"HE WHO LAUGHS LAST----!"
A Yarn of the Deep-sea Fishermen; First of a Series of Stories
FREDERICK WILLIAM WALLACE
4uthor of "Blue Water," "The Viking Blood," Etc.
CAPTAIN DENMAN MITCHELL, of the Bank fishing schooner Artimon, was a high-line fisherman but a hard citizen.
He loved two things—rum and money—and he hated peddlers—especially Tony Anderson.
Mitchell’s fishing schooner Artimon was lying out in the bay with her mainsail up awaiting her skipper ere swinging off on a halibuting trip to Green Bank. The gang were all aboard and mostly congregated in the cabin looking critically over the bargains which Tony Anderson, a local peddler, was displaying for their purchase.
Tony was small, mean-looking and red-haired, and came of a family that never was known to do manual labor of any kind but trucking and trading with the farmers and fishermen of the coast settlements. The plain-talking trawlers of East Harbor treated him with undisguised contempt, yet they willingly purchased the shoddy goods he had to sell and cursed him and their foolishness afterwards.
Tony had his gasoline motor-boat alongside and kept a weather eye lifting for Skipper Mitchell’s coming. Tony didn’t want to meet Mitchell for various reasons, but he felt that he had a good half-hour for business ere the hard-ease Denman came aboard his vessel. “Now jest look at this shirt,” he was saying as he held up a purple colored piece of flannelette decorated with embroidered flowers and pearl buttons. “There’s a real bargain for a man as wants a dressy piece 0’ goods to go ashore and sport the girls in. Stout and strong enough for workin’ in the dory too. Real flannel and hand embroidered. All wool but the buttons. What’ll ye gimme for this beautiful, beautiful shirt?”
“Thirty cents,” offered a man.
“Aw, come off, Boss! You’re jokin’ with me. I aint out here for me health.
A dollar’n half takes it. I aint got another one like it and I can’t get no more of them. Who wants this elegant shirt?”
“I’ll give ye a dollar for it,” said a fisherman, busy seizing on halibut hooks.
“A dollar?” Tony’s face puckered up in disgust. “Gorry! I got to make a livin’ somehow with me old father and mother and a wife and ten kids to home
“Jest listen to the little runt,” cried the prospective purchaser. “Why yer ol’ man has more dough than he knows what to do with and you aint got no wife and kids-”
“Here—take the shirt,” barked Tony.,
“Everybody cheats me. I’m makin’ no money at that price — ” He paused with ears straining. Then he blanched visibly and began to buckle his pack in agitated haste. A fisherman laughed.
“By Golly, Tony, th’ skipper’s jest come
aboard. Ef he catches you here.....
there’ll be the devil to pay an’ no pitch hot!”
HE HAD hardly spoken when the huge bulk of Skipper Mitchell blocked the cabin gangway and he roared a command to get under way. Clattering down into the cabin with two rum bottles protruding from his coat pockets, Captain Denny halted in surprise at the foot of the ladder and stared at the perturbed Tony with a saturnine smile on his hardbitten visage.
“Say, you!” he rumbled slowly, ad-
dressing Tony. “You’re the guinney that done me on that pair of rubber boots. Ye sold me a spavvy horse. Ye foisted a bar’l 0’ vinegar on me for a bar’l 0’ rum and a few other things. Didn’t I tell ye to keep clear of this here vessel and never set foot on her again?”
“Aw, Cap’en, don’t be hard on a man,” pleaded Tony, nervously buckling ajpack strap and hunting for a means of
escape with a roving eye. “It was legit’mate tradin’. You bought with yer eyes open. ’Sides Cap’en, you got back at me with that old mains’l ye sold me. Ye had it all wet inside when it was weighed and I paid ye for two hundred pound 0’ water. I lost—”
“That aint here or there,” growled Mitchell thickly and favoring Tony with a baleful stare. “I told you to keep clear of this here vessel and now I find ye aboard in spite of what I said. Well, now, seein’ you’re so fond of hangin’ around, I’ll keep you aboard for a spell—”
“Aw, quit foolin’, Cap’en,” pleaded the peddler as he made a move to ascend the ladder. “I’ll go now—”
Mitchell grabbed him with one of his ham-like hands and yanked him back. “You’ll go when it pleases me to let ye go!” he barked decisively. “I’ll carry you out to sea and give you a long drift home.” To the grinning trawlers, he said, “Heave short the anchor, boys, an’ git the fores’l on her. Mister Anderson’s agoin’ to take a little trip with us.”
The peddler squirmed and struggle^ to get free but Mitchell held him with a grip of steel. “Be quiet now or I’ll spank ye,” he threatened with a grim laugh. “I’ll set you adrift outside the Heads—”
“Don’t, Cap’en,” wailed Tony, still wriggling. “I aint got enough gasoline
to take me home-”
“Then pull home, consarn ye!” bellowed the skipper. “It’ll give you an idear of how we trawlers have to earn the money you git from us for yer dog’swool-an’-oakum trash. A ten mile buck again th’ tide ’ull do you good. Here, you rat! Git inside thar’ an’ keep quiet!” He hauled Anderson towards his berth, hove him, none too gently, inside, and slammed the sliding door.
“Now,me bully-boy,” he growled as he snapped the padlock. “You can’t git out ’less you eat through the bulkhead. Now, boys, we’H git away to
t^yiTH Tony’s little power dory
towing astern, the Artimon swung out past East Harbor Heads with sheets off and all the patch of four lowers and the light sails hung. It was blowing a strong breeze offshore and when the schooner^ hauled away from the lee of the hills she began to feel the heft of the wind. Skipper Mitchell pawed the wheel and laughed to himself. “I sh’d let the little joker go now,” he murmured, “but I’ve a mind to give him a trip. Yes, sink me ef I aint got half a mind to take him down to the Cape and turn him adrift there. It’ll cost the little rat somethin’ in gas to git home.”
“Aint you goin’ to let Tony go, Skipper?” enquired a fisherman lounging on the house. “Gittin’ kinder rough out here.”
The skipper chuckled hoarsely and glanced at the straining tops’ls before replying. “’Deed, John, I have a good notion to fetch him down to the Cape with us. Yes, I will! I’ll turn him adrift down off the Cape. Take the wheel! South by East!” And handing over the charge of the vessel, Mitchell went below to indulge in an outwardbound "nip” of rum. Unfortunately for Tony,
the skipper did not stop at a single nip. If he had, Tony would have been released and allowed to depart. But rum always raised the devil in Mitchell, and by the time he had absorbed the best part of a bottle of “chain-lightning and barb-wire” he was all devil and ready for anything. “I won’t set him ashore at all,” he confided to the gang assembled below. “Swamp me, but I’ll take him to Green Bank as spare hand and make a fisherman out of him. lia! ha! Aint that a good one, boys? Jest think of what the folks’ll say? Shanghai-ing Tony Anderson an’ makin’ an honest fisherman outa him! Lord Harry, that’s a good one, and to Green Bank he'll go as spare hand. H’ist that dory of his aboard an’ stow it on the quarter. Ha! ha! That’s some joke an’ deserves a drink all round.”
This was in the days before Scott Act and prohibition and the Artimon had a hard-drinking gang aboard—a reckless, jovial crowd who lived hard and worked hard and who believed in getting all the fun there was to be got out of Life —usually via the rum bottle route. As each man had brought aboard enough “wet oilskins” to float a ship and had broached their “life-savers” soon after sailing, the skipper found the crowd in the humor to back up his practical joke. The unfortunate peddler’s pack was opened and the cabin gang helped themselves to the assorted contents and in liquorish good temper arrayed their persons in the flaring shoddy and cheap trash.
When the nauseated and indignant Anderson was released late that night, he rushed on deckto findthe schooner slugging along to a strong breeze and a lonely light was blinking out of the darkness on the starboard quarter.
“What’s light’s that? Where are we?” he asked of the grinning fisherman at the wheel.
“That’s Pjne Island—”
“Pine Island! Pine Island!” screamed Tony. “Jumpin’ Jupiter! We’re eighty miles from East Harbor—”
Mitchell’s head and broad shoulders appeared in the companion-way and he boomed out with a hoarse^laugh, “Aye, my bully, and it won’t be eighty but seven hundred an’ eighty miles from East Harbor ye’ll be afore we weather up the jumbo.”
“You big sweep!” yelled Tony, shaking his fist at the laughing skipper. “You think this is a joke, you overgrown bully? Wait ’til I get back to East Harbor. I’ll sue you! I’ll bleed you! I’ll have your hide on my barn door for this—”
Mitchell lumbered heavily out of the gangway and advanced on the angry little peddler. “Gimme any sass and I’ll turn you adrift right now. You come aboard agin my orders. Now you’ll stay aboard an’ work yer passage. I’m agoin’ to make a trawler out of you and by the time you git back home you’ll be thankin’ me for l’arnin’ you a good honest trade ’stead of talkin’ about bleedin’ an’ suein’ me.
Now, there aint no law outside the three-milelimit but Denny Mitchell on this hooker, so git away for’ad and pick out a bunk for yerself afore I lift you up in my teeth and jump overboard with you. You’re a trawler now—not a blame guff-slingin’, dollar-grabbin’ peddler deceivin’ honest men with yer pack of bull-wool and brown-paper trash.”
CEA-SICK and afraid ^ of the big skipper’s mood, Anderson crawled along the spraydrenched deck towards the forecastle. As he stumbled for’ad hefound his little motor-dory securely lashed and stowed on the quarter and felt a little better at the discovery. Then, with many misgivings, he clambered down into the fo’c’sle where he was uproariously welcomed by the crowd bunking there.
Like a mob of schoolboys on holiday, they chaffed and teased him good-humoredly until, observing his distress occasioned by the motion of the vessel, they knocked off and assisted him into a spare berth.
“Never mind, old sock,” laughed big Bill Jennings. “You’ll be all right in the mornin’. Then a good guzzle of pea soup and fat pork’ll fix your stomach up and you’n me will go dory-mates afore the trip’s over.” And they left him to his mental and physical misery.
The next day was one of bitter travail for Tony Ander-
son. It started at the breakfast table where the skipper chaffed him unmercifully and prophesied all manner of unpleasant happenings for Tony when the vessel made the Banks. Unable to stand Mitchell’s rough humor, the little peddler fled to the deck and sat between the dories feeling very miserable. He felt still more miserable when he noticed the men lounging around clad in shirts, hats and trousers which they did not pay for.
“Sufferin’ cats!” he exploded savagely. “I’ll make that hog of a Mitchell pay for this. I’ll skin him alive and use his hide for a door mat! I’ll squeeze him ontil he yells for mercy! I’ll tie him up in knots! I’ll tie—” He was so vociferous in his threats that he did not hear the skipper coming along the deck until Mitchell’s great paw smacked him on the shoulder. “And I’ll give you some practice in tyin’,” he boomed with a jeering smile. “Aloft ye go, now, and tie up that main gaff-tops’l!”
Tony jumped up as if he had been shot. “No, no, Cap’en,” he pleaded abjectly with a frightened glance aloft. “I was only jokin’. I can’t climb up there. I get dizzy. I aint no sailor—”
“Then I’ll make a sailor out of you, or else dog-fish bait. Up ye go!”
“I can’t! I won’t! I’ll fall an’ break my neck, sure!” shrieked the peddler. “Oh, don’t be hard on a man, Cap’en. Ye’ve ruined me already by takin’ me away from business—”
Mitchell sung out to some of the men loafing around. “For’ad here—some of youse! Tony’s agoin’ to tie that there tops’I up, but he’s too darn lazy to climb. Send him up on the stays’l haljiards!”
Four of the grinning fishermen grabbed Tony, and knotting a bow-line out of an old dory-painter, they placed their struggling victim in it; hooked on the stays’l halliard block, and swayed him up. When clear of the deck and swinging, pendulum-wise, between the masts, Anderson ceased struggling but yelled and screamed in genuine terror.
“Sway him up!” growled the skipper’s deep bass. “Up he goes! Hand over hand! Jumpin’ Jupiter—!” There came a terrified howl from Tony; the men hauling on the halliard rolled into the lee scuppers in a heap as the bowline snapped and the peddler plunged headlong from aloft into the sea.
“Hard down! Out dories!” roared Mitchell as he leaped for the lee nest and cut the gripes adrift with a bait-knife. In less time than it takes to relate, the gang tumbled for’ad and the top dory was over the rail and in the water ere the Artimon’s headsails began to flap.
“Where is he? Kin ye see him?” bawled the men in the dory as they shipped their oars.
“Dead aft—in the wake. His red nut’s ashowin’!” barked the anxious Mitchell. “Hurry, for God’s sake, or I’ll have murder on me soul!” And with the perspiration breaking out on his hard visage the skipper watched the rescuing dory in frightened hopefulness.
Red hair is often regarded as an unwelcome inheritance by those who possess it, but it was the salvation of Tony
Anderson, for, like a vermilion trawl-buoy, it could be discerned a mile away against the blue-green of sea. It wasn’t long before the dory came up to him and strong hands grasped the sputtering and exhausted man and pulled him in. Little the worse for his dip, Tony scrambled over the schooner’s rail, valiant with excess of rage.
NOTING the fury in the little peddler’s eyes, Mitchell forestalled an outburst of vituperation by starting in himself. “What in blazes d’ye mean by trying to commit soo-aside?” he roared. “Did ye think ye c’d swim ashore from here? Lord Harry! ye’ll be the death o’ me yet—” Tony recovered his breath, and, not to be intimidated, for two minutes he and the skipper had it out.
“You tried to murder me,” yelped the little man, “and I’ll have it in for you soon as we get in port. These men are all witnesses.”
Mitchell’s face grew serious. He was really alarmed and felt that his joking would land him in jail if he didn’t placate the dripping fury threatening him with dire penalties.
“Now, now, man, be reasonable,” he growleJ soothingly. “’Twas only a joke an’ maybe I kin square things up with ye—”
“Nawthin’ will square me but five hundred dollars and puttin’ me on th’ land somewheres,” howled Tony. “Do that and I’ll say nawthin’—”
“Is there anythin’ more y’d like?” enquired the other sarcastically. “ Y ou might mention it.”
“Yes—you can give me some dry clothes. Your men tore my shirt to pieces pullin’ me into the dory.”
Mitchell had recovered from his fright by this time and his quick brain was working double-tides. His imagination suggested a plan which tiekled his sense of humor and, at the same time, offered to get him out of the penalties threatened by his victim. He made a gesture of resignation and said glumly, “All right, Tony. You’ve got me clinched. Come down in th’ cabin and we’ll fix things up. Come along, boys, and see fair play ’twixt me an’ Mister Tony!” And followed by the wondering gang, the skipper and the bedraggled peddler led the way aft.
“ THIRST of all,” said Mitchell mildly, as he sat on a locker, ” “ye want some dry clothes. Unfortunately, none of my duds ’ull fit ye or I’d be only too pleased to rig ye out. But I cal’late some of the boys ’ull oblige. Jake! Jest gimme that shirt ye bought off Mister Anderson the other day. That’s it! Now, Tony, here’s a shirt that’ll fit ye. How’ll that do?”
“That’ll do fine, Cap’en,” said the other as he hugged the stove.
“Good !” rumbled Mitchell, examining the shirt. “That’s a beautiful, beautiful shirt. All wool but the buttons. Real flannel and hand embroidered. How much is it worth, Jake?”
“I paid a dollar for it,” replied Jake, “but Tony says it’s worth a dollar’n a half.”
“Well then, Jake, if Mister Anderson says it’s worth a dollar’n half, he shall have it for a dollar’n a half. Give Jake a dollar’n fifty cents, Tony, and you shall have the
Anderson’s eyes opened wide in consternation. “D’ye mean I’ve gotter pay for that shirt, Cap’en?” he cried in amazement. “A dollar’n a half—?”
“Why, sartinly,” boomed Mitchell indignantly. “Didn’t Jake pay you for it? D’ye think Jake’s a millionaire to be givin’ his hard-earned shirts away for nawthin’ and you able to pay for them? The idea! Give th’ man a dollar’n a half.”
“He only paid me a dollar for it,” protested Tony.
“That don’t matter. You said it’s worth a dollar’n a half and it sure is. Ye couldn’t buy another like that out here for five hundred dollars’n a half. This is'sea-price, m’lad,'and dirt cheap.” And after an almost tearful'argument on the peddler’s part, Jake received the money.
“Now,” continued Mitchell when that transaction'was completed, “ye’ll need a good pair of trousers. A good'pair
Continued on page 55
Continued from page 8
of trousers—bull-wool and jute—same’s John got from ye. John! Fetch them pants out—”
“I don’t want them!” yelled the victim. “You’re bleeding me. You’re a pack of thieves an’ murderers. You men have stolen all the things that was in my pack. Gimme—”
“Hold yer tongue!” bawled the skipper amidst the laughter of the gang. “Them poor fellers has got to pay for the grub you’re eatin’ aboard here. Aint they agoin’ to git some return for feedin’ ye? Aint I seen ye stuffin’ yerself on pork an’ beans an’ fried sassiges an’ doughnuts an’ coffee this mornin’? Lord Harry! ’twas a wonder ye didn’t sink with th’ heft o’ grub ye loaded into yer stummick. Give John three dollars for the pants and then we’ll talk business.” •
Tony submitted calmly and looked forward to a future reckoning. Five hundred dollars from Mitchell would amply repay him for all he had suffered.
“And, now, havin’ fitted you out shipshape and trawler fashion,” observed the skipper, “we’ll discuss the landin’ business. Ye want to leave us, I cal’clate?”
“Yes!” growled the other sullenly. Mitchell reached into the back of his bunk ; pulled out a chart and studied it for a minute.
“Umph!” he grunted finally. “Suppose I put you in yer dory within a few hundred feet o’ th’ land, d’ye think ye c’d make yer way ashore? That oughter be close enough.”
“That’ll do,” said Tony. “But how about the five hundred dollars I want for compensation?”
MITCHELL nodded gravely and knit his brows. “Aye, I near forgot that. Well, then, I’ll tell ye what I’ll do. I’ll put ye within two or three hundred feet o’ th’ land in yer own dory, ef you’re of the same mind about leaving us, and I’ll give you my check for five hundred .dollars to say nawthin’ more about this business. Is that square?”
“When will you land me?*’enquired the peddler cautiously.
“Day after to-morrow ef all goes well,” answered the other.
“It may be too rough,” said Anderson suspiciously. “Maybe it won’t be safe for me to risk it—”
“Then I'll heave-to on til it moderates,” replied the skipper. “I’ll give you a fair chanst. I aint a tough guy—not near as hard as what you think. I’ve a soft heart I have, and—and I’m kinder sorry for my foolishness. ’Twas the rum what did it, and I trust ye’ll not say anythin’ ’bout this affair when ye git ashore, for ’tis a dear joke. Five hunder’ dollars is a lot o’ money. Won’t ye let me off easier’n that, Mister?” “Not a cent less,” said the peddler decisively.
“Then it’ll have to be,” rumbled Mitchell with a sigh.
The gang were looking at one another questioningly and the business instinct in Tony predominated at the skipper’s strange change in attitude. He was suspicious, but did not care to say so. “Excuse me, Cap'en,” he said respectfully, “Would you mind statin’ them conditions again and have the men witness yer statement?”
“They’ve all h’ard what I said,” rasped the other.
“Ye-e-s! But I’d like ye to say it again.” “All right! Here’s what I say. Within the next two or three days I’ll put you in yer own dory within two or three hundred feet of the land—”
“What land?” queried Tony sharply. “Canada or Newf’nland,” snapped Mitchell. "I dunno what particular spot o’
land^ it’ll be. Whatever’s handiest. So long’s it’s land you don’t need to care. It won’t be a rock or an island—I aint no bluffer—so don’t git so blame suspicious. I’ll give you my check for five hundred dollars on the Bank of East Harbor afore you go. Is that fair? You’ll witness them words, boys. That’ll go in any court o’ law. Here’s my bank-book, Mister. Aint that right?”
Tony examined the pass book, noted the last amount, and nodded his head. “All right, Cap’en. That’s a go! But what’ll I do with my motor-boat ’way up here?” “Sell it, consarn ye, sell it!” barked Mitchell, and with a string of oaths, he left the dumbfounded occupants of the cabin and retired to his berth.
“Waal, by th’ Great Trawl Hook!” ejaculated a man. “That’s th’ limit! I never knew Denny Mitchell to do a thing like that afore. I cal’late Tony’s faffin’ overboard has got him scared that he’ll be hauled -up for ’tempted murder when he gits ashore. That’s th’ reason beyond a doubt.” And the others agreed with him.
Two days later, Captain Denman Mitchell squinted through his old quadrant at the sun; made some calculations with a nail upon the wheel-box, and jumped below for a glance at the Nautical Almanac and the chart.
“Shoot her up and take a cast!” he bawled from the interior of the cabin, and a few minutes later, the leadsman sung out the depth. “Forty-four faddom and sand and shells on th’ butter!”
Mitchell came up on deck. “All right, John. Weather up yer jumbo! Start yer mainsheet an’ put yer helm down. Git th’ gang out and bait th’ gear. We’ve made the grounds, but, first of all, send Mister Anderson aft.”
When the peddler came up to where the skipper was pacing, the latter handed him a signed check for five hundred dollars. “Thar’s my check. The boy’s ’ull put yer dory over. We’re square — aint we?” Turning to the men trooping aft, Mitchell said, “Git Mister Anderson’s dory over. He’s leavin’ us now—”
“But—but—but where’s th’ land?” stuttered Tony fearfully. “I—I don’t see it—”
“Of course ye don’t,” rumbled the big skipper, “but it aint far off.”
“Then where is it?” enquired the other peering around at the blank horizon.
“Forty-four faddom beneath us,” cried Mitchell with a grin. “Six times forty-four is two hunder an’ sixty-four feet. That’s th’ nearest land hereabouts. Go easy with Mister Anderson’s dory, John! Use the stays’l halliards and th’ dory-tackles. That’s the idea. Now, Mister, ye have my check and there’s yer dory over th’ side. Two hunder an’ sixty-four feet from here ye’ll find land—”
“But it aint dry land!” protested Tony in visible agitation.
“I niver said dry land,” answered the skipper. “Land was what I said and th’ boys ull bear me witness.”
“And where is th’ nearest dry land?” whimpered the peddler.
“Cape Pine, Newf’nland, lies ’bout a hunder miles no’the-east of here. Cape Breton’s a sight furder. Over ye go, now.”
A DVANCING on the shrinking Anderson, the big skipper grasped him by the collar, and despite his kicks and howls swung him over the rail and into his dory.
“Beat it now!” he thundered viciously. “Ye’ve got my five hunder dollars and ye’re within three hunder feet o’ solid earth. Pull the plug out of yer dory and ye’ll be on the bottom in the shake of a mains’l. Cast him adrift—”
“Oh, don’t do that, Cap’en Mitchell!” wailed Tony pitifully. “Lemme stay aboard. I won’t say nawthin’—honest I won’t. Don’t turn me adrift to starve or drown out here—”
“Naw!” bawled the other. “I don’t want ye. When you git back ye’ll raise all kinds of trouble for me. Take yer chanst. Th’ sea’s smooth and there’s dry land a hunder miles no’the-east. Ef you come aboard here ye’ll need to keep yer mouth shut and turn to and work for yer grub—” “I’ll do that, Cap’en,” cried the peddler eagerly.
“Shut yer trap and don’t interrupt yer superiors!” growled Mitchell. “As I was asayin’—ye’ll need to keep a shut mouth and work yer passage and pay yer passage as well.”
“How much d’ye want?”
“Five hunder dollars!’’ boomed the skipper with a grim smile on his hard face. “Gimme my check back and ye kin come aboard. Refuse, and I’ll turn ye adrift and let th’ gulls and Carey chickens have a feed on ye. Speak quick! I aint agoin’ to waste all day bargainin’ with you.”
Tearfully the little peddler produced the slip of paper and handed it up to Mitchell. “There it is, Cap’en,” he said with a quaver in his voice. “You’re makin’ game of me and I can’t do nawthin’. I kin come aboard now, can’t I?”
“No, ye can’t,” returned the other. “Not until ye promise to say nawthin’ ’bout what’s happened aboard here. D’ye promise?”
“Then come aboard,” growled the skipper. “Ye’ll work yer passage from now on, and as we’re on the grounds we’ll git th’ light sails stowed away. Mister, you kin git that maintops’l tied up. You started the other day but ye didn’t finish yer job. Spare hand’s work is tyin’ up tops’ls, so git busy.”
Tony glanced apprehensively aloft to where the clewed-up gaff-tops’l bulged, balloon-like, half-way up the topmast a hundred and ten feet from the deck. Shrinking back to the cabin house with terror in his eyes, he stared around at the hard, sea-bronzed faces of the assembled fishermen and in their countenances he detected no sign of pity. They were a hardbitten crowd and any sign of squeamishness or cowardice awoke contempt instead of sympathy in their minds.
“Will I have to prod ye aloft with a trawl-splicer?” came Mitchell’s raucous bellow. “Move, damn ye, or I’ll—”
While the little man was whimpering in fright and backing away from the skipper, the big, good-humored fisherman, Bill Jennings, elbowed his way through the mob and faced Mitchell.
“Say, Skip,” he drawled, “go easy on th’ poor l’il beggar. It aint everyone as can go aloft first time and tie up tops’ls. I couldn’t do it myself when I first went vessel fishin’. Give him a rest. I’ll tie it up—ef you really want it tied up—”
The other growled resentfully. “Suppose you mind yer own blame business.” Jennings turned to the men. “Boys,” he said calmly. “This aint man’s fun stringin’ a poor l’il minim like that. It’s a swab’s game. We’re a rough bunch o’ skates, I know, but I cal’late we aint downright brutes. Let him alone!”
The hard-case features relaxed into sheepish grins and an apologetic murmur arose from the crowd. “Sure, Skip,” they said. “Bill’s right. Give the little runt a chanst.”
With a lowering glance at Jennings, the skipper felt the pulse of the mob, and, being a diplomat, he burst into a loudguffaw and slapped Tony heartily on the back. “Don’t git scared, old timer,” he rumbled. “I was only stringin’ you. Now, boys, git yer gear out. We’ll bait up and make a night set.”
While Jennings was baiting up his trawls on the booby-hatch, a figure sneaked out from behind the dories and grasped his hand. “I’m only a poor devil of a peddler,” he said in heartfelt tones, “but I’ll remember you. You—you’re a man, Mister Jennings!”
“Tcha!” said the big fisherman with a laugh. “Run away or I’ll bite ye!” »
VX/UTH his usual luck, Denman Mit* - chell worked Green Bank and scoffed nearly every halibut within the vicinity of his baited trawls. For eight days it was “oars up” ; half-swamped dories and big “jags” on the Arlimon’s checkered deck. They made two sets a day, and in the evening, while the schooner jogged to the lighted watch-buoy marking the weather end of the fishing gear in the water, the men worked like slaves, blooding, gutting, and icing the catch of fish.
With sixty thousand pounds of fresh halibut and twenty-five thousand of cod, Mitchell shot into Canso for a few tons of ice to top off the pens of fish in the holds below. Though they dropped anchor inside the harbor, Tony made no attempt to escape. If he wished, he could easily have done so as Mitchell used the peddler’s gasoline dory to ferry the ice out to the vessel and it was left, tied astern, during the time the Artimon lay in the port. The use of his dory for trucking ice was another injury which Anderson chalked up against Denny Mitchell.
Close to the Artimon lay a St. Servan fishing brig, and after stowing the ice below, Mitchell and a number of his gang
went over to visit the Frenchman ere swinging off for East Harbor. Fraternizing with French members of the piscatorial community is commendable, but when North American trawlers pay visits to Breton brigs, it is not altogether with the spirit of entente cordiale, but rather with intent to procure cordial spirits. The plug tobacco, mittens, hooks, trawl becket lines and canned provisions which went with the Arlimon’s crowd were exchanged for sundry bottles of a peculiarly fiery brand of tangle-foot which is distilled in France for the delectation of palates able to relish anything in the liquor line from pain-killer to sulphuric acid.
When Mitchell and his crowd tumbled aboard hugging their bottles, all were the worse for their fraternal potations. It was a clear night with a strong breeze from the northwest, and after hoisting the dories aboard, Mitchell sung out to get under way. Under four lowers and dragging the starboard anchor under her fore-foot, the Artimon, with the skipper to the wheel, blundered through the fleet of Lunenburgers and Gloucestermen in the harbor, and swung out to sea.
With drunken sagacity, the big skipper pulled out a chart when they hauled clear of Cranberry Island, and laying his parallels on a crack which ran across its face, he bellowed out the course to the fisherman who relieved the wheel. Having completed all that he thought was necessary in the way of navigation, he and the majority of the crowd commenced broaching the eau de vie they had procured from the Frenchman.
It was blowing very hard and with all four lowers set, the Artimon dragged her lee rail through the smother at a fourteen knot clip. In a forepeak bunk, Tony kept himself in obscurity and frightened wakefulness, while aft in the cabin the gang passed the bottle and sang maudlin songs to the roaring and swashing of the sea.
At three in the morning, Jennings and his dory-mate came off watch and down into the forecastle. The good humored fisherman was practically sober but his dorymate had to be trundled into his bunk the worse for wear. Then Jennings spied the peddler’s frightened face peering at him from behind the pawl-post.
“I cal’late you’re agoin’ to lose that there dory of your’n,” said the fisherman as he opened the quick-lunch cupboard. “It’s towin’ astern—Lord Harry, man, but you’re as white as a ghost! Come out and have a mug-up.”
TONY crawled out. “They’re all drunk, Bill,” he stuttered, “and it’s blowin’ a gale—”
“Gale nawthin’,” laughed the other, burying his face in a mug of coffee. “Don’t worry, son. It aint the fust time we’ve gone to sea with all hands pickled. I’ve seen this one pluggin’ along with everythin’ on her in a winter’s blow an’ devil a man able to stand on his feet. Let me give you a mug of coffee. ’Twill brace you up.” He handed a steaming mug over to the nervous Anderson.
“Aint the wind awful, Mister Jennings? Look how the vessel’s tumblin’ about.” “Nawthin’ at all,” replied the other. “Wait ’til ye’re lyin’-to in a winter’s breeze on some shoal water and ye’ll know what tumblin’ about is. I’ve seen ’em spill the coals out the stove sometimes. Aye, I’ve bin able to walk along the sides of the bunks—she was over so far— Crawlin’ Christopher! What's happened?’ The scalding coffee shot up in his face; Tony was catapulted into his stomach,, and both men were hove down to leeward as the vessel fetched up in her headlong storming with a series of violent shocks. “She’s struck!” roared Jennings, jumping to his feet and making for the ladder. A deluge of water poured down through the opening and he was hurled back, gasping and spluttering. The four or five men bunking in the forecastle tumbled out of their pews, and with the sleep still in their eyes they rushed for the companion while the vessel lifted and pounded in the sea-way.
“’Tis Sable Island Nor’west Bar!” shouted someone, and Tony was conscious of being hauled out on a sea-swept deck and dragged bodily aft. In the gloom, a cursing mob labored getting the dories out, and above the thunderous flapping of the sails and the roaring of the white-water which surrounded the schooner, came the skipper’s voice, “Stand by the vessel, boys! Git th’ sail off her—”
“Stand by and be damned!” shouted a man leaping over the rail into a dory.
Git out of this blazin’ surf or we’ll be swamped or washed away!” And the others followed him.
Clutching the coamings of the cabin slide, Tony stood almost petrified with terror, and he only came to his senses when a rough hand grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him over to the lee quarter. ‘‘Jump naow!” rasped a voice in his ear. “There’s yer dory. Wake up and crank yer engine while I fend her off! Hurry, naow, for th’ love o’ Mike!” It was Jennings, and like a man in a trance, the other turned on the switch and gave the fly-wheel a pull. Put! put! put! “Is she started?” roared the fisherman, fending off with an
“Yes, she’s started—”
“Then git out th’ way an’ gimme th’ tiller!”
D UILT for sailing in a chop, the peddler’s gasoline dory drew out of the inferno of surf into the smoother sea in deep water. Tony, scarce knowing what had happened, sat on the floor boards clutching the risings with both hands until Jennings snarled him into action again with a string of biting oaths.
“Bail her out, blast you! She’s half full of water! Show some life, you runt!” And the peddler bailed as he never bailed in his life before.
“How much gas have you got?” came the fisherman’s snapping voice.
“Gas? Oh, enough for a day anyway. Filled the tank at Canso to carry the ice.”
“Darn lucky for us. ’Vast bailin’ and watch that engine.”
“Are we safe, Mr. Jennings?” Anderson dared not look over the gunwale at the welter of sea in which they were tumbling.
“Safe enough ef you keep that engine agoin’. Gone coons ef you don’t!”
For over an hour, Jennings manoeuvered the dory among the heaving combers, and when the dawn came, he could see five of the Artimon’s dories far to leeward when they rose on the.crest of a sea.
“They’re a mile to loo-ard,” he growled to Tony, who, with his head inside the little hatch, was jealously watching the chugging motor. “We’ll run down to
Running before the sea and wind, they speedily came up to the first of the dories with the skipper and four others in it. Mitchell was standing in the bow waving his arms and shouting something.
“What’s th’ racket?” bawled Jennings as he rounded up by the skipper’s dory.
“Th’ vessel,” shouted Mitchell. “Th* vessel! Look! She’s come off th’Bar!”
Jennings glanced in the direction indicated by the skipper and was astonished to see the Artimon standing out to the northyard again with her sails drawing, and to all appearance sailing as if she had a crew aboard.
“Git after her!” roared Mitchell. “We've only got one oar in this dory and the others are lyin’ to their buoy anchors.”
For over an hour, the gasoline dory pursued the crewless schooner, and if the jib sheet had not carried away, it is doubtful if they ever would have caught her. When the sheet parted, the jib lighted up, and the mains’l jammed her up in the wind.
When they came alongside, Jennings leaped over the rail and hove the wheel hard down. Then he helped Tony aboard, and making the dory painter fast, swung off and picked up the others.
“Did ye ever know the like?” ejaculated Mitchell when he got aboard again. “Came off Sable Island Bar herself. Shift o’ wind and rise o’ tide. Lord! but I’m th’ lucky man. Thar’s nawthin’ can bust me. Is she makin’ much water, boys?”
“Over the floors aft an’ for’ad,” answered a man.
“Aye, aye,” said the skipper, “but she’ll float to Canso, no doubt. Man th’ pumps and git busy with th’ draw-buckets in cabin an’ fo’c’sle. We’ll work her in and I’ll give you fellers twenty-five dollars a man extry for salvagin’ her—” He grinned and continued. “That is—all ’cept Tony here. He’s a millionaire an’ don’t need th’ money.” Tony said nothing but picked up a bucket.
OF THE passage to Canso a great deal might be written. Of the weary hours of bailing and pumping the schooner to keep her afloat, a chapter teeming with incidents of endurance and perseverance on the part of tired men could easily be penned. But suffice it to say, the Artimon was picked up off Cranberry Head and towed into harbor by the Fishery cruiser. Until
a place could be got ready for her on the marine railway, a tug with a powerful pump relieved the Artimon’s crew, and the halibut and cod were transferred to another vessel.
Mitchell'was busy, very busy—much too busy to bother about Tony Anderson. Tony and his motor-dory had vanished soon after the schooner towed in and the crowd calculated that the little peddler had had enough of seafaring to last him the rest of his natural life. Denman had dismissed Tony as a mere incident and he was telling a couple of newspaper men about the miraculous happening on Sable Island Bar when a pompous-looking person swung a leg over the rail and proceeded to tack a paper upon the schooner’s main-mast.
“Say, you!” boomed Mitchell anxiously. “What th’ blazes are you up to?”
The pompous person stared coolly at the truculent skipper. “You are Captain Mitchell, I presume?” he said calmly.
“Aye, that’s me. What’s th’ game?” “Your vessel is libelled for salvage.” “But there aint no salvage in this case, Mister,” growled the other with a confident smile on his hard visage. “I’m too wise for that. I made a dicker with the boys to bring her in for twenty-five bucks a head and they did it. You aint got nawthin’ on me, Mister Sheriff, so haul yer darned paper off’n my main-mast!”
“Here’s a letter for you which may put a different complexion on the matter,” said the official, handing Mitchell a legal blue envelope.
“Read it out!” snapped the big skipper. “I aint no scholard.” The other opened the missive and cleared his throat. “Ahem! This is from Skinnem and Taxem—a legal firm ashore here. It reads as follows:— ‘Captain Denman Mitchell, schooner Artimon. Dear Sir: We are instructed by our client, Mr. Anthony Anderson, to attach your vessel for the sum of Four Thousand
Dollars for services rendered to the fishing schooner Artimon by the said Anthony Anderson. We find the value of the vessel, gear, etc., to be in the neighborhood of Nine Thousand Dollars and a rough estimate of her stock, which we have also attached, is approximately Three Thousand Dollars—making a total value of Twelve Thousand Dollars. As our client was not a member of your crew, nor upon Articles, and as you had abandoned the vessel on Sable Island Bar, our client, using his own motor-boat, picked up the abandoned schooner. You also failed to include our client in the salvage agreement which you made with your own crew. In view of these facts, our client has a just and valid claim for the amount mentioned and suit is being entered against you for the amount aforestated. A statement attested to by Mr. William Jennings has been made before the authorized officials in this port. Awaiting your reply, we remain, yours truly, Skinnem and Taxem, per J. H. Skinnem.’ That’s the letter, sir.”
For ten minutes, by any clock, Denman Mitchell gave vent to his feelings without repeating the same oath. Finally, he gazed sorrowfully at the letter and passed his hand over his head. “Oh, I’m a funny bird, I am! I’m the great lad for practical jokes! He’s got me poke-hooked, by cripes! Yes, poke-hooked! And as I’m the owner of this onlucky, consarned hooker, I’ll have to pay! In future, there’s two things Denny Mitchell ’ull steer clear of—and that’s rum and shanghaied peddlers. Swamp me!”
Anderson runs a fisherman’s outfitting store in East Harbor now, and the East Harbor Echo notes that “Mr. William Jennings has gone into the clam business with a new motor boat which he recently purchased.” Captain Denman Mitchell, of the fishing schooner Artimon, invariably loses his temper when the names of Anderson or Jennings are mentioned.