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IT WAS a gloomy group that lounged about in more or less comfortable attitudes on the boatroom runway and moodily pulled at pipes that hung dejectedly from the corners of their mouths. In the Keeper's office a rumble of voices could be heard and, from the expectant glances the men on the platform occasionally cast at the closed door, it was evident that they were waiting a verdict of some description—and were already convinced that it would be unfavorable—from the occupants of the office.

As the suspense became more and more unbearable, Billy Bennett removed his pipe, expectorated with remarkable accuracy at a fly in front of him, and then, as though displeased with his skill, shook his head dejectedly.

"Ain't no use shakin' your head that-away," growled Saunders, Surfman No. 2. "It's done, an' it can't be undone. I don't mean drowndin' that fly," he continued, although nobody had questioned his meaning. "You all know what I mean. Ed Baker's leg is broke, an' the Sup'enten'ent won't" let us take on the only man we'd have a chance with, as a sub, but sends us that el'g'ble list to pick from, an' we've got 'bout as much chance of winnin' that cup as a snowball has in some places I could mention."

His air was the air of a man eager to provoke a controversy, but affirmative grunts were his only reply, and it was evident that no one had the spirit to argue the question, so he hitched into a more or less comfortable attitude against the door-casing and gazed surlily at the surrounding sand-dunes.

Something had occurred to upset the usual smooth and cheerful tenor of life at Zachs Inlet Life-Saving Station, that was evident, and in consequence, the crew of that station were a most disheartened set of men.

It had happened as they were drilling with the surf-boat. A wave, and just an ordinary sized wave at that, had rolled up on the beach at a most inopportune moment and, like many other waves, had carried before it everything in its path, incidentally throwing the heavy boat on to Edward Baker, Surfman No. 6, and breaking his leg. This leg at that time was doubly precious, for it furnished a good part of the power which enabled Baker to kick his way through the water to many victories in various swimming contests.

Besides his ability as a swimmer, Baker was able to cover a foot or so more at the standing broad jump than the average man, and consequently was a man valuable for other purposes than those for which he was drawing pay from Uncle Sam.

But while it may seem to you a matter of little moment—this accidental breaking of a surfman's leg, which would mend in the course of a month or so at the least—it was a matter of great importance to the members of the Zachs Inlet crew. If they had not already made their boasts regarding the capture of a certain cup, presented by a retired lieutenant of the Revenue Cutter Service who had once been the Assistant Inspector for their district and was still interested in the service, which was to be contested for on the first day of the inactive season by the three crews on Oak Island, they would not have taken it to heart so badly, and now—well, they might finish a poor third. They could do no worse.

At first, when they had hauled Baker ashore and discovered the broken leg, their chance had not seemed so seriously impaired. To be sure, they were sorry that he had been so unfortunate, but broken legs are not dangerous, and they knew of a man who could replace the injured man. That was one of their first thoughts. Get Charley Suydam to substitute, for substitutes were eligible to contest, and there would be no weakness in their team. But then along came the Superintendent's letter, coldly stating that as Baker would be off-for an indefinite period, he was inclosing the list of eligible surfmen for Keeper Rorke to select from, and would thank the Keeper to make his selection immediately.

And that eligible list! Of the five men on it none was known to the crew of Zachs Inlet Station, which made matters worse, if they could be any worse. It was simply a question of choosing blindly, and after hearing the views of the crew, Keeper Rorke and the No. 1 man, Jim Reynolds, had gone into executive session in the Keeper's office.

Finally the scraping of chairs being pushed over the floor was heard and then the office door opened and the Keeper stepped into the boat-room, followed by Reynolds.

Forestalling the questions that were sure to come, he said: "Well, boys, Jim and I have done the best we could. There were two Swedes, one Dutchman, and two Americans on the list and we've picked one of the Americans. Name, William O'Donnell. He must have Irish blood in him. That's about the only reason we took him. I never saw an Irishman, or a half-Irishman for that matter, who wasn't good at something." Perhaps the Keeper was influenced by his own ancestry, for he boasted that many of his ancestors had kissed the Blarney Stone.

So it was settled, and forthwith the list was returned to the Superintendent with the information that William O'Donnell had been selected by Keeper Rorke to fill the vacancy at the Zachs Inlet Life-Saving Station.

WHEN the day came upon which O'Donnell had been notified to report for duty, never had a new surfman's arrival excited so much interest. Even Charley Hulse, the most irresponsible and happy-go-lucky member of the Zachs Inlet crew, gave up the pleasures of twenty-four hours' leave on the mainland in order to be present when he appeared.

Numerous were the conjectures as to his size, weight, and ability. Somehow the impression had arisen that this latest addition to their ranks would be a great, husky six-footer, although their reasons for assuming so could not have been given; and hopes had even been expressed that he would be able to handle the hammer and shot, two of the events in which the Zachs Inlet crew were not particularly good, but for which they were compelled to make entries in the coming contest.

Great was the disappointment, then, to those who had been watching a small-sized sailboat as it gradually neared the beach and was finally anchored in front of the Station, to see a moderate-sized man throw a dunnage-bag into the dingey towing behind and paddle ashore. The members of the crew who were crowded together in the lookout-tower were loud in their expression of disgust at his appearance.

"Little runt!" growled Billy Bennett. "I don't see how he passed the 'zamination. Ain't over five-foot-five if he's an inch, an' I'll bet he don't weigh one-twenty!"

"An' get on to that walk of his!" added Drake, No. 4. "Looks like he had a wooden leg, he swings it that stiff."

And pessimistic Saunders, delighted to think that his predictions seemed more than ever sure to be realized, exclaimed: "Didn't I tell you so? I said when Baker got hurt an' we found we couldn't get Guydam to sub, that we might jest as well give up any idea of winnin' that cup. He's a hefty lookin' critter to help us out, now, ain't he?"

Unaware of the dismay his personality had caused, the newcomer continued up the path and soon the watchers above heard him stamping the sand from his shoes at the mess-room door. Then the murmur of voices floated up to the tower.

"Might jest as well go down an' get introduced an' get the agony over with," said Bennett. "I don't s'pose he can help it 'cause he's little, an' as he's here we've got kO make the best of it."

So four pairs of shoes clumped down the stairs, and as each man entered the messroom he acknowledged Keeper Rorke's introduction to the man standing beside him with a handshake and a perfunctory "How'd you do?"

A WEEK passed and then another and the momentous day was swiftly drawing near, but still the Zachs Inlet crew were unable to view their chances in anything but the most unfavorable light. There was only one event of which they were sure of, and that was the dash. Billy Bennett was able to negotiate a hundred yards in close to ten seconds at any time, and might do a trifle better if pushed. That they knew, and there was no man in the three stations that was as good by a second, But in all the other trials it seemed as if hey would have to be contented with a second or third.

Before Baker's accident they had also been practically sure of wanning the swim and the standing broad Jump, but now Parker of Gilgo was the most powerful swimmer, and Lee, also of Gilgo, the best jumper in the three stations. The Station slate had been covered a dozen times with figures indicating the points each station was reasonably sure of, and each time the ultimate result was the same. The other stations, Napeague and Gilgo, were credited with twenty-four and twenty-one points respectively, and Zachs Inlet with the remainder, eighteen.

There were seven events, a one-hundred-yard dash, mile run, standing broad jump, swimming race, hammer-throw, shot-put, and last, three men from each station were to compete in a clay-pigeon shoot; and the points were counted at five for first, three for second, and one for third.

Calculate as closely as they could, there seemed to be no other result obtainable, and consequently it seemed inevitable that Zachs Inlet would finish third.

After O'Donnell had been in the Station for nearly a month and had satisfactorily explained the lameness that had so disgusted Saunders by remarking one day that he was recovering from an injury to his knee-cap, Jim Reynolds met him returning from fog patrol and took it upon himself to question him regarding his abilities, explaining the predicament they were in and expressing the hope that he would be able to help toward securing that coveted cup. He had received but little encouragement.

"Sure," O'Donnell had replied, "I'll do what I can for the boys, but that ain't much, I'm thinkin'. I used to be a bit of a swimmer when I was a kid, so mebbe you'd better put me down in that, an' I'll practise up these fine mornin's."

"But ain't there anything you're good at?" earnestly inquired Reynolds. "Ain't there something you can do a little better'n common?"

O'Donnell scratched his head thoughtfully for a moment before he answered and then exclaimed enthusiastically, "Sure an' there is! I'll bet there ain't a man on the beach can beat me jiggin'! But it ain't jiggin' you want?" he asked anxiously, although the twinkle in his eye belied his words.

"Oh, ——!" Reynolds was too disgusted for further reply, and turned toward the Station. Then thinking, perhaps, that even a moderately good swimmer might be of some assistance, he stopped and issued the following order. "Tell you what you do, O'Donnell. You practise swimmin' every' time you get a chance, an' mebbe you'll get us a point or two, finishin' second or third."

At a conference the following morning Reynolds detailed the results of his questioning to the little group surrounding him, and what little hopes they might have had were immediately dissipated. "An' all he said he was good at was jiggin'!" growled Saunders. "Jiggin'!" Nothing more expressive than the snort of disgust accompanying this could have been uttered, and Saunders' opinion of O'Donnell's ability was echoed by the others.

"So that's all he can do, eh? Swim a little an' jig. Well, it's sure we can't figure on him, then, an' I reckon that settles it." With this, Bennett arose and walked toward the beach where a hundred yards had been measured off on the hard, smooth sand, close to the water's edge.

The rest of the group followed him and watched him at his training. Three times his flying feet covered the distance in record time, and this sight so cheered the others that for a moment their hopes arose. Then that oft-calculated score, Napeague twenty-four, Gilgo twenty-one, and Zachs Inlet eighteen, was remembered, and Saunders remarked, for about the fortieth time, "T'aint no use. Billy can't win but one thing an' that's already been figgered on."


FINALLY the day came and, as some one declared, "it couldn't have been no better if it had been made to order." Bright and clear, with a cool breeze blowing from the ocean along the beach, it was just the weather to incite a man to put forth the best there was in him, and even the Zachs Inlet crew joked and laughed as they tumbled into the Keeper's dory for the four-mile run to Gilgo, the center station of the three, upon the grounds of which the championship of the island was to be settled.

Everything was in readiness when they arrived, the Napeague crew having preceded them, so the rules governing the different events were read by one of the judges and agreed upon as satisfactory, and then the entrants for the one-hundred-yard dash were notified to take their positions on the starting-line, and the pistol gave them the signal.

It was Bennett's race from the first. No other sprinter was within fifteen feet of him as he passed the fifty-yard mark, and the race was made interesting only by the hard struggle for second and third positions. Now King of Napeague was a foot or two in front, but the pace was too fast and he dropped behind Havens of Gilgo, and it seemed as if they would finish in that order. But a surprise was sprung upon the spectators in the last fifteen yards. Hulse had been running close behind the two leaders of the second division, and now it became evident that he would be a factor in the race. Inspired, perhaps, by the flying figure of Ms team-mate, now close to the finishing-line, he made a last desperate attempt for second honors and slowly but surely passed King and challenged Havens in a final burst of speed that put him over the line a scant six inches ahead of the Gilgo man.

Great was the delight of the Zachs Inlet crew at this unlooked-for win, and when the scorekeeper chalked up a large eight on the board opposite their Station's name they almost began to believe that they had a chance.

But it seemed as though that were the only event they were to figure in. Howell of Napeague beat Reynolds' best throw' with the hammer by a good ten feet, and another Napeague man was third. Then Reynolds could do no better than finish third in the shot-put, first and second also being won by Napeague. The standing broad jump was easily won by Lee, Gilgo's representative, and it seemed as if that station had a monopoly on jumpers, for they also captured second and third.

Then came the mile run, and this proved another disappointment. Saunders and Drake represented Zachs Inlet in this, and both were confident of finishing well up. In fact, they thought that Half, Gilgo's entrant, was the only one they could not easily beat, and even if he succeeded in winning, second and third positions would give them four points, which would just put Zachs Inlet in the lead. But they had overrated their abilities. Instead of finishing second and third, they were a good one hundred feet behind Haff when he crossed the line, with Pike and Howell of Napeague close at his heels.

Now the points totaled as follows! Napeague leading with eighteen, Gilgo fifteen, and Zachs Inlet twelve.

It surely looked as if Zachs Inlet's last chance were gone, and the men were correspondingly discouraged. Saunders, who had not finished puffing from his recent exertions in the run, stood in front of the score-board and watched the totals as they were written by the scorer. "Didn't I tell you so?" he declared. "An' there ain't no one to blame but the sup'entendant. Suydam would a' won that mile easy, an' there ain't a man on the beach can beat him' shootin' clay birds. We might jest as well pack up an' go home. It's only wastin' time foolin' with that swimmin' race. O'Donnell ain't got a chance."

And it was evident that the others thought the same regarding O'Donnell, their only representative in the swimming match.

But O'Donnell did not seem particularly concerned at this lack of confidence on the part of his team-mates. Instead, he turned to the downcast crew with a smile of encouragement. " Sure, boys, don't be givin' up yet! There's a chance, an' you ain't beat till the last score's counted. Come on an' watch me win that swim," he urged, but they paid no attention to his chatter, so he left them and walked across the beach to the bay in which the swimming race was to be held.

Reynolds looked after his retreating back for a moment and then said: "Come on, boys, let's be decent, anyhow. There ain't a doubt in the world but what he'll get beat, but he belongs to our Station and it ain't hardly right to stay here an' not even watch him."

So they straggled over the beach hills and seated themselves on the bluff overhanging the bay shore. Off about three hundred yards a fair sized float had been anchored, and on this were the starter and the six competitors. The finish was marked by a small boat anchored close to the shore and occupied by the judges.

AT A WORD from the official on the float the swimmers took positions close to its edge and awaited the signal. It was given, and six bodies cleft the water in long, clean dives. For a moment all was a confusion of splashing water, but, as the men came to the surface and struck out sturdily for the judges' boat with long, powerful strokes, they gradually separated and it resolved into a hard-fought struggle with little choice as to the winner.

Half-way in and there was but little difference in their positions; then, as the distance began to tell, changes became apparent in their ranks. Now the stronger swimmers forged ahead, until it finally narrowed down to a fight between two, with the others stringing out behind.

But the men lying about on the bluff were hardly interested.

"If Baker was here that race would be worth seein'," grieved Drake.

"Well, he ain't, so what's the use of kickin' 'bout it? " snapped Hulse. "I don't care who wins the darn cup, anyhow! S'pose O'Donnell's somewhere back with the tail-enders, ain't he, Jim?" he asked, observing that Reynolds had suddenly jumped to his feet and was'studying the race intently.

"Stand up an' holier, you chumps!" Reynolds excitedly replied. "If that little cuss ain't givin' Parker the race of his life, I'll eat my hat! Holler, I tell you! Holler!"

And they did. Over the water they sent a yell of delight, of hope, of encouragement. "O'Donnell, O'Donnell!" They shouted. "Come on, you Billy O'Donnell!"

Their discouragement was forgotten. Already it had occurred to them that, with the swimming race won, they had a fighting chance for the cup. Scrambling down the steep, bushy side of the bluff, careless of tumbles and scratches, they rushed to the water's edge, eagerly shouting their teammate's name and excitedly urging him onward.

And it seemed as if their shouts had the desired effect, for no sooner had the first ones been uttered than O'Donnell shot ahead with a speed that was marvelous. Swimming low in the water with a curious, grasping stroke that was new to the surfmen, he left Parker behind so rapidly that it made him gasp with surprise. Straight toward the judges' boat he swam, gaining on his competitors so easily that it was almost laughable.

"Swim? He can outswim a fish!" Hulse gleefully shouted. "An' we said he never had a chance, we did! Ain't we a smart bunch! Fools! Jest plain ordinary fools, that's what we are!"

Charley could contain himself, no longer. As he saw a wet hand grasp the gunwale of the judges' boat and then O'Donnell's face peer over the side, he yelled again with delight, and, dashing into the shoal water, half carried, half dragged, the victorious swimmer ashore into the midst of the wildly hilarious Zachs Inlet crew.

O'Donnell was the only self-possessed man in the crowd. Serenely grinning at the behavior of the others, he let them pull off the bathing-suit he had worn and fairly quarrel over the honor of rubbing him down, and listened indifferently to their praises of his newly discovered ability. Only once did he speak and then it was to remark smilingly: "Sure, boys, I told you I could swim a bit, but it's jiggin' that's my long suit!"

When calm had in a measure been restored during the walk across the beach, they clustered around the score-board to view the revised score. Now the points were so evenly divided among the stations that the shooting-match would decide the matter, and they were fairly confident of their chance in that. Parker of Gilgo had finished second, and Pike of Napeague third, in the swim, so that the board now showed the points as follows: Napeague nineteen, Gilgo eighteen, and Zachs Inlet seventeen.

Little time was left them to discuss this situation, however, for the judges were calling for the trap-shooters, and they hurried to secure favorable positions from which to watch this event.

Each station was represented by a team of three men who were to shoot at twenty birds each, in series of five, and the highest individual scores were to decide the contest. Keeper Rorke, Hulse, and Bennett were the Zachs Inlet entrants, and the Keeper was the first man called. His start promised well for Zachs Inlet, for he broke his five birds in as many shots, but this advantage was not held long, for Howell of Napeague duplicated his feat, although the Gilgo man, Lee, had to be content with four kills.

Then the next three men shot, but Hulse broke but three, while both Napeague's and Gilgo's representatives scored four each.

Now it was up to Bennett to retrieve the lost points, and his mates were confident that he would do it. But where was Billy? The scorer was calling his name and the other shooters were showing annoyance at his tardiness.

Reynolds had been scanning the faces of the crowd in an unsuccessful attempt to find him. " Come to think of it," he whispered to the nearest man, "Billy didn't come back 'cross the beach with us, did he?"

"Don't believe he did, though I hadn't missed him," was the reply, and then it was discovered, upon questioning the remainder of the crew, that none of them had seen Bennett since leaving the bay.

"Drake, you go tell the Keeper that Billy'll be there in a minute, an' to get them to go on with the shootin', an' the rest of us'll hunt him up," instructed Reynolds. So the judges were informed that Bennett would be ready to shoot in a short time, and Pike of Napeague faced the trap.

REYNOLDS, Saunders and O'Donnell hurried across the Lbeach and upon arriving at the bay-side discovered that another calamity had overtaken Zachs Inlet. Very white and still, Bennett lay at the foot of the bluff down which they had so wildly rushed to welcome O'Donnell. He looked up at the others with a wan smile. "Thought you'd miss me 'fore long," he said.

"But what's the matter, Billy?" Reynolds inquired.

"Guess I must have turned my ankle when I fell do™ the hill," he replied. "I yelled at you fellers when I did it, but you was so worked up over that swimmin' race you never heard it. Then I tried to hop along after you left, but my leg hurt so I guess I must have fainted."

"Well, this settles it!" ejaculated Saunders. "If we ain't been runnin' in the darndest luck! First Baker broke his leg an' now Billy here's bunged up so he can't shoot. ' Jest when we thought we had a chance, too!" he added mournfully. "But it ain't no use!"

And it did look as if the Zachs Inlet crew were hoodooed, but, as Reynolds remarked: "It ain't of no use crying over spilt milk. That shootin'-match is all over, far as we are concerned, for there ain't another man in the crew that can break one of them claybirds out of five. We'll carry Billy' over to the station an' then report to Keeper Rorke."

So they carried their crippled mate across the beach and made him comfortable in the boat-room of the Gilgo station. Then, just as Reynolds was about to leave, O'Donnell stopped him.

"If Billy'll lend me his gun," he said, "I'll try to hold my end of that shootin' up."

"But you never said you could shoot," protested Reynolds. "If you think you've got a chance, though——"

"He never said he could swim, either!" broke in Saunders. "That is, he never said he could swim good. By Moses, Jim, let him try it! I begin to believe he's one of them kind that don't brag 'bout what they can do. If he's willin' to shoot, I say let him shoot!"

Saunders, upon receiving a nod from Bennett, hustled about, took the gun out of its case, put it together, and handed it to O'Donnell.

"Now, son," he instructed him, "you hurry out there an' do your darndest. If you get beat there won't be any hard feelings 'bout it, anyhow."

When the judges were informed of Bennett's accident they consented to O'Donnell's taking his place, and immediately sent him to the trap.

He missed the first bird and a despairing groan arose from the Zachs Inlet crew. Then he broke the next four, and that groan was changed into a joyful cheer.

The shooting continued, and as Keeper Rorke broke bird after bird, and O'Donnell did not seem to know what it was to miss after that first lost bird, it became evident that again this "little runt," as Bennett had called him, was the mainstay of their team.

Then the Keeper missed one, but recovered and broke his last five cleanly, retiring with a score of nineteen broken, which was evidently most satisfactory to him, if you could judge from the smile upon his face. Now O'Donnell's name was called. He was the last man to shoot and upon the result of those five shots hung the championship.

Keeper Rorke was high man with nineteen, and Howell and Pike of Napeague were tied with eighteen each. If O'Donnell did not beat the Napeague shooters, the Keeper's score would do no good, as the five points would make Zachs Inlet but twentytwo, while Napeague, with a second and third, counting four, would total twenty-three points.

He was by far the calmest man in the crowd when he faced the trap. With fourteen breaks to his credit it meant that he would have to make a clean score on these next five birds to win the championship for his station. One miss, and he would tie the Napeaguers. Two missed, and the cup was surely lost.

"Are you ready?" he coolly asked the trapper. "Ready!" was the reply. "Pull!" Crack! That target was broken into a thousand particles. Again the question and reply, followed by the sharp command, "Pull!" and another target smashed.

Saunders was hysterically patting Reynolds on the back and muttering what-was meant as words of encouragement to the shooter.

Two more of the clay saucers were broken by that impassive man facing the trap, and now he was calmly loading his-gun for the final shot.

"S'pose he misses it!" "whispered Reynolds.

"He ain't a-goin' to!" Saunders replied earnestly. "Didn't I tell you so?" he shouted as the gun cracked and the last target was broken. But Reynolds did hot hear him, for his shout was drowned in the cheer that arose from-the others of the Zachs Inlet crew and their adherents among, the spectators.

There was an excited group surrounding O'Donnell, who did not have to await the judges' decision. They knew they were the champions of Oak Island, and they also knew that but for this little man in their midst they would have lost. They were all talking at once, but O'Donnell listened with a composed countenance to their extravagant praises until Reynolds lifted his voice above the rest.

"He don't look like he amounted to much," he cried, "but, boys, I want to tell you right here, we'll know better'n to pick a man by his size next time!"

Then he was interrupted. "Say, Jim," inquired the object of this flattery, "sure an' there's one thing I'd like to know, an' that's this: Do you think there's a man on the island can beat me jiggin'?"

And Reynolds, remembering his reply when that same subject had been introduced before, repeated it. "Oh, ——!".he said, but this time his voice did not. express disgust and annoyance.