Too Many Sheets to Windward
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
When Peter takes Pokey for a peaceful sail you can wager that anything may happen. In fact it does, and, if you doubt it, climb aboard this entertaining short story and see for yourself.
WE’VE been yachting.
I don’t know why, but we have.
But I do know this, never again! I know another thing, and that is, that if my husband’s word is as good as his bond, his bond is untrustworthy, to say the least. I know something else, too—I’m a sadder and a wiser woman and I don't hanker for a trip to Europe as much as I did.
Primarily, Jack Rawdon, a co-partner ol Peter’s, w as to blame. He bought the boat, but alter that he and Peter go fiftyiilty, for they both lied to their wives when they said they knew how toTun a boat. All they knew about running a boat was the part about giving orders to subordinates, Mary Rawdon and I being they.
Aunt Joan was still with us or we couldn’t have gone, but when Peter came home and said we were invited to go on a week’s cruise with the Rawdons in their sailing yacht, Aunt Joan thought it would be just the thing to give me a nice rest and she offered—as usual—to keep the Bits.
"When're we going?” I asked Peter, diffidently.
"Embark from the foot of Bathurst Street at four to-morrow afternoon,” he said. “All you take is one outfit (or port wear and a middy suit.”
Thus simply was it planned. But, oh, my soul, the execution!
The first discovery I made, after I went aboard, was that it wasn’t much of a yacht. It w*as about thirty feet overall, had a stuffy little cabin divided by denim curtains into two sections of two berths or bunks each, and the mattresses on those bunks were about as conducive to peaceful slumber as salt water is to working up a lather.
We were there first.
"What’s the name of this liner?” I asked.
"The Iliad,” said Peter pridefully.
"Accent on the first syllable, I presume,” I said. “Where's the help hang out?”
"W-w-w-why there isn't any help,” said Peter. "That’s the fun of it. We ...”
“Peter Ronald, do you mean to tell me that you've brought me on this evil-smelling grab-bag boat to do the work for a week?”
“Now, Ruth—he began, “please don’t.”
"All ashore that's going ashore, and I’m it,” I an nounced, picking up my club bag and starting, and right there is where the first incident occurred. Peter took a step forward and sideways to intercept me. He did it all right. His foot met mine and tripped me, and I measured my length on that greasy little deck—and me in my new silk and wool suit.
"You-you-you-flat-footed land-lubber!” I hissed as he picked me up. “If I thought you did that on purpose—”
"I didn't think of it in time,” he said regretfully, rescuing my* club bag as it was about to slide into the little* pit which was filled with 3Ümy water. “No more monkey shines, Ruth. You’re going on this trip!”
JUST then the Rawdons arrived in their car, and the chauffeur, after carrying several dunnage bags and a hamper aboard, touched his cap and the gas and disappeared.
“An accident already?” beamed Mrs. Rawdon, looking
at my messy suit.
“A"es, some clumsy clod ran into me with a dirty dunnage bag,” I said brightly, “but it doesn’t matter a bit. I wore this old rag so I shouldn’t have to worry about my clothes at all.”
“So wise,” she said, and then we went into the cabin and disposed of her paraphernalia, and I saw that she had brought two outfits beside the one she was wearing—and neither of them looked like I did already. That was enough to make me dislike her to start with, and she added to the account very soon.
“I do hope you’re a good cook,” said Mrs. Rawdon as she hung up the two nifty outfits. “You know I never prepare a meal, so if it was left to me we’d fare pretty slim.”
“I'm handy with a can opener, but that’s as far as it goes,” I lied. “Oh, I can boil an egg and make tea,” I
added proudly, "but I think the best way would be for us to take day and day about, don’t you?”
"W-w-e 11 maybe; or meal and meal,” she said. “I get breakfast, you get lunch and we’ll get tea together.”
"That sounds fair enough,” I said brightly, but a moment or so later, when she announced that they always had dinner at noon during the summer, I saw that I’d been caught.
“S’pose we go on deck and watch the boys put off,” she suggested, and we went.
Things didn’t seem to be going just right. In fact they went consistently wrong, so that it was finally six-thirty when we got away, and then only because the boys had paddled us well out into the bay with a couple of planks that they found on board.
“We’re too much sheltered to get the breeze yet, you see,” Peter announced importantly; “that’s why we’ll have to help her get under way.”
“We ought to get into the breeze soon now,” stated Jack, who was all wet with perspiration already.
“Seems to me you might better have got into your old duds before this,” I said. “Look at your pants, Peter!”
“A'ou just remember that your baby’s at home,” he growled, and then he was sorry, for I called up a couple of good tears and let my eyes fill, and Peter grunted and got out of sight.
“I think if we were to change our clothes and eat supper, we’d be ready then when the breeze did come up,” said Jack, so they went into the cabin, and we went into the stamp-sized cookhouse and began to open bags and boxes.
Finally we decided on salmon salad with cold beans, bananas and cream and pop, and the boys sure did enjoy it, and by the time the dishes were done we were through the Gap and on our way.
“Isn’t this heavenly, Ruth?” asked Peter when the moon came up and found us lounging on the deck on cushions, with Jack at the tiller and Peter giving an occasional suggestion as to tacking.
“It’s perfect, dear,” I said, snuggling up to him, for now that a stiff east wind had come up, it was coolish.
npHE sails were full of wind, the boat rode on an almost 4even keel, and we seemed to be scudding through the water at a great lick.
“At this rate we ought to be off Bowmanville early tomorrow morning,” said Jack. “I suggest that we let her run until midnight then drop anchor until daybreak and run before the wind again.”
“I think myself, that would be the better course,” said
Peter. “Tack a bit to port, Jack, she’s listing.”
“Will she tip?” I screamed, as the boat took another sidewise dip.
“Sure, if you go nuts and lean the wrong way,” said Peter testily. “She’s righting herself now.”
“Gosh,” I breathed, “whenever I have a close shave like that,. L always think of the Bits left alone in the world. We really shouldn’t both do dangerous things together, Peter. It isn’t fair to the children.”
“If danger isn’t fair to them we ought to live apart about half the time,” he stated. “That’s the safest thing I know of.”
Midnight came all too soon, for it was delightful to feel the water shooting away from our prow and ourselves borne swiftly over its surface. It wasn’t smooth—in fact, there was a decided roll on, but I didn’t mind that (or thought I didn’t) until it was time to walk across the deck to the little stairway which led to the cabin. Even then, if Peter hadn’t delayed me, things might have been alright but he did and they weren’t.
“Ruth, grab the foot of that sail, dear,” he said.
“I don’t know its foot from its hand,” I protested.
“The foot is the lower edge, and I want you to hold it taut for a minute while I loosen this downhaul.”
“Nautical terms ’n everything!” I giggled. “Peter, I begin to feel sort of —uncertain.”
“My tummy and eyes aren’t in unison,” I said weakly.
”Ahah!” he said. “Methought the lady did consume too much. Ruth, just keep an eye on that mast.”
“Whaffor?” I asked, obeying him, and then “Oh, Peter, w-o-oop!” I gurgled, and made for the rail.
“Never knew it to fail,” said my husband, cheerily patting my shoulder.
“Never knew—what to—fail?” I asked, clinging to him weakly. “Oh, Peter, I wanna go home.”
“A'ou’ll feel like a fighting cock now,” he said. “Anyone who's feeling sick has only to look at the mast and their troubles will soon be over.”
“You mean you told me to look at it purposely?” I gasped, and when he nodded confirmation I picked up a belaying pin which lay near at hand.
“Put that up, Ruth,” he ordered.
“Not ’til I’ve wrapped it around you,” I said, swinging it.
The next thing I knew it had flown out of my hand, there was a shrill scream and a thud and Mary Raw*don measured her length on the deck.
“Merciful Heaven! A'ou’ve killed her!” cried Peter, and for the next ten minutes we were busy bringing her around and strapping adhesive over the cut on her head.
“Shades of Night,” I murmured disconsolately to myself. “It isn’t deep or serious, but I see where it lets her out of duty in the cookhouse all right, all right. A ou'll never know what hit you in the morning,” I told her brightly. “When it’s time to get breakfast you'll never even know you were a casualty.”
“A'ou utter idiot,” said Peter, -when we wTere alone. “First you almost kill her and then you assure her that she’s to be on the job same as though you couldn’t be behind the bars for attempted manslaughter. A ou get your dry goods off and compose yourself for slumber. I'll be down shortly.”
“If I was behind the bars I wouldn’t be expected to risk my life with that oil stove,” I muttered as I obeyed, but when Peter finally did come to bed I was asleep.
“Ruth,” he breathed several eons later, “it’s the most wonderful morning, dear. Let’s dress and get on deck before the others.”
WE TRIED to, but dressing in silence or privacy in that pill-box was like saying your -prayersJat a picnic, and before I wras half dressed, the Rawdons were awake and of the same mind.
“I can’t see just where we are. Do you recognize the shore line, Pete?” asked Jack.
“It looks familiar, but I can’t be sure,” said Peter. “We can tell when we get on deck.”
There was no difficulty about that part of it.
“Why, Peter?” I cried, when we went up with the Rawdons, and then I dissolved into spasms of giggles.
“You nuts,” I howled, “you nautical nuts! Don’t you know where we are? That’s Sunnyside! We’re still at Toronto!”
“Great Gollywogs, you’re right,” gasped Peter.
“We been goin’ backwards all night,” stated Jack flatly.
“But our sails were full of wind,” protested Peter. “Sure, and it was an east wind, and the sails must’ve filled and carried us full speed to the rear,” laughed Jack, who was a bit flushed looking and avoided Mary’s eye. “However, we had a nice sail and a good night, so there’s no harm done.”
“Just tell me, Jack, how much do you really know about a sailing yacht?” I asked in fun, and Peter gave me a nasty look.
“Why—er—that is—you see—”
“Exactly,” said Mary, “you and a sailing boat were just introduced last night for the first time.
Jack, you’re a fool.”
“He who calls his brother a fool, shall have his part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,” I quoted. “Peter, how much do you know about these little canvas carriers?”
“Me? Oh, I—you know when I was a lad . . .”
“Me for the warm lake, too, Mary,” I said.
“Let’s get breakfast while these musty mariners devise ways of getting us ashore or offshore, and I’ll bet a cootie the one problem is as big as the other.”
It was. By nightfall we were just through the Eastern Gap, and the boys were so tired out telling each other what to do that at half past ten they furled the sails, anchored for the night, and went to bed.
“I have an idea,” I advised the occupants of the cabin about midnight.
“Gosh, the party’s off to a flying start,” said Peter.
“Let’s hear it, Ruth,” said Mary.
“Suppose we let the sailing end of it go hang— you boys are just tired out trying to coax the wind into the place you think the sails ought to be—let’s go under our own steam and not bother with the dinky sails.”
There was dead silence.
“Well?” asked Mary, hopefully.
“Ditto,” I says.
“What do you mean, our own steam?” asked Jack faintly.
“The auxiliary engine,” I said.
“Oh!” said Jack, simply that, and nothing more. “Coupla more wells,” I said, tentatively.
“I don’t understand how you came to think— you know this boat hasn’t any engine in it,” stated Jack.
“Good Lord!” I yelled. “No engine? What in the name of sense did you bring us out into the middle of Lake Ontario for, without anything but four fools and some bedding?”
“This is the end,” said Mary. “No engine, no knowledge—no—”
“It’s false pretenses,” I said.
“Nothing’s happened yet,” said Peter, “and nothing will. We’ve got a seaworthy little craft, four life belts in case of emergency, lots of grub, and ...”
“Well,” I said, “there may be rocks in the cradle of the deep but I’m gonna trust we don’t hit ’em.
I’m gonna go to sleep.”
But I didn’t. Ten minutes later, when I sat up and looked out the port-hole, I could both see and smell fog, and that didn’t help me much.
“Peter, are our lights burning?” I asked, in a stage whisper.
“No—why?” he whispered back.
“There’s an awful fog,” I told him, “and I know that there are regulations about lights at the prow and stern. You’d better get up.”
“Say, Jack!” called Peter, softly.
“I heard, and the girl’s right,” said Jack. “We’d better get up and look to it, Pete my boy.”
E ALL got up.
“Bring your lif elt and come on, Mary,” I told her. “I have a hunch at danger is impending.”
“I wish to heaven I was home,” said Mary. “Just you wait. Jack won’t hear the last of this in a hurry.”
“Come softly,” I told her, and we sneaked up the companionway in time to hear Jack whisper:
“I don’t like the looks of this fog, Pete. Did you notice where we were anchored?”
“Couldn’t see. It was too dark,” said Peter. “We can’t be far from the mouth of the Gap, though.”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” said Jack softly. “A
boat coming in, if we were there, wouldn’t see us until it was right on us in this fog.”
“What we’d better do—” began Peter, and then my hunch came to life.
“Boooooommmmmm!” came a warning from above us.
“Migosh!” hollered Peter.
“Get clear of the boat,” I screamed, and hugging my belt to my midriffs, I took one flying leap over the edge and into the drink.
‘‘Booooooommmmmmm!” it came again as 1 reached the surface and realized that I still had the belt.
“If I should die before I wake,” I prayed.
“Ruth!" shrieked Peter’s voice.
Then there was another splash, something hit me and knocked my wind out and if it hadn’t been for the belt, I’d have been picking sea anemones with the baby crabs and their nurses.
“Go ’way! Don’t you clutch me!” I hollered, as Mary’s face shone out through the ghostly mist at my left. “Hang on to your belt and strike for the shore.”
“It must be on the rocks and signalling for help.” I gasped. “It don’t sound any nearer.”
“I’m going to cramp,” yelled Mary.
“If you do, it’ll be a gates ajar,” I hollered. “Keep your legs kicking.”
Just then there were t" • more splashes.
“Here!” I called.
“You silly darn fool,” rasped Peter, as he caught me. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“To shore,” I said.
“You’re on your way to Niagara now,” he informed
me. “Come back to the boat,” and he helped me turn around and then swam beside me.
“Mary,” I yelled.
“I got her,” called Jack, “but I think she’s fainted.” “S’all your fault,” hissed Peter at me.
“Jack said—and then that big boat whistled—and” “Big boat my eye,” said Jack. “That, Mrs. Ronald, is the fog horn on the Eastern Gap,” and at that moment the fog lifted, and for once in his life Peter was right. “How f-f-funny,” I said weakly.
“Yah. Hahahahah,” laughed Peter, hollowly.
“Well, you didn’t know it,” I said, defensively, as'he hauled me over the rail and helped lug Mary aboard. ‘And if it had been a boat bearing down on us, I did the right thing.”
“How’d you know you did?” taunted Jack. “You might’ve jumped right in her path. In a case like that the best thing to do is nothing.”
“How ingenious,” I said. “Better get some hooch for your wife, unless she’s dead of fright.”
CHE wasn’t though, and another hour found us ^ all in bed again, with Peter threatening to tie me up or reduce me to pulp before he let me concoct another idea that night.
“I think we’d better bring the blankets up on deck and let them air,” I suggested. “The fog got them awfully damp last night.”
Mary agreed and we lugged them up—heavy grey and blue and dun colored woollen blankets which had seen service in France and England. I was just about to try and rig up a line from the bow-sprit to the mast, when I saw a wire line all ready for me, and was proceeding to hang two blankets on it when Peter intervened.
“Get those blankets offa that forestay,” he yelled.
“Why?” I yelled back, above the wind.
“I don’t know why, but do it!” and when Peter speaks like that I obey.
“Stand by—” he hollered suddenly. “Look out Ruth, we’re going to tack—Look out for that boom I tell you, look . . . ”
I looked, but it was too late. I dropped the blankets and tried to duck, but the boom caught me and lifted me clear of the deck, and the next thing I knew I was half way through to China and still going strong.
When I came to the surface, it was to see Peter leaning over the edge watohing for me with worry in his eyes.
“I’ll get you for.that,” I screeched, shaking the water out of my eyes while Jack and Mary stood beside Peter and shook with laughs. “You wait!” “Come on in the boat and dry up,” said Peter, not worried now that he saw I was still alive and kicking. “You make me sicker all the time.”
“Then look at the mast,” I advised him. “Oh, Peter, help me in . . .”
Peter reached out a long arm for me, and I made as though I were stretching up for his hand—but I didn’t. I reached a little farther, where he was leaning down and over, and got a good grip on the front of his shirt.
“Hey—” he yelled, “you—glub—glub—glub—” and Peter sounded the depths too, for with one good yank I had him overboard and keeping company with me. Then I coolly clambered over the edge, shook myself with sufficient vigor to dampen both Mary and Jack, and then proceeded to knock Peter’s hands off the rail every time he got a hold. “You little devil you, let me on,” he spluttered. “Big devil—try to get on,” I countered, but after a while I got tired sparring and let him climb over the rail.
“Ruth—look where you threw those blankets!” exclaimed Mary in disgust and she rescued them from the bilge water compartment on our lovely liner.
“I didn’t throw them anywhere. I just dropped them when the boom hit me,” I explained. “You’d better jounce them out in clean water and spread them to dry. I’m gonna peel off.”
WE LUNCHED. Meals were the only moments when peace reigned. Both boys were equal in authority, and Mary and I were ditto, so we didn’t make much headway anyway. In fact, as far as I could make out, we were somewhere near Scarboro bluffs about 15 miles from the start, the evening of the third day out, but I was so tired and sleepy I didn’t wait until we’d anchored to go to bed.
Consequently it wasn’t until I realized that Peter was beside me that I took any note of the queer noise that was perpetually in my ears. Sort of a scraping and scratching sound.
“Peter,” I whispered, shaking him softly. “Peter, wake up.”
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“Good gosh, I ain’t only just got to sleep," he murmured fretfully.
“Shh! Shh!” I whispered. “What is t hat funny noise?”
Peter sat up and listened.
"Jack!” he called softly.
“Yah--” yawned the boat’s owner. “What’n in heck’s up now?”
“Shh! Shh!” cautioned Peter. ‘Listen!”
“Whatcha s’pose that is?” asked Jack. “Oh, my soul, I can’t stand much more of this,” moaned Mary.
“Shut up!” Jack told her. “Don’t make any noise.”
We didn’t. You could have heard all of our breathing apparatus and still that scraping, scratching sound went on.
“I can’t make it out,” whispered Peter. “Hark—” said Jack, and then to our terrified ears came the muffled sound of voices—deep-dyed villainous voices they sounded like to me.
“What the deuce have we got into now?” asked Peter.
“Well, evidently they don’t know we’re here anyway,” said Jack. “What say we sneak up and see what’s doing?”
The boys clambered out and we followed them.
“You stay here, Ruth,” said Peter.
“I won’t,” I defied him.
“Me, neither,” said Mary, more grimly than grammatically.
“If there should be any shooting—” began Peter.
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest,” I giggled. “I’m quick on the trigger, Peter. Gimme a gun.”
“I’d as soon sit on dynamite with my pants on fire,” he said coldly. “Come, then, if you must—but remember, not a sound!”—and with this warning we sneaked up the little stairs behind them, and so onto the dec’
T TP THERE v, could hear more distinctly. The grating sound was quite close to us, and was apparently the grating against the shore of the bow of some other boat, but the creaking sounds we heard had another cause. We could hear low-toned orders: “Now then, all
together!” and then the creak.
“Bootleggers, by cracky!” whispered Peter.
_ “Yo, ho! ho! and a bottle of rum!” I giggled hysterically.
“Can it,” said Peter. “If they hear us it’s all up.”
‘ What would they d-d-d-d-do?” quavered Mary.
‘Scuttle the ship after they’d murdered us,” I whispered ghoulishly, and Jack covered Mary’s mouth before her scream burbled forth.
“You idiot,” hissed Peter. “Keep quiet and pretend you’ve some sense.”
“Yes, papa,” I said obediently. “Peter, you don’t suppose they’ve killed somebody and are burying the body?” I asked, and Jack stopped Mary’s vocals again while Peter shook me until my teeth rattled.
“Use your head: this isn’t funny,” he told me.
“I can’t use it if you dizzy it,” I said aggrievedly. “What I wanta know is—■” and then it happened.
If Peter hadn’t shaken me and got my innards all riled up it wouldn’t have happened, hut he did it and what I gave vent to was a full-blooded, healthy, he-man sneeze, which echoed over the water like a morning gun.
“Sufferin’ Saints!” said Peter, and then we listened to the silence of our neighbors.
“You girls get below,” ordered Jack. “Peter, better get your automatic—we may need it.”
“A nice little auxiliary engine would'be handy now, wouldn’t it?” I enquired as I passed Peter, and he made a lunge at me but I dodged.
“ ’Sno use crying, Mary,” I told her. “Stop snuffling or we can’t hear what’s happening.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” she moaned. “I wish I was safely home.”
“Think of the fun you’d miss,” I rallied her. “They can’t sink us for, we’re too near shore to sink far. They may be just pleasure seekers like ourselves. At the worst they can only kill us and we all hafta die once.”
“If you don’t keep quiet I’ll go mad,” she said. “I don’t want to die.”
“Neither do I, but we may have to. I’m going to get on my best clothes and do my hair and maybe I can vamp them,” I said, picking up the suit case. “If the worst comes to the worst, I will go out like a lady. I never fancied dying in a flannelette nightie, but Peter made me bring them. I want to die with my boots on, and—what’s this?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” wailed Mary. “I wish I could hear something.”
“This feels funny,” I said, and locating the electric flash I found myself gazing at a long, narrow, round thing—for all the world like a Roman candle. “It’s a Verey light,” I gasped, “and—and here’s the pistol thing you shoot it with. Peter must have packed them in the bottom of his dunnage bag in case of an emergency—a disaster at sea, or something—•” “Will you stop talking like that,” said Mary. “I’m half scared out of my wits now and—
“But Mary, this is an adventure— can’t you see?!’ I asked.
“I didn’t want it,” she wailed. “All I wanted was a peaceful sail and I’m not getting it.”
“This may come in useful,” I remarked, loading the light into the place made for if. “In case these smugglers, or bootleggers, or whatever kind of desperadoes they are, get saucy, this would bring us help.”
Peter slipped into the room.
“We can’t make out their game at all,” he said. “There hasn’t been a sound since Ruth sneezed, but what we’re afraid of is that they may sneak up on us and overpower us. They’d stop at nothing if they thought we were a revenue cutter, and we look like one— not displaying any lights or anything.” “Did you boobs forget the lights again?” I asked.
Peter nodded dumbly and then at Jack’s “ Hist!” he left us again.
“I think the time has come for us to take a hand,” I decreed.
“I’m going to sneak up on deck; you’ve got to come too, Mary, and I’m going to shoot this thing off. It’ll show us what we’re up against. You put on Bob’s trousers there, Mary, and I’ll put on Peter’s spare slacks, so that if it lights us up, too, they’ll think there are at least four men aboard. At least this will make them show their hand.”
“Hadn’t we better ask the boys?” she shivered.
“No—by the time they have a conference on it it may be too late to help us,” I said, and we went softly up, with the pistol thing ready for use.
“How do you know how to do it?” asked Mary.
“Peter showed me just after he came home from overseas, and I remember perfectly,” I said. “Don’t you worry. Pokey’s on the engine!”
“Why didn’t you stay down?” asked Jack. “We’ve enough to think about without worrying about you two girls.” “When danger threatened our mariner husbands ’twas there by our sides!” I quoted.
“We’ve made up our minds they’re rum runners,” stated Peter, “and we must be somewhere near the Scarboro Bluffs. I remember hearing a while ago that they had a cache somewhere near here, and it looks as though we’ve run into it. What bothers me is that if there is a revenue cutter out, they may take us for the bootlegging bunch and let the real ones get away. I wish I could think of a way to break up this party.”
I nudged Mary, and tip-toeing off to the aft so that if the darn thing kicked or back-fired we wouldn’t all go to glory, I lifted my arm pointed toward shore and let ’er go.
THERE was a spit of flame, a roar and then the green light shot up and out, and showed, as clear as daylight, a small boat nosed up on the sandy shore, with four men transfixed at the bow and on the beach a dozen or so of cases.
“Drop!” yelled Peter. “Flat down everybody,” and he and Jack flopped while Mary toppled over in a lady-like faint, and dropping the gun I dropped too.
“Who in—what the—why?” gurgled Peter. “Ruth! Did you do that?”
“Sure, I thought I’d give you the lay •of the enemies’ land, dear,” I said brightly.
“Wait,” he said. “Just wait. Lord, Jack, how much did you see?”
“Enough,” said Jack. “I saw a boat
about like ours and four men. I--”
“I saw some cases,” I whispered. “There’ll be another gang hanging around to store the stuff,” said Peter, “and Ruth’s funny work will give us two crowds to handle instead of one. I’d like to place a little bet that yoii’ll be using your life belt as an air cushion tomorrow, Mrs. Ronald, if we live to see the day. Listen!”
“Didn’t I do right, Peter?” I wailed. “I didn’t think — ”
“That’s your main trouble, that and not having anything to think with,” he said cruelly. “I said to listen.”
“Get out your automatic, Peter, they’re pushing off,” said Jack grimly. “Down you go, girls.”
“I won’t,” I said. “I’m going to stay here and help me lord and marster. Gimme a blunderbuss.”
“You’re it,” said Peter. “Jack, if they try t o come aboard—”
“Ship ahoy, there!” sang out a voice on our port side.
“Ahoy!” echoed Jack shakily.
“Mary, you come with me,” I said softly. “Peter, don’t let them know we’re aboard if you can help it,” and taking Mary by her clammy hand I led the way softly to the cookhouse. “Get into that hamper, quick!” I told her, and helped her to obey.
“What’re you going to do?” she quavered.
“I promise I won’t leave you,” I said. “Now, whatever you do, don’t make a sound.”
The door opened in, and missed going right back by touching as it swung in, the edge of a dinky little refrigerator. On the wall beside the refrigerator were two or three hooks, and from one of these hung Jack’s slicker. It was the work of a moment to hang the slicker on a lower peg, get under the shelter of its folds, and then wedge the door open so that it would look as though there were nothing to conceal.
“Who are you?” I heard a gruff voice ask.
“The Iliad—we’re just cruising toward Port Hope and anchored here for the night,” said Jack. “Who are you?” “None of your brimstone business,” came the rough answer. “What was the meaning of that flare you sent up? Hey?” “Gosh! I did it again,” I whispered to Mary.
“We anchored here about an hour ago, maybe more, when it was dark. Just now we wakened and heard a scraping—I guess it was your boat—but we thought our anchor had lifted and we were aground, or that our bow-sprit was scraping the bluff—didn’t know what—” said Peter, “and we sent up the flare to get our bearings.”
“Sounds fine,” jeered the voice. “Pretty story. ’Spose you’ve no connection with any revenue nutters or anything like that?”
“Certainly not,” said Jack..
“Then you won’t mind coming ashore with us until we’ve finished the little job we’ve got on hand,” said the gruff voice. “If your story’s true, and we aren’t interrupted, you can board your boat when we’ve done, but if that was a signal— well it’ll be the last one you’ll ever send.” “Mary—don’t you make a sound,” I warned her. “We’ll save our mates.” There were steps on the deck—the cabin door opened—then the steps came to the cookhouse door and a light flashed around it. We heard Peter and Jack protesting, heard the others’ sardonic laughter and listened while Peter and Jack went over the side of our boat. Then, except for the sound of the other one grounding again a few minutes later, there was silence until the creaking re-commenced.
“What’ll we do?” whispered Mary. “Stay here till we’re sure they didn’t leave anyone on the boat,” I said, and we didn’t move for ten minutes. Then we sat on the hamper for perhaps half an hour, thinking, and I’m here to say I didn’t feel as chipper as I let on.
“We might sneak up on deck now and see if we can make out anything more,” I suggested, for I feared that Mary was going to get hysterical.
So we went. And when we did, we got the worst shock of our lives.
We were adrift!
There was no doubt of it. The Continued on page 80
Continued from page 77 scraping sound was not to be heard, but beneath us we could hear the sound of the water as we cut through it. We were going somewhere and going there fast but our destination was unknown.
“That man lifted the anchor,” I gasped.
“What’s the matter?” whispered Mary fearfully.
“Nothing, except that we’re adrift,” I said calmly. “That rum-runner cut our anchor rope or whatever you anchor with—and we’re going somewhere fast.”
“Where?” cried Mary.
“Quien sabe?” I said. “Now, Mary, there’s no use crying—”
“They’ll kill our husbands,” she wailed.
“I’m not worrying about them,” I said. “They got us into it—they can get themselves out. I’m worrying about us. There wasn’t any wind when we decided to anchor for the night and the lazy lubbers left the sails up. Now, there’s a fine old breeze and we don’t know what to do with the flying sheets.”
“We may hit a rock,” said Mary.
“Well, if we do—grab it,” I advised her. “I wish I could see something, but I’m scared to send up another light for fear they’ll polish off Peter and Jack.”
“What’ll we do?” asked Mary.
“Sit on deck and hug a life belt,” I said. “ ’Sno use fooling with the sails— I don’t know the jib from the tack.”
So we sat. It couldn’t have been long, but it seemed ages as we sat there with fears for a family.
“Ruth—don’t you hear something?” whispered Mary fearfully sometime later.
“Yes—” I said, for surely there was a soft chug-chug-chug sounding near us.
“They may hit us!” shrieked Mary.
“Not while my lungs last,” I said. “You get that Verey light pistol thing and have it ready and get a weapon for yourself,” and then making a megaphone of my hands I yelled “Ahoy!” at the top of my lungs in all four directions.
“Ahoy!” came the answer back.
“Saved!” I cried.
“Unless they’re more bootleggers,” said Mary.
“You’re a little Sunshine Sister, aren’t you?” I said angrily. “You give me a pain.”
“Ahoy,” came the call again.
“Ahoy yourself,” I yelled, and then a searchlight picked us out, and the other boat was almost on top of us, and Mary hollered and would have jumped in the drink if I hadn’t tripped her and sent her sprawling. They kept the light on us and turned off the power, and in about ten seconds they hit us.
“We’re lost,” yelled Mary.
“We’re found, you pin-head,” I told her. And then I called out and asked the men who they were.
“I’ve got you covered,” I said.
“Put up that gun, we’re Government Marine looking for rum-runners. Who are you?” they asked.
“Me? I’m Mrs. Peter Ronald,” I said primly; “meet my friend, Mrs. Rawdon.”
“What are you doing out here this time of night?” asked the man.
“Chasing butterflies,” I said flippantly, fulla pep now that we were rescued. “You see, he cut our anchor line, and the sails were up and we didn’t know how to get them down, and we didn’t dare send up a signal because—oh yes! You’re after rum-runners,” I suddenly remembered. “Well, they’ve got our husbands,” and I told him the whole story.
“Will they kill them, do you think?” pleaded Mary.
“No, they’ll finish the unloading and leave your men where they are, likely. How far have you come and in what direction?”
“Very far, and straight from the rear,” I said, “but our husbands said we were off Scarboro Bluffs when we anchored last night.”
“I guess we know where the gang are,” said the nice man. “Will you take a tow or come aboard?”
“We’ll come aboard,” I decided, and we did and after they reefed we chugged off again.
“They told the boys they’d kill them if they found they’d signalled, so go easy,” I said, for I wanted to 'tend to Peter myself."
Pretty soon they turned off the power and we all listened.
“Here they come!" cried one of the
men in a few minutes, and sure enough, we could hear the muffled throb of an engine.
The rest happened too quickly for me to take it all in. Mary and I were ordered to lie down behind some sort of a barricade they had—our searchlight picked the boat out as neat as you please not fifty feet from us, but were they surrendering? They were not. They made for the middle of the lake and ignored the shots which our men were firing and it looked as though they were going to get away, too, for they were gaining on us when suddenly I had an inspiration.
I still had the funny pistol with me, and I stood up. The men weren’t paying any attention to me and I aimed low, but for that boat, and pulled the dingwalliger—and say!
I did it. How I’ll never know. But that flare lit up, and then it scooted across the space between us and fell on the deck, and maybe there wasn’í a monkey and a parrot show there then.
“We’re sunk,” yelled a gruff voice.
“Fire aboard,” yelled another.
And—in their confusion we crept up and nabbed ’em.
I was wild with excitement, and it made me mad that Mary’d pulled another faint just at the crucial moment.
“Well, young lady, I don’t know, or where, or why, but you certainly pulled the trick,” laughed the official in charge when they had their men fast. “Now we’d better go and pick up those husbands of yours. If our information is right, they can’t be far off.”
They weren’t either, but they were sore when we picked them up.
The bootleggers had made them help unload and store the stuff and then had left them on the beach.
“What the Sam Hill did you mean by sailing off like that?” said Peter when the official told about meeting us on the high seas.
“Oh, stow it,” I said rudely. “Your gentlemen friends cut the anchor-rope, and you and Jack had left the sails up. An off shore breeze did the rest.”
“My hat!” said Peter.
“If you feel like you ought to feel, it’ll be several sizes too big for you,” I told him. “Getting us into a mess like this.”
“If you’d left those Verey lights alone
“If I had, we’d still be chasing the rum-hounds, and you’d be getting lumbago on the beach,” I said. “Just cool off.”
“Do you want to continue your cruise or would you like a tow—” asked the government man.
“We would—back home,” cried Mary and I. “We’ve had bilge soup, bum sailors, and-—•—” I added.
“ ’Snuff,” said Peter. “I’m ready to go too. How about you, Jack?” Jack looked at Mary and that settled it. We went behind the government boat and for the next three hours I didn’t even think it worth while to tell Peter off, I was so full of sleep.
They took us as far as the Gap and then cast off the tow-lines.
“You’ll hear from me soon, Mrs. Ronald,” called the captain of the revenue cutter, smiling.
“I’ll punch his head,” said Peter belligerently.
“I’ll punch yours,” I retorted. “They’ve got to get in touch with me about the reward.”
“Reward?” says Peter.
“Same,” says I. “Shut your mouth., dear—I’ve heard of flying fishes.”
“B-b-b-b-but—” he stuttered.
“Exactly,” I said. “It was my firing of the Verey light that did the trick. Now bring on your reproofs.”
But he didn’t, and in silence we completed our cruise and landed at the foot of Bathurst Street.
Jack and Mary collected their stuff and taxied off while Feter was still fooling around.
“Aren’t you ready yet?” I called in exasperation. “Talk about women keeping men waiting—”
“Stow it!” said Peter.
“That's what the rum-runners made you do,” I gibed. “Say Peter who 11 get that hooch?”
Peter winked long and knowingly, and for the first time 1 noticed that he was carrying his slicker himself—and handling it with care.