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The Vagabond



Last weekend the Vagabond set himself for an enormous coverage of work. Divisionals were rolling in, and this was no time to fool around. But when Saturday afternoon had somewhat spent itself in the stacks of Harry's Club, he couldn't resist going down to the old ship-yard just to take a look at his small cruising cutter. There it was tucked away in the corner of the big shed. It's bottom was rough and brown but a little work would fix it up, he thought--as he climbed over the side and stepped quietly into the cockpit. He put his hand on the tiller and moved it slowly back and forth. The compass read 247 degrees--west-south-west--the very direction he had followed coming home down the coast last summer.

He held the boat right on the course, never budging a degree, even with the swell that was beginning to rise. Night was falling, so he switched on the compass light. He thought of the skipper lying in his bunk below, staring up at his compass. He certainly couldn't growl about the course this time. An even breeze was blowing the number one jib-topsail gracefully to leeward while the moon made diagonal shadows on the curved sails.

Suddenly a green light appeared off the port bow. And the Vagabond, who at times is a timid soul, thought of the liquor that he had proudly extracted from Halifax without paying the Canadian tax. He turned off the running lights and headed the ship slowly up into the wind. But almost immediately the green light turned into red and green and the black form of a cost guard cutter came out full against the sky. It steamed closer, and came alongside. In a queer voice the Vagabond tried to be nonchalant. "Bound for Marblehead," he called. "Leaving Bar Harbor, Maine . . . a fine night . . . isn't it?"

There was no answer for a moment, while thoughts of searches, arrests, trials and convictions ran through his head. "Where are your running lights?" cried a voice.

"The Skipper is fixing a short circuit below," said the Vagabond and grew cold all over. He wanted to kick himself for being such a fool as to forget to turn them on again. "They'll be on in a minute," he added shakily.

"All right," the voice called. "A good voyage to you." And the cutter slowly turned away to leeward and disappeared in the night.

And then everything was quiet again. The Vagabond wondered at the silence of the water and the smoothness of the boat's speed. He reflected that he had had a good summer, and that college in the Junior year would be pretty good fun . . . except for divisionals, and they were not till Spring.

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