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Title: Among the River Pirates - A Skippy Dare Mystery Story
Author: Lloyd, Hugh
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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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                     _A SKIPPY DARE MYSTERY STORY_



                               AMONG THE
                             RIVER PIRATES


                                   BY
                               HUGH LLOYD
                              _Author of_
                      The Hal Keen Mystery Stories


                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                             SEYMOUR FOGEL


                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                         PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

                          Copyright, 1934, by
                         GROSSET & DUNLAP, Inc.
                         _All Rights Reserved_
               _Printed in the United States of America_



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I Upstream                                                           7
  II Condemned                                                        14
  III The Basin                                                       22
  IV Compromise                                                       28
  V The Apollyon                                                      35
  VI A Strange Story                                                  44
  VII For Skippy                                                      51
  VIII Alone                                                          56
  IX A Visitor                                                        61
  X A Suggestion                                                      66
  XI All of a Kind                                                    73
  XII Drifting                                                        76
  XIII Lights                                                         80
  XIV The Bell Buoy                                                   84
  XV Rescued                                                          91
  XVI River People                                                    96
  XVII Mugs                                                          103
  XVIII Bad News                                                     110
  XIX Danger                                                         115
  XX A Job                                                           120
  XXI What Next?                                                     124
  XXII Big Joe’s Idea                                                129
  XXIII Another Job                                                  134
  XXIV Another Rescue                                                139
  XXV Davy Jones                                                     148
  XXVI The Rocks                                                     153
  XXVII Suspense                                                     157
  XXVIII The Duffys                                                  162
  XXIX Good News                                                     168
  XXX Beasell                                                        172
  XXXI Moonlight                                                     176
  XXXII The Last of the Basin                                        180
  XXXIII Skippy’s Wisdom                                             186
  XXXIV The Great Adventure                                          195



                        AMONG THE RIVER PIRATES



                               CHAPTER I
                                UPSTREAM


The shabby old motor boat moved slowly up the river towing an equally
shabby old barge. Dilapidated and unpainted as the hull was, the engine
was well muffled—suspiciously well muffled—and the disreputable looking
craft moved through the water with all the noiseless dignity of a yacht.

A ferry-boat paused midway of the long tow rope and its commuters,
crowded on the forward deck, watched this slow-moving procession with
some show of annoyance. Not a few impatient remarks rose loud and clear
above the hum of the restless crowd, directed at the head of a man
seated in the stern of the boat, calmly puffing on a pipe. Aft on the
barge, a young boy was wrestling heroically with the tiller, trying to
keep the lumbering hulk head on.

Slowly they crawled upstream. On their left was the precipitous Jersey
shore, and on their right the towering buildings of the great city. Over
the water the late afternoon sun spread a warm, mellow glow and touched
with gold the myriad windows of the clustering skyscrapers across the
river.

The man knocked out his pipe with calm deliberation and turned his wide,
gray eyes to the lofty Palisades, now bathed in a dazzling crimson. Then
slowly his glance wandered back to where the shimmering light fell
across the little shanty on the barge and picked out in hold relief the
incongruously new and shining letters, _Minnie M. Baxter_.

A smile lighted up his lined, weary features, a smile of pride in
ownership.

“She ain’t so bad fer the old battle-axe that she is, hey Skippy?” he
called to the boy.

The boy’s tousled head appeared from around the battered cabin.

“I’ll say she ain’t, Pop,” he answered. “An’ she’s _ours_! Gee, I can’t
believe my pop really an’ truly owns a _whole_ barge!”

The man laughed, then listened for a moment to a significant sound
emanating from the muffled engine.

“That there front cylinder’s missin’ agin, Skippy,” he shouted. “Loop
’er in that there ring; the tide’s runnin’ out now so she’ll stand
upstream. Set ’er even ’n’ come aboard here.”

The boy nodded obediently and with an end of rope fastened the old
tiller to a rusty ring. Then, hurrying forward, he jumped into the water
and grasping the taut tow line, pulled himself hand over hand and
scrambled over the stern of the launch.

The father put out a large, work-worn hand and helped him in with a
tenderness that was surprising in one so rough and uncouth looking.

“Gimme that there shirt and them shoes while I hang ’em near the
engine,” he said, his voice soft with affection. “Ye’ll be gettin’ a bad
throat agin.” He made no demand for the boy’s trousers, which were the
only other article of apparel that the little fellow wore.

Having spread the clothing to dry and adjusted the rebellious motor, the
man returned to the stern. He relighted his pipe and sat down with an
arm about his son.

“I’ll steer her fer a while, Pop,” said Skippy.

For a few minutes there was silence.

“Yer glad we’re goin’ straight?” the man asked with a sudden move of his
arm on the boy’s shoulder.

Skippy’s eyes widened and he looked up at his parent, hesitantly.

“I mean yer glad we’re goin’ straight—in a straight racket, I mean? Now
there ain’t goin’ to be no more worry about coppers. I won’t care if
they’re floatin’ all over the harbor an’ I won’t be worryin’ about no
pinches. A man don’t ever think uv bein’ pinched when his racket’s on
the up and up. An’ that’s me from now on. I said when I got three
hunderd saved I’d buy a barge an’ not touch no more shady rackets. _An’
I have!_ Three hunderd—every penny we had in the world, sonny, I paid
Josiah Flint fer the _Minnie M. Baxter_. She’s worth every dime uv it.”

Skippy nodded gravely.

“An’ll that help me t’ be honest when I grow up, too,” he asked eagerly,
“an’ be like—like a gentleman even?”

“Sure, Skippy. Ain’t that just why I saves up an’ buys the _Minnie M.
Baxter_? So’s yer kin grow up clean an’ honest like—that’s why I done
Josiah Flint’s dirty work fer his dirty money! So’s I could save an’ buy
this ol’ battle-axe an’ give yer a good an’ a clean start.”

“But we’re gonna carry garbage an’ ashes on her,” said Skippy. “That
ain’t so clean exactly, is it, Pop?”

“Garbage an’ ashes’ll bring in clean money, Skippy—that’s what I’m
talkin’ about—clean money. Since yer ma died I ain’t had many real
honest like jobs. It’s been hard ter git ’em with yer needin’ me with
yer so much counta yer bad throat. Anyways the money come easier an’
quicker on my jobs even if it was dirty an’ now I’m all through with
gettin’ it shady like.”

“An’ my throat’s lots better’n it usta be, Pop,” said Skippy eagerly. “I
ain’t had a bad one for three months’n over.”

“Sure, I know. Everthin’ll be jake now with us goin’ straight. Ol’
Flint, let him have his dirty money an’ his fine yacht. It’s a wonder he
gets so generous an’ sells me such a good scow fer three hunderd
smackers. Everybody says he’s such a money-pincher he’d even try makin’
money on a rusty nail.”

“A regular miser, huh, Pop?” said Skippy. “Maybe he felt sorry about you
savin’ all that money so’s you could get a clean business. Did he say
the _Minnie M. Baxter’s_ a good barge for haulin’ garbage an’ ashes?”

“Sure. He boosted her hisself when I tells him I wants a good scow. An’
he oughta know, him that owns more scows’n he can count.”

“Gee, three hunnerd dollars—real money,” mused the boy.

“Sure, but not for no scow like this one. Brand new ones cost four times
that. Big Joe Tully paid Ol’ Flint five hunderd fer his an’ Joe cleaned
up two thousand bucks on the first year. He tole me that fer a fact.”

“But ain’t Big Joe Tully doin’ sumpin’ for Mr. Flint now?” Skippy asked.

“Big Joe can’t keep away from dirty money,” replied the man. “He wants
to get rich quick. Not me, though. I can keep away from Ol’ Flint from
now on, an’ what’s more, _I will_!”

“Gee, I know you will, Pop,” said the boy, with shining eyes. “You’re
not like—well, you’re different from old Mr. Flint an’ that Big Joe.”

The father ran his hand over his son’s tousled head and gripped a
handful of the straight brown hair affectionately.

“That cabin ain’t goin’ ter make us no bad little shack, hey Skippy?” he
said nodding toward the little square shelter aft.

“She’s swell inside—for a barge, I mean. Three bunks an’ a nice oil
stove an’ a table an’ chairs. Gee, that’s a regular home, huh Pop? Even
there’s a kerosene lamp.”

“Sure. Yer can read books an’ be nice and comfortable in there nights.
That paint job,” he said, scrutinizing it thoughtfully; “I ain’t so fond
uv that there red, rusty color. It’s kinda gloomy. Well, we can repaint
her sometime when we’re makin’ money. Blamed if that launch across
stream ain’t headin’ straight this way.”

“It’s the harbor inspectors, Pop. Whadja s’pose....”

“Well, I got my license all ready, if that’s what they’re after.
Anyways, we ain’t got no stuff[1] aboard, so we should worry.”

Skippy wondered and shivered a little. His father’s services in the
employ of the rich, unscrupulous Josiah Flint had brought a certain
instinctive fear of all uniformed officials and the harbor inspectors
were no exception. It was difficult for him to believe even now that
these uniformed men meant no harm to his father.

Skippy had lived in the shadow of the law a little too long.



                               CHAPTER II
                               CONDEMNED


Skippy watched as the green, shining launch swept alongside and stopped.
He was instantly reassured, however, when its occupants smiled genially
at him and then at his father.

“Well, if it ain’t Toby Dare himself,” said one of the men, heartily.
“Buy her lately, Dare?”

“Jes’ yesterday, Inspector Jones,” said Skippy’s father, proudly. “An’ I
ain’t a-goin’ ter put nothin’ on her but what I’ll be glad ter show ter
anybody what asks.”

Inspector Jones’ bland face became serious.

“Big Joe Tully said the same thing when he bought his scow, Dare,” he
said. “I wouldn’t make promises too soon.”

Toby Dare’s eyes turned fondly on his son.

“Big Joe Tully ain’t got no boy like my Skippy ter fetch up,” he said
with firm resolve.

“Good for you, Dare,” the inspector smiled. “Skippy’s worth keeping out
of trouble for. But see that you keep him in mind when you’re tempted.
Most o’ you birds that start a new leaf stub your toes.”

“Not me,” said Toby vehemently. “I ain’t carin’ ter make no quick
fortune. A couple grand a year’ll start Skippy an’ git him educated.
That’s all I’m carin’ about, Inspector. _Me_, I don’t need nothin’.”

Inspector Jones beamed upon the smiling Skippy, then casually glanced
toward the barge.

“_Minnie M. Baxter_, eh?” he mused.

“Yere,” said Toby exultantly. “That was my wife’s name when she was a
girl. She died when Skippy was born. I thought mebbe the name’d bring me
luck.”

The inspector nodded sympathetically.

“Got any contracts lined up?” he asked.

“Two,” said Toby proudly. “An’ it ain’t bad fer a start. I’m ter haul
garbage an’ ashes from the island.”

“Good for you, Dare. Well, we’ll look her over and pass on her, then let
you beat it.”

Toby Dare looked exultantly at his son as the trim green launch chugged
off to circle the barge. It was a look of triumph and of high hopes for
the future.

“All we need’s his O.K., Skippy,” he said in soft tones. “It’s somethin’
ter be able ter face guys like the inspector, specially when I been
dodgin’ him so long.”

“Then he knows you usta——” Skippy’s tongue seemed not to be able to say
the word.

“Sure,” said Toby, a little abashed. “There ain’t many reg’lars in this
harbor that the inspector ain’t got spotted some time or other. But I
should worry now.”

Skippy nodded happily and a silence ensued between them. They listened
together and watched while the harbor launch paused midway of the
_Minnie M. Baxter_ and Inspector Jones and his two subordinates held an
inaudible conference. Then for a time they made soundings after which
the inspector boarded the barge and spent another five minutes
inspecting it fore and aft.

“There’s more ter this here inspectin’ business than what a guy thinks,”
said Toby simply. “All I know uv boats is this here kicker. I never did
more’n load an’ unload aboard Ol’ Flint’s scows.”

“The inspector’s gettin’ back in the launch,” said Skippy eagerly. “Now
they’ll come back an’ say it’s all right an’ then we can go, huh?”

Toby Dare nodded and smilingly waited as the launch chugged back
alongside of his kicker.

“What yer think uv my ol’ battle-axe, hey, Inspector?” he asked,
chuckling.

“Battle-axe is a good word for her, Dare,” said the inspector solemnly.
“Nothing describes her better.”

Toby Dare’s generous mouth seemed to tighten at the corners.

“What yer mean, Inspector?”

“How much did you pay for her?”

“Three hunderd—why?” Toby’s lips trembled a little and he searched the
inspector’s face anxiously.

“Who’d you buy her from?” the inspector persisted.

“Ol’ Flint! Josiah Flint,” Toby answered suspiciously. “_Why?_”

“I thought it must be somebody like him. I hate to spring it on you,
Dare, but you’ve paid three hundred dollars too much. She’s not worth a
dime.”

Toby Dare cleared his throat and a strange look came into his kindly
gray eyes.

“Inspector ——, yer mean this here barge ain’t....” he began.

“She’s not seaworthy,” the inspector interposed as kindly as he could.
“It’s not safe to keep her afloat, Dare. Flint gypped you. You should
have had somebody look her over before you bought her—somebody that knew
an up-and-coming barge from driftwood. That’s all you got on your hands,
I’m sorry to say—_driftwood_. Her keel’s as rotten as a keel can
possibly be.”

Toby Dare’s tanned, weather-beaten face went suddenly white and he made
a funny little clicking noise with his tongue.

“The keel,” he muttered hoarsely, “can’t I have ’er fixed,
Inspector—_can’t I_?”

Inspector Jones shook his head.

“It’d take more money than what you paid for the old hulk, Dare; more
money than you’ve got, I guess.”

“I ain’t got a cent, Inspector, that’s the truth,” Toby said, choking on
his words. “Every cent I had I paid Ol’ Flint an’—an’....”

Inspector Jones leaned toward the miserable man.

“Don’t take on so, Dare. Maybe the thing’s not as hopeless as it seems.
If Josiah Flint’s got a spark of human feeling he’ll make good. Perhaps
he didn’t realize what shape the barge was in when he sold her. He owns
so many....”

“That’s jest it, Inspector,” said Toby, clenching his calloused hands.
“Ol’ Flint _ain’t_ got human feelin’. I worked fer him an’ I know. An’
fer a big ship-owner like him, he knows every craft he owns like a book.
Now that I think uv it, I know he knew what he was sellin’ me! He knew I
was dumb about them things an’ he took advantage uv it.” Dare looked
down the harbor, glowing in the sunset, and his jaw was set
determinedly. “He smiled, Ol’ Flint did, when I forked over my jack. He
knew all the time!”

Skippy’s eyes were misty and he looked appealingly at Inspector Jones.

“Does that mean Pop can’t use the _Minnie M. Baxter_?” he faltered.

The inspector averted his face from the boy’s pleading eyes.

“If you think you can’t appeal to Flint personally, Dare,” said he, “sue
him. A lawyer’ll make him kick in.”

“Not from Ol’ Flint,” said Toby Dare hoarsely and looking straight
across the river. “He’s too rich ter be sued. But there’s one way uv
fixin’ him—_one way_!”

Inspector Jones motioned his men to start their craft on its way.

“Cheer up,” he said, glancing quickly from father to son. “You’ll get a
break yet. The safest way to get after Flint, Toby, is to sue him. You’d
certainly not get anywhere with him the way you feel now. Meanwhile, the
safest place for the scow is up at the Basin. She’s just not safe even
to be towed around the harbor.”

Skippy watched the long line of foam that the launch left in its wake.
For a long time his misty eyes were fastened on the glistening bubbles
dancing atop the water until he could no longer stand his father’s
silence.

“Pop, Pop,” he stammered, “can’t we go—go somewhere now?”

“Sure—sure,” said Toby brokenly. “We’re goin’ somewheres a’right. We’re
goin’ ter the Basin where Jones told us to go with the _Minnie M.
Baxter_.” He laughed sardonically. “We’re goin’ ter put the ol’
battle-axe in dry-dock _forever_!”

“What’s that mean, Pop?” Skippy asked pathetically. “It sounds like you
mean something terrible will happen to the _Minnie M. Baxter_.”

“It _is_ terrible ter me—an’ ter you, Skippy boy,” mumbled Toby. “It
means that the pore scow’s so rotten she ain’t fit fer nothin’ but ter
be put high an’ dry in Brown’s Basin along with half a hunderd other
rotten scows. It’s way in the inlet an’ folks live in them scows like I
guess you an’ me’ll have ter till I kin think what next.”

“Then all those other barges like ours can never sail the harbor again,
huh?” Skippy asked sadly. “They just sorta stay there till they rot an’
fall apart, is that it? Like as if they’re condemned.”

“That’s the word, Skippy,” said Toby Dare bitterly. “The _Minnie M.
Baxter’s_ been condemned an’ you an’ me are condemned along with her.”



                              CHAPTER III
                               THE BASIN


Brown’s Basin was off the beaten track, even nautically speaking. One
could never have found it except by the merest chance, unless one were
fortunate enough to have a companion who was familiar with it. The
rivermen knew, perhaps knew too well, as did the police who preferred to
get no closer to the colony than the shadowy inlet which sulks silently
in the daylight hours and strangely springs to life under cover of the
blackest nights.

The Basin, as it is more familiarly known, thrives under the protection
of the lofty Palisades. In summer the foliage all but hides it from the
shore, and in winter the grim, gray rocks give it ample security from
the prying eyes of the world. And the Basin wishes that security, for
the character of the residents is such that secrecy and isolation
provide the means for their livelihood and their existence.

Perhaps half a hundred derelict barges dot the slimy mud banks of the
Basin, some of them occupied and some not. But on the whole the combined
population of this sordid looking place represents a fair number and on
bright, sunlit mornings one can get an occasional glimpse from the steep
river road of poorly clad children scrambling from one to the other of
the closely packed barges, much the same as they would scramble across
city streets.

Large planks connect the sprawling hulks in a sort of interminable chain
and the denizens can traverse the entire settlement by this means. More
often than not the family laundry waving in the damp river breeze on the
forward deck must be dodged by this strolling citizenry, but they are
quite used to all forms of adroit evasion, particularly where the law is
concerned.

It was into this little lawless colony that the _Minnie M. Baxter_ was
towed. Sunset had long since gone, leaving but a hint of vermilion
colored sky at the horizon as the kicker chugged silently farther and
farther into the muddy waters of the inlet. Skippy steered the
motor-boat and Toby Dare struggled at the tiller of the barge while most
of the colonists looked on indifferently. They sprawled about on the
various decks, men, women and children.

Criticism, both friendly and otherwise, reached Toby Dare’s sensitive
ears, but he paid little heed, using his own judgment as to a suitable
spot in which to rest the ill-fated barge. It was a spot at the very
edge of the Basin that he chose and so manifest was its isolation from
the rest of the colony that but one inference could be drawn: Toby Dare
did not intend his son or himself to be drawn into that maelstrom of
dubious citizenry. His grief over the recent misfortune in no way
blunted his keen senses and, as always, Skippy’s future welfare was
uppermost in his mind.

“They’re people what ain’t partic’lar ’bout things, Sonny,” he explained
while the _Minnie M. Baxter_ was settling in the mud. “They—well, they
can’t help it, but they’re folks what ain’t carin’ whether their boys is
fetched up right or not. They jest let their kids live day after day
sorta an’ they don’t think uv next year. Me, I’m always a-thinkin’ ’bout
you a year ahead—see? So it ain’t no use botherin’ with folks what
thinks different.”

“I see, Pop,” said Skippy looking musingly into the rust-colored water.
“You know all about ’em, huh?”

“More’n they know themselves, Sonny. Ain’t they slaves fer Ol’ Flint
same as I was? Only I did more uv his high class dirty work. I overseed
’em load an’ unload the stuff fer Ol’ Flint an’ it paid enough ter keep
my sonny in a shack ashore where he didn’t see his Pop helpin’ ter beat
the law. Now when I thought I was through with that an’ ready ter give
yer a clean, honest start—_where am I?_” He buried his face in his
hands.

Skippy touched his father on the shoulder with a trembling hand.

“Aw, Pop—forget it, huh? I can help soon too, can’t I? When I get my
workin’ papers I can. I’ll even go to night school an’ I’ll be honest
an’ like a gentleman just the same as if the _Minnie M. Baxter_ wasn’t
condemned an’ we could haul garbage an’ ashes an’ make plenty.” He was
quite exhausted by this lengthy declaration but his eyes were full of
shining hope.

Toby Dare raised his head.

“Yer a-meanin’ well, Sonny, but yer ain’t got no idea how hard it is ter
do anythin’ without a little money. Besides, it sort uv taints a man’s
own fam’ly even, when he’s worked fer Ol’ Flint. Decent, honest
shipowners give a man the go-by when they find out yer been a Flint man.
Yer blackballed, in other words, Sonny—see? Yer ain’t given no chance
ter work at an honest job no matter how bad yer want to. An’ I can’t do
nothin’ but river work an’ the like—I ain’t never done nothin’ else! The
only thing fer a man like me ter do was ter try an’ go on his own hook
like I meant ter do with the _Minnie M. Baxter_. Now I can’t do that
unless—unless....” His large, yellow teeth seemed to close over the word
hopefully.

“Unless what, Pop?” Skippy asked eagerly.

“Unless I kin make him give me back my money an’ I kin buy another
_Minnie M. Baxter_.” He choked a little and shook his disheveled head.
“But that’s too much ter hope fer, Skippy. Ol’ Flint’s never been known
ter give anythin’ back—it’s me that oughta know that. I was a fool ter
think he could be honest with me—_me_, a poor workman uv his. Why, Ol’
Flint’s bragged he’d skin anybody what was fool enough ter _be_
skinned.”

Skippy shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

“So then will you go to a lawyer like Inspector Jones told you? To
please me, Pop, will you?”

“I’m a-goin’ nowheres but ter see Ol’ Flint,” answered Toby hoarsely.
“That swell yacht uv his is anchored in the bay an’ he’s livin’ aboard
it durin’ this hot spell so I know where ter find him after workin’
hours. He ain’t only ten years older ’n me an’ he’s in good condition
an’ jest my size so....”

“Pop—Pop, you got fight on your mind an’ it’s just the way Inspector
Jones warned you not to go to see Mr. Flint! Besides, it ain’t gonna be
half bad here till we can think up sumpin’ else to do. Forget about Mr.
Flint if you’re jus’ thinkin’ of him on accounta me. I’ll be all
right——”

“I’ll forget anythin’ ’ceptin’ that Ol’ Flint’s cheated me with a grin
on his slick face,” said Toby Dare with an ominous softness in his
voice. “So I’m a-goin’ ter teach him a lesson, Skippy—I’m a-goin’ ter
teach him that Toby Dare can’t be cheated outa everythin’ he’s hoped
fer, fer years, without hittin’ back. Yessir, Ol’ Flint’s gotta learn
what it means ter cheat me!”

“Pop—Pop! You ain’t goin’—honest?”

“I am. I’m a-goin’ sure as guns.”

“When—when you goin’, Pop?”

“_Tonight!_”



                               CHAPTER IV
                               COMPROMISE


Skippy got the first meal aboard the _Minnie M. Baxter_. His heart and
soul were certainly not in the task for he burned four of the flapjacks
that he was cooking. The coffee had twice boiled over and the narrow
little cabin was filled with a blue, acrid smoke and though the sight of
his father’s lugubrious face, as he paced up and down outside the little
windows, disturbed him, he was not particularly unhappy.

His mind, during the preparation of that meal, was not on his father’s
misfortunes nor on the threatened and ominous visit to the Flint yacht
that very evening. Instead he was visualizing what benefits were to be
derived from residing in the Basin, chief among these being an
uninterrupted summer season of fishing and swimming. That to the heart
of a boy of his age compensated fully for the loss of the garbage and
ashes contract, yes, even for the loss of the barge’s promise of a
remunerative future.

It is not to be thought that Skippy did not deeply feel his father’s
grief, for indeed he had brooded over it for hours. But after they had
settled and arranged their few belongings in the meagerly furnished
cabin of the barge, he had achieved that blessed miracle of youth and
accepted the inevitable without a question. Life stretched out ahead of
him as the inlet lay spread under this starlit night, broken now and
then by a quiet ripple until it reached the river. What would happen
beyond that point he knew he could find out when he came to it.

And so, more contented than his brooding and troubled parent, Skippy
piled up the flapjacks until they resembled the leaning tower of Pisa,
and he whistled to the accompaniment of the sputtering coffee pot. All
the world seemed delightful and generous with these savory dishes ready
to be eaten, and he asked himself if his father wasn’t making much of
little. After all, they had the _Minnie M. Baxter_ for a home, didn’t
they? And wasn’t living on a barge just the kind of life that he and his
pals had often wished for when they had lain about their dusty dooryards
on hot summer nights?

The boy ran to the door, his tanned face flushed and expectant. He would
tell his father how much better he was going to feel out on the river
all summer than back in dusty, hot Riverboro where he had spent all his
life. He would fish and swim and take lots of deep, lung-developing
breaths. He’d probably never have another bad throat....

He inhaled deeply on the strength of this thought and though his lungs
filled with a queerly mixed odor of mud, decayed fish and salt, he
noticed it not at all. Moreover, the inlet might have been a clear,
wind-swept ocean waste, so far above the Basin had his imagination
carried him.

A figure stirred in the shadows forward and then he heard the familiar
tread of his father. Suddenly on the damp salt breeze they heard the
distant sound of chimes and waited silently while the faint notes struck
off the hour of ten.

“Pretty late to eat, huh Pop? Everythin’s ready, so you better come
while it’s hot.”

“Yer know where them chimes come from?” Toby asked in a tone of voice
that was strange to his son. “They come from River Heights on that swell
Town Hall what Ol’ Flint give to the borough. Now I s’pose he’ll give
the three hunderd dollars he cheated me outa, fer somethin’ else what’ll
give him a big name, hey? That’s what some uv them scoundrels like Ol’
Flint do—give their dirty money ter things what’ll give ’em a fine big
name. Well, he won’t git the chanct ter give my three hunderd—not while
I live!”

Josiah Flint again! Skippy’s heart lost all its merry hopes in a
fleeting second. He turned back into the cabin and his father followed
him in gloomy silence. Mechanically, he carried the steaming plate from
the oil stove to the rickety little oil-cloth covered table and without
a word they pulled up their chairs and sat down.

“I never tole yer before,” said Toby after a few moments, “but if it
wasn’t fer Ol’ Flint there wouldn’ never ’a’ been no squatter colony
like this in Brown’s Basin. It’s him what’s made it, that’s what.
They’re all blackballed men, Sonny; men what’s got in Ol’ Flint’s
clutches an’ ain’t never got the chance nor the brains ter git out. Not
like me that had a little more brains ter earn bigger money so’s I could
save fer the _Minnie M. Baxter_. _Save!_” He brought his fist down upon
the table with such force that a flapjack bounced from his plate to the
floor. “Ha, ha—what for did I save, hey?”

He laughed so sardonically that Skippy hurried for the coffee to hide
his concern.

“Aw, please don’t take on so, Pop!” His eyes were directed at Toby’s
back. “Gee, that old miser, he ain’t worth you actin’ so queer an’ all.
It ain’t so bad here. It’s a nice little house we got in this cabin;
chairs an’ the stove an’ a table an’ our trunk.” His glance wandered to
the tiny windows opened to the damp salt breeze. “Even I bet I could put
up some cretonne stuff as good as a girl an’ then won’t this be one
nice-lookin’ little place!”

Toby’s chair scraped over the rough, clean boards and he stood up,
straight and powerful and ominous.

“Never mind the coffee now,” he said hoarsely. “We kin heat it up an’
drink it when we come back.” He laughed. “We’ll drink it as a toast ter
Ol’ Flint’s health!”

Skippy put down the coffee pot and wiped his grimy hands on his khaki
knickers. Then with a swift movement he shook back his straight,
rebellious hair and glanced up at his father.

“You—you mean you want me with you, Pop?” he asked tremulously.

“_Jest_ what I mean, Skippy. I want yer along so’s I kin remember Ol’
Flint ain’t worth ... well, what I mean is, if I have yer to talk ter on
the way I ain’t so like ter lose my head when I git there an’ talk ter
him. If he gits sneerin’ at me like his habit is mostly, it’ll be good
fer me ter know my Sonny’s right outside a-waitin’ in the kicker.
Waitin’ fer his Pop, hey?”

“Sure, sure,” Skippy gulped. “Sure, I’ll go with you if it’s gonna make
you feel that way, Pop. Gee, I’ll go anywheres with you if you only
promise not to lose your head.”

“Jest the sight uv that man’ll make me lose my head, Skippy—I know it.
But so long as yer make me promise—I won’t give him the worst uv it, if
I kin help it.”

Skippy knew his father well enough to accept just that much and hope for
the best. He went to the old battered trunk, took out a worn sweater and
while still drawing it on followed Toby outside.

They descended the rope ladder in silence and got into the shabby boat.
Toby turned over the motor and Skippy took his place at the bow to watch
for drifting logs for the little kicker had not a light. Toby’s former
nocturnal occupations had made it necessary for him to dispense with
this appurtenance and now, as he explained to his inquiring son, it had
become a habit to roam the river without illumination, knowing as he did
every square foot of it. Besides, he had come to love the solitude of
darkness.

Skippy looked all about him, not exactly at his ease. The inlet was
black and at times the starlit sky seemed so far away as to be but a
mirage. Perhaps there wasn’t a star in all the heavens, he would try to
tell himself. All was black night and the muffled motor purred with a
hushed monotony that affected him strangely. He fervently hoped that
they would not be long in reaching the river where he could breathe
without feeling that he was going to choke.

He knew he was afraid and he knew it really had nothing to do with the
inlet or the black, silent night. It was a nameless dread that had
seized him and, try as he would, he could not shake it off.

Instinctively, he felt that they shouldn’t go on to Josiah Flint’s yacht
that night.



                               CHAPTER V
                              THE APOLLYON


Skippy felt better when the boat nosed out into the river. He raised his
worried face to the clear salt breeze and let it blow over his hot
cheeks. Lights blinked here and there on the dark water and a tug
chortled by noisily. Then on the far shore he saw a cable light, and a
ship ran clear of it before she dropped her mooring anchor.

Toby said nothing but sat in a lugubrious silence as he steered the
little craft downstream. Skippy stared hard at the spray foaming against
the bow; his mind was not on drifting logs. He turned to his father,
scanned his face anxiously, then peered downstream again.

“Is Mr. Flint’s yacht much further, Pop?” he asked after a few minutes.

“No, we oughta soon be on top uv her,” came the hoarse reply. “Yer can’t
miss her—she’s got her name sprawled fore an’ aft in great big gold
letters. It’s some fancy name called A—Apollyon. That’s it. Kindo
highfalutin name, hey? Like all them there Flints.”

“How many Flints are there, Pop?”

“Jest two now, like me an’ you. Ol’ Flint an’ his son, Buck. His real
name’s Harry. Anyway folks call him Buck. But he’s got it better’n you,
Sonny. Much better. Besides he’s old enough ter take his father’s place
in the dirty business, though I heerd not so long ago that Buck ain’t uv
a mind with the old man an’ lets Marty Skinner help run the works. They
say Buck’s terrible honest an’ all fer the law but Skinner’s nothin’ but
a rat.”

“Well, maybe Buck’ll take over his father’s business some day and make
it pay without havin’ smugglin’ an’ things like that, huh Pop?”

“Mebbe, but not if that crook Skinner keeps his ball in the game. Still,
I heerd it said that Ol’ Flint’s business has always paid good enough
without him doin’ dirty work fer easy money. But that’s what a miser he
is—he’s gotta have a crooked side line so’s ter pile up his millions in
a coupla years. He ain’t willin’ like the rest uv these shipowners
’round here ter wait an’ let a honest fortune pile up, say, in twenty
years or so. He can’t be honest, Ol’ Flint can’t, not even with a poor
man like me, an’ Skinner’s the same breed uv cats.”

They were approaching a wide bend in the river. Anchored launches and
trim sailboats dotted the shadowy water like immaculate sentinels.
Skippy’s restless eyes roved over the silent scene until he espied the
graceful sweep of a yacht’s bow projecting out of the shadows into the
line of its anchor light. Simultaneously he saw great gold letters
spelling out the name _Apollyon_ and it occurred to him how modest and
neat was the brass lettering of the _Minnie M. Baxter_ in contrast.

The white, dainty craft swayed ever so gently on the slight swell and
Skippy was lost in envy. He bethought himself of the sprawling uncouth
barge and for a moment wondered why things were like this; why a man of
Josiah Flint’s sort could own this dainty, spotless yacht while his
father who wanted so much to be honest had not even the worth of the
hard-earned barge.

For the first time, he understood how bitter and revengeful his father
must feel. He too felt bitter and revengeful as they got closer to the
_Apollyon_. Something began to smolder in his boy’s heart; something
wholly alien to his cheerful, wholesome nature. But he was aware of
nothing of this, save that he felt like sneering aloud at this proud,
complacent craft swaying before his eyes. In a wild fancy he imagined
her to be mocking his father and himself for daring to hope that Josiah
Flint would make restitution.

A dim light shone amidships and save for the anchor lights the rest of
the yacht was in darkness. Skippy stared hard at her and suddenly saw
something skimming away from her port side.

He leaned far over the prow of the little motor boat until he saw that
the object was a kicker like their own with its engine muffled. In
whispered words he drew Toby’s attention to it.

“Wonder where she’s been and where she’s goin’ to, huh Pop?” he queried.

“That ain’t none uv our business, Skippy,” his father answered staring
up at the _Apollyon_. “Folks on the river don’t think uv them things
this time uv night. They know a muffled engine’s one that ain’t carin’
ter be heard, same as I got one fer mine.”

“We could have ours taken off now, huh Pop? It ain’t any more use now,
is it?”

“That all depends, Sonny. It all depends on Ol’ Flint,” Toby said
softly. “Now here we are an’ the less said, the better.”

“Ahoy!” called a voice in deep, soft tones from above. “Who’s below?”

Father and son glanced up to see the head and shoulders of a burly man
leaning over the glistening rail. Skippy saw Toby stiffen determinedly.

“Ol’ Flint aboard?” he asked.

“Yeah,” the man answered suppressing a yawn. “He’s in his cabin
amidships. Lookin’ for him?”

“Yeah.”

“Move the kicker aft an’ come aboard. Old man was talkin’ with Mr.
Skinner when I come on duty two hours ago. His light’s still on so he’s
readin’ likely.”

The little boat moved aft with hardly a splash and the next moment Toby
was scrambling up the ladder. Skippy listened intently as his father set
foot on the _Apollyon’s_ deck.

“Want me to tell him he’s got a caller?” the man suddenly asked.

“Nope. Thanks jest the same,” Toby was saying. “I even got half an idee
that mebbe he expects me.”

“Awright, buddy,” said the man heartily. “You’ll find him ’midships like
I told you. There where the little light is.”

Skippy heard the soft tread of his father’s step along the deck. A door
closed and after an interval of silence he looked up to see that the man
was still there, bending over the rail and apparently staring at him.

“Your Dad, hey kid?” he asked, catching Skippy’s upturned eyes.

“My Pop,” Skippy corrected, chuckling. He liked the man’s hearty voice.
“You work aboard this yacht, Mister?”

“Second mate, that’s what. Easy job summers when the old man’s busy. All
we do is to sleep and keep the old girl ship-shape.”

“Old girl?”

“Yeah, this scow.”

“Some scow!” Skippy laughed. “She’s pretty swell, I’ll say. Not much
trouble keepin’ _her_ ship-shape, huh?”

“Naw. There ain’t enough to keep us busy an’ it makes a swab lazy.
Same’s me tonight. Here I am the only one on duty (there ain’t no need
for more’n one, anchored here like we are) and things are so quiet what
do I do but fall sound asleep! I’d sat me down and I hear the old man
bawlin’ Mr. Skinner out fierce. Then I guess I was dozin’ a spell ’fore
I heard the sound of a muffled motor aft. Dreamed it, I guess, and I
dreamed I heard somebody comin’ out from the boss’s quarters ’midships.
Anyways, I finally woke up and when I come to the rail I see you folks.
Guess that’s what I was hearin’ in my dreams all the time, hey?”

“Maybe,” said Skippy. “Our motor’s muffled, I guess you noticed already,
but you might ’a’ heard another kicker like ours too because one was aft
when we came along.”

“Guess maybe that’s what it was then,” said the second mate pleasantly.
“Just somebody bein’ a little cautious, like. Still I got to quit bein’
so lazy nights and do my duty by _Polly_ like the old man pays me for.”

“_Polly?_”

The second mate laughed softly and Skippy fancied that his mischievous
wink penetrated the darkness.

“_Apollyon_—_Polly_ for short, kid! _Apollyon_ is too highfalutin for
able seamen, hey?”

“That’s what I thought, Mister. I never heard it before. Gee whiz,
what’s it mean anyway?”

The second mate paused a moment.

“From what I could make out from the Cap’n it was the name of a Greek
story or somethin’. You know—one of them real old Greeks thousands of
years back. And this _Apollyon_ was a evil spirit or somethin’ like
that, and folks called ’im the Destroyer! Ain’t that a name for you?”

Skippy nodded and looked at the graceful ship with a new interest. Evil
spirit? Destroyer? A queer name indeed for such a dainty craft. Why
should Josiah Flint give that beautiful hull such an evil name? The
sound of a dull thump interrupted his thoughts.

“I couldn’t work on a ship with a name like that,” he said to the second
mate at length.

“Why?” the man laughed. “Superstitious?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Skippy answered seriously. “At least I never
thought I was sup-super-superstitious more’n most kids. But it don’t
seem exactly fair callin’ a nice ship like that the destroyer or an evil
spirit or whatever _Apollyon_ really means. Gee, I’ve heard my Pop say
that a ship kinda gets lookin’ like its name an’ actin’ like its name
after a while. That’s why he named the barge he bought from Mr. Flint
after my mother; the _Minnie M. Baxter_ she’s called. He said she’d be
the nicest barge on the river if she took after my mother. But so far it
ain’t worked out,” he added wistfully.

“No?” the second mate inquired sympathetically.

Skippy summed up the whole story of his father’s misfortune in a few
words. Particularly did he stress Toby’s grief over Josiah Flint’s
wilful deception in the transaction.

“And so your Pop’s come to make the old man come across, hey? Well, I
don’t blame him.” The man lowered his voice to a mere whisper. “I only
hope he don’t get the boss in a nasty temper ’cause he’s not one to give
in and he sounded like he was good and sore when he was bawlin’ out Mr.
Skinner. Besides, he ain’t the one to admit he cheated your pop either.
Still....”

A low moan startled them both and suddenly a door slammed, followed by
the sound of someone running along the deck. Skippy stood straight up in
the motor boat and listened intently.

He knew those footsteps and he knew what was in the mind that directed
them with such force. His father never hurried, much less ran, unless he
was terribly angered or pained or....

He dared not complete that thought, nor did he have need to, for his
father’s drawn, white face was already looking down at him from above
the rail and Skippy read there all that he needed to know.

Something terrible had happened.



                               CHAPTER VI
                            A STRANGE STORY


The little motor boat had left the _Apollyon_ far behind, ignoring
shouts from its deck to halt, before Skippy dared break the tense
silence.

“Gee, Pop,” he stammered fearfully, “what happened between you and Mr.
Flint anyway, huh? Because you didn’t even say goodnight to the mate an’
you got in the boat an’ told me so cranky an’ all to push off before I
got a chance to say goodnight to him, either—gee whiz! I never seen you
act so funny before in my life. What’s the matter, huh?”

Toby Dare groaned and buried his face between his hands. Then, for what
seemed to Skippy an interminable time, he rocked to and fro and the
groans that escaped him were distressing to the waiting boy.

Finally Skippy could stand it no longer.

“Pop, you gotta tell me what’s the matter! Gee, it’s somethin’ terrible
the way....”

“Sonny,” Toby interposed brokenly, “git back ter the _Minnie M. Baxter_
jest as quick as yer kin! I got ter put as much water between me—me
an’—an’ _him_ as it’s possible ter put.”

“Pop?”

“It’s like a dream, Sonny—a bad dream—a terrible dream. I can’t make
head or tail uv it yet. I went ter his cabin ’midships like that mate
told me....”

“Yes?” Skippy encouraged.

“I knocked on the door an’ I could uv sworn I heard a kinda grunt like
Ol’ Flint does. He’s a man uv few words. Anyways, I goes in an’ there
he’s sittin’ in a big chair with a funny grin on his face.”

“Grinnin’ at _you_, Pop?” Skippy asked clenching his straight white
teeth.

“That’s what I thought an’ right away I got wild,” Toby answered running
his hands nervously through his disheveled hair. “I forgot what I
promised—I forgot everythin’ ’ceptin’ the way he’d cheated me an’ I got
tellin’ him so but he didn’t say nothin’, but jest kep’ sittin’ there
a-grinnin’ that funny way. Well, I knowed as how he always was a man uv
few words but I thought he could stop grinnin’ an’ at least say
_somethin’_. But he didn’ an’ that’s what made me see red—I thought he
was a-makin’ fun uv me, sorta, an’——”

“You didn’t go for him?” Skippy interposed fearfully.

“Sonny, I jest sorta lost my head,” answered Toby brokenly. “I kin
hardly remember what happened ’ceptin’ I realized all uv a sudden that I
had my hands ’round his throat an’ I was chokin’ him.”

“And didn’t he make any noise or anythin’?” Skippy was horrified.

“That’s what made me let go. I got wise right then that somethin’ was
funny ’cause he didn’t let a sound outa him all the time. His eyes
seemed ter git funnier lookin’ though, but he kep’ on grinnin’ jest the
same. Then I let go quick an’ _plop_—over he fell, head first he fell
an’ that’s when I saw it——”

“_What?_”

“That he’d been shot in the back,” Toby whispered looking about
uneasily.

“_Pop!_”

“Sure as guns, Skippy,” Toby moaned pitifully. “Then I knew he musta
been dead all the time—even before I got in the room.”

Skippy too groaned.

“How—how could he sit up like that then, if he really was _dead_?” he
asked with an audible gulp.

“That’s what I’ve been wonderin’ an’ all I kin think is that whoever did
it, sat him up that way after it happened. I could see in his bedroom
off uv the room he was sittin’ in an’ papers was lyin’ all ’round like
as if there’d been a scrap.”

“With somebody else,” Skippy murmured as if to himself. Then, in a
frightened whisper: “What then, Pop?”

“All I could do was stand there like a crazy man,” Toby groaned. “I
don’t even remember how long I stood there. It’s all like part uv that
nightmare so I can’t remember.”

“I know, Pop.” Skippy tried to sound comforting. “Who—what groaned that
time? The second mate and me heard it plain’s anythin’.”

“Me. That was when I knew he was dead! It jest sorta come ter me full in
the face an’ I was so full uv fright that I had ter let it out some
way.”

Skippy turned around and for a few moments searched the face of his
unhappy father.

“Pop—Pop,” he faltered, “just one thing I can’t understand—why—why
didn’t you tell the second mate, an’ me, right then? Why—why didn’t you
spurt it right out an’ not run away when you know you didn’t do it?”

“Who’d believe it?” Toby answered hopelessly. “There was the mark uv my
fingers on his throat—_there they was_! I’d even have ter admit ter that
mate that I was mad enough ter choke Ol’ Flint ter death—he could see my
fingers there ter prove it, couldn’t he? Well, why wouldn’t he think I
give him an automatic in the back afterwards, hey? Why wouldn’t he?”

“_But, Pop!_ If you only had said _sumpin_!”

“I wanted ter git away from that awful grinnin’ face. As far away as I
c’d get. I—I couldn’t stay there ter tell nobody _nothin’_, Skippy.
Besides, do I know I didn’t choke him ter—ter...” He sobbed a moment,
then looked up. “Mebbe ’twasn’t the automatic what really got him,
Skippy—mebbe ’twas _me_, hey?”

Skippy reached out and grasped Toby’s damp flannel shirt sleeve in
agony.

“Pop, it wasn’t you—I know it—_I just feel it_!” he cried. “I can tell
from all you told me about him grinnin’ like from the time you got
inside the room.” He hesitated a moment, then: “You don’t remember him
makin’ a sound at all?” he asked, anxiously peering into his father’s
face.

“Not one sol’tary sound, Sonny—I didn’t hear a one!”

Skippy sighed and again took up the task of steering the little motor
boat upstream. His tired young face, however, had taken on a new look of
resolution.

“You’re tired, Pop, an’ I’m gonna take you back to the _Minnie M.
Baxter_. Then I’m gonna turn this kicker straight back and head her
downstream again an’ I’m goin’ aboard that _Apollyon_ an’ explain the
whole thing. I’ll tell ’em everythin’ like you told me an’ I bet they’ll
believe it all right ’cause they’ll see that my Pop couldn’t kill
anybody.”

Toby said nothing but continued to rock back and forth with his head in
his hands.

“Maybe—maybe you’re not so tired an’ you’d turn ’round with me an’ go
back an’ tell ’em, huh Pop?” Skippy returned anxiously.

“Skippy,” Toby cried hoarsely, “jest now I wanta go back ter the _Minnie
M. Baxter_ an’ think. Like a good boy don’t talk about it no more till
we get there, hey?”

Skippy, bewildered, promised that he wouldn’t, and let the little kicker
out to the best of her ability. From time to time he heard the miserable
sighs of his father, and over and over again he told himself the story
of Josiah Flint’s strange death just as Toby had told it. But with each
recurring thought, a strange suspicion asserted itself and clamored so
hard in the boy’s conscious mind that he was forced to recognize that it
was a doubt, a small one, but nevertheless a doubt of his father’s
story.

And by the time they were once more on board the _Minnie M. Baxter_,
Skippy was fearful that possibly, after all, his father might be the
actual murderer of Josiah Flint!



                              CHAPTER VII
                               FOR SKIPPY


Skippy washed the dishes and cleaned up the cabin, then made some fresh
coffee. He put the two cups on a little tin tray and carried it out on
deck where his father sat disconsolately puffing a pipe.

“I made this good an’ careful, Pop,” he said, handing Toby a cup of the
steaming beverage. “Maybe it’ll make you feel better, it’s so hot.”

Toby took the proffered cup and smiled wanly.

“Yer think your Pop’s a coward, takin’ on this way?” he asked anxiously.

Skippy flushed and, to cover his embarrassment, sat down on a stool a
little distance away.

“Nah, I don’t think that, Pop,” he said at length. “I guess I know how
kinda crazy an’ different you’d act after seem’ that. Gee, it musta been
pretty awful to make you act so different.”

“I know how yer mean by different, Sonny, but I ain’t blamin’ yer. I
know it must look funny, but it ain’t. Besides I ain’t a coward ’bout
it. If I’d told the mate right on the spot, he’d had ter keep me till
the police come. Then what would happened ter _you_? Even if I give
myself up now they’ll hold me on charges an’ the law’s that slow, it’ll
be months mebbe ’fore I kin clear myself.”

“But that’d be better’n lettin’ ’em think you was the one that killed
Mr. Flint, wouldn’t it?”

“I thought mebbe we could run somewheres out west or the like, hey
Skippy? Yer don’t know what the law is once yer git in its fist. If they
can’t find nobody else they’ll pin it on me no matter what we say—I know
it! So we might’s well take our duds an’ beat it now.”

“Pop, you’re not talkin’ like yourself. You got sorta crazy on accounta
thinkin’ how all this’ll hurt me. Gee whiz, forget about me, because you
can’t have the cops thinkin’ you did it, when you didn’t! Gee, I’ll get
along somehow, honest I will, Pop. I’ll get along better to know you did
what was right an’ told the truth. An’ even the law I bet can see when a
man’s tellin’ the truth an’ they’ll let you out quick—so will you go for
my sake, Pop?”

Toby brought a hairy fist down on his bony knees.

“It’s fer yer sake that I didn’t want ter go near ’em, Skippy,” he said
vehemently. “But if yer promise yer Pop ter stay good an’ all till they
let me out, I don’t care. Fer my sake I _wanta_ go!”

“Gee, Pop, I’m glad!”

Toby drank his coffee with a determined gulp, then got up and stalked
into the cabin with the empty cup. When he came out, he held out his
hands to Skippy.

“C’mon, then, Sonny,” he said gripping the boy by the shoulders, “we’ll
be a-gittin’ back ter the _Apollyon_ ’fore too much water slips inter
the bay, hey?”

“Just what I was thinkin’ of, Pop,” Skippy answered and averted his head
so that his father should not see the tears swimming in his eyes. “And,
Pop, you’re kinda calm now, ain’t you? Calm enough to remember better’n
when we were comin’ down?”

Toby Dare nodded wearily.

“What yer wanta know, Skippy?”

“Just that you’re good an’ sure that you didn’t hear him make a noise
from the time you first seen him till you ran outa the room?”

“Sure, I’m sure, Sonny. And like I told you, the grin was the same too.”

“Then he _was_ dead, Pop—dead all the time, an’ somebody with an
automatic did it because the second mate said he dreamed he heard
somebody runnin’ an’ then he heard a muffled kicker shoving off aft like
I saw when we come along. Whoever had that automatic was in that kicker,
Pop. I got a hunch about it.”

“I hope the coppers believe you, Sonny. But c’mon, we’ll take the
chance. Anyways, I’ll tell what I know.”

They walked forward together and were just about to descend when they
saw a long, dark painted launch shoot alongside of the _Minnie M.
Baxter_. As Skippy and his father leaned over to get a better view they
were blinded with the glaring rays of a searchlight.

“_Coppers, Pop!_” Skippy hissed. “It’s the coppers!”

[Illustration: “COPPERS, POP!” SKIPPY HISSED. “IT’S THE COPPERS!”
_Frontispiece_]

Toby gripped his son’s trembling fingers in his own.

“Don’t move, Dare!” a deep voice commanded from the police launch.

“I’m not,” Toby answered hoarsely.

“We’ll be right up. Stay right where you are.”

“Pop an’ I were just comin’,” Skippy cried to them, “that is, we were
just goin’ back to the yacht—the _A—Apollyon_ an’ tell them how it all
really happened. Pop ran away on accounta me, but after we talked about
it he decided to go back an’ tell.... Mr. Flint was dead before Pop got
there—_he was; honest!_”

“Oh yeah?” laughed the first officer to reach the deck. “Now that’s
interestin’. But I’d wait till the rest of the gang gets up, kid,
because they all got ears too.”

Skippy watched them troop up until the last man set foot on the barge’s
worn deck. Six men, he thought, with not a little fear. How weak would
his father’s story seem to these frowning cops? Would they believe him
as he had believed him?

His fingers were entwined in his father’s in a tight grip and yet he had
the feeling that Toby was already snatched away from him. Now that the
police confronted them he was terribly afraid and in that instant his
hopes fled as quickly as the stars in the face of gathering storm clouds
overhead.

Then Toby spoke in his hoarse, broken voice....



                              CHAPTER VIII
                                 ALONE


Skippy’s hopes were somewhat rekindled during Toby’s recital of his
visit to the yacht. The story sounded so straightforward as he told it,
that it did not seem possible that these representatives of the law
could find a single flaw in it. And yet to his utter dismay they found
more than a flaw in it; they found it sufficiently damning to threaten
his unhappy father with certain conviction.

They had already seen Inspector Jones and had had his word for it that
Toby Dare had threatened to “fix Josiah Flint,” and there was also the
corroboration of the inspector’s men. There was also the strongly
incriminating statement of the second mate of the _Apollyon_ and the
charge that Toby refused to stop when called to from the yacht by
Skinner.

“My Pop never carried a gun!” Skippy cried in protest. “You can’t say
that he did!”

“There’s a robbery charge too,” said one of the officers sternly. “You
went to Flint’s yacht because you were sore and Inspector Jones heard
you crack that it would be bad for Flint if he didn’t kick in for the
loss of the barge. It adds up swell for a jury.”

“Yeah,” said another, “and when Flint give you the razz like you’re
trying to tell us, you burn up, shoot him, then you choke him and frisk
him to get that three hundred with plenty interest back. Your
fingerprints on his throat are the only fingerprints we found. What did
you do with the gun—throw it in the river?”

Toby denied it all with a groan, and Skippy sidled up to his father and
held on to his arm with a gesture of protection. The officers frowned
for there is neither time nor place for sentiment in the progress of the
law. They had come to arrest Toby Dare for the murder and robbery of
Josiah Flint and all Skippy’s pleading would not thwart them.

The faint boom of thunder sounded as Toby was led into the police launch
and a flash of lightning streaked the black sky just above the _Minnie
M. Baxter_. But Skippy was indifferent to everything save the hopeless,
staring look that his father gave him as their eyes met.

He fought back the tears bravely and smiled his bravest.

“Now, Pop, stop thinking about me again, huh!” he cried desperately.
“Gee whiz, I’ll be swell—I promise I will so will you cheer up an’
everythin’, huh? Because you gotta prove you’re tellin’ the truth an’
never had a gun so how could you do what they say you did? So will you
cheer up if I tell you I’ll be all right, no matter what?”

Toby Dare’s troubled face lighted with a smile.

“Skippy, boy,” he gulped, “I kin do anythin’ when I hear yer talk like
that. Jest hearin’ yer say yer’ll be a good boy’s enough fer me.”

“All right, then, Pop,” Skippy said, forcing a laugh. “So we won’t even
say so long ’cause they’ll let you come back in a day or so, I bet.”

“Sure,” Toby assured him. “They’re bound ter let me.”

And that was all, for the launch chugged off leaving Skippy strangely
numb and bewildered. He watched the snakelike movements of the trim
craft as she darted through the inlet but soon the darkness enfolded her
from view. After a few moments they switched on their running lights but
there was too much distance between them for the boy to see his father
and so he turned his back to the inlet and slowly walked toward the
little cabin.

Not a light had appeared the length or breadth of the whole barge colony
since the police launch slipped up to the _Minnie M. Baxter_ yet Skippy
knew that every man and woman in Brown’s Basin was awake and watching
all that had transpired. His father had told him that these strange,
lawless people had a surprising faculty for learning of the law’s
arrival in the inlet. And hating the law as they did, they kept silently
out of its sight, nor did they want to be drawn into it through
another’s troubles.

Notwithstanding this knowledge, Skippy had the feeling that he had only
to call out and ask for help for himself and his father, and his lawless
neighbors would immediately respond. Yet that is just what Toby had
warned him against. Moreover, his promise to avoid dubious company was
not ten minutes old.

And so he resolved to bear his troubles manfully and alone, though never
in his life had he so wanted the warmth and sympathy of human
companionship. He was young enough to be afraid, yet old enough to feel
ashamed of it. But the events of the day and his father’s unhappy plight
finally proved too much for him and with trembling under lip he sought
the shelter of the cabin.

A few minutes later a terrific storm broke over the river and swept
through the Basin relentlessly. Rain lashed against the tiny windows of
the cabin on the _Minnie M. Baxter_ and the wind moaned eerily in and
out of the inlet.

Skippy buried his tousled head under a pillow in his bunk and tried to
stifle the sobs that would not stop. His heart raced madly in his breast
every time he thought of his father and his fears increased with every
crash of thunder. Could it possibly be that his father wouldn’t come
back?

He squirmed farther under the bedclothes. He would have shut out his
thoughts if that had been possible. Presently he heard a muffled
knocking at the cabin door.



                               CHAPTER IX
                               A VISITOR


Skippy sat up instantly, threw off the bedclothes and slid to the floor.
Then he hurried to the little table and lighted the lamp, meanwhile
glancing toward the door uneasily. The knock sounded again; this time
insistently.

He rushed to the door and swung it open. A man stood before him in the
pelting rain, the tallest, broadest man he had ever seen in his life. He
could not have been out of his twenties and had a large, rather amiable
looking face; so large, indeed, that it made his blue eyes seem small
and insignificant.

[Illustration: A MAN STOOD BEFORE HIM IN THE PELTING RAIN.]

As Skippy waited questioningly, he moved his ponderous neck above his
upturned coat collar and smiled, a slow, secretive smile. Then he half
turned and glanced quickly toward the inlet, before he spoke.

“Sure and be ye Toby’s kid?” he asked with a slight brogue. “Can I come
in? And where’s Toby bein’ at this hour?” He walked into the cabin
quickly.

The ghost of a smile flitted across Skippy’s tear-stained cheeks as he
closed the door.

“Sure, sure, come in!” he said hospitably. “Pop ain’t here. He’s....”

“’Tis all right, so ’tis,” the stranger interposed pleasantly, and
calmly divested himself of his wet clothing. “I got nothin’ but time.
Your ould man told me I’d always be welcome in his diggins so here I be.
’Tis too bad ’bout this scow, though. I only got wise tonight that the
inspectors told Toby the _Minnie M. Baxter_ was junk. Bad cess to ’em.
So Flint gypped Toby on it, did he?”

“An’ how!” Skippy answered dismally. “Gee, gee....”

The man got up and waving his hands deprecatingly, made a quick movement
toward one of the windows on the inlet side. He bent his huge frame in a
stooping posture and after rubbing the steam from the diminutive pane,
he peered out intently.

Suddenly he turned back and smiled his slow, secretive smile.

“I ain’t exactly aisy in me mind, kid,” he explained with a low chuckle.
“I be keepin’ a weather eye on thim coppers. They’re curious like ’bout
some stuff and I ain’t in the spirit to answer thim. They got me barge
and that’s enough, so ’tis.”

“You ain’t Big Joe Tully?” Skippy asked.

“That be callin’ the turn, kid. S’pose your Pop give ye an earful ’bout
me. Well, I started out shootin’ straight like he did, but whilst
Flint’s got the monop’ly on shippin’ and the like on this river, a guy’s
a million to one, so he is.”

“Mr. Flint won’t have it no more,” Skippy gulped. “I guess you ain’t
heard....”

“_What?_” asked Big Joe Tully reaching in his pocket for a cigarette.

“He’s dead—he was killed tonight.” Tears rushed to Skippy’s eyes again.
“An’ my Pop’s been sorta accused, Mr. Tully,” he added, and blurted out
the whole story.

Tully was puffing energetically on his cigarette when Skippy finished.

“Now don’t ye be worryin’ kid,” he said sympathetically. “If that ol’
rat was dead when Toby got there they can’t do nothin’ to him. Toby’ll
be home tomorrow, so he will, I bet.”

Skippy felt instantly cheered. He was beginning to feel glad of Big
Joe’s comforting presence when he bethought himself of the man’s dubious
activities on the river. Wasn’t it this man and his ilk that his father
had warned him against? Men who weren’t honest? The boy sat down on his
bunk to think it over.

To his surprise, Tully had got up and was putting on his coat and hat.
Immediately, Skippy forgot that he was considering the moral aspect of
an invitation to the man to stay; he forgot all his father’s warnings
against association with the river gentry, and thought only of the void
that Tully’s sudden departure would make in the long night.

“I thought you said you were gonna stay, Mr. Tully?” he said with
evident disappointment. “Gee, now you ain’t, huh?”

“’Tis sorry I be, kid,” said Big Joe with a friendly wink. “I did think
along thim lines when I come in, but since the coppers been nosin’
’round here tonight, I’ll be mosyin’ along. They might come back and
spot me here so I’d better be takin’ the air.”

“Did they catch you carryin’ _stuff_?” Skippy asked, interested. “Is
that why?”

“Sure and they did that. Somewan tipped off the police—somewan what was
jealous I wasn’t carryin’ _their_ stuff.” He laughed lightly. “The
coppers hook ye either way, so they do. Look how quick they come after
Toby and they knew he was on the up and up! So I says, does it pay?”
Then, seeing the shadow on Skippy’s face, he added: “But sure you’ll be
seein’ Toby back tomorrow, kid. They can’t be keepin’ him when he didn’t
do it.”

“He didn’t do it, so they can’t!” Skippy echoed.

“’Tis a cinch, so ’tis,” said Big Joe Tully with an awkward attempt to
sympathize. “Be hittin’ the hay now, kid, an’ ye’ll be seein’ Toby
tomorrow or me name ain’t Joe Tully. Now I’ll be swingin’ into me kicker
and chug her up the river till daylight. I’ll be layin’ low a while and
some day I’ll be seein’ ye and Toby. Be watchin’ the old step. S’long.”

He went out like a breeze and Skippy soon heard the chug of his engine.
Another craft muffled so that the ears of the law would not hear its
approach! The boy made a mental grimace at the thought of all this
muffled life on the river, Big Joe Tully included. His inherent love of
clean living and honesty had come to the fore as his father had wanted
it to. And honesty and clean living _did_ pay despite what Tully had
said. Certainly it would pay his father tomorrow! He lay back on his
bunk and closed his burning eyes.

Tomorrow was almost here ... almost....



                               CHAPTER X
                              A SUGGESTION


Many tomorrows had come and gone before Skippy saw his father again and
then it was under circumstances that the lonely boy had not
contemplated. The shadow of prison walls already threatened Toby Dare
for the rest of his natural life; conviction was certain.

Skippy returned to the _Minnie M. Baxter_ toward noon. It threatened to
be a sultry day; the air was heavy and still, and a sickening blue haze
hung over the inlet. Brown’s Basin, always more or less apathetic under
the glare of noonday, was unusually silent and Skippy listened in vain
for the cheering sound of a human voice.

He set about preparing lunch, but it was a half-hearted, pathetic
attempt, for the Dare larder was getting dangerously bare. He had been
living on an almost exclusive diet of pancakes for more than a week past
and Nature was beginning to retaliate for Skippy was far from being a
robust boy.

He pushed back his plate after a time, hurried out of the cabin and got
into his motor boat. It was his only consolation during the interminable
days and nights of his father’s continued absence and on this particular
day his heart warmed toward it with a new, affectionate thought.

His fishing tackle was assembled at his feet and he set the nose of the
little boat downstream as soon as he reached the river. Fog horns
pierced the still, hazy air with their dismal warnings and the screams
of steam winches and tooting whistles echoed and reechoed about the
boy’s tousled head.

He watched the passing river traffic abstractedly, particularly the
lumbering and heavily-laden barges moving along in the wake of chortling
tugs. The sight of them always made him think of his father and of what
might have been, and the more he saw of them the more did the feeling
grow within him that it was a strange and unjust law that could take his
father away from him. Moreover, he could not understand why a jury would
not believe his father’s straightforward story, which proved so clearly
to him that another hand had taken Josiah Flint’s life.

Hadn’t the police found that the rich man had been robbed of a
considerable sum of money and hadn’t they admitted that it was neither
on Toby’s person nor on the barge? Skippy remembered only too well the
day when the police ransacked the _Minnie M. Baxter_ fore and aft for
Josiah Flint’s money. But their search was futile, as he knew it would
be, and although they now had ample proof that poverty threatened him,
they still insisted that the stolen money had been hidden by his unhappy
father.

But Skippy did not consider the testimony of Marty Skinner that he, on
returning to his employer’s stateroom, saw Toby Dare with his arm out
the porthole (from which a clever and venomous prosecuting attorney drew
the inference for the jury that Toby was disposing of the pistol from
which the fatal shot was fired). Skinner did not swear he saw any
weapon, but his testimony, linked with the other evidence, made for a
strong circumstantial case.

Skinner also testified that he had rushed to his employer’s side as Toby
raced from the room; that upon discovering that Josiah Flint had been
shot he chased after the squatter and shouted to him, as he made off in
his kicker, to no avail. The second mate corroborated the testimony that
Toby failed to heed the cries for him to halt.

While the pistol had not been found, Inspector Jones and his men
testified that Toby had threatened to fix Josiah Flint because he felt
he had been cheated of his life savings of $300 in buying a rotten barge
from Flint. That, the prosecutor insisted to the jury, furnished the
motive for the crime. Altogether he made a case which convinced the
twelve men, but it did not convince Skippy for he could not be convinced
that his father was guilty.

Skippy was deep in his bitter reflections and did not see the familiar
launch of the harbor inspectors until it was almost upon him. Inspector
Jones’ bright and smiling face came alongside of him with startling
suddenness.

“Well, Skippy!” he said pleasantly. “How’s the boy?”

Skippy winced and a frown darkened his face. He could not forget that
Inspector Jones’ testimony had helped to take his father from him.

“I feel sick on accounta my Pop, that’s what,” said he bitterly. “You
helped make things worse for him too, Mr. Jones, on account of the
things you told about what he said that day after you inspected the
_Minnie M. Baxter_.”

Inspector Jones’ bland countenance looked immediately troubled.

“I told the truth, Skippy,” he said kindly. “I told only what your
father had said and my men were there to prove it.”

“You needn’t have said that Pop said he was gonna _fix_ Mr. Flint ’cause
you mighta known he really didn’t mean it. Pop was mad then, but he
promised me before we left for the _Apollyon_ that night that he
wouldn’t lose his head. Gee, he’s even sworn since he didn’t take Mr.
Flint’s life an’ don’t you suppose I know when my Pop’s tellin’ the
truth?”

“I guess so,” Inspector Jones answered with real feeling in his voice;
“I guess you know your Pop better than anybody, Skippy. I’m sorry, the
law required me to testify against him. But it was my duty—can’t you
see?”

“Then you believe they’ll be keepin’ my Pop in jail when he’s innocent,
too, huh?” Skippy asked excitedly.

“I’m rather inclined to believe that your father didn’t shoot Flint,”
answered the inspector. “But I can’t do anything about it, Skippy, and I
doubt if my testimony alone would convict him. It’s that
District-Attorney and Marty Skinner that’s made it so tough for your
father. You know Skinner swore he saw Toby at the porthole and the D. A.
put it over to the jury that he was dropping the gun which did the job.”

“Yeah, but that diver didn’t find no gun,” Skippy replied, “an’ my Pop
swore he wasn’t near no porthole an’ besides nobody tried findin’ out
about that kicker that was around when we come up. I’ll betcha the
feller what did the killin’ got away in it.”

“You’re right about not finding the gun, Skippy,” Inspector Jones nodded
thoughtfully. “I’ll look into the kicker angle some more.”

“Say, thanks, Mr. Jones, me’n Pop we’d be so thankful, we would. Maybe
if I went to see Mr. Skinner he’d help us ’cause I guess hard as he is
he’ll see I don’t tell lies even to get my Pop free. Maybe I oughta go
right away to see him, huh?”

Inspector Jones nodded thinking how futile the boy’s errand would be.
But he had boys of his own and he did not want to jolt the lad out of
his pleasant dream. So all he said was: “The sooner the better, because
I hear he’s going on the _Apollyon_ for a week’s cruise. You know Buck
Flint has gone to Europe and now Skinner, who was only Josiah Flint’s
yes-man for years, is ruling the roost and living high on a
millionaire’s yacht. Buck says he won’t ever board her so it’s pretty
soft for Skinner. He’s got the boat anchored just outside in the bay,
ready to nose her out to sea after nightfall. If you get right on down
there, you’ll catch him aboard, sure.”

Skippy smiled his thanks and turned his little motor over. The inspector
waved his hand.

“From the sound of that kicker,” he shouted, “I take it you’ve lost
Toby’s muffler?”

“Sure,” Skippy answered laughing, “what do I need with a muffler, huh?
’Cepting it might be better for fishin’ with. But gee, I should worry
about livin’ on fish if I can see Mr. Skinner, huh? Pop ought to be out
by—by....”

“Tomorrow, eh?” Inspector Jones interposed turning his head aside and
blowing his nose hard.

“Nope,” Skippy answered wistfully, “I won’t say tomorrow ’cause then—oh
well, it’s too quick. But anyway, if I see Mr. Skinner it won’t be long
after tomorrow, I bet.”

He had yet to learn from his bitter experience that tomorrow never
comes.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             ALL OF A KIND


Skippy’s little boat chugged out of the bay and around toward the Hook.
It was late afternoon and the haze had deepened into an ominous
sultriness. White caps danced atop the waves and off on the horizon
black clouds and black sea met in dismal union. A flock of gulls swarmed
about, flapping their huge wings between sky and sea with monotonous
precision.

A miscellaneous collection of craft was anchored just outside the bay;
sailboats, fishing smacks, dories and yachts of every size, and not the
least of these was the shining hull of the lovely _Apollyon_. Skippy
caught sight of her immediately and slowed his own little boat that he
might have a better view of her in the light of day.

Her superstructure was painted a most delicate shade of green and Skippy
understood then why he had imagined her to be of that ghostly whiteness
below her anchor lights which shone like stars against that dark,
memorable night. Too, the large gilt letters spelling out her queer name
seemed not so ornate now as when he had first seen them.

His first reaction to the lovely yacht had been one of envy and
admiration; it was so now and he tried hard not to think of the unhappy
sequel that his first visit to the _Apollyon_ had brought. Yet somehow
he could not shake off the fear-inspiring memory of what the name really
meant and he wondered if anything but evil could tread those spotless
decks.

He chuckled a little and turned his motor boat toward the yacht. There
were signs of a near-departure aboard and he caught sight of the second
mate resplendent in his spotless uniform and cap. Leaning over the
forward rail, he recognized Skippy at once, and waved his hand.

“If it ain’t the kid!” he called cheerfully. “Young Dare, hey? Well,
you’ve come a ways.”

“Sure,” Skippy smiled. “I come down to see Mr. Skinner. It’s awful
particular what I gotta see him about.”

“You look’s if it might be a case of life or death at that,” the second
mate mused.

“It is a case of life, Mister—my Pop’s whole life,” said Skippy
anxiously. “That’s why I wanta see Mr. Skinner.”

The second mate was all contrition. “Kid, I clean forgot about your Pop,
’deed I did. C’mon aboard. Sure Mr. Skinner’ll be seein’ you. ’Course I
ain’t promisin’ you’ll find him easy talkin’ to ’cause he ain’t. He’s
right set in his notions ’bout you Basin and river folks; he thinks
you’re all rascals.”

“But his boss, ol’ Flint——” Skippy began protesting.

“He knowed like you’n me and plenty others that the old boss was a tough
egg—and between you’n me Skinner ain’t no angel hisself—but that don’t
change his mind none.”

Skippy realized this full well a little later when Marty Skinner refused
to hear him, ordered him off the boat, and shouted that his father was a
rogue and so was he.

Skippy rushed blindly out of the cabin. The door slammed behind him, the
same door that had slammed behind his father on that tragic night. He
had accomplished just nothing at all in that cabin of past horrors,
nothing except to hear from a gentleman’s lips what his kind really
thought of river people.

And he, Skippy Dare, was one of the river people—himself, the son of a
rogue!



                              CHAPTER XII
                                DRIFTING


Skippy nosed the motor boat toward the Hook. He had no thought of
anything save that he was angry and hurt and wanted to feel the fresh,
salt breeze blow over his burning face. He felt that he must think over
this new and humiliating status in which Marty Skinner had so cruelly
placed him, and he wanted to think of it where no one could see the
unhappiness that it caused him.

He hadn’t the heart to turn back toward the Basin and home. Home! He
frowned at the word, for it seemed that the _Minnie M. Baxter_ and all
that it represented could bring him nothing now but recurring thoughts
of the hated Skinner. All that the man had said had left its mark on the
sensitive boy’s mind and for the first time in his life he felt a bitter
hatred toward a fellow being.

That Marty Skinner, old Josiah Flint’s right-hand man, should call his
father a rogue, was hardly to be endured. But if it were so, he reasoned
in a calmer moment, then all the more reason for the blame to fall on
the dead Josiah. Hadn’t Old Flint himself been the worst rogue of all?

He was tempted to return and shout these thoughts so that all aboard the
_Apollyon_ might hear. He wanted to tell them what Toby had said about
Josiah Flint making the despised Brown’s Basin possible because of his
selfish, unscrupulous dealings.

But, boy-like, Skippy’s anger was soon reduced to a smoldering memory
and his father’s imminent incarceration was a thing that had to be
faced. Just now he was forced to think of his own present situation, for
a significant sputtering from the motor gave warning that he was about
to have trouble.

He had not his father’s knack for adjusting the rebellious motor, and so
he decided to turn the boat about and make for the quieter waters of the
bay. But just then the motor stalled and despite his earnest efforts, it
refused to respond.

Skippy looked about him anxiously and saw that he had already been
carried an alarming distance. Dusk was rapidly settling, hastened by the
deepening haze and in a few moments the tide and undertow had swept him
out of sight of all the anchored craft clustered about the _Apollyon_.

He looked hopefully toward the Hook but saw that it was useless to try
and reach it even with the one oar that the little boat had in reserve.
The tide was against him.

After a quick glance about, he hunted around among some neglected tools
lying at his feet and picked out the searchlight. But that, too, refused
to respond; the battery was dead. Then he looked for some matches only
to meet with disheartening disappointment.

He got to his knees after that and worked furiously at the cold motor,
squinting at his hopeless task in the near-darkness. The boom of thunder
could be heard from out at sea, and with the swiftly passing minutes the
storm came nearer and nearer until it broke directly overhead.

Lightning flashed across the drifting boat and Skippy dodged under the
bow. There was something terrifying about the elements when one was
alone and drifting steadily toward the sea in an open boat.

After a momentary lull, he crept out, not a little ashamed of his
cowardice. He looked about, trying hard not to look or feel panicky
despite the fact that he could see nothing of the Hook or anything else.
Darkness and high, shadowy waves upon which the little boat bobbed were
all that met his frightened gaze. Then a damp, cold wind began to blow.

He crouched down in the bottom of the boat with a feeling of dull
despair. Rain pattered into an old rusty bait can that lay at his feet
and he edged his shivering body closer under the bow. Curiously enough,
he was quite calm now and the thought that his situation was dangerous
did not enter his mind.

Skippy-like, he was thinking only that he was terribly hungry and more
than anything else he wanted to eat.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                                 LIGHTS


The thunder and lightning died away after a time but the rain continued.
The constant boom of the sea gradually wore away some of Skippy’s calm
and he raised his head from time to time to gaze apprehensively at the
dark sea rising all about him in mountainous waves.

The sky seemed a black void and at times as the little boat tossed about
in the waves, he had the breath-taking sensation that he had turned
turtle. Once, he mused about what probability there was of his being
carried clear across the sea to some European port. He had heard of men
being able to live without food or water from ten to fourteen days.
Well, he had his fishing outfit, he reasoned hopefully; he needn’t
starve, but how to get water puzzled him.

After a few more minutes of tossing wildly about, he decided that the
little boat could probably never stand an ocean voyage. With each
succeeding wave it came perilously near to upsetting and he doubted that
the craft could triumph over the angry sea much longer.

That contingency awoke a strong determination in him, for he got to his
feet, reached for the oar and struggled valiantly to balance the boat
against the oncoming foe. The rain soaked him through to the skin but he
was not cold for he was kept in constant action trying to make one oar
do the work of two.

He had lost all sense of time and direction; he thought only of keeping
the boat balanced. That he could not keep it up very long did not occur
to him, for he already felt the effects of the past week’s malnutrition
and his long journey from the Basin had fatigued him.

After what seemed an interminable time he caught a glimpse of a light, a
faint gleam, but nevertheless a light. He gasped with joy and looked
hard into the darkness to get a definite idea of its location. In point
of fact he looked so hard he all but swamped the boat.

Great beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead when he righted
the boat, but he came up triumphant on the crest of a wave. The exertion
was too much for him, however; he felt inexpressibly weak and tired. His
muscles ached and a giddiness in his head made him feel as if he must
lie down.

But there was the light just ahead and he bent his frail body in a
supreme effort to reach it. He was cheered because it did not seem to
move and he ventured to hope that it might be on the shore. The main
thing—it was a light, and light might reasonably be expected to mean
rescue by all the rules of the game.

Suddenly a great arc of faint yellow light swept from behind and circled
his head. He had come to no decision about its origin before it came
again, a little brighter than before. Then after some minutes had passed
and it had grown still brighter, it occurred to him that it was from the
lighthouse at the Hook and the great light had gradually penetrated the
fast dissolving haze.

He took heart at this because he knew he could not be so very far away
from land. But he knew it was futile to even hope to get back there in
his boat. It might be ten miles and it might be twenty. The great light
at the Hook boasted a range of thirty miles on a clear night, he had
heard his father say.

The light that gave him real hope was the heartening glimmer just ahead.
He knew that it was not just because he wished it so fervently, but he
could plainly see that it became brighter as the boat advanced.

Then suddenly he heard the faint ringing of a bell, which echoed eerily
on the shifting wind.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                             THE BELL BUOY


He listened intently and thought that it came from the direction of the
light. It rang again and again, each time a little louder. Suddenly,
however, he was aware that the light seemed no longer stationary. He had
the disheartening experience of realizing that his beacon of hope was a
running light on a fishing smack. He felt like crying as he watched the
shadowy hull gaining speed for he realized that she must have just
started ahead, having waited for the wind to change.

Every wave carried her farther and farther away from the watching boy.
If he had only got there just a little sooner, he thought dismally. But
he had done the best he could. There was nothing left now but to sit and
watch her swallowed up by the darkness and the mountainous seas and that
had happened in a few minutes’ time.

He was glad he had not been foolish enough to hope that he could reach
her and overtake her, only to be disappointed and use up what little
strength he had left. That at least was some satisfaction and it helped
him bear his desperate plight a little more patiently.

The constant booming of the sea had a queer effect on his sensitive
ears. He imagined himself to be hearing all sorts of noises,
particularly the ringing of the bell. At times he could have sworn he
heard it right at hand and at other times it seemed but a mocking echo.

The air was quite clear now, though the rain continued, and Skippy saw
to his dismay that the boat was getting a little too full of water for
his safety. He put down the oar for a while and bailed her out with his
rusty bait can.

The little boat tossed against each rising wave like a feather; but he
worked feverishly and trusted to luck that it would not upset. Then
after a few minutes he was startled by the sound of the bell ringing
right over his head. Before he had time to look up he felt the boat bump
hard against something.

He was on his feet in a second and saw to his great surprise that the
boat was alongside of a bell buoy.

It has been truly said that time and tide wait for no man and certainly
Skippy was aware of this instantly, for in the next second a giant wave
had washed him out of reach of the buoy. This realization made him
desperate and he got into action to get back to it, for he well knew now
that to drift on through the night would mean certain death.

With a swift movement he pushed his wet hair back from his high
forehead. Then he bent over, got the oar and grabbed a rope, holding it
tightly in his hand. And for fully five minutes he battled and struggled
against the undertow.

His eyes were wide and staring from the strain and little streams of
water ran down either cheek. His clothes from head to foot were weighted
against him with water but he never stopped until he had brought the
boat back against the buoy and in a second he had thrown the painter
around it and pulled it taut.

That done he sank down in the bottom of the boat, exhausted.

For some time his mind was an utter blank. He was too tired and weak to
think or even to care. But the rain beating steadily down on his
unprotected body soon chilled him back into action and he got up and
exercised his arms and legs.

As the buoy swayed upon each succeeding swell, the bell tolled
mournfully. Its eerie echoes were faint and quickly lost in the noise of
the pounding sea, and Skippy decided that no mariner ten minutes’ sail
from the bell was likely to look that way. Also, the quick wash of the
sea prevented the bell from tolling its loudest and longest. Nothing but
his own two hands could do that.

And so he did it.

For the next hour he bent his frail body over the swaying buoy and swung
the cold, wet bell back and forth, back and forth. Peal after peal
tolled forth dismally and though his eyes became blurred with weariness
he knew that he had missed nothing, for nothing had passed for him to
miss.

So it went on through the long, dark hours. He would take an interval of
rest and then jump up to his vigil at the bell for fear he would fall
asleep and miss some passing ship.

The night seemed interminable. Indeed, he began to believe that he had
fallen asleep and that a day had passed and another night had come
without his being aware of it, for never had he thought the dark hours
were so long.

Morning came at last and with the first streak of light on the eastern
horizon, hope came back anew. The rain gradually ceased and during
Skippy’s intervals of rest he watched, with not a little awe, the wonder
of dawn at sea. Little by little the night fled before the roseate morn
and soon the entire sky was flooded with soft light. And as the sun
crept up out of the sea he stretched himself across the wet seats and
relaxed.

Two hours later, he woke with the sun shining full in his face. He sat
up, startled, and realized that his head was aching and that he felt
stiff and chilled. Moreover, he felt sick with despair to think that he
had slept away the hours of daylight, hours when a ship might have
passed near enough for him to signal.

He stood up and scanned the sunlit water in all directions but there was
not a sign of a sail, not a sign of a ship. In the distance, a gull
soared high above the water and after a moment another one seemed to
leap out of space and join it.

The tide was going out and the whole surface of the blue-green water
seemed to roll on toward the horizon in a series of undulating hills. A
gentle murmur filled the warm, sunlit air and Skippy could not believe
that the booming surf of the past night had been anything but a bad
dream.

He rang the bell for a time but had to give it up because of a terrible
giddiness in his head. And so for hours, he sat anxiously scanning the
illimitable sea and sky, hoping, hoping, hoping....

Noon came and passed and the sun scorched him cruelly. The boat, too,
had become a constant source of anxiety for she developed a leak and had
to be continually bailed out, and he was thankful that he had not obeyed
a former impulse and tried to row her east in the hope that he would
strike the Hook.

Toward mid-afternoon he was conscious of pains in his chest, and his
hunger and thirst were becoming unbearable, particularly the thirst, for
the heat of the sun was intense. He wished fervently for the cooling
rain of the night before.

Sunset came, however, and with it a soft, cool wind. Skippy welcomed it,
but hated the gray light of approaching twilight that obliterated the
deep blue clouds. It seemed to spell doom to him and he cried out in
despair. If daylight had not brought rescue what hope was there left for
another long night?

His hopes sprang up afresh, however, and he conceived the idea of tying
to the bell a long length of rope which he found in the bottom of the
boat. In this manner, he could ring it constantly just by pulling the
rope which required little exertion on his part. By dusk he was feeling
too sick to either stand or sit up.

He entered his second night at sea both hopeful and despairing. Every
doleful clang from the bell brought him hope but in the following
silence it would quickly vanish and he would sink in depths of despair.
Then with his fast-ebbing strength he would pull hopefully at the rope
again.

[Illustration: EVERY DOLEFUL CLANG FROM THE BELL BROUGHT SKIPPY HOPE.]

And so the bell tolled on through the long night hours.



                               CHAPTER XV
                                RESCUED


A few hours before dawn a long, trim, high-powered motor boat cut
through the placidly rolling waves. Its motor was so muffled that it
emitted no more than a low droning sound and could be heard for only a
short distance, despite the fact that it had been let out to full speed.

Besides the man at the wheel the boat carried six men, three standing
fore and three aft. One of the men aft half lounged over the coaming and
his broad shoulders and large, amiable face all but filled the stern of
the boat. The spray constantly swept over his big, dangling hands and
the salt moisture struck at his tanned cheeks but he seemed not to
notice. His entire attention, like that of his comrades, was centered on
the grayish black horizon; his eyes seemed to miss nothing, yet there
was an abstracted look in them that the man at the wheel did not fail to
notice.

“Whadja hear, Big Joe?” he asked quietly.

The big man nodded his head without moving his body.

“’Tis that buoy,” he said absently. “Sure and she’s goin’ a great rate
for such a calm, me lad. Even in pretty bad storms I niver knowed
Flint’s buoy to be ringin’ like that.”

“Flint’s?” queried another of the men, interested.

Big Joe Tully smiled reminiscently.

“And why not? ’Tis what most o’ Flint’s men called it. ’Tis a buoy at
the intrance to Kennedy’s Channel and ’tis a bad spot, if iver there was
wan. Ye niver know how the tide’s goin’ to act. ’Tis like a colleen what
can’t make up her mind, and she’s not to be trusted, so nobody goes by
that way. Besides, ’tis a long way round past the Hook. Anyways, the
ould boss took advantage o’ that place and we used to meet some o’ his
best customers there and unload the stuff to thim.”

“Not a bad idea takin’ us by there for an eyeful, hey, Tully?” suggested
the man at the wheel. “Long’s you’ve decided on playin’ ball with us,
since we squared that case ’gainst you, we might as well take your tips.
Seems like a wise mug like ol’ Flint never made no mistakes. He got rich
an’ the law never got him so if _he_ picked out a spot like this buoy,
he must ’a’ known what he was doin’. Mebbe it’ll be a pretty good spot
for our customers too?”

They all laughed at this, but Big Joe Tully merely smiled and glanced
down at the compass.

“Sure and ould Flint made his mistakes and plenty,” he said in his soft,
deep voice. “He made mistakes whin he didn’t watch out that the coppers
didn’t take the scows o’ men what was workin’ for his racket. And he
made a mistake whin he stuck Toby Dare with a piece o’ junk. I guess he
thought he’d be puttin’ me on me uppers where I’d be goin’ back and beg
him for work.”

“He got knocked off fust, didn’t he, Big Joe?” laughed the man at the
wheel.

“That he did. ’Tis too bad he couldn’t ’a’ lived to see how quick I
connected with you guys.”

“It’s too bad he couldn’ lived anyways,” said another of the men,
“’cause that poor guy Dare wouldn’t be in the can then. Anyhow I don’t
think he knocked him off. I think he’d liked to ’cause Flint give him a
lousy break, but I believe what he said in court that some other guy
beat him to it.”

“I know lots o’ guys what were layin’ for ould Flint,” said Big Joe.
“Sure he’d been dead a dozen times if iverywan what had it in for him,
did what they said they’d like to. That’s why they won’t be holdin’ poor
Toby.”

“All the same, they _are_ holdin’ poor Toby,” said the man at the wheel.
“He was sentenced late yesterday afternoon for twenty years to life an’
by this time he’s hittin’ the hay in the big house, that’s what.”

“And didn’t ye hear!” said another. “His kid, Skippy, ain’t been seen
since he had a talk with Marty Skinner aboard the _Apollyon_. Poor kid,
he went there to plead for his old man, the paper says, and that
hardshell Skinner wouldn’t give him a break, I guess. The second mate
told a reporter that the kid left the yacht in a rush, hopped in his
kicker and beat it for the Hook. Guess he thought as long as he couldn’t
do nothin’ for Toby, he’d get away somewhere and try an’ fergit. Well,
that’s life.”

Big Joe Tully clenched his knotted, hairy fists.

“Sufferin’ swordfish!” he said. “Poor Toby! And that poor kid! ’Tis a
howlin’ shame, so ’tis.”

“Know ’em?” asked the man at the wheel.

“I oughta—I worked ’longside o’ Toby doin’ Flint’s jobs night after
night, so I did. A whiter guy than Toby niver lived. He ain’t
old—thirty-four or so. Got married whin he was a kid and his wife died.
He’s crazy ’bout that kid o’ his, Skippy. ’Tis what makes me feel bad.”
Big Joe looked down at the compass once more. “North, northeast,” he
said to the man at the wheel. “We oughta be at Flint’s buoy in twinty
minutes. There’s the light from the Hook.”

They watched intently the great sweeping arc of light swinging over the
smoothly rolling water. The motor boat plunged north, then northeast and
in Big Joe Tully’s eyes was a thoughtful, puzzled expression, the closer
they got to the buoy.

“D’ye say there ain’t somethin’ spooky ’bout the way that bell’s
ringin’?” he asked his comrades. “Did ye iver hear a bell on a buoy ring
like that without stoppin’? ’Tain’t natural, ’cause....”

Just then he caught a glimpse of the little kicker bobbing merrily
alongside the buoy.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                              RIVER PEOPLE


“An’ when I sees ye layin’ in the bottom o’ that kicker, I’d swore I was
seein’ things so I would,” Big Joe Tully was saying. “Lucky I gets it in
me noodle that somethin’s wrong the way that bell keeps ringin’.”

The shanty of the _Minnie M. Baxter_ was bright with the light of
mid-morning. The floor had been scrubbed almost to whiteness, the table
was laid with a soft Turkey red cloth and the lamp looked shiny and
clean. Skippy’s feverish eyes took it all in before he turned on his
pillow.

“I felt so sick, I didn’t exactly know it was you,” he said weakly. “I
heard voices, but I couldn’t think what it was all about. All I’d
thought all night was that I hadda keep on ringin’ the bell.”

“Sure, kid, and ye rang it!” said Big Joe with a light laugh.

“An’ you sure saved me,” Skippy smiled in return. “Gee, it was lucky you
came that way, huh? Where’d you been?”

Big Joe lighted a cigarette and puffed on it before answering.

“Sure an’ just puttin’ the big eye on some new location for a new
racket,” he said softly. “I got six men with me.”

“Is it—is it gonna be straight?” Skippy asked.

“Nah,” Big Joe laughed. “Who’ll be straight in the Basin and live like a
human bein’? As ’tis, what they got? They’re all doin’ the higher-up’s
dirty work; but _me_, I ain’t so foolish even if ould Flint tipped off
the coppers and they grab me scow. I got a little money and I’ll work
this new racket and make lots more. The doctor says ye’ve got a pretty
weak lung so ye need a month in bed and the best o’ food. Well,
sufferin’ swordfish, we’ll dig up the dough so’s ye’ll be fat an’ sassy
’fore Toby comes out.”

Skippy’s eyes lighted up.

“Gee, Mr. Tully, it must be costin’ an awful lotta money for a lawyer to
appeal the case, huh?”

Big Joe waved a large hand deprecatingly.

“Forget it, Skippy. Ain’t I doin’ it for a good friend and ain’t I doin’
it so’s ye won’t see Toby in the can for twinty years or more? Don’t ye
be worryin’ ’bout the dough, me lad. I made it with the scow easy. Now
it’ll do you and Toby some good, so ’twill.”

“Gee whiz,” breathed the boy gratefully. “It’s too much for you to do
for Pop and me ’cause we can’t pay it back—_never_!”

“That’s why ye gotta be forgettin’ it!” Tully protested. “I ain’t got
nobody to spend it on, kid, so I might’s well spend it on you and Toby.
I’d only leave it to ye in me will whin I died!” He laughed loudly.
“Now’ll we be good friends, kid?”

Skippy had to fight back the tears before he smiled.

“Gee, _sure_! Gee, I like you an awful lot, Mis——”

“Cut out the _Mister_, kid! Big Joe’s me monicker, and nothin’ else. Now
anythin’ more on that big mind o’ yourn?”

Skippy nodded hesitantly.

“Gee—gee whiz,” he stammered, “I just was thinkin’ wouldn’t it be nice
if you had enough money so you didn’t have to go into any crooked
rackets for a while, huh? Gee, I’d like to think you didn’t have to do
it, honest I would, Big Joe! Maybe I’ll be able to go to work when I get
strong and I’ll be able to help then, huh? Maybe we can live on clean,
honest money like Pop wanted me to, huh? Besides, the money you’re
helpin’ Pop and me with is kind of from when you were runnin’ your barge
straight, isn’t it?”

Big Joe got up from his chair, went over to the table and ground out his
cigarette stub in an ash tray. Then he came back and leaning over
Skippy’s bunk, he rumpled the boy’s hair playfully.

“’Tis a funny lad ye be, Skippy. But I s’pose ye be gettin’ it from
Toby. He was always agin doin’ Flint’s work. Said he wouldn’t ’a’
started it if he hadn’t been takin’ care o’ ye so much daytimes whin ye
was sick with that throat business.”

“Pop was always honest inside, that shows it,” said Skippy proudly.

Big Joe smiled.

“Anyways ye’re right about me runnin’ me barge straight the first year,”
he said vehemently. “I did.” Then: “So ye want me on the level? Well,
we’ll be seein’ about that but we ain’t goin’ to starve I’ll be tellin’
ye, so I will.”

Skippy’s eyes were shining.

“You’ll get along if people can see you’re tryin’ to be honest, that’s
what Pop said.”

“Sufferin’ swordfish, kid,” said Big Joe. “Be quittin’ thinkin’ ’bout
anythin’ now ’ceptin’ gettin’ better. And no more talk about work when
ye’re better. Sufferin’ swordfish, ye ain’t nothin’ but skin and bones,
the doctor said! Ye’re as pale as a ghost, too. Eggs, milk and chicken
soup is what ye need and what ye’ll be gettin’.”

“Who’ll fix ’em?” Skippy asked, chuckling weakly.

“Our nixt door neighbor on the _Dinky O. Cross_,” Big Joe said. “She’s a
right nice woman, kid—Mrs. Duffy, and as soon as she sees us carryin’ ye
in she said it milted her heart. So we put a plank across to her scow
and she come in here and did ’bout iverythin’ ’fore the doctor come. I
give her the dough for the things and she’s cookin’ thim now.”

“She’s a—she’s one of the river people, huh? Like _you_, Big Joe?”
Skippy asked wondering.

“Like you and me, Skippy me boy,” answered Big Joe, nodding his head.
“She’s one o’ our people, the kind what helps their own whin there’s
trouble.”

Skippy shut his eyes to visualize the stern, cold visage of Marty
Skinner. Hadn’t he talked of river people as if they were all of a kind?
Hadn’t he said they were all crooks and criminals?

Big Joe had put him in that category of river people, he who had never
disobeyed a law in his young life! He resented it and wanted to say so,
but his better judgment prevailed against it and he decided to wait and
see what kind of people these river people of Brown’s Basin really were.
Certainly if they were all like Big Joe Tully, Skinner had much to
learn.

It was the buxom Mrs. Duffy who decided it, some moments later. She came
in like the fresh morning breeze from the inlet, clean-aproned and
smiling, laden with soup and eggnog and a wealth of bright cretonne
tucked under her generous arm.

“Cretonne curtains for thim little windows, bhoy,” she said
breathlessly. “Mr. Tully give me the money for ’em an’ I made ’em up
’fore I come over. It’ll seem more like home to ye in Brown’s Basin whin
ye see ’em from the outside. The inlet’s dismal enough, so ’tis, without
starin’ at it through bare, dirty winders; ain’t I right, Mr. Tully?”

“Guess so,” Big Joe answered a little abashed. “Women folks know more
about thim things, but even me, I be likin’ that bright stuff flutterin’
around a winder. Ye got the soup an’ everythin’?”

Mrs. Duffy’s smile was vast and it swept from Big Joe to the wan-looking
Skippy.

“Ye’ll pick up, so ye will, or me and Mr. Tully’ll be to blame, Skippy,”
she said heartily.

Skippy almost choked with gratitude. He tried to speak, but could only
think that these were river people—his people! Big Joe, who was spending
a lot of money so that his father might have another chance for freedom
and who would spare no expense to nurse him back to health. And Mrs.
Duffy, who was bringing cheer into the shanty of the _Minnie M. Baxter_
and who seemed to care so much that he get well!

_River people?_ Skinner didn’t know what he was talking about! He,
Skippy Dare, was proud to be one of the river people.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                                  MUGS


Many delightful weeks Skippy spent after he was up and around. Day after
day, he and Big Joe roamed the length and breadth of the river, and
often they went down the bay and across to some unfrequented beach where
they swam and fished to their hearts’ content.

Skippy soon showed the effects of his healthful life and Mrs. Duffy’s
fine cooking. He was browned from head to foot and his flat chest had
expanded two inches. And what was more, he had learned to triumph over
tears.

That in itself was a great achievement, for he had great need to
practice self-control during the fall and the winter following. The gods
themselves seemed to have cast sorrowful glances over the _Minnie M.
Baxter_ and Skippy’s mettle was tried to the breaking point sometimes,
yet always he came up smiling. Very often it was a poignant smile, the
kind that pierced Big Joe Tully’s almost invulnerable heart and set him
to doing all sorts of extravagant things so that he might see the pain
effaced from the boy’s face and hear him laugh happily.

That was why on the evening of Toby’s retrial, Big Joe left the shanty
of the _Minnie M. Baxter_ in awkward haste. He had left Skippy smiling a
smile so poignant that he could bear it no longer.

“Big Joe,” the boy said when they were dawdling over the most luxurious
meal that Tully’s money could buy, “it was most like throwin’ money
away, huh? They don’t wanta let Pop get out, I guess. They can’t find
the man that really did it and they’ve gotta have somebody so I s’pose
they think it might’s well be my Pop. Now he _will_ be in for life on
account of the way they tripped him up in his answers. Gee, how could he
remember word for word what he said at his first trial? People don’t
remember word for word ’bout things like that. Poor Pop was so nervous I
got chills down my back.”

“Don’t ye be gettin’ down, kid,” Tully protested; “’tis not sayin’ we’re
licked till they turn down an appeal. We got some more dough.”

“So much money,” said Skippy with a note of wonder in his high-pitched
voice. “Gee, Big Joe, you’ve spent so much on Pop an’ me already. Now
you wanta spend the last you got! Gee whiz, I can’t let you—_I can’t_!
Much as I wanta see Pop free. It ain’t fair lettin’ you spend all your
hard-earned money....”

Tully had long since learned that he could not lie to Skippy.

“Sure an’ this last coin ain’t hard-earned, kid,” he said not a little
abashed. “So ye see ’cause it ain’t, it might’s well be used for
springin’ your old man.”

“All right, if you say it like that,” said Skippy with a slightly
reproving smile. Suddenly he squared his shoulders; then: “Anyway, next
to Pop, Big Joe, I like you best. Gee, ain’t you been just like Pop
even! So I don’t care if that money’s not so straight, but d’ye think
it’ll be lucky for Pop? Sometimes I wonder if crooked money ain’t hard
luck in the end. Maybe when you’re broke you can start over clean?”

“We’ll see what the breaks’ll be bringin’ this winter, kid,” Big Joe had
mumbled. “We’ll see, so we will.”

And it was Skippy’s answering smile that drove Big Joe off the barge for
a few hours. When he returned late in the evening, he had a fluffy sort
of bundle in his big arms and an expansive smile on his face.

“Three guesses what’s in me arms,” he said with a mischievous wink,
standing half in and half out of the doorway.

“Is it dead or alive?” Skippy asked chuckling.

“’Tis the liveliest little guy ye ever see.” Big Joe stooped over and
released the fluffy bundle from his arms and presently an Airedale pup
put its four young and rather unsteady legs on the shanty floor.

Skippy laughed out loud. He twisted his hands together in a gesture of
delight, then got to his knees and coaxed the puppy to him.

“It’s got brown eyes like a reg’lar angel,” he said.

“An’ brown legs like the divil,” Big Joe laughed; “the divil for runnin’
into mischief. The man what I bought him from said he was a
son-of-a-sufferin’ swordfish for runnin’ an’ chewin’. But he’ll be
gettin’ better as he gets older, so he will. Ain’t he got the cute
little mug though, kid!”

Skippy looked up with shining eyes, then drew the puppy up to him.

“Big Joe, that’s his name—it’s a swell name for him! Mug—_Mugs_, huh?
With that funny little face he couldn’t be called anything else.”

“Sure, sure, kid. Anythin’ ye say. Mugs it’ll be, so ’twill.” He
coughed. “And will he be makin’ ye happy now, kid?”

“_Happy!_ Big Joe, Mugs’ll make me happy ’cause you bought him to make
me laugh. Gee, gee....” Skippy swallowed his emotion. “What for do you
do so much, Big Joe?” he asked naïvely. “Gee—_why_?”

“’Cause ye be such a nice kid, so ye be,” the man answered, rumpling
Skippy’s straight hair. “Ye kind o’ get under a guy’s skin—ye do that.
Ye seem to be needin’ somebody for to look after ye, so ye do, an’ with
Toby not about it might’s well be me.” He laughed nervously. “Besides I
ain’t got nobody else at all, at all, kid, an’ even a tough guy like me
does be needin’ company, so he does.”

Skippy hugged the puppy gratefully and he was so overwhelmed by Tully’s
generosity that he could not speak. Never, he thought, did a boy have a
friend like Big Joe!

His cup of happiness would have been filled to the brim and his father
been released that day. But here again, Big Joe, like an angel of mercy,
was making a last supreme effort to bring his father back to him. It
seemed impossible that such gigantic effort could fail to bring a joyous
result and he told Tully so.

“An’ when Pop gets out,” he said in conclusion, “I bet he’ll never
forget what you’ve done an’ all, Big Joe. Even now he don’t forget it.
He said it’s so gloomy and strict in prison that he’s sad all the time,
’specially ’cause he was so used to roamin’ all over the river free.
Gee, he said the feller what really killed Mr. Flint was a coward ’cause
he must know how it’s keepin’ Pop an’ me away from each other an’ he
said he could almost kill him for doin’ that alone.”

“There, now, the ould man’ll be gettin’ out!” said Tully vehemently. “My
last grand’ll do it, I be tellin’ ye! See if it don’t! Now ye ain’t
goin’ to start worryin’ all over ’bout Toby now, are ye? An’ me gettin’
ye Mugs so’s to make it aisier like for ye.”

Skippy looked at the puppy sliding over the floor on his gawky legs. He
laughed.

“Mugs makes up for an awful lot, Big Joe, but nobody could make up for
Pop,” he said wistfully. “I never told Pop, ’cause he’d think it sounded
silly, but I love him. You know, like I guess girls feel only they show
it an’ talk about it, but I don’t. I couldn’t. But I’m just tellin’ you
like a secret—see? I get a funny pain in my heart when I’m not seein’
Pop an’ it gets awful bad when I think maybe he won’t ever get out of
prison.” Then at the sight of Big Joe’s frowning countenance, he added:
“But it’s like I said, Big Joe, I like you almost as much as Pop. An’
now you’ve bought me Mugs—gee, how much’d you pay for him, huh?”

“’Tis nothin’,” said Big Joe smiling softly; “a coupla bucks. ’Course,
they cost a little more thin just muts, but the man at the dog place
said thim Airedales be great for protectin’ kids so I think maybe he’d
be good for ye nights when I might be out with the boys. He’ll be
comp’ny anyways.”

A little later, when Big Joe was having a good-night smoke alone on the
deck, he took out of his pocket a piece of paper, and in the light
gleaming from the cabin windows he glanced at it curiously. It was a
receipt for one Airedale puppy; price, one hundred and fifty dollars.

He smiled, shrugged his powerful shoulders and tearing the paper into
bits let it drop in the inlet. Then he turned his trousers’ pockets
outward and laughed ruefully.

“Broke,” he said half aloud. “Sure and ’tis aisy come, aisy go. And now
for to be gettin’ some more dough. The kid’ll be needin’ it so——” He
shrugged as if getting money was the least of his troubles.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                                BAD NEWS


Skippy had food and plenty of it during the next month. Big Joe saw to
that though it kept him away from the barge many hours at night, hours
when he lived in mortal fear that the boy would develop a “bad throat”
and be seriously sick before he could get back.

Skippy’s “bad throat” had become a veritable bugaboo to Tully and though
he had no definite idea of what it was, the fear of its recurrence
stalked every hour that he spent away from the boy. And when he did
return he would tiptoe into the silent shanty and up to the boy’s bunk,
sighing with relief to find him sleeping quietly. Then, when he had made
sure there was no sign of the pinched look and feverish cheek, he would
climb into his own bunk with a light on his face that would have
surprised his rough comrades.

Skippy saw this light on Tully’s face one early morning. He saw it from
under half-opened lids and it made him glad until he noticed the quick
look of concern that passed over the man’s tanned brow.

“What’s up, Big Joe?” he asked anxiously.

“So it’s awake ye be?” Big Joe returned nervously. “Well now I was just
lookin’ and seem’ if ye was all right. Sure an’ the weather’s gittin’
cold and all and I got wonderin’ how the throat was. I bought a new
stove what’ll give ye lots o’ heat—it’s comin’ in the mornin’.”

“Gee whiz!” Skippy said gratefully, then: “You sorta looked worried.”

Big Joe turned his back and started to undress.

“I’ve got to be tellin’ ye sometime, kid—I—listen....”

“You’ve heard about Pop, huh?” Skippy sat up.

“Yes—they....”

“They what?” said Skippy anxiously.

“They turned down the appeal. But don’t be takin’ on about it, Skippy.
Sure an’ next year we’ll be diggin’ up new evidence. Now....”

“I ain’t gonna take on, Big Joe, honest I ain’t,” said Skippy bravely.
“On accounta you I ain’t. You been so good—all the money you spent
tryin’ to get Pop free. An’ now—well, maybe if I don’t hope about it
sumpin’ll happen, sometime.”

“Sure now that’s bein’ a good kid, takin’ it so aisy like. We’ll be
tryin’ agin like I said. Some time Marty Skinner’ll get over his crazy
notion that iverybody in Brown’s Basin’s agin him and that Toby did the
job. Sure he hates iverybody here so much I hear he’s got Buck Flint to
agree to buy the whole inlet. And thin he’ll be drivin’ us squatters
out, so he will.”

“But he can’t do that!” Skippy protested indignantly. “He can’t drive me
outa the _Minnie M. Baxter_ ’cause it’s Pop’s home—gee, the only home we
got. I gotta stay here till—well, when I leave it, I’ll know I ain’t got
any hope that he’ll come back.”

“And don’t I be knowin’ how ye feel, kid? But if Skinner’s put it in
Buck Flint’s head that the inlet’s a good buy and the deal goes through,
he’ll be orderin’ us out and we’ll be likin’ it. Buck ain’t a bad egg,
but Skinner’s runnin’ the works and what he says goes, so it does. Now
if he tells us to beat it I’m wonderin’ who’ll be towin’ a barge out o’
this mud whin she’s settled. Why, it’d take a derrick, so it would, an’
even then it’d be a chance.”

Skippy was deeply affected by this news. He could not sleep because of
it and long after Big Joe was snoring comfortably he rolled and tossed
in his bunk. Then, after a time, he thought of what Tully had said about
the barges being too deeply settled in the mud to get them out, and he
was so curious about it that he got up to see for himself.

He bundled himself up and slipped out onto the deck in the cold, damp
air of an early fall morning. It was not yet dawn but the deep black of
night had gone and Brown’s Basin lay silent in a dark gray mist.

Skippy leaned far over aft where the _Minnie M. Baxter_ was settled
deepest in the mud. Up forward, the slinking waters of the inlet gurgled
plaintively against the keel at high tide. Big Joe was right, he decided
with sinking heart; it would take a derrick and more to pull the barge
out of her muddy berth.

As he started to step back he noticed a tarpaulin to his right which
seemed to be covering some bulky objects. Something that Big Joe had
brought aboard, he thought, and curiously he raised one end of it. One
glimpse told him enough.

They were stolen ships’ supplies, things that his father had told him a
river pirate could easily dispose of to some unscrupulous ship captain.
Skippy knew instantly how they had come there and he turned on his heel
and had started back for the shanty when a searchlight suddenly fell
full upon him.

He crouched out of its glare and needed but to look hastily up the inlet
to see that it was the police boat bearing down upon the _Minnie M.
Baxter_.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                                 DANGER


Feverishly, Skippy set to work and pushed the stolen goods overboard
piece by piece. Most of them floated but a moment, then sank out of
sight, and the rest floated at a safe enough distance from the oncoming
launch to escape the eyes of the police.

[Illustration: FEVERISHLY SKIPPY PUSHED THE STOLEN GOODS OVERBOARD.]

When the last piece had been disposed of he rushed to the shanty,
awakened Big Joe and told him what he had done.

“’Tis a good boy ye be, Skippy,” he praised. “Sure th’ bulls give me a
chase tonight so they did and I couldn’ unload the goods on me customer
so I brought thim here till tomorrow night. Ye’re a broth of a lad to be
droppin’ thim over, so ye be.”

“Sh!” said Skippy, frightened. “Ain’t that them boardin’ us now?” He got
out of his clothes and back into his bunk.

They listened in silence while the soft tramp of feet came along the
deck. Skippy had reason to remember another terrible occasion when the
police boat had come to take his father. He had thought then that it was
only for a day.

He had only Big Joe now, his only friend in a singularly callous world.
Would the law take him too? He couldn’t bear it—he wouldn’t bear it! He
would like and protect Big Joe even if he was a murderer, the police
wouldn’t take the one thing he had left!

They knocked insistently and Big Joe padded to the door, barefooted and
feigning complete surprise. He invited them in, hurried ponderously to
the rickety table and lighted the lamp. Mugs growled ominously.

The officers told Tully that a certain warehouse had been broken into
that night. The watchman who had surprised the intruder thought he had
recognized Big Joe Tully.

“Tonight?” Skippy piped up from his bunk. “It ain’t so ’cause Big Joe’s
been here takin’ care of me since noon. I got one of my bad throats
again an’ he wouldn’t go out ’cause I was feelin’ so bad.”

Who of the river front police hadn’t heard of Skippy Dare’s bad throat?
None that had patrolled the harbor during the past four months. Hadn’t
it been because of his frail boy that Toby Dare had fought his prison
sentence so hard? The papers had been full of it too.

“So the throat’s cutting up again, eh Skippy?” asked Inspector Jones. He
was the same man who had taken Toby away from his son.

Skippy, always a bit wan looking when he lay in his bunk, looked more
wan than ever then. His pallor was not simulated; it was terribly real,
for he was not only frightened at the prospect of losing Big Joe; he was
frightened because of the barefaced lie he had just told—the first in
his life.

“I always gotta be careful of my throat, Mister,” he said to the officer
when the worst of his emotion had passed. “’Specially when it gets cold.
Sometimes I get fever right away an’ the doctor told Big Joe the last
time that I gotta right away have attention.”

“Sure and the lad’s right,” Big Joe interposed with genuine feeling in
his voice, “he’s got only me to be lookin’ after him now.”

“What you doing for a living, Big Joe?” asked the officer a little
pointedly.

Big Joe stifled a yawn and sat down on a chair.

“Me?” he asked innocently. “Ye mean what’ll I do when the money I saved
from me barge gives out, is it? With the way Flint blackballed me ’fore
he died, I guess I’ll have to be workin’ out o’ the bay next summer, so
I do.”

“Got enough for you and the kid till next summer?” the officer
persisted.

“Sure and ’tis lucky I have, the way things be,” answered Big Joe.

The officer leveled his eyes at Tully.

“For the kid’s sake, watch your step, Big Joe,” he said with a warning
note. “For the kid’s sake....”

Skippy couldn’t believe they had gone. It seemed too good to be true,
and in order to reassure him, Big Joe put something around him and went
out on deck to see that the launch had actually gone.

“Sure she’s aisy out to the river by this time,” he assured Skippy when
he came back. He lighted a cigarette and sat down. “Now was that a close
shave I’ll be askin’,” he exclaimed. “And I can be thankin’ ye for it,
kid. I never expected thim to come stealin’ up on us here, no, I
didn’t.”

“See it don’t pay, Big Joe!” Skippy said gently. He seemed spent with
the great strain. “People know a big guy like you anywheres an’ besides
like I say, it don’t pay anyhow. Gee, if you can’t get honest work
’cause Flint blackballed you then I gotta work myself. I can get a job
as office boy in a warehouse. I bet I can!”

“Nix, kid, nix, ye ain’t well enough,” Big Joe protested hotly. “Besides
I don’t niver take things from folks what are hard up, Skippy. I——”

“Lemme try it, Big Joe, huh? I’m better now’n I been in a long time, so
lemme try it! I’m not kickin’ ’bout you. Gee, I can see how it is now.
Even Pop once told me how hard it was for a blackballed man to get back
along the river. You spent all your money on Pop an’ me an’ we hadda eat
an’ live, so what was you gonna do! I shoulda known before that your
money couldn’t last forever—gee! All you’ve done for me, Big Joe—lemme
try!”

Tully was still protesting at daylight, but Skippy, having made up his
mind, fell peacefully to sleep with the dog tucked snugly under his
outstretched arm. Big Joe sat watching them until long after the sun
came up.

“Sure and the kid lied for me,” he said as he climbed back into his
bunk. “Sure and that nice kid lied for me—_me_!”

And as his large features settled in slumber, they looked strangely
troubled.



                               CHAPTER XX
                                 A JOB


Skippy left the barge noiselessly that morning and did not return until
six o’clock in the evening. Consequently, Big Joe spent a troubled day,
waiting and hoping and fearing. When he saw the boy crossing the plank
from the _Dinky O. Cross_, he hurried to the door.

“And where have ye been, Skippy?” he called anxiously. “Here and ye been
havin’ me crazy wonderin’ if ye’d run away!”

Skippy laughed and greeted Mugs who seemed to be growing by the minute.
Then he swung energetically into the shanty and sat down to a hot supper
that Mrs. Duffy had faithfully sent over.

“Guess what, Big Joe?”

“Sure and ye’ll not be for quittin’ me ’cause o’ what happened last
night?” Big Joe returned trying not to sound anxious.

“I should say not. Whad’ye think I am? I ain’t yeller, Big Joe. Besides
I like you too much. What I wanta say is, I got a job.”

Tully frowned.

“It ain’t gonna be hard,” Skippy assured him. “I’m the new office boy at
the Central Warehouse an’ I’ll get ten bucks a week. So now you needn’t
be scareda cops.”

Tully smiled in spite of himself. “My now, ain’t that just fine. Ain’t
that just fine, kid. But do ye be knowin’ who’s boss o’ the Central?”

“No. Who?”

“Marty Skinner, actin’ as Buck Flint’s agent, no less.”

“Well, he can see then that my Pop brought me up honest an’ hard
workin’,” said Skippy after a moment’s surprise.

“Sure, to be sure and he can that, but shiverin’ swordfish, don’t ye be
goin’ on expectin’ too much from him, kid. D’ye be thinkin’ he’s wise ye
be on the payroll?”

“No.”

“Well, now, just ye be waitin’ till he is. Just ye be....”

Skippy did not have long to wait. He had completed his first week’s work
in the Central Warehouse when one day he heard a hushed voice pass
around the awesome news that “the boss” was coming.

Skinner recognized Skippy as soon as he stepped into the room. There
were a few questions asked and Skippy trudged back to the _Minnie M.
Baxter_ that night with a heavy heart.

Big Joe was all sympathy.

“And what was he sayin’ to ye, kid?”

“He wanted to know how I come to get a job there,” Skippy answered
dolefully. “Wanted to know how I had nerve enough an’ said I was there
as a spotter for my father’s gang probably. An’ before he finished he
said it was lucky there hadn’t been a robbery there or he’d handed me
right over to the police then an’ there. _Me_—me that ain’t done him a
bitta harm an’ that wouldn’t! Gee, Big Joe, ain’t it enough that he
helped put Pop where he is? Can’t he see how _I_ am?”

“None o’ ’em can see anythin’, kid,” Big Joe answered, bitterly. “That’s
the trouble with me and Toby and every man in this Basin. Sure ’tis
’cause the likes o’ Skinner can’t see. They don’t even give us a chance,
they don’t ’cause we’re river folks. They tell us so much that we’re
crooked that we wind up that way whither we want to or not, so we do.
They make us be crooked. And now they be startin’ in on you, kid. ’Tis a
dirty shame, so ’tis.”

“I’ll get some other place,” Skippy was defiant. “They’re not gonna make
me crooked when I don’t wanna be.”

“Skippy, kid,” thought Tully from the depths of his river front wisdom,
“I ain’t so sure, I ain’t so sure.” But what he said was: “Sure and that
they’ll not, Skippy me boy, that they’ll not.”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                               WHAT NEXT?


Weary week after weary week passed for Skippy until the winter months
had come and gone. March arrived, cold, blustery and disappointing, for
he hadn’t yet been able to hold a job longer than it took his employers
to find out just who their office boy was. And as gossip spreads quickly
along the river front, the discouraged boy seldom drew more than a few
days’ pay at a time.

He had learned upon being dismissed from his last job the reason why
employers had no use for his services. He demanded to know.

“Is it ’cause my father’s in prison?” he asked wistfully. “’Cause if it
is nobody is fair in the world. You’ve heard, I bet, that lots of
innocent people are in jail so can’t you believe maybe my father could
be one of them? And anyway, does that prove that I’m....”

The employer, thus confronted, protested.

“No,” he said in that self-righteous tone that was beginning to wear on
Skippy’s nerves, “we think that you, yourself, mean to be honest but we
know that you can’t hold out long against such home conditions as the
Basin offers. A wage such as a boy like you with your limited education
can earn isn’t enough to provide you with all you want. And sooner or
later, your association with a person like Big Joe Tully will have its
effect on you.”

“My Pop was gonna send me to school so’s I could get educated,” Skippy
protested, “but anyway I’m honest an’ I’m gonna stay honest, no matter
what you think. Besides, Big Joe’s tried to live straight all this
winter for my sake, but are you an’ everybody else I’ve tried to work
for tryin’ to help him? No, nobody won’t even give him a job so he can
stay straight. An’ now you won’t let me stay ’cause I live with him,
because you’re afraid....”

“My dear boy,” the employer interposed patronizingly, “can you blame us?
Tully has served a jail sentence for robbing our warehouses. How can we
be certain that he won’t do it again? Or that he won’t use your position
of trust in our offices to learn more easily what goods we have in our
warehouses that he can steal? What assurance can you give us that he
don’t do that when he gets tired treading the straight and narrow path?
None. Absolutely none! No, we warehouse owners have been too long aware
that it is you thieving river people who are responsible for our
tremendous losses every year. And so we maintain that, once a thief,
always a thief!”

Skippy was wounded and bitter. His full, generous lips curled
sardonically.

“Then it ain’t any use to try to make you understand,” he said bravely.
“You warehouse people complain that we’re thieves an’ you make us
thieves just like you’re tryin’ to make me one by keepin’ me outa jobs
so’s I can’t make an honest livin’. An’ anyway, if the only way I could
hold a job is to quit Big Joe then I won’t do it! I’d rather _be_ a
thief, yes I would! He saved my life and he’s helped my Pop ... oh,
what’s the use!”

He slammed the door behind him and rushed home to find Big Joe with his
faithful, smiling face. Plank after plank he hurried over, connecting
the barges, and at last he crossed the deck of the _Dinky O. Cross_,
waved a greeting to the smiling Mrs. Duffy and whistled for Mugs when he
reached the plank of the _Minnie M. Baxter_.

“And have ye lost the job, kid?” Big Joe asked when he entered the
shanty.

“My last job, Big Joe,” the boy answered smiling ruefully. “You were
right about ’em—there ain’t one that’ll gimme a chance. Even you who
ain’t always been honest yourself did more than that! You let me try at
least. They know more about you than I did—they know you served time.”

“Sure and that’s why they’re blackballin’ ye, is it? ’Cause ye’re
stickin’ with me?” His bland face looked dark and ominous. Then as he
glanced at the boy’s wistful countenance, his expression softened: “I’m
tellin’ ye the truth, kid, whin I say that they railroaded me, so they
did—I was startin’ in honest like you. Office boy. Thin one night the
warehouse was robbed and next mornin’ they accused me o’ workin’ with
the gang—tippin’ ’em off. ’Cause I’d been seen ’round with one o’ the
guys what was caught. I got a year, I did, and didn’t have a chance.
When I come out I was blackballed and Ol’ Flint took me under. Sufferin’
swordfish, sure and I’ve tried twice now to travel on the up and up.
When I first got my barge and now. And ’tis no use, ’tis no use.”

“Seems that way,” Skippy murmured, disconsolate. “Now I ain’t gonna try.
I’m gonna live an’ eat like other fellers my age. I wanta go to the
movies an’ take things up to Pop when I go to see him. Gee, already he’s
startin’ to write to me that the food’s bad up at the big house. So I
gotta help him have a little sumpin’ to smile at if he’s gonna be there
the rest of his life! An’ I gotta have money to go to see him—I gotta
see him! If they won’t lemme earn it honest—_what else_? Like the man
said, I don’t know enough to work anywheres else.”

“And ye’ll be wantin’ to quit me, kid? Ye’ll be wantin’ to go away and
start over where they don’t know ’bout river people and all?” Big Joe’s
anxiety was pathetic.

“I’m afraid of places too far away from the river,” Skippy admitted. “I
guess I got the river in me like Pop, huh? I ain’t got nerve enough to
break away. Besides I sorta promised Pop I’d stay by the _Minnie M.
Baxter_. S’pose just by a lucky break the governor pardons Pop some day,
huh? He’s paid good money for this barge an’ it’s the only home he’s
got. Besides, I don’t wanta quit you, Big Joe—_I couldn’t_!”

And Skippy’s decision stood until Brown’s Basin was no more....



                              CHAPTER XXII
                             BIG JOE’S IDEA


In May, Big Joe conceived a brilliant idea for making a living. He came
into the shanty of the barge with it one balmy noon, for it was embodied
in a large canvas bag which he carried in his big outstretched hand.

“Sure and now we be goin’ to eat, kid, and we be goin’ to live high, and
ye be goin’ to do all the things ye’ want for Toby,” he said chuckling.

“Stealin’?” Skippy asked, looking worried and wan. “As hard up as we
been, Big Joe, I can’t stand for sneakin’ down the river at night an’
climbin’ into warehouse windows. Gee, Pop’d feel fierce if we was caught
an’ I was put in reform school or sumpin’ like that!”

“And d’ye be thinkin’ I ain’t carin’ no more for ye than seein’ ye
grabbed for somethin’ like that, me boy? Kid, I been thinkin’ and
thinkin’ o’ some way for us to be gettin’ by—some way that no copper
could catch us up on. And if they iver should ’twon’t be you what’d be
holdin’ the bag—’twill be me, ’cause I’m the one what’ll do the trick.
Do you catch on?”

“What trick, Big Joe?”

“’Tis the stuff I got in this bag, kid,” answered Tully softly. “’Tis
ground carbon and whin it’s poured in with oil it raises the divil with
thim nice engines in rich guys’ boats up at the Riverview Yacht Club.
From now on till the end o’ summer they’re takin’ trips—see? Well, sure
and Big Joe’s got a good pal what looks out for the boats up there ...
he’s told beforehand what rich guy’s goin’ out in his boat, he is ... my
pal tells me and I go up there—see? Him and me edge aisy like towards
the boat and whilst he’s lookin’ out the corners o’ his eye that no
one’s comin’, Big Joe uncovers the crank case and ’fore ye could say
_scat_, I’m pourin’ me little powder in the breather pipe and sure she’s
mixin’ with the oil.”

“An’ what then?” Skippy asked, nervous, yet admiring Big Joe’s ingenious
idea.

Big Joe winked, then laughed.

“Sure, I pour the right amount o’ this powder, kid,” he said, “thin I
beats it off quick and watch the rich guy start, so I do. If ’tis
possible, me pal finds out where the guy’s goin’ so’s I can beat it on
ahead and circle his course so I come up on him by the time his ingine’s
dead—see?”

“The powder mixes through the oil an’ up through the engine, huh?”
Skippy asked fearfully. “Makes the engine go dead, huh?”

“Sure ’tis ground up like nobody’s business, kid,” Big Joe laughed. “An’
I make sure o’ puttin’ in enough so’s I’ll be knowin’ about where the
ingine goes dead on thim. And thin I chug up to thim all innocent like
and asks do they want help. _Do_ they? Sure they must be towed back so I
says I don’t think I’m their man ’cause I’ll be losin’ business
somewheres or other—see? And they’re so anxious they’ll be willin’ to
pay me price, so they will. And I gotta be paid for the loss o’ me
time!” He laughed heartily.

“I—I—gee, in a way that’s worse than pulling a warehouse, Big Joe? It
ain’t so dangerous, but....”

“Kid, sure I thought ye’d be takin’ on, but I can tell ye it ain’t so
bad at all, at all. I’ll be pickin’ out only thim what’s payin’ tin and
twinty grand for their kickers! What’s the cost to thim what throws away
hundreds o’ bucks at a time? And what’s fifty or seventy-five bucks for
to be payin’ me for towin’ thim back? Sure ’tis a drop in the bucket,
says I. They’ll niver be missin’ it, kid. And we gotta live, you and me,
and Toby’s case’s gotta go before the governor some day and that takes
money too.”

Skippy nodded and Big Joe noticed that the old pinched look had come
back to his thin cheeks.

“Kid, ye can’t be goin’ on like this, you and me!” he pleaded. “Like I
said ’tis only the big guys—guys what have the heavy sugar. We’ll be
layin’ off the others and we’ll be workin’ the different clubs so nobody
gets wise. Thim boat tenders’ll go along for a little o’ the split. So
ye needn’t be worryin’ that we’re takin’ thim what can’t afford it!
Besides they’re mostly rich warehouse guys that won’t give you and me
the chance for honest work. Sure and now ye won’t be feelin’ so bad
about takin’ it, will ye?”

That decided Skippy. Hunger and privation had dulled his conscience,
embittered him against the warehouse owners and he was at last ready to
strike back at his oppressors.

And strange to say, in contemplating the results of this stealthy
enterprise, Skippy did not think of the food, nor the movies to which he
could go. He was thinking instead that he would at last have the money
to pay for his journey up to see his father. For a few golden moments
the walls of the prison would fade away and Toby would imagine himself a
free man. And all because of a breath of river air that his son would
bring him in his smile.

And for that, Skippy was willing to forget that he hated dishonesty in
any form.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                              ANOTHER JOB


It was early morning a few days later when Skippy and Tully set out on
the first stage of their enterprise. The inlet was dark and shadowy, and
the sweet soft breath of spring floated about their heads. In its wake,
however, came the smell of mud and fish at low tide and the boy was glad
to get out into the fresh salt air of the river.

“It’s the only thing that makes me hate the inlet,” he said to Big Joe
as they turned up toward the yacht club. “I get feelin’ choked,
sorta—you know, sumpin’ like I imagine people feel when they go to
jail.”

“Now don’t ye be feelin’ spooky,” Tully admonished. “’Tain’t the spirit
for a job like this. Sure, there’s somethin’ ’bout mentionin’ jail what
gives me the creeps. So don’t be thinkin’ we’ll be gettin’ in any
jams—’tis hard luck, so ’tis.”

“I’m sorry, Big Joe,” said Skippy contritely. “I—I didn’t say it for
that, honest, because even Pop can tell you how the inlet always made me
feel like that. I’m all right when I’m up on the barge; it’s only the
inlet makes me feel that way. Just as soon as we strike the river I feel
better.”

“That’s the talk, me boy. And I’m sorry for jumpin’ on ye so quick. I
thought ye was nervous ’bout this job, so I did.”

“Aw, no,” Skippy protested, but his quivering lip belied his words.

Tully did not see it, however, for he was intent on approaching the
yacht club unobtrusively.

“Now if this ain’t a good break,” he said enthusiastically. “There’s a
party o’ three goin’ out on a two days’ fishing trip at Snug Island.
She’s called the _Minnehaha_, me pal tells me, and she’s a baby.
Twenty-six footer! Guy that owns her is Crosley.”

“Crosley Warehouse where I worked last?” Skippy asked anxiously.

“Sure, and now don’t that beat all! Little Old Lady Luck’s playin’ with
us, kid! Sure ’tis a break to make him hand over his bucks or sink in
Watson’s Channel!”

“You wouldn’t let ’em do that, Big Joe?” Skippy asked fearfully. “_You
wouldn’t!_”

“Nah, Big Joe ain’t that hard hearted, much as I got it in for thim rich
bugs. I’ll just be lettin’ thim think I’m doin’ thim a favor not lettin’
Watson’s Channel close ’em in, so I will.”

“Do you s’pose Mr. Crosley’ll get wise we’re doin’ it a-purpose?” Skippy
was beginning to weaken already.

“And how’ll he be doin’ that, I’m askin’ ye? Me pal tipped me off they
be due at dawn. We’ll be there and gone a half hour afore they show up.
So don’t be startin’ worryin’, kid. Leave everythin’ to Big Joe, as if
ye didn’t know nothin’ ’bout the business at all, at all. You don’t say
nothin’. Be lookin’ dumb if anybody talks to ye.”

“I will,” said Skippy, half-whimsically, and half-frightened. “I’ll be
_scared_ dumb so you needn’t worry that I’ll get nervous an’ give
anythin’ away—gee whiz!”

Big Joe laughed, then he said, “Awright, kid, D’ye be knowin’ Skinner
and Crosley be pals?”

“Gee!” said Skippy. “Now I know why I couldn’t get a job. Skinner put
’em all wise, huh? Gee!”

They were silent after that and chugged steadily toward the yacht club.
A ferry-boat was crossing far up the river and her lights blinked out
over the dark water like a hundred evil eyes. Hundreds of boats anchored
near shore bobbed up and down on the tide like a ghostly river army, and
from the shore more lights winked down on them knowingly as if they knew
their secret.

They crept into the slip alongside the yacht club; Big Joe had shut off
the motor. At a sign from him, Skippy dropped the anchor and without a
word, he got out and crept across the float and onto the club grounds.

After the darkness hid him from view Skippy looked about, nervously.
There was a little light gleaming from under the vast clubhouse porch
and suddenly he saw Big Joe’s ponderous figure pass under it. Presently,
he halted and held out his hand to a man approaching him from the other
direction.

Skippy sighed with relief and relaxed. At least Big Joe had met his
comrade without accident. Besides, no one seemed to be about. He heard
not a sound except the river lapping restlessly around the piling under
the slip and the swish of anchored craft as they swayed on the tide.

It seemed to him that Big Joe was staying an interminable time, but as
an actual fact, it was just seven minutes before he saw the man’s bulky
figure coming stealthily toward him.

Skippy weighed anchor without a sound and they pushed the kicker out of
the slip with oars. A little distance below the club, Big Joe turned
over his motor.

“Shiverin’ swordfish, kid,” he murmured with a chuckle, “all we do now
is wait—wait so’s Crosley can get ’bout as far as Watson’s Channel.
He’ll be gettin’ no further’n that—so he won’t.”

Skippy shivered a little and leaned over the coaming to watch for logs.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                             ANOTHER RESCUE


As the moments wore on, Skippy felt meaner than ever. He tried to force
himself to accept Big Joe’s point of view, but it was difficult and more
than once he wished he had not encouraged his good friend in this
dubious enterprise.

They chugged into the bay and out of the awakening river traffic. Dawn
had broken through and glimmerings of dancing light peeped over the
horizon. An hour more and they would be in sight of Watson’s Channel.

“We’ll not be goin’ straight for the Channel, we’ll not,” called Big Joe
as if anticipating Skippy’s fears. “We’ll be layin’ quite like below
here a ways ’till the _Minnehaha_ gets in the Channel. ’Tis a funny
name, hey kid?”

“Mm,” Skippy answered. “It’s a Indian name, Big Joe—I think it means
sumpin’ like Laughing—Laughing sumpin’.”

Big Joe’s mirth knew no bounds.

“Sure and just about now _Minnie_ ain’t laughin’, she ain’t,” he said.
“’Tis us.”

“Not me,” Skippy said gloomily. “I won’t laugh ... not till after.”

An hour later they were chugging noisily toward Watson’s Channel. The
sun was glorious and the water glistened under its warm spring rays.
Gulls frolicked about in the foaming spray and Skippy tried hard to
believe there was nothing but peace in his busy mind.

After a time they heard a distant sound, faint at first but growing
louder within a few minutes. Tully grinned at Skippy’s questioning face
and nodded as the piercing note of a siren cut the silent sunlit air.

“Sure, and I wonder what that might be?” he said with mock-seriousness.
“Sounds like distress I’d be sayin’, I would.”

“Stop kiddin’, Big Joe,” Skippy pleaded. “You mean you think it’s
_them_?”

“Well now I wouldn’ be s’prised,” the big fellow answered. Then
seriously, he said: “We’ll be gettin’ there, kid! Don’t be lookin’ as if
they was drownin’ or somethin’. Sure they could keep afloat for hours so
they could, and look at the tide besides.”

Skippy glanced at the quietly rolling swell and felt somewhat reassured.
But the voice of the siren jarred him and he was glad to see that Big
Joe looked serious and determined. He hadn’t liked that note of raillery
in his friend’s voice.

But despite Skippy’s fears Tully answered the siren call with all the
haste of a good Samaritan. One might have supposed that he gloried in
the duties of heroic service. And when he reached the Channel and they
sighted the distressed launch, he opened wide his throttle until the old
hull shook to the vibrations of the engine.

Skippy clenched his slim, brown fingers and sat tense in his seat while
a spray rained into the boat. Big Joe coughed significantly and drove
his ramshackle craft straight for the disabled cruiser.

“Now ain’t she the sweet lookin’ baby,” he observed as if he had never
seen the launch before.

Skippy said nothing but grimly watched the three men who awaited their
coming. Crosley he recognized at once, but the man standing alongside of
him was a stranger. The third occupant of the _Minnehaha_ was Marty
Skinner. Skippy remembered him from his father’s trial and from the
night Skinner had ordered him off the _Apollyon_ without a hearing.

“You see him?” he asked Big Joe between clenched teeth.

“’Tis all the better,” Big Joe seemed to say in his bland smile.

He brought the kicker up alongside the _Minnehaha_ and laid a life
preserver over the coaming of his boat to prevent its scratching the
gleaming hull of the launch. Skippy scrambled to the rescue and held the
kicker as the ill-assorted pair rocked and rubbed in the heavy swell.

“Sure I don’t want to be scratchin’ her,” said Tully with a fine
assumption of humble respect for the launch. “I was tellin’ the kid
here, she’s some baby, hey? What’s bein’ the matter; power give out did
she? ’Tis too bad, so ’tis.”

Skippy kept his eyes on space, but he had the feeling that Big Joe and
he were being scrutinized with unfriendly stares.

Crosley sniffed the air contemptuously before he spoke.

“She’s pumping oil to beat the band,” he said. “We don’t seem to be
getting any compression either. We can’t get a kick out of her. Been
flopping around for an hour.”

“Sure maybe ye be needin’ new rings,” said Tully. “Guess ye been pushin’
her too hard, hey?”

He glanced into the cockpit and with a fine show of rueful astonishment,
beheld the disastrous results of his own handiwork. She was indeed
pumping oil. The engine head was covered with it, and it was streaming
down the side over the carburetor. Three or four spark plugs had been
taken out and lay on a locker in little puddles of oozy muck.

“If ’t was only one cylinder now, I’d be sayin’ ye had a busted ring, or
even a cracked piston,” Tully said blandly. “But shiverin’ swordfish if
it don’t look like the whole six o’ thim, don’t it? Ye can’t do nothin’
here. Looks like ye was racin’ her a lot.” His detestable device had
worked so well that he seemed moved to offer gratuitous suggestions. “I
knowed a guy was stuck on the bar over by Inland Beach and he kept
racin’ his motor, and somehow—I dunno just how—she sucked in a lot o’
beach sand and it sanded down his cylinder wall good an’ plenty, so it
did.”

Skinner’s lips were drawn in a thin line above his pointed chin.

“Does that mean we’ll have to be towed back, Crosley?” he asked his host
petulantly.

“Afraid so, Marty,” answered Crosley. “I can’t imagine how a fine engine
like mine could break down so soon.”

“Sure and if that ain’t just like some guys,” said Tully glibly.
“They’re fine’s a fiddle one day and the next—they’re done for, ain’t it
so?”

Crosley nodded indifferently.

“Could you tow us in?” he asked as if the question were distasteful. His
aversion to the uncouth, but amiable river man was too obvious to escape
Skippy’s sensitive eyes.

If Tully was aware of it too, he did not betray it. His face looked
grave and thoughtful.

“Trouble is I’m due at the Hook,” he said hesitantly. “Have an all day’s
job towin’ a barge. I’m late as ’tis. And if I ain’t there in twinty
minutes I lose the job, so I do. ’Tis the first good payin’ job I’ve had
in a long....”

Crosley waved his hand in entreaty.

“We’ll see that you’re paid for the loss of your day’s job, man. How
much would you get for it, eh?”

Tully moved his large head and shrugged his powerful shoulders.
“Seventy-five bucks is what they’re goin’ to pay me,” he said modestly.

Crosley gasped audibly.

“That’s a lot of money, but....”

“It’s a hold up!” snapped Skinner between his tightly drawn lips.

“Sure and it’s what they’re payin’ me, boss,” said Big Joe with a look
of hurt pride. “I ain’t askin’ ye’ for a cent, I’m not considerin’ I may
lose my customer for future jobs. ’Tis not only I’m losin’ that
seventy-five bucks, ’tis....”

“All right,” Crosley sniffed angrily. “You’re taking advantage of us. I
don’t believe you can earn seventy-five dollars for a day’s work. But
you have us at a disadvantage—the Lord knows who else we could get to
our rescue in this unfrequented channel.”

“So and that’s all the thanks I get,” said Tully. “Comin’ way out o’ me
way....”

“All right,” Skinner interposed. “Give it to him, Crosley. I know who
this fellow is. We’re at his mercy. But I’ll remember this, Tully—you’re
occupying the mud banks at Brown’s Basin. You and this boy, Dare, may
want some consideration when you people have to get out of the Basin.
And I’ll remember who’s living on the _Minnie M. Baxter_!”

“You oughta!” Skippy shouted angrily, rising to his feet. “Your cheatin’
boss what’s dead put it there, that’s what, an’ my father’ll never see
the sun on the river again on account of it too! So try an’ take it
away.”

Skinner’s cold dignity seemed unruffled. He averted his gaze while
Crosley counted out seventy-five dollars to Big Joe Tully. Skippy stood
by, his heart full of hate, and at that moment he thought that he could
cheerfully see the _Minnehaha_ sink to the bottom of the Channel while
Skinner begged to be saved.

While leisurely chugging back toward the Basin that afternoon he and
Tully talked it over seriously.

“Well, and we got seventy-five bucks aisy money out o’ the tightwads,”
Tully chuckled in conclusion.

“Seventy-five bucks an’ the promise of trouble from Skinner, Big Joe,”
Skippy reminded him with a note of apprehension in his voice.

Tully’s face darkened.

“I hate Skinner for sayin’ what he did, so I do,” he said ominously.
“Sufferin’ swordfish if he do be makin’ ye scared and drivin’ ye outa
the only home ye got—well, he better be lettin’ ye ’lone. _Me_, I don’t
care much where I live, but _you_ ... I’ll be fixin’ him if he....”

“Don’t say it, Big Joe!” Skippy pleaded earnestly. “It scares me, ’cause
that’s just what Pop said the night he went to see old Mr. Flint on the
_Apollyon_! It’s sorta——”

“And ’tis all right, kid, so ’tis.” Tully smiled. “Now ye be forgettin’
it.”

Skippy tried to; certainly he had forgotten that he himself had wished
Marty Skinner a like fate only that morning.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                               DAVY JONES


Tully’s game worked successfully for the next few weeks, for he had
distributed his activities among various club houses dotting the shore.
It had become an enterprise apparently without threat of untoward
incident—so much so that Skippy, with his uncanny knack of presaging
ill, came to feel that they must not go on with the distasteful
business.

He had hated the treachery of it from the very beginning, partly because
of his innate honesty and also because in fairness to himself, he knew
he had no real grudge against his rich fellow men. And in his vague,
ignorant way Skippy knew that Skinner and Crosley represented something
which hate could never successfully combat.

He felt it particularly one early morning when Tully, swaggering out of
the shanty of the _Minnie M. Baxter_, rubbed his large hands in gleeful
anticipation of the next victim.

“’Tis up to the Riverview Yacht Club we’ll be goin’ this mornin’, kid,”
he said confidently. “We’ve worked aroun’ to it agin. Me pal, the boat
tender what tipped me off on Crosley’s _Minnehaha_, ain’t there no more,
but the new guy was aisy pickin’. He fell for a little split, without
battin’ an eye, so he did, and sent word down last night that a little
fishin’ party headed for Snug Island would push off at dawn.”

“Snug Island, huh?” Skippy asked fearfully. “That means Watson’s Channel
for us again?”

“Sure,” laughed Tully, “’tis a spot I like. Nobody goes through Watson’s
Channel ’cept they’re headed for Snug Island. And nobody goes to Snug
Island fishin’ but a coupla rich guys what own the whole place. It’s
aisy pickin’ so ’tis.”

“For you it’s easy, Big Joe,” said Skippy, “but not for me. Sometimes I
think I never had anythin’ so hard to do in my life as just gettin’ up
nerve to go on these trips. Gee, I ain’t never had the heart to tell Pop
about them—I lied, an’ said we was makin’ a pretty good livin’ towin’
an’ fishin’.”

Big Joe roared with laughter.

“Sure and we’re towin’ and fishin’,” he said with a malicious wink. “Ye
didn’t tell Toby no lie. We fish the money out o’ ’em and thin tow thim
back—that’s no story.”

“I wish you wouldn’t laugh about it, Big Joe,” Skippy said with a frown.
“It makes it seem as if it was a joke—as if you liked it almost.”

“And you’d be likin’ it too, kid, if ye wanted to get back at these rich
guys much as I do. But I won’t be laughin’ about it no more, if it makes
ye feel that way. Sufferin’ swordfish but ye don’t have to be actin’
like we’re goin’ to a funeral.”

“I feel funny about goin’ to the Riverview Yacht Club this morning. Big
Joe, would you stay away from there if I asked you to?”

“Any mornin’ but this one, Skippy me boy,” said Tully with all his old
affection. “I can’t be side-steppin’ it on account o’ this new boat
tender. He’s expectin’ a little handout so I can’t be disappointin’ him.
But I’ll tell ye what, kid, if it’s makin’ ye feel so awful bad I’ll
chuck this game ’fore ye can say any more. I’ll be thinkin’ up somethin’
else. Anythin’ but seem’ ye’ feelin’ sad, kid.”

They got into the kicker and chugged out of the inlet once more.
Skippy’s eyes glistened happily and he told himself that he could forget
the ominous whisperings inside of him for just this once. Indeed, he
could forget everything distasteful in the past few weeks now that Tully
had promised to give up the hated business.

“We ain’t heard from Crosley or Skinner since that mornin’ we towed ’em
back, huh Big Joe?” he asked irrelevantly. “I wonder if they found out
what was really wrong with the engine?”

“We’d o’ heard ’bout it soon enough if they did, so we would,” said
Tully thoughtfully. “Anyways, I heard that Crosley sold the _Minnehaha_
right that next day. He said he didn’t want no boat that almost put him
down in Watson’s Channel. Ha, ha! Sure and I’m glad he did. He should be
worryin’ with his money.”

Once more they pulled up beside the slip of the Riverview Yacht Club and
once more Big Joe stole silently up the lawn in the gray morning
shadows. Skippy waited patiently, albeit anxiously, and held the boat
secure while his weary eyes blinked sleepily in the sultry air.

After a time, Big Joe came hurrying out of the shadows.

“Simple as sayin’ meow, kid,” he said exultantly. “The boat tender tells
me this guy’s goin’ alone to Snug Island this mornin’. He couldn’t be
rememberin’ the guy’s name what owns her, but he says the boat ain’t a
week old. She’s a peach—a trim, twenty-six footer, kid! And of all names
she’s got! Sufferin’ swordfish!”

“What?”

“The _Davy Jones_—so ’tis. Can ye be beatin’ that?”

“_Big Joe!_” Skippy said in a small, frightened voice. “That’s a name
that scares me terrible.”

“_Ye’re crazy, kid, ye’re crazy!_ Sure and what’s in a name. Just ’cause
Davy Jones happens to mean....”

“Just the same I’m scared terrible,” Skippy maintained stoutly. “An’
there’s lots in names whether you believe it or not. Now take the
_Minnie M. Baxter_—nothin’ bad could come of her in the end, I bet, and
if it did I bet it would be for the best, because it was my mother’s
name. Even if there’s been trouble about the barge from the beginnin’
there’s good come on it too. When Pop was taken away, then you came to
be good to me so that shows there’s somethin’ good about the barge,
don’t it? But Davy Jones only means one thing, Big Joe, an’ you can say,
what’s in a name!”

What, indeed!



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                               THE ROCKS


It was a murky dawn and no sun followed in its wake. The air was heavy
and oppressive, and low rumblings of thunder echoed in from sea. Skippy
shook his head worriedly as they chugged out of sight of the bay to let
the _Davy Jones_ pass by.

“I don’t feel right this morning, Big Joe,” the boy insisted. “Say what
you like, but we shouldn’t wait—we oughta tail the _Davy Jones_, right
away—_this minute_, before the storm comes on.”

“Now ye be worryin’ agin, hey?” Tully asked impatiently. “That storm’s
out at sea and it won’t hit the Channel. Sure ’tis just a murky
mornin’.”

“All right,” said Skippy, “but I know.”

Tully was beginning to be annoyed with Skippy’s gloomy predictions and
he showed it. Yet somehow it gave him a little uneasiness and from time
to time he glanced thoughtfully from the boy to the distant black
horizon.

The storm clouds were coming nearer and thunder rolled ominously over
their heads. Finally Tully turned over his motor and set her nose about.
After she had warmed up, he opened wide the throttle and headed for the
bay.

“I’ll be keepin’ her open and beat it for the Channel soon’s we get
across,” he explained. “We’ll be gettin’ there sure ’fore the storm
breaks bad.”

“I hope so,” said Skippy, “because it’s travelin’ in from sea, fast.”

“We’ll be goin’ round by The Rocks and save fifteen minutes or so,”
Tully said hopefully searching the boy’s face. “’Tis high enough tide
for to take a chance.”

The Rocks, that bane of all mariners who were unfamiliar with the
lurking waters beyond the bay, could be safely passed in small boats at
high tide. There were few, however, who took advantage of this
concession of Nature to the small nautical man, nearly all mariners
preferring the greater safety that was offered them by going the long
way around Inland Beach.

A high wind was steadily rising as they chugged into the vicinity of The
Rocks, and it prevented Skippy from hearing that call of distress for
which he was so intently listening. Whether the wind was against them,
he did not know, for the howling tempest and turbulent water drowned out
all other sounds.

The storm broke after a few minutes and rain lashed at them from all
sides. Tully said not a word, but stayed at his wheel silent and grave.
And by his averted head, Skippy knew that he, too, was listening for
that siren call from the _Davy Jones_.

Salt spray flung itself up over the bow and into Skippy’s face. He could
have moved farther back to avoid it, but he seemed incapable of action
then, and sat tense and white, listening, listening....

Tully did not miss it. The boy’s tragic expression so dismayed him that
he felt for the first time in his life that he should have mended his
ways while there was still time. All his sins seemed to have crowded
into Skippy’s face to accuse him.

And still they heard no call of distress from the _Davy Jones_.

Tully, desperate, raced his engine until they whistled through the
foaming spray. Then suddenly they felt the keel grind under them with
such force that it took all their combined strength to steady the boat
and keep her from turning over.

“What happened, do you s’pose?” Skippy asked with white face.

“Sufferin’ swordfish, kid!” Tully cried. “I think she’s stove in—The
Rocks! _Look!_”

He pointed and Skippy looked, to see a jagged hole in the bottom of the
kicker. Water came in through it rapidly and even as he stared at it, it
trickled over his feet and up to his ankles.



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                                SUSPENSE


“What’ll we do?” Skippy cried. “Gee, what’ll we do?”

“We’ll be swimmin’ for it, kid,” Big Joe answered, his face ashen and
drawn. “Inland Beach’s nearest—we’ll be swimmin’ it in a half hour,
takin’ it aisy like.”

“_Easy!_ In this water and wind?”

“Skippy, don’t be worryin’. Sure and I ain’t goin’ to see ye go down.
I’ll be keepin’ ye up if it takes me life.”

Suddenly Skippy turned, pleading. Big Joe knew and his eyes dropped
before the boy’s accusing gaze.

“And what can I be doin’ about the _Davy Jones_ now, kid!” he protested
“I _got_ ye to be thinkin’ about now.... Sufferin’ swordfish!” He
groaned.

“Then we gotta swim to Inland Beach as fast as we can, Big Joe,” Skippy
said, master of himself once more. “We gotta get help right away for the
_Davy Jones_!”

“Sure, sure,” the big fellow moaned, “anythin’, kid, only don’t be
lookin’ at me so accusin’. Did I know it was goin’ to happen like this?
Sufferin’ swordfish!”

“C’mon, Big Joe—_c’mon_!”

They had no sooner jumped clear of the boat than she sank out of sight.
A terrific gale blew them along and Skippy kept close to Tully, buoyed
up by the thought that he must keep going in order to get help for the
_Davy Jones_.

And for once Tully was right in a prediction. It took them all of the
half hour before they sighted the sandy wastes of Inland Beach.

The summer colonists sheltered from the storm in their inadequately
built bungalows sighted the bobbing heads of the swimmers as they
battled their way against the tide. Speedily the beach was covered with
people and the life-guards, summarily dragged from their bunks in their
beach shanty, jumped drowsy-eyed into the life-boat and went into
action.

Ten minutes later, the two were rushed up to the guards’ shanty and
hurriedly divested of their dripping garments.

“We gotta ...” Skippy began as soon as he had a chance to talk.

“We thought we heard a siren,” Big Joe interposed. “Sure, it sounded
like distress—there ain’t a doubt.”

“We heard it plain!” Skippy exclaimed anxiously. “An’ it came from the
Channel—didn’t it, Big Joe, huh?”

“Sure and he’s right. ’Tis about where I figgered she was comin’ from,”
Tully added.

“An’ we better start right out again!” Skippy said eagerly. “With this
high wind....”

“A guy hasn’t much chance in the Channel,” interposed one of the guards
bluntly. “I can tell you that before we start. And if it wasn’t that you
say you’re sure you heard it, we wouldn’t take a chance ourselves. Even
a big tub like ours ain’t a match for the Channel in a storm and high
wind.”

“But we’re sure we heard it! Ain’t we, Big Joe?”

“Sure we did that!” Tully said emphatically.

And so they started for the Channel.

The wind died down shortly after they had lost sight of Inland Beach.
Presently the rain ceased and after a few moments’ struggle with storm
clouds, the sun came smiling through.

Skippy smiled too, hopeful that it augured well for the object of their
search. Tully relaxed and took a cigarette that one of the guards
offered him. He talked little and kept his eyes ahead.

They reached the Channel in a half hour and for a full hour they
searched it up and down. Skippy kept his eyes on the water; he dared not
let the guards see the hopelessness written there should his glance
chance to meet Tully’s.

“Sure we _couldn’t_ be dreamin’ we heard a siren, now could we?” Tully
pleaded when the guards announced their intention of returning to the
beach.

“You guys didn’t seem to be so sure you heard any at all when we first
got you out of the water,” one of the men reminded them.

“Sure and we were kind o’ all in from the breaks we got,” Tully
explained. His voice sounded hollow and weary.

“Well, we don’t hear no siren now,” said the other guard, “and we’ve
been up and down the Channel. If there _was_ any guy in distress, maybe
he’s been swept out to sea. And we can’t go hunting that far for you
fellers. We’ll send out word to the coast guard anyway when we get back
just to be on the safe side. They’ll find the tub if it’s still afloat.”

“An’ if there was any siren signaling distress when that high wind first
come up,” said the first guard, “she’s most likely screeching now for to
get into Davy Jones’ locker. Who knows?”

Skippy and Big Joe would have given their lives at that moment to know.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                               THE DUFFYS


They borrowed a kicker from one of the summer colonists and set out for
home just before noon. Skippy was too overwhelmed to speak until long
after they left the beach and Tully sat tragic and silent at the wheel.

“We might’s well look agin,” he murmured brokenly, as he headed the boat
toward the Channel. “Just so’s to be makin’ sure.”

“Might’s well,” Skippy echoed. Then: “Gee, do you think maybe he was
blowin’ the siren?”

“That he must o’ done. He must o’ been blowin’ it like mad.”

They spent half the afternoon chugging up and down the Channel and
passed several craft, government and otherwise, which had heard the
warning that the Inland Beach guards had passed along. Finally they
decided to return home and with bowed heads found their way out of the
treacherous waters.

“Sure if the coast guards ain’t found him, we won’t—not if we be stayin’
there all night,” said Tully mournfully. “Kid, don’t ye be jumpin’ on
me, now. If ye knew what I been through since ... since.... I been
blowin’ a siren in distress five hun’erd times, so I have, and five
hun’erd times, I been in that _Davy Jones_ callin’ me lungs out for help
an’ no help come! I’ve sunk with her too—oh shiverin’ swordfish ... kid,
I ain’t nothin’ but a plain....”

“Don’t say it, Big Joe,” said Skippy, moved to the depths of his soul
with pity. “Gee, don’t I know! You wouldn’t have done it a-purpose.”

“No. ’Tis right ye be there.” Tully looked beaten.

They chugged on up the river and seemed to pass everyone they knew.
Inspector Jones and his men bobbed by in the trim harbor launch waving a
cheery greeting to Skippy and eyeing Tully with obvious suspicion.

Skippy was grateful for the silent inlet and the warm throaty bark that
Mugs gave as he scrambled aboard the barge. He looked at the dog, winced
a little at his faithful canine eyes and took him up in his arms. He
couldn’t do to Mugs what they had done to that unknown man on the _Davy
Jones_.

He sprawled in a rickety arm chair on deck while the sun sank slowly in
the west. The whole horizon was a blaze of scarlet, then gold, then
purple and at last it faded into leaden colored clouds. Big Joe was
calling him in to supper.

Skippy looked down in the crook of his arm at the sleeping dog. Supper?
He didn’t want any—he never wanted to eat while that man on the _Davy
Jones_ lay in Watson’s Channel. He couldn’t do it to Mugs.

Tully got tired of waiting and came out on deck. After one glance at
Skippy’s tragic face he got his hat, pulled it down over his head and
left the barge while the boy watched him go with a constricted feeling
in his throat. And though he wanted with all his heart to call Big Joe
back, he knew that he could never again sit opposite him at the table
with a dead man between them.

Dusk settled over the inlet and through the shadows came Mrs. Duffy. Her
cheery smile was conspicuous by its absence just then and her cheeks
looked tear-stained and haggard. Skippy forgot the dead man in the _Davy
Jones_—he was all concern for this kindly neighbor who had helped nurse
him back to health.

Hadn’t Skippy heard? Mrs. Duffy sobbed a little, then bravely smiled
through her tears. She had to be strong and brave—other wives and
mothers in the Basin were getting used to the experience of seeing their
menfolk taken in by the long arm of the law. And now Mr. Duffy had been
added to that number.

What had he done? No more than other river folk had done before him. But
it was forbidden by the law and there you were. And the excuse that they
had to live and eat carried no weight in the courts of the land. Neither
did the courts care that a rich and unscrupulous Josiah Flint had lured
these men into his vicious employ at starvation wages only to leave them
unwanted and ostracized from honest employment upon his untimely death.
And Mr. Josephus Duffy, obeying that primal law of the survival of the
fittest, was to be jailed for five years because he stole when
employment was denied him. Five years of punishment for bringing food
home to his family!

Skippy’s young heart was bursting with sympathy. Wrapped up in his own
and his father’s concerns he had been vaguely conscious of his
neighbors, the Duffys of the _Dinky O. Cross_. Squatters like himself,
he had been aware that they came and went, but that was all. Now they
became suddenly real and vivid to him—the Duffys, father and mother, and
their two children, minus the father now.

“And wouldn’t Skinner give him nothin’ at the Central havin’ two kids
like you got?” he asked sympathetically.

“Skinner’d push men in prison before he’d help ’em get a decent job,”
the good woman said with a jerk of her head. “He said he’s goin’ to
clean all us scum out of this Basin—ain’t you heard?”

Yes, Skippy had heard only too well. He leaned over and timidly touched
the woman’s work-worn hands, pledging his slim, manly self as an aid and
comfort to herself and her two unfortunate children. In gratitude, she
hugged the boy to her breast and hurried back to the _Dinky O. Cross_ to
put her young ones to bed.

Skippy cherished that embrace; it was the only maternal affection he had
ever known. His eyes shone into the darkness with the joy of it and he
hugged Mugs still closer in his arms and spent some time in reflecting
on why he was so happy when he was so sad.

Josiah Flint and Marty Skinner rose up before his eyes. He was beginning
to realize what sorrow they had brought to the river people—_his
people_! A fellow feels things like that when he’s going on thirteen.

Thirteen! Skippy looked up into the starlit sky and blinked. Mugs’ even
breathing was like the whisper of the breeze blowing about his head. And
he went to sleep planning how he could save the menfolk of the Basin
from future prison life. He would see that the boys went to school as he
himself had wanted to do so badly and he would see that they got decent,
honest wages so that they could live as other people did in houses with
pretty gardens....

Tully found him still asleep when he came back at midnight.



                              CHAPTER XXIX
                               GOOD NEWS


“Skip—Skippy, kid!” Tully called, shaking the boy to arouse him.

Skippy sat up, startled. Mugs barked blatantly.

“What’s up, huh? You look as if something’d happened—what’s the matter?”

Tully motioned him into the shanty where he lighted the lamp and sat
down.

“Can ye stand hearin’ somethin’ without faintin’?” he asked mirthlessly.

“I guess so,” the boy answered shaking his straight hair from off his
forehead. “But I hope it ain’t anything worse!”

“Better and worse, sorta,” Big Joe laughed ruefully. “But first so’s to
be aisin’ ye, kid—the _Davy Jones_ turned back, so she did, when she
reached the bay this mornin’. From what the boat tender told me, sure
must o’ put a little extra dose o’ the powder in the breather and she
started kickin’ up a rumpus a little sooner than ordinary, she did. So
the owner, bein’ a foxy guy, turned back when he heard that and saw the
storm clouds comin’ in from over the sea.”

“So the _Davy Jones_ ain’t in her locker then, huh? Gee, am I glad!”

“Sure, and she got back to the club, and the owner had somebody come
right away to be seein’ what was wrong.”

“Did they find out?”

“That they did, kid. He’s got the police on the case, and I think
they’ll be workin’ on me. But they ain’t got no evidence so they ain’t,
and besides, I took all me powder and threw it in the inlet tonight, so
I did.”

Skippy sat down at the table, his head in his hands.

“Gee, I was afraid something awful would come of it.”

“Now don’t ye be worryin’ too soon, kid. They’ll have to be goin’ some
to get me.... You can bet on that.”

“Gee, Big Joe, you don’t savvy. It’s the idea of gettin’ the coppers
suspectin’ me and sayin’ they expected sumpin’ like that from Toby
Dare’s kid. That’s what I couldn’t bear Pop to hear after he’s planned
better things for me. Gee, I couldn’t stand it!” Then: “Who owns the
_Davy Jones_, Big Joe, huh?” he demanded.

“Now that’s a funny thing,” Tully said. “The _Davy Jones_ is Crosley’s.
He bought her a week ago after he sold the _Minnehaha_. I s’pose that’s
why he played foxy whin the ingine wint wrong with the new one? If that
big sap boat tender had only tole me who owned her I’d niver....”

“Gee whiz, Big Joe, now I can see why Pop said these crooked rackets
don’t pay in the end. It’s account of that _if_. It’s always if this or
that didn’t happen everythin’ would be all right. But it never is. Oh,
gee, I’m not hoppin’ on you—maybe I’d been just like you if it wasn’t
that I’m sick and disgusted with crooked rackets already. Maybe it’s
because my mother came from a farm and so I’m not all river, huh?
Anyway, I know I don’t want any more of this business. I’m gonna be
straight I am. I learned a lesson today on that _Davy Jones_ business
an’ I mean it.”

“Me, too!” said Big Joe with all his old time swagger. “I was tellin’
meself comin’ back here that if I think up an aisy racket where the
coppers don’t get wise, I’ll be savin’ up a few grand an’ thin open up
one o’ thim hot dog stands in the country. Sure and the river won’t see
me at all, at all after that.”

Skippy laughed outright—for, boy that he was, he could see that Tully
would be Tully as long as the river flowed down to the sea.



                              CHAPTER XXX
                                BEASELL


Next day, life in the Basin flowed once more in familiar channels. Tully
trod the decks watching for the unwelcome police and puffing furiously
on his cigarettes. Skippy sprawled in the rickety easy chair, playing
with the dog and calling out to Mrs. Duffy some words of cheer when the
occasion required. And when sunset came and the law had not put in its
appearance they had supper noisily together.

Tully stretched out in his bunk after the meal had been cleared away. He
looked at peace with the world. Skippy, watching him out of the corner
of his eye, wondered what new racket he was planning now. And he didn’t
rest until he had asked the big fellow point blank.

“Me racket for a while, kid,” Tully said amiably, “is to be keepin’ ye
from gettin’ gloomy and sad. Whin I’m sure that Crosley ain’t set the
coppers on me trail thin I’ll be turnin’ around—see? Right now I’m
stickin’ close to the _Minnie M. Baxter_, so I be.”

“And you could do worse, Big Joe, believe me. I’m gonna stick close too
until I know what’s what. But we’ll talk about that then.”

An insistent knock sounded on the door. Tully blanched and looked about
for some means of escape. But Skippy, braving himself to the task, swung
open the door to get it over with.

A man stood outside, bowing graciously and smiling. He stepped inside at
Skippy’s invitation.

“Beasell’s the name, boys,” he said. “Yuh heard how Marty Skinner’s
runnin’ the works for Buck Flint?”

“Sure we been hearin’ it too much, I’ll be tellin’ ye,” Big Joe snapped
as he came ponderously out of his bunk and stood on the floor.

“It’s all jake then, big boy, you an’ me won’t waste no time,” Beasell
said unruffled.

“You’ve come to tell us....” Skippy began fearfully.

“Marty says all yuh squatters in this Basin’ll have tuh scram by sundown
tomorrow, get me? He’s had all the rough stuff he’s goin’ for and that
goes double for the warehouse guys. So it’s scram in twenty-four hours,
see? If yuh can’t take these lousy scows out we’ll blow ’em up, get me?
Just a nice little Fourth uh July party, see?” He chuckled as if at a
great joke.

“You can’t blow up the _Minnie M. Baxter_!” Skippy cried. “Even a guy
like Skinner can’t take her from me ’cause, ’cause....”

“Lissen, punk, and you too, big boy, it’s scram by sundown tomorrow,”
Beasell snarled. “Yuh better get me. I ain’t kiddin’ believe yuh me!” He
scowled as he left to spread the bad news to the _Dinky O. Cross_.

“Sufferin’ swordfish! Sure that Skinner’s a lousy rat,” Big Joe growled.
“I should o’ been pastin’ that slimy Beasell but it wouldn’t done no
good. He’s only carryin’ out orders.”

“Not only me’n you’s gotta go, Big Joe,” said Skippy plaintively, “but
Mrs. Duffy an’ her kids an’ everybody here in the Basin. How’re they all
gonna pack up an’ clear out by tomorrow night, huh? Gee, that ain’t
fair. There ain’t one of us got a home to go to—gee whiz, these barges,
why—they’re home!”

Tully’s face looked distorted as he walked to and fro across the shanty
floor. Finally he turned.

“Sure Skinner don’t know what it means to be sendin’ that Beasell guy
down here to be tellin’ us we must be out by tomorrow night, bad cess to
him.”

“What d’ye mean, Big Joe?”

“Sure, folks here ain’t like other folks, like ye’ve noticed. They been
free for years and they ain’t goin’ to be kicked out without doin’ some
kickin’ first thimselves. Law? Sure, they don’t know what it’s all about
so what do they care, I’ll be askin’ ye.”

Big Joe Tully had summed it all up in one sentence. They didn’t know
about the law, so what did they care about it?

It wasn’t many hours before Skippy learned how little they did care.



                              CHAPTER XXXI
                               MOONLIGHT


Skippy waited until Tully was fast asleep that night, then he crept
stealthily out of the shanty with the dog skipping and sniffing at his
heels. He was careful to close the door softly behind him; he wanted to
be alone.

It was a different Skippy that trod those decks, a new and older Skippy,
who looked about the lumbering old barge through his father’s eyes. It
did not seem possible to him that Skinner could so ruthlessly order him
away from the only home he had. Yet he realized that not many hours
hence he would not even have _that_ home.

He went forward and, getting to his knees, leaned far over and stared
down at the trickling waters of the muddy inlet lapping against the
hull. The dog, thinking him to be playing, jumped about with a soft
whine to draw his master’s attention.

Skippy tumbled him about for a while, then climbed down with him into
the borrowed kicker that was anchored alongside the barge.

“We’re gonna take one last cruise out and back in the inlet again—see,
Mugs? I’ve just gotta see how the _Minnie M. Baxter’s_ gonna look when I
think of her afterwards. I don’t want to forget it’s where I lived with
two of the best pals I’ll ever have, outside of Pop. Gee, Mugs, maybe
it’s silly to feel so over a barge,” he confided to the attentive puppy,
“but I gotta feel that it’s sumpin’ I must think a lot of. Every time
I’ve visited Pop, he’s asked me how was the _Minnie M. Baxter_. Just
like as if she was a human being, he asked about her! So I love her on
accounta my Pop. He’s proud of her because she was so hard to get and
because he decided to quit Ol’ Flint and be honest so’s I’d have a
better chance.”

He started the kicker after this long confidence and steered it with one
hand, putting his free arm about the dog. And as if cherishing the
whispered confidences and affection, the animal cuddled close and
remained perfectly still while the boat crept out to the mouth of the
river.

As they turned back, a full moon broke through some dark clouds and
shone brilliantly down upon the Basin. Skippy looked at the mellow,
silver light gleaming over the grouped barges and he gazed in wonder at
the fairyland that the moon made of the sordid colony. The dust at once
became a shimmering film of silver and the washlines strung from shanty
to forward deck contained fluttering bits of laundry that stirred
flippantly in the soft night breeze.

Skippy’s heartstrings tightened at the sight of it—he loved it all. His
honest nature cried out against the injustice of turning all these
people out of their homes. For that is just what it amounted to—no more
and no less. Skinner knew that there wasn’t a man in the Basin who could
afford to have his barge lifted out of the mud. They would have to face
it, he realized—they were people condemned!

He steered the boat farther on until he caught sight of the moonlight
gleaming across his own shanty. Its shimmering rays picked out in bold
relief the now dulled letters, _Minnie M. Baxter_, and he thought of a
late afternoon when he and his father had looked on those same letters
so new and shining, shining in the last brilliant rays of a dying sun.

He turned away from these reflections with heavy heart only to have his
attention drawn to a boat, floating about the bow of the kicker. As he
leaned forward to see it better, the dog growled ominously.

Skippy drew back instantly, gasping with horror. He sat stark still for
a moment, as cold as ice and unable to take his eyes away from the
battered face and body of a man he had seen in robust health but a few
hours before.

That man was Beasell, Marty Skinner’s lieutenant, and he appeared
lifeless.



                             CHAPTER XXXII
                         THE LAST OF THE BASIN


Skippy was so frightened that he did nothing for a moment but sit and
stare. Then suddenly he realized the terrible thing before his eyes, and
he pulled the boat up alongside of the barge, trembling from head to
foot.

The dog leaped out of his arms the moment he got on deck and refused to
run with him to the shanty. But Skippy had neither the time nor the
nerves to think of anything but the battered Beasell in the boat
floating beside the barge.

He flung open the door of the shanty and rushed to Tully’s bunk. The big
fellow jumped up startled, and sat motionless while Skippy whispered of
his discovery.

“Won’t it go bad for everybody here?” he asked with agonized suspense.
“Won’t it, Big Joe?”

“Sure ’twill be just too bad, so ’twill,” Tully said getting up and
dressing. “Somewan did it what’s gone cuckoo for thinkin’ they’ll be
turned out o’ their home tomorrow night. And crazy like, they beat up
that Beasell thinkin’ they’d be gettin’ even with Marty Skinner—see?
Sure I know me Brown’s Basin, kid.”

Skippy shivered with the horror of it. If Brown’s Basin was like that,
he wouldn’t be sorry to leave it after all. Neither could he love people
who used such ghastly means for their revenge against Skinner. He wanted
to get away from it then, that minute.

“We gotta tell the police, Big Joe, huh?” he murmured.

Big Joe nodded as if he were dazed.

“Us river people ain’t goin’ to have no peace whilst Skinner’s alive,
kid!” he said in hard, even tones. “Whoever slugged that Beasell
guy—well, _me_, I’d be goin’ for Skinner, so I would. So he’s goin’ to
take the _Minnie M. Baxter_ from ye, is he? Well, we’ll be seein’ about
that.”

“Forget me for now, Big Joe. What worries me is, what’re we gonna do
with Beasell? Maybe he’s dead.”

“Now ye be goin’ down and stay till I come, kid,” said the big fellow,
drawing on his shoes.

Skippy started for the kicker. He went forward but that was as far as he
got for he became suddenly aware of a low, ominous rumbling noise that
seemed to come from shore and run through the barge colony. Before he
had a chance to determine what it was he felt himself lifted off his
feet bodily and like a feather he was thrown into the muddy waters of
the Basin.

There was a terrific detonation throughout Brown’s Basin as Skippy came
to the surface. Fire leaped from one barge to the other in the twinkling
of an eye and the screams of men, women and children filled the turbid
air.

Smoke poured skyward in great columns and in the light of the moon,
Skippy saw the ponderous form of Big Joe Tully standing on the deck of
the _Minnie M. Baxter_ shouting and waving his hands. Suddenly he leaped
into the kicker and the boy called out but he seemed not to hear in the
din about them.

At that moment, the _Minnie M. Baxter_ burst into flames. Big Joe Tully
shouted deafeningly and Skippy, swimming hard to reach him, saw a
strange, almost maniacal expression on his large face.

“’Tis Marty Skinner what’s done this!” he was shouting to no one in
particular. “’Tis him what’s blowed this place up and took the kid away
from me. ’Tis him! Skippy’s dead—I’m sure he’s dead! I can’t find him!”
he was almost whimpering.

“I’m here!” Skippy called frantically. “Big Joe....”

But Tully was even then steering the kicker out of the inlet. He had the
throttle wide open and Skippy had no more than a glimpse of the racing
craft before she slipped beyond his sight.

Logs, huge chunks of driftwood and every known article of household
furniture, both broken and whole, floated in Skippy’s path, blocking his
progress. Suddenly he saw a little boat bearing down upon him, floating
through the inlet unoccupied.

He reached out, grabbed the bow and climbed in, breathless and
exhausted. Other kickers were shoving off filled with crying women and
shouting men. Skippy looked about over the water, but saw nothing but a
procession of slowly moving debris.

He turned over the motor and she responded with a fearful jerk. He was
moving, in any event, moving away from the fearful heat that the burning
barges threw out over the water. The moon’s shimmering light now looked
sickly and pale in contrast to the fearful red glare that spread over
the entire sky.

The screaming sirens of motor boats soon became part of the pandemonium
and Skippy heard commanding shouts for the boats to clear out of the
inlet immediately. In the wake of this he heard a heart-rending shriek
from the midst of the barge inferno which made him feel sick and weak.

“Mrs. Duffy an’ her two kids ain’t nowheres,” a man’s voice shouted
above the roar. “I’ll bet Skinner had that dynamite planted.” And as
Skippy attempted to turn the kicker about he was peremptorily ordered
from the approaching police launch to keep on his way out to the river.

He didn’t look back again. The _Minnie M. Baxter_ was a seething mass
behind him—there was nothing left. Big Joe was nowhere about—Skippy
suddenly remembered the big fellow’s shouts about Skinner. It gave him
an idea and he nosed the boat down the river.

Out of this confusion of mind, he thought of the dog. He remembered then
that he hadn’t seen the puppy since he had let him down on the deck
after seeing the battered Beasell.

And what had become of him? Was he dead or alive? Skippy wiped a grimy
hand across his forehead. He was utterly weary and exhausted by the
ordeal. He could not think of an answer to anything. His world had
toppled over since the discovery of Beasell and the explosion. And now
Mugs was gone too—his skipping, faithful-eyed pal! Was there nothing
left for him at all?

He put his hands over the wheel and gripped it bitterly, but soon he
relaxed and with a soft sob he covered his face. And nobody knew but the
river.



                             CHAPTER XXXIII
                            SKIPPY’S WISDOM


Skippy got the most out of his commandeered kicker. He opened it wide
and raced her down the river and the closer he got to the bay the more
apprehensive did he feel about Big Joe’s flight. He tried not to attach
any special significance to his good friend’s shouts, but he could not
help remembering Tully’s earlier veiled threats about Skinner.

His fears grew as he chugged out into the bay and something urged him on
still faster. Then he spied the glistening hull of the beautiful
_Apollyon_, her anchor lights gleaming like stars against the night and
a single light amidships.

Funny, the boy thought, how much it seemed like that night when he and
his father had come for the showdown with the older Flint. Now there was
to be no showdown, but he must warn Skinner against Big Joe’s sudden
maniacal fury. Queer that he should go to such trouble for a man who had
given them no quarter in anything. But he was not thinking of doing
Skinner a good turn beyond that it might prevent Big Joe from killing
the Flint agent and being sent to jail.

He approached the yacht with his old feeling of awe. The deck was almost
dark as he scrambled aboard but up forward he saw the rotund form of the
second mate asleep and snoring in a luxurious swing. The boy could not
help remember a very solemn resolve that night long ago, when the mate
had sworn to be more faithful to his duties during his night watches.

With silent tread, he hurried along the deck and stopped before the
lighted cabin amidships. Once, twice, he knocked softly, and waited.

“Come in!” Marty Skinner’s cold voice commanded.

Skippy stepped in, his heart bounding. He was thinking of the last time
he had been in this room and closed the door, determined he would not be
driven out again until he had had his say.

“Well?” Skinner snapped but this time he did not order Skippy out.

“You seen Big Joe Tully?” Skippy asked bravely. “He been here yet?”

“What d’ye mean—yet? I have no business with Tully and I haven’t any
with you that I know of.”

“You’re wrong both times Mister Skinner. ’Cause if you don’t listen to
me Big Joe’ll be comin’ here an’ he’ll try gettin’ you an’ he’s so mad
he’ll probably kill you.”

Skinner was all interest now. “He’s mad and he may kill me and you come
to warn me. That’s funny.”

“No it ain’t funny. I wouldn’t care much what happened to you Mister
Skinner you been so hard on me’n Pop an’ everybody, but I ain’t gonna
see Big Joe get in a jam an’ maybe go to jail for life on accounta you.
I’m tippin’ you off so’s Big Joe won’t have no chance gettin’ jammed.
Maybe after that blowin’ up of the barges tonight, which they say you
ordered done, an’ what happened to that guy Beasell I oughta let....”

“Blowing up barges? Beasell? What d’ye mean, boy? What happened?”

“Well, Beasell come an’ ordered us outa the Basin by sundown tomorrow,
sayin’ it was your orders, an’ if we can’t get the barges out they’ll be
blowed up. Some time after he left me’n Joe I go for a boat ride. When I
come back I see Beasell in a boat all battered an’ lookin’ as if he’s
dead. So I goes to call Joe an’ while he’s gettin’ his shoes on I comes
out again an’ I just got near the rail when there’s an explosion an’ I’m
tossed in the water. I swim till I find a boat an’ climb in. I see Big
Joe on deck an’ he’s yellin’ that I’m lost an’ acts like he’s gonna get
you when he jumps in his kicker an’ races off without hearin’ me. So I
come right here to beat him to it an’ keep him outa trouble, see?”

Skinner did not seem interested in the explosion. While he appeared
callous as to the suffering and death that came in its wake he wanted to
know more about Beasell. “D’ye think he’s really dead?” he asked
anxiously.

“Looked like that to me,” answered Skippy, “an’ if he wasn’t he probably
was blowed apart or burnt up.” He wondered at the look of satisfaction
that appeared on Skinner’s face. “But you better be beatin’ it Mister
Skinner or Big Joe’ll be here an’ takin’ you apart if he don’t kill
you.”

“Well, if Big Joe comes here looking for trouble he’ll get it—and
plenty.” Skinner reached under his left arm and pulling out a pistol
laid it on the table before him.

Skippy heard footsteps and turned as if to shout a warning.

“Quiet you!” Skinner ordered as he picked up the pistol and leveled it
at the door. Skippy with visions of his beloved Big Joe shot dead in his
tracks as he opened the door wished from the bottom of his heart that he
had not tried to warn Skinner. All he had done was bait the trap for Big
Joe.

He stood there, a bit to the side of the desk, his knees shaking and,
while his brain was active, he was so terror stricken that he could not
open his mouth to warn Big Joe of his impending fate. He closed his eyes
and said a little prayer as he heard the door creak a bit on its hinges.
Why hadn’t he left the door open when he came into Skinner’s cabin,
why....

A few tense seconds that seemed as so many hours to Skippy and then he
heard the voice of Inspector Jones: “Now that’s hardly the nice way to
welcome a police officer, Mr. Skinner. I like your extended hand but not
with a gun in it.”

Skippy looked up to see Inspector Jones advancing into the room and this
time a policeman’s uniform was a most welcome sight to him. He breathed
thanks that the visitor was not Big Joe.

“I’ll just tuck the hardware away, Inspector, and give you the hand.”
Skinner smiled and did so. “I thought you were Big Joe Tully coming in
to get me. The boy here warned me Joe was on the warpath so I was all
set to welcome him and beat him to the draw.”

“So I could see,” the Inspector commented. “Heard about the burning of
the barges in the Basin and what happened to poor Beasell?”

“This boy told me there was an explosion and that some one slugged
Beasell. Tell me is he—is he—dead?” The question sounded to Skippy as if
Skinner was hoping the answer would be yes.

Inspector Jones looked sharply at Skinner. “Yes. He is,” he answered
simply and again looked up sharply as Skinner sighed as if in relief.

“Beasell was in my confidence. He knew my business and I trusted him,”
Skinner spoke as if to himself.

“Sure, I know you did,” the Inspector agreed and there was that in his
words which made Skippy feel as if there was something behind them.

“And how did you know that, may I ask, Inspector?” Skinner seemed a bit
ill at ease.

“I talked to him before he died. We picked him up in a boat when we went
to the fire. He had been badly beaten but before he died he regained
consciousness. He talked plenty, too.”

“What did he say? Tell who beat him up?” Skinner was plainly anxious.

“No, strange to say he didn’t.”

“Well then...?”

“Just this.” Inspector Jones whipped out his gun. “Put ’em up Skinner
and keep ’em up. I’m arresting you and I’m going to charge you with the
murder of Josiah Flint.”

“Why—why—that’s—that’s ridiculous, Inspector. You can’t make a charge
like that stand up on the ravings of a dying man.”

“I didn’t tell you that Beasell made any such charges. But I’m tellin’
you now that he made a dying statement that he was in the kicker off the
yacht when Skippy and his father came along, that he had been there some
time, and hearing you and Flint quarreling, he watched through the
porthole, saw you two struggling after Flint charged you with cheating
him—saw you shoot the old man in the back when you twisted him around as
he tried to snatch the gun you drew in your anger. He also saw you sit
old Flint up again, scatter papers all over the place and take what
money there was in his desk. Beasell’s blackmailed you plenty since,
threatening to turn you in.”

“But—but——”

“And that isn’t all,” the Inspector went on relentlessly. “Buck Flint
has been giving you a free hand and staying away, but he’s had
accountants working on your books and he’s got plenty of evidence as to
how you’ve ben cheating him and how you cheated the old man.”

“No jury will ever convict me on evidence like that.” Skinner seemed to
have regained his composure. “Beasell was only a cheap crook anyway and
he’s dead, too. Stealing money isn’t murder.”

“Guess you’re right on those points,” the Inspector mused and Skinner
started to lower his hands.

“Not so fast, not so fast there! Keep ’em up! There’s one bet you
overlooked, Skinner, and I’m going to call it right now.” Still keeping
Skinner covered the Inspector moved closer and pulled the gun out of the
man’s shoulder holster. “I’ve got a hunch that our ballistic expert will
find a groove in the barrel of your gun which will prove the bullet
which killed old Flint was fired by you. The gun never was found, you
remember, but the bullet with a peculiar mark was and it’s still right
down at headquarters.”

Skinner slumped into a chair at that, but Skippy looked quickly from his
dejected figure as he heard a familiar bark. He turned to the door and
there in the arms of a policeman was his beloved Mugs.

“Mugs! Mugs!” he cried out overjoyed. And then, as if in afterthought,
“See anythin’ of Big Joe, officer? Gee, if he’d only come along now,
’cause I know my Pop’s gonna be free soon, everythin’d be just grand.
Gee, but I’m happy. I’m....”

He stopped suddenly frightened at something he saw in the policeman’s
face. “What—what—what’s wrong? Tell me,” he demanded.

“I’m in a tough spot, kid, but I know you got plenty guts, so here goes
point blank. Big Joe went back to your barge figgering you might have
found your way back there. We see him and tell him you’re safe. Then he
hears the dog barkin’, goes into the flames after him and saves him.” He
paused, gulped, then went on: “He was burned bad, Big Joe was. Fulla
smoke, too. Well, anyways ... he kicked off.”

There was a silence, which was finally broken by Skippy’s sobs. At a
motion from Inspector Jones the policeman, who had brought Mugs and the
sad news about Big Joe, handcuffed Skinner and took him out of the
cabin, softly closing the door.

It was far in the night before Inspector Jones had Skippy sufficiently
comforted so that the boy fell asleep. Then the Inspector bundled him
up, carried him to the police launch and that night Skippy and Mugs
slept at the Inspector’s home.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV
                          THE GREAT ADVENTURE


Skippy had two things to show his delighted father when they met at the
railroad station a few weeks later, by which time Skinner had confessed
murdering Josiah Flint when mad with rage at having been caught
stealing, and Skippy’s grief over Big Joe’s death had become less
poignant. One was the gawky Mugs and the other a little satchel which he
carried under his arm with the greatest care.

“What’s in there, Skippy son?” Toby asked after their outstretched arms
had clung in an awkward embrace.

Skippy winked at his father mysteriously.

“I waited to tell you now, Pop—sort of as a surprise. It’s what Buck
Flint calls redress money—money that Old Flint should have paid you and
didn’t. And he says it’s for the price of the _Minnie M. Baxter_ too.
Altogether he said he figured Old Flint owed you a thousand dollars with
interest—see Pop?”

Toby was overwhelmed.

“What we a-goin’ ter do with it, son?” he wanted to know.

“Whatever you say, Pop. There’s enough to buy another _Minnie M. Baxter_
and more besides, huh? An’ there’s enough to buy a nice hot dog stand
somewheres up in the mountains where the doctor said I wouldn’t have no
more bad throats. So what do you say, Pop?”

“Mountains, Skippy boy,” said Toby with shining eyes. “We’ll call our
stand the _Minnie Baxter_ jest the same, hey? ’Cause didn’t she sort uv
bring us luck in the end, after all? How’d we got all this money if she
hadn’t uv burned up and that helped ter show up Skinner and made Buck
Flint feel sorry and that he ought ter make good. Yessir we’ll call her
that.”

A train announcer sauntered out of the big iron gates and in his
sonorous voice called out, “Mountain Express on Track Number Four ...
Cold Glen ... Pine Ridge ... Baxter....”

“Did yer hear that, Skippy?” asked Toby excitedly. “There’s a place in
them mountains what’s called _Baxter_! Seems like as if it was Fate or
somethin’! S’pose we jest try her fer luck. What do you say?”

“I’m on, Pop,” Skippy cried joyfully. “Baxter for luck!”

And arm in arm, Skippy and Toby, with Mugs sniffing at their heels,
darted through the big iron gates on their Great Adventure.


                                  END



                               FOOTNOTES


[1]Stolen goods.


                        HAL KEEN MYSTERY STORIES
                             By HUGH LLOYD

Boys! Meet Hal Keen, that lanky, nonchalant, red-headed youth whose
guiding star is the star that points to adventure, excitement and
mystery. Follow him in his hunts for clues and criminals. There are
plenty of thrills and shivers in these stories to keep you on your toes.

                         THE SMUGGLER’S SECRET

Hal Keen sets out to get to the bottom of a mystery that threatens the
safety of a whole community.

                          THE MYSTERIOUS ARAB

Mystery, excitement, murder in a scientist’s camp in the jungles of
Africa, where hate, revenge, and suspicion lead to tragedy.

                      THE HERMIT OF GORDON’S CREEK

The disappearance of two airmail pilots leads to a mystery that centers
about an abandoned mine and a strange old man.

                        KIDNAPPED IN THE JUNGLE

A hint of buried treasure in the ruins of an old French mission leads
Hal deep into the Central American jungle.

                      THE COPPERHEAD TRAIL MYSTERY

Baffling and blood-curdling events center about the ranch where Hal Keen
and his friends had gone in search of gold.

                       THE LONESOME SWAMP MYSTERY

The lonely and mysterious swamp gave up its secret only after a series
of terrifying events taxed Hal’s courage and ability.

                       THE CLUE AT SKELETON ROCKS

In this new thriller Hal Keen finds mystery and adventure in and about a
lonely lighthouse on Skeleton Rocks, off the Maine coast.

                        THE DOOM OF STARK HOUSE

Mystery and terror in an old house in the wilderness above Quebec where
Hal Keen is the guest of a strange family.


                    THE JUDY BOLTON MYSTERY STORIES
                           By MARGARET SUTTON

Here is a new series of mystery stories for girls by an author who knows
the kind of stories every girl wants to read—mystery of the “shivery”
sort, adventure that makes the nerves tingle, clever “detecting” and a
new lovable heroine, Judy Bolton, whom all girls will take to their
hearts at once.

                          THE VANISHING SHADOW

Judy’s safety is threatened by a gang of crooks who think she knows too
much about their latest “deal.” She is constantly pursued by a
mysterious shadow which vanishes before she can get a glimpse of its
owner.

                           THE HAUNTED ATTIC

The Boltons move into a large rambling house reputed to be haunted. Even
the brave Judy who has looked forward to “spooky” goings on is
thoroughly frightened at the strange scrapings and rappings and the eery
“crying ghost.”

                          THE INVISIBLE CHIMES

Through an automobile accident a strange girl is taken into the Bolton
household—the whole family becomes attached to her and interested in her
story. Judy tracks down many clues before she finally uncovers the real
identity of “Honey.”

                          SEVEN STRANGE CLUES

Judy gets to the bottom of a mystery that centers around a prize poster
contest and a fire in the school building—through seven baffling clues
that hold the key to the answer.


                     THE NANCY DREW MYSTERY STORIES
                            By CAROLYN KEENE

             Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Here is a thrilling series of mystery stories for girls. Nancy Drew,
ingenious, alert, is the daughter of a famous criminal lawyer and she
herself is deeply interested in his mystery cases. Her interest involves
her often in some very dangerous and exciting situations.

                      THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK

Nancy, unaided, seeks to locate a missing will and finds herself in the
midst of adventure.

                          THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE

Mysterious happenings in an old stone mansion lead to an investigation
by Nancy.

                          THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY

Nancy has some perilous experiences around a deserted bungalow.

                        THE MYSTERY AT LILAC INN

Quick thinking and quick action were needed for Nancy to extricate
herself from a dangerous situation.

                       THE SECRET AT SHADOW RANCH

On a vacation in Arizona Nancy uncovers an old mystery and solves it.

                      THE SECRET OF RED GATE FARM

Nancy exposes the doings of a secret society on an isolated farm.

                         THE CLUE IN THE DIARY

A fascinating and exciting story of a search for a clue to a surprising
mystery.

                       NANCY’S MYSTERIOUS LETTER

Nancy receives a letter informing her that she is heir to a fortune.
This story tells of her search for another Nancy Drew.


                        FLYING STORIES FOR BOYS
                       IN THE AIR WITH ANDY LANE
                          By EUSTACE L. ADAMS

             Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Mr. Adams, the author of this flying series for boys is an experienced
aviator and has had many thrilling adventures in the air—both as a
member of the famous Lafayette Escadrille in the World War and in the
United States Naval Aviation Service flying with the squadrons
patrolling the Atlantic Coast. His stories reveal not only his ability
to tell daring and exciting air episodes but also his first hand
knowledge of modern aeroplanes and the marvelous technical improvements
which have been made in the past few years. Andy Lane flies the latest
and most highly developed machines in the field of aviation.

  FIFTEEN DAYS IN THE AIR
  OVER THE POLAR ICE
  RACING ROUND THE WORLD
  THE RUNAWAY AIRSHIP
  PIRATES OF THE AIR
  ON THE WINGS OF FLAME
  THE MYSTERIOUS MONOPLANE
  THE FLYING WINDMILL
  THE PLANE WITHOUT A PILOT
  WINGS OF ADVENTURE
  ACROSS THE TOP OF THE WORLD
  PRISONERS OF THE CLOUDS


                       THE REX LEE FLYING STORIES
                           By THOMSON BURTIS

             Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

The author of this series of exciting flying stories is an experienced
aviator. He says, “During my five years in the army I performed nearly
every sort of flying duty—instructor, test pilot, bombing, photographing
pilot, etc., in every variety of ship, from tiny scout planes to the
gigantic three-motored Italian Caproni.”

Not only has this author had many experiences as a flyer; a list of his
activities while knocking around the country includes postal clerk,
hobo, actor, writer, mutton chop salesman, preacher, roughneck in the
oil fields, newspaper man, flyer, scenario writer in Hollywood and
synthetic clown with the Sells Floto Circus. Having lived an active,
daring life, and possessing a gift for good story telling, he is well
qualified to write these adventures of a red-blooded dare-devil young
American who became one of the country’s greatest flyers.

  REX LEE; GYPSY FLYER
  REX LEE; ON THE BORDER PATROL
  REX LEE; RANGER OF THE SKY
  REX LEE; SKY TRAILER
  REX LEE; ACE OF THE AIR MAIL
  REX LEE; NIGHT FLYER
  REX LEE’S MYSTERIOUS FLIGHT
  REX LEE; ROUGH RIDER OF THE AIR
  REX LEE; AERIAL ACROBAT
  REX LEE; TRAILING AIR BANDITS
  REX LEE; FLYING DETECTIVE


                         THE HARDY BOYS SERIES
                          By FRANKLIN W. DIXON

             Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

The Hardy Boys are sons of a celebrated American detective, and during
vacations and their off time from school they help their father by
hunting down clues themselves.

  THE TOWER TREASURE—A dying criminal confessed that his loot had been
  secreted “in the tower.” It remained for the Hardy Boys to clear up
  the mystery.

  THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF—Mr. Hardy started to investigate—and
  disappeared! An odd tale, with plenty of excitement.

  THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL—Counterfeit money was in circulation, and
  the limit was reached when Mrs. Hardy took some from a stranger. A
  tale full of thrills.

  THE MISSING CHUMS—Two of the Hardy Boys’ chums disappear and are
  almost rescued by their friends when all are captured. A thrilling
  story of adventure.

  HUNTING FOR HIDDEN GOLD—In tracing some stolen gold the trail leads
  the boys to an abandoned mine, and there things start to happen.

  THE SHORE ROAD MYSTERY—Automobiles were disappearing most mysteriously
  from the Shore Road. It remained for the Hardy Boys to solve the
  mystery.

  THE SECRET OF THE CAVES—When the boys reached the caves they came
  unexpectedly upon a queer old hermit.

  THE MYSTERY OF CABIN ISLAND—A story of queer adventures on a rockbound
  island.

  THE GREAT AIRPORT MYSTERY—The Hardy Boys solve the mystery of the
  disappearance of some valuable mail.

  WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT—The boys follow a trail that ends in a
  strange and exciting situation.

  WHILE THE CLOCK TICKED—The Hardy Boys aid in vindicating a man who has
  been wrongly accused of a crime.

  FOOTPRINTS UNDER THE WINDOW—The Smuggling of Chinese into this country
  is the basis of this story in which the boys find thrills and
  excitement aplenty.


                        WESTERN STORIES FOR BOYS
                          By JAMES CODY FERRIS

                    Each Volume Complete in Itself.

Thrilling tales of the great west, told primarily for boys but which
will be read by all who love mystery, rapid action, and adventures in
the great open spaces.

The Manly boys, Roy and Teddy, are the sons of an old ranchman, the
owner of many thousands of heads of cattle. The lads know how to ride,
how to shoot, and how to take care of themselves under any and all
circumstances.

The cowboys of the X Bar X Ranch are real cowboys, on the job when
required, but full of fun and daring—a bunch any reader will be
delighted to know.

  THE X BAR X BOYS ON THE RANCH
  THE X BAR X BOYS IN THUNDER CANYON
  THE X BAR X BOYS ON WHIRLPOOL RIVER
  THE X BAR X BOYS ON BIG BISON TRAIL
  THE X BAR X BOYS AT THE ROUND-UP
  THE X BAR X BOYS AT NUGGET CAMP
  THE X BAR X BOYS AT RUSTLER’S GAP
  THE X BAR X BOYS AT GRIZZLY PASS
  THE X BAR X BOYS LOST IN THE ROCKIES
  THE X BAR X BOYS RIDING FOR LIFE
  THE X BAR X BOYS IN SMOKY VALLEY


                          BOOKS BY LEO EDWARDS

             Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Hundreds of thousands of boys have laughed until their sides ached over
the weird and wonderful adventures of Jerry Todd, Poppy Ott, Trigger
Berg and their friends. Mr. Edwards’ boy characters are all real. They
do the things other boys like. Pirates! Mystery! Detectives! Adventure!
Ghosts! Buried Treasure! Achievement! Stories of boys making things,
doing things, going places—always on the jump and always having fun. His
stories are for boys and girls of all ages.

                          THE JERRY TODD BOOKS

  JERRY TODD AND THE WHISPERING MUMMY
  JERRY TODD AND THE ROSE COLORED CAT
  JERRY TODD AND THE OAK ISLAND TREASURE
  JERRY TODD AND THE WALTZING HEN
  JERRY TODD AND THE TALKING FROG
  JERRY TODD AND THE PURRING EGG
  JERRY TODD IN THE WHISPERING CAVE
  JERRY TODD, PIRATE
  JERRY TODD AND THE BOB-TAILED ELEPHANT
  JERRY TODD, EDITOR-IN-GRIEF
  JERRY TODD, CAVEMAN

                          THE POPPY OTT BOOKS

  POPPY OTT AND THE STUTTERING PARROT
  POPPY OTT AND THE SEVEN LEAGUE STILTS
  POPPY OTT AND THE GALLOPING SNAIL
  POPPY OTT’S PEDIGREED PICKLES
  POPPY OTT AND THE FRECKLED GOLDFISH
  POPPY OTT AND THE TITTERING TOTEM
  POPPY OTT AND THE PRANCING PANCAKE
  POPPY OTT HITS THE TRAIL

                         THE TRIGGER BERG BOOKS

  TRIGGER BERG AND THE TREASURE TREE
  TRIGGER BERG AND 700 MOUSETRAPS
  TRIGGER BERG AND THE SACRED PIG

                          THE TUFFY BEAN BOOKS

  TUFFY BEAN’S PUPPY DAYS
  TUFFY BEAN’S ONE RING CIRCUS
  TUFFY BEAN AT FUNNY-BONE FARM
  TUFFY BEAN AND THE LOST FORTUNE


                     GARRY GRAYSON FOOTBALL STORIES
                           By ELMER A. DAWSON

              Illustrated. Each Volume Complete in Itself.

Garry Grayson is a football fan, first, last, and all the time. But more
than that, he is a wideawake American boy with a “gang” of chums almost
as wideawake as himself.

How Garry organized the first football eleven his grammar school had,
how he later played on the High School team, and what he did on the Prep
School gridiron and elsewhere, is told in a manner to please all readers
and especially those interested in watching a rapid forward pass, a
plucky tackle, or a hot run for a touchdown.

Good, clean football at its best—and in addition, rattling stories of
mystery and schoolboy rivalries.

  GARRY GRAYSON’S HILL STREET ELEVEN; or, The Football Boys of Lenox.
  GARRY GRAYSON AT LENOX HIGH; or, The Champions of the Football League.
  GARRY GRAYSON’S FOOTBALL RIVALS; or, The Secret of the Stolen Signals.
  GARRY GRAYSON SHOWING HIS SPEED; or, A Daring Run on the Gridiron.
  GARRY GRAYSON AT STANLEY PREP; or, The Football Rivals of Riverview.
  GARRY GRAYSON’S WINNING KICK; or, Battling for Honor.
  GARRY GRAYSON HITTING THE LINE; or, Stanley Prep on a New Gridiron.
  GARRY GRAYSON’S WINNING TOUCHDOWN; or, Putting Passmore Tech on the
          Map.
  GARRY GRAYSON’S DOUBLE SIGNALS; or, Vanquishing the Football Plotters.
  GARRY GRAYSON’S FORWARD PASS; or, Winning in the Final Quarter.


                       BOB CHASE BIG GAME SERIES
                           By FRANK A. WARNER

In these thrilling stories of outdoor life the hero is a young
lumberjack who is a crack rifle shot. While tracking game in the Maine
woods he does some rich hunters a great service. They become interested
in him and take him on various hunting expeditions in this country and
abroad. Bob learns what it is to face not only wildcats, foxes and deer
but also bull moose, Rocky Mountain grizzly bears and many other species
of big game.

  BOB CHASE WITH THE BIG MOOSE HUNTERS
  BOB CHASE AFTER GRIZZLY BEARS
  BOB CHASE IN THE TIGER’S LAIR
  BOB CHASE WITH THE LION HUNTERS


                     _A Skippy Dare Mystery Story_
                        AMONG THE RIVER PIRATES

                                  _By_
                               HUGH LLOYD

Nearly all the boats and barges on the River that was “home” to Skippy
belonged to old Flint. A grasping and merciless man, Flint also
controlled the lives of most of the people who tried to earn their
living on the River. For many years Skippy’s father had worked for him;
loading and unloading illicit merchandise—aware that he was involved in
crooked business but reaping little benefit beyond a meager living
therefrom.

Honest, courageous young Skippy finally persuades his father to leave
Flint’s employ—but it is impossible to escape the evil net in which they
are caught. Before they succeed in getting away from the illicit river
traffic, they become involved with the police—the boy’s father is
accused of murder—Skippy is forced into a crooked game—and the Basin,
where the condemned river barges provide homes for the river people is
blown up. In one great blast men, women, children and all their worldly
goods are destroyed in a sea of lapping flames.

In the end Skippy’s fearless honesty and loyalty bring happy freedom to
himself and his best pal—his father.


                        Hal Keen Mystery Stories

                            _By_ HUGH LLOYD

Follow Hal Keen on his hunts for clues and criminals. There are plenty
of thrills and shivers in these stories of adventure and mystery.

                      THE HERMIT OF GORDON’S CREEK

The disappearance of two airmail pilots leads to a mystery that centers
about an abandoned mine.

                        KIDNAPPED IN THE JUNGLE

A hint of buried treasure leads Hal deep into the Central American
jungle.

                      THE COPPERHEAD TRAIL MYSTERY

What was the meaning of the baffling and blood curdling events that
centered about the ranch where Hal Keen had gone in search of gold?

                         THE SMUGGLERS’ SECRET

Hal Keen sets out to get to the bottom of a mystery that threatens the
safety of a whole community.

                          THE MYSTERIOUS ARAB

Mystery, excitement, murder in a scientist’s camp in the jungles of
Africa.

                       THE LONESOME SWAMP MYSTERY

The lonely and mysterious swamp gave up its secret only after a series
of terrifying events.

                       THE CLUE AT SKELETON ROCKS

Hal Keen finds mystery and adventure in and about a lonely lighthouse
off the Maine coast.

                        THE DOOM OF STARK HOUSE

A menacing cloud of mystery hangs over the isolated and snow bound Stark
house.

THE LOST MINE OF THE AMAZON

Hal’s sympathy for an exiled white family leads him on to solve the
tragic mystery that surrounds the lost mine.


                             _Skippy Dare_

                        courageous—honest—loyal

 A young “detective” who keeps his head when trouble starts. And Skippy
               has a way of being in the thick of things

                   HIS ADVENTURES MAKE TENSE READING

He learns the trickery of crooked men on his father’s river barge; his
experience stands him in good stead when he becomes an office boy in a
detective agency—and he proves an invaluable aide to Conne, the great
detective.... Fearless, fast thinking Skippy is a hero well worth
knowing!


                      Skippy Dare Mystery Stories
                             by HUGH LLOYD
               author of the “_Hal Keen Mystery Stories_”

  AMONG THE RIVER PIRATES
  PRISONERS IN DEVIL’S BOG
  HELD FOR RANSOM


               GROSSET & DUNLAP · _Publishers_ · New York



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--Relocated the illustrations (printed on unnumbered pages) to the
  corresponding paragraph in the text.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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