blown out, and a fragment of it had
shattered his arm. In a moment, however, he recovered himself and rushed
desperately at the face of the bluff.

The boys saw at once what had happened.

“We’ve got him now,” said Reube, sternly. His sense of justice quenched
all sense of pity.

“Yes,” remarked Will, “he can’t climb the rocks with that arm; and now
that he can’t fire that clumsy weapon of his, he’s no longer dangerous.
We’ll just take him prisoner!”

Meanwhile the _Dido_ was dashing straight on to the Point, trusting to
Providence that she would strike a soft spot. But with Gandy disabled
there was no need of this desperate haste, so Reube steered for a place
where he knew there was neither reef nor honey pot, but a slope of firm
sand. He was too much occupied in the delicate task of making a safe
landing for the _Dido_ to observe what Gandy was doing. But Will watched
the actions of the latter, with a cold smile on his finely cut mouth.

“He is a coward, every time, when it comes to the pinch!” was his
remark. “See him now, too scared to meet us like a man, and struggling
like a whipped cur to climb those rocks and get away! He can’t do it,
though!”

Indeed, Mart Gandy at this moment realized the fact which gave Will such
satisfaction. With his right arm broken, he could not make his way to
the top of the bluff. Like a hunted animal, he turned and glared with
eyes of hate and fear upon his adversaries. Again he looked at the
rocks, turning his head quickly from side to side. And then, with a
shrill, fierce cry, he darted out straight across the flats toward the
head of the cove.

“He’ll get away after all,” remarked Reube.

“Get away, indeed!” muttered Will. “It’s in the very thick of the honey
pots he’ll be in less than half a minute, or I’m much mistaken. There!”

As he spoke, Gandy was seen to throw himself violently backward. It was
just in time. As he tore himself by a mighty wrench from the engulfing
slime he struggled to his feet, swerved to one side, and ran on.

Reube drew a long breath of relief; and Will said, dispassionately:

“That was well done. It was sharp.”

Just then the _Dido_ ran up on the sand, and stopped with a shock that
would have pitched Will overboard if he had not grasped the mast.

“Now we’ve done it, Reube!” he exclaimed. “We’re aground hard and fast,
just when there’s no longer any need of being here. I fancy we won’t
undertake to follow Mr. Gandy through these honey pots.”

Reube made no direct answer. He was on his feet watching the fugitive,
anxiously.

“Ah-h-h!” he cried, “he’s got it. He’ll never get through that patch of
death traps along there.”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when Gandy seemed to wallow
forward as if the ground had given way beneath him. With a mighty heave
of his body he tried to throw himself backward as he had done before.
But this time he was too late The hungry, greenish-red ooze but lipped
and clung to him more greedily. He flung himself flat, rolled on his
side, and strove to drag one leg free. With the effort his other leg
sank up to the thigh. Then he lifted his face and uttered a shriek of
heart-shaking horror.

Reube and Will sprang out upon the sand, Will grabbing up the boat hook
as he did so. Reube snatched it from his hand.

“Go back,” he cried, “and get a rope, and follow me carefully right in
my tracks. I know this cove and you don’t.”

The next moment he was speeding like the wind to the spot where Gandy
lay writhing in that inexorable grasp.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


                 Gandy is Rescued from the Honey Pots.

WILL was but a few seconds in getting the necessary rope out of the
cuddy. Then, taking an oar with him, he followed Reube as fast as he
could run, casting wary eyes at the oily patches which were dotted
around his path.

The wretch in the honey pots had evidently no thought that his enemies
would attempt his rescue. When he saw them approaching he thought they
came to mock him or to gloat over his last agony, and he nerved himself
to control the terror which had unmanned him. Then he saw the boat hook,
the oar, the rope, and he knew that these meant help if help were
possible. A wild hope, mixed with wonder, lit up his deep-set eyes.
Could it be that Reube Dare would try to save him after all that he had
done? To let him perish would be just, and so easy and so safe. To help
him would be perilous indeed, for no one could go among the honey pots
without taking his life in his hands; and yet here was Reube, here was
that interfering Carter chap, running toward him as if there were no
such things as honey pots. He could not understand it. The deadly mud
was sucking, sucking, sucking at his feet, his knees, his thighs. It was
like dumb, insatiable tongues of strange monsters curling about him.
Nevertheless, he half forgot the horror in a new feeling which broke
upon his spirit, and this emotion spoke in his eyes as Reube arrived at
the edge of the honey pot. Reube saw it, and it insensibly softened his
voice as he said:

“Keep up your nerve now, and we’ll get you out all right.” At the same
time he stretched out the boat hook, which Mart grasped with desperate
strength, pressing it to his breast with his one sound arm.

Flinging all his weight into the pull, Reube surged mightily on the boat
hook. But his utmost force produced no effect. The pull of the twisting
mud was mightier. Instead of extricating Gandy, even by an inch, he
found himself sinking. He was on treacherous ground. With a quick wrench
he freed the leg that was caught by dragging it from its boot. Then,
leaving the boot where it was, he ran around to the other side of the
honey pot and felt for firm standing ground.

As he did so, Will came up breathing quickly.

“Be keerful on your right!” cried Gandy, sharply, and Will sprang aside,
just avoiding a bad spot.

“Thanks, Gandy,” he remarked, in a casual way, as if Gandy had picked up
his hat for him or handed him a match. Then he flung a coil of rope,
saying:

“Fix the end of that under your arms; fix it firm, so that it won’t
slip.”

Then he went round the honey pot to where Reube was standing, with pale
brow knitted closely.

“What are we going to do?” asked Reube. “I can’t budge him.”

Gandy, in spite of shattered arm, had succeeded in fastening the rope
about his waist, and now, placing the long, light shaft of the boat hook
in front of him, was bearing down upon it as hard as he could.

“That’s a good idea,” cried Will. “But here, Mart, the oar will be
better because it’s bigger round and flat in the blade. Fling us the
boat hook and take the oar!”

These efforts, though they had not at all availed to extricate the
victim, had kept him from being dragged further down. With the oar he
was able to exert his strength to more advantage. Will now made a loop
in the rope and passed the handle of the boat hook through it. Then, one
on each side of the rope, and each with the shaft across his breast, so
that the whole formed a sort of rude harness, Will and Reube bent their
bodies to the pull like oxen in a yoke. At the same time Gandy, using
his unwounded arm, lifted with all the force that despair could give
him.

For two or three seconds there was no result. Was it all to be in vain?
Then from Gandy’s white lips came a gasping cry of “She gives!” and
slowly, slowly at first, then with a sudden yielding which nearly threw
the rescuers to the ground, that terrible hold gave way, and Gandy, was
jerked forward upon solid ground.

White and panting from the strain, they turned to free him from the
rope. He had fainted and lay as if dead. The anguish of his wound and of
his terror and the gigantic effort which he had just put forth had
overcome him.

[Illustration: Will and Reube bent their bodies to the pull.]

“Let’s get the poor wretch down to the water,” proposed Will.

“We’ll take him right aboard the _Dido_, where we can see to his arm and
fix him a place in the cuddy,” said Reube. “The _Dido’s_ hard and fast
now for another six hours, so we can take our time. But I wish we could
get the chap to a doctor sooner than that.”

So saying, he picked up Gandy’s long form and walked with it easily down
to the boat. The wounded man was still unconscious. A bed of quilts was
fixed for him, and Reube was just about to cut the sleeve from his shirt
to examine the arm and bathe it when Will cried:

“Hold on a minute, Reube. The way the boat lies now I think we can pry
her off with the oar. See how the sands dip away on the outside.”

He was right. Using the big oar as a lever, they got the _Dido_ afloat
in a very few moments. Then Reube said:

“You sail the boat, Will, and I’ll see to the patient.”

“You had better let me attend to him while you steer,” suggested Will.

“No,” said Reube; “he’s my own private enemy, and I must look after him
myself. You see to the boat.” And Will obeyed without more ado.

Had they been watching Gandy’s face they would have seen the eyes open
and instantly close again. But Reube was delicately cutting the sleeve
away and Will was watching the process, the sail, and the _Dido’s_
course all at the same time. Gandy was conscious, but in a faint way he
was wondering over the situation in which he found himself. Presently he
heard Will speak again:

“Well, now you’ve got him, and the poor rascal is a good deal worse for
wear. I can’t for the life of me see what you’re going to do with him.”

Will’s voice was kind, in a bantering way. He found it hard to maintain
a proper degree of righteous indignation against a man whose life he had
just saved. And that helpless arm he could not but contemplate with
pity.

“I’m going to get him home and into the doctor’s hands,” said Reube. “It
seems to me he’s punished enough this time, and maybe he’ll realize it.
Anyway, I’m not going to take action against him after all the trouble
we’ve had to save him. We’ll just say nothing about that shot from the
rocks till we see how he turns out when he gets well. If there’s any
good in him, this experience ought to bring it out. And there must be
some good streak in a fellow that’s faithful to his family the way Mart
is.”

By this time the arm was bare, and Reube was bathing it tenderly. Then,
covering the wound with a wet compress, he bandaged it loosely and rose
to fix a shelter over the patient’s face. To his amazement the tears
were rolling down Gandy’s sallow cheeks.

“What’s the matter, Mart? Feeling worse?” he inquired, anxiously.

But Gandy made no reply. He covered his face with his one available arm,
and Reube could perceive his thin lips working strangely. Having seen
that he was as comfortable as he knew how to make him, Reube seated
himself by Will in the stern. Save for a few chance and commonplace
remarks, there was silence between the two comrades for an hour, while
the _Dido_ sped merrily homeward. They had enough to occupy their
thoughts in that day’s adventures, but they did not wish to talk of what
their captive could hardly like to hear about. At last Will remarked:

“It’s warm, Reube, and your patient must be thirsty.”

“That’s so,” said Reube, springing up. With a tin of fresh water he
stepped over to Gandy’s side, slipped an arm under his head to raise it,
and said:

“Here, Mart, take a sup to cool your lips. They look parched.”

Instead of complying, Gandy grasped and clung to the hand that held the
cup.

“Forgive me,” he begged. “Reube Dare, forgive me. I never knowed what I
was doin’. To think of all I’ve done to you, an’ then you to treat me
like this!” And he covered his face again.

“Mart,” said Reube, more moved than he was willing to let appear, “never
mind about that now. We’ll let bygones be bygones. Here’s my hand on
it.” And he grasped the hand that hid Mart’s eyes.

In his weakness Gandy was so overcome that he tried to laugh just while
he was struggling not to cry, and he made a poor mixture of the attempt.
But, raising himself for a second on his elbow, he managed to murmur
unsteadily:

“I can’t talk, but, ’fore God, I’ll show you both what I think of yous.”

And Mart Gandy kept his word through after years of loyal devotion to
these two young men who on this day had taught him a new knowledge of
the human heart. An ambition to seem worthy in their eyes led him to
mend his life, and the Gandy name soon grew in favor throughout the
Tantramar countryside.

As for the _Dido_, fate looked kindly on her trips all that season and
for several seasons thereafter. That autumn Reube took his mother to
Boston. Mrs. Carter, with Will and Ted, went at the same time; and after
a simple operation, much less painful than had been expected, Mrs. Dare
regained the perfect use of her eyes. On their return to the Tantramar
Will and Ted set out again for college, and this time Reube went with
them. His _Dido_ had proved herself a fair match for the new marsh in
the matter of giving her master an education. During successive summer
holidays she carried Reube and Will and Ted on many a profitable and
merry trip, but never again did she experience one so eventful as that
with which she began her career as a Tantramar shad boat.

                                THE END.



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been maintained.

Some illustrations were moved to facilitate page layout.

A cover was created for this eBook.

[The end of _Reube Dare's Shad Boat: A Tale of the Tide Country_, by
Charles G. D. (George Douglas) Roberts.]





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