Suddenly the door of the skipper’s house flew open and out of the glow of candle-light leaped a figure that might easily (under the circumstances and condition of the mob) have been the devil himself—himself, the father of all the little devils in hell. The wrathful bellow of him was like the roar of a wounded walrus. He touched ground in the centre of the front rank of the mob, and as his feet touched the ground his billet of green birch cracked down upon a skull. And still he continued to roar; and still the club cracked and cracked; and then Bill Brennen got heartily to work on the rear rank with his broken oar.
The mob of mutineers had arrived intoxicated, and with no very clear idea of what they intended to do to the witch and the skipper. They had intended to make the first move, however; of that they were certain. They had intended to open the door themselves—and now some divil had opened it before they were ready! They were so unsteady on their feet that no man of them stood up for a second blow. A few got to work on their own account; but it was so dark that they did little damage even to their friends. After five or six had fallen the next in order for treatment faced about to retire. In their indignation and bewilderment they discovered that another club was at work in their rear. This unnerved them so that they—the survivors of the demonstration—raised their voices to heaven in expostulation and stampeded. They went over Bill Brennen like a wave over a bar, knocking the breath out of him, and sending the oar flying from his grasp; but the skipper kept right after them, still roaring, still plying the billet of green birch. They scattered, each dashing for his own cabin, bursting open the door, sprawling inside, and shutting the door with his feet.
After the last door had been slammed in his face, the skipper went home. He found Bill Brennen seated by the stove, trying a pipeful of Mother Nolan’s tobacco. He had regained his broken oar and held it tenderly across his knees.
“We sure put the witchery into them squid, skipper, sir,” he said. “We sure larned ’em the black magic, by Peter!”
SOME EARLY VISITS
The skipper kept his two unswerving henchmen to supper and brewed a mighty bowl in their honor. He even condescended to thank Nick for his warning, roundabout and prolonged though it had been, and to throw a word of praise to Bill Brennen. He felt that the unqualified success of his unexpected attack upon the mob had rewon for him much of his mastery of the harbor. The others agreed with him. Bill Brennen, with a mug full of punch in his hand, and his eyes on the broken oar which had stood in a corner, humbly advised him to bestir himself at an early hour in the morning, and put the finishing touches on the lesson. He advised a house-to-house visitation before the heroes had recovered from the brandy and the birch billet—not to mention the oar.