Tales of the Fish Patrol HTML version

Yellow Handkerchief
"I'm not wanting to dictate to you, lad," Charley said; "but I'm very much against
your making a last raid. You've gone safely through rough times with rough men,
and it would be a shame to have something happen to you at the very end."
"But how can I get out of making a last raid?" I demanded, with the cocksureness
of youth. "There always has to be a last, you know, to anything."
Charley crossed his legs, leaned back, and considered the problem. "Very true.
But why not call the capture of Demetrios Contos the last? You're back from it
safe and sound and hearty, for all your good wetting, and - and - " His voice
broke and he could not speak for a moment. "And I could never forgive myself if
anything happened to you now."
I laughed at Charley's fears while I gave in to the claims of his affection, and
agreed to consider the last raid already performed. We had been together for two
years, and now I was leaving the fish patrol in order to go back and finish my
education. I had earned and saved money to put me through three years at the
high school, and though the beginning of the term was several months away, I
intended doing a lot of studying for the entrance examinations.
My belongings were packed snugly in a sea-chest, and I was all ready to buy my
ticket and ride down on the train to Oakland, when Neil Partington arrived in
Benicia. The Reindeer was needed immediately for work far down on the Lower
Bay, and Neil said he intended to run straight for Oakland. As that was his home
and as I was to live with his family while going to school, he saw no reason, he
said, why I should not put my chest aboard and come along.
So the chest went aboard, and in the middle of the afternoon we hoisted the
Reindeer's big mainsail and cast off. It was tantalizing fall weather. The sea-
breeze, which had blown steadily all summer, was gone, and in its place were
capricious winds and murky skies which made the time of arriving anywhere
extremely problematical. We started on the first of the ebb, and as we slipped
down the Carquinez Straits, I looked my last for some time upon Benicia and the
bight at Turner's Shipyard, where we had besieged the Lancashire Queen, and
had captured Big Alec, the King of the Greeks. And at the mouth of the Straits I
looked with not a little interest upon the spot where a few days before I should
have drowned but for the good that was in the nature of Demetrios Contos.
A great wall of fog advanced across San Pablo Bay to meet us, and in a few
minutes the Reindeer was running blindly through the damp obscurity. Charley,
who was steering, seemed to have an instinct for that kind of work. How he did it,
he himself confessed that he did not know; but he had a way of calculating
winds, currents, distance, time, drift, and sailing speed that was truly marvellous.
"It looks as though it were lifting," Neil Partington said, a couple of hours after we
had entered the fog. "Where do you say we are, Charley?"
Charley looked at his watch, "Six o'clock, and three hours more of ebb," he
remarked casually.
"But where do you say we are?" Neil insisted.