GETTING EVEN

To Tom and little Joey mackerel catching was a novelty, and neither was
able to aid very much in the work until after having satisfied his
curiosity regarding this odd method of fishing.

Tom was lost in wonder because the hungry fish snapped at the bit of
white cloth, or even the bare hook, before it was well down to the
surface of the water, and not the least of his surprise was regarding
the ease with which the mackerel could be shaken off after having been
brought inboard.

“It’s the greatest fishin’ I ever heard tell of!” he exclaimed in
delight as Uncle Ben detached a rainbow-colored fish from the hook by a
sharp jerk on the line. “My, my, but don’t they take hold lively!”

“That’s more’n can be said for you,” the old lobster catcher replied
with a laugh as he pulled in another fish. “When you strike a school of
mackerel it don’t pay to spend much time with your mouth open, for
they’re odd creeters, an’ jest as apt to knock off bitin’ in another
minute as they are to keep on for the next hour. Fishermen have to get
’em when they’re in the humor, an’ it’s a case of jumpin’ to it the best
you know how. Why don’t you swing your line over?”

“I declare for it I’d forgotten all about doin’ my share,” Tom said, in
what was much like a tone of apology as he acted upon the old man’s
suggestion. “It’s so funny that I couldn’t do anythin’ but watch.”

Even while speaking he swung a fat fish over the rail, and from that
moment the most enthusiastic fisherman aboard was Tom Falonna.

The eager fish even allowed themselves to be caught by the “baby,” and
little Joey screamed with delight as he brought over the rail a tiny
“tinker” gorgeous in hues of blue, green, pink and white.

“Talk about luck on the first cruise!” Mr. Rowe cried when it seemed as
if the “Sally’s” deck was completely covered with the beautiful fish.
“To strike a school so near inshore at this time of year is enough to
make a man sit up an’ look at himself; but to have ’em keep up the fun
so long is somethin’ I never run across! What about losin’ a few
lobsters for the sake of gatherin’ in sich a fare as this? I’m tellin’
you, Uncle Ben, if we could get this lot inter Boston fresh, the ’Sally’
would come somewhere near payin’ half her cost. If we only had a lot of
ice aboard!”

“I’m allowin’ Portland would be as good a market as Boston, an’ if this
wind holds we could run in there with the mackerel sweet an’ fresh, even
though we didn’t have any ice,” Uncle Ben replied thoughtfully, but
without ceasing his work for a single instant.

“I believe it would pay, even though we didn’t get back to the island
for a week, for there’s a good bit of money in this fare,” Reuben said
in a tone of satisfaction; but his face clouded when the old man added
decidedly:

“We can’t afford to take the chances of havin’ things go wrong at home,
an’ that’s the fact.”

“S’pose you can’t get ’em in port fresh, what is to be done with such a
slat?” Tom asked, and Mr. Rowe replied mournfully:

“We’ll have to salt ’em down, which not only means a big lot of work,
but cuts down the price a lot. It’s a pity we hadn’t left you lads
ashore, an’ then it would be a case of our gettin’ inter market with
what would fetch a couple of hundred dollars.”

“How far do you allow we are from Apple Island now?” Sam asked suddenly,
as if a happy thought had come to him.

“Somewhere ’bout five miles, I reckon. What do you say, Uncle Ben?”

“We can’t be much further off than that; but if we was countin’ on
makin’ Portland, it would add ten miles to the run if we put in home,
an’ that’s far enough to cut short our chances of gettin’ the fish on
the market while the weather is so warm.”

“What’s to hinder Tom an’ me from pullin’ over home when this school
gets through bitin’?” Sam asked. “You could get under way in a jiffy,
an’ have no need to worry ’bout things on the island. The only trouble
would be that you’d have to go without a small boat.”

“You’ve hit the nail square on the head, lad!” Mr. Rowe cried excitedly.
“It’s the very thing to be done! I allow we can get along without the
dory when it’s a case of scoopin’ in two hundred dollars or more!”

“What about it, Uncle Ben?” Sam asked anxiously, and the old man
replied, speaking slowly and thoughtfully:

“It’ll be a long pull for you, Sammy; but if it wasn’t for that I’d say
Reuben had the right idee. We’ve got a lot of fish here, an’ they’re
worth seven or eight cents apiece as they run, for fresh mackerel at
this time of the year are somethin’ of a rarity, an’ there are rich
folks enough in this world to pay extra money for the sake of havin’
things out of season.”

“Then the whole business is settled,” Tom cried, still continuing his
work of adding to the cargo. “It wouldn’t make any difference if we
were ten miles from home, ’cause we’d be bound to pull back for the sake
of helpin’ bring in two hundred dollars to the family. How is that for
two or three hours’ fishin’?”

To this outburst Uncle Ben made no reply and his crew took it for
granted that the matter was settled without need of further discussion.
Mr. Rowe suggested that the “baby,” who was not making any great headway
at taking fish, set about gathering up the catch into baskets that it
might be sent into the hold where the sun could not shine upon it and
the remainder of the “family” worked even more rapidly than before, if
indeed that could be possible, in order to add to the take before the
mackerel were done biting.

It seemed to the eager fishermen as if a full hour had been spent at the
work before the fish, with no apparent reason, suddenly sank out of
sight, and Uncle Ben announced as he swung his lines inboard:

“That finishes this job, an’ if you’re countin’ on makin’ Portland while
the fare is sweet an’ fresh, Reuben, I’m allowin’ we’d better get the
’Sally’ on her course. It’s been a rare piece of good fortune for the
first cruise,” Uncle Ben said placidly, and Mr. Rowe shouted in a tone
of command:

“Now, then, if you boys are reckonin’ on pullin’ back home, it’s time
you got over the rail, for we can’t waste a minute jest now!”

“Shan’t we hold on a bit to help put the fish in the hold?” Sam asked.
“It’s so early in the day that no great harm will be done if we make the
trip three or four miles longer.”

“We can do that work after we’re on our course, an’ I’m not allowin’ you
shall go any further from home,” Uncle Ben said decidedly. “If you’re
willin’ to go back, get about the job before the ’Sally’ is under way.”

“Willin’? Of course we are!” Tom cried as he hauled the dory alongside.
“It would be funny if we wasn’t, with so much money to be made. I’d go
back alone rather than lose the chance to make a pile on the first
cruise.”

“Then over the rail with you, an’ be lively!” Mr. Rowe cried.

In a twinkling the two boys were in the dory, the painter was cast off,
and little Joey was dancing excitedly about the deck as he screamed
shrilly:

“Good-bye, Sam! Good-bye, Tom! I’m sorry you won’t have a chance to
see the city, but I’ll tell you all about it when we get back!”

“We don’t want to see any city, when there’s lots of lobsters in the
pots!” Sam cried cheerily. “Say, Uncle Ben, the car was mighty nigh
full when we dumped the catch in last night; what’s to be done if we
have good luck to-day?”

“Better freight a load over to the Port, Sammy, if you feel able to pull
that far. Mr. Mansfield will take all you carry; but in case you’re too
tired, we’ll run the chances of losin’ some of ’em, seein’s how this
’ere lot of mackerel more’n makes up for them as may eat each other.”




“Jest hold your hand on the top of your head till we get tired when
there are big dollars to be made, an’ see how long you’ll keep it
there!” Tom cried as the “Sally” came around on her heel, every inch of
canvas catching the fresh breeze and forcing the little schooner on her
way to Portland, as if understanding how necessary it was the fish be
delivered to the purchasers by daybreak next morning.

“I thought I’d seen quick work before, but I never struck any thin’ so
sudden as mackerel fishin’,” Tom said when the dory, with the boys each
pulling a pair of oars, was headed for Apple Island. “There must be big
money in sich business, an’ I wonder Uncle Ben don’t knock off
lobsterin’ to ’tend to it.”

“We might come out fifty times, an’ not strike luck the same as we had
it this mornin’,” Sam replied with a happy laugh. “It’s great for the
first cruise, an’ now if we can take as many lobsters as we did last
night, it’ll seem as if this family had started in all right.”

So elated were the lads by the success of the morning that the five-mile
pull was hardly more than sport, and so busy were they speculating as to
how much money the mackerel would bring in that it seemed as if they
were hardly more than cast off from the “Sally D.” before Apple Island
was close under the dory’s bow.

“I reckon Mr. Rowe was way out of his reckonin’ when he said we were so
far away,” Tom cried in astonishment, when Sam called his attention to
the fact that they were almost home. “It can’t have been more’n——
Hello! Ain’t that your old heathen jest pullin’ out of the cove?”

Sam ceased rowing in order to gaze in the direction indicated by Tom’s
outstretched finger, and an exclamation of dismay burst from his lips as
he cried:

“That’s him sure enough! Now, what kind of mischief do you reckon he’s
been up to?”

“With all hands of us an’ the ’Sally’ away from home, I don’t allow he
could kick up very much of a row,” Tom replied carelessly, and added
with a hearty laugh, “I reckon he was chafin’ some under the collar when
he found we’d got out of his way.”

“Unless he fooled with the lobster car, I don’t s’pose he could do much
mischief,” Sam said half to himself; “but yet it seems as if he must
have cut up some kind of a shine, else why is he goin’ off so peaceable
like?”

“’Cause there was nobody ashore to pick up a fuss with,” Tom replied in
a tone of satisfaction. “I wish Uncle Ben would let Mr. Rowe, an’ you,
an’ me serve the old pirate out once! I’ll bet he wouldn’t want to come
foolin’ ’round this island ag’in!”

The lads gave no further attention to Captain Doak, after making certain
that he was pulling toward the Port at his best pace, and five minutes
later their dory had rounded the point, opening to view the shore of the
cove.

Then it was that both the boys ceased rowing very suddenly, as they gave
vent to a cry of mingled anger and sorrow, for the shanty appeared to be
in a blaze, with the flames already bursting out through the roof.

“That’s what the old heathen has been doin’!” Tom cried in a rage, as he
dipped his oars deep in the water. “Pull around, Sam, so’s we can
overhaul him, an’ no matter how big he is, I’ll give him a dose that
won’t be forgotten very soon!”

“Even if we could get the best of him, there’s no use chasin’ his boat;
he’s got a good mile the start, an’ we’d never be able to make that up
’twixt here an’ the Port. Pull, Tom, pull the best you know how, an’
perhaps we can save some few of the things!”

“It’s too late now, for the whole place is in a light blaze,” Tom
replied sorrowfully, but he obeyed the command to the best of his
ability, and the dory was sent over the water at a rate of speed which,
it is safe to say, she had never equaled.

The boys did not slow down on nearing the shore, but ran her at full
speed high up on the sand, leaping over the rail even as she struck, but
before they had taken a single step in the direction of the shanty it
was possible to see that any efforts of theirs would be useless.

Uncle Ben’s home, slightly built of inflammable material, was burning
fiercely, the flames leaping up from every point, and it could be
understood that Captain Doak had waited until making certain his
villainous work was thoroughly performed before he left the island.

The boys ran at full speed, however, hardly knowing what they did, and
came to a halt only when the heat of the fire prevented any nearer
approach. Here they stood watching the devouring flames in silence a
full minute, when Tom, turning in the direction of the Port, shook his
fist threateningly as he cried angrily:

“It makes no difference what Uncle Ben says, if ever I come within
strikin’ distance of that miserable pirate! The idea of burnin’ a
shanty when he couldn’t do himself any good, but only to turn an old man
outer house an’ home! Come on, Sam, even if we can’t catch him we’ll
tell the folks at the Port what he has done, an’ I’ll be way out of my
reckonin’ if they don’t make it hot for him before he’s many hours
older!”

“We can’t spend the time to go there till after the traps have been
hauled, ’cause even if the shanty is burned we’ve got to take care of
the lobsters,” Sam replied with a sigh. “If we could only rig up some
kind of a place for Uncle Ben to sleep in when he get back!”

“He’ll have the ’Sally,’ won’t he? We can live aboard of her till
another house is built; but it’ll take all the money that comes in from
the mackerel to pay for new lumber.”

“I forgot that we’d have the schooner for a home, so things ain’t quite
so bad as they might have been. See here, Tom, we mustn’t think of
runnin’ after Cap’en Doak, for there’s no knowin’ but that we’ll have to
carry a load of lobsters to the Port, an’ if that’s so, we oughter get
off early, ’cause we must be back before dark.”

“Why? There’s no place here for us to sleep, ’less we camp under the
trees an’ if we have to go to the Port I’m thinkin’ we’d best stay there
till mornin’, ’cause there’s no show Uncle Ben can get back even as
early as to-morrow.”

“You’re right; but even at that we can’t hang ’round here very long,
seein’s how there’s nothin’ to be done. Let’s pull the traps, an’ then
make up our minds what we’d best do.”

“Say, we’ve got to go to the town, ’cause there ain’t anythin’ here to
eat, an’ I’m mighty hungry already.”

“Come on, then; we’ll tackle the traps, for it’s a case of goin’ hungry
till that work has been done an’ we’ve pulled a heavy dory six or seven
miles!”

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