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Since September, Jack Mallory had looked the duck-blinds. The marshes at the mouth over the oyster-beds with real interest each of the river are fairly alive with ducks in the morning when he arose. The melon crop winter, and the city men waxed eloquent for two years had been a failure and a loss. over their sport. Judge Hundley declared The season before, an epidemic of "green gills," which has no effect upon the oyster's flavor or wholesomeness, but which makes it utterly unsaleable, had swept over the Fiddler's Hill beds and not an oyster had been sold. Jack would finish high school in the spring, and he wanted to go to college in the autumn. Whether his wish was to be realized depended upon whether or not the oyster crop was a success. He already knew that there were green gills, and the lack of tonging the year before had allowed the oysters to attain another year's growth. The only things to be feared were markets and pirates. Neither had shown any dangerous symptoms until Christmas.
Shortly after Christmas, reports came from Mobjack Bay of swept oyster-beds. At the first report, Colonel Mallory warned his guards to be on the lookout. In January, word came from the mouth of the York that a pirate raid had been made and beds
“JACK MADE A PERSONAL APPEAL TO EACH OF THE GUARDS" had been swept clean. Word also came that the pirates sailed a he found it hard to say which was the better, powered skip-jack. Jack made a personal the sport in the marsh or the dinner which appeal to each of the guards, and spent one evening brought. Mr. Calvin and Mr. Ross night with Joe Deal, their captain, in order to were just as enthusiastic. The four visitors impress upon him the importance of keeping were all middle-aged men who were held a close watch.
closely in their offices by business, and the In February, Corbin Mallory, Colonel outing almost made them boys again. Mallory's nephew, came down from Rich On the Saturday after the visitors arrived, mond with three friends for a day or two in it was arranged for Jack to sail a “bug-eye,”
a two-masted sailing-vessel, loaded with and inside the stakes which marked off the barrels of oysters, to Gloucester Point for oyster-bed3. shipment on the early morning boat. In Jack knew instinctively that the pirates order to save trouble, it was decided that he had come, even if he had not noticed the pile was to unload the oysters at the wharf and of glistening oysters on deck. He saw at a then continue down to the duck-blinds. glance, by the rate at which the skip-jack
The wind, which had blown half a gale all was moving, that the dredge was out and night, was dying down when Jack started to was holding back the vessel. He realized, get ready to sail the next morning. The however, that both the bug-eye and the flying spray had frozen as it fell, and it took cunners of the guards would never catch the a good hour to get the sails up. The first skip-jack, once the dredge was hauled in. streaks of dawn were just visible when he He formed his plan without hesitation. started to the house to call the hunters, who The skip-jack, if kept on her course, would were waiting before a fire for him to get the travel in a line parallel with the long tack of bug-eye ready for the trip. As he walked the bug-eye. With the dredge out, the bugover the brow of the hill, there came sudden eye could keep up with the skip-jack, and lull in the wind, and Jack thought he heard the cunners of the guards would be able to a splash as of a heavy body falling into the overhaul her. Jack's problem was to prewater beyond the marsh. There was no vent the pirates from hauling in the dredge. repetition of the sound, however, and he "Cousin Corbin," called Jack, excitedly, called the hunters.
“get your guns ready, quick! There 's an Had Jack but realized the significance of oyster-pirate coming out of the beds now, that splash, he would have acted differently; loaded down. We've got to hold him until for it was caused by the throwing overboard Joe Deal and the other guards come." of a heavy dredge from the deck of the pirate “What?" Mr. Mallory appeared at a skip-jack which had been dredging the loss. “Pirates? Will they resist?” Fiddler's Hill oyster-beds since midnight. “Certainly they 'll resist," answered Jack. While Jack had been getting the bug-eye "Every one of them is armed and will cerready, the skip-jack had been less than half tainly shoot if we try to stop them. But a mile from him at the eastern edge of the we've got to stop them." beds. The pirates were starting their last "How?” asked all four hunters, who by haul when Jack heard the splash.
this time had crowded about the tiller which All night the skip-jack had been dredging Jack held. under sail. The pirates knew that as soon “We won't make any move," answered as the guards heard the exhaust of the engine Jack, “until we get within a hundred yards they would investigate. In the dark the of the skip-jack. By that time they will be vessel could work under sail without sound. ready to pull in the dredge. Then you-all The last dredge, however, they had planned open up with your guns and see if you can't to finish with the engine. The skip-jack drive them below. If we can hold them under power was fast enough, even with the below so that they can't haul in the dredge, heavy load of oysters, to distance the power the guards can catch them, or the skip-jack cunners. Therefore they had planned to will keep her course and run aground near sail up the river until the dredge was half Yorktown." full, then turn and, under power, dredge to It may be well to explain, in case the the eastern end of the beds, raise the dredge, reader is not familiar with small boats, that and get away before the cunners could get a bug-eye and a skip-jack are practically started.
the same, except that the cabin of a bugDay was just coming in earnest when Jack eye is at the stern and the cabin of a skipsailed the bug-eye out of Fiddler's Creek jack is forward. If the pirates were driven into the river at the eastern end of the oyster below, they would have to leave the wheel beds. Just before he rounded the point and untended and the vessel would maintain the made ready for the long tack which would course set. carry him nearly across the river and half The sun was just visible on the horizon way to Gloucester Point, he heard the and the four pirates were making ready to staccato pop-pop-pop of a gasolene engine. haul in the dredge when the bug-eye came A minute later, straining his eyes through within gunshot range. At one hundred the half-light, he made out a skip-jack bear yards, number-four shot will hardly kill a ing down past the last of the guard houses man, but will pepper him badly. Jack saw
that there was no time to lose. The pirates "Shoot at the windows!” cried Jack. were suspicious of the bug-eye and made all “Keep it up!" haste in hauling in the dredge.
Beyond the headland, where the wind had The boy had rolled two barrels of oysters a fair sweep, the rough water was more of a as a barrier between him and the skip-jack. drawback to the skip-jack than to the bug
Each of the hunters was crouched behind
eye. The untended sails of the former were barrels and their guns projected between. not drawing properly, and the vessel fell off
“All ready,” called Jack. “Shoot for perceptibly. their legs!"
The four hunters, with ammunition enough As he spoke he threw the tiller over to for a day's ducking, kept up an almost conbring the bug-eye broadside to the skip-jack, tinuous bombardment, and the pirates, havand the negro sailor hauled in the sheets for ing a taste of number-four shot, remained the long tack.
below. Four rifles, however, answered the The four duck-guns roared forth a salute, bombardment, and Jack, upon whom the and the four pirates yelled with pain as the course of the bug-eye depended, was the pellets peppered their legs. They dropped target. Two bullets had "smacked" against the hawsers attached to the dredge and for the tiller within a foot of his hand, and half a moment stood undecided what to do. A a dozen had crashed into the barrels of second roar, as the second barrels of the duck oysters, one of them so close that his face had guns were discharged, and the pirates made a been spattered with oyster-shell and juice. dash for the shelter of the cabin.
Only one hand and forearm, however, was "Stick behind your barrels,” called Jack, exposed and, in the heavy sea that was "and shoot at anything that shows!"
running, they made a poor mark. A moment later, there came a crack from Before the vessels had traveled half a the little window in the skip-jack's cabin and mile, Jack's straining ears caught the sound a Winchester bullet smashed into the barrel of the power cunners of the guards far bebehind which Jack was crouched.
hind him. Peeping over the edge of an
oyster-barrel, he saw the five of them, "Shoot one at a time," he called. strung out in a long line, led by the big white "Aye, aye, Captain!" chuckled Judge launch of Joe Deal, their captain, coming Hundley, behind his barrels. “I was just under all power. The guards had been wondering how long I could keep up this
firing -at - will before the gun became redhot."
A second later, Jack felt as though someone had smashed him across the wrist with a stick. A soft big-caliber bullet had crushed through his forearm, smashing the bone. The heavy tiller slipped through his nerveless hand, and the bug-eye began to come up into the wind.
Clenching his teeth to keep back a cry of pain, Jack snatched at the tiller with his other hand and threw his weight against it. The heavy boat came slowly back into its course, and the bombardment continued as before. None of the hunters had seen what had happened.
The blood gushed out of the wound in bright red jets, and Jack knew that it would have to be tied up at once.
“Jim,” he called to the sailor, “come aft. Quick!"
The negro crawled
on hands and knees que
behind a line of oysterbarrels. A moment
later, a rough bandage "'YOU ARE A GAME LAD, AND I SHALL SO REPORT TO THE AUTHORITIES'”
had been tied around
the arm; and although roused by the bombardment and knew it throbbed fiercely, the flow of blood was exactly what had happened.
stopped. Jim had to crawl back to handle Three miles ahead lay Yorktown, and the sails, and Jack was again left alone to Jack began to wonder whether Joe Deal and steer the boat. the guards would catch them before they He felt weak and sick and was horribly reached there. Whether they did or not, afraid that he would faint. He clutched the he knew that as long as the pirates were kept tiller with all his strength and prayed for in the cabin they were beaten. He won- speed for the cunners and Joe Deal. The dered if the hunters had shells enough. guards, he could see, were still far behind.
He wondered hazily whether they would ever boat. The old bay-man's gray eyes twinkled.
“That 's right, old man,” he said, “come A loud “Boom!” drew his attention from up smiling. You are a game lad, and I shall the pursuing cunners. Dead ahead he saw so report to the authorities. And
you a low, rakish steamer, armed with a swivel the reward that 's been offered for these gun forward and crowded with men. He pirates, for you captured them. If you immediately recognized the vessel as the Vir had n't held them as you did, they would ginia patrol-boat, and a great relief came to have slipped past me without my knowing him. Whether the cunners caught up or who they were." not, the pirates were safely caught.
Jack's heart pounded so hard at these "Hey!" he called to the bombarders, words that he was afraid the others would “cease firing. It's all right.” Then he hear it. A sob came up in his throat, and rolled forward on the deck.
he swallowed hard to keep back the tears. When Jack Mallory came to himself he It would n't do to cry, so he looked down at heard Corbin Mallory talking.
his arm, which was throbbing again. “One of the finest ngs I ever saw!" he "I expect we had better get this attended was saying. "The boy just took charge and to,” he said, with all the composure he could planned his own way. I believe we should command. have captured them, anyway, if the shells The men smiled. They could see that he had held out. But that boy never wavered. was making a tremendous effort to keep his We did n't even know he was hit until he self-control. Judge Hundley patted him on fainted.”
the shoulder and, as if it were premeditated, Jack opened his eyes and looked straight said in chorus with the others: into the face of the captain of the patrol “Aye, aye, Captain Mallory!"
By BREWER CORCORAN
THROUGHOUT the year, Phyllis Webster had erations to live up to, and not only the girls, done her best. But her best had never been but the older teachers, expected much of her, quite good enough. She had tried for the and she herself demanded more. hocky team in the fall; under her leadership, She was wondering, as she came out of the the “Scrub” had given the Manor the hard, dining-hall, what her next disappointment fast practice it had needed to win its big would be-probably failure to be chosen one game. She might have had a chance at of the six junior ushers for commencement. basket-ball had not the seven all been vet But then she laughed softly. Of course erans. But that had not kept her off the that honor would not come to her. Why floor throughout the winter, even though all should it? She had done about as much to her baskets had been scored for the Second. merit it as she had to have Mabel Trafford She had tried for “The Manor News,” had hand on to her the tattered old Manor flag, worked hard as a member of the junior symbol of office of “Head Girl.” dance-committee, and twice she had almost "What's the joke, Phil?" demanded Alice led her class in term standing, but never had Storm, slipping an arm around her waist. she succeeded in reaching her goal.
"I need to laugh after the spectacle I made It hurt. None of the hundred and fifty of myself in English." girls at the Manor dreamed how it hurt. "That was funny,” owned Phil. "Bacon Phyllis had come to the famous school under might have written "Twelfth Night,' but no unusual circumstances. Her mother had one in the world but you would ever have been “Head Girl” in her day, and her grand- guessed Defoe did. You can't blame Miss mother had been in the Manor's first class. Weeks for nearly having a fit, Allie.” Phyllis was the first granddaughter in the “Who 's trying to? She can have two school. She had the traditions of two gen fits without my blaming her a single blame.