The Cruise of the Dazzler
Part 2 out of 3
disliking 'Frisco Kid; but, while he felt shame at his own weakness, he
could not smother the warm regard which he felt growing up for this
particular bay pirate.
"Take in two or three feet on the skiff's painter," commanded 'Frisco Kid,
who had an eye for everything.
The skiff was towing with too long a painter, and was behaving very badly.
Every once in a while it would hold back till the tow-rope tautened, then
come leaping ahead and sheering and dropping slack till it threatened to
shove its nose under the huge whitecaps which roared so hungrily on every
hand. Joe climbed over the cockpit-rail to the slippery after-deck, and
made his way to the bitt to which the skiff was fastened.
"Be careful," 'Frisco Kid warned, as a heavy puff struck the _Dazzler_
and careened her dangerously over on her side. "Keep one turn round the
bitt, and heave in on it when the painter slacks."
It was ticklish work for a greenhorn. Joe threw off all the turns save
the last, which he held with one hand, while with the other he attempted
to bring in on the painter. But at that instant it tightened with a
tremendous jerk, the boat sheering sharply into the crest of a heavy
sea. The rope slipped from his hands and began to fly out over the stern.
He clutched it frantically, and was dragged after it over the sloping deck.
"Let her go! Let her go!" 'Frisco Kid shouted.
Joe let go just as he was on the verge of going overboard, and the skiff
dropped rapidly astern. He glanced in a shamefaced way at his companion,
expecting to be sharply reprimanded for his awkwardness. But 'Frisco Kid
"That 's all right," he said. "No bones broke and nobody overboard.
Better to lose a boat than a man any day; that 's what I say. Besides,
I should n't have sent you out there. And there 's no harm done. We can
pick it up all right. Go in and drop some more centerboard,--a couple of
feet,--and then come out and do what I tell you. But don't be in a hurry.
Take it easy and sure."
Joe dropped the centerboard and returned, to be stationed at the jib-sheet.
"Hard a-lee!" 'Frisco Kid cried, throwing the tiller down, and following
it with his body. "Cast off! That 's right. Now lend a hand on the
Together, hand over hand, they came in on the reefed mainsail. Joe began
to warm up with the work. The _Dazzler_ turned on her heel like a
race-horse, and swept into the wind, her canvas snarling and her sheets
slatting like hail.
"Draw down the jib-sheet!"
Joe obeyed, and, the head-sail filling, forced her off on the other tack.
This manoeuver had turned French Pete's bunk from the lee to the weather
side, and rolled him out on the cabin floor, where he lay in a drunken
'Frisco Kid, with his back against the tiller and holding the sloop off
that it might cover their previous course, looked at him with an expression
of disgust, and muttered: "The dog! We could well go to the bottom, for
all he 'd care or do!"
Twice they tacked, trying to go over the same ground; and then Joe
discovered the skiff bobbing to windward in the star-lit darkness.
"Plenty of time," 'Frisco Kid cautioned, shooting the _Dazzler_ into the
wind toward it and gradually losing headway. "Now!"
Joe leaned over the side, grasped the trailing painter, and made it fast
to the bitt. Then they tacked ship again and started on their way. Joe
still felt ashamed for the trouble he had caused; but 'Frisco Kid quickly
put him at ease.
"Oh, that 's nothing," he said. "Everybody does that when they 're
beginning. Now some men forget all about the trouble they had in
learning, and get mad when a greeny makes a mistake. I never do. Why,
And then he told Joe of many of the mishaps which fell to him when, as
a little lad, he first went on the water, and of some of the severe
punishments for the same which were measured out to him. He had passed
the running end of a lanyard over the tiller-neck, and as they talked
they sat side by side and close against each other in the shelter of
"What place is that?" Joe asked, as they flew by a lighthouse blinking
from a rocky headland.
"Goat Island. They 've got a naval training station for boys over on
the other side, and a torpedo-magazine. There 's jolly good fishing,
too--rock-cod. We 'll pass to the lee of it, and make across, and
anchor in the shelter of Angel Island. There 's a quarantine station
there. Then when French Pete gets sober we 'll know where he wants to
go. You can turn in now and get some sleep. I can manage all right."
Joe shook his head. There had been too much excitement for him to feel
in the least like sleeping. He could not bear to think of it with the
_Dazzler_ leaping and surging along and shattering the seas into clouds
of spray on her weather bow. His clothes had half dried already, and he
preferred to stay on deck and enjoy it.
The lights of Oakland had dwindled till they made only a hazy flare
against the sky; but to the south the San Francisco lights, topping
hills and sinking into valleys, stretched miles upon miles. Starting
from the great ferry building, and passing on to Telegraph Hill, Joe
was soon able to locate the principal places of the city. Somewhere
over in that maze of light and shadow was the home of his father, and
perhaps even now they were thinking and worrying about him; and over
there Bessie was sleeping cozily, to wake up in the morning and wonder
why her brother Joe did not come down to breakfast. Joe shivered. It
was almost morning. Then slowly his head dropped over on 'Frisco Kid's
shoulder and he was fast asleep.
CAPTAIN AND CREW
"Come! Wake up! We 're going into anchor."
Joe roused with a start, bewildered at the unusual scene; for sleep had
banished his troubles for the time being, and he knew not where he was.
Then he remembered. The wind had dropped with the night. Beyond, the
heavy after-sea was still rolling; but the _Dazzler_ was creeping up in
the shelter of a rocky island. The sky was clear, and the air had the
snap and vigor of early morning about it. The rippling water was laughing
in the rays of the sun just shouldering above the eastern sky-line. To
the south lay Alcatraz Island, and from its gun-crowned heights a flourish
of trumpets saluted the day. In the west the Golden Gate yawned between
the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. A full-rigged ship, with her
lightest canvas, even to the sky-sails, set, was coming slowly in on the
It was a pretty sight. Joe rubbed the sleep from his eyes and drank in
the glory of it till 'Frisco Kid told him to go for'ard and make ready
for dropping the anchor.
"Overhaul about fifty fathoms of chain," he ordered, "and then stand by."
He eased the sloop gently into the wind, at the same time casting off
the jib-sheet. "Let go the jib-halyards and come in on the downhaul!"
Joe had seen the manoeuver performed the previous night, and so was able
to carry it out with fair success.
"Now! Over with the mud-hook! Watch out for turns! Lively, now!"
The chain flew out with startling rapidity and brought the _Dazzler_
to rest. 'Frisco Kid went for'ard to help, and together they lowered
the mainsail, furled it in shipshape manner and made all fast with the
gaskets, and put the crutches under the main-boom.
"Here 's a bucket," said 'Frisco Kid, as he passed him the article in
question. "Wash down the decks, and don't be afraid of the water, nor
of the dirt either. Here 's a broom. Give it what for, and have everything
shining. When you get that done bail out the skiff. She opened her seams
a little last night. I 'm going below to cook breakfast."
The water was soon slushing merrily over the deck, while the smoke pouring
from the cabin stove carried a promise of good things to come. Time and
again Joe lifted his head from his task to take in the scene. It was one
to appeal to any healthy boy, and he was no exception. The romance of it
stirred him strangely, and his happiness would have been complete could
he have escaped remembering who and what his companions were. The thought
of this, and of French Pete in his bleary sleep below, marred the beauty
of the day. He had been unused to such things and was shocked at the harsh
reality of life. But instead of hurting him, as it might a lad of weaker
nature, it had the opposite effect. It strengthened his desire to be clean
and strong, and to not be ashamed of himself in his own eyes. He glanced
about him and sighed. Why could not men be honest and true? It seemed too
bad that he must go away and leave all this; but the events of the night
were strong upon him, and he knew that in order to be true to himself
he must escape.
At this juncture he was called to breakfast. He discovered that 'Frisco
Kid was as good a cook as he was a sailor, and made haste to do justice
to the fare. There were mush and condensed milk, beefsteak and fried
potatoes, and all topped off with good French bread, butter, and coffee.
French Pete did not join them, though 'Frisco Kid attempted a couple of
times to rouse him. He mumbled and grunted, half opened his bleared eyes,
then fell to snoring again.
"Can't tell when he 's going to get those spells," 'Frisco Kid explained,
when Joe, having finished washing dishes, came on deck. "Sometimes he
won't get that way for a month, and others he won't be decent for a
week at a stretch. Sometimes he 's good-natured, and sometimes he 's
dangerous; so the best thing to do is to let him alone and keep out of
his way; and don't cross him, for if you do there 's liable to be trouble.
"Come on; let 's take a swim," he added, abruptly changing the subject
to one more agreeable. "Can you swim?"
"What 's that place?" he asked, as he poised before diving, pointing toward
a sheltered beach on the island where there were several buildings and a
large number of tents.
"Quarantine station. Lots of smallpox coming in now on the China steamers,
and they make them go there till the doctors say they 're safe to land. I
tell you, they 're strict about it, too. Why--"
Splash! Had 'Frisco Kid finished his sentence just then, instead of diving
overboard, much trouble might have been saved to Joe. But he did not finish
it, and Joe dived after him.
"I 'll tell you what," 'Frisco Kid suggested half an hour later, while they
clung to the bobstay preparatory to climbing out. "Let 's catch a mess of
fish for dinner, and then turn in and make up for the sleep we lost last
night. What d' you say?"
They made a race to clamber aboard, but Joe was shoved over the side again.
When he finally did arrive, the other lad had brought to light a pair of
heavily leaded, large-hooked lines and a mackerel-keg of salt sardines.
"Bait," he said. "Just shove a whole one on. They 're not a bit partic'lar.
Swallow the bait, hook and all, and go--that 's their caper. The fellow
that does n't catch the first fish has to clean 'em."
Both sinkers started on their long descent together, and seventy feet of
line whizzed out before they came to rest. But at the instant his sinker
touched the bottom Joe felt the struggling jerks of a hooked fish. As
he began to haul in he glanced at 'Frisco Kid and saw that he too had
evidently captured a finny prize. The race between them was exciting.
Hand over hand the wet lines flashed inboard. But 'Frisco Kid was more
expert, and his fish tumbled into the cockpit first. Joe's followed an
instant later--a three-pound rock-cod. He was wild with joy. It was
magnificent--the largest fish he had ever landed or ever seen landed.
Over went the lines again, and up they came with two mates of the ones
already captured. It was sport royal. Joe would certainly have continued
till he had fished the bay empty, had not 'Frisco Kid persuaded him
"We 've got enough for three meals now," he said, "so there 's no use in
having them spoil. Besides, the more you catch the more you clean, and
you 'd better start in right away. I 'm going to bed."
JOE TRIES TO TAKE FRENCH LEAVE
Joe did not mind. In fact, he was glad he had not caught the first fish,
for it helped out a little plan which had come to him while swimming. He
threw the last cleaned fish into a bucket of water and glanced about him.
The quarantine station was a bare half-mile away, and he could make out
a soldier pacing up and down at sentry duty on the beach. Going into the
cabin, he listened to the heavy breathing of the sleepers. He had to pass
so close to 'Frisco Kid to get his bundle of clothes that he decided not
to take it. Returning outside, he carefully pulled the skiff alongside,
got aboard with a pair of oars, and cast off.
At first he rowed very gently in the direction of the station, fearing
the chance of noise if he made undue haste. But gradually he increased
the strength of his strokes till he had settled down to the regular
stride. When he had covered half the distance he glanced about. Escape
was sure now, for he knew, even if he were discovered, that it would be
impossible for the _Dazzler_ to get under way and head him off before he
made the land and the protection of that man who wore the uniform of
Uncle Sam's soldiers.
The report of a gun came to him from the shore, but his back was in that
direction and he did not bother to turn around. A second report followed,
and a bullet cut the water within a couple of feet of his oar-blade. This
time he did turn around. The soldier on the beach was leveling his rifle
at him for a third shot.
Joe was in a predicament, and a very tantalizing one at that. A few
minutes of hard rowing would bring him to the beach and to safety; but
on that beach, for some unaccountable reason, stood a United States
soldier who persisted in firing at him. When Joe saw the gun aimed at
him for the third time, he backed water hastily. As a result, the skiff
came to a standstill, and the soldier, lowering his rifle, regarded
"I want to come ashore! Important!" Joe shouted out to him.
The man in uniform shook his head.
"But it 's important, I tell you! Won't you let me come ashore?"
He took a hurried look in the direction of the _Dazzler_. The shots had
evidently awakened French Pete, for the mainsail had been hoisted, and
as he looked he saw the anchor broken out and the jib flung to the breeze.
"Can't land here!" the soldier shouted back. "Smallpox!"
"But I must!" he cried, choking down a half-sob and preparing to row.
"Then I 'll shoot you," was the cheering response, and the rifle came to
Joe thought rapidly. The island was large. Perhaps there were no soldiers
farther on, and if he only once got ashore he did not care how quickly
they captured him. He might catch the smallpox, but even that was better
than going back to the bay pirates. He whirled the skiff half about to
the right, and threw all his strength against the oars. The cove was quite
wide, and the nearest point which he must go around a good distance away.
Had he been more of a sailor, he would have gone in the other direction
for the opposite point, and thus had the wind on his pursuers. As it was,
the _Dazzler_ had a beam wind in which to overtake him.
It was nip and tuck for a while. The breeze was light and not very steady,
so sometimes he gained and sometimes they. Once it freshened till the sloop
was within a hundred yards of him, and then it dropped suddenly flat, the
_Dazzler's_ big mainsail flapping idly from side to side.
"Ah! you steal ze skiff, eh?" French Pete howled at him, running into the
cabin for his rifle. "I fix you! You come back queeck, or I kill you!" But
he knew the soldier was watching them from the shore, and did not dare to
fire, even over the lad's head.
Joe did not think of this, for he, who had never been shot at in all his
previous life, had been under fire twice in the last twenty-four hours.
Once more or less could n't amount to much. So he pulled steadily away,
while French Pete raved like a wild man, threatening him with all manner
of punishments once he laid hands upon him again. To complicate matters,
'Frisco Kid waxed mutinous.
"Just you shoot him, and I 'll see you hung for it--see if I don't," he
threatened. "You 'd better let him go. He 's a good boy and all right,
and not raised for the dirty life you and I are leading."
"You too, eh!" the Frenchman shrieked, beside himself with rage. "Den I
fix you, you rat!"
He made a rush for the boy, but 'Frisco Kid led him a lively chase from
cockpit to bowsprit and back again. A sharp capful of wind arriving just
then, French Pete abandoned the one chase for the other. Springing to the
tiller and slacking away on the main-sheet,--for the wind favored,--he
headed the sloop down upon Joe. The latter made one tremendous spurt,
then gave up in despair and hauled in his oars. French Pete let go the
main-sheet, lost steerageway as he rounded up alongside the motionless
skiff, and dragged Joe out.
"Keep mum," 'Frisco Kid whispered to him while the irate Frenchman was
busy fastening the painter. "Don't talk back. Let him say all he wants
to, and keep quiet. It 'll be better for you."
But Joe's Anglo-Saxon blood was up, and he did not heed.
"Look here, Mr. French Pete, or whatever your name is," he commenced; "I
give you to understand that I want to quit, and that I 'm going to quit.
So you 'd better put me ashore at once. If you don't I 'll put you in
prison, or my name 's not Joe Bronson."
'Frisco Kid waited the outcome fearfully. French Pete was aghast. He was
being defied aboard his own vessel--and by a boy! Never had such a thing
been heard of. He knew he was committing an unlawful act in detaining him,
but at the same time he was afraid to let him go with the information he
had gathered concerning the sloop and its occupation. The boy had spoken
the unpleasant truth when he said he could send him to prison. The only
thing for him to do was to bully him.
"You will, eh?" His shrill voice rose wrathfully. "Den you come too. You
row ze boat last-a night--answer me dat! You steal ze iron--answer me
dat! You run away--answer me dat! And den you say you put me in jail? Bah!"
"But I did n't know," Joe protested.
"Ha, ha! Dat is funny. You tell dat to ze judge; mebbe him laugh, eh?"
"I say I did n't," he reiterated manfully. "I did n't know I 'd shipped
along with a lot of thieves."
'Frisco Kid winced at this epithet, and had Joe been looking at him he
would have seen a red flush mount to his face.
"And now that I do know," he continued, "I wish to be put ashore. I don't
know anything about the law, but I do know something of right and wrong;
and I 'm willing to take my chance with any judge for whatever wrong I
have done--with all the judges in the United States, for that matter.
And that 's more than you can say, Mr. Pete."
"You say dat, eh? Vaire good. But you are one big t'ief--"
"I 'm not--don't you dare call me that again!" Joe's face was pale, and he
was trembling--but not with fear.
"T'ief!" the Frenchman taunted back.
Joe had not been a boy among boys for nothing. He knew the penalty which
attached itself to the words he had just spoken, and he expected to receive
it. So he was not overmuch surprised when he picked himself up from the
floor of the cockpit an instant later, his head still ringing from a stiff
blow between the eyes.
"Say dat one time more," French Pete bullied, his fist raised and prepared
Tears of anger stood in Joe's eyes, but he was calm and in deadly earnest.
"When you say I am a thief, Pete, you lie. You can kill me, but still I
will say you lie."
"No, you don't!" 'Frisco Kid had darted in like a cat, preventing a second
blow, and shoving the Frenchman back across the cockpit.
"You leave the boy alone!" he continued, suddenly unshipping and arming
himself with the heavy iron tiller, and standing between them. "This thing
's gone just about as far as it 's going to go. You big fool, can't you
see the stuff the boy 's made of? He speaks true. He 's right, and he
knows it, and you could kill him and he would n't give in. There 's my
hand on it, Joe." He turned and extended his hand to Joe, who returned
the grip. "You 've got spunk and you 're not afraid to show it."
French Pete's mouth twisted itself in a sickly smile, but the evil gleam
in his eyes gave it the lie. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Ah! So?
He does not dee-sire dat I call him pet names. Ha, ha! It is only ze
sailorman play. Let us--what you call--forgive and forget, eh? Vaire good;
forgive and forget."
He reached out his hand, but Joe refused to take it. 'Frisco Kid nodded
approval, while French Pete, still shrugging his shoulders and smiling,
passed into the cabin.
"Slack off ze main-sheet," he called out, "and run down for Hunter's Point.
For one time I will cook ze dinner, and den you will say dat it is ze
vaire good dinner. Ah! French Pete is ze great cook!"
"That 's the way he always does--gets real good and cooks when he wants
to make up," 'Frisco Kid hazarded, slipping the tiller into the rudder-head
and obeying the order. "But even then you can't trust him."
Joe nodded his head, but did not speak. He was in no mood for conversation.
He was still trembling from the excitement of the last few moments, while
deep down he questioned himself on how he had behaved, and found nothing
to be ashamed of.
BEFRIENDING EACH OTHER
The afternoon sea-breeze had sprung up and was now rioting in from the
Pacific. Angel Island was fast dropping astern, and the water-front of
San Francisco showing up, as the _Dazzler_ plowed along before it. Soon
they were in the midst of the shipping, passing in and out among the
vessels which had come from the ends of the earth. Later they crossed
the fairway, where the ferry steamers, crowded with passengers, passed to
and fro between San Francisco and Oakland. One came so close that the
passengers crowded to the side to see the gallant little sloop and the two
boys in the cockpit. Joe gazed enviously at the row of down-turned faces.
They were all going to their homes, while he--he was going he knew not
whither, at the will of French Pete. He was half tempted to cry out for
help; but the foolishness of such an act struck him, and he held his
tongue. Turning his head, his eyes wandered along the smoky heights of
the city, and he fell to musing on the strange way of men and ships on
'Frisco Kid watched him from the corner of his eye, following his thoughts
as accurately as though he spoke them aloud.
"Got a home over there somewheres?" he queried suddenly, waving his hand
in the direction of the city.
Joe started, so correctly had his thought been guessed. "Yes," he said
"Tell us about it."
Joe rapidly described his home, though forced to go into greater detail
because of the curious questions of his companion. 'Frisco Kid was
interested in everything, especially in Mrs. Bronson and Bessie. Of the
latter he could not seem to tire, and poured forth question after question
concerning her. So peculiar and artless were some of them that Joe could
hardly forbear to smile.
"Now tell me about yours," he said when he at last had finished.
'Frisco Kid seemed suddenly to harden, and his face took on a stern look
which the other had never seen there before. He swung his foot idly to
and fro, and lifted a dull eye aloft to the main-peak blocks, with which,
by the way, there was nothing the matter.
"Go ahead," the other encouraged.
"I have n't no home."
The four words left his mouth as though they had been forcibly ejected,
and his lips came together after them almost with a snap.
Joe saw he had touched a tender spot, and strove to ease the way out of
it again. "Then the home you did have." He did not dream that there were
lads in the world who never had known homes, or that he had only succeeded
in probing deeper.
"Never had none."
"Oh!" His interest was aroused, and he now threw solicitude to the winds.
"I was so young when she died that I don't remember her."
"I never saw much of him. He went to sea--anyhow, he disappeared."
"Oh!" Joe did not know what to say, and an oppressive silence, broken only
by the churn of the _Dazzler's_ forefoot, fell upon them.
Just then Pete came out to relieve at the tiller while they went in to eat.
Both lads hailed his advent with feelings of relief, and the awkwardness
vanished over the dinner, which was all their skipper had claimed it to be.
Afterward 'Frisco Kid relieved Pete, and while he was eating Joe washed up
the dishes and put the cabin shipshape. Then they all gathered in the
stern, where the captain strove to increase the general cordiality by
entertaining them with descriptions of life among the pearl-divers of
the South Seas.
In this fashion the afternoon wore away. They had long since left San
Francisco behind, rounded Hunter's Point, and were now skirting the
San Mateo shore. Joe caught a glimpse, once, of a party of cyclists
rounding a cliff on the San Bruno Road, and remembered the time when
he had gone over the same ground on his own wheel. It was only a month
or two before, but it seemed an age to him now, so much had there been
to come between.
By the time supper had been eaten and the things cleared away, they were
well down the bay, off the marshes behind which Redwood City clustered.
The wind had gone down with the sun, and the _Dazzler_ was making but
little headway, when they sighted a sloop bearing down upon them on the
dying wind. 'Frisco Kid instantly named it as the _Reindeer_, to which
French Pete, after a deep scrutiny, agreed. He seemed very much pleased
at the meeting.
"Red Nelson runs her," 'Frisco Kid informed Joe. "And he 's a terror and
no mistake. I 'm always afraid of him when he comes near. They 've got
something big down here, and they 're always after French Pete to tackle
it with them. He knows more about it, whatever it is."
Joe nodded, and looked at the approaching craft curiously. Though somewhat
larger, it was built on about the same lines as the _Dazzler_ which meant,
above everything else, that it was built for speed. The mainsail was so
large that it was more like that of a racing-yacht, and it carried the
points for no less than three reefs in case of rough weather. Aloft and
on deck everything was in place--nothing was untidy or useless. From
running-gear to standing rigging, everything bore evidence of thorough
order and smart seamanship.
The _Reindeer_ came up slowly in the gathering twilight and went to anchor
a biscuit-toss away. French Pete followed suit with the _Dazzler_, and then
went in the skiff to pay them a visit. The two lads stretched themselves
out on top the cabin and awaited his return.
"Do you like the life?" Joe broke silence.
The other turned on his elbow. "Well--I do, and then again I don't. The
fresh air, and the salt water, and all that, and the freedom--that 's all
right; but I don't like the--the--" He paused a moment, as though his
tongue had failed in its duty, and then blurted out: "the stealing."
"Then why don't you quit it?" Joe liked the lad more than he dared confess
to himself, and he felt a sudden missionary zeal come upon him.
"I will just as soon as I can turn my hand to something else."
"But why not now?"
_Now is the accepted time_ was ringing in Joe's ears, and if the other
wished to leave, it seemed a pity that he did not, and at once.
"Where can I go? What can I do? There 's nobody in all the world to lend
me a hand, just as there never has been. I tried it once, and learned my
lesson too well to do it again in a hurry."
"Well, when I get out of this I 'm going home. Guess my father was right,
after all. And I don't see, maybe--what 's the matter with you going with
me?" He said this last without thinking, impulsively, and 'Frisco Kid
"You don't know what you 're talking about," he answered. "Fancy me going
off with you! What 'd your father say? and--and the rest? How would he
think of me? And what 'd he do?"
Joe felt sick at heart. He realized that in the spirit of the moment
he had given an invitation which, on sober thought, he knew would be
impossible to carry out. He tried to imagine his father receiving in
his own house a stranger like 'Frisco Kid--no, that was not to be
thought of. Then, forgetting his own plight, he fell to racking his
brains for some other method by which 'Frisco Kid could get away from
his present surroundings.
"He might turn me over to the police," the other went on, "and send me to
a refuge. I 'd die first, before I 'd let that happen to me. And besides,
Joe, I 'm not of your kind, and you know it. Why, I 'd be like a fish out
of water, what with all the things I did n't know. Nope; I guess I 'll
have to wait a little before I strike out. But there 's only one thing
for you to do, and that 's to go straight home. First chance I get I 'll
land you, and then I 'll deal with French Pete--"
"No, you don't," Joe interrupted hotly. "When I leave I 'm not going to
leave you in trouble on my account. So don't you try anything like that.
I 'll get away, never fear, and if I can figure it out I want you to
come along too; come along anyway, and figure it out afterward. What d'
'Frisco Kid shook his head, and, gazing up at the starlit heavens,
wandered off into dreams of the life he would like to lead but from
which he seemed inexorably shut out. The seriousness of life was
striking deeper than ever into Joe's heart, and he lay silent,
thinking hard. A mumble of heavy voices came to them from the
_Reindeer_; and from the land the solemn notes of a church bell
floated across the water, while the summer night wrapped them
slowly in its warm darkness.
AMONG THE OYSTER-BEDS
Time and the world slipped away, and both boys were aroused by the harsh
voice of French Pete from the sleep into which they had fallen.
"Get under way!" he was bawling. "Here, you Sho! Cast off ze gaskets!
Queeck! Lively! You Kid, ze jib!"
Joe was clumsy in the darkness, not knowing the names of things and the
places where they were to be found; but he made fair progress, and when
he had tossed the gaskets into the cockpit was ordered forward to help
hoist the mainsail. After that the anchor was hove in and the jib set.
Then they coiled down the halyards and put everything in order before
they returned aft.
"Vaire good, vaire good," the Frenchman praised, as Joe dropped in over
the rail. "Splendeed! You make ze good sailorman, I know for sure."
'Frisco Kid lifted the cover of one of the cockpit lockers and glanced
questioningly at French Pete.
"For sure," that mariner replied. "Put up ze side-lights."
'Frisco Kid took the red and green lanterns into the cabin to light them,
and then went forward with Joe to hang them in the rigging.
"They 're not goin' to tackle it," 'Frisco Kid said in an undertone.
"What?" Joe asked.
"That big thing I was tellin' you was down here somewhere. It 's so big,
I guess, that French Pete 's 'most afraid to go in for it. Red Nelson 'd
go in quicker 'n a wink, but he don't know enough about it. Can't go in,
you see, till Pete gives the word."
"Where are we going now?" Joe questioned.
"Don't know; oyster-beds most likely, from the way we 're heading."
It was an uneventful trip. A breeze sprang up out of the night behind them,
and held steady for an hour or more. Then it dropped and became aimless and
erratic, puffing gently first from one quarter and then another. French
Pete remained at the tiller, while occasionally Joe or 'Frisco Kid took
in or slacked off a sheet.
Joe sat and marveled that the Frenchman should know where he was going.
To Joe it seemed that they were lost in the impenetrable darkness which
shrouded them. A high fog had rolled in from the Pacific, and though they
were beneath, it came between them and the stars, depriving them of the
little light from that source.
But French Pete seemed to know instinctively the direction he should go,
and once, in reply to a query from Joe, bragged of his ability to go by
the "feel" of things.
"I feel ze tide, ze wind, ze speed," he explained. "Even do I feel ze land.
Dat I tell you for sure. How? I do not know. Only do I know dat I feel ze
land, just like my arm grow long, miles and miles long, and I put my hand
upon ze land and feel it, and know dat it is there."
Joe looked incredulously at 'Frisco Kid.
"That 's right," he affirmed. "After you 've been on the water a good
while you come to feel the land. And if your nose is any account, you
can usually smell it."
An hour or so later, Joe surmised from the Frenchman's actions that they
were approaching their destination. He seemed on the alert, and was
constantly peering into the darkness ahead as though he expected to see
something at any moment. Joe looked very hard, but saw only the darkness.
"Try ze stick, Kid," French Pete ordered. "I t'ink it is about ze time."
'Frisco Kid unlashed a long and slender pole from the top of the cabin,
and, standing on the narrow deck amidships, plunged one end of it into
the water and drove it straight down.
"About fifteen feet," he said.
"What ze bottom?"
"Mud," was the answer.
"Wait one while, den we try some more."
Five minutes afterward the pole was plunged overside again.
"Two fathoms," Joe answered--"shells."
French Pete rubbed his hands with satisfaction. "Vaire good, vaire well,"
he said. "I hit ze ground every time. You can't fool-a ze old man; I tell
you dat for sure."
'Frisco Kid continued operating the pole and announcing the results, to the
mystification of Joe, who could not comprehend their intimate knowledge of
the bottom of the bay.
"Ten feet--shells," 'Frisco Kid went on in a monotonous voice. "'Leven
feet--shells. Fourteen feet--soft. Sixteen feet--mud. No bottom."
"Ah, ze channel," said French Pete at this.
For a few minutes it was "No bottom"; and then, suddenly, came 'Frisco
Kid's cry: "Eight feet--hard!"
"Dat 'll do," French Pete commanded. "Run for'ard, you Sho, an' let go ze
jib. You, Kid, get all ready ze hook."
Joe found the jib-halyard and cast it off the pin, and, as the canvas
fluttered down, came in hand over hand on the downhaul.
"Let 'er go!" came the command, and the anchor dropped into the water,
carrying but little chain after it.
'Frisco Kid threw over plenty of slack and made fast. Then they furled
the sails, made things tidy, and went below and to bed.
It was six o'clock when Joe awoke and went out into the cockpit to look
about. Wind and sea had sprung up, and the _Dazzler_ was rolling and
tossing and now and again fetching up on her anchor-chain with a savage
jerk. He was forced to hold on to the boom overhead to steady himself.
It was a gray and leaden day, with no signs of the rising sun, while the
sky was obscured by great masses of flying clouds.
Joe sought for the land. A mile and a half away it lay--a long, low
stretch of sandy beach with a heavy surf thundering upon it. Behind
appeared desolate marshlands, while far beyond towered the Contra
Changing the direction of his gaze, Joe was startled by the sight of a
small sloop rolling and plunging at her anchor not a hundred yards away.
She was nearly to windward, and as she swung off slightly he read her name
on the stern, the _Flying Dutchman_, one of the boats he had seen lying at
the city wharf in Oakland. A little to the left of her he discovered the
_Ghost_, and beyond were half a dozen other sloops at anchor.
"What I tell you?"
Joe looked quickly over his shoulder. French Pete had come out of the
cabin and was triumphantly regarding the spectacle.
"What I tell you? Can't fool-a ze old man, dat 's what. I hit it in ze
dark just so well as in ze sunshine. I know--I know."
"Is she goin' to howl?" 'Frisco Kid asked from the cabin, where he was
starting the fire.
The Frenchman gravely studied sea and sky for a couple of minutes.
"Mebbe blow over--mebbe blow up," was his doubtful verdict. "Get breakfast
queeck, and we try ze dredging."
Smoke was rising from the cabins of the different sloops, denoting that
they were all bent on getting the first meal of the day. So far as the
_Dazzler_ was concerned, it was a simple matter, and soon they were
putting a single reef in the mainsail and getting ready to weigh anchor.
Joe was curious. These were undoubtedly the oyster-beds; but how under the
sun, in that wild sea, were they to get oysters? He was quickly to learn
the way. Lifting a section of the cockpit flooring, French Pete brought
out two triangular frames of steel. At the apex of one of these triangles;
in a ring for the purpose, he made fast a piece of stout rope. From this
the sides (inch rods) diverged at almost right angles, and extended down
for a distance of four feet or more, where they were connected by the
third side of the triangle, which was the bottom of the dredge. This was
a flat plate of steel over a yard in length, to which was bolted a row of
long, sharp teeth, likewise of steel. Attached to the toothed plate, and
to the sides of the frame was a net of very coarse fishing-twine, which
Joe correctly surmised was there to catch the oysters raked loose by the
teeth from the bottom of the bay.
A rope being made fast to each of the dredges, they were dropped overboard
from either side of the _Dazzler_. When they had reached the bottom, and
were dragging with the proper length of line out, they checked her speed
quite noticeably. Joe touched one of the lines with his hands, and could
feel plainly the shock and jar and grind as it tore over the bottom.
"All in!" French Pete shouted.
The boys laid hold of the line and hove in the dredge. The net was full
of mud and slime and small oysters, with here and there a large one. This
mess they dumped on the deck and picked over while the dredge was dragging
again. The large oysters they threw into the cockpit, and shoveled the
rubbish overboard. There was no rest, for by this time the other dredge
required emptying. And when this was done and the oysters sorted, both
dredges had to be hauled aboard, so that French Pete could put the
_Dazzler_ about on the other tack.
The rest of the fleet was under way and dredging back in similar fashion.
Sometimes the different sloops came quite close to them, and they hailed
them and exchanged snatches of conversation and rough jokes. But in the
main it was hard work, and at the end of an hour Joe's back was aching
from the unaccustomed strain, and his fingers were cut and bleeding from
his clumsy handling of the sharp-edged oysters.
"Dat 's right," French Pete said approvingly. "You learn queeck. Vaire
soon you know how."
Joe grinned ruefully and wished it was dinner-time. Now and then, when
a light dredge was hauled, the boys managed to catch breath and say a
couple of words.
"That 's Asparagus Island," 'Frisco Kid said, indicating the shore. "At
least, that 's what the fishermen and scow-sailors call it. The people
who live there call it Bay Farm Island." He pointed more to the right.
"And over there is San Leandro. You can't see it, but it 's there."
"Ever been there?" Joe asked.
'Frisco Kid nodded his head and signed to him to help heave in the
"These are what they call the deserted beds," he said again. "Nobody owns
them, so the oyster pirates come down and make a bluff at working them."
"Why a bluff?"
"'Cause they 're pirates, that 's why, and because there 's more money in
raiding the private beds."
He made a sweeping gesture toward the east and southeast. "The private beds
are over yonder, and if it don't storm the whole fleet 'll be raidin' 'em
"And if it does storm?" Joe asked.
"Why, we won't raid them, and French Pete 'll be mad, that 's all. He
always hates being put out by the weather. But it don't look like lettin'
up, and this is the worst possible shore in a sou'wester. Pete may try
to hang on, but it 's best to get out before she howls."
At first it did seem as though the weather were growing better. The stiff
southwest wind dropped perceptibly, and by noon, when they went to anchor
for dinner, the sun was breaking fitfully through the clouds.
"That 's all right," 'Frisco Kid said prophetically. "But I ain't been
on the bay for nothing. She 's just gettin' ready to let us have it good
"I t'ink you 're right, Kid," French Pete agreed; "but ze _Dazzler_ hang
on all ze same. Last-a time she run away, an' fine night come. Dis time
she run not away. Eh? Vaire good."
GOOD SAILORS IN A WILD ANCHORAGE
All afternoon the _Dazzler_ pitched and rolled at her anchorage, and as
evening drew on the wind deceitfully eased down. This, and the example
set by French Pete, encouraged the rest of the oyster-boats to attempt
to ride out the night; but they looked carefully to their moorings and
put out spare anchors.
French Pete ordered the two boys into the skiff, and, at the imminent risk
of swamping, they carried out a second anchor, at nearly right angles to
the first one, and dropped it over. French Pete then ran out a great
quantity of chain and rope, so that the _Dazzler_ dropped back a hundred
feet or more, where she rode more easily.
It was a wild stretch of water which Joe looked upon from the shelter of
the cockpit. The oyster-beds were out in the open bay, utterly unprotected,
and the wind, sweeping the water for a clean twelve miles, kicked up so
tremendous a sea that at every moment it seemed as though the wallowing
sloops would roll their masts overside. Just before twilight a patch of
sail sprang up to windward, and grew and grew until it resolved itself
into the huge mainsail of the _Reindeer_.
"Ze beeg fool!" French Pete cried, running out of the cabin to see.
"Sometime--ah, sometime, I tell you--he crack on like dat, an' he go,
pouf! just like dat, pouf!--an' no more Nelson, no more _Reindeer_, no
Joe looked inquiringly at 'Frisco Kid.
"That 's right," he answered. "Nelson ought to have at least one reef
in. Two 'd be better. But there he goes, every inch spread, as though
some fiend was after 'im. He drives too hard; he 's too reckless, when
there ain't the smallest need for it. I 've sailed with him, and I know
Like some huge bird of the air, the _Reindeer_ lifted and soared down
on them on the foaming crest of a wave.
"Don't mind," 'Frisco Kid warned. "He 's only tryin' to see how close
he can come to us without hittin' us."
Joe nodded, and stared with wide eyes at the thrilling sight. The
_Reindeer_ leaped up in the air, pointing her nose to the sky till
they could see her whole churning forefoot; then she plunged downward
till her for'ard deck was flush with the foam, and with a dizzying rush
she drove past them, her main-boom missing the _Dazzler's_ rigging by
scarcely a foot.
Nelson, at the wheel, waved his hand to them as he hurtled past,
and laughed joyously in French Pete's face, who was angered by the
When to leeward, the splendid craft rounded to the wind, rolling once
till her brown bottom showed to the centerboard and they thought she
was over, then righting and dashing ahead again like a thing possessed.
She passed abreast of them on the starboard side. They saw the jib run
down with a rush and an anchor go overboard as she shot into the wind;
and as she fell off and back and off and back with a spilling mainsail,
they saw a second anchor go overboard, wide apart from the first. Then
the mainsail came down on the run, and was furled and fastened by the
time she had tightened to her double hawsers.
"Ah, ah! Never was there such a man!"
The Frenchman's eyes were glistening with admiration for such perfect
seamanship, and 'Frisco Kid's were likewise moist.
"Just like a yacht," he said as he went back into the cabin. "Just like
a yacht, only better."
As night came on the wind began to rise again, and by eleven o'clock had
reached the stage which 'Frisco Kid described as "howlin'." There was
little sleep on the _Dazzler_. He alone closed his eyes. French Pete was
up and down every few minutes. Twice, when he went on deck, he paid out
more chain and rope. Joe lay in his blankets and listened, the while
vainly courting sleep. He was not frightened, but he was untrained in
the art of sleeping in the midst of such turmoil and uproar and violent
commotion. Nor had he imagined a boat could play as wild antics as did
the _Dazzler_ and still survive. Often she wallowed over on her beam
till he thought she would surely capsize. At other times she leaped
and plunged in the air and fell upon the seas with thunderous crashes
as though her bottom were shattered to fragments. Again, she would fetch
up taut on her hawsers so suddenly and so fiercely as to reel from the
shock and to groan and protest through every timber.
'Frisco Kid awoke once, and smiled at him, saying:
"This is what they call hangin' on. But just you wait till daylight comes,
and watch us clawin' off. If some of the sloops don't go ashore, I 'm not
me, that 's all."
And thereat he rolled over on his side and was off to sleep. Joe envied
him. About three in the morning he heard French Pete crawl up for'ard and
rummage around in the eyes of the boat. Joe looked on curiously, and by
the dim light of the wildly swinging sea-lamp saw him drag out two spare
coils of line. These he took up on deck, and Joe knew he was bending them
on to the hawsers to make them still longer.
At half-past four French Pete had the fire going, and at five he called
the boys for coffee. This over, they crept into the cockpit to gaze on the
terrible scene. The dawn was breaking bleak and gray over a wild waste of
tumbling water. They could faintly see the beach-line of Asparagus Island,
but they could distinctly hear the thunder of the surf upon it; and as the
day grew stronger they made out that they had dragged fully half a mile
during the night.
The rest of the fleet had likewise dragged. The _Reindeer_ was almost
abreast of them; _La Caprice_ lay a few hundred yards away; and to
leeward, straggling between them and shore, were five more of the
"Two missing," 'Frisco Kid announced, putting the glasses to his eyes
and searching the beach.
"And there 's one!" he cried. And after studying it carefully he added:
"The _Go Ask Her_. She 'll be in pieces in no time. I hope they got
French Pete looked through the glasses, and then Joe. He could clearly see
the unfortunate sloop lifting and pounding in the surf, and on the beach he
spied the men who made up her crew.
"Where 's ze _Ghost_?" French Pete queried.
'Frisco Kid looked for her in vain along the beach; but when he turned the
glass seaward he quickly discovered her riding safely in the growing light,
half a mile or more to windward.
"I 'll bet she did n't drag a hundred feet all night," he said. "Must 've
struck good holding-ground."
"Mud," was French Pete's verdict. "Just one vaire small patch of mud right
there. If she get t'rough it she 's a sure-enough goner, I tell you dat.
Her anchors vaire light, only good for mud. I tell ze boys get more heavy
anchors, but dey laugh. Some day be sorry, for sure."
One of the sloops to leeward raised a patch of sail and began the terrible
struggle out of the jaws of destruction and death. They watched her for a
space, rolling and plunging fearfully, and making very little headway.
French Pete put a stop to their gazing. "Come on!" he shouted. "Put two
reef in ze mainsail! We get out queeck!"
While occupied with this a shout aroused them. Looking up, they saw the
_Ghost_ dead ahead and right on top of them, and dragging down upon them
at a furious rate.
French Pete scrambled forward like a cat, at the same time drawing his
knife, with one stroke of which he severed the rope that held them to
the spare anchor. This threw the whole weight of the _Dazzler_ on the
chain-anchor. In consequence she swung off to the left, and just in time;
for the next instant, drifting stern foremost, the _Ghost_ passed over
the spot she had vacated.
"Why, she 's got four anchors out!" Joe exclaimed, at sight of four taut
ropes entering the water almost horizontally from her bow.
"Two of 'em 's dredges," 'Frisco Kid grinned; "and there goes the stove."
As he spoke, two young fellows appeared on deck and dropped the
cooking-stove overside with a line attached.
"Phew!" 'Frisco Kid cried. "Look at Nelson. He 's got one reef in,
and you can just bet that 's a sign she 's howlin'!"
The _Reindeer_ came foaming toward them, breasting the storm like some
magnificent sea-animal. Red Nelson waved to them as he passed astern,
and fifteen minutes later, when they were breaking out the one anchor
that remained to them, he passed well to windward on the other tack.
French Pete followed her admiringly, though he said ominously: "Some
day, pouf! he go just like dat, I tell you, sure."
A moment later the _Dazzler's_ reefed jib was flung out, and she was
straining and struggling in the thick of the fight. It was slow work,
and hard and dangerous, clawing off that lee shore, and Joe found
himself marveling often that so small a craft could possibly endure
a minute in such elemental fury. But little by little she worked off
the shore and out of the ground-swell into the deeper waters of the bay,
where the main-sheet was slacked away a bit, and she ran for shelter
behind the rock wall of the Alameda Mole a few miles away. Here they
found the _Reindeer_ calmly at anchor; and here, during the next several
hours, straggled in the remainder of the fleet, with the exception of the
_Ghost_, which had evidently gone ashore to keep the _Go Ask Her_ company.
By afternoon the wind had dropped away with surprising suddenness, and the
weather had turned almost summer-like.
"It does n't look right," 'Frisco Kid said in the evening, after French
Pete had rowed over in the skiff to visit Nelson.
"What does n't look right?" Joe asked.
"Why, the weather. It went down too sudden. It did n't have a chance
to blow itself out, and it ain't going to quit till does blow itself
out. It 's likely to puff up and howl at any moment, if I know anything
"Where will we go from here?" Joe asked. "Back to the oyster-beds?"
'Frisco Kid shook his head. "I can't say what French Pete 'll do. He 's
been fooled on the iron, and fooled on the oysters, and he 's that
disgusted he 's liable to do 'most anything desperate. I would n't be
surprised to see him go off with Nelson towards Redwood City, where that
big thing is that I was tellin' you about. It 's somewhere over there."
"Well, I won't have anything to do with it," Joe announced decisively.
"Of course not," 'Frisco Kid answered. "And with Nelson and his two men
an' French Pete, I don't think there 'll be any need for you anyway."
'FRISCO KID'S DITTY-BOX
After the conversation died away, the two lads lay upon the cabin for
perhaps an hour. Then, without saying a word, 'Frisco Kid went below
and struck a light. Joe could hear him fumbling about, and a little
later heard his own name called softly. On going into the cabin, he
saw 'Frisco Kid sitting on the edge of the bunk, a sailor's ditty-box
on his knees, and in his hand a carefully folded page from a magazine.
"Does she look like this?" he asked, smoothing it out and turning it that
the other might see.
It was a half-page illustration of two girls and a boy, grouped, evidently,
in an old-fashioned roomy attic, and holding a council of some sort. The
girl who was talking faced the onlooker, while the backs of the other two
"Who?" Joe queried, glancing in perplexity from the picture to 'Frisco
The word seemed reluctant in coming to his lips, and he expressed
himself with a certain shy reverence, as though it were something
Joe was nonplussed for the moment. He could see no bearing between the
two in point, and, anyway, girls were rather silly creatures to waste
one's time over. "He 's actually blushing," he thought, regarding the
soft glow on the other's cheeks. He felt an irresistible desire to laugh,
and tried to smother it down.
"No, no; don't!" 'Frisco Kid cried, snatching the paper away and putting
it back in the ditty-box with shaking fingers. Then he added more slowly:
"I thought--I--I kind o' thought you would understand, and--and--"
His lips trembled and his eyes glistened with unwonted moistness as he
turned hastily away.
The next instant Joe was by his side on the bunk, his arm around him.
Prompted by some instinctive monitor, he had done it before he thought.
A week before he could not have imagined himself in such an absurd
situation--his arm around a boy; but now it seemed the most natural
thing in the world. He did not comprehend, but he knew, whatever it
was, that it was of deep importance to his companion.
"Go ahead and tell us," he urged. "I 'll understand."
"No, you won't. You can't."
"Yes, sure. Go ahead."
'Frisco Kid choked and shook his head. "I don't think I could, anyway.
It 's more the things I feel, and I don't know how to put them in words."
Joe's hand patted his shoulder reassuringly, and he went on: "Well, it 's
this way. You see, I don't know much about the land, and people, and
things, and I never had any brothers or sisters or playmates. All the
time I did n't know it, but I was lonely--sort of missed them down in
here somewheres." He placed a hand over his breast. "Did you ever feel
downright hungry? Well, that 's just the way I used to feel, only a
different kind of hunger, and me not knowing what it was. But one day,
oh, a long time back, I got a-hold of a magazine and saw a picture--that
picture, with the two girls and the boy talking together. I thought it must
be fine to be like them, and I got to thinking about the things they said
and did, till it came to me all of a sudden like, and I knew it was just
loneliness was the matter with me.
"But, more than anything else, I got to wondering about the girl who looks
out of the picture right at you. I was thinking about her all the time,
and by and by she became real to me. You see, it was making believe, and
I knew it all the time, and then again I did n't. Whenever I 'd think of
the men, and the work, and the hard life, I 'd know it was make-believe;
but when I 'd think of her, it was n't. I don't know; I can't explain it."
Joe remembered all his own adventures which he had imagined on land and
sea, and nodded. He at least understood that much.
"Of course it was all foolishness, but to have a girl like that for a
comrade or friend seemed more like heaven to me than anything else I
knew of. As I said, it was a long while back, and I was only a little
kid--that was when Red Nelson gave me my name, and I 've never been
anything but 'Frisco Kid ever since. But the girl in the picture: I
was always getting that picture out to look at her, and before long,
if I was n't square--why, I felt ashamed to look at her. Afterwards,
when I was older, I came to look at it in another way. I thought,
'Suppose, Kid, some day you were to meet a girl like that, what would
she think of you? Could she like you? Could she be even the least bit
of a friend to you?' And then I 'd make up my mind to be better, to try
and do something with myself so that she or any of her kind of people
would not be ashamed to know me.
"That 's why I learned to read. That 's why I ran away. Nicky Perrata,
a Greek boy, taught me my letters, and it was n't till after I learned
to read that I found out there was anything really wrong in bay-pirating.
I 'd been used to it ever since I could remember, and almost all the people
I knew made their living that way. But when I did find out, I ran away,
thinking to quit it for good. I 'll tell you about it sometime, and how
I 'm back at it again.
"Of course she seemed a real girl when I was a youngster, and even now she
sometimes seems that way, I 've thought so much about her. But while I 'm
talking to you it all clears up and she comes to me in this light: she
stands just for a plain idea, a better, cleaner life than this, and one
I 'd like to live; and if I could live it, why, I 'd come to know that
kind of girls, and their kind of people--your kind, that 's what I mean.
So I was wondering about your sister and you, and that 's why--I don't
know; I guess I was just wondering. But I suppose you know lots of girls
like that, don't you?"
Joe nodded his head.
"Then tell me about them--something, anything," he added as he noted the
fleeting expression of doubt in the other's eyes.
"Oh, that 's easy," Joe began valiantly. To a certain extent he did
understand the lad's hunger, and it seemed a simple enough task to at
least partially satisfy him. "To begin with, they 're like--hem!--why,
they 're like--girls, just girls." He broke off with a miserable sense
'Frisco Kid waited patiently, his face a study in expectancy.
Joe struggled valiantly to marshal his forces. To his mind, in quick
succession, came the girls with whom he had gone to school--the sisters
of the boys he knew, and those who were his sister's friends: slim girls
and plump girls, tall girls and short girls, blue-eyed and brown-eyed,
curly-haired, black-haired, golden-haired; in short, a procession of girls
of all sorts and descriptions. But, to save himself, he could say nothing
about them. Anyway, he 'd never been a "sissy," and why should he be
expected to know anything about them? "All girls are alike," he concluded
desperately. "They 're just the same as the ones you know, Kid--sure
"But I don't know any."
Joe whistled. "And never did?"
"Yes, one. Carlotta Gispardi. But she could n't speak English, and I could
n't speak Dago; and she died. I don't care; though I never knew any, I seem
to know as much about them as you do."
"And I guess I know more about adventures all over the world than you do,"
Both boys laughed. But a moment later, Joe fell into deep thought. It had
come upon him quite swiftly that he had not been duly grateful for the good
things of life he did possess. Already home, father, and mother had assumed
a greater significance to him; but he now found himself placing a higher
personal value upon his sister and his chums and friends. He had never
appreciated them properly, he thought, but henceforth--well, there would
be a different tale to tell.
The voice of French Pete hailing them put a finish to the conversation,
for they both ran on deck.
'FRISCO KID TELLS HIS STORY
"Get up ze mainsail and break out ze hook!" the Frenchman shouted. "And
den tail on to ze _Reindeer_! No side-lights!"
"Come! Cast off those gaskets--lively!" 'Frisco Kid ordered. "Now lay on
to the peak-halyards--there, that rope--cast it off the pin. And don't
hoist ahead of me. There! Make fast! We 'll stretch it afterwards. Run aft
and come in on the main-sheet! Shove the helm up!"
Under the sudden driving power of the mainsail, the _Dazzler_ strained
and tugged at her anchor like an impatient horse till the muddy iron left
the bottom with a rush and she was free.
"Let go the sheet! Come for'ard again and lend a hand on the chain! Stand
by to give her the jib!" 'Frisco Kid the boy who mooned over girls in
pictorial magazines had vanished, and 'Frisco Kid the sailor, strong and
dominant, was on deck. He ran aft and tacked about as the jib rattled aloft
in the hands of Joe, who quickly joined him. Just then the _Reindeer_,
like a monstrous bat, passed to leeward of them in the gloom.
"Ah, dose boys! Dey take all-a night!" they heard French Pete exclaim, and
then the gruff voice of Red Nelson, who said: "Never you mind, Frenchy. I
taught the Kid his sailorizing, and I ain't never been ashamed of him yet."
The _Reindeer_ was the faster boat, but by spilling the wind from her sails
they managed so that the boys could keep them in sight. The breeze came
steadily in from the west, with a promise of early increase. The stars were
being blotted out by masses of driving clouds, which indicated a greater
velocity in the upper strata. 'Frisco Kid surveyed the sky.
"Going to have it good and stiff before morning," he said, "just as I
Several hours later, both boats stood in for the San Mateo shore, and
dropped anchor not more than a cable's-length away. A little wharf ran
out, the bare end of which was perceptible to them, though they could
discern a small yacht lying moored to a buoy a short distance away.
According to their custom, everything was put in readiness for hasty
departure. The anchors could be tripped and the sails flung out on a
moment's notice. Both skiffs came over noiselessly from the _Reindeer_.
Red Nelson had given one of his two men to French Pete, so that each
skiff was doubly manned. They were not a very prepossessing group of
men,--at least, Joe did not think so,--for their faces bore a savage
seriousness which almost made him shiver. The captain of the _Dazzler_
buckled on his pistol-belt, and placed a rifle and a stout double-block
tackle in the boat. Then he poured out wine all around, and, standing in
the darkness of the little cabin, they pledged success to the expedition.
Red Nelson was also armed, while his men wore at their hips the customary
sailor's sheath-knife. They were very slow and careful to avoid noise
in getting into the boats, French Pete pausing long enough to warn the
boys to remain quietly aboard and not try any tricks.
"Now 'd be your chance, Joe, if they had n't taken the skiff," 'Frisco Kid
whispered, when the boats had vanished into the loom of the land.
"What 's the matter with the _Dazzler_?" was the unexpected answer. "We
could up sail and away before you could say Jack Robinson."
'Frisco Kid hesitated. The spirit of comradeship was strong in the lad,
and deserting a companion in a pinch could not but be repulsive to him.
"I don't think it 'd be exactly square to leave them in the lurch ashore,"
he said. "Of course," he went on hurriedly, "I know the whole thing 's
wrong; but you remember that first night, when you came running through
the water for the skiff, and those fellows on the bank busy popping away?
We did n't leave you in the lurch, did we?"
Joe assented reluctantly, and then a new thought flashed across his mind.
"But they 're pirates--and thieves--and criminals. They 're breaking the
law, and you and I are not willing to be lawbreakers. Besides, they 'll
not be left. There 's the _Reindeer_. There 's nothing to prevent them
from getting away on her, and they 'll never catch us in the dark."
"Come on, then." Though he had agreed, 'Frisco Kid did not quite like it,
for it still seemed to savor of desertion.
They crawled forward and began to hoist the mainsail. The anchor they
could slip, if necessary, and save the time of pulling it up. But at the
first rattle of the halyards on the sheaves a warning "Hist!" came to
them through the darkness, followed by a loudly whispered "Drop that!"
Glancing in the direction from which these sounds proceeded, they made
out a white face peering at them from over the rail of the other sloop.
"Aw, it 's only the _Reindeer's_ boy," 'Frisco Kid said. "Come on."
Again they were interrupted at the first rattling of the blocks.
"I say, you fellers, you 'd better let go them halyards pretty quick,
I 'm a-tellin' you, or I 'll give you what for!"
This threat being dramatically capped by the click of a cocking pistol,
'Frisco Kid obeyed and went grumblingly back to the cockpit. "Oh, there 's
plenty more chances to come," he whispered consolingly to Joe. "French Pete
was cute, was n't he? He thought you might be trying to make a break, and
put a guard on us."
Nothing came from the shore to indicate how the pirates were faring. Not
a dog barked, not a light flared. Yet the air seemed quivering with an
alarm about to burst forth. The night had taken on a strained feeling of
intensity, as though it held in store all kinds of terrible things. The
boys felt this keenly as they huddled against each other in the cockpit
"You were going to tell me about your running away," Joe ventured finally,
"and why you came back again."
'Frisco Kid took up the tale at once, speaking in a muffled undertone
close to the other's ear.
"You see, when I made up my mind to quit the life, there was n't a soul
to lend me a hand; but I knew that the only thing for me to do was to
get ashore and find some kind of work, so I could study. Then I figured
there 'd be more chance in the country than in the city; so I gave Red
Nelson the slip--I was on the _Reindeer_ then. One night on the Alameda
oyster-beds, I got ashore and headed back from the bay as fast as I
could sprint. Nelson did n't catch me. But they were all Portuguese
farmers thereabouts, and none of them had work for me. Besides, it was
in the wrong time of the year--winter. That shows how much I knew about
"I 'd saved up a couple of dollars, and I kept traveling back, deeper
and deeper into the country, looking for work, and buying bread and
cheese and such things from the storekeepers. I tell you, it was cold,
nights, sleeping out without blankets, and I was always glad when morning
came. But worse than that was the way everybody looked on me. They were
all suspicious, and not a bit afraid to show it, and sometimes they 'd
set their dogs on me and tell me to get along. Seemed as though there
was n't any place for me on the land. Then my money gave out, and just
about the time I was good and hungry I got captured."
"Captured! What for?"
"Nothing. Living, I suppose. I crawled into a haystack to sleep one night,
because it was warmer, and along comes a village constable and arrests me
for being a tramp. At first they thought I was a runaway, and telegraphed
my description all over. I told them I did n't have any people, but they
would n't believe me for a long while. And then, when nobody claimed me,
the judge sent me to a boys' 'refuge' in San Francisco."
He stopped and peered intently in the direction of the shore. The darkness
and the silence in which the men had been swallowed up was profound.
Nothing was stirring save the rising wind.
"I thought I 'd die in that 'refuge.' It was just like being in jail. We
were locked up and guarded like prisoners. Even then, if I could have
liked the other boys it might have been all right. But they were mostly
street-boys of the worst kind--lying, and sneaking, and cowardly, without
one spark of manhood or one idea of square dealing and fair play. There
was only one thing I did like, and that was the books. Oh, I did lots of
reading, I tell you! But that could n't make up for the rest. I wanted
the freedom and the sunlight and the salt water. And what had I done to
be kept in prison and herded with such a gang? Instead of doing wrong,
I had tried to do right, to make myself better, and that 's what I got
for it. I was n't old enough, you see, to reason anything out.
"Sometimes I 'd see the sunshine dancing on the water and showing white
on the sails, and the _Reindeer_ cutting through it just as you please,
and I 'd get that sick I would know hardly what I did. And then the boys
would come against me with some of their meannesses, and I 'd start in
to lick the whole kit of them. Then the men in charge would lock me up
and punish me. Well, I could n't stand it any longer; I watched my chance
and ran for it. Seemed as though there was n't any place on the land for
me, so I picked up with French Pete and went back on the bay. That 's about
all there is to it, though I 'm going to try it again when I get a little
older--old enough to get a square deal for myself."
"You 're going to go back on the land with me," Joe said authoritatively,
laying a hand on his shoulder. "That 's what you 're going to do. As for--"
Bang! a revolver-shot rang out from the shore. Bang! bang! More guns were
speaking sharply and hurriedly. A man's voice rose wildly on the air and
died away. Somebody began to cry for help. Both boys were on their feet on
the instant, hoisting the mainsail and getting everything ready to run.
The _Reindeer_ boy was doing likewise. A man, roused from his sleep on
the yacht, thrust an excited head through the skylight, but withdrew it
hastily at sight of the two stranger sloops. The intensity of waiting was
broken, the time for action come.
A NEW RESPONSIBILITY FOR JOE
Heaving in on the anchor-chain till it was up and down, 'Frisco Kid
and Joe ceased from their exertions. Everything was in readiness to
give the _Dazzler_ the jib, and go. They strained their eyes in the
direction of the shore. The clamor had died away, but here and there
lights were beginning to flash. The creaking of a block and tackle
came to their ears, and they heard Red Nelson's voice singing out:
"Lower away!" and "Cast off!"
"French Pete forgot to oil it," 'Frisco Kid commented, referring to
"Takin' their time about it, ain't they?" the boy on the _Reindeer_
called over to them, sitting down on the cabin and mopping his face
after the exertion of hoisting the mainsail single-handed.
"Guess they 're all right," 'Frisco Kid rejoined. "All ready?"
"Yes--all right here."
"Say, you," the man on the yacht cried through the skylight, not
venturing to show his head. "You 'd better go away."
"And you 'd better stay below and keep quiet," was the response.
"We 'll take care of ourselves. You do the same."
"If I was only out of this, I 'd show you!" he threatened.
"Lucky for you you 're not," responded the boy on the _Reindeer_;
and thereat the man kept quiet.
"Here they come!" said 'Frisco Kid suddenly to Joe.
The two skiffs shot out of the darkness and came alongside. Some kind
of an altercation was going on, as French Pete's voice attested.
"No, no!" he cried. "Put it on ze _Dazzler_. Ze _Reindeer_ she sail too
fast-a, and run away, oh, so queeck, and never more I see it. Put it on
ze _Dazzler_. Eh? Wot you say?"
"All right then," Red Nelson agreed. "We 'll whack up afterwards. But,
say, hurry up. Out with you, lads, and heave her up! My arm 's broke."
The men tumbled out, ropes were cast inboard, and all hands, with the
exception of Joe, tailed on. The shouting of men, the sound of oars, and
the rattling and slapping of blocks and sails, told that the men on shore
were getting under way for the pursuit.
"Now!" Red Nelson commanded. "All together! Don't let her come back or
you 'll smash the skiff. There she takes it! A long pull and a strong
pull! Once again! And yet again! Get a turn there, somebody, and take
Though the task was but half accomplished, they were exhausted by the
strenuous effort, and hailed the rest eagerly. Joe glanced over the side
to discover what the heavy object might be, and saw the vague outlines
of a small office-safe.
"Now all together!" Red Nelson began again. "Take her on the run and don't
let her stop! Yo, ho! heave, ho! Once again! And another! Over with her!"
Straining and gasping, with tense muscles and heaving chests, they brought
the cumbersome weight over the side, rolled it on top of the rail, and
lowered it into the cockpit on the run. The cabin doors were thrown apart,
and it was moved along, end for end, till it lay on the cabin floor, snug
against the end of the centerboard-case. Red Nelson had followed it aboard
to superintend. His left arm hung helpless at his side, and from the
finger-tips blood dripped with monotonous regularity. He did not seem to
mind it, however, nor even the mutterings of the human storm he had raised
ashore, and which, to judge by the sounds, was even then threatening to
break upon them.
"Lay your course for the Golden Gate," he said to French Pete, as he turned
to go. "I 'll try to stand by you, but if you get lost in the dark I 'll
meet you outside, off the Farralones, in the morning." He sprang into the
skiff after the men, and, with a wave of his uninjured arm, cried heartily:
"And then it 's for Mexico, my lads--Mexico and summer weather!"
Just as the _Dazzler_, freed from her anchor, paid off under the jib and
filled away, a dark sail loomed under their stern, barely missing the skiff
in tow. The cockpit of the stranger was crowded with men, who raised their
voices angrily at sight of the pirates. Joe had half a mind to run forward
and cut the halyards so that the _Dazzler_ might be captured. As he had
told French Pete the day before, he had done nothing to be ashamed of, and
was not afraid to go before a court of justice. But the thought of 'Frisco
Kid restrained him. He wanted to take him ashore with him, but in so doing
he did not wish to take him to jail. So he, too, began to experience a keen
interest in the escape of the _Dazzler_.
The pursuing sloop rounded up hurriedly to come about after them, and in
the darkness fouled the yacht which lay at anchor. The man aboard of her,
thinking that at last his time had come, gave one wild yell, ran on deck,
and leaped overboard. In the confusion of the collision, and while they
were endeavoring to save him, French Pete and the boys slipped away into
The _Reindeer_ had already disappeared, and by the time Joe and 'Frisco
Kid had the running-gear coiled down and everything in shape, they were
standing out in open water. The wind was freshening constantly, and the
_Dazzler_ heeled a lively clip through the comparatively smooth stretch.
Before an hour had passed, the lights of Hunter's Point were well on her
starboard beam. 'Frisco Kid went below to make coffee, but Joe remained
on deck, watching the lights of South San Francisco grow, and speculating
on their destination. Mexico! They were going to sea in such a frail craft!
Impossible! At least, it seemed so to him, for his conceptions of ocean
travel were limited to steamers and full-rigged ships. He was beginning
to feel half sorry that he had not cut the halyards, and longed to ask
French Pete a thousand questions; but just as the first was on his lips
that worthy ordered him to go below and get some coffee and then to turn
in. He was followed shortly afterward by 'Frisco Kid, French Pete remaining
at his lonely task of beating down the bay and out to sea. Twice he heard
the waves buffeted back from some flying forefoot, and once he saw a sail
to leeward on the opposite tack, which luffed sharply and came about at
sight of him. But the darkness favored, and he heard no more of it--perhaps
because he worked into the wind closer by a point, and held on his way
with a shaking after-leech.
Shortly after dawn, the two boys were called and came sleepily on deck.
The day had broken cold and gray, while the wind had attained half a gale.
Joe noted with astonishment the white tents of the quarantine station on
Angel Island. San Francisco lay a smoky blur on the southern horizon,
while the night, still lingering on the western edge of the world, slowly
withdrew before their eyes. French Pete was just finishing a long reach
into the Raccoon Straits, and at the same time studiously regarding a
plunging sloop-yacht half a mile astern.
"Dey t'ink to catch ze _Dazzler_, eh? Bah!" And he brought the craft
in question about, laying a course straight for the Golden Gate.
The pursuing yacht followed suit. Joe watched her a few moments. She held
an apparently parallel course to them, and forged ahead much faster.
"Why, at this rate they 'll have us in no time!" he cried.
French Pete laughed. "You t'ink so? Bah! Dey outfoot; we outpoint. Dey
are scared of ze wind; we wipe ze eye of ze wind. Ah! you wait, you see."
"They 're traveling ahead faster," 'Frisco Kid explained, "but we 're
sailing closer to the wind. In the end we 'll beat them, even if they
have the nerve to cross the bar--which I don't think they have. Look! See!"
Ahead could be seen the great ocean surges, flinging themselves skyward
and bursting into roaring caps of smother. In the midst of it, now rolling
her dripping bottom clear, now sousing her deck-load of lumber far above
the guards, a coasting steam-schooner was lumbering drunkenly into port.
It was magnificent--this battle between man and the elements. Whatever
timidity he had entertained fled away, and Joe's nostrils began to dilate
and his eyes to flash at the nearness of the impending struggle.
French Pete called for his oilskins and sou'wester, and Joe also was
equipped with a spare suit. Then he and 'Frisco Kid were sent below to
lash and cleat the safe in place. In the midst of this task Joe glanced
at the firm-name, gilt-lettered on the face of it, and read: "Bronson
& Tate." Why, that was his father and his father's partner. That was their
safe, their money! 'Frisco Kid, nailing the last cleat on the floor of
the cabin, looked up and followed his fascinated gaze.
"That 's rough, is n't it," he whispered. "Your father?"
Joe nodded. He could see it all now. They had run into San Andreas,
where his father worked the big quarries, and most probably the safe
contained the wages of the thousand men or more whom he employed.
"Don't say anything," he cautioned.
'Frisco Kid agreed knowingly. "French Pete can't read, anyway," he
muttered, "and the chances are that Red Nelson won't know what _your_
name is. But, just the same, it 's pretty rough. They 'll break it open
and divide up as soon as they can, so I don't see what you 're going to
do about it."
"Wait and see."
Joe had made up his mind that he would do his best to stand by his
father's property. At the worst, it could only be lost; and that would
surely be the case were he not along, while, being along, he at least
had a fighting chance to save it, or to be in position to recover it.
Responsibilities were showering upon him thick and fast. But a few days
back he had had but himself to consider; then, in some subtle way, he
had felt a certain accountability for 'Frisco Kid's future welfare; and
after that, and still more subtly, he had become aware of duties which
he owed to his position, to his sister, to his chums and friends; and
now, by a most unexpected chain of circumstances, came the pressing need
of service for his father's sake. It was a call upon his deepest strength,
and he responded bravely. While the future might be doubtful, he had no
doubt of himself; and this very state of mind, this self-confidence, by
a generous alchemy, gave him added resolution. Nor did he fail to be
vaguely aware of it, and to grasp dimly at the truth that confidence
breeds confidence--strength, strength.
THE BOYS PLAN AN ESCAPE
"Now she takes it!" French Pete cried.
Both lads ran into the cockpit. They were on the edge of the breaking bar.
A huge forty-footer reared a foam-crested head far above them, stealing
their wind for the moment and threatening to crush the tiny craft like
an egg-shell. Joe held his breath. It was the supreme moment. French Pete
luffed straight into it, and the _Dazzler_ mounted the steep slope with
a rush, poised a moment on the giddy summit, and fell into the yawning
valley beyond. Keeping off in the intervals to fill the mainsail, and
luffing into the combers, they worked their way across the dangerous
stretch. Once they caught the tail-end of a whitecap and were well-nigh
smothered in the froth, but otherwise the sloop bobbed and ducked with
the happy facility of a cork.
To Joe it seemed as though he had been lifted out of himself--out of
the world. Ah, this was life! this was action! Surely it could not be
the old, commonplace world he had lived in so long! The sailors, grouped
on the streaming deck-load of the steamer, waved their sou'westers, and,
on the bridge, even the captain was expressing his admiration for the
"Ah, you see! you see!" French Pete pointed astern.
The sloop-yacht had been afraid to venture it, and was skirting back
and forth on the inner edge of the bar. The chase was over. A pilot-boat,
running for shelter from the coming storm, flew by them like a frightened
bird, passing the steamer as though the latter were standing still.
Half an hour later the _Dazzler_ sped beyond the last smoking sea and was
sliding up and down on the long Pacific swell. The wind had increased its
velocity and necessitated a reefing down of jib and mainsail. Then they
laid off again, full and free on the starboard tack, for the Farralones,
thirty miles away. By the time breakfast was cooked and eaten they picked
up the _Reindeer_, which was hove to and working offshore to the south and
west. The wheel was lashed down, and there was not a soul on deck.
French Pete complained bitterly against such recklessness. "Dat is ze one
fault of Red Nelson. He no care. He is afraid of not'ing. Some day he will
die, oh, so vaire queeck! I know he will."
Three times they circled about the _Reindeer_, running under her weather
quarter and shouting in chorus, before they brought anybody on deck. Sail
was then made at once, and together the two cockle-shells plunged away
into the vastness of the Pacific. This was necessary, as 'Frisco Kid
informed Joe, in order to have an offing before the whole fury of the
storm broke upon them. Otherwise they would be driven on the lee shore
of the California coast. Grub and water, he said, could be obtained by
running into the land when fine weather came. He congratulated Joe upon
the fact that he was not seasick, which circumstance likewise brought
praise from French Pete and put him in better humor with his mutinous
"I 'll tell you what we 'll do," 'Frisco Kid whispered, while cooking
dinner. "To-night we 'll drag French Pete down--"
"Drag French Pete down!"
"Yes, and tie him up good and snug, as soon as it gets dark; then put
out the lights and make a run for land; get to port anyway, anywhere,
just so long as we shake loose from Red Nelson."
"Yes," Joe deliberated; "that would be all right--if I could do it
alone. But as for asking you to help me--why, that would be treason
to French Pete."
"That 's what I 'm coming to. I 'll help you if you promise me a few
things. French Pete took me aboard when I ran away from the 'refuge,'
when I was starving and had no place to go, and I just can't repay him
for that by sending him to jail. 'T would n't be square. Your father
would n't have you break your word, would he?"
"No; of course not." Joe knew how sacredly his father held his word
"Then you must promise, and your father must see it carried out, not
to press any charge against French Pete."
"All right. And now, what about yourself? You can't very well expect
to go away with him again on the _Dazzler_!"
"Oh, don't bother about me. There 's nobody to miss me. I 'm strong
enough, and know enough about it, to ship to sea as ordinary seaman.
I 'll go away somewhere over on the other side of the world, and begin
all over again."
"Then we 'll have to call it off, that 's all."
"Call what off?"
"Tying French Pete up and running for it."
"No, sir. That 's decided upon."
"Now listen here: I 'll not have a thing to do with it. I 'll go on to
Mexico first, if you don't make me one promise."
"And what 's the promise?"
"Just this: you place yourself in my hands from the moment we get ashore,
and trust to me. You don't know anything about the land, anyway--you said
so. And I 'll fix it with my father--I know I can--so that you can get to
know people of the right sort, and study and get an education, and be
something else than a bay pirate or a sailor. That 's what you 'd like,
is n't it?"
Though he said nothing, 'Frisco Kid showed how well he liked it by the
expression of his face.
"And it 'll be no more than your due, either," Joe continued. "You will
have stood by me, and you 'll have recovered my father's money. He 'll
owe it to you."
"But I don't do things that way. I don't think much of a man who does
a favor just to be paid for it."
"Now you keep quiet. How much do you think it would cost my father for
detectives and all that to recover that safe? Give me your promise, that
's all, and when I 've got things arranged, if you don't like them you
can back out. Come on; that 's fair."
They shook hands on the bargain, and proceeded to map out their line of
action for the night.
* * * * *
But the storm, yelling down out of the northwest, had something entirely
different in store for the _Dazzler_ and her crew. By the time dinner was
over they were forced to put double reefs in mainsail and jib, and still
the gale had not reached its height. The sea, also, had been kicked up till
it was a continuous succession of water-mountains, frightful and withal
grand to look upon from the low deck of the sloop. It was only when the
sloops were tossed upon the crests of the waves at the same time that they
caught sight of each other. Occasional fragments of seas swashed into the
cockpit or dashed aft over the cabin, and Joe was stationed at the small
pump to keep the well dry.
At three o'clock, watching his chance, French Pete motioned to the
_Reindeer_ that he was going to heave to and get out a sea-anchor.
This latter was of the nature of a large shallow canvas bag, with the
mouth held open by triangularly lashed spars. To this the towing-ropes
were attached, on the kite principle, so that the greatest resisting
surface was presented to the water. The sloop, drifting so much faster,
would thus be held bow on to both wind and sea--the safest possible
position in a storm. Red Nelson waved his hand in response that he
understood and to go ahead.
French Pete went forward to launch the sea-anchor himself, leaving it
to 'Frisco Kid to put the helm down at the proper moment and run into
the wind. The Frenchman poised on the slippery fore-deck, waiting an
opportunity. But at that moment the _Dazzler_ lifted into an unusually
large sea, and, as she cleared the summit, caught a heavy snort of the
gale at the very instant she was righting herself to an even keel. Thus
there was not the slightest yield to this sudden pressure on her sails
There was a quick snap, followed by a crash. The steel weather-rigging
carried away at the lanyards, and mast, jib, mainsail, blocks, stays,
sea-anchor, French Pete--everything--went over the side. Almost by a
miracle, the captain clutched at the bobstay and managed to get one hand
up and over the bowsprit. The boys ran forward to drag him into safety,
and Red Nelson, observing the disaster, put up his helm and ran down to
French Pete was uninjured from the fall overboard with the _Dazzler's_
mast; but the sea-anchor, which had gone with him, had not escaped so
easily. The gaff of the mainsail had been driven through it, and it
refused to work. The wreckage, thumping alongside, held the sloop in
a quartering slant to the seas--not so dangerous a position as it might
be, nor so safe, either. "Good-by, old-a _Dazzler_. Never no more you
wipe ze eye of ze wind. Never no more you kick your heels at ze crack
So the captain lamented, standing in the cockpit and surveying the ruin
with wet eyes. Even Joe, who bore him great dislike, felt sorry for him
at this moment. A heavier blast of the wind caught the jagged crest of
a wave and hurled it upon the helpless craft.
"Can't we save her?" Joe spluttered.
'Frisco Kid shook his head.
"Nor the safe?"
"Impossible," he answered. "Could n't lay another boat alongside for a
United States mint. As it is, it 'll keep us guessing to save ourselves."
Another sea swept over them, and the skiff, which had long since been
swamped, dashed itself to pieces against the stern. Then the _Reindeer_
towered above them on a mountain of water. Joe caught himself half
shrinking back, for it seemed she would fall down squarely on top
of them; but the next instant she dropped into the gaping trough,
and they were looking down upon her far below. It was a striking
picture--one Joe was destined never to forget. The _Reindeer_ was
wallowing in the snow-white smother, her rails flush with the sea,
the water scudding across her deck in foaming cataracts. The air was
filled with flying spray, which made the scene appear hazy and unreal.
One of the men was clinging to the perilous after-deck and striving
to cast off the water-logged skiff. The boy, leaning far over the
cockpit-rail and holding on for dear life, was passing him a knife.
The second man stood at the wheel, putting it up with flying hands
and forcing the sloop to pay off. Beside him, his injured arm in a
sling, was Red Nelson, his sou'wester gone and his fair hair plastered
in wet, wind-blown ringlets about his face. His whole attitude breathed
indomitability, courage, strength. It seemed almost as though the divine
were blazing forth from him. Joe looked upon him in sudden awe, and,
realizing the enormous possibilities of the man, felt sorrow for the way
in which they had been wasted. A thief and a robber! In that flashing
moment Joe caught a glimpse of human truth, grasped at the mystery of
success and failure. Life threw back its curtains that he might read it
and understand. Of such stuff as Red Nelson were heroes made; but they
possessed wherein he lacked--the power of choice, the careful poise of
mind, the sober control of soul: in short, the very things his father
had so often "preached" to him about.
These were the thoughts which came to Joe in the flight of a second. Then
the _Reindeer_ swept skyward and hurtled across their bow to leeward on
the breast of a mighty billow.
"Ze wild man! ze wild man!" French Pete shrieked, watching her in
amazement. "He t'inks he can jibe! He will die! We will all die! He
must come about. Oh, ze fool, ze fool!"
But time was precious, and Red Nelson ventured the chance. At the right
moment he jibed the mainsail over and hauled back on the wind.
"Here she comes! Make ready to jump for it," 'Frisco Kid cried to Joe.
The _Reindeer_ dashed by their stern, heeling over till the cabin windows
were buried, and so close that it appeared she must run them down. But a
freak of the waters lurched the two crafts apart. Red Nelson, seeing that
the manoeuver had miscarried, instantly instituted another. Throwing the
helm hard up, the _Reindeer_ whirled on her heel, thus swinging her
overhanging main-boom closer to the _Dazzler_. French Pete was the
nearest, and the opportunity could last no longer than a second. Like
a cat he sprang, catching the foot-rope with both hands. Then the
_Reindeer_ forged ahead, dipping him into the sea at every plunge. But
he clung on, working inboard every time he emerged, till he dropped into
the cockpit as Red Nelson squared off to run down to leeward and repeat
"Your turn next," 'Frisco Kid said.
"No; yours," Joe replied.
"But I know more about the water," 'Frisco Kid insisted.
"And I can swim as well as you," the other retorted.
It would have been hard to forecast the outcome of this dispute; but,
as it was, the swift rush of events made any settlement needless. The
_Reindeer_ had jibed over and was plowing back at breakneck speed,
careening at such an angle that it seemed she must surely capsize. It
was a gallant sight. Just then the storm burst in all its fury, the
shouting wind flattening the ragged crests till they boiled. The
_Reindeer_ dipped from view behind an immense wave. The wave rolled
on, but the next moment, where the sloop had been, the boys noted with
startled eyes only the angry waters! Doubting, they looked a second time.
There was no _Reindeer_. They were alone on the torn crest of the ocean!
"God have mercy on their souls!" 'Frisco Kid said solemnly.
Joe was too horrified at the suddenness of the catastrophe to utter
"Sailed her clean under, and, with the ballast she carried, went
straight to bottom," 'Frisco Kid gasped. Then, turning to their own
pressing need, he said: "Now we 've got to look out for ourselves.
The back of the storm broke in that puff, but the sea 'll kick up
worse yet as the wind eases down. Lend a hand and hang on with the
other. We 've got to get her head-on."
Together, knives in hand, they crawled forward to where the pounding
wreckage hampered the boat sorely. 'Frisco Kid took the lead in the
ticklish work, but Joe obeyed orders like a veteran. Every minute or
two the bow was swept by the sea, and they were pounded and buffeted
about like a pair of shuttlecocks. First the main portion of the
wreckage was securely fastened to the forward bitts; then, breathless
and gasping, more often under the water than out, they cut and hacked
at the tangle of halyards, sheets, stays, and tackles. The cockpit was
taking water rapidly, and it was a race between swamping and completing
the task. At last, however, everything stood clear save the lee rigging.
'Frisco Kid slashed the lanyards. The storm did the rest. The _Dazzler_
drifted swiftly to leeward of the wreckage till the strain on the line
fast to the forward bitts jerked her bow into place and she ducked dead
into the eye of the wind and sea.
Pausing only for a cheer at the success of their undertaking, the two lads
raced aft, where the cockpit was half full and the dunnage of the cabin
all afloat. With a couple of buckets procured from the stern lockers, they
proceeded to fling the water overboard. It was heartbreaking work, for
many a barrelful was flung back upon them again; but they persevered, and
when night fell the _Dazzler_, bobbing merrily at her sea-anchor, could
boast that her pumps sucked once more. As 'Frisco Kid had said, the
backbone of the storm was broken, though the wind had veered to the west,
where it still blew stiffly.
"If she holds," 'Frisco Kid said, referring to the breeze, "we 'll drift
to the California coast sometime to-morrow. Nothing to do now but wait."
They said little, oppressed by the loss of their comrades and overcome
with exhaustion, preferring to huddle against each other for the sake
of warmth and companionship. It was a miserable night, and they shivered
constantly from the cold. Nothing dry was to be obtained aboard, food,
blankets, everything being soaked with the salt water. Sometimes they
dozed; but these intervals were short and harassing, for it seemed each
took turn in waking with such sudden starts as to rouse the other.
At last day broke, and they looked about. Wind and sea had dropped
considerably, and there was no question as to the safety of the
_Dazzler_. The coast was nearer than they had expected, its cliffs
showing dark and forbidding in the gray of dawn. But with the rising
of the sun they could see the yellow beaches, flanked by the white
surf, and beyond--it seemed too good to be true--the clustering houses
and smoking chimneys of a town.
"Santa Cruz!" 'Frisco Kid cried, "and no chance of being wrecked in
"Then the safe _is_ safe?" Joe queried.
"Safe! I should say so. It ain't much of a sheltered harbor for large
vessels, but with this breeze we 'll run right up the mouth of the
San Lorenzo River. Then there 's a little lake like, and a boat-house.
Water smooth as glass and hardly over your head. You see, I was down
here once before, with Red Nelson. Come on. We 'll be in in time for
Bringing to light some spare coils of rope from the lockers, he put a
clove-hitch on the standing part of the sea-anchor hawser, and carried
the new running-line aft, making it fast to the stern bitts. Then he
cast off from the forward bitts. The _Dazzler_ swung off into the trough,
completed the evolution, and pointed her nose toward shore. A couple of
spare oars from below, and as many water-soaked blankets, sufficed to
make a jury-mast and sail. When this was in place, Joe cast loose from
the wreckage, which was now towing astern, while 'Frisco Kid took the
JOE AND HIS FATHER
"How 's that?" cried 'Frisco Kid, as he finished making the _Dazzler_
fast fore and aft, and sat down on the stringpiece of the tiny wharf.
"What 'll we do next, captain?"
Joe looked up in quick surprise. "Why--I--what 's the matter?"
"Well, ain't you captain now? Have n't we reached land? I 'm crew from
now on, ain't I? What 's your orders?"
Joe caught the spirit of it. "Pipe all hands for breakfast--that is--wait
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