GALLEGHER OF BEAVER
Stark fighters these Galleghers—the crazy Galleghers—and this one fighting for the love and life of Mary Boyle, in the weltering fury of the open Lake
THERE was a gathering in McCann’s store, with the smoky lamp in one corner and the air heady with the heat of the stove. The dance would not begin until ten, but that day Eddie “Bowery” Gallegher had come home from his summer’s steamboating. An overgrown boy he was, for all his mate’s ticket, with a wide grin and a laugh that would charm a response from the Sphinx. No one had told him yet about Gisli Gislison—not even his brother Big Joe had dared to tell him.
Bowery was in high spirits, and no wonder, having come home to the loneliest, yet most cheerful and hospitable place on the lakes—Beaver Island. We all sat around the stove—the McCann boys, old man Dunlevy, Salty Gallegher and Hughie Big Biddy Gallegher, Tight Gallegher and Willie Boyle and a few more. There was a drop to drink and the dance to follow, and the perch had begun to run, and outside along the loose sand shore the creaking, groaning frames told of the lacy gill nets drying in the night wind.
“Ye know how scarce jobs were, and men laid up?”
Bowery leaned forward with his hearty laugh. “I was on the dock when the Menominee put in and I went aboard her and struck the old man.
‘Give me anything from mate to wheelin’, but no lookout,’ I tells him. He looks me over, sour and hard, and says:
‘Gallegher, hey? I’ll bet you’re one o’ them condemned, lousy Beaver Island Galleghers that’s holdin’ down berths on half the lake boats at this minute!’ Delany, who was second mate on the Manitou last year, he was standin’ by, and he began to grin. T got two Beaver Galleghers aboard now,’ says the old man, ‘and I reckon I can stand one more, so git aboard and go to wheelin’—”
BOWERY ceased speaking.
A queer tension had fallen upon the group of us, and he was quick to sense it.
He saw the stranger standing to one side, arms folded—a long, gaunt, flax-haired man with a face like molded iron he was, and a queer cold smile twisting his thin lips.
He looked once at Bowery Gallegher, then he turned and went out, with a lithe and silent step.
“What the hell!” ejaculated Bowery, astonished.
“Where did that blow in
Hughie Big Biddy leaned forward and spat into the
“Wash’nton Island—One o’ them Icelanders from the Wisconsin side,” he said awkwardly. There was a little silence. Bowery glanced from face to face, then spoke.
“Well, what is it? You fellers ain’t lettin’ them squareheads run over here?”
Willie Boyle smiled in that queer, knowing way of his. Willie had run a saloon for forty years and never taken a drink; and a wise man learns a lot in forty years.
“Goin’ to fish this fall, Bowery?” he asked gently. “With your brother Joe, maybe?”
“Uh-huh. Dad’s goin’ to give us theEleanor, Joe and I go half on the nets, and we’ll get in on the perch in a couple of weeks—What’s that feller doing over here? Layin’ over?”
“Something like that,” said Willie Boyle. “He’s got out trap nets here and there—nobody knows just where. He don’t flag ’em. He just seems to feel where they are.” “Huh?” Bowery stared, frowned perplexedly. “You don’t mean he’s fishin’ over here? Who’s with him?” “Nobody,” grunted Emmet McCann. “The damn’ steelhead is campin’ on Pismire Island; he’s runnin’ his own nets—and nobody ain’t botherin’ him.”
“I’ll be damned!” ejaculated Bowery, staring around. “What’s happened to you guys this summer? Everybody got paralysis or somethin’? Does Joe let this feller alone, too?”
A grin flitted about the circle of faces. Big Joe, by virtue of his brawn, was the best man on the island; a slow and mountainous fisherman, none too swift of
pound net. The two MeCafferty boys interfered and so did them Danes over to Garden Island. They landed on Pismire one night and warned Gislison off. He come over to the dance the next night and cleaned the whole of them—proper! He’s come over for the dance to-night, I guess.”
“He ain’t a bad sort,” spoke up old Dunlevy, quaveringly. “Them Icelanders do be the byes to handle a boat! When this lad come over first, in a west gale it was, and his engine gone dead on him, and he wid a tarp rigged for’ard for a sail! All them Chicago yachts was ridin’ out the blow in the harbor, here, when in he comes wid his tarp and his tiller, and him standin’ on the weather rail and hollerin’ at ’em. Glory be, how hé did holler at thim yachts as he come up the harbor! I’m laughin’ yet to think of it.” “He’s clever on his feet, too,” added Tight Gallegher, sighing a bit at thought of his crutch and the foot he had lost years back under the sawmill blade. “D’ye mind when he stepped out wid Danny MeCafferty an’ stepped him down, and niver the same step twicet? Aye, clever he is! Gisli Gislison is the name of him. On the ocean in the war he was, so Mary Boyle was tellin’ me.”
Bowery started at that. “And how does Mary know about it?”
“He’ll be takin’ her to the dance to-night, I guess,” said Willie Boyle, who was Mary’s uncle. “It’s a free country, ye know, Eddie.”
Bowery came to his feet, all the laughing good-h u m or gone from the face of him.
“Any man,” said he, “who camps on Pismire, and fishes lonely, and don’t flag his nets, is crazy! I s’pose you buy his fish, James?”
His cousin James nodded. “Being the company’s agent, I play square. He gets fish, too! Eight hundred pound to-day, a hundred an’ forty bucks. Uses a net some, but mostly hooks. He hired an Indian lad to help him with the gill nets, but the lad become scared of him and quit. He has miles an’ miles of the hooks, they tell me.”
“See you later,” said Eddie Bowery, and went stamping out of the store.
HERE was a space of silence after his going. All were thinking the same thing, regretting that Bowery had not waited to hear the rest. Being the men they were, they had first dwelt upon the good qualities of Gisli Gislison, the things to be admired in the man; but there were other things to be said later, and none so good.
“Bowery’s nobody’s fool,” said Salty Gallegher. “He’s warned and that’ll be a plenty for him.” Willie Boyle rose. “I’m not missin’ the dance this night,” said he, smiling. “I’ve got ten dollars that says Bowery cleans the Icelander.”
“Which way?” quavered old Dunlevy. “Wid his fists —or wid Mary?”
“Both ways,” said Willie Boyle. “Ten each way.” Willie Boyle was ten dollars poorer within the next two hours.
Mary Boyle lived on her father’s farm, four miles out of St. James on the Barney Lake road, beyond the log cabin of the white-haired recluse who had been a Russian baron and a great surgeon before the blindness came on him. Tall and straight was Mary Boyle, deep-breasted, deepeyed, with a laugh in her glance and a sob in her throat when she sang the Irish songs beside her mother’s melodeon, and a gray witchery under her black brows that had stirred the heart of more than one man. Back from school had come Mary Boyle to help the sisters teach the youngsters their reading and writing, and she could handle a boat with any man, or gaff and pull as the motor roared and the lifter brought in the lacy nets and the big whitefish went hurtling into the tub below.
Up the white gravel road came striding Gisli Gislison, his head back and his yellow hair pale in the sunlight, and turned in at the gate. Mary heard the creak and the bang of it, and came running from the kitchen, and she hoping to see Bowery that morning. When she saw who it was, she halted in the doorway and the sparkle died out of hér eyes.
“Good morning,” said Gisli Gislison, a smile on his lips and the ice melting from his cold gaze. He came forward to the verandah and halted by the step. He was not a big sort of man, as he stood with hands on hips and his head tilted up but he made the lass think of a steel toy with a soul put into it by mistake.
“Is it my father you’d like to see?” asked Mary, with a lift of her brows.
Gisli Gislison smiled at her. “You know well enough, my dear, that it’s not,” said he. “Have you time to talk a little?”
Mary thought of the four-mile walk he had taken to see her, and she smiled and bid him to a chair. He refused that, but stood by the verandah post and looked at her, until under his gaze the smile died out of her eyes.
“Mary, I’ve no man helping me,” and his voice was smooth and inflexible. “I’ve a few trap nets, and a tub of gill-nets in the boat, and miles of hooks, which is the only way I can fish alone. But it’s in the blood, Mary. I can feel the fish. Ask James Gallegher if I don’t bring in two men’s share of fish! That’s a living and more, my dear. I can buy a farm on Garden Island from the Injuns, and there’ll be no wall of religion between us, Mary, for I’ll do as you wish in that way.”
“Please!” broke in the girl pleadingly. “No, no, Gisli—please don’t! Y ou must not.”
“And why not?” he asked, ice gleaming again in his
“I—I don’t love you,” she returned.
“Love makes love, my dear,” he said. The girl shook her head.
The word, in its finality, widened his eyes, and under their harsh ice-glimmer Mary whitened.
“You will not?”
“It’s impossible. Don’t ask me.”
“Then I’ll hot. I’ll come and take you. Make the best of it!” -,
FOR a moment she was in shaking dread of him, under the inflexible glitter of his steady gaze. Then the blood came to her cheeks, and anger.
“How dare you!” she flashed out. “If my father heard you, he’d take the whip to you—”
“And I’d break his neck,” said Gisli Gislison calmly.
"Listen, my dear! All these weeks you’ve played a nice game, you’ve walked and talked and danced with me, and now that your man is home again you think you can forget it. But you can’t. What did I do to your man two weeks ago at the dance, eh? Look out!
I’ll come and take you—like
He put out a hand to her arm, and his fingers were like a steel band encircling it. And at that she gave him a man’s blow, drawing blood from his lips and cutting her knuckles on his strong white teeth. Gisli Gislison did not move, but smiled at the blow and nodded. She shrank.
Neither of them had observed the approach of a flivver, which now rattled to a halt before the farm and
Bowery Gallegher jumped out. The car drove on, and Bowery turned in to the gate. Gisli Gislison loosed the girl’s arm and glanced over his shoulder as Bowery came up to them.
“What’s goin’ on here?” snapped Bowery, seeing the look in Mary’s face and the blood on the Icelander’s lip. "Is he botherin’ you, Mary?”
“It’s my affair,
Eddie,” she said quietly. “Gisli, get away from here.
Don’t come here again. I never want to seeyou again', understand?”
Gisli Gislison smiled, and turned to Bowery, who met his gaze with a black
“You heard her,” he said. “Get out o’
“You’re a nice boy,” said Gisli imperturbably. “But you get mad too easy. Don’t get mad, Bowery. Next time you get mad— n
look out! I’m a better man than you are, and I take what I want. Goodbye.”
“Better man than I am, is it?” said Bowery. “Off with your coat, then—”
“Enough o’ that!” Old Tom Boyle,
Mary’s father, had come out to the door, and a dour man he was. “You, Bowery! I heard how ye did be fightin’ this felly for an hour until the both of yez was floppin’ like fish on the flure and he put ye out wid a kick—and I’ll have none of it. You, what’s-yername! Git off’n this place an’ stay off’n it, and keep yer eyes off’n my girl or I’ll be puttin’ a load o’ buckshot into yer carcass. Git!”
Gisli Gislison looked at him, smiled a little, and walked away.’
“What ye want here, Bowery?” growled Tom Boyle. “Come up to tell Mary that we got six hundred pound yesterday, first trip,” said Bowery, and laughed. “Got any objections, Tom?”
“Come in an’ eat dinner,” said Tom Boyle.
'E'OR three weeks Gisli Gislison was little seen in St. " James, coming in only to unload his fish at the dock and buy gasoline and what he needed, and go out again.
He held his lonely camp on Pismire island with only the wheeling, squawking gulls for company, and because he was there nobody went out to kill ducks.
He was not a good man to bother or disturb. One day a fish-tug from Cheboygan came drifting past the harbor and Emmet McCann went out to her and brought her in with two battered men aboard and one of them with four ribs broken. Gisli Gislison had found them at one of his trap-nets, robbing it of perch, and they learned quickly what sort, of man he was. There was some talk of getting the sheriff from the main?
land, but nothing came of it.
Bowery and Big Joe made luck with their fishing, and talked of buying a boxed boat and a lifter, and the first September gale passed, and the second was well due to arrive, when Big Joe caught his foot between boat and wharf. That was on a Saturday, and on Sunday Big Joe sat with his foot in a chair and a week’s
In the afternoon Bowery was visit? ing at Tom Boyle’s farm, and when the singing was done and Tcm had mixed a “hot one,” Bowery told of the bad luck.
“It’s not the week’s layoff that I mind, as you know well,” and he laughed his deep, rich laugh, “but the loss of gear and a big haul we’d counted on Monday. We’ve had two traps out for a week up the Garden Island Shore, and we left a new gill net out over Sunday, and if storm comes up we’ll never see that net again. Besides which, some o' them blasted Charlevoix men set a trap for bass nearthe wreck on Hog Island, and two boxes o’ fish from that trap would mean a hundred clear. Not a man to be got to help me, neither.”
“You mind yer eye, Bowery,” growled Tom Boyle, “Fishin’ bass is ag’in the law, and robbin’ other men’s-
“They’ve no right in our waters,” said Bowery, “and as for the law, ain’t this Beaver Island? How about you slaughterin’ them mallard two weeks ago?”
Tom Boyle grinned at that, and said no more. But after a little Mary spoke up, a flash in her gray eye.
“Eddie, what about taking me to help you? I’ve not been on the lake all summer, and I can handle the boat or haul nets while you gaff! School won’t start until ’£ues? day—I’ll go out to-morrow if you’ll say the word!”
Tom Boyle gave the girl a sharp look, and his wife sat back in her rocker, and into the cheeks of Bowery crept a rich glow. For well he knew, he and they both, that Mary Boyle had made up her mind on him, and he had only to, speak his heart on the morrow to come home with finer fish, than any lying in the tub.
“Done with ye!” he ex, claimed. “We’ll get off at six, and by noon we’ll be done and go ashore on Garden to have dinner with the Danes.”
THAT afternoon Bowery Gallegher walked back to town, and a happy man he was, singing at the top of his voice and giving a wrild yell to each man he met. At the crossroads he met the priest, who stopped his car and gave Bowery a hard look.
“Eddie Bowery,” he said, “is it drunk you arc?”
“Mighty nigh it, Father,1' and Bowery laughed with all his heart.
Continued on page 42
Galle g her of Beaver
Continued from page 33
“When will ye give over these wild ways?” said the priest sternly.
“Tomorrow night, praise God!”, said Bowery, and meant the words, so that the priest drove on wondering to himself.
That night Bowery told his brother Big Joe about taking the boat in the morning, and Big Joe shook his head at it.
“It’s two men’s work,” he said.
Bowery laughed and came to his feet. “And it’s two men’s work to carry the likes of you, ye big elephant!” says he, and stoops over with his two hands to the seat of Big Joe’s chair. Then he came up, and Big Joe with him, and a laugh on his lips.
“If we had Tight Gallegher here to fiddle, I’d do a step with ye,” said Bowery, and set Big Joe on the floor again, and never a puff from him. “Will I do?”
“Ye’ll do, ye blackguard!” said Big Joe; and himself could not have done the same
At six in the morning Bowery had the Eleanor clean as a whistle, the gear and lifebelts stacked away, and extra gasoline aboard, when Mary Boyle came down to
the wharf. Bowery stood in the boat below and laughed up at her, and held out his arms.
“Jump for it!” said he, and with a smile on her lips, Mary jumped. He caught her and swung her down, ight as a feather, and seated her in the stern.
“Take her out, while I mind the engine,” and he shoved out, then swung over the fly-wheel, and in two seconds the open boat was heading down the harbor. A gray morning it was, the wind switching from west to south-west and kicking a bad sea up the channel, and by the looks of things Bowery was glad to think that noon would find them drinking the Danes’ good coffee.
“Head for Pismire,” said Joe, when they had cleared the light and were reaching for the Garden Island channel. “We’ll get right over to Hog Island and attend to them bass, then work back under the lee of Garden where our own nets are.”
“It’ll be blowing before noon,” said Mary. “Whiskey Island’s out of sight, Eddie—you-can’t even see Hog or much of Garden, for the smother!”
“Let her blow,” and Bowery grinned as he primed the pump. “I'll give ye some oilskins in a minute—hello! Look who’s yonder!”
The girl glanced off to port, where a gray speck was creeping in through the channel toward them. At her question, Bowery chuckled.
“It’s the Icelander—he’s been over to Whiskey Island, robbin’ the Israelite colony or gettin’ nets in from the blow.” “His boat has the heels of us, Eddie.” “There’s a Beaver Island eye for ye!” and Bowery laughed again. “Aye, she’s faster than any of us; but wait till Joe and me get our new boat! We’ll show him.”
HIS pumping done, Bowery brought oilskins for the girl, and took the helm himself. Instantly the boat seemed to respond in different fashion, and Mary Boyle marveled at it. For Bowery sat beside her, talking and laughing, with one leg cocked over the tiller, and hardly taking his blue eyes from her face; yet the boat was like a horse that feels the hand of a master on the reins.
Once or twice Bowery glanced back at the boat of Gisli Gislison, which was overhauling them fast. She was a half longer than the twenty-foot Eleanor, and with a low box over her to shed the seas. Men said that the Icelander anchored her off Pismire each night, and slept aboard her if he wished or waded ashore, the water being shallow thereabouts.
Bowery held well out beyond Pismire, which was a mere tree-studded dot of sand that did not even show on the charts, and at the spar-buoy came about for the end of Hod Island reef. Two miles north of Beaver was Garden Island, and due east of that was Hog, with Pismire down below and between them. All inside this triangle, and outside it here and there, was shoal water, studded with boulders and long reefs coming out from each island in feathery spits of sand and rock; so that a man would have heavy sorrow on his hands if he took a boat hereabouts, and he ignorant of the channels.
The Eleanor was soon past the Hog reef and rounding up for Hog Island, while behind them the Icelander drew in and vanished behind Pismire. Bowery was not thinking of the flax-haired man, however; he was telling Mary about the new boat he and Big Joe would have, and the fine large lifter with eighteen stops to her that would reel in the nets mortal fast, and how he and Joe would hire a man or two and weave a four-hundred-dollar net in three days.
So they came into Belmore Bay where the wreck of the old steamer lay two feet under the water, and Bowery shut off the engine and stood up with the hook, as she drifted before the waves. A heavy sea it was, too, for the full sweep of the storm struck here, and the wind was bending the trees ashore, so that the boat pitched and rolled wide; down came the hook and pulled up the slimy black net, and over the side leaned Bowery, arms under water and dripping him to the waist as he hauled in until he came to the trip-rope, and so loosed it, and the next moment he was at the trap and loosed the cord and had the bass under his fingers.
A box of the big bass they had there, and that was fifty dollars, Mary throwing the small ones back and bidding Bowery leave the trap open, which he did. That was two hours gone and twelve mile behind them, when Bowery threw over the flywheel and pointed west for Garden Island and his own nets. There was a scud of mist and gray slime that hid Garden from sight, so Bowery got out his compass and laid it between the feet of him, and laughed into Mary’s eyes as he crooked his knee over the tiller and put a cigar between his teeth.
“It’ll be storm by afternoon,” said Mary, her cheeks flushed with the sharp wind fingers.
“Hear the fog whistle from Squaw Island driftin’ on the gale? Let her blow!” Bowery’s rich laugh broke out. “We’ll be drinkin’ coffee with old Neis, and if ye don’t like the weather he’ll take ye home in his big tug, Mary.”
“Oh, will he?” She laughed back at him and shoved the hair from her eyes. “Speak for yourself, Eddie Bowery! I’m satisfied where I am.”
IT WAS an hour or more before they.
picked up the Garden shoie and Bowery got his bearings; then there were nets to be got in, and the traps to be open-
ed, and the lines to be knotted again under water. Because Mary was with him, Bowery had brought boxes for the fish, and he stacked them up forward with the tubs of nets atop them. On the way home the nets must be washed and stacked again, and the whitefish and perch and bass cleaned, until the gray gulls would be wheeling and squawking in a cloud astern.
“Four hundred pound and that’s a hundred and twenty,” said Bowery, as he took the tiller and headed for the Danes’ cove. “Listen to the wind howl outside! It’ll be sweet work crossin’ the channel back to Beaver!”
“And you soaked to the waist,” said Mary. “How long will it be, Eddie, before the life will go out of your big shoulders?” “Never, praise be!” said he, and laughed out. “Dad’s near seventy, ain’t he—and has he ever said a word o’ rheumatism? Not him. The Galleghers are a tough lot. Why, Mary, it’s a cinch, this fishing! It’s the softest life goin’.”
Near noon, with the horizon blotted from sight and all gray with foggy wind, they came into the Tittle cove midway the east side of Garden, where old Neis and his two sons had held ground for thirty years. There were the three of them mending nets by the ice-shed, and their big, fast boat at the dock, and the little log shack behind where Neis had started in to make a living. Back among the trees a few hundred yards was the new house, but out of sight from the shore.
A hearty greeting they had from Neis and Pete and Ole, and all trooped up together to the house under the singing cedars. Now there was laughing of women and killing of chickens, while the good beer that Neis brewed was fetched in with heady sand-cherry wine for the table, rich and deep brown-red, clearer than any crystal in its warm glow. Coffee parched black and made strong, filled the house with its reaching aroma, and new bread hot from the oven and sweetflavored, and butter golden from the churn that Monday morning; never was a better or more open-to-all table than the Danes set forth when visitors came, for if a man was not good at the trencher he was no fit table-mate for old Neis, with his matted whiskers and rumbling laugh, and Pete with his squint eyes, and Ole, who said nothing at all but could reach far for the dish.
Meaty and rich was the brown beer, and the wine strong to the head, but it was neither beer nor wine that held Bowery Gallegher’s spirits high as he met Mary|s eyes across the table and told of his steamboating, and the dead nigger they had fished up off Twelfth Street, and how he and three other Beaver boys had jeered a dancing man off the stage in a Chicago vaudeville house and showed the city folk the way to dance a man’s dance, and all the rest of it, with gusts of roaring laughter and no faint words. So time passed, until the cigars and pipes were lighted and the dishes cleared off, when Mary spoke up.
“My mother wanted me to bring home two of your big red hens and a rooster with them, if you could spare them,” said she. “And if you have a setting of eggs in the spring, she wants one, but the chickens now.”
“Ja, sure!” said old Neis, and rose from his seat. “Aye seen dem birds down to de ice-house—Aye ban look now. You come?”
So they went out, while Bowery was telling about the fine French barometer that Delaney brought back from the war and how he won it from Delaney in a crap game; and that was a black moment for Bowery Gallegher.
IT WAS a cry from old Neis that brought them out, as he came staggering up among the trees, and blood black in his matted whiskers.
“Dat Iselander!” he yelled, after a flood of wild oaths. “He’s ban take her—” Bowery was the first down to the dock, with old Neis and the boys and the women all streaming after him, and he with wild fear blackening his soul. Then he stopped short and stood looking out across the cove, where the boat of Gisli Gislison was heading out to clear the boulders, with never a soul showing aboard her. Once she lurched and yawed about, then righted to her course, and Bowery knew that Mary had done her best in that moment and could do no more.
He stood gazing, while old Neis staggered and cried out how the Icelander had
leaped on him and struck him down, and had lifted Mary aboard and had gone; then Neis groaned and sank down with his hurt, and the women began to shriek above him. But Bowery crooked his finger at the two boys, and they ran to join him at his boat.
“Give me a hand here,’’ said he, and the three of them lifted out the nets and the boxes of fish to the dock. Then Bowery ran hack and lifted old Neis in his arms, and carried him to the boat, dropping him in the stern.
“Ye’ll not catch him," yelled Pete, dancing and cursing. “Nor will we!”
“Go after him, you and Ole!” roared out Bowery Gallegher, throwing off his lines. “Go after him in your own boat, for I’ll stop him or go to hell doin’ it!”
Now there was wild uproar, with the engine coughing and the women screaming at him to put old Neis back, and the two hoys swearing at him for a fool. They jumped to their big boat no-e the less, and when Bowery headed out of the cove he looked hack to see her following. Then lie set the tiller, and laid old Neis against it to hold her so, while he poured oil into the engine and screwed down the cups over the bearings.
He could not catch Gisli Gislison, and well he knew it. He peered at the boat ahead, seeing that she was low in the water and steady as a rock.
“He’s got nets and fish aboard, and he’s bound for the Wisconsin side,” muttered Bowery to himself. “Either there or the north shore if he can’t fight the wind, for it’s hauled around into the west. The crazy devil! He’ll circle up into the channel, knowing well that few men would follow him that way—”
He came back to the tiller and headed in along the Garden shore.
Gisli Gislison was holding well out to avoid the shoals. He must go out around Pismire Island and then haul about and drive straight north, passing between Beaver and Garden to reach the open lake beyond. And as Bowery said, few men would follow him on that course. Here in the lee of Garden there was no sea to mention, but out in the channel the waves would be rolling high, with a bad crosssea, and the wind howling down out of the west like all the devils let loose. Gislison was loaded for it and deep in the water, but few gas boats could bear into that wind and bucking sea, what with the propeller racing half the time in the air. Bowery had no intention of following, however. He knew that Gislison must travel two legs of a triangle, so he himself was taking tne third leg across the shoals and through Stony Reef, though it was six years since he had taken a boat that scary way.
Correcting his course along the Garden shore and leaving Neis’ body to hold the tiller over, Bowery filled the gas tank, heaved the rest of the spare gasoline overboard, and followed it with everything he could tear loose except the life belts. He even disconnected the pump and hove it over, and the tools, the anchor and line from the bows, though he bent the line to the two big oars as a float. When he had gutted the boat of all things, he came back into the stern.
T TNDER the drive of the spray and a thin rain, old Neis had come back to life and was lifting his red-dripping whiskers over the rail to see. The Icelander’s boat was out of sight, what with rain and all, but Neis looked back and saw the stuff on the water behind them, and his own boat bearing off to the eastward to round Pismire, and so needed no telling to work out the thing for himself.
“Ye ban damn’ fool!” he sang out. “Not de sax inch water on de reef!” “There’ll not be six inches under us when we get there,” said Bowery, and he was not laughing now, as he threw down a life belt beside Neis. “I’m hopin’ ye know the way through, Neis. Do ye?”
“No,” shouted old Neis. “Aye’m no fool! Aye go by de good channel.”
“Put it on,” said Bowery, and took the tiller while Neis got his arms into the belt and tied the straps.
The slow time dragged along, and now they were past the eastern tip of Garden and heading for Stony Reef ahead. Even here in shelter of the reef the waves ran high, while out beyond, in the channel, was a swelter of blowing spindrift and white crests. Whiskey Island was out of sight, and Beaver a gray blur; the rain was only a thin drizzle and not stout enough to hold down the rollers, and from
across the wide lake the wind poured over the water until a man could scarce breathe aganstit.
“Ye’ll not catch him,” yelled old Neis.
“He ain’t around Pismire yet—we got him!” sang out Bowery. “Mind the tiller while I con the way.”
Into Neis’ hand he thrust the heavy tiller, and then went leaping forward to the how, where he stooped and threw out the life belts in a loose mass, then stood up on the prow of her as she leaped, balancing himself to the swing and thrust and watching the boulder-strewn water ahead.
All was shoal here, a foot or two deep at most. Straight for Stony Reef they drove, a long line of shoal running out from Garden Island, and ending off to the left in two shallow sand-spits where the waves burst high.
So the Eleanor thrust ahead and wallowed over the shoal water, and began to zigzag back and forth, with Bowery standing up on the tossing prow and putting out his arms to right or left, while old Neis cursed and shoved his weight against the tiller. To the right and left of them thrust up the yellow hidden boulders; once they banged into one so that Bowery all but went overboard, and once they scraped across the sand, but the engine kept going and the boat drove forward.
A WILD yell came from Bowery, and he shook his fist high, as he sighted the Icelander’s beet at last. Once across the reef, they had won the race—but now the reef lay dead ahead of them, and the deep water beyond with the wild whitecaps foaming in the wind. Back aft came Bowery, leaping cat-like, pausing at the engine to pour in oil, then jumped to the stern and seized the tiller. He put her square at the reef, a wild yell and a laugh on his lips as she rose to the waves and plunged forward.
“Over with ye!” he shouted to old Neis. “Over and make the sand-spit— ye can wade it!”
Just then she struck, came free, struck again with a rending smash and stayed where she was. Bowery leaned forward and threw the engine into neutral, then came up and gripped the arm of Neis. “Over, or I’ll throw ye!” he roared.
Neis scrambled outboard, his whiskers waving in the wind, and with his weight gone the boat lifted. Bowery threw in the clutch and she began to forge ahead once more, bumping and scraping, but moving none the less, though she was taking In water fast from the crash. Neis gained his footing and scrambled toward the spit of sand, water up to his knees, and the boat slid off into deep water and headed out into the channel welter.
Straight south across the bows of the Icelander’s boat Bowery held her, while she wallowed and rolled gunnel to water as the waves thundered dowri. They broke over her with every crashing impact of her bows, so that water was splashing into her from above and below, but Bowery flung a tarpaulin over the engine.
“Better man than I am, hey?” he yelled. “Prove it, ye yellow-haired
Proof was not far to seek, for the other and larger boat drove straight for him while he still headed down across the bows of her. The little round ports in her box were dull as the eyes of a dead fish, and she with no sign of life aboard as the . high spray burst over and her nose bored square into the seas. The only opening aboard her was aft, where Gisli Gislison sat at the tiller, and once Bowery caught a glint of ice-cold eyes through the after port, and shook his fist at the gleam.
Staggering and wallowing, the two craft held to their gradually converging lines, while old Neis from the sand-spit and his boys from their following boat watched and cursed and shouted vainly. Challenge had been offered and taken; the two men who held the tillers were wagering upon their skill of hand and eye, their accuracy at gauging speed and wind-drift and the ability of each other. Well enough Bowery knew that he would lose his boat, and his life with her if Gislison could shift tiller at the last instant and strike him astern instead of amidships. That last shift of tiller would do the work, would make or mar the whole job, and Bowery cleared his feet and held tense.
Now the two boats held steady, unswerving, while up before Bowery rose a veil of driving mist as the whirl of the
flywheel churned up the rising water. The larger craft hurled down at him and suddenly above her box appeared the yellow hair of Gislison, he standing with his foot on tiller and looking ahead with the ice-cold eyes of him, since from below he could not see under her bows. Not twenty feet of water held the two boats apart, and the Icelander’s craft was headed to strike the Eleanor fair amidships, for Gislison would give no warning of his intent.
Then holding his upper body unmoving, Bowery slid out his foot through the sloshing water, and when his toes touched the clutch lever, he shoved with all the strength in him. That reversed the engine; like a dead hand from the water clutching the boat it was, checking her speed and pulling her back, and at the same instant Gislison swung tiller with his foot to strike Bowery astern and send him under with his boat.
On that play the Icelander lost. A wild yell burst out of him, the Eleanor seemed to jump backward under his very eyes; then the bows of his boat rose above her on a sea and came down upon her gunnel, with a whine of wrenched cedar and a groan of burst oak, and the open boat rolled under the crash but drove her engine into the bows of the other boat and ripped the planks out of them.
Bowery Gallegher was not under those bow's as the Icelander wanted him, for the crash came forward of his seat, and with the death-roll of his own craft he was in the air and leaping for the bow-space of the larger boat, forward of her house. He landed there half across her rail, and hung as she nosed into the water, thinking that the Eleanor would drag her down in the surge, but from under him came a queer smell and a rending of planks, and the water cleared off her bows as her engine stopped; for her gas tank was burst in, and the wreckage under her stern had fouled her propeller, and that was the end of her.
BOWERY hauled himself over the rail and looked up to see the Icelander whirling at him with foot upraised. He took the kick, for he had to, and came to his feet with hurt ribs and a fist flung out; a moment the two men stood in that little space of deck and swung at each other while the boat slowly drifted about into the trough of the sea and rolled under their feet and the bow of her slowly going down into the water.
“Better man than I am, hey?” said Bowery, and laughed as he struck. “Prove it, then!”
A wave burst over their feet and legs. Startled by that, the Icelander fjung up his head, and a fierce look came into the cold face of him as he saw they were going down; then he sickened Bowery with a cruel blow under the belt, turned-, and went leaping toward the stern along the side of the box, and Bowery staggering after him with white lips. By now the rollers were bursting clean over the bow of the craft, and in her lee floated the scattered life-belts from the Eleanor, as Bowery figured when he loosed them.
Gislison disappeared under the box, and slowly Bowery clawed his way to the stern of her, and came at last to the opening, and stood there looking down into the craft. There in front of him was the Icelander, stooping over a tub of nets, and beyond him the figure of Mary Boyle, stunned and motionless, and past her the fish all flopping in the gurgling water rising from the bows.
Net spread wide in his hands, Gislison came erect. In his cold face was a devil s light as he made to fling the net over Bowery, and the eyes of him were red and glittering, and blood on his face where Bowery’s fist had smashed open his cheek. The net flew, but flew wide of the mark, for Bowery let himself go feet first beneath it and kicked the Icelander’s legs from under him, himself falling across the hot cylinders of the engine until his ribs were seared with the heat and he jerked himself clear. Barely in time was that jerk, for Gislison was erect and whirling on him, but Bowery kicked the feet from under the man once more and sent him sprawling across the tubs of nets and the long coil of line with^the bloater hooks.
In that instant Bowery caught at the white figure of Mary, lifting her with one arm, and scrambled back to the rising stern of the boat. What happened after that he was not sure, for around them swelled a black tide of water, and he clutching at the things that floated around, and the sucking lurch of the tide dragging him down terribly as the boat drove under.
But as he went, he thought of the Icelander down below, and the lacy nets spreading out with the water, and the miles and miles of line with the long bloater hooks—and a laugh was on the lips of him.
THE Danes’ boat came up, and they pulled Bowery out of the water with Mary in his arms and a life-belt clenched in his fingers; and leaving the boat to drift, they rolled the water out of the two. Bowery was the first to come around, and he swung himself over, coughing, until he stood on his two feet.
“What are ye waitin’ for?” he said to the boys, who were peering over the side.
“For the Icelander,” said Pete, squinting at him.
“Then ye’ll wait till doomsday, for his nets were loaded and the bloater hooks had him fast,” said Bowery. He looked down at Mary and saw the flush in her cheeks, and so sat him down at the tiller. “Start the engine and we’ll pick up Neis, and then go back for them chickens, not to mention a bottle o’ wine and a warm fire. Glory be, it’s a fine day on the lake.” The boys stared at him. “Crazy Gallegher!” said Ole.
“Sure!” A great laugh bubbled out of Bowery. “Sure! The Beaver Island Galleghers are all crazy! Let’s go, for I told the priest that I’d be takin’ the pledge to-night, and I’d not keep him waitin’.”
Ole moved to the engine, shaking his head.