Harry's Island/Chapter 19


THERE was a moment of suspense for those on the deck of the house-boat. Then a brown head arose from the water fully twenty feet away, and a powerful arm followed it, and with long, swift strokes the artist headed toward the overturned boat on his mission of rescue. His task was not a difficult one for a good swimmer, as he at once proved himself, as long as he was going with the wind behind him and the current partly in his favor. The water was terribly rough, but as he swam low anyhow, with his face under the surface more than half the time, that didn’t matter very much. The difficult work would begin when, with the rescued man in tow, he faced wind and current to regain the island.

The boys watched eagerly and silently. Dick had shut Jack inside the cabin and his dismal howls arose above the roar of the wind. Roy, with the coil of rope in his hand, fought his way to the bow, for the capsized boat had already drifted past them and it was a question whether the rope would prove long enough. The rain had almost ceased, but the wind still blew violently, although here, in the lee of the island, it was less intense than it was out in the channel.

“Wonder how long the rope is,” said Chub anxiously as he looked at the lessening coil on the deck. Roy shook his head.

“Too short, I’m afraid,” he answered. “Can you see him now?” Chub answered no, but Dick pointed him out, a darker speck on the dark, tossing water, almost up to the boat. Boat and swimmer, borne by the current, which was always strong in the narrow inner channel, had passed the center of the island and in another moment or two would be abreast of the camp.

“Let’s get off of here,” cried Dick, “and go on down the beach. That rope will never reach from here.”

It was true, for already the last coil passed into Roy’s hands.

“Is he there yet?” he asked.

“No, twenty feet this side, I’d say,” shouted Dick, who had climbed part way up the steps to the roof-deck. “If we go down the beach, though, the rope will be plenty long enough.”

But there remained but a scant five feet of rope and to reach the shore without letting go of it would necessitate hauling it in.

“We ought to have done it before,” muttered Chub. But Dick was equal to the emergency.

“Here,” he cried, “let me have it.”

He took a turn with it about his waist and, just as he was, minus only his coat, he jumped off the stern of the boat, swam two or three strokes and then, finding his feet, stumbled up the beach where Roy and Chub had hurried around to reach him.

“Don’t feel much wetter than I did before,” he said as they hurried along in the teeth of the wind, pulling in the slack of the rope. In another moment Roy gave a cry and began to pull hard.

“He’s got him,” he said. “Lend a hand and pull like anything!”

They did, but presently the rope grew taut and came very unwillingly. With two men at the other end and wind and tide both striving to defeat them it was a veritable tug-of-war. But foot by foot the line came in, wet and dripping, as the three boys dug their heels into the yielding sand and put weight and muscle into the task.

“There they are,” muttered Dick in a moment. “I can see them. They’re almost into the calm water.”

And then the rope came easier, and presently, with Chub and Roy still pulling, Dick sprang out, floundered to his armpits, and relieved the artist of his limp burden. In another moment the rescued man lay on the sand above the water and the artist was throwing off the rope with hurrying fingers. His face was white and his breath came in gasps. But the boys were staring in amazement at the upturned face on the beach.

“Billy Noon!” cried Chub.

“Is he drowned?” asked Roy in a trembling voice.

“No, he’s alive,” answered the artist, “but we’ve got to get him to the boat. Who’ll give me a hand with him?”

“Here,” said Dick, “you let us take him, Mr. Cole. You’ve done enough. He isn’t heavy.”

But he was, for his clothes were sodden with water; and the wind buffeted them at every step. Mr. Cole bore his share of the burden and in a few moments they laid him on the floor of the studio. Pillows from the bedroom were hurriedly brought and the limp body was turned over on them, face downward, while coat and shirt were torn away and the artist’s strong hands manipulated the body. There proved to be but little water in the lungs and so they turned Billy over on his back and placed one of the pillows under his head. Then Roy pumped the arms up and down as he had learned to do in the foot-ball field while the artist massaged the upper part of the body until the flesh began to glow. The ashen hue of the lips disappeared and a faint spot of color came into each cheek. The breathing, which had been faint and labored, became strong and regular. Mr. Cole brought a flask and pressed a few spoonfuls of spirits between the lips. Then they finished undressing him and all took a hand at bringing warmth back to the chilled body. In another moment the eyelids flickered and opened. Billy looked weakly at Mr. Cole and closed his eyes again.

“He’s all right,” said the artist heartily.

And Billy proved it by saying something, the sense of which no one gathered, and trying to sit up.

“Here, you stay where you are for a minute,” commanded the artist. He brought a big dressing-gown and they rolled Billy up in it. Then they carried him into the bedroom and laid him on the bed, covering him with blankets until Chub feared that they’d go to the other extreme and smother him to death.

“Now you go to sleep,” said Mr. Cole, and Billy obeyed like a sleepy child. The others returned to the sitting-room where Jack went into spasms of delight over the return of his master.

“That’ll do, old fellow,” said the artist, sinking into a chair. “Now you boys had better get dry. I don’t want you to catch cold. You,” he added to Dick, “look as though you’d been in the water yourself.”

They explained the reason and he insisted that Dick should take off his wet garments and dry himself.

“I will if you will,” answered Dick.

“Eh? Well, that’s so,” laughed the artist. “I’m not very dry myself, am I? But I’m warm enough, goodness knows. However, it’s a bargain. We’ll get some blankets and towels and go to the studio. I guess the storm’s about over, from the looks.”

And, sure enough, the clouds were breaking and there was even a suggestion of watery sunshine on the opposite hills. The wind had lessened and was now blowing steadily, like a well-behaved westerly gale. Mr. Cole and Dick disappeared and the others found their coats and put them on.

“What do you suppose happened to Billy Noon?” asked Chub.

“I think he was capsized,” answered Roy.

“Smart, aren’t you? I mean, how do you suppose it happened?”

“Search me,” Roy replied. “I thought Billy was a good sailor. I guess we’ll know about after he gets awake. Say, Mr. Cole’s about all right, isn’t he?”

“You bet!” said Chub heartily. “And he’s a dandy swimmer.”

“Let’s go and look at the camp,” Roy suggested presently. “We might as well know the worst.”

So they went, and half way up the beach the sun came forth with a sudden dazzling burst of splendor, lighting the tossing waves and glinting the windows of the school buildings across on the slope of the hill. Evidences of the storm were plentiful. Broken branches strewed the edge of the wood and the beach grass was flattened down. When they left the beach and came in sight of the camp they gave a shout of surprise and delight. The tent was just as they had left it. Inside, however, things were pretty wet.

“Don’t see how we can sleep here to-night,” said Roy, feeling the bedding. But Chub was gazing ruefully at his bag which had been left open. He took it outside and spread the contents in the sunlight, such of them as would not blow away. The contents of the larder were in pretty good shape, since ’most everything was kept in tin boxes or pails. Suddenly Chub uttered an exclamation and ran to the beach. Then he gave a sigh of relief. For once the canoe had been left in the cove instead of on Inner Beach, and the worst that the storm had been able to do was to hurl it up against the bank, where, save for a few deep scratches, Chub found it undamaged. The Pup was pretty filled with water and had dragged her anchor until she had buried her nose in the sand. The rowboat, which had been left on Inner Beach, had utterly disappeared.

“I guess it’s joined Billy’s cat-boat,” said Chub. “Maybe we’ll find it, though.”

They spread the bedding and such of their clothing as had got wet out of doors, and trudged back to the Jolly Roger, Roy remarking on the way that there wouldn’t be much difficulty now in finding firewood. It was after five o’clock by this time. They found Billy, wrapped in a blanket, sitting in a chair in the sitting-room. He had just started his account of the afternoon’s adventures as they came in.

“I had been up the river a couple of miles on business,” Billy was saying. “When I got back to my boat I noticed some clouds over in the west but didn’t think much about them. I’d gone about half a mile or so, with almost no wind, when I saw that I was in for a squall. I turned and headed for the shore, but the squall struck before I was half way there and so suddenly that I had only started to drop the sail. The Minerva went over like a ninepin. I thought she’d float on her side; thought the sail would keep her up; but the canvas must have dropped as she went over, for she just stuck her mast straight down, and the best thing I could find to lay hold of was the center-board. It wasn’t so bad for a while, and I thought we’d be driven ashore about a mile up here. But the current got us then and the waves began breaking right over me. I was just about half drowned in five minutes. I remember seeing the end of the island come abreast of me, and after that I guess I didn’t know anything. Of course, I’m eternally grateful to you, Mr. Cole; I can’t begin to thank you enough. I guess I’d have let go in another minute or so; and I never cared much for drowning. Besides, there’s a rather important matter to be settled up before I leave.”

“Well, all’s well that ends well,” said the artist heartily. “Now I’ll go and see what there is in the kitchen for five hungry men.”

“Oh, we’re not going to stay to supper,” Dick protested.

But Mr. Cole contradicted him flatly.

“There’s no use trying to get anything at your camp,” he said. “Why, you haven’t any dry wood, for one thing. You stay right where you are. There may not be much of a variety to be had, but I guess there’ll be enough.”

And there was, and they had a very merry meal, although Billy was rather more quiet than usual. After supper Mr. Cole asked how the boys had found their camp, and it ended with their camping out on the Jolly Roger for the night, Billy sharing Mr. Cole’s bed and the three boys occupying the window-seat and a bunk on the floor in the sitting-room.

They awoke late, to find the sun pouring in at the windows and Nature looking as pleasant and tranquil as though yesterday’s storm had never been. The first thing after breakfast was to search for the lost boats, and at half-past nine the three boys and Billy set out in the Pup. The rowboat was soon located a few hundred yards below the Ferry Hill landing and taken in tow. But the Minerva failed to reveal herself for some time.

“Of course,” said Billy, “she may have sunk, although I don’t quite see how she could.”

“I hope not,” said Roy. “Did you have much in her?” Billy shook his head.

“No, not much. Just a few clothes and a few books and the can of mushrooms. I guess I’ll never eat those mushrooms,” he added sadly. Fate proved kind, after all, for they came on the runaway boat about a mile below Silver Cove, stranded in a little natural harbor. They returned to the Cove and Billy went off to find some one to rescue his craft while the others started on a shopping tour. They had lots of things to buy for Harry’s birthday supper, for besides their own list Mr. Cole had asked them to bring back supplies for the Jolly Roger. It was over an hour before the last purchase had been made. And then, when everything had been stowed aboard the Pup, Chub announced the fact that they had neglected to stop at the post-office for their mail. So, while they waited for Billy Noon, he went back uptown. When he returned he wore a long face.

“Bad news?” asked Roy anxiously. Chub nodded.

“I got a letter from dad,” he answered. “He says I must come home.”

“How soon?” asked Dick after a moment of sorrowful silence.

“This week, he says, and here it is Thursday already. The letter was written Monday.”

“By Jove, that’s too bad,” said Roy. “I wonder what made him change his mind.”

“Oh, I know what it means,” said Chub disgustedly. “It means that he can’t find any one to play golf with him, and so he sends for me. He doesn’t mind breaking up my fun.”

“Well, I guess that settles camp,” said Roy. “Were there any other letters, Chub?”

“Oh, yes, I beg your pardon, Dick. There’s one for you, from your father.” He took it out of his pocket and handed it across. Dick opened it and ran his eyes quickly down the single sheet of paper.

“Me too!” he cried. “Dad says he’s coming across and I’m to meet him in New York. He sailed three days after he wrote, and he wrote on Saturday week. He’s on his way now, then, and ought to be here next Tuesday.”

“Well, I guess we’ll shut up camp,” laughed Roy.

“It’s mighty mean, though,” said Chub. “Why, we haven’t been here a month yet!”

“Look here, though,” Roy said. “There’s no use in spoiling Harry’s fun to-day. So we won’t say anything about it until to-morrow, eh?”

“Right you are,” Chub replied. “It’s her birthday and she ought to be allowed to enjoy it. I suppose I’ll have to leave Saturday morning. How about you, Dickums?”

“Well, I might as well go then, too.”

“We’ll all go down Saturday morning on the eleven o’clock,” said Roy. “That’ll give us to-morrow to pack up and get ready. Well, we’ve had a bully good time, haven’t we?”

“Sure,” answered Chub and Dick in unison.

“But I wish there was going to be more of it; that’s all,” added Dick.

“Why not?” asked Roy. “There’s next summer, you know.”

“That’s so! Will you come up? Will you, Chub?”

“Yes,” said Roy, and Chub echoed him. Dick looked more cheerful. “That’s the ticket!” he said joyfully. “I was afraid I wouldn’t see you fellows again until I got to—to college.”

What?” cried the others. Dick nodded sheepishly.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” he answered. “I guess I’ll try, anyhow.”

“Bully for you!” Chub cried, clapping him on the back. “We’ll make a man of you yet, Dickums!”

At that moment Billy Noon returned, reporting success, and jumped aboard to be taken back to the island. Mr. Cole had offered him hospitality until his cat-boat was restored to him and had placed the tender at his services. Dick started the engine and the Pup barked her way back to the island. The boys were rather thoughtful, although the prospect of meeting again the next summer had taken away the sting of present parting. Billy, too, was unusually silent, and the trip was a quiet one indeed for the Pup. The artist appeared on the after deck of the Jolly Roger as they approached and waved a handful of brushes at them.

“What luck?” he roared.

“Found them both,” answered Dick. The Pup sidled up to the house-boat and they put off Billy and the groceries.

“Everything’s there,” said Dick. “And I’ll come around about four o’clock and get to work.”

As they rounded School Point on their way to the anchorage they sighed regretfully as the camp came into view. The white tent in the green clearing had never looked so homelike and so attractive as then.

At four Dick, dressed in his best camp attire, went over to the Jolly Roger to enter upon his duties as chef and caterer. Chub and Roy got into the crimson canoe and went for a paddle, realizing that it might be the last one they would take together in those waters.

“I won’t have much time to crate this canoe to-morrow,” said Chub.

“I’d forgotten about that,” Roy replied. “It seems funny to think that we’re pulling out of here for keeps, doesn’t it? And Dick will have to get the Pup stored somewhere, I guess, until he comes back in the fall.”

“Johnson, the fellow who has his ice-boat, will look after it for him, I guess. He will have to take her down to-morrow. Hello, there goes Billy.”

A half mile above them the artist’s little cedar tender was bobbing its way across the inner channel, Billy Noon alone in it.

“He’s a mystery, that fellow,” observed Roy thoughtfully.

“Yes, but I’ll bet we’ll know more about him by to-morrow,” said Chub.

“Why to-morrow?”

“Because to-day’s Thursday.”

“Say, you know something, I’ll bet. Out with it, Chub.”

“No.” Chub shook his head. “No, I don’t know anything—for sure; I just suspect.”

“Well, what do you suspect?”

Chub thought a moment. Then, “I don’t know,” he answered with a grin.

“You’re an idiot,” said Roy good-naturedly. “Come on, let’s go back to the landing and get Harry. It must be nearly time.”

Harry, however, was late, and it was well past six before she came scampering down the path. She had on a brand new dimity dress—white, it was, sprinkled with little yellow rosebuds—and her cheeks were very pink.

“Merry Christmas!” called Chub.

“Happy New Year!” added Roy as she stepped into the canoe.

“Oh, I’ve had the loveliest things!” said Harry, fighting for breath. “Mama gave me this; see?” She held forth the little gold necklace which encircled her throat. “And papa—he gave me something perfectly beautiful! I’ll tell you about it later. And Aunt Harriet—” her face fell a little—“sent me a dandy work-box made of ivory and all—all—oh, deary, I’ve forgotten it!”

“Forgotten what?” asked Roy.

“The word. It’s something about Arabs.”

“What word is it?”

“Why, what papa said. He said the box was ara—ara—”

“Arabesqued?” asked Roy.

“Yes, that’s it! All arabesqued with silver. It’s splendid!”

“What else did you get?” Chub inquired.

“Oh, lots of little things from the girls; two handkerchiefs, a book, a sachet bag and something else; I don’t know what it’s for yet; I’ll have to ask, I guess.”

Roy and Chub laughed.

“And what’s that you’re holding on to so tightly?” asked Chub. Harry glanced at the folded paper in her hand and smiled happily.

“That’s what papa gave me,” she replied. “It’s very important.”

“It looks it,” Chub agreed. “It looks like a will. Maybe it’s the long-lost will, Roy, leaving us the old farm and the family plate.”

“No, it isn’t,” laughed Harry. “But—but you’re warm.”

“That’s no joke,” answered Chub as he wiped the perspiration from his brow. “But what is it, Harry?”

“I’m not going to tell you until supper.”

“Oh, very well.”

Roy gave a shout and Dick and the artist appeared on the deck of the Jolly Roger.

“Many happy returns, Miss Emery!” called the latter as the boys lifted their paddles and let the canoe glide up alongside the stern.

“Me, too!” called Dick.

“Is supper ready?” asked Chub.

“It will be in five minutes,” Dick answered. “Come on and help lay the table, Chub.”