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|Tales of the Fish Patrol||Jack London|
|Page 6 of 9||
All the fishermen had rifles, and they now opened a general fusillade. We were all driven to cover - even Charley, who was compelled to desert the wheel. Had it not been for the heavy drag of the nets, we would inevitably have broached to at the mercy of the enraged fishermen. But the nets, fastened to the bottom of the Mary Rebecca well aft, held her stern into the wind, and she continued to plough on, though somewhat erratically.
Charley, lying on the deck, could just manage to reach the lower spokes of the wheel; but while he could steer after a fashion, it was very awkward. Ole Ericsen bethought himself of a large piece of sheet steel in the empty hold.
It was in fact a plate from the side of the New Jersey, a steamer which had recently been wrecked outside the Golden Gate, and in the salving of which the Mary Rebecca had taken part.
Crawling carefully along the deck, the two sailors, Ole, and myself got the heavy plate on deck and aft, where we reared it as a shield between the wheel and the fishermen. The bullets whanged and banged against it till it rang like a bull's-eye, but Charley grinned in its shelter, and coolly went on steering.
So we raced along, behind us a howling, screaming bedlam of wrathful Greeks, Collinsville ahead, and bullets spat-spatting all around us.
"Ole," Charley said in a faint voice, "I don't know what we're going to do."
Ole Ericsen, lying on his back close to the rail and grinning upward at the sky, turned over on his side and looked at him. "Ay tank we go into Collinsville yust der same," he said.
"But we can't stop," Charley groaned. "I never thought of it, but we can't stop."
A look of consternation slowly overspread Ole Ericsen's broad face. It was only too true. We had a hornet's nest on our hands, and to stop at Collinsville would be to have it about our ears.
"Every man Jack of them has a gun," one of the sailors remarked cheerfully.
"Yes, and a knife, too," the other sailor added.
It was Ole Ericsen's turn to groan. "What for a Svaidish faller like me monkey with none of my biziness, I don't know," he soliloquized.
A bullet glanced on the stern and sang off to starboard like a spiteful bee. "There's nothing to do but plump the Mary Rebecca ashore and run for it," was the verdict of the first cheerful sailor.
"And leaf der Mary Rebecca?" Ole demanded, with unspeakable horror in his voice.
"Not unless you want to," was the response. "But I don't want to be within a thousand miles of her when those fellers come aboard" - indicating the bedlam of excited Greeks towing behind.
We were right in at Collinsville then, and went foaming by within biscuit-toss of the wharf.
"I only hope the wind holds out," Charley said, stealing a glance at our prisoners.
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