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Title: Darry the Life Saver - The Heroes of the Coast
Author: Webster, Frank V.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Darry the Life Saver - The Heroes of the Coast" ***

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[Illustration: THEN A WOMAN WAS LOWERED BY MEANS OF THIS, AND SAFELY
STOWED AWAY. Darry the Life Saver--Page 185]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DARRY THE LIFE SAVER
Or
The Heroes of the Coast

By
FRANK V. WEBSTER

Author of "Only a Farm Boy," "Bob the Castaway,"
"The Boys of Bellewood School," etc.

ILLUSTRATED

New York
Cupples & Leon Company
Publishers

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

BOOKS FOR BOYS

By FRANK V. WEBSTER

12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume, 40 cents, postpaid

ONLY A FARM BOY
TOM, THE TELEPHONE BOY
THE BOY FROM THE RANCH
THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER
BOB, THE CASTAWAY
THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE
THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS
THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES
TWO BOY GOLD MINERS
JACK, THE RUNAWAY
COMRADES OF THE SADDLE
THE BOYS OF BELLWOOD SCHOOL
THE HIGH SCHOOL RIVALS
AIRSHIP ANDY
BOB CHESTER'S GRIT
BEN HARDY'S FLYING MACHINE
DICK, THE BANK BOY
DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER

Copyright, 1911, by
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CONTENTS

   CHAPTER                                                PAGE

         I. The Hurricane                                    1
        II. Saved by the Life Chain                         10
       III. Abner Peake's Offer                             19
        IV. The Cabin by the Sea                            29
         V. An Encounter on the Road                        39
        VI. Winning His Way                                 46
       VII. The Midnight Alarm                              55
      VIII. Across the Bay                                  63
        IX. The Signal Rocket                               71
         X. Jim the Bully                                   78
        XI. A Glorious Prospect                             86
       XII. The Stolen Traps                                94
      XIII. Joe's Shotgun Secures a Supper                 102
       XIV. The Lonely Vigil of the Coast Patrol           110
        XV. The Power of Music                             117
       XVI. Darry Meets with a Rebuff                      124
      XVII. Abner Tells a Little History                   132
     XVIII. The Imprisoned Launch                          139
       XIX. The Part of an Elder Brother                   146
        XX. Bad Luck and Good                              154
       XXI. Satisfying the Mortgage                        162
      XXII. Abner Hears the News                           171
     XXIII. Darry in the Lifeboat                          179
      XXIV. The Awakening                                  191
       XXV. Conclusion                                     202

-----------------------------------------------------------------------



DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER

CHAPTER I

THE HURRICANE


"Will we ever weather this terrible storm?"

It was a half-grown lad who flung this despairing question out; the wind
carried the sound of his voice off over the billows; but there came no
answer.

A brigantine, battered by the tropical hurricane sweeping up from the
Caribbean Sea, was staggering along like a wounded beast. Her masts had
long since gone by the board, and upon the stump of the mizzen-stick a
bit of canvas like a goose-wing had been spread in the useless endeavor
to maintain steerageway.

All around, the sea rose and fell in mountainous waves, on which the
poor wreck tossed about, as helpless as a cork.

Though the lad, lashed to some of the rigging that still clung to the
temporary jury mast, strained his eyes to the utmost, he could see
nothing but the waste of waves, the uplifting tops of which curled over,
and were snatched away in flying spud by the furious wind.

Darry was the cabin boy of the _Falcon_, having sailed with Captain
Harley now for several years. The old navigator had run across him in a
foreign port, and under most peculiar conditions.

Hearing a boyish voice that somehow struck his fancy, raised in angry
protest, followed by the crack of a whip, and much loud laughing, the
skipper of the brigantine had pushed into a café in Naples.

Here he discovered a small, but sturdy lad, who had apparently been
playing a violin for coppers, refusing to dance for a big brute of a
sailor, an Italian, who had seized upon his beloved instrument.

When the boy had made an effort to recover the violin the bully
deliberately smashed it on the back of a chair.

Then, laughing at the poor little chap's expressions of grief as he
gathered up the pieces tenderly in his arms, the brutal sailor had
seized upon a carter's whip, and cracking it loudly, declared that he
would lay it over the boy's shoulders unless he mounted a table and
danced to his whistling.

It was then that the big mariner strode in and stood between the lad and
his cowardly persecutors.

When good-hearted Captain Harley heard the boy's pitiful story, and that
he was a waif, having been abandoned some years before by an old man
with whom he seemed to have been traveling, he offered to befriend him,
and give him a chance to see something of the world as cabin boy on the
good old brigantine, _Falcon_.

This offer the little chap had eagerly accepted, for he believed he must
be of American birth, and somehow longed to set foot on that land far
across the sea.

Some years had passed.

Darry knew no other home save the friendly cabin of the brigantine, and
since he had no knowledge as to what his name might be, by degrees he
came to assume that of his benefactor.

During these years the boy had seen much of the world, and learned many
things under the guidance of the warm-hearted captain.

Of course he spent many bitter hours in vain regrets over the fact that
there was so little chance of his ever learning his identity--only a
slender link seemed to connect him with that mysterious past that was
hidden from his sight; and this was a curious little scar upon his right
arm just below the elbow.

It looked like a crescent moon, and had been there ever since he could
remember.

This fact caused Darry to believe it might be the result of some
accident that must have occurred while he was yet a baby.

If such were the case then some people, _somewhere_, would be apt to
recognize this peculiar mark if they ever saw it again.

Captain Harley had always encouraged him in the belief that some happy
day he would surely know the truth.

Just now, however, it really looked as though Darry need no longer allow
himself to feel any anxiety on that score.

The ocean depths would offer just as easy a resting place to a nameless
waif as to a crowned monarch.

When the great waves broke over the drifting vessel the rush of water
must have swept him away, only that he had been wise enough to lash
himself to the stump of the mizzen-mast.

During a little lull in the tempest someone joined him, also using the
whipping rope-ends to secure his hold.

Darry saw by the aid of the darting lightning that it was his good
friend, the captain; and with his thoughts still taken up with the peril
of his situation he repeated the question that only the mocking winds
had heard before:

"Will we ever weather this storm, captain?"

"I fear not, my lad," replied the master of the ship, sadly, "the poor
old hulk is now only a plaything for the elements. It looks as though
the _Falcon_ had reached the end of her voyaging at last. Twenty years
have I commanded her. I have a feeling that if so be she goes down I
will not survive her."

The roar of the gale was such that it became necessary to shout at
times, in order to make one's self heard above the elements.

"Are we near the coast?" asked the boy, anxiously; for he knew that such
a thing must double their danger.

"I am afraid it is only too true, though the storm has been so prolonged
that I have long ago lost my reckoning," replied the mariner.

"But you told me these coasts are patrolled by brave life savers, who
always stand ready to risk everything in case a vessel is driven on the
reefs?" continued the boy, trying to see a gleam of hope through the
gloom.

"That is true, but alas! I am afraid even the bravest of men would find
themselves helpless in such a terrific blow as this."

"But, captain, surely you have not given up all hope?" anxiously
demanded Darry, trying to face the terrible prospect with a brave heart.

"I never do that, lad. But one of us may not live to reach the shore;
and since it is so, I wanted to have a few last words with you, and then
I must return to my duty, which is to try and steer this drifting hulk
until the end comes."

He reached out his hand.

The boy eagerly clutched it, and there, as the lightning flashed, he
looked into the kind face of his benefactor.

Something seemed to tell him that it was the last time he would ever
feel the pressure of that friendly hand, and this thought alarmed him as
the storm had thus far been unable to do.

"Listen, and take heed, my lad," said the skipper, earnestly, "it may be
that Providence will shield you through this time of trouble, and that
you shall reach the shore in safety after all. Should ill befall me I
want you to write my old mother up in York State--you know where she
lives. I have made all preparations, so that she will be provided for,
and my sister also. Do you understand me?"

"Oh! yes, sir! But I hope we may both pull through!" cried the boy,
earnestly.

"So do I, for life is sweet; but it may not be. Now, lad, about
yourself, and I am done. Remember all that I have taught you. Then you
will grow up to be a true man. And continue to search for some evidence
of your people. That mark on your arm may be of great value to you some
day. Hark! I fancied I caught the sound of the breakers just then! It is
possible that the time has come for us to part. Good bye, my boy, and
God bless you whatever betide!"

Another fierce pressure of the hand, and Captain Harley was gone.

Standing there, filled with horror and dismay, Darry caught a last
glimpse of his guardian staggering across the wet deck, and then the
gloom forever hid him from view.

The days would come, and the days would go, but always must he remember
that the last thought of the noble captain was for him.

He strained his hearing to ascertain whether the captain's fears were
well founded, and it was not long before he too could catch the awful
pounding of the seas upon the half-submerged reefs.

The helpless brigantine was drifting slowly, but surely to her fate; for
there was hardly a place along the whole American coast more dangerous
than this, which had in times past proved a graveyard for many noble
ships.

Among the tangled rigging was a broken spar, and to this Darry lashed
himself, in the faint hope that if it were swept ashore he might still
cling to life.

He awaited the impending crash with his heart cold within his breast;
for after all he was but a lad, and the strongest men might have viewed
the catastrophe with a sickening sense of dread.

Then came a fearful shock, as the brigantine was smashed down upon the
jaws of the reef by a mighty force.

After that the seas had her for a plaything, rushing completely over her
as if in derision.

Three times the boy was almost drowned by the flood that poured across
that slanting deck, and he knew that if he remained there longer his
time had surely come. It would be better to cut loose from the mast, and
trust his fortunes upon the breast of the next giant wave that, if it
were kind, would carry him well over the rocks, and head him for the
distant beach.

It was in sheer desperation that he seized upon his sailor's knife and
severed the ropes that thus far had held so securely.

Then he awaited the coming of the next comber with set teeth, and held
his breath.

A few seconds and it was upon him.

This time the spar, as well as the clinging lad, went sweeping over the
side of the vessel, and carried safely above the reef, started in
toward the beach on a roller that seemed gigantic.

The spray was in his eyes, so that he could hardly see at all, but at
that moment Darry thought he glimpsed a light somewhere ahead; and what
the captain had told him about the gallant life savers flashed into his
mind.

Somehow, it seemed to give the despairing boy renewed hope.

Perhaps these brave men were watching for the coming of just such
flotsam from the wreck, which they must have sighted when the lightning
flashed; and would find some means for plucking him out of the raging
sea.



CHAPTER II

SAVED BY THE LIFE CHAIN


The line of reefs stood as a barrier to the sea, and after the waves
came in contact with the rocks they continued on their course with less
violence than before.

Still, it was terrible enough to any one exposed to their fury.

Hope soars high in the breast of youth, however, and life is sweet, so
that our hero continued to struggle against the forces to which he found
himself exposed.

Again had his eyes caught a glimpse of a burning light on the shore, and
somehow it gave him renewed courage to hold on, for he seemed to
understand that determined hearts were waiting there, eager to give him
a helping hand.

Then some object sped past him, and he caught the sight of flashing
oars.

It was the lifeboat!

In spite of the great danger involved in the undertaking, the coast
guards had succeeded in launching their boat, and were even now heading
toward the wreck on the reef; though the chances of finding a single
living soul aboard seemed small indeed, for the billows were breaking
completely over her, and she must soon go to pieces.

Darry tried to call out, but his mouth filled with salty water, and in
despair he saw the boat pass him by.

Even the lightning failed to illumine the scene just then, or some eager
eye might have detected the floating spar and its human burden.

No hope remained save that he might be tossed up on the beach somewhere
near the friendly fire that was burning as a beacon.

Once he fancied he heard men shouting during a lull in the roar of the
elements; but the coming of another smothering billow shut out the
friendly sounds.

Closer he was flung, until he could again hear the shouts of men, but
the baffling seas kept playing with him, sending him up on the breaking
wave only to once more snatch him back, until the poor boy almost
despaired of living through the dreadful ordeal.

He tried his best to raise his voice, but the cry he gave utterance to
was so feeble that even if heard it must have been taken for the note of
some storm bird attracted by the light of the beacon fire.

Just when he was giving way to despair, he saw the figures of men
running along the beach close to the edge of the waves, and new hope
awoke in his breast that his predicament had been seen.

Now they were pushing into the sea, holding one another's hands, and
forming a living chain, with a sturdy fellow at the end to snatch the
victim of the wreck out of the jaws of death.

The precious sight was at that instant shut out, for again there came a
deluge of water from behind, overwhelming the boy on the floating spar.

Darry felt something take hold upon him, which, in his excited
condition, he at first believed to be a shark; but, on the contrary, it
proved to be the fingers of the man at the outer end of the line.

Once they closed upon the person of the shipwrecked cabin boy they could
not be easily induced to let go, and amid shouts of triumph, spar and
lad were speedily dragged up on the beach beyond reach of the hungry
waves.

He was dimly conscious of being released from his friendly float, and
tenderly carried a short distance to the shelter of a house.

It was the life-saving station to which the boy had been taken by his
rescuers.

[ILLUSTRATION: HE WAS DIMLY CONSCIOUS OF BEING RELEASED FROM HIS
FRIENDLY FLOAT.]

Here he was wrapped in blankets, and placed close to a warm fire in
order to restore his benumbed faculties; while some hot liquid being
forced between his pallid lips served to give new strength to his body.

In less than ten minutes he opened his eyes and looked around.

Kind faces, even though rough and bearded, surrounded him, and he knew
that for once he had cheated the sea of a victim.

As strength came back he began to take an interest in what was passing
around him, especially when he saw several men carried in, whom he
recognized as some of the sailors of the ill-fated brigantine.

Eagerly he watched and prayed that his good friend the captain might be
one of those who had been snatched from a watery grave; but as time
passed this hope gradually became fainter.

The lifeboat had managed to return from the wreck, to report that not a
living soul remained aboard; and that the seas were so tremendous that
even had it been otherwise there would have been small chance of saving
them, since it was next to impossible to approach close to the vessel.

How the boy, lying there, looked with almost reverence upon those
stalwart fellows who were risking their lives in the effort to save
their fellow men.

Darry would never forget that hour.

The impressions he received then would remain with him through life;
and in his eyes the calling of a life saver must always be reckoned the
noblest vocation to which a young man could pledge himself.

He thought he would like nothing better than to become one of the band,
and in some way repay the great debt he owed them by doing as he had
been done by.

Presently he had so far recovered that he could get up and move around.

All of the sailors had not been equally fortunate; indeed, two of them
would never again scour the seas, having taken out papers for that long
voyage the end of which no mortal eye can see.

As each new arrival was carried in the boy would be the first to hasten
forward, but as often his sigh echoed the heavy feeling in his heart as
he discovered a face other than the familiar one he had grown to love.

One of the surfmen who had manned the lifeboat seemed to be particularly
interested in the rescued boy, for he came into the station several
times to ask how he was feeling, and if there was not something more he
wanted.

He was a tall, angular fellow, with a thin but engaging face, and Darry
had heard some of the others call him Abner Peake.

Somehow he found himself drawn toward this man from the start; and it
seemed as though in losing one good friend he had found another to take
the place of the kind captain.

Abner was a native of the shore, and spoke in the peculiar dialect of
the uneducated Southerner; but as a water-dog he knew no superior, and
it is this quality that Uncle Sam looks for when making up his crews to
man the life-saving stations that dot the whole coast from Maine to
Florida.

There was a twang about his voice that reminded Darry of a negro he had
once had for a shipmate on the brigantine; but at the same time his tone
was soft, and inspired confidence.

"Better hev a leetle more coffee, bub?" he said, coming upon Darry as
the latter turned away white-faced from the last body carried in by the
rough men.

"Perhaps it would do me good; I still feel mighty weak; but I'm glad to
be here instead of out there," replied Darry, pointing to where the
white-capped waves were rushing in long lines toward the beach.

"Course yuh be, bub. And we-uns air glad tuh get a chanct tuh pull yuh
outen the water. My old woman'd like tuh set eyes on yuh. Jest the age
our Joe would a-ben if he'd pulled through," and the rough surfman swept
his sleeve across his eyes as he spoke.

The secret of his interest in Darry was out; he had lost a boy of his
own, and his heart was very tender still, so that the sight of this poor
shipwrecked lad brought back his own sorrow keenly.

"You haven't seen anything of the captain, I suppose?" anxiously asked
Darry, wondering if it could possibly be that he had missed sight of his
friend at the time he was lying there unconscious.

Abner Peake shook his head in the negative.

He saw the boy was very eager to learn of the mariner's fate, and well
he knew that with each passing minute the chances of the other surviving
the pounding of the seas became less and less.

It was now not far from dawn.

The hurricane still blew with its old violence, and there was scant hope
of its passing for another twelve hours at least.

All that time those devoted men must be on the watch, ready to man their
surfboat again and take their lives in hand, should another vessel
strike the dangerous reefs that were marked upon the chart as the worst
within a hundred miles of Hatteras.

Sick at heart over the loss of his wise friend and benefactor, Darry
found the interior of the station almost unbearable just then.

He felt as though he must get outside where the elements rioted, and
watch the incoming waves for some sign of the captain.

But this new-found friend declared that it could do no good, since the
beach was already patrolled by those whose keen eyes would discover the
faintest trace of a brave swimmer trying to buffet the cruel waves; he
must remain under cover, so as to escape the possible evil results of
his late experience.

And so Darry had to once more lie down and let the other cover him with
a blanket, a pillow having been placed under his head.

He was utterly exhausted, and it had only been hope and excitement that
had buoyed him up until now.

As he lay there watching the various things that were being done for the
relief of the poor fellows snatched from a watery grave he found his
eyes growing heavy, and occasionally closing in spite of his efforts to
remain awake.

Once he sat up as some men came in bearing another sailor who, alas, had
apparently been dragged out of the sea too late to save the spark of
life; but, upon learning that it was not the one in whose fate he was so
keenly interested, Darry had fallen back again upon his hard pillow.

Soon after things faded from his sight, and he slept the sleep of
weariness, for every muscle in his body was as sore as though it had
been pounded with a club.

It was hours before he awoke.

At first he could not understand just where he was or how he came in
such unfamiliar surroundings; but seeing the kindly face of Abner Peake
bending over, he asked a mute question that the other answered with a
shake of his head.

The captain's body had not as yet come ashore.



CHAPTER III

ABNER PEAKE'S OFFER


Days passed. Darry had entirely given up hope of ever hearing from the
captain, whose body must have been carried out to sea again, as were
several of the crew.

After the shock became less severe, our hero began to take a new
interest in the scene around him, and particularly in connection with
the life-saving station where his new friend Abner was quartered.

The keeper was a grizzled surfman named Frazer, and a man possessed of
some education; he did not awaken the same feelings in the boy as Abner
Peake, but at the same time he was evidently inclined to be friendly in
his own gruff way.

On the third day after the rescue he called Darry to him as he sat
mending a net with which the crew of the station secured enough fish to
serve them for an occasional meal.

"Sit down, lad. I want to talk with you a bit," he said.

Darry dropped on a block close by.

He was still filled with the deepest admiration for these men of the
coast, and his determination to follow their arduous calling when he
grew big enough to take an oar in the surfboat was undiminished.

"Now, tell me about yourself, and where you belong. We are not allowed
to keep any rescued sailors more than a certain time. You notice that
all the others have gone, save the poor chaps lying under those mounds
yonder. Being a boy you've been favored; but the time has come to know
what you mean to do. Speak up, lad, and tell me your story?"

Encouraged by his kind voice, Darry told all he knew about himself up to
the very moment when he parted from his friend, the captain.

Mr. Frazer seemed interested.

"I feel sorry for you, Darry. It must be hard to feel that you haven't
got a friend in the world. My hands are tied in the matter, so I can do
nothing; but there's Abner Peake telling me he'd like you to stay with
him," he remarked.

"I understood him to say he once had a boy about my age."

"Yes, a likely little chap, but it was about a year back he was lost."

"Was he drowned?" asked Darry, feeling that this was about the way most
persons in this coast country must meet their end.

"Yes. The little fellow was a venturesome boy, and tried to cross the
bay in a heavy sea. He must have been swept out at the inlet. They found
the boat on the beach, three miles above here, but never little Joe.
Abner has never gotten over it. To this day he sits and looks out to sea
as if he could discover his poor boy coming back to him. I thought for a
time the fellow would go out of his mind."

"And he wants me to stay with him?" continued Darry, musingly.

"Yes. Abner has a small house out of the village, where his wife and the
two little girls live, while he is over here at the station. Often we
want someone to cross over with supplies, and he thinks you might like
the job."

Darry drew a long breath.

"I have no home. The only one I ever knew was the poor old _Falcon_, and
her timbers are scattered along the coast for ten miles. I think that if
Mr. Peake really wants me to stay with him I shall accept gladly. It is
tough to feel like a piece of driftwood all the time," he said.

"I think you are wise in deciding that way. Abner is a kind man, and as
for his wife--well, she's got a temper all right, but if you don't rub
it the wrong way she can be got on with, I reckon. Anyhow, it would pay
you to try it until something else turns up. Maybe you want to ship on
another vessel?"

"I think I have had all of the sea I want, after that time. I wake up
nights, thinking I'm choking with the salt water, and trying to catch my
breath. When I get older and stronger I want to be a life saver like
you, sir."

The keeper smiled pleasantly.

It was not often he appeared as a hero in the eyes of even a boy, and,
being human, he could not help feeling some satisfaction.

"It's a dangerous calling, Darry; but, after all, no worse than that of
a sailor. And while we risk our lives often, it is to try and save
others. There's some satisfaction in that. But there sits Abner on that
old keel of a wreck; suppose you go and tell him your story, and see
what he says."

When the boy joined him Abner Peake looked up, and the solemn expression
on his face changed to one of kindliness.

"Set down, lad. Are yuh feelin' all right agin after your rough time?"
he asked.

"A little sore in the arms still, but that will pass away soon. Mr.
Frazer told me you wanted to hear my story."

"If yuh don't mind tellin' me. I reckoned as how yuh must 'a' had a hard
time. Now, I ain't never been away from this here coast, but I feels
for boys what's out in the wide world. Still, there's some hope o'
_them_ comin' back tuh the nest agin, some day. Now, go on, lad," with a
long-drawn sigh.

Again did the homeless Darry start in to narrate his brief career, so
far as it was known to him; and the old surfman listened with a tear in
his eye, as he told of his abandonment in a foreign port, and the hard
time he had getting enough to eat.

Finally it was all told, and Abner Peake laid a hand on his arm, saying:

"Don't say yuh ain't got a home, any more, Darry, if so be yuh'd care to
stay at my place. The missus ain't the easiest one in the world tuh get
along with, but soon as she sees what a likely chap yuh be I know she'll
like yuh, same as I do. Try it awhile, lad, until yuh kin make your mind
up. My Joe used tuh make a tidy lot of money trappin' animals in the
swamp for ther skins, huntin' turkles like them terrapin they pay sech a
big price fur, an' actin' as guide fur the shooters as come down along
the coast after ducks and snipe and bay birds. No reason but what you
could do the same. Only try and git on the good side of the ole woman,
to begin with, lad. She's got a heart, tho' there's some as don't
believe it. I know she's still a feelin' bad because Joe was taken from
us."

"It was hard to lose him, your only boy," said Darry, consolingly.

The man shook his head dolefully, and bent a wistful look toward the
open sea.

"Yes, it was tough; but I reckon he's safe in the harbor long afore now.
What say, lad, be yuh of a mind to try it with us?" he continued
eagerly.

"I will, and only glad of the chance. It is kind of you to make me the
offer, and I only hope I may be able to please your wife. I'll do
everything I can to take the place of Joe, although, of course, I
couldn't expect to do that altogether," replied Darry.

"Say, yuh make me feel better, already. Seems to me as if I heerd little
Joe aspeakin' to me from somewhere. I'm goin' crost the bay to-night,
lad. It's my turn for a day off, an' I'll take yuh with me. I reckons
his clothes'd just about be the right fit fur yuh."

So it was settled.

Darry felt easy in his mind now, much more so than he had been ever
since finding himself adrift on shore, like a vessel without an anchor.

No matter how humble, it would be _home_ to him, for he had no memories
to haunt him, and bring about discontent.

There was the village near by, where possibly he might meet boys of his
own age; and what Abner had said about the pursuits by which Joe had
been accustomed to making odd bits of money appealed to him, for he
believed he had something of a love for outdoor sports in his nature,
since he had never neglected to take advantage of a chance to use a
fishing line, when the brigantine happened to be in one of the world
ports to which business called her.

But above all he gloried in the fact that occasionally he would have the
opportunity to visit the station on the outer beach, where those hardy
men patrolled every night, and stood ready to go to the assistance of
any imperilled mariners.

After supper he accompanied Abner to the little landing where a stout
rowboat was fastened.

Into this they dropped, and Darry immediately seized upon the oars, to
the secret amusement and satisfaction of the life saver, who was quite
willing to let him display his ability in this important line.

"Yuh sure pull a good, strong stroke, lad," he declared, after they had
been upon the bay for some time, Darry taking his bearings from a bright
star that had appeared in the east.

"He taught me," replied the boy, and, perhaps unconsciously, his voice
quavered as he spoke, for he could not even think of the captain without
emotion.

"All the better. A feller ain't no use 'round this section less he kin
row a boat with the best. And if so be yuh 'spect to jine with us some
day, the more yuh larn about this same thing the better for yuh. Joe, he
was a reg'lar water duck--but he was too darin' and he tried the game
onct too often. Beware o' that inlet, lad. The tide sweeps outen it like
a mill race sometimes, an' the best man couldn't hold his own agin it.
It's ben a mystery to me always how it happened. Nobody ever knowed,
only that we found the boat two days arter on the beach, three miles up.
When yuh git tired say so, an' I'll spell yuh."

After a long time they drew near the other shore. Here lights had been
seen, and Darry discovered quite a collection of houses, for the most
part cabins such as are so common in the south, especially along the
coast of North Carolina.

Abner insisted upon taking the oars now; and as he knew just where it
was most desirable to land the boy no longer objected.

Sitting there in the stern he watched the scene unfold as they
approached the mainland, though the new moon gave very little light.

Sounds as of boys at play, together with the barking of dogs, and even
the gabble of a goose, awoke in his breast new emotions such as he had
never experienced before; for he was about to be introduced to a home,
no matter of what character, where he would after that belong.

The boat was brought up against a landing, and both went ashore.

"In the mornin' I'll get yuh to help carry the groceries to the boat, so
I kin ferry 'em acrost. Jest now I'm pinin' to get to the shack, 'cause
I ain't ben home these two weeks, yuh see. This way, Darry, lad. My
cabin ain't jest in the village; but when I come home I ginerally stop
in at the butcher's an' take some meat along. Git out, yuh yaller
critter!" this to a dog that had come barking toward them as though
recognizing the fact that a stranger had come to town.

"Hyar, Peake, don't yer hit my dorg!" shouted a half-grown boy,
slouching around a corner as though he had just come out of a drinking
resort there.

"Keep him home, then, Jim Dilks, er else teach the critter to behave. He
tackled me onct and I had to kick him over a fence to save my shins from
his teeth. Some day that hound'll get a call all right, yuh hear me,
Jim?" declared Abner.

Jim leered at him, and then looked at the boy.

"Reckon it'll be a bad day for the feller that hurts me dorg, see? Who
yer got trailin' 'long with yer, Peake? Say, be he the critter as kim
ashore? Sooner he skips outen this the better. We ain't got jobs enough
now fur them as growed up round hyar."

"No danger of you worrin' 'bout jobs, Jim Dilks. Work an' you never got
on well. Mind your own business, now. This lad can look out for hisself.
He's goin' to live with me. Come on, Darry, don't notice the loafer,"
concluded the life saver; and he and the boy passed on. Darry was
destined to see a great deal more of Jim Dilks, as we shall presently
learn.



CHAPTER IV

THE CABIN BY THE MARSH

As is customary in many of these little villages along the coast, the
butcher shop was also the country store where groceries, dry goods,
notions, and possibly boots and hats in addition, were sold.

Mr. Keeler eyed the boy in Abner's company, while he was cutting off the
meat.

"Likely lad, that, Mr. Peake," he said. "I reckon he must be the one
that come ashore from the wreck t'other night. I heard all about it,
'cause some of our men were over to help out," he added, in a low tone,
taking advantage of Darry straying off a bit to examine a colored print
that hung on the wall, and offered all manner of inducements to young
fellows wishing to enlist in the navy.

"The boy's all right. He's gwine to live with my missus--if they kin git
on together. But about them as were over, Gus, I've got a notion some on
'em thought it might be a good chanct to wreck a craft. I seen Dilks
there, with his crowd, an' yuh know he's under suspicion o' havin' lured
that schooner ashore with a false light last year. Time's comin' when
them rascals air goin' to git caught. Hangin' 'd be too easy for such
snakes. An' that boy o' his'n promises to be a chip o' the ole block.
He's as bad as they make 'em," returned the surfman, shaking his head.

Nothing so angers a life saver as the mention of a wrecker; for deep
down in his heart he believes that the men who make a living from
salvage after a vessel has gone to pieces on the reefs, or else in
boarding the wreck when the storm has gone down, would not hesitate a
minute about sending any ship to her doom if they believed it could be
done without too much risk.

"If he doesn't get on with the missus let me have a try with him, Abner.
Looks to be a likely lad. They're a scarce article around here--some go
to sea, others are in the service, and more get drowned; while those
that are left seem bad from top to bottom, just like Jim Dilks. Yes, I
could use that younker, I think."

Peake had turned white at mention of the fate that befalls so many young
men of the shore; but he made no remark concerning his feelings.

"I'll remember what yuh say, Mr. Keeler. But I got a notion the boy will
stick with me. When the missus gets to know him she can't help but like
him. He's the clear quill. Take the change out of that bill. We just
got paid last night, yuh see. Darry, let's move along."

The village merchant looked after the couple a little enviously, as
though something about the boy's appearance had awakened his interest.

"I saw Jim Dilks talking to Peake before they came in here. I wager that
young scamp has it in for the new boy in town. He's been a holy terror
for a long time, and for one I think something should be done to put a
stop to his doings. But his father has a grip on the worst elements
here, and everyone seems afraid to rile up the old wrecker. Some say he
used to be a smuggler years back, and even blacker stories are told of
his life in Cuba, before Spain got out of the island. Well, it's none of
my business. I don't dare act alone. If someone else starts the ball
rolling I'll give it a big shove." And so the butcher salved his
conscience for not doing his duty.

Meanwhile Darry and his new friend walked briskly along, talking as they
went.

The boy had seen considerable of foreign ports, and the many strange
things he could tell were doubly interesting to this simple life saver,
who had never been further than to Wilmington in all his life.

"See that light ahead, lad? That's a lamp in the windy o' my shack.
They knows when my night comes around, an' the missus puts that lamp
there. It's a big thing, Darry, to have a light in the windy, ashinin'
only fur you. Makes a feller feel like he had one leetle nest in all
this big world, where some un cared fur him. And that is goin' to be
your home too, boy."

"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Peake," faltered the lad.

"Then don't try. Besides, mebbe yuh won't like it so well, after all.
Nancy, she ain't so easy to get on with, since leetle Joe went away.
Seems like she jest can't ever git over it. I seen her cryin' the last
time I was over. No use tryin' to comfort the pore ole gal. It left a
sore place in her heart that nothin' kin ever heal. I'm a hopin' that
p'haps with you around she may perk up some."

They were soon at the door. It was thrown open at the sound of Abner's
call, and two rather unkempt little girls rushed out, to be tossed up in
the air by the proud father.

They looked at Darry with wide-eyed wonder, for strangers were uncommon
in this neighborhood, so far removed from the railroad.

"Come right in, Darry. Here's the missus," said the life saver.

A woman came forward, and after greeting Abner, looked with a little
frown in the direction of the boy.

The surfman hastened to explain that Darry was a survivor of the last
wreck, on the shore where so many brave ships had left their bones.

"He's a waif, what's never knowed no home, Nance. The captain picked him
up abroad, but he's English or American, sure enough. With the death of
that captain went his only friend. I liked the lad,--he somehow made me
think of our Joe. Jest the same size, too, and he could wear his clothes
fine. He'd be a great help to yuh, I reckons, if so be yuh would like to
have him stay."

Abner saw a look of coming trouble in the eyes of his wife, and his
voice took on a pleading tone.

His mention of Joe was unfortunate, perhaps, for the woman had never
become reconciled to the loss of her only boy, and always declared
Heaven had dealt unjustly with her when there were so many worthless
lads in the village, who could have been far better spared.

"Just like I didn't have my hands full now, without bringing home any
more mouths to feed," she fumed. "Like as not he's a good-for-nothing
like Jim Dilks, and will only make us trouble right along. Keep him over
at the station if you want, Abner Peake, but you don't quarter him on
me. This is my house, and I'm to be consulted before anybody is brought
here."

Abner had apparently thought this all over.

He simply took Darry's hand and drew the half resisting lad over in
front of the irate woman.

"Nancy, I never knowed yuh to be anything but fair. S'posin' our leetle
Joe was kerried out to sea, an' in a strange land met up with a citizen
as took him home to his wife. What kinder reception do yuh think _he'd_
get? Could any woman look in Joe's face an' send him away from her door?
Wall, then, jest look in the face o' this boy, an' then if so be yuh say
take him away, I'll do it, Nancy," he said, simply.

Almost against her will she was compelled to look.

Well it was for Darry that he had clear eyes in which lurked no guile,
for that gaze of the surfman's "missus" was searching, since she had
before her mind a picture of the lost Joe.

She only nodded her head and said:

"Let him stay."

Perhaps she was too full of emotion to say more; but the husband nodded
his head as though satisfied with what he had done.

"It's all right, boy; she seen Joey in your eyes, jest as I done. Seems
to me yuh kin make good with the ole woman. Don't notice all she says
fur a time. Sure she's suffered some."

Apparently the family had waited with supper for Abner to come home, for
his wife immediately placed the meat on the frying pan, and the odor of
steak quickly filled every cranny of the small cabin of three rooms.

The two little girls were slow to make up with Darry, but he knew how to
interest them in certain ways, and it was not long before they hovered
around him as if he were a curiosity indeed.

Abner tried to make himself as agreeable as possible, for various
reasons.

He saw that his wife had not yet become reconciled to the fact of a
stranger coming among them, and was watching Darry out of the corners of
her eyes from time to time, while a frown would gather on her brow.

She was a sharp-featured woman; but life goes hard with those of her sex
in this coast country, and they grow old at forty.

Darry was studying hard how to please her, for he felt that she was to
be pitied after having lost her only boy so suddenly a year or so back;
and he determined never to forget this if she should scold him
needlessly or show temper.

He anticipated her wants in the line of wood for the fire, cheerfully
assisted in washing up the supper dishes, and was withal so obliging
that ere long the anxious Abner saw the lines begin to leave the
forehead of his better half.

This tickled him more than any well-won fight in the breakers might have
done, for he had a secret dread of Nancy's often ungovernable temper.

"The boy's gone and done it, blame me if he ain't!" he muttered to
himself, when he saw his wife actually smile over at where Darry was
sitting, with one of the twins on either side, entranced with some
figures he was drawing to illustrate a little story he had been telling
them about some sight seen in Naples.

When it came time to retire Darry was given a shake-down in the second
room.

He felt that he had made some sort of an impression upon the surfman's
wife, and that after all she might not prove so hard to win as he had
feared from what little he had heard about her temper.

That night was the most peaceful he had known for some time.

In the morning he was up before any one else stirred, and when Mrs Peake
made her appearance she found a bright fire burning in the kitchen,
plenty of wood on hand, a bucket of water from the spring handy, and a
boy only too anxious to do anything he was told in the way of chores.

Perhaps she may have had a suspicion that it would not last.

"A new broom sweeps clean," she remarked to Abner, as he appeared and
looked at her inquiringly.

"I calkerlate this one means to keep a-going' right along," he said,
"yuh see, the poor critter ain't never had no home before, an' he'll
sorter 'preciate one now. Give him a show an' he'll make good."

When Abner had to return to the other side of the bay Darry went with
him to the store, where a supply of edibles was laid in according to the
list written out by the station keeper; together with a can of oil,
since their stock had run low.

When Abner shook his hand heartily at pushing off, Darry felt as though
another link connecting him with the past had been broken.

Perhaps his face betrayed his feelings, for the old man exclaimed:

"Keep a stiff upper lip, lad, and it'll all come out well. The missus is
interested in yuh already. Tell her that I said to give yuh Joe's gun,
and the traps he left. He writ down how he used to git the muskrats an'
coons, too, so yuh kin understand how to set the traps. Tell the missus
that yuh mean to share an' share alike with her in the money yuh get.
That'll please her, 'cause yuh see cash is some skeerce with we-'uns all
the time. Ten dollars a week don't go far. Sometimes Nancy hunts roots
in the marshes, or picks up a few turkles that sells for a dollar or two
each. To-morrow yuh bring over the mail. I've got a boat as is fair, if
it only had a new pair o' oars. P'raps as a sailor lad yuh could whittle
out a pair to answer. Well, good-bye, Darry, my boy, and good luck. Keep
an eye out to windward for squalls if so be that Jim Dilks shows
alongside."

When the surfman had pulled with a strong stroke for some distance he
paused long enough to wave his hand to the boy; after which Darry turned
away to get the articles Mrs. Peake wanted at the store, and for which
she had doled out the necessary cash to a penny.

It would seem as though Abner must have had a vision of some coming
trouble in connection with the ne'er-do-well son of the notorious
wrecker, Dilks, for even as Darry entered the village street on his way
to the general store he saw the heavily built young ruffian shuffling
toward him.

There was a leer on the features of the bully.

Our hero had knocked around the world long enough to be able to detect
signs of a coming storm when he saw them; and if ever the signals were
set for trouble they certainly gave evidence of being now, when that
shiftless Jim Dilks intercepted the newcomer.



CHAPTER V

AN ENCOUNTER ON THE ROAD


Jim Dilks had long ruled as the bully of Ashley village.

He had a reputation as a bad boy that served him in place of fighting;
and as a rule an angry word from him was sufficient to command
obedience.

Besides, Nature had made him so ugly that when he scowled it was enough
to send a shiver down the spinal column of most boys.

Darry came to a pause. Indeed, he could not well have continued along
the path he was taking without walking over the bully, so completely had
Jim blocked his way.

"Looky here, didn't yer hear me tell yer last night ter get outen this
place?" demanded the wrecker's son, thrusting that aggressive chin of
his forward still more, and glaring at his prospective victim in his
usual commanding way.

"I believe you did say something like that. Are you Jim Dilks?" asked
Darry, and to the surprise of the other he did not seem to show the
customary anxiety that went with hostile demonstrations by the bully.

"When air yer going, then?" continued Jim.

"I haven't decided. In fact, I like my present accommodations with Mrs.
Peake so well that I may stay there right along," replied Darry,
steadily.

Jim caught his breath, and in such a noisy way that one would think it
was a porpoise blowing in the inlet.

In all his experience he had never come across such an experience as
this.

"I see yer want takin' down," he cried. "I've run this ranch a long time
now, an' there ain't no new feller comin' here without I say so. Yer got
ter skip out er take a lickin' on the spot. Now, I give yer one more
chanct ter say yer'll hoof it."

Darry knew what it meant, for he had not knocked around so long without
learning the signs of storm and fight.

He had thought seriously over this very matter, after being warned that
he might sooner or later have trouble with Jim; and as a result his
decision was already formed.

When Jim Dilks saw him deliberately taking off his jacket he stared,
with a new sensation beginning to make its presence felt around the
region of his heart--the element of uncertainty, even fear.

"Wot yer doin' that fur?" he demanded, shaking his head after the manner
of a pugnacious rooster about to enter into combat for the mastery of
the barnyard.

"Why, you said you were going to lick me, and as this is a very good
coat Mrs. Peake gave me, one that used to belong to her boy, Joe, I
thought she might feel bad if she saw it dusty or torn," replied Darry,
solemnly.

"Say, you bean't goin' ter fight, be yer?" gasped Jim, hardly able to
believe his senses, the shock was so great.

"Why, you said I had to. I don't want to fight a bit, but I always obey
orders, you see, and you told me I must or leave Ashley. Now, I don't
mean to go away, so I suppose I must do the other thing. But I hate to
hurt anyone."

"Hey? You hurt me? Don't worry about thet, cub. I reckon I kin wipe up
the ground with a feller o' yer build. So yer won't run, eh? Then all I
kin say is yer got to take yer medicine, see?"

Naturally, Jim knew next to nothing about the science of boxing, for he
had always depended upon his brute strength to pull him through, backed
by his really ferocious appearance, when he assumed his "fighting face,"
as he was proudly wont to term it.

On the other hand Darry had often boxed during the dog watch, with some
of the sailors aboard the old brigantine, and since there were several
among the crew who prided themselves on a knowledge of fisticuffs, he
imbibed more or less of skill in the dexterity shown in both self
defense and aggressive tactics.

At the same time Darry had seldom been called upon to utilize this
knowledge, for he was of a peaceful nature, and would shun a fight if it
could be done in honor.

Now, he knew that Jim Dilks was determined to have it out with him, and
consequently, if he really intended to remain in Ashley, he must show
this bully that he could take care of himself.

Jim was surprised when he received a staggering blow in the first
encounter, and before he had even been able to lay a hand on his
antagonist, who, after striking had nimbly bounded aside, so that the
village boy came near falling down.

Believing that this must have been only an accident, Jim turned with a
roar and once more strove to crush his rival by sheer weight and bulldog
tactics.

There never was a fight yet that did not immediately attract a crowd of
the curious and idle. Boys came running from several quarters, and not a
few men too, the more shame to them, always glad to watch a contest,
whether between a pair of aggressive dogs or roosters, or pugnacious
lads.

Those who came running up could hardly believe their eyes, when they saw
the recognized bully of the village engaged with a strange boy, and
apparently, thus far, getting the worst of the bargain.

Darry felt rather ashamed to be caught in the centre of such a
gathering; but the fight had been forced upon him, and the only thing
left was to wind it up as quickly as possible.

Accordingly, he began to force matters, and the third time that Jim
leaped at him, failing as before to land his blow, he received a sudden
shock in the shape of a swift tap directly under the ear that hurled him
to the ground.

There was a buzz of excitement about this time.

Boys who had tamely yielded to the sway of the bully for many moons
began to take notice, and even say things that were not calculated to
soothe the lacerated feelings of Jim who was picking himself up slowly,
and trying to collect his scattered wits.

The bully, of course, had not had enough as yet. This time, however,
when he came on it was with considerable caution, for his rough
experience had begun to teach him that rush tactics were not going to
answer with the boy who knew so well how to handle his fists.

It made no difference, for Darry met him squarely, and after a rapid
interchange of blows that brought out many a whoop from those who looked
on, Jim once more received an unexpected tap that caused him to sit down
a second time.

He was in no hurry to get up now, but sat there in a half-dazed way,
rubbing the side of his head, and gritting his teeth savagely.

The crowd began to cheer, and it must have been a galling sound to that
defeated bully, whose hour had come, as it usually does with most of his
kind.

"Get up!" said one man, jeeringly.

Jim scrambled to his feet, to find his antagonist facing him in a manner
that made him quail.

"Are you done, or shall we go on with it?" asked Darry, calmly, for he
did not seem to have been even winded in the exchange of blows.

"Ah, git out. Me hand is sprained, I tell ye. I fell on it last night.
That's why I couldn't knock yer out. This thing ain't done yet, cub.
I'll git yer as sure as me name is Jim Dilks. I allers do wen I goes
arter a feller."

He turned away with his head tossed in the air as though victory had
really perched upon his banner.

[ILLUSTRATION: HE WAS IN NO HURRY TO GET UP NOW, BUT SAT THERE IN A
HALF-DAZED WAY.]

The laugh that arose must have been galling to his pride, for he stopped
in his tracks and looked around angrily in the hopes of detecting one of
the boys in the act, whom he could trash later on as a sop to his
wounded feelings; but they were shrewd enough to hide their exultant
faces just then.

Darry picked up his coat, and putting it on, strode away.

He was conscious of a feeling of satisfaction, not because he had
whipped his antagonist, for it had been almost too easy; but he knew Jim
Dilks had long lorded it over the boys of Ashley, and perhaps after this
he might hesitate to act the part of bully again.

At any rate he was not intending to leave the place just because one
fellow had given him orders; perhaps before they left him alone he might
have to repeat this dose; but the reputation of the one who had downed
Jim Dilks would travel fast, and the balance of the village herd would
think twice before trying conclusions with the new boy at Peake's.



CHAPTER VI

WINNING HIS WAY


When Darry entered the store the proprietor looked at him with interest.

Mr. Keeler was a very strait-laced individual, and wont to raise his
hands in horror at the mention of fighting, or anything, in fact, that
partook of violence. He always gave it as his opinion that football was
a brutal game, equal to the bull rights of the Spaniards, and could
hardly be induced to even watch a baseball match, for fear one of the
players be injured.

Nevertheless, Mr. Keeler was human, and from the door of his shop he had
seen the little affair on the road, and recognized the combatants as
Peake's new boy and the village bully.

He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw that Darry had come off
victor, and that the idle men who gaped at the encounter were giving Jim
the laugh as he crossly slouched away.

Perhaps after all there might be something in such a fight as this,
where a much-needed lesson was taught a young scoundrel.

Mr. Keeler had his eyes opened for once; but at the same time he thought
it his duty as a man of peace to speak to the new boy.

"What was the trouble about, my lad?" he asked, as Darry handed him a
list of the articles Mrs. Peake wished him to bring back.

"There was no trouble on my side. I only wanted to be left alone, sir,"
replied our hero, smiling.

"Oh! I see, and Jim wouldn't have it? Like as not he told you to get off
the earth--it would be just like his impudence."

"Not quite so bad as that, sir, but he did say I couldn't stay with Mrs.
Peake, and must move on. I'm quite satisfied where I am, and I mean to
stay--that is as long as she wants me to."

"Quite right. I suppose there may be times when a boy is compelled to
stand up for his rights, although I've generally preached the other way.
But if you had to fight I'm glad you succeeded in convincing Jim that
you could hold your own."

"That was easy enough, sir. He is a clumsy fighter."

"I hope you do not love to engage in such affairs, Darry?" continued the
grocer, alive to what he considered his duty.

"I've been set upon a few times when I had to defend myself, but I never
look for trouble. I'd even avoid it if I could; but you know, Mr.
Keeler, sometimes a boy has to either run away or fight; and somehow I
don't care to run away."

Mr. Keeler nodded his head.

He was getting a new insight into boy character that day, that might
revolutionize a few of his pet theories.

"You say you have decided to stay with the Peakes?" he continued.

"If Mrs. Peake wants me to. It isn't quite decided yet; but I think I
shall like to have a home there. You see, sir, outside of the cabin of
the old _Falcon_ I've never known a home in all my life."

Mr. Keeler felt a new interest in this strange lad, who had been a
wanderer the brief span of his days, and yet strange to say seemed to
possess the instincts of a manly young chap.

He wondered very much where the boy could have picked up his ways; but
then Mr. Keeler had never met Captain Harley, or he might not have
indulged in so much vague speculation.

"If you can get on with Mrs. Peake you deserve considerable praise, lad.
Not but what she is a good enough woman, and with a kindly heart; but
ever since little Joe went out on the ebb tide and never came back
again she seems to have become what I might say, soured on humanity.
Abner is meek enough to stand it, but she has had quarrels with many
people in the village. Still, who knows but what you may be the very one
to do her good. You are about the size of her Joe, and with his clothes
on, I declare now, you do look a little like him. He was a clever boy,
and I just reckon her heart was all wrapped up in him. At any rate, I
wish you success there, Darry. And if I can do you a good turn at any
time just ask me."

"Thank you, sir," replied the boy, with a lump in his throat; for he was
unused to kindness save from Captain Harley, and had had more hard
knocks in the past than good wishes.

The benevolent grocer continued to chat with him until the purchases
were all tied up in a bundle, and after payment had been made Darry
placed the rather bulky package on his shoulder and trotted off.

On the way home he was not spoken to by anyone.

He saw several boys pointing in his direction, and there was a look of
awe on their faces as they watched him walk by; but no one ventured to
address a word to the newcomer who was said to have roundly trounced big
Jim.

A tall man also looked sharply at him, and as he wore a great nickel
star on the breast of his coat Darry understood that this must be Hank
Squires, the constable of the village.

No doubt news of the encounter had drifted to his ears, and since the
boy who usually made life miserable for him had come out "second best"
Hank did not think it policy to take any official notice of the
misdemeanor.

As soon as he arrived at home, Darry busied himself in undoing his
package, and placing the various articles where Mrs. Peake told him they
belonged.

His manner was so obliging and his answers to her questions so ready,
that despite her feeling of resentment at Abner, thinking anyone could
ever take the place of Joe in her heart, the woman found herself
insensibly drawn to the boy.

Perhaps, after all, the mere fact that he had never known a mother's
love, nor had a home of any kind, appealed more to her sympathies than
anything else.

She watched him take off his coat and carefully fold it before setting
to work.

That too, was like Joe, always trying to save his mother needless worry
and work.

After a while, as he happened to come close to her in doing something to
save her steps, she uttered a little exclamation.

"Did you fall down with the bundle, Darry?" she asked, leaning forward.

He turned a little red, conscious that in some way she must have
discovered signs of his recent adventure on the road.

"Oh! no, it was not heavy at all, ma'am," he replied, and then noting
that her eyes were fastened on his cheek he put up his hand, in this way
discovering for the first time, a little soreness there.

When he withdrew his fingers he saw a spot of blood.

"How did that happen then, Darry?" she asked, suspiciously.

"I think he must have hit me there, but I didn't know it until now," he
replied, relieved to feel that he could tell her the whole truth.

"Someone struck you--have you been fighting then?" she asked, a little
coldly; for woman-like, Mrs. Peake did not approve of strenuous
encounters.

"He said that I would have to leave you, and get out. I couldn't do
anything else but defend myself when he came at me. I'm sorry, for I
never tried to get in a fight in my life, and I never ran away from one
either."

"Who was it, Darry?" she asked again, looking uneasy.

"Jim Dilks," he answered promptly, unconsciously squaring his shoulders.

"Oh! that terrible boy again! What a shame he can't pick out some one
of his own size to beat! Did he hurt you very much, my poor boy?"

Then she was surprised to see Darry smile broadly.

"I didn't know he had even struck me until just now. You see Captain
Harley allowed me to box with the sailors, and I learned how to defend
myself. Jim says he is going to get even with me later on," he said
modestly.

"Do you mean to tell me you whipped that big loafer, that
good-for-nothing bully who has run the place for years?" exclaimed the
woman, in astonishment.

"I wouldn't just say that, ma'am, and Jim wouldn't admit it either; but
I did knock him down twice, and the second time he said he wouldn't
fight any more because, you see, his right hand was sprained. So he went
off and left me alone."

"Splendid! He deserved a lesson, the brute! Many's the time he has
jeered at me when he passed; and everyone has been afraid to put a hand
on him because his father is a bad man. And you did that? Well, the boys
of Ashley ought to vote you thanks. And you fought because he wanted you
to leave _this_ house? You thought it was a home worth fighting for?
Then it shall be yours as long as you want to stay here, Darry."

Before he suspected how greatly her feelings had been aroused, Mrs.
Peake threw her arms about his neck and gave him a resounding
kiss--perhaps in her heart she was in this way demonstrating her undying
affection for the boy who had vanished from that home one year ago, and
never came back.

After that Darry worked with a light heart, such as he had never before
known in all his life.

During the afternoon Abner's wife took pains to open a box that
contained all the treasured possessions of the young trapper and
naturalist whose greatest delight had been to spend his time in the
swamps watching the animals at their play; and in the proper season
setting his traps to secure the pelts of muskrats, 'coons and skunks,
which, properly cured, would bring high prices at such centres where
furs are collected, and secure many little luxuries for his mother
during the winter season.

Darry handled these with a bit of reverence, for he knew what a wrench
it must be to the devoted heart of the mother to see a stranger touching
the things she had hoarded up as treasures, and over which she must have
had many a secret cry.

Together with the traps and other things there was an old shotgun still
in good condition, and Darry had visions of coming days in the marsh and
swamp, where fat ducks and squirrels might fall to his aim, and provide
good dinners for this little family into whose humble home he had now
been fully taken.

His heart was filled with gratitude, for he knew that his lines had
fallen in pleasant places, since he was no longer a waif in the world.



CHAPTER VII

THE MIDNIGHT ALARM


Darry found himself greatly interested in the little diary left behind
by the boy naturalist, and which, besides containing an account of his
catches in the way of fur-bearing animals, also explained his methods of
setting snares and traps, how he cured the skins when taken, and where
he received the highest prices for the same.

All of this information was eagerly devoured by his successor, who felt
that it was certainly up to him to do his share toward supporting the
little family of the life saver who had been so kind to him.

He wandered out late one afternoon to look around and see what prospect
there might be for game; since the fall season was now on, and the boom
of guns beginning to be heard on the bay, where the ducks were
commencing to congregate.

As he drew near the cabin just at dusk he was surprised to discover a
figure making off in a suspicious way, as though not desirous of being
seen.

He recognized the lurker as Jim Dilks, and the fact gave him
considerable uneasiness, for he had not forgotten how the other vowed to
get even for his discomfiture, and Jim's methods of wiping out a score
were sometimes little short of shocking, if Darry could believe half he
had heard.

Had the fellow been prowling around in hopes of meeting him again, and
trying conclusions a second time?

Darry could not believe it, for such a thing would not be in line with
the reputation of the village bully.

He would be more apt to try and obtain a mean revenge by doing some
injury to the kind woman who had given refuge to this shipwrecked lad.

Evidently Mrs. Peake should know what he had seen, and so as soon as he
entered the kitchen, he spoke of it.

"Jim Dilks hanging about here," she echoed, in rising anger; "I'd just
like to know what that scamp wants, that's all. No good follows his
visits, as every one about this section knows to their sorrow."

"I'm afraid I'm the cause of it all. Unfortunately my being here is apt
to bring trouble down upon you. Perhaps it might be as well if I moved
on, as he said," remarked the boy, dejectedly.

The woman looked at him quickly, almost sharply.

"Do you want to go?" she demanded.

"No, oh, never; but it would save you trouble, and I have no right to
bring that on you," he cried, hastily, and with emotion.

"Then I say you shan't go away, not for a dozen Jim Dilks. You belong
here now. I've done what I said I never would do, given away my Joey's
things, and you're my boy, I say. I won't let you go away! This is your
home as long as you want to stay. Let me catch that Jim Dilks trying to
chase you off, that's all."

Darry could not trust his voice to say one word, only caught up her
work-stained hand and pressed it to his lips, then fled from the house.

And yet as Darry stood out under the old oak that shielded the cottage
from the burning sun in summer, and the biting winds of the "northers"
in winter, looking up at the first bright evening star that peeped into
view, he felt a happiness deep down in his boyish heart that could not
be excelled by a prince of the royal blood coming into his palace home.

He was merry all evening, and the twins romped as they had not done for
many a day, in fact, ever since their brother had left them.

The mother looked on in silent approval, thinking that once more home
seemed to have a brightness about it that had been long lacking.

When all had retired save Darry he sat by the fire thinking.

Somehow he could not forget that skulking figure he had seen leaving the
vicinity of the cabin at dusk, and he would have given much to have
known just what mission brought the vindictive Jim out there.

The bully's home was in the village, and he had no business so far away,
unless bent on an errand that would not bear the light of day.

A sense of responsibility came upon the boy as he sat there.

What if this young wretch should be cruel enough to poison the chickens,
or the three pigs that were expected to help carry the family over the
winter?

The thought gave him a bad feeling, and almost unconsciously he reached
out his hand and picked up the gun that Joe had purchased with money
earned through the sale of roots dug in the woods or furs secured
through clever deadfalls.

There were a few shells in the box, and among others, several containing
very small shot, that might sting pretty lively, but could not do much
damage to a half-grown boy as tough as Jim Dilks.

And it was with that same individual in his mind that Darry pushed two
of these small bird shells into the barrels of the gun.

He did not know that he would care to send even this charge directly at
a human being; but in case it became necessary he wanted to make
certain he would do little harm.

After that he seemed to feel easier in his mind, for he lay down and was
soon fast asleep.

Something awoke him about midnight, and thinking he had heard a sound he
sat up to listen; then he heard it again, and felt sure it must be a
cough, as of some one partly choking.

He was worried and left his lowly bed to go to the door connecting the
rooms and listen, but nothing came from beyond.

Could the sound come from outside?

He slipped on some of his clothes, and stepping over quietly opened the
outer door, looking into the night.

The new moon had long since vanished behind the horizon, and yet he
could see some sort of flickering light, coming from that region back of
the house.

At the same time he believed he caught the muttering of voices, or it
might be a low chuckle, followed by a plain sneeze.

Smoke came to his nostrils, and that meant fire!

Darry had a sudden vision of Jim Dilks getting even, and it took the
form of a burning corn-crib or chicken house.

Filled with indignation, he turned back into the house, and snatched up
the old shotgun; gone now was his hesitation with regard to using the
gun to pepper the rascally gang that took orders from the even more
rascally Jim.

Without saying a word Darry shot out of the door and turned the corner,
when his worst fears were realized, for he saw flames rising up
alongside the pigsty, which adjoined the building in which the fowls
were kept.

His first act was to fire the right barrel of his gun in the air, and at
the same time give vent to a shout.

Immediately several shadowy figures, which in spite of their bent
attitudes he knew to be boys, started to scamper away, in sudden alarm
lest they be recognized, and made to pay the penalty in the squire's
court.

As near as Darry could tell there were three of them, and as they ran he
believed he could recognize Jim Dilks in the centre of the group.

The temptation was too great to be resisted, and filled with indignation
because of the cowardly trick of which they had been guilty, Darry took
a snap shot at the running bunch.

It was music to his ears to catch the howls that immediately arose; but
he knew no serious damage had resulted because they ran faster than ever
after that, quickly vanishing from view in the shadows.

There was work to be done if he would save the humble quarters of the
family porkers from destruction, and the hennery as well.

He knew where the rain barrel stood that held the wash water, and
snatching up a bucket he hastily dipped it in, after which he rushed
over to the fire and dashed the contents upon the blaze.

Back and forth he galloped, using considerable discretion as to where he
put the water so as to head off the creeping fire.

Mrs. Peake now came running with another bucket, and proved herself a
woman in a thousand by assisting the new addition to the family put out
the last of the conflagration.

When there was not a spark remaining, and beyond the grunting of the
pigs and the cackling of the fowls, everything had fallen back into its
usual condition, one or two neighbors arrived on the scene, asking
questions, and busying themselves generally, though had it depended on
their efforts the frail buildings must have gone up in smoke before now.

Of course many questions were fired at Darry, and he felt that it was
necessary he should tell what he had seen, though cautious about saying
he had fully recognized any one of the three skulkers, no matter what
strong suspicions he may have entertained.

He believed he had a means of identifying one or more of them,
nevertheless, when the proper time came.

More neighbors arrived, attracted by the shots and the confusion, for
nothing could quiet the excited chickens; and for an hour there was more
or less discussion on the part of these good people.

Finally the excitement died out, the last neighbor went home, and the
Peake cabin was left to those who belonged there. There was no further
alarm during the balance of that eventful night.



CHAPTER VIII

ACROSS THE BAY


Darry welcomed the coming of dawn.

He was glad to see that the sky was clear, for he anticipated a long row
across the broad bay that day, bearing the mail for those at the
life-saving station, as well as several things he had been commissioned
to fetch over by Abner.

Hardly had they finished breakfast than there arrived a visitor.

Mrs. Peake saw him coming along the road, for she could look out of the
window of the kitchen, where they ate, and have a view of the open
stretch.

"Here comes old Hank Squires. I reckon he's heard something about what
happened here last night. It's about time he took notice of some of the
mean pranks those village boys play on those who live outside. Tell him
all he wants to hear, Darry; but unless you can swear to it perhaps
you'd better not say that you think it was Jim Dilks and his crowd. If
you feel sure, go ahead," she remarked, for with all her temper Mrs.
Peake was a woman with a due sense of caution.

The constable knocked, and in response to her call to "come in," he
entered.

"I heard ye had a little shindig up to here last night, Mrs. Peake, an'
I jest called 'round to see what it is all 'bout," said Hank, seating
himself. "I see thar was a fire here all right, an' it kim near burning
yer buildings down in the bargain. Some says as how it was sot by a
passel o' boys. How 'bout that, ma'am?"

"I didn't see anyone," answered the woman. "When I got out Darry here
had the fire pretty well under control, and I only helped him finish.
You can ask him about it, Mr. Squires."

Darry had already learned through the grocer that previous to her
marriage to Abner the good woman had been for some years a teacher in
the schools, which fact accounted for her superior language and
knowledge of things that were far above the intelligence of most of her
neighbors.

The constable looked keenly at our hero.

"I b'lieve this is the boy wot was saved from the wreck o' that
brigantine. So he's gwine to be your boy now, Mrs. Peake? Well, I
understand he's got the makin' o' a man in him, so Mr. Keeler sez to me
last night, and I hope you'll never have no reason to be sorry. I want
to know, Darry, what about this here fire?"

"I'll be only too glad to tell you all I know, sir," replied the boy
promptly.

"When did it happen?" began the constable, with the air of a famous
lawyer, with a bewildered witness on the rack.

"I think it was somewhere near midnight. I have no watch, and Mrs. Peake
took the little clock in her room with her."

"That was near the time. It was half-past one when I went back to my bed
with my two little girls," remarked the owner of the house.

"S'pose you tell me what happened, jest as it comes to you, lad."

With this invitation Darry soon related the whole matter, even to his
firing after the vanishing culprits.

This latter event appeared to interest the constable more than anything
else.

"Do you think you hit any o' 'em?" he asked, eagerly.

"They didn't stop to tell me, but I heard a lot of howling, and they ran
faster than ever," replied Darry, smiling.

"That sounds as if you did some damage. Mrs. Peake, I must look into
this outrage closer, and if I can only git my hands on any dead-sure
evidence somebody's boys is a gwine to pay for the fiddlin'. I'm tired
o' sech goings-on. They sure are a disgrace to our village. But you know
how it is--my hands are tied acause theys politics back o' it all. If I
arrested Jim Dilks now on the strength o' a suspicion I'd get tied up in
litigation and lose my job in the bargain. I hears as how theys gwine to
be a meetin' called at the house o' the dominie to discuss this
question, an' see what kin be did to change things."

"I'm sure I'm glad to know it, and if they want another to join in tell
them to count on Nancy Peake. The women must take this thing in hand,
since the men are too much afraid of that ruffian, big Jim Dilks, to do
anything. Be sure and let me know when that meeting is coming off, Mr.
Squires," said Abner's better half; and when he saw the fire in her eyes
and the determination shining there Constable Squires realized that the
day of salvation for Ashley village was not so very far away.

"Then you wouldn't like to swear to its being any particular pusson?" he
went on, turning again to Darry.

"I did not see a face, and without that my evidence would hardly
convict. No, sir, I would not swear that one of the three was Jim."

"That's bad. I stand ready to do my duty and arrest the boy if so be
any one makes a complaint; but without that it wouldn't pay and only
makes useless trouble all 'round. But I'm goin' to keep my eyes open
from now on, and when I git a sure case on Jim he comes in."

That was all Mr. Squires would say, and he soon departed; but not before
he had called Darry outside for a few words in parting.

"Looks like you was marked to be the central figger o' the comin' storm,
lad. Keep your eye open for squalls. If things git too black around jest
slip over to the dominie's leetle house and hev a talk with him. I knows
more about what's gwine to happen than I let on; but somebody's due to
hev a surprise that hain't a donation party either. You seem to have the
right stuff in you, lad. I heard from Mr. Keeler how you took that bully
Jim into camp mighty neat. He'll never be satisfied till he's paid you
back. A word to the wise is sufficient. Goodbye, Darry."

After all the constable did not seem to be a bad sort of fellow.

During the morning Darry accomplished many things for Abner's wife, and
she showed in her manner how pleased she was to have him there.

When noon had come and gone he prepared for his row across the bay, for
she insisted upon his making an early start.

"Clouds are banking up in the southeast, and we look for trouble
whenever that comes about. Still, you will have plenty of time to row
over. Stay with Abner to-night and return in the morning if it is safe
on the bay. Perhaps you may have a chance to see how the life savers
work," said Mrs. Peake.

It was almost two when he pushed off from the float and started on his
long row directly across the bay.

Steadily he kept pushing across the wide stretch of shallow water.

As Abner had said, a new pair of oars seemed to be badly needed in
connection with the old boat; but a willing heart and sturdy arms sent
the craft along until finally Darry reached his goal.

The storm was drawing near, for by now the heavens were clouded over,
and the haze seemed to thicken. Perhaps had he lingered another hour
Darry might have stood a chance of losing his way, and being drawn out
of the inlet by the powerful ebb tide--just as the unfortunate Joe had
been.

Abner was waiting at the landing for him.

"Glad to see yuh, lad. How's everything to home?" he asked.

Of course Darry understood this to mean with regard to himself and his
relations with the good woman of the house.

Truth to tell Abner had worried more than a little since parting from
the boy, for his wife had shown more than unusual ill temper lately, and
he feared that he had possibly done an unwise thing in leaving Darry
there to be a constant reminder of the son she had lost.

But the happy look on the boy's countenance eased his mind even before
the boy spoke a single word.

"He kin do it, if any boy kin," was what the life saver was saying under
his breath.

"All well, and your wife sent this over to you, sir. Here's the mail,
too. The postmaster didn't want to give it to me, but Mr. Keeler told
him it was all right, and that I belonged with the crew over here."

Unconsciously his tones were full of pride as he made this assertion,
and the grocer had evidently done more to please the lad in making that
assertion than he would ever know.

But Abner seemed to be staring down at something.

"Seems like as if yuh bed ben a leetle mite keerless, son, with them
trousers. Don't strike me thet burn was on 'em yesterday," he remarked.

"It wasn't, Mr. Peake. I got that last night," he said, quickly.

"Doin' what?" went on Abner, who seemed to guess that there was a story
back of it all that he ought to hear.

"Putting out the pigsty, that was on fire, sir."

"What's that? Who sot it afire, I'd like to know? Them pigs never has
smoked, leastways not yit. Jest tell me the hull bloomin' thing, lad."

To begin at the start Darry had to take up the subject of his encounter
on the road, and from that he went on until the whole story had been
told, including the visit of Hank Squires.



CHAPTER IX

THE SIGNAL ROCKET


Abner Peake made no comment until the end had been reached.

Then he smote one hand into the palm of the other, and relieved his
feelings in the expressive way one would expect a coast "cracker" to do.

"This sorter thing has got to stop! It's sure the limit wen them
varmints set about burnin' a honest man's buildin's up! I'll take the
law into my own hands onless somethin' is did soon. P'raps that parson
kin manage to rouse up the village, and upset old Dilks. Ef so be it
falls through I'm gwine to take a hand, no matter what happens."

He immediately told the whole story to his companions at the station,
and they, of course, sympathized with him to a man.

"That Dilks gang has got to be run out of Ashley, root and branch, daddy
and sons, for they're all alike," declared the keeper, Mr. Frazer, who
was a man of considerable intelligence--indeed, no one could hold the
position he did unless fairly educated and able to manage the various
concerns connected with the station. "It's a burning shame that the
families of men who are away from home in the service of the Government
can't be left unmolested. I'm going to take the matter up with the
authorities the next time the boat comes to this station."

The life savers asked Darry many questions, but he was careful not to
fully commit himself with regard to identifying the three culprits.

"Course he couldn't say, boys. Don't forget Darry's new in this section,
and most o' the boys is strangers to him. But he's put his trade-mark on
one as won't forget it in a hurry. And for me I'd be willing to wager my
week's pay that young Jim Dilks was leadin' them raiders in their
rascally work," declared one of the crew, a stalwart young fellow named
Sandy Monks.

By this time the storm began to break, and it became necessary for the
keeper to make good use of his glass in the endeavor to place any vessel
chancing to be within range, so that in case of trouble later in the
night they would have some idea as to the character of the imperiled
craft.

Darry watched everything that was done with eager eyes.

After an early supper, in which he participated with the men of the
station, he saw the guard that had the first patrol don their storm
clothes, and prepare to pass out to tramp the beach, exchanging checks
when they met other members of the next patrol to prove that through the
livelong night they had been alive to their duty.

Abner was on the second watch. He had consented to let the boy go out
with him, and share his lonely tramp, for he seemed to realize that just
then it was the most ardent wish in the heart of our hero to become a
life saver like himself.

The rain came down in sheets, and the thunder rattled, while lightning
played in strange fashion all around; but this storm was not in the same
class with the dreadful West India hurricane that had sent the poor
_Falcon_ on to the cruel reefs, to wind up her voyaging forever.

Darry might have liked to sit up and listen to the men tell about former
experiences; but the keeper chased them to their beds, knowing that it
was necessary to secure some sleep, since they must remain up the latter
half of the night.

A hand touching his face aroused Darry.

"Time to git up, lad, if so be yuh wants to go along," came a voice
which he recognized as belonging to Abner, though he had been dreaming
of the captain.

He was quickly dressed and out of doors.

It seemed to be still raining, and the wind howled worse than ever,
though but little thunder accompanied the vivid flashes of lightning.

Having been giving some spare waterproof garments in the shape of
oilskins, and a sou'wester, Darry felt himself prepared to face any
conditions that might arise during his long walk with his friend.

Taking lantern and coster lights for signalling, Abner set out, another
patrol going in the opposite direction.

Those who had been out for hours had returned to the station in an
almost exhausted condition, and at the time Abner and Darry left they
were warming up with a cup of coffee, strong spirits being absolutely
forbidden while on duty.

Darry asked questions when the wind allowed of his speaking, which was
not all the time, to be sure.

He wanted to know how the patrol learned when a ship was in distress,
and Abner answered that sometimes they saw lights on the reefs; again
the lightning betrayed the perilous condition of the recked vessel; but
usually they learned of the need of assistance through rockets sent up
by those on board, and which were answered by the coast guard.

Captain Harley had not been given a chance to send such an appeal for
help, since he had been swept overboard just after the brigantine
struck; besides, the vessel was a complete wreck at the time, and
without a single stick in place could never have utilized the breeches
buoy even had a line been shot out across her bows by means of the Lyle
gun.

In two hours they had gone to the end of their route, and exchanged
checks with the other patrol coming from the south. Then the return
journey was begun.

Almost an hour had elapsed since turning back, and they were possibly
more than half way to the station, when suddenly Darry, who chanced to
be looking out to sea, discovered an ascending trail of fire that seemed
to mount to the very clouds, when it broke, to show a flash of brilliant
light.

"See!" he had exclaimed, dragging at the sleeve of his companion's coat,
for Abner was plodding along steadily, as if his mind was made up to the
effect that there was going to be no call for help on this night.

"A rocket! a signal!" cried the old life saver, at once alive to the
occasion.

His first act was to unwrap one of the coster lights, and set it on
fire.

This was intended to inform those on board the ship that their call for
assistance had been seen, and that the lifeboat would soon be started if
conditions allowed of its getting through the surf; for there are
occasionally times when the sea runs so high that it proves beyond human
endeavor to launch the boat.

Having thus done his duty, so far as he could, Abner set out on a run
for the station, knowing that unless the full crew was on hand all
efforts to send out the boat would be useless.

Darry kept at his heels, though he could have outrun the older man had
he so desired, being sturdy and young.

Stumbling along, sometimes falling flat as they met with obstacles in
the darkness, they finally came within sight of the lights of the
station.

Here they found all excitement, for the signal rockets had of course
been seen by the lookout, and all was in readiness to run the boat out
of its shed.

Darry found that he could certainly make himself useful in giving a
helping hand, and with a will the boat was hurried down to the edge of
the water that rolled up on the beach.

All they waited for now was the coming of one man, whose beat happened
to be a little longer than any other, but who should have shown up ere
now.

As the minutes passed the anxiety of the helmsman grew apace, for those
on the stranded vessel were sending more rockets up, as though they
believed their peril to be very great.

The men stood at their places, ready to push at the word, and then leap
aboard.

Darry was with them, eager and alert; indeed, he had done such good
service up to now that the stout Mr. Frazer cast an eye toward him more
than once, as though tempted to ask him to take the place of the missing
man, who must have had an accident on the way, perhaps spraining an
ankle over some unseen obstacle that came in his way as he ran headlong.

Darry saw him talking with Abner, who looked his way, and shook his head
as if hardly willing to give his consent.

Just as his hopes ran high, and the words seemed trembling on the lips
of the helmsman a shout was heard and the missing man came limping down
to take his place without a complaint, though as it afterwards turned
out he had a bad sprain.

Then the wild word was given, the men heaved, the surf boat ran into the
water, with the men jumping aboard, oars flashed out on either side, and
were dipped deep, after which the boat plunged into the next wave, rode
on its crest like a duck, made a forward move, and then darkness shut it
from the gaze of the lad left behind.



CHAPTER X

JIM THE BULLY


Although he could not accompany the life savers in the boat Darry had
been given duties to perform, which he went about with a vim.

One of these was to keep the fire burning, so that it might serve as a
beacon to the life savers as they toiled at the oars.

What with the darkness, and the flying spray that seemed almost as dense
as fog, it was a difficult task to hold their bearings, and this glare
upon the clouds overhead was essential.

By this time several other men arrived on the scene, having taken
chances upon the bay when it was seen that the night would be stormy.

They were only too willing to assist, and as time passed many anxious
looks were cast out upon the dashing sea in expectation of seeing the
boat returning, possibly with some of the passengers or crew of the
vessel in danger.

Finally a loud shout was heard:

"There they come!"

Upon the top of an incoming billow the lifeboat was seen perched, with
the men laboring at the oars to keep it steady, and the steersman
standing at his post, every muscle strained to hold the craft from
broaching to.

It was a wild sight, and every nerve in Darry's body seemed to thrill as
he kept his eyes glued upon that careening boat.

On it came, sweeping in with the wash of the agitated sea, until finally
it was carried far up the beach, where men, rushing in waist deep,
seized hold and prevented the undertow from dragging it out again.

Then the crew jumped out to lend their aid.

Darry saw that quite a number of strangers were aboard, who had
undoubtedly been taken from the vessel.

They were passengers, the captain and crew refusing to abandon their
craft.

The steamer being head on, was not in as bad a condition as might
otherwise have been the case; and as the storm promised to be
short-lived, the commander had decided to try and await the coming of
tugs from the city to drag his vessel off.

The telephone to the mainland was immediately put to good use, and a
message sent to a salvage company that would bring a couple of strong
sea-going tugs to the scene inside of ten hours.

Abner had labored with the rest.

He was more or less tired when Darry found him, after the boat had been
drawn up on the beach, but not housed, since it might be needed again;
but this sort of thing was an old story in his life, and in comparison
with some of his labors the adventure of the night had been rather tame.

In the morning Darry started across the bay again, homeward bound.

He was sorry to leave the beach, so much was his heart wrapped up in the
work of the life savers.

The day was bright and fine after the short storm which had seemed to
clear the air wonderfully.

He could see a few boats moving about, some of them oyster sloops or
dredgers, other pleasure craft belonging to the rich sportsmen who had
already commenced to drift down in pursuit of their regular fall
shooting.

Occasionally the distant dull boom of a gun told that a few ducks were
paying toll on their passage south.

Darry looked longingly at a splendid motor-boat that went swiftly past
him.

The young fellow on board seemed to be having a most delightful time,
and it was only natural for any boy to envy him.

It was noon when our hero arrived home. Mrs. Peake was interested in
all he had to tell about the trip of the life savers.

"We get used to hearing these things," she said, "but all the same it
keeps the wives of the life savers feeling anxious. Some night it
happens one of the crew of the lifeboat goes out and does not return. At
any time it may be my turn. I know three widows now."

"I think they ought to pick out the unmarried men," remarked Darry, who
had himself been considering this very subject.

"They do, I believe, as far as they can; but we must have bread, and the
number of available surfmen is small. But those who win their living
from the sea learn to expect these things sooner or later. It is only a
question of time."

After a bit of lunch Darry was sent to the village on an errand.

This was how he happened to see Jim Dilks again.

The meeting occurred just before Darry reached the grocer's, and as Jim
was totally unaware of his coming he had no chance to assume airs.

Darry looked at him eagerly, as though expecting to make a discovery;
and this anticipation met with no disappointment.

There could be no doubt about Jim limping, and once he instinctively
put his hand back of him as if to rub a spot that pained more or less.

Darry understood what it meant, and that he had not sent that shower of
fine bird shot after the trio of desperate young scamps in vain.

If Hank Squires wanted positive evidence as to who had been connected
with the firing of Mrs. Peake's out-buildings he could find it upon an
examination of the person of Jim Dilks.

When the good-for-nothing caught sight of Darry it was surprising how he
stiffened up and walked as upright as a drum-major.

Darry had lost all respect for the prowess of the young ruffian, after
that one trial of strength, when he had found Jim so lacking in
everything that goes to make up a fighter. He had the feeling that he
could snap his fingers in the other's face.

Being a boy he could not help from addressing the ex-bully, and rubbing
it in a little, for Jim was scowling at him ferociously.

"Hello, Jim, how's the sprain--or was it rheumatism you had in your
wrist? Sorry to see it's gone down now into one of your legs, and makes
you limp. I tell you what's good for that sort of thing. First, be sure
to take out any foreign substance, such as gravel, _lead_ or anything
like that; then wash it well and rub on some sort of ointment. Follow
the directions and it will work fine," he said, as soberly as though he
meant every word.

If anything, Jim scowled worse than before, since his guilty soul knew
that this boy suspected his connection with the lawless act of the
recent night.

"Saw yer comin' acrost the bay this mornin'; say, was yer over on ther
beach with the life savers? Did a boat go ter pieces on the reefs?" he
asked.

Darry saw that the other was swallowing his resentment in order to pick
up information, and he remembered what dark stories he had heard in
connection with the men who formed the companions of Jim's father--that
they were termed wreckers, and some said they had reached a point of
desperation where they did not hesitate to lure a vessel upon the reefs
in order to profit from the goods that would float ashore after she went
to pieces.

Possibly the older Dilks and his cronies may have been abroad on the
preceding night, hovering around in hopes of a windfall; and Jim was
eager to learn whether such a chance had come.

"Not last night, I'm glad to say. There was a steamer aground, but only
the passengers would come ashore, the captain and crew remaining on
board waiting for the tugs to arrive," replied Darry.

Jim's face fell several degrees.

He would have been satisfied to hear that a dozen poor sailors had been
lost if it meant a big haul for the wreckers of the coast.

"Say, be yer goin' to stay 'round this district," asked the bully,
changing the subject suddenly.

"Well, Mrs. Peake wants me to remain with her, and so does Abner. I'm
thinking about it. When I make my mind up I'll let you know, Jim. If
it's stay, why we can have it all over again. I want to warn you, Jim.
You're going to get yourself into trouble if you keep on the way you're
bent now. There's a law that sends a man to the penitentiary for setting
fire to a neighbor's house," he said, as sternly as he could.

"Never set fire ter a house," declared Jim, quickly.

"Well, it doesn't matter whether it's a house or a barn or a hencoop. If
Hank Squires could only find some positive evidence against you he says
he'd lock you up right now; and Jim, I know how he could get all the
evidence he needs."

"'Taint so," flashed out the bully, but looking alarmed all the same;
while his hand half instinctively sought his rear.

"I think that an examination of those ragged trousers you wear would
show where a few fine bird-shot peppered you as you ran. Perhaps both
the other fellows got a touch of the same medicine, too, so you'd have
company, Jim, when you went up."

"It's a lie. I never sot that pigpen on fire!"

"Oh! you know it was a pigpen, then, do you? I spoke of a chicken coop
only."

"Heerd 'em torkin' about it. Thet ole busybody, Miss Pepper, she war in
ther store wen I was gittin' somethin' fur mam, and she sed as how she'd
run this village if she war a man, an' the feller as set fire ter a
honest woman's pigpen 'd git his'n right peart. Like fun she wud,"
returned Jim, quickly.

"She's got her eye on you, Jim. She believes you led that gang. Going,
eh, good-bye."



CHAPTER XI

A GLORIOUS PROSPECT


Jim had heard enough. He was beginning to be a bit afraid lest this
sturdy new boy who had mastered him so easily in their late encounter,
take a notion to investigate his condition physically; and there were
several little punctures that just then Jim did not care to have seen.

Darry watched the bully saunter away, and it made him smile to see what
an effort the other kept up his careless demeanor, when every step must
have caused him more or less pain.

Perhaps Jim, in spite of his bombastic manner, might have received a
lesson, and would be a little more careful after this how he acted.

So he walked to the store, completed his purchases, and was waiting for
them to be tied up when who should enter but the young fellow he had
seen in the beautiful cedar motor-boat out on the bay.

He was dressed like a sportsman, and there was a frank, genial air about
him that quite attracted Darry.

Apparently he had dropped in to get his mail, for he walked over to the
little cubby hole where a clerk sat.

As his eyes in roving around chanced to fall on Darry, and the latter
saw him give a positive start, and he seemed to be staring at him as
though more than casually interested.

Then he spoke to the clerk, who looked out toward Darry and apparently
went on to explain that he was a stranger in the community, having been
on a brigantine recently wrecked on the deadly reefs off the shore.

The young man sauntered around until Darry left.

Just as our hero put the last of the small shanties that formed the
outskirts of Ashley behind him he caught the sound of hurrying steps.

Thinking of Jim and his ugly promise of future trouble he half turned,
but to his surprise and pleasure he saw that it was the owner of the
launch, and that apparently the youth was hurrying to overtake him.

What his curiosity was founded on Darry could not say; but presumed the
other had liked his looks and wanted to strike up an acquaintance.

It would not be the first time such a thing had happened to him.

"Good morning, or rather good afternoon," said the stranger. "I believe
they told me your name was Darry, and that you are stopping with one of
the life savers. My name is Paul Singleton, and I'm down here, partly
for my health, and also to enjoy the shooting. It turns out to be pretty
lonely work, and I'm looking for a congenial companion to keep me
company and help with the decoys later. I'm willing to pay anything
reasonable, and I carry enough grub for half a dozen. My boat is small,
but affords ample sleeping accommodations for two. How would you like to
try it," and the youth smiled broadly.

Darry was thrilled at the prospect, although he could not see his way
clear to accept it just then.

First of all he would not think of doing so without consulting Abner,
who had been so kind, and who expected him to remain with the little
family; then, it was nice to believe that Mrs. Peake would feel sorry to
lose him; and last of all he knew little or nothing about the bay or the
ways of guides, and the duties connected with the profession.

"I'd like it first-rate, but just now I don't see how I could accept,"
he replied.

"If it's a question of wages--" began the young man, who was watching
the various expressions flit over Darry's face with an eager eye.

"Not at all. I was only thinking of my duty to Abner Peake and his wife,
who have been so good to me. Perhaps later on I might accept, providing
you have not already filled the place."

"I suppose you know best, but somehow I've taken a notion I'd like to
have you along with me, Darry. For a week or two I mean to just knock
around here, sometimes ashore and again afloat. Perhaps when the
shooting begins in earnest you may be able to give me a different
answer."

"At any rate by that time I shall know more about the bay and the habits
of the ducks that drop in here. I'm a stranger, you see, Mr. Singleton,
and though I've done some hunting in India and other places where our
ship lay at anchor for weeks, I know little about this sport. I can cook
as well as the next fellow, and of course know something about boats,
though more used to sails than gasoline."

"You're too modest, Darry. Some chaps would have jumped at the chance to
have a fine time. But I like you all the better for it. I see you are in
a hurry, so I won't detain you any longer. It's understood then that if
you can get off later you'll come to me?"

"I'll only be too glad to do so, Mr. Singleton," was Darry's answer.

The young fellow thrust out his hand, while his gaze still-remained
riveted on Darry's face.

As the boy walked rapidly away, feeling a sense of overpowering delight
at the prospect ahead if all things went well, something caused him to
glance back, and he saw Paul Singleton shaking his head while sauntering
toward the village, as if something puzzled him greatly.

Darry could not understand what ailed the other, or how anything about
his appearance should attract so fine a young gentleman.

He told Mrs. Peake about it, and while she looked displeased at first,
Darry was so apparently loth to leave her that the better element in the
woman's nature soon pushed to the front.

"Of course you can go, after a little. There's nothing to prevent. It
will be a fine thing for you, and may lead to something better. We have
put through one winter without a man in the house, and can again. Time
was when all my children were little, and even then Abner used to be
away most of the time. Don't worry about us, Darry. When the time comes,
I say, go," was what she remarked.

How the skies were brightening for him!

And only a few days back he had faced such a gloomy prospect that it
appalled him!

Now he whistled as he worked, rubbing up the various traps taken from
Joe's box, and preparing to sally out for his first experience in trying
to catch the muskrats that haunted the borders of the watercourses in
the marshes near by.

Carrying that invaluable little notebook along for reference in case he
should become puzzled about anything, and with a few traps slung over
his shoulder Darry followed the paths along the edge of the marsh until
he reached one that seemed to enter the waste land.

Joe had designated this as his favorite tramp, since it paralleled the
creek, and the burrows of the little fur-bearing animals could be easily
located.

Presently Darry was busily engaged in examining the bank, and it was not
long before he had found what he sought.

This was a hole just below the water line.

There were also the tracks of the occupants close by, showing just how
they issued from their snug home to forage for food.

He carefully set his trap under a few inches of water, so that the first
rat coming forth and starting to climb the bank would set his hind feet
in it.

The chain he fastened to a stake out in the creek.

This was done in order that the little rodent would be quickly drowned.

Trappers invariably follow this rule when after water animals, and it is
not always through a spirit of mercy toward the victim that actuates
their motive, but the fact that they would otherwise lose many a catch,
since the captive in despair over its inability to escape would gnaw its
foot off.

Having finished with the trap, Darry walked further into the marsh. It
was a lonely place, seldom visited save by a few hunters in the season,
who looked for mallard ducks there; or it might be some boy trapper,
endeavoring to make a few dollars by catching some of the shy denizens
wearing marketable fur coats.

Here a brace of snipe went spinning away, and a little further a blue
crane got up and flapped off, his long legs sticking out like fishing
poles.

In an hour or so the boy had placed all his traps. He had followed Joe's
directions to the letter, and the morning would show as to whether he
was to make a success of the venture.

One thing was positive, and it was this, that even should he find
nothing in the traps he did not mean to give up; if he had made a
mistake, then it must be rectified, even if he had to secure some old
boat in order to carry out his operations without leaving a scent behind
to alarm the game.

It was late in the afternoon when he reached home.

The twins ran to meet him as though already they looked upon him in the
light of a member of the little family.

Darry threw first one and then the other up into the air, while they
shrieked with laughter, and he could see that Mrs. Peake was looking on
approvingly, as if her desolated mother heart was warming toward this
lad who had never known what it was to have any one love him.

He had been thinking much that afternoon of Paul Singleton, even
repeating the name of the young man over and over, as though striving to
remember whether he could have ever heard it before, which did not seem
likely.

And it was not so much anticipation of the good times coming that
engaged his thought as that queer look on the face of Paul while they
had been talking.

What could it mean?



CHAPTER XII

THE STOLEN TRAPS


In the morning Darry occupied himself repairing the damage done by the
fire.

After he had done all the chores, even to assisting Mrs. Peake wash the
breakfast dishes, and there seemed nothing else to be undertaken, he
took Joe's shotgun on his shoulder and walked toward the marsh.

The woman, seeing how much he looked like her lost boy with the gun and
the clothes, had a good cry when left to herself; but Darry did not know
this.

As he approached his first trap he found himself fairly tingling with
eagerness.

This was not because of the value involved in the skin of a muskrat,
though it seemed as though each year the price was soaring as furs
became more scarce; but he wanted to feel that he had learned his lesson
well, and followed out the instructions given in Joe's little handbook.

The trap was gone!

He saw this with the first glance he cast over the low bank.

Did it have a victim in its jaws or had some marauder stolen it?

With a stick he groped in the deeper water, and catching something in
the crotch he presently drew ashore the trap.

He had caught his first prize.

Of course he understood that when compared with the mink and the fox, a
muskrat is an ignorant little beast at best, and easily captured; but
for a beginning it was worth feeling proud over.

Setting the trap again in the hope that there might be others in the
burrow, one of which would set his foot in trouble on the succeeding
night, Darry went on.

He found only one more victim to the half dozen traps.

Perhaps he had been too careless with the others and left plain traces
of his presence that had warned the cunning rodents.

Having placed all his traps in the water again, he started back home,
swinging the two "muskies" in one hand, while carrying his gun in the
other.

After leaving the marsh he chanced to look back and was surprised to
see a boy come out and start on a run toward the village.

Darry had very little acquaintance with the village lads, and could not
make up his mind whether he had ever seen this fellow before or not; but
once or twice he thought he detected evidence of a limp in his gait when
he fell into a walk, and this brought to mind Jim and his two cronies.

It was not Jim, but at the same time there was no reason why it should
not be one of his bodyguard, "the fellows who sneezed when Jim took
snuff," as Mrs. Peake had said in speaking of the lot.

Suppose this did happen to be Sim Clark or Bowser, what had he been
doing in the marsh?

Could it be possible that the fellow had been spying on him, and was now
hastening to report to his chief?

They might think to annoy him by stealing the traps he had placed, or at
least robbing them of any game.

Darry shut his teeth hard at the idea.

He made up his mind that he would go out earlier on the following day,
even if, in order to do so, he had to get up long before daylight to
accomplish his various chores.

No doubt he made rather a sorry mess of the job when he came to removing
those first pelts--at least it took him half a dozen times as long as a
more experienced trapper would have needed in order to accomplish the
task.

Still, when he finally had them fastened to a couple of boards left by
Joe, he felt that he had reason to be satisfied with his first attempt.

Mrs. Peake declared they seemed to look all right, and as each
represented a cash money value of some forty or fifty cents, Darry
realized that there was a little gold mine awaiting him in that swamp,
providing those miserable followers of Jim allowed him to work it.

Several times he awoke during the night and started up, thinking he
heard suspicious sounds again, but they proved false alarms.

He was glad to see the first peep of day, and quickly tumbled out to set
about his various duties of starting the fire, bringing in water and
wood, and later on chopping a supply of fuel sufficient to last through
the day.

When Mrs. Peake gave him permission to go Darry hurried off.

Again he carried the gun, thinking he might find a chance to bag a fine
fat duck or two, which Mrs. Peake declared she would be glad to have for
dinner.

Arriving at the scene of his first triumph of the previous day, he
discovered once more that the trap was gone from the bank.

Again he fished for it with the crotched stick, but despite his efforts
there was no trap forthcoming.

Finally, filled with a sudden suspicion, he crawled down to examine the
stake in the water to which the chain had been secured.

The stake was there all right but no trap rewarded his search.

With his heart beating doubly fast, Darry sped along the path to where
he had located his second trap, only to find it also missing.

Now he knew that it could be no accident, but a base plot to upset all
his calculations and deprive him of the fruits of his industry.

The thing that angered him most of all was the fact that he must face
Mrs. Peake and tell her he had lost the treasures she valued so highly.

He shut his teeth together firmly.

"They won't keep them, not if I know it," he muttered. "I'll find out
where they hide them. I'll get 'em again, sure as I live!"

The thieves had apparently done their evil work well. Not a single trap
did he find in the various places where he had left them.

But one thing he saw that gave him a savage satisfaction, and this was
the fact that there were footprints around the last one, in which the
muddy water had not yet had time to become clear.

Darry believed from this that those who had rifled his belongings could
not have left the scene more than a few minutes.

Perhaps if he were smart he could overtake them and demand restitution.

It stood to reason that the rascals could not have returned along the
same path, for he would have met them.

He bent down to examine the ground and could easily see where the marks
of several wet and heavy shoes continued along the trial that followed
the creek.

Darry immediately started off on a run.

Hardly five minutes later, as he turned a bend, he had a glimpse of a
figure just leaving the path and entering the woods bordering the swamp.

So far as he knew he had not been noticed; but to make sure he crept
along under the shelter of neighboring bushes until he reached the place
where the moving figure had caught his eye.

Voices now came to his ear, and it was easy enough to follow the three
slouching figures that kept pushing deeper into the swamp.

He even saw his precious traps on their backs, together with several
muskrats which Jim himself carried.

Perhaps their first idea was to throw the traps into the oozy water of
the swamp, so that they could never be found again; but then those steel
contraptions represented a cash value of a dollar or so, and money
appealed strongly to these fellows; so they hung on, with the idea of
placing them in a hollow tree, where, later, they could be found and
sold.

Darry knew that he was going to recover his own, and he now watched the
movements of the three with more or less curiosity.

All the while he kept drawing nearer, fearful lest they discover him
before he could get close enough to hold them up; for should they run in
different directions he could not expect to accomplish his end.

Then he saw what brought them to this place.

A rude shack made of stray boards, and branches from trees loomed up.

It was evidently a secret hide-out of the gang, where they came when
matters got too warm either at home or among the neighbors whose hen
roosts they had been pillaging.

When Darry saw Jim throw his bunch of game on the ground, he knew his
chase was at an end, and that presently, when he felt good and ready, he
could turn the tables on his enemies.

Lying there watching them start a fire and prepare to cook something
they had brought along, he even chuckled to imagine how surprised the
trio of young rascals would be when he popped up like a
jack-in-the-box.



CHAPTER XIII

JOE'S SHOTGUN SECURES A SUPPER


One of the fellows with Jim, and whom he addressed as Sim, gathered the
six stolen traps together and held them up laughingly.

"A bully find, fellers; but if I had me way I'd let 'em lie and snooped
the musky out every day. Why it'd be like takin' candy from the baby,
that's what. But Jim there wanted to kerry off the hull bunch," he said,
swinging the traps idly to and fro.

"I wanted ter let him know I allers kep' me word. When he finds 'em gone
I bet yer he knows who's had a hand in it; but he caint prove nothin'. I
kin snap me fingers in his face, an' tell him ter chase hisself. Here,
Bowser, git that fire goin' in a hurry. I'm pretty near starved. The ole
man chased me outen the house last night, an' ther ole woman won't give
me a bite. Reckon I'll hev ter hustle fur meself arter this. Dad's as
mad as hops 'cause he aint hed a chanct ter pick up any stuff on the
beach fur three moons. If it keeps on, him and his gang 'll hev ter do
sumpin different ter make biz good."

Darry did not care to linger any longer.

He wanted those traps and the animals that had been taken from them, and
he meant to have them.

"Why, hello, boys!"

The three young rascals sprang erect when they heard these words, and
their amazement can be imagined at discovering the object of their
recent raid standing there not twenty feet away, holding Joe Peake's old
shotgun carelessly in his hands.

In that moment the real nature of each of them showed itself--Sim Clark
darted into cover and ran away at the top of his speed like the coward
he was, Bowser fell on his knees and wrung his hands, being weak when it
came to a showdown; but Jim Dilks, ruffian as he was, scorned to do
either, and stood his ground, like a wolf brought to bay and showing its
fangs.

"I see you have been so kind as to gather a few traps of mine together.
And as I live if you haven't relieved me of the trouble of fishing for
several rats. Very kind of you, Jim. Now, don't say a word, and just
keep where you are, or by accident something might happen. Guess you
know what shot feels like when it hits. Once ought to be enough, and
this time you're so close it might be serious. Now, listen to me, once
and for all, Jim Dilks, and you Bowser, I'm going right back and set
these traps where I think I'll find more game. You touch a finger to
one of them at your peril. I'll let Hank Squires know all about this
shack here, and what you've been up to. The first trap that is missing
means the whole three of you behind the bars. That's all."

Jim never opened his mouth. He was awed for the time being, and watched
Darry pick up the traps, together with the three muskrats, swing the lot
over his shoulder and walk away.

The boy did not know but what they might attempt to jump upon him yet
and kept on the alert; but when he presently looked back upon hearing a
shout, he found that Jim was only relieving his wounded feelings by
kicking the kneeling Bowser vigorously.

Darry did just as he had said he would.

He went a little further into the marsh, thinking that since so many
feet had been trampling around the bank of the creek the game might have
become shy; but he set the six traps, and even marked the tree nearest
each, so that the location could be easily found by himself or others,
inclined that way.

Such bold tactics would do more to keep Jim and his set from disturbing
the traps than the utmost secrecy.

When Darry went back home, he thought it best not to say anything about
his adventure to Mrs. Peake; but having occasion to go to the village
later in the day he sought out the constable, whom he found cleaning up
his garden patch and burning the refuse.

Old Hank amused him. The fellow was always indulging in mysterious hints
as to what he was going to do some day soon, and doubtless his
intentions were all right, but, as Miss Pepper had truly said, he lacked
the backbone to carry them out.

Old Jim Dilks and his crew of trouble breeders had dominated the
vicinity so long now that it was hard to break away from their sway.

The officer of the law was in his shirt sleeves, so that his fine nickel
badge could not shine upon his manly breast; but as he saw Darry
approach, and scented coming business, he drew his tall figure up as if
in that way he could at least represent the majesty of the law.

Hank had an idea that he possessed an eye that was a terror to
evil-doers, when to tell the truth his gaze was as mild and peaceful as
that of a babe.

"Glad to see you, Darry. Hope there ain't been any more doings up at
your place? I'm laying for the slippery rascals, and hope to have them
dead to rights soon; but you know men in my profession have to go slow.
A mistake is a serious thing in the eye of the law," he said, offering
his hand in a friendly fashion.

"There's nothing wrong up at the house, sir; but I wanted to tell you
something I think you ought to know, in case the time comes when you
might want to find Jim Dilks and his gang and they were not at home,"
began Darry.

The constable quailed a trifle, then grew stern.

"Big Jim or little Jim, which?" he said, anxiously.

"The boy who has tried to make things so warm for me. He and his crowd
have a shack in the swamp, where they camp out from time to time. That's
where you'll find them when wanted."

"Sure that's interesting news, lad. Can you tell me just where to look?"

He heaved a sigh of relief--then there was not any need of immediate
haste, and Hank was a true Southern "cracker," always ready to postpone
action.

"Leave the path along the creek just where it makes that sharp bend. A
fallen tree marks the spot. Head due south until you sight a big live
oak, the only one I noticed. The shack lies under its spreading
branches, Mr. Squires. I thought you ought to know. Besides, I told Jim
and his crowd I meant to inform you."

"What! you saw Jim there, and his crowd with him? I wonder they let you
get out of the swamp without a beating," exclaimed the constable,
surprised, and looking at this newcomer as though he could hardly
believe his senses.

"They knew better. The fact is, sir, I had a shotgun with me. Perhaps
they may have had a recent experience with such a little tool. But no
matter, they let me gather up my traps and the three muskrats taken from
them, and never offered to put out a hand to stop me."

"Traps--muskrats--look here, now I begin to see light, and can give a
guess how it came you were there in that swamp. You followed the rascals
there."

"To tell the truth, I did, for I was determined to get back what they
had taken."

"Bully for you, lad. If you had dropped in on us some time back we might
have had a different class of boys around here by now. You're a
reformer, that's what you are. First you knocks that tyrant Jim down;
then you pepper him with shot after he has fired the pigpen of your new
home, and now you brave him in his own dooryard. That's reforming all
right, and I hope you keep at it until you've reformed the ugly beggar
into the penitentiary. I begin to pluck up hope that soon public spirit
will be so aroused that we can do something right. Would you mind
shaking hands with me again, Darry. It does me good, sure it does."

Of course Darry complied, though he had his doubts as to whether Mr.
Squires would ever have the nerve to connect himself with any movement
looking to the purging of Ashley village of its rough element.

In fact, if anything were ever done he believed such women as Miss
Pepper would be the ones to run the evil-doers out of town, and put up
the bars.

Darry had taken the three animals home, pleased to know that after all
half his traps had found victims on this second day.

He judged from this that he was doing very well, and with a little more
experience could consider himself a full-fledged trapper.

Later in the afternoon he thought of the ducks, and passing out upon the
marsh walked until he discovered several feeding among the wild rice,
when he started to creep up on them with infinite cunning.

Reaching at last a bunch of grass as near as he could hope to go he
waited until two were close together, when he fired his right barrel.

As the remaining mallard started to rise in a clumsy fashion Darry gave
him the benefit of the other barrel.

When Mrs. Peake saw what fine birds he had secured she was loud in her
praise, for their coming meant at least one good meal without cost, and
every cent counted in this little family.

Again Darry busied himself with his pelts.

He was pleased to find how much easier the job seemed after his
experience of the preceding day; and when the skins had been stretched
upon the boards they had a cleaner look that satisfied the eye.

After that he plucked the three ducks for the good woman, saving her a
task she never fancied, and winning her thanks.

Then he looked after the gun, believing that it is wise to always keep
such a weapon in the best of order, since it serves its owner faithfully
when called upon.

"I had some visitors while you were away," announced Mrs. Peake, when
after supper they were seated by the table.

Darry looked up from his work of whittling more stretching boards,
interested at once.



CHAPTER XIV

THE LONELY VIGIL OF THE COAST PATROL


Mrs. Peake looked amused.

"A young man called on me," she said.

Dairy's face lighted up.

"It must have been Mr. Singleton!" he exclaimed, eagerly.

She nodded in the affirmative.

"Did he come to see me?" he asked.

"No, I rather think he wanted to have a little talk with me. You see he
guessed from what you told him that it all was because of me you
wouldn't go with him, and he just dropped in, he said, to have a
neighborly chat, and let me know how much he was interested in a boy by
the name of Darry."

"That was fine of him. What did you think, wasn't he all I said?"

"As nice a young gentleman as I ever met. He asked a lot of questions
about you."

"Of course. He had a right to. When a gentleman asks a strange fellow to
go off with him on a cruise it's only business for him to learn all he
can about whether the other is honest and all that. You told him I
never touched liquor, I hope?"

"He never asked about such things. In fact, it was all in connection
with your past he seemed interested."

"My past--how could he be interested in that? He never saw me before."
Yet, strange to say, the fact seemed to thrill Darry through and
through; for he was still hugging that hope to his heart, and wondering
if some day he might not be lucky enough to learn who and what he was.

"Well, all I can say is that he kept asking me all about you came here,
why you were Darry, and what your other name might be; when he learned
that you never knew who your parents were he seemed to be strangely
agitated. He didn't take me into his confidence; but I'm morally
convinced that Mr. Singleton believes he is on the track of some sort of
discovery. I heard him ask Miss Pepper, who was hurrying over, seeing I
had a visitor, if there was a telegraph office in Ashley; and when he
left he was saying to himself: 'I must let her know--this may be
important.' It would be a fine thing for you, my boy, if circumstances
brought you face to face with some rich relative so soon after you
landed on the soil of America."

Darry drew a long breath, and shook his head.

"It would be great, as you say, whether my father or mother were rich or
poor, it wouldn't matter a bit to me; but I'm afraid you're getting too
far along. Perhaps what you heard him say may refer to another affair
entirely. No matter, I like Mr. Singleton, and have from the start. If
we go off together I know I'd enjoy it first-rate in that dandy little
motor-boat of his. I haven't said I would for sure. I mean to wait a
while and see how things come out here ashore."

She knew he was thinking of Jim Dilks and his scheming for
mischief--that he believed the fact of her giving him shelter and a home
had drawn upon her head the vindictive fury of the lawless rascal, who,
finding the little home undefended if Darry went away, might think it
safe to continue his persecution.

When Darry strode forth into the marsh the next day he again carried the
gun.

He found his traps all safe. Undoubtedly his defiance had had its effect
upon the mind of Jim; and however much he may have felt like repeating
the thievish act which Darry's prompt arrival on the scene had nipped in
the bud, he dared not attempt it.

He was beginning to be afraid of this young chap who kept a chip on his
shoulder, and dared him to knock it off.

This time four victims attested to the skill with which the new trapper
attended to his business.

Already was the list reaching respectable proportions.

He expected to cross over that afternoon to see Abner, and carry the
mail again; and it would be with satisfaction that he could inform his
good friend how the traps Joe had left behind were still fulfilling
their destiny at the same old stand.

The sky was clouded over when he started out on his long trip.

He had during his leisure minutes fashioned a sort of sail that could be
used with the wind astern; and as this happened to be the case now Darry
got it in position for service.

With the sail, he just rushed along over the bay; and all the while sat
there taking his ease instead of dragging at the oars.

Having spent some years on the waters there was little in connection
with boats, big or little, that the lad did not know.

He had found some good wood which Abner had expected to use for the
purpose at some future date, and one oar was already pretty well
advanced.

By the time he crossed again he believed he would have them both
completed; and at that they would be nothing of which anyone need feel
ashamed.

The favoring wind kept up until he drew in to the little landing where,
as before, Abner stood waiting for him.

That was a great night for Darry. First there came the supper with those
jolly fellows, whose laughter and jokes he enjoyed so much; after that a
nice quiet chat with Abner, who asked for all the news, and was deeply
interested in his success in catching the sly denizens of the marsh;
although he frequently sighed while Darry was speaking, and the boy
could easily comprehend that at such times the poor man was picturing in
his mind how Joe used to go through with the same experiences.

When Darry thought it only right to tell how the three cronies had
stolen his possessions, and how he had recovered them, Abner slapped his
hand down on his knee, and exclaimed:

"I reckon Mr. Fraser was right t'other day when he sez as how the sun o'
the Dilks tribe began to set when yuh kim ashore from that wreck.
Somehow yuh seem to be hittin' 'em hard, son. I aint much o' a prophet,
sence I caint even tell wot the weather's gwine to be tomorry; but I
seem to just know from the way things is a heapin' up that they's gwine
to be a big heave soon, an' that means the Dilks has got to move
on--Ashley don't want ther kind no more."

Darry insisted on accompanying Abner when it came his turn to go out on
his long patrol; this time it was in the earlier part of the night, so
neither man nor boy thought of going to bed.

The night was not wholly dark, for there was a moon behind the clouds;
but beyond a certain limited distance of the sea lay in gloom, only the
steady wash of the incoming waves telling of the vast reach of water
lying along toward the east.

They talked of many things as they plodded along the sandy beach.

Darry spoke for the first time of Paul Singleton, and his desire that he
accompany him later on in his cruising up and down the series of
connected bays that stretched for some hundreds of miles back of the
sandbars.

Abner was silent at first, and the boy realized that he felt grieved to
know there might come a break in the pleasant relations that had been
established at home.

"Course it's only right yuh should accept, lad," he said presently,
"It's give me much comfort to know yuh was gittin' on so well with the
ole woman, for I've felt bad on 'count o' her many times sense _he_ war
taken. But it's a chance thet may never kim again, an' we cudn't 'spect
to tie yuh down. Anyhow, your comin' hez been a good thing fur Nancy,
an' I reckons she'll begin to perk up from now on. 'Sides, who knows wot
may kim outen this? Jest as she sez thet younker aint interested in yuh
jest acause he wants a feller in the boat along with him--I tell yuh he
thinks he knows who yuh belong to, and that's a fack, son."

"Oh! I hope so; but I don't dare dream of it. But I'm glad you think
well of his offer. I can earn some money that will help out at home,
besides having a good time," said Darry, eagerly; though truth to tell,
it was the faint hope lodged in his heart that he might learn something
concerning his past that chief of all influenced him in his desire to go
with the owner of the motor-boat.

"Glad to hear yuh say that word '_home_,' boy. I hopes it is a home to
yuh, an' allers will be. I've ben thinkin' that your comin' war the
greatest favor Heaven ever sent to me an' mine. If it gives Nancy new
life that means a lot to me."

Darry knew not what to say to this, but he found the rough hand of
Abner, and with a hearty squeeze expressed his feelings far better than
any words could ever have done.



CHAPTER XV

THE POWER OF MUSIC


It seemed as though luck favored Darry on this trip, for the wind veered
around during the night, and blew out of the southeast when he was ready
to start on his return voyage to the mainland.

Thus he was able to use his little sail to advantage both ways.

It was coming so hard off the ocean, however, that at the advice of
Abner he took a reef in the canvas before leaving--the life saver had
become so attached to his new boy by this time that he could not bear to
see him taking any unnecessary chances on that sheet of treacherous
water that had already deprived him of one son.

Darry was glad he had taken his friend's advice before half way across.
Where the wind had a full sweep of the bay the waves were quite heavy,
and it required all his skill as a sailor to keep his cranky little
craft head on.

As it was, he reached his haven with a rush, and his tactics in making a
landing aroused the admiration of several old fisherman who were
lounging at the dock.

He had only time to accomplish several little messages at the store and
get on the road for home when it began to drizzle.

Darry was sorry for this, for he had laid out to visit his traps again
during the afternoon, not wishing to leave any game that may have been
taken, too long in the water.

When later on at lunch he mentioned this to Mrs. Peake she said he would
find an old oilskin jacket of Abner's behind the closet door in the
hall, which Joe had been wont to don under similar circumstances.

So after all, he went forth, defying the elements, as a true sailor lad
always does; and was rewarded for his labor by taking three more
trophies from the firm-jawed traps.

Really it was beginning to look like business, with so many on the
stretching boards; and Mrs. Peake smiled to see how careful the boy was
in everything he undertook.

It spoke well for his future, if he carried the same principle into his
whole life.

Of course Darry knew full well that the skins he was taking thus early
in the fall were not as good in quality, and would not be apt to bring
as high prices in the fur marts as those to be captured when real cold
weather had set in; but there are times when one has to make hay while
the sun shines; and he could not be sure that he would have the
opportunity to do these things later.

Besides, the supply of rats seemed unlimited, so rapidly do they breed
all over the Eastern coast, from Maine to the Florida line.

The rain continued all that night and the better part of the following
day.

It was one of those easterly storms that generally last out portions of
three days, and are followed by a lengthy spell of good weather, with
touches of frost in the early mornings.

Darry made his regular pilgrimage to the marsh in spite of the rain, and
this time found only two prizes to reward his diligence.

From this he determined that it was time to make a change of base, and
set his traps in other places where the game might not be so wary.

At any rate he was having no further trouble with the Dilks crowd, and
in that he found more or less satisfaction.

Unconscious of the fact that he was being watched from time to time by
one of the cronies of which Jim boasted, Darry went about his business,
satisfied to do his daily duties, and each night count some progress
made.

Twice had he crossed the bay to the strip of sandy beach where the tides
of the mighty Atlantic pounded unceasingly, day and night.

His coming was always eagerly anticipated by the whole crew of the
life-saving station, and for a good reason.

It happened that on his visit just after the easterly storm had blown
out, while they were all gathered around just before dark, chatting and
joking, Darry cocked up his ear at the tweeking sound of a fiddle, which
one of the men had drawn out of its case, and was endeavoring to play.

Altogether he made a most doleful series of sounds, which upon analysis
might prove to be an attempt to play "Annie Laurie," though one would
need all his wits about him to settle whether this were the tune, or
"Home, Sweet Home."

The men looked daggers at the player, for the screeching sounds were
certainly anything but pleasant.

Darry sauntered over. He had played since a little lad, some Italian
having first taught him; and on the brigantine Captain Harley had a
violin of more than ordinary make, with which he had coaxed the cabin
boy to make melody by the hour.

"Sounds like a pretty good instrument?" suggested Darry to the would-be
performer.

"They tell me that, boy; but you see I ain't much of a judge. P'raps in
time I may get on to the racket, that is if the boys don't fire me and
the fiddle out before-hand," replied the surfman, grinning, for his
clumsy hands were really never intended by Nature to handle a violin
bow.

"Would you mind letting me try it? I used to play a little."

At the first sound of that bow crossing the strings, after Darry had
properly tuned the instrument every man sat up and took notice; and as
the boy bent down and lovingly drew the sweetest chords from the violin
that they had ever heard, they actually held their breath.

After that he was kept busy; indeed they would hardly let him have any
rest, and that was why those rough men looked forward eagerly to the
expected coming of Abner Peake's new boy.

It seemed as though he must know everything there was, and the music
would turn from riotous ragtime to the most tender chords, capable of
drawing tears from those eyes so unused to weeping.

It was a rare treat to Darry, too, for he dearly loved music, and the
absence of his fiddle had made a gap in his life.

The month was now passing, and closer drew the stormy period when, with
the advent of grim November, the duties of the beach patrol naturally
grow more and more laborious, since there are greater possibilities of
wrecks, with the strong winds and the fogs that bewilder mariners, and
allow them to run upon the reefs when they believe they are scores of
miles away from the danger zone.

The boom of guns could now be heard all day, and frequently Darry saw
Northern sportsmen in the village; though as a rule they kept on board
their yachts or else stayed at the various private clubs up or down the
sound.

Jim Dilks and his gang still lay low. They awaited a favorable
opportunity to carry out some evil scheme, whereby the boy they had come
to fear, as well as hate, might be injured.

Well, they knew that he made daily trips into the marsh, and it would
seem that they might find the chance they craved at such times; but
there was one thing to deter them, and this was the fact that Darry
never went to examine his traps without carrying that steady-shooting
old shotgun.

The burnt child dreads the fire, and Jim had hardly ceased to rub his
injured parts, so that the possibility of getting a second dose was not
at all alluring in his eyes.

He was a good waiter, and he felt that sooner or later fortune would
turn the trick for him, and the chance arise whereby he might pay back
the debt he owed the "interloper," as he chose to deem Darry.



CHAPTER XVI

DARRY MEETS WITH A REBUFF


During these weeks Darry had accomplished many little jobs around his
new home, things that had been wanting looking after for a long time;
for Abner's visits were so few and far between that he had little time
to mend broken doors, or put up shelves where they would save the
"missus" steps.

If he went off with Paul Singleton later he would have no chance to look
after these things, and so he made good use of his opportunities.

He had not seen the young gentleman once since, and upon making
inquiries of the storekeeper, learned that he had gone to a very
exclusive club to spend some little time.

Darry wondered whether he had been utterly forgotten.

Perhaps the youth had regretted asking him to keep him company; it may
have been done on the spur of the moment, simply because he chanced to
resemble someone he knew.

Once in the comfortable club, with experienced guides to attend him, and
the very best points for shooting reserved, doubtless Paul Singleton had
forgotten that there was such a boy as Darry in existence.

So he tried to forget about it, and make up his mind that he could find
plenty of congenial work looking after his traps and assisting Abner's
wife during the winter, with occasional trips across the sound, and
possibly a chance to pull an oar in the surfboat, should luck favor him.

All this while he had taken toll of the feathered frequenters of the
marsh, and many a plump fowl graced the table of the Peake family,
thanks to the faithful old gun, and the steady nerves back of it.

Darry soon learned where there were squirrels to be found, and twice he
had brought in a mess of the gray nutcrackers, though not so fond of
hunting them as other game.

And one day he had delighted the good housewife with four nice quail, or
as they were known in this section, "pa'tridge," which he had dropped
out of a bevy that got up before him in the brush close to the woods
where he looked for squirrel.

He knew that something had been troubling Mrs. Peake, but it was a long
time before he could tempt her to speak of it.

It concerned money matters, of course, as is nearly always the case when
trouble visits the poor.

Abner had been incautious enough to put a little mortgage upon his
humble home in order to help a relative who was in deep distress because
of several sudden deaths in her family.

He should not have done it, to be sure, but Abner had a big heart, as
Darry well knew, and simply could not resist the pleading of his cousin.

No doubt she meant well, but circumstances had arisen that prevented her
from repaying the debt, and for the want of just one hundred dollars the
Peakes were in danger of being dispossessed.

Of course the mortgage was in the hands of a money shark, for even
little villages boast their loan offices, where some usurer expects to
get ten per cent. on his money, and will not hesitate to foreclose if it
is not forthcoming.

Abner's friends were all as poor as he was, and besides, he was so
bashful about such things that he could never muster enough courage to
mention his financial troubles to anybody.

When by degrees Darry managed to draw this story from Mrs. Peake he
thought it all over while off on one of his swamp trips, and reached a
conclusion.

That very day he stepped into the store of a man who as he chanced to
know purchased the few furs that were taken in a season around that
section.

He learned that pelts were bringing unusually good prices, and the party
quoted as high as eighty cents for fall muskrat skins, properly treated.

When he got home, Darry counted his catch and found that he had some
twenty-six in stock; with these he went back to the dealer, and struck a
bargain whereby he came away with fourteen dollars in his pocket.

Then he made for the office of the lawyer who held the mortgage,
thinking he could pay up the arrears of interest, and bring happiness to
the face of his kind benefactress.

Just there he struck a snag.

The loan shark refused to accept the money.

He claimed that since they had defaulted on the interest the entire
amount was due, and that he meant to have it, or foreclose.

Darry knew little of law, but he saw that Darius Quarles meant business,
and suspected that for some reason he meant to hold to his advantage and
give Abner Peake more or less trouble.

"Mr. Quarles, if you would only accept this interest now, I think I can
promise that the whole sum will be paid by spring," Darry said, eagerly.

This was, of course, just what the lawyer did not want. He pretended to
look skeptical, and shook his head.

"I suppose you are the boy Peake has adopted. Where did you get this
money, may I ask? Did Nancy send you here with it?" he went on; and from
the look in his cold, blue eyes, it was apparent that he would have
enjoyed having the woman on her knees before him.

Darius Quarles was a very small-minded man evidently; even a boy like
Darry could understand that.

"No, she does not know I have come here," replied our hero.

"Then where did you get the money? Boys as a rule don't sport such sums
as fourteen dollars in a bunch. I haven't heard of any bank being
robbed, or a sportsman being held up; but you understand, it looks
suspicious, boy."

Darry flushed with mortification at the insult; but because of Mrs.
Peake he managed to bite his lips and refrain from telling the
curmudgeon just what he thought of him.

"I received that fourteen dollars not ten minutes ago from a merchant in
this village. He will vouch for it if you ask him," he said, quietly,
though his eyes flashed fire.

"Just mention his name, if you please. I might take a notion to drop in
and see if he corroborates your assertion. As I am a magistrate as well
as a lawyer, it is my bounden duty to make sure there is nothing crooked
in such transactions as come under my observation. Who is the man?"

He tried to look stern, but the attempt was a failure. Nature had made
Mr. Quarles only to appear small and mean.

"It was Mr. Ketcham, the hardware man," the boy answered.

"And what would he be paying you this munificent sum for? So far as I
know you have never worked for Ketcham, boy. Now, be careful not to
commit yourself. What was this money given to you for doing?"

Darry smiled as he drew out a paper.

How fortunate that the hardware merchant who sold traps and purchased
such furs as were taken in that region had insisted upon giving him a
little bill of sale, in order to bind the transaction, and prove
conclusively what the reigning price happened to be at the time.

"Please glance at that, sir."

Darius Quarles did so, and a shade of disappointment crossed his face.

"I see you have taken up the same foolish pursuit that young Joe Peake
followed--wasting your time loafing in the marsh when you had better be
going to school and perhaps learning to become a useful man, a lawyer
like myself for instance."

Darry shrugged his shoulders, and his action brought a frown to the face
of the narrow-minded man who sat there before him; perhaps he jumped to
the conclusion that this frank-faced lad did not entertain such an
exalted notion of his greatness as he would have liked to impress upon
him.

"At least that proves I did not steal the money, Mr. Quarles?" asked
Darry.

"I suppose so, though it is an open question as to whether you have any
right to take these little inoffensive animals, and sell their coats to
Ketcham. I think he might be in a better business; but then he always
was a cruel boy."

As Darry remembered the hardware man he believed him to be a jolly,
red-faced man, and with a kindly eye, quite the opposite from the fishy
orb of Mr. Quarles; but then there are some things that had better
remain unsaid, and he did not try to voice his opinion.

"Then you will not do Mrs. Peake this little favor, sir?" he asked.

"Business is business with me, young man. Sometimes it is one person's
day, and then the tables turn, and it is another's. This happens to be
my time. According to the strict construction of the law, and the
wording of the mortgage, the failure to pay the interest on time, with
three days' grace, constitutes a lien on the property. I have a use for
that cottage--in fact, a relative of mine fancies it. Here, I will give
Nancy a chance to redeem her home. Wait a minute or two."

He wrote rapidly on a sheet of paper, signed the same, and held it out.

"Seven days I agree to wait, and if the principal and delayed interest
are not handed over to me by next Tuesday, just one week from to-day, on
Wednesday they will have to vacate. That will do, boy. Tell Nancy I only
do that because of our old friendship. Had it been anyone else they
would have cleared out before this. You can go now."

Darry had to bite his lips harder than ever to keep from telling the
skinflint just what he thought of him.

Thrusting the paper in his pocket he stalked from the den of the human
spider, his mind in a whirl; but grimly determined to try and find some
means for saving the humble home of Abner Peake from the hand of the
spoiler.



CHAPTER XVII

ABNER TELLS A LITTLE HISTORY


As he walked home that evening Darry was figuring. Fourteen dollars was
not going far when the sum required, according to the figures Mr.
Quarles had written out, reached the grand total of a hundred and eleven
dollars and thirty-seven cents.

He had had much more than that on board the poor old _Falcon_ when she
went to pieces, the amount of his savings for several years; but there
was no use of his thinking about that.

To whom could he look for assistance?

He had not a friend, save new ones in the village; and even Mr. Keeler
would be apt to decline to lend him money. Times were hard, collections
very slow--he had heard this said many times of late--and to small
merchants the sum of a hundred dollars means much.

Darry thought it best not to say anything just then to Mrs. Peake,
though a little later he must tell her about his visit to the money
lender, and deliver the message Mr. Quarles had sent to her.

He was due to cross the sound on the morrow, and perhaps it would be
best to tell Abner first; he might have been making some arrangement to
get someone else to assume the mortgage, and pay the lawyer off.

So Darry tried to assume a cheerfulness he was far from feeling.

Long he lay awake that night, thinking and trying to lay out some plan
of action that might promise results.

In the morning Darry visited his traps.

Only one victim rewarded his labor, and this added to his gloom.

He finished all his various chores, and they were many, for he had taken
numerous duties upon his shoulders in order to spare Abner's wife.

As before, it was nearly the middle of the afternoon before he could get
away.

Mr. Keeler loaded him down with packages intended for the
station-keeper; indeed Darry had to make two trips between the store and
his boat before he had all his cargo aboard.

The weather was what a sailor would call "dirty"; that is, it gave
promise of turning into more or less of a storm, and wise mariners would
be keeping a weather eye out for a safe and snug harbor.

Darry had no fear. He believed he knew that bay like a book now, and
since he had tinkered with the boat and placed it in fair condition he
thought it could stand any sea that might meet him in his passage to and
fro between the mainland and the stretch of sand acting as a buffer to
the ocean tides.

It was a dead calm when he started, and he was compelled to use the
oars; but by the time he reached the middle a breeze sprang up, and
quick to take advantage of his opportunity he spread his bit of a sail,
and went flying along like a frightened gull.

Abner was always glad to see him, and taking advantage of the first
chance to get the life saver alone, Darry told of his recent experience
with the loan shark.

The other looked very downcast; indeed, Darry could not remember having
ever seen him appear so disheartened.

"It means trouble for the poor ole woman, Darry. If I kin only muster up
enough courage to ask some o' the folks to help me out p'raps we kin
pull through; but the best o' friends pull back wen money is spoken of.
They all got ther own burdens to kerry. I know I war a fool to ever do
it; but Jenny got on my nerves yuh see, an' promised to give it back.
An' thet shark, Quarles, it does him a lot o' good to know he kin push
me down a peg," he said, with a heavy sigh.

"I seemed to get the notion that he didn't love you very much, Mr.
Peake," remarked Darry.

"I thort he'd forgot all about it, but now I know he ain't, the skunk!
He holds it agin me, and hes all these years. I reckon he jest hugged
hisself wen I kim to him an' asked that loan. It war jest like playin'
into his hands. Yuh see, lad, him an' me was rivals onct on a time."

Darry pricked up his ears.

Here was a touch of romance, something one would hardly expect to find
in connection with so ordinary looking a man as Abner Peake.

"You mean that he wanted Nancy--that is Mrs. Peake, to marry him?" he
asked.

"Thet's jest it, son. I reckon he'd a got her, too, fur I didn't hold a
candle to Darius wen it kim to looks or larnin', but yuh see thet's whar
chanct stepped in an' guv me a shove."

"Something happened then?"

"Nancy fell overboard off a boat we was all on. Darius, he didn't know
how to swim and all he could do was to yell and wave his arms."

"And you went overboard after her?"

"I reckon I did. They sed as how I was in the water nigh about as quick
as Nancy herself. She was a carryin' on high, like she was chokin', when
I got to her, but I had her out in a jiffy. Arter thet she kinder took
to me, an' Darius he got the mitten."

"Now I understand why he feels that way toward you," said Darry, wisely.

"They was some things I never did understand 'bout that thing. Nancy,
she was allers the best gal swimmer in the village, but she did act like
she was drownin' that day. Some sed as how they thort she tumbled over
apurpose jest to hev some fun, an' see which o' her beaux'd drap in
arter her the quickest," and the surfman smiled at the thought.

"And you won out. I guess Mr. Quarles has never forgiven you for that.
But what can be done to beat him at his game now? Isn't there any way?"

"We got a week to try, an' as I git off before the end o' the time I'll
see if anything kin be did. P'rhaps Keeler might help me out, though I
did hear him say he was mighty hard up jest now. It was nice in yuh
tryin' to do wot yuh did, boy. I knowed I wasn't makin' no mistake when
I sized yuh up as the right sorter lad to take leetle Joey's place."

The life saver put an arm affectionately across the shoulders of his
companion, and Darry never felt prouder in his life than when he
realized that he had "made good" with this simple surfman who had been
so kind to him at their first meeting.

"I only wish I had been able to do what I wanted to. It it had been any
other man but Mr. Quarles I think he would have fixed it up, and I
meant to put aside what I earned this winter, either from trapping or
working for Mr. Singleton, to wipe out all that debt. I will yet, if I
have the chance, and you can get somebody to take over the mortgage," he
said, stoutly.

"Give me time to think, lad. Wen yuh kim acrost another time p'raps I'll
have some plan made up. I'd do nigh anything to save pore Nancy bein'
put outen our leetle home. 'Taint much to look at, but she sets a heap
by it, I reckon. And as soon as I git a chanct I mean to drop outen this
business an' try to make a livin' another way, so I kin be home more.
Fishin' it might be, er somethin' thet way."

That night Darry played for the men, but they could not help noticing
that much of his music was along the sad order.

In the morning the sky was still overcast, and the sound lay in a bank
of half darkness that looked like fog, though the whistling wind seemed
to forbid such a thing.

Abner was a little dubious about letting the boy depart, but Darry
laughed at the idea of any harm befalling him.

He had several things he wished to attend to, and besides, Mrs. Peake
would need him through the day in many ways.

He entered his boat and took up the oars for a hard row, for the wind
was of too deceptive a character to allow him to make use of his sail.

The men of the station had come down to see him off, for by this time
Darry had won his way into the hearts of every rough fellow, and they
looked upon him as a sort of general ward of the crew, pulled out of the
sea at their door and destined for great things.

Not one of them but who believed a bright future awaited Peake's new
boy, and many were the predictions made among them, some even venturing
the assertion that he would be president yet.

So they waved their sou'westers and shouted a merry good-bye to him as
he rowed into the gray blanket of mist that shrouded the sound.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE IMPRISONED LAUNCH


The prospect ahead did not dismay Darry at all.

He had been a sailor for some years and was accustomed to meeting all
kinds of bad weather.

Besides, his boat though old, was staunch, and could hold its own
against waves that would upset another craft less steady; and then again
he knew how to handle his oars with the skill that only long practice
can bring.

By degrees he lost sight of the sandy shore.

He was now surrounded by a heaving sheet of water, and it required all
his knowledge of things nautical to keep his bearings, for it was
impossible to see even the slightest object on any side.

The situation would have alarmed many a lad less accustomed to depending
on himself in emergencies.

Darry felt no fear.

He noted the direction of the waves, and unless the wind shifted
suddenly, which it was not apt to do, he felt positive he could bring up
somewhere along the shore near the village.

To his surprise he heard the sullen boom of a gun close by and wondered
what any sportsman could be doing out there in that dense atmosphere,
where it was impossible to see more than fifty feet away.

Certainly ducks could not be coming to stool under such conditions.

What could he be firing at then?

There it was again, one shot following another in rapid order, until he
had counted six.

That would indicate the possession of one of those new style repeating
shotguns, capable of holding half a dozen shells, and worked with a pump
action.

All of a sudden it struck Darry that possibly someone was in trouble and
was taking this means of summoning assistance; though the chances were
very slight that any bayman would be anywhere near with that gray
blanket covering things--they knew enough to stick to the shore at such
a time.

Our hero changed his course a little thinking it could do no harm to
look into matters and see what the bombarding meant.

Should it prove that some green sportsman from one of the clubs was lost
in the mist perhaps he would be glad of help, and might even promise to
pay liberally to be taken ashore in tow.

Just then Darry's mind was filled with an eager desire to make money,
for he knew of a good use to which he could put it.

Again as he approached, the rattle of a fusilade came to his ears,
followed by a series of shouts in a strained voice.

He was close on the spot apparently.

"Hello!" he shouted in return.

An answering whoop came back.

"This way, please! I'm in a peck of trouble here!" he heard someone say.

Twisting his head around as he bobbed up and down on the rollers, our
hero caught just a glimpse of some object that seemed stationary, with
the waves breaking over it.

It was even worse than being lost upon the sound then--the unknown had
driven his boat upon some half hidden rocks, and caught as in a vise she
was in danger of being wrecked unless some other craft came upon the
spot and pulled her off.

That accounted for the shots and shouts, her owner realizing his extreme
peril, for he was two miles from land and the storm increasing
constantly.

Darry pushed on and soon another surprise awaited him.

"Hello! is that you, Darry?" asked a voice, and now he recognized it, so
that even before he turned around again he knew he was once more in the
company of Paul Singleton.

"How are you, sir?" he cried. "Looks like you had run aground in the
middle of the bay. If you will give me a rope I'll try and drag you off
the way you went on. That is the only thing to be done."

"I like the way you go about business," answered the young man. "I begin
to have hopes that my poor little _Griffin_ may come out of this
adventure with a whole skin. It began to look as though I might have to
swim for it. Here you are with the painter, which I have fastened to the
stern. All depends on how good a haul you can give, Darry."

"What happened to your engine, sir?" asked the boy, surprised that it
was not working in the effort to help the boat off.

"I'll start it up again, but it did no good before, only churned the
water. It seems I am wedged between two rocks so fast that even the lift
of the waves has no effect upon the boat. They break all over us, and
I'm wet to the skin and shivering in the bargain. You're as welcome as
the flowers in May, Darry."

The engine was speedily started up and the little propeller thrashed the
water at a great rate, but though the cedar craft trembled violently
there was no change in her position.

"Keep that up and stay in the stern, so as to lighten the bow all you
can. I think that is where she is caught fast. If you have anything
heavy up forward and can manage to shift it aft so much the better,"
called Darry, as he kept off by an expert use of the oars; indeed, Paul
never could understand how he managed to do this and secure the rope to
a thwart at the same time.

"There are a few things up there I can move--the water can and a lot of
stuff in tins. Will you be able to hold out a few minutes longer?" asked
Paul.

"Easy enough. Take your own time, sir. When you're ready tell me, and
I'll give a series of sharp jerks. I hope we can make her move some."

Presently the owner of the motor-boat declared he had moved everything
possible, and that the bow seemed to be a little more free than before,
as though almost ready to rise with each flowing wave that swept past
with a rush.

Darry set to work and began to use every atom of strength in his sturdy
muscles; at the same time he engineered matters in such a clever fashion
that every time he pulled his oars through the water it was with a rapid
movement in the nature of a shock, so that the little hawser tightening,
gave a drag at the imprisoned craft.

"She's moving!" yelled Paul Singleton, excitedly.

Darry kept right along, pulling with even more vim than before.

"Bully boy! she's coming! I can feel her move each time. If only an
inch, it is something. We're going to get her off! It's a cinch, I tell
you!"

Plainly Paul Singleton was considerably excited over the changed
prospect that confronted him, and his cries gave the lad heart to exert
himself to the utmost.

Suddenly he found that he was towing the launch behind him.

She had left her berth in between the two rocks and floated on the
waves.

The owner gave a last whoop of delight.

"I knew if anyone could accomplish it, you would. I think you must be my
good genius, Darry. To think of our meeting again here in the middle of
the bay and just when I was on my way to your home to see if I could
induce you to keep your half-given promise. It's great! Tell me about
destiny after this."

That was the way Paul was calling out, as he busied himself in righting
things aboard the jaunty little cedar craft.

[Illustration: SHE HAD LEFT HER BERTH IN BETWEEN THE TWO ROCKS AND
FLOATED ON THE WAVES.]

"Now, what's to hinder you coming aboard and towing the rowboat astern?
The engine is all right and capable of twelve miles an hour, so we can
go with this blow easily enough," he suggested.

Darry was quite willing, for his arms felt a bit weary after his
exerions, and the launch did look comfortable, even though fairly
drenched just then, as a result of the waves breaking over the stern
while she was held a prisoner in the jaws of rock.

The transfer was made without any particular trouble, and once Darry had
secured his boat to the brass cleat in the stern of the launch he set to
work throwing some of the surplus water overboard.

"Working your passage, eh?" laughed Paul, who seemed to be in unusually
high spirits, such was the re-action that had come over him.

Meanwhile they drew in toward the land.

What with the rain that was falling both of them were wet through; but
this was such a chronic condition for a sailor lad to be in that Darry,
for one, paid little attention to it.



CHAPTER XIX

THE PART OF AN ELDER BROTHER


"Come," said Paul, after the boat had been tied up where the waves could
not reach them and things had begun to assume a more comfortable aspect;
"Here's a fine little cabin and an oil stove on which to make a hot pot
of coffee, besides assisting to dry us out. I insist on you staying to
keep me company for a while. We are both cold and wet. Say you will,
Darry!"

Darry did not need much urging. He was wet and chilled, and it did look
cozy after Paul had started the stove going.

"Besides," continued Paul, misconstruing his silence; "I am under heavy
obligations to you for coming to my assistance when you did. You saved
my life and you are a regular life saver like Mr. Peake. There must be
some way in which I can partly cancel that debt. You are allowed salvage
by law when you save a vessel, Darry, did you know it? But for your
coming my poor little _Griffin_ must have gone to pieces, not to mention
what would have become of her owner. Now, how can I settle for this
indebtedness."

He was laughing as he spoke, but Darry considered the moment had come
for him to put in a plea for his friends.

So he swallowed what seemed to be a lump in his throat, for after all it
was no easy thing to ask such a favor from one who was hardly more than
a stranger.

"Mr. Singleton, I was just wishing I could meet you somewhere soon," he
began.

"Well, that is queer, since I was thinking about you too, and hoping you
would not go back on me, for somehow, I seem to have set my mind on
having you with me. And besides, there was another reason why I wanted
to keep track of you, which I may tell you some day soon, Darry. But why
were you wanting to see me?"

"To ask a great favor?"

"Not to let you off from your promise?"

"Oh, no, I'll be only too glad of a chance to be with you. It would be
glorious to spend some time aboard this fine little boat. What I wanted
to say--that is, the favor I wanted to ask was not for myself."

"Come, that's rather strange, Darry. Not for yourself--a favor for
another? Let's hear what it's about. You've certainly excited my
curiosity, and don't hesitate a bit about it. I shall be only too
willing to do anything that lies in my power, if it pleases you."

The words were most kind, and the smile that accompanied them even more
so.

Darry flushed with a sense of coming victory, for something told him he
was in line to win out, and that the money-shark would be cheated of his
prey.

"I want to borrow a hundred dollars, sir," he said, slowly.

Paul laughed as if amused.

Immediately taking out his pocket-book he withdrew from it a bank bill of
a large denomination and handed it to his companion, who received it in
an embarrassed way.

"There you are, Darry, and there is no loan about it. I owe you many
times that much for your assistance. Now, don't say anything about it,
for I am not used to being crossed. It's a mere bagatelle to me, as you
must know. Some time if you feel like it you may tell me the
circumstances that have arisen; but not until you're good and ready. I'm
only too delighted to be of a little help."

"I'm going to tell you all about it right here. It's only fair you
should know where your money is going, sir. As soon as I get my breath
you shall hear," went on Darry, fingering the hundred dollar bill as
though he could hardly believe his senses.

Never did a bill of like denomination seem to carry more happiness in
its touch; he could easily picture the light that would dawn upon the
worried features of Mrs. Peake when he handed her that mortgage,
canceled, and Abner, too, how he would be likely to throw up his hat in
the air and shout like a boy.

Paul Singleton had been observing him curiously, but with kindling eyes,
as if he saw more and more in this boy to admire; he could give
something of a guess as to what was coming, and hence was not much
surprised a little later when he heard the story of Darius Quarles and
his long-slumbering revenge.

He laughed heartily at the quaint way in which Abner had hinted about
Nancy tumbling overboard on purpose, in order to discover which of her
lovers was the better man.

"I've met the lady, and to tell the truth I really believe she would
have been equal to such a prank some years back. There's a lurking
spirit of mischief in her eyes to this day, though I know she has met
with a great grief lately, for I heard all about poor little Joe," Paul
said, after Darry had finished.

"You can never understand how glad I am to be able to bring a little joy
to this poor couple. They have not known much happiness, sir. Even now,
Abner is compelled to be away from home all the time in order to earn
bread for his family."

Paul Singleton seemed to consider.

"We'll talk that over later on, Darry, when we have plenty of time," he
answered. "Perhaps I may be able to suggest a remedy. I have shares in
several properties down this way, and possibly Abner can be given a
steady job as keeper at the club, or put in charge of a farm I own not
far away from here. Depend upon it, some means can be found to help your
benefactor out. I'd rather talk about you, just now, and what you have
seen in your adventurous past. In fact, I'd like to know everything that
ever happened to you, if you don't mind," he continued.

Again Darry had that queer sensation pass over him, and he could not but
remember what Abner had said about the possibility of his finding out
something connected with his childhood, and that this young gentleman
would be the means of supplying the missing link.

So as they sat there and sipped the delicious coffee and dried out in
comfort, he answered all the questions Paul could think of asking.

They covered his entire past, from his earliest recollection, and
especially about the old man who had finally deserted him in Naples,
for he naturally occupied a prominent place in the recital.

Darry had called him uncle, but thought the man could not have held that
relationship toward him. He never knew what had become of the old man,
but suspected that he must have met with some fatal accident in the
Italian city.

Then he narrated how he had supported himself by playing the violin, and
at the same time learned to speak Italian as well as a native.

Finally came the scene in the café, when Captain Harley rescued him from
the cruelty of a bully, and after that there was very little to tell up
to the time the brigantine was lost and his best friend vanished from
the scene, never to appear again on earth.

Paul Singleton harked back to his earliest recollections, and with the
skill of a lawyer asked questions that put Darry's memory to a strain;
he examined the singular mark upon the boy's arm with deepest interest
and seemed impressed.

"That will undoubtedly prove one thing or the other, as soon as I can
see her," Darry heard him say, as if to himself.

Evidently Paul Singleton knew nothing of the mark and was depending upon
some other party to settle the identification.

It was noon before either of them realized it.

Darry declared he must hurry off so as to catch the lawyer at his office
and settle matters before going home.

"Hark, Darry," said Paul, holding his hand as they parted; "promise me
that if there is anything else I can do to please you I'm to know it
right away. Confide in me, my boy. It makes me happy to share, even to a
limited extent, in your little affairs. And you know we are going to be
great chums all winter, you and I. Look on me then as a sort of elder
brother or a cousin, if you please."

And Darry thought as he looked into the clear laughing eyes of Paul
Singleton that nothing would give him greater happiness on earth than if
he could claim relationship to this fine manly fellow.

He seemed to be walking on air as he left the cove and headed into the
village.

Upon calling at the office of Darius Quarles he was disappointed to
learn that the lawyer had gone off in his closed buggy early that
morning, and would not be back all day--he had to foreclose a mortgage
the clerk remarked, and never allowed that duty to be performed by a
subordinate, for it gave him too much satisfaction to attend to it
personally.

Even his employees had a secret contempt for his mean ways, it seemed.

"He expects to be home to supper, and if your business is pressing you
might call at his house, which is just out of the village on the road to
Harden," the young clerk said in concluding.

"Thank you, I believe I shall call, as I wish to see him very much,"
replied Darry, and left the place.

He made his way along the rather lonely road that led to the humble home
of the Peakes, bowing his head to the storm, and yet with a song of
thanksgiving swelling in his heart, for he knew he was carrying with him
the means of lifting the load that had for some time oppressed his kind
benefactors.

Suddenly something struck him a stunning blow and looking up as he
staggered he heard a chorus of shrill laughs, and realized that a rope
had been thrown around him in such a way that his arms were pinioned
down at his sides.

At the same moment several impish figures sprang out of the dense brush
and fell upon him with vicious blows, as though bent upon knocking him
down.

Though they had their faces concealed after a ridiculous fashion he
recognized the malicious laugh of one as belonging to Jim Dilks.



CHAPTER XX

BAD LUCK AND GOOD


Of course Darry knew what this attack meant.

His enemy had been brooding over matters for a long time, and despairing
of accomplishing his end while Darry was armed with a gun, during his
daily visits to the big marsh, he had finally decided to lie in wait and
have it out on the road from the village.

Jim wisely backed himself up with a couple of allies in thus undertaking
to give his enemy that long-delayed whipping.

He had tried it once by himself and apparently had no relish to repeat
the experiment.

Perhaps it would have been the part of wisdom on the part of the young
life saver to have taken to his heels and beat a masterly retreat.

Great generals have done this same thing and considered it no dishonor
to save their army for another day.

To a high-spirited lad, however, it is the last thought, and many a
fellow will stand the chances of a beating rather than to turn his back
on the foe.

Of course there was no time to consider the matter.

The three disguised boys attacked him on all sides, and almost before
Darry knew what he was doing blows were being exchanged with a vim.

He fought gallantly and well, sending in just as many hard hits as his
knowledge of the game permitted.

Whenever he saw an opening he was quick to take advantage of the same,
and as a consequence first one of Jim's supporters and then the other
temporarily bit the dust, with a galaxy of stars floating before their
mental vision.

They were very much surprised.

True, they may have heard something about the fighting abilities of this
wonderful new boy; but Jim had kept declaring that only for his lame
hand he would surely have easily come out victor on that memorable day
of the first meeting, and they were forced to believe him.

Artful Jim was wise enough to do a great deal of jumping about, but
seemed quite willing his allies should meet with the brunt of the battle
while he saved himself for the finishing touches.

When Darry had tired himself out against Sim Clark and Bowser then his
time would have arrived.

Darry anticipated being whipped in the encounter.

It was not to be expected that one boy could hold his own against three
such tough customers as those opposed to him, since they would wear him
out.

Nevertheless, he declined to run at the beginning, and after a little it
was entirely out of the question for him to do so, since he lacked the
wind to conduct a flight.

So there was really nothing to do but stand and take what was coming to
him, at the same time give as good as he knew how.

They would never be able at any rate to say they had won an easy
victory.

By this time they were beautifully daubed with mud, as each appeared to
be the under dog while the minutes crept along.

Darry's only hope lay in the possibility of some one passing that way,
and as the day was so stormy, and few people ever took this road, his
chances were indeed slender.

Now the whole bunch seemed to be upon the ground alongside the road,
struggling like a pack of Kilkenny cats, the three aggressors having
their hands on Darry at one time in the endeavor to subdue him.

Suddenly Jim gave a hoarse cry.

"Haul off dere, fellers; somebody's comin'!" was what he ejaculated.

Immediately the other two sprang to their feet like a couple of deer,
afraid lest they be caught at their game; perhaps a vision of old Hank
Squires flashed before them, with the penitentiary in the background.

Darry, out of breath, but game to the last, made an ineffectual attempt
to hold one of his tormentors, catching the flying end of his jacket;
but such was the moment of Sim's upward movement, and the flimsy
character of his wearing apparel, that the entire section came away,
remaining in the grip of the enemy as he went tearing after his mates.

The three of them plunged into the bushes alongside the road, and were
lost to sight, leaving Darry half sitting up on the road, plastered with
mud, and ruefully surveying the strip of cloth in his hand.

After all it proved to be a false alarm, for no one came in sight.

Darry was not foolish enough to invite a further attack by remaining on
the ground after the enemy had temporarily withdrawn, so he gathered
himself together and continued along the road, feeling of his limbs to
ascertain just how seriously he had been bruised, and trying to scrape
some of the mud from his clothes.

He felt ashamed to let Mrs. Peake see him in this condition, for the
clothes had been Joe's, and naturally she would feel badly to discover
how they were now treated to a coating of mud.

But then the fact of his having such a joyful surprise for her would
discount any bad effect of his appearance.

Thinking thus, Darry put his hand eagerly into the inside pocket where
he had so carefully stowed the little leather pocket-book in which the
hundred dollar bill given him by Paul, as well as the amount which his
muskrat pelts had fetched at the hardware store, had been lodged.

The pocket-book was gone!

Poor Darry shivered as if someone had struck him a blow.

Could he have lost it while upon the shore with Paul Singleton and had
the angry sound claimed it as passage money for having allowed a victim
to escape?

No, he recollected very distinctly feeling it there as he started from
the office of the lawyer, after learning that Mr. Quarles was away.

Then it must have fallen out during his struggles on the road, for
several times he had been on his back, with those "wildcats" clawing at
him.

Despite the chances of meeting them again, and having the struggle
renewed, he deliberately turned back and quickly ran to the spot where
there were plain evidences to be seen of the free-for-all fight.

How eagerly he searched every foot of that territory, his heart,
figuratively speaking, in his throat with anxiety. But as the minutes
passed and he realized the hopeless character of his hunt it seemed to
drop like lead into his shoes, the change was so great.

Then there remained only one solution of the mystery--one of those young
rascals must have inserted a hand in his coat while they were struggling
there on the road and stolen the pocket-book with its contents.

His heart seemed almost broken, and he even contemplated rushing after
them to renew the battle and tear the prize from their possession; but a
little thought caused him to understand how foolish such a move would
be, for he had no idea as to what quarter they could he heading for when
they left him, unless it might be that shack in the swamp, and it would
be rash indeed for him to go there alone.

He tried to pluck up courage enough to go home, basing all his hopes on
Paul, who had seemed so very kind, and ready to help him out.

Of course Mrs. Peake was astonished at his appearance, but the rising
anger vanished when she learned who had been the cause of his
misfortunes--at least it was turned in the direction of Jim Dilks, and
she vowed that before another day had passed she would swear out a
warrant for his arrest, and go personally to see that Hank Squires did
his duty.

Depressed in spirits Darry crept away to change his clothes for some
others she brought him, also once belonging to Joe.

Mrs. Peake advised that the muddy garments be hung up until they dried,
when by a vigorous brushing they might be restored to something like
their former condition of cleanliness.

Accordingly, Darry first of all picked up the trousers and placed them
on a line in a corner of the room, where they could drip without soiling
the floor, he having spread a newspaper beneath.

Then he proceeded to attend to the coat in the same way.

While engaged in this he felt something bulky in one of the pockets and
smiled faintly as he remembered thrusting that portion of Sim's torn
coat there.

This he had done under the impression that Hank might consider it
conclusive evidence, calculated to convict the young ruffian beyond a
possibility of doubt.

It might just as well hang alongside the other garments, though Darry
did not intend removing the incriminating mud stains from the fragment.

As he drew the offending piece of cloth out he was thrilled to feel
something in the folds, and with trembling fingers he opened it out.

It seemed that with the portion of the coat that had come away in his
hands was one of the pockets, and out of this receptacle Darry quickly
drew something at which he stared as though he fancied he were dreaming.

_His pocket-book!_

Sim had undoubtedly snatched the same from his person as they wrestled
upon the ground, and having no other place in which to hide it at the
moment, had thrust it in the very outside pocket of his coat that a
minute later remained in the grip of the boy he had robbed.

Darry stared at it until he realized the amazing fortune that had so
kindly returned him his property, and then rolling over on the floor he
shook with wild laughter, so that Mrs. Peake came to the door in alarm
to see if he were ill.



CHAPTER XXI

SATISFYING THE MORTGAGE


While Darry was gurgling with laughter, still clutching the fragment of
coat and the precious pocket-book, he felt a hand seize his arm.

Looking up he saw the puzzled and anxious face of Abner's wife.

"What ails you, boy? Did they injure you more than you told me?" she
asked, as if fearful that he were going out of his mind.

To the further astonishment of the good woman the boy climbed to his
feet, suddenly threw his arms around her neck and gave her a vigorous
hug.

"It's all right, mother, after all; they didn't get it!" he exclaimed.

"What's all right? I don't understand at all," she replied, looking at
the dirty strip of cloth he was holding, and the pocket-book as well.

"Why, what do you think, while we were struggling there on the road,
with me underneath part of the time, that sneak thief, Sim Clark,
managed to steal my pocket-book out of my inner pocket. That was what
made me seem so blue, for I had something in it I meant to show you. But
when he tried to run away I held on and part of his coat ripped away. I
stuck it in my pocket, thinking Hank would like to see it as evidence,
and when I took it out here, don't you see I found what I had lost in
Sim's pocket! Did you ever hear of such luck in your born days."

Mrs. Peake herself laughed.

"You do seem to be a fortunate boy. And they would have robbed you of
what little you have. I'm glad you got it back, and I'm determined to
see Hank Squires to-morrow about this thing. It has gone far enough."

"But I've got something else to tell you. Come and sit down where we can
talk," he continued, feeling happier than ever before in all his life,
for he knew he was in a condition to chase away the clouds that had been
bringing anxiety to her mind for months.

So he told first of all about his visit to the hardware man, and how he
obtained fourteen dollars for his muskrat skins.

After that came the call upon the lawyer and what followed in connection
with his offer to pay the interest due, and how Mr. Quarles had
absolutely refused to accommodate him.

Nancy sighed as she heard what the cold, grasping man of law had said
about settling old scores.

Perhaps she was sorry now she had given him such cause for hatred; but
better the life she had led than one as the wife of a cruel money shark
of his breed.

From this Darry soon branched out and spoke of his trip to the shore,
and how on his return a kindly fate had allowed him to be of material
assistance to the very young man with whom he expected to spend the
winter on his launch.

Mrs. Peake began to listen more eagerly now, for she surmised that
something of a pleasant nature was coming.

When Darry finally placed the money in her hand, she looked at it in
bewilderment, never having touched so much at one time in all her life;
then she turned her tear-stained eyes upon him, and drawing him into her
motherly arms kissed him again and again.

And Darry never felt so well repaid for any action of his life as that.

There was sunshine in the Peake house the balance of that day, even
though the weather without was dark and overcast, for light hearts carry
an atmosphere of their own that does not depend upon outside
influences.

The woman would not hear of Darry's going to see the lawyer that night.

Something might happen to him again, with those malicious boys still at
large, and it would be wiser she thought, to wait until morning, when
the two of them could take the money to Darius Quarles and satisfy the
mortgage.

Besides, Nancy thought she would like to see what the money-lender
looked like when finding his plans frustrated so neatly.

"Thank goodness that relative of his will have to wait some time before
this house falls into his clutches," she remarked, for the fourth time,
since it was impossible, just then, to talk about anything else.

So when another day dawned, while the weather was still heavy they
walked to the village and astonished the lawyer by appearing in his
office soon after his arrival.

Supposing that Nancy had come to beg for more time, he set his face in
its hardest lines, even though pretending to be sympathetic--times were
out of joint, collections difficult to make, and he absolutely needed
every cent he could scrape together in order to meet his
obligations--that was the way he put it, when she announced she had come
in relation to the mortgage.

"Then I suppose you will be glad to receive this money, Darius, and
return the mortgage canceled to me. And you can be sure that Abner will
never trouble you in the same way again," she said, thrusting the full
sum, with interest toward him.

He slowly counted it, and found that every cent, as he had written it
down for Darry, was there.

"Ahem! this is an unexpected pleasure, Nancy. I congratulate you, indeed
I do, on your success in finding someone to take over the mortgage," he
stammered, as his face turned from red to white, and his little eyes
glittered.

"You are mistaken. There will be no mortgage on my home after this. The
money has been earned by this brave boy here, not borrowed," she said,
coldly.

This caused him to look at Darry, and his mouth told that he was
gritting his teeth wrathfully.

"Ah! yes, indeed, truly a remarkable boy. What has he been doing
now--taking the rats of the swamp by wholesale, I presume? Let me see,
only yesterday he had sold twenty-six skins for fourteen dollars, and
now a hundred dollar bill follows. It is amazing. Pardon me if I doubt
my eyes. I suppose the bill is a good one?"

"We will wait here until you go and find out. You might ask Mr. Paul
Singleton, who has a little launch down at the docks, and is a member of
the club above," replied Mrs. Peake, with stinging emphasis.

"Did Mr. Singleton give him this money?" demanded the lawyer, suddenly.

"He did, for saving his launch out in the bay yesterday. And what is
more, Darry expects to cruise with him the balance of the winter. He has
taken a great fancy for my boy. You can find him easily if you wish to
ask him about this."

It was wonderful how quickly the lawyer changed his manner.

He knew who Paul Singleton was, and what wealth he represented in the
exclusive sporting club near Ashley.

"That alters the complexion of the whole thing. Now I congratulate Darry
on his good fortune in making such a good, easy friend. Of course the
bill must be all right if Paul Singleton gave it to him. I will
immediately attend to the mortgage for you, and also see that it is
satisfied on the books at the county office. Meanwhile I shall write you
out a receipt in full, showing that it has been paid."

Mrs. Peake said nothing more.

She felt the utmost contempt for this man, and having been enabled to
defeat his scheme for humiliating herself and husband, wished to remain
in his company no longer than was absolutely necessary.

So she and Darry presently went forth, and how pure even the stormy
atmosphere seemed after being for half an hour in that spider's web of a
lawyer's den.

On the strength of the improved prospects Mrs. Peake felt that she was
privileged to spend a portion of the small sum of money she had been
hoarding against paying the interest, though as it had not amounted to
the full sum she had not dared approach Darius with an offer.

Mr. Keeler, being a good friend of the Peakes, and inclined to be
hostile to the lawyer, she naturally confided her late troubles to his
sympathetic ear, feeling that she could not keep silent.

He shook the hand of the boy with sincerity, and declared that it was a
great day for Abner and his brood when the surf man helped to pull the
cabin boy of the _Falcon_ out of the sea.

Being a modest lad, Darry escaped as soon as he could, and waited around
until Mrs. Peake was ready to go home, when he showed up to carry her
parcels.

The family feasted that night most royally.

Darry himself had purchased a steak in the store as his donation, and
this was a luxury the little Peakes seldom knew.

Ducks and fish were all very well, together with oysters, when they
could get them; but after all there was a sameness in the diet that
rather palled on the appetite, and that beefsteak with onions did smell
mighty fine, as even the good cook admitted.

The future looked very rosy to both Darry and Abner's wife.

When the latter heard what Paul Singleton had said about getting some
place for the life saver ashore, where he could be with his family right
along, the poor woman broke down and sobbed; but it was joy that caused
the tears to flow, and Darry felt his own eyes grow wet as he realized
how she must have suffered while compelled to live in this mean way.

Nancy having been a teacher had looked to better things, no doubt; but
Abner thus far had lacked the ability to provide them for his family.
Now, however, the current had changed.

"And to think it all comes through you, boy. God sent you to us, I
believe, just when things were at the worst. How different it looks now.
I am the happiest woman in Ashley this night," she declared, and it
seemed as though she could hardly take her beaming eyes off his face
during that whole evening as they sat and built air castles for the
future.

It can be set down as certain that Darry found it hard to get to sleep
after so much excitement. Long he lay there and went over all the
recent experiences, to wonder again and again why Providence was so good
to him, the waif who had until the last few years known only cuffs and
trouble.

The morning showed no improvement in the weather, for which Darry
was sorry, because he wished to cross the sound in order to carry the
glorious news to Abner and relieve his mind of the worry that must even
now fill it.

And as the prospect was that even worse weather might follow before it
would improve he determined to go, though Mrs. Peake was rather loth to
grant permission.



CHAPTER XXII

ABNER HEARS THE NEWS


When Darry reached the village and was making for the place where his
boat was tied up, he remembered that Paul Singleton was close by with
his motor-boat.

Perhaps he was aboard and would be interested in hearing what had
happened to Darry since they parted.

Accordingly he walked that way and was accosted by a genial voice
calling:

"All hail, comrade, what news? Come aboard. Just thinking about you, and
if you hadn't hove in sight soon I meant to don my raincoat and saunter
up to find out what was in the wind. Here you are, just in time to join
me at my lunch, such as it is--coffee, a canoeist stew and some fresh
bread I bought from a good housewife in the village. Sit down right
there; no excuse, you must know sooner or later what sort of a cook I
am, for we expect to share many a meal in common."

In such a hearty way did Paul Singleton greet him, and of course Darry
had to obey orders, even though hardly hungry.

He entertained Paul with an account of his recent adventures, and that
young gentleman nearly doubled up with merriment when he heard how a
malicious fate had succeeded in cheating Sim Clark out of the reward of
his villainy.

"And where are you off to now?" demanded Paul, when they had finished
their "snack," as he termed it in Southern style, and Darry seemed to be
getting ready to depart.

"Across to the station. Mr. Keeler told me last evening there was some
important mail to go over, and I think its going to storm worse before
it finally clears up."

"Looks pretty dusty out there even now, for your little tub. Say,
suppose we take your boat in tow and go over in the launch? I was
wondering what to do only a little while back. Besides, I've wanted to
see the surfmen work their boat, and if it comes on to storm hard,
perhaps there may be a necessity for them to launch. I'd be sorry to
have a wreck occur; but if it does happen I'd like to be on hand. Say
yes, now, Darry."

Of course he did, for who could resist Paul Singleton; especially when
the passage could be made so much more quickly in the staunch little
motor-boat than with his own clumsy craft.

In a short time they sallied out.

The cedar craft was a model of the boat builder's art, and carried a
twelve-horse power engine, so that even though the wind and tide chanced
to be against them they made steady progress toward the shore seen so
dimly far across the sound.

Nearly every wave sent the spray flying high in the air as it struck the
bow; but there was a hood to catch this, and besides both occupants of
the motor-boat had donned oilskins before starting.

It was a long trip, nevertheless, for the wind continued to increase in
force as the afternoon waned, and Darry, with a sailor's gift of
foretelling what the weather was to be, predicted that the succeeding
night must witness a storm such as had not visited the coast since the
night he was cast ashore.

Abner was delighted to see his boy, and it was not long before the party
found shelter in the warm station, for the air was growing bitter.

"A bad night ahead!" said one of the surfmen, after greeting Darry, "and
worse luck, poor Tom here has broken his leg. Mr. Frazer is somethin' of
a surgeon, and has set it, but as soon as this storm is over he must be
taken home. It leaves us short a man if so be we are called out, unless
some feller happens to run across before night, which is kinder
unlikely."

"I'd be only too glad to pull an oar, if necessary, and you couldn't
find any better man," said Darry, quickly, looking at Abner, who shook
his head, dubiously.

"They may hev to take yuh, lad; but I hopes as how we aint gwine to be
called out. It's a cruel night to fight the sea, an' only them as has
been thar knows wot it means. Now come an' set down here, both on yuh,
an' tell me all the news from hum. I seen somethin' in your eye, lad,
thet tells me yuh knows sure a heap wuth hearin'. I hopes it's good
news," he said.

"Indeed it is, the best ever," replied Darry, with bursting heart, and
then as quickly as he could he told the whole story.

Poor Abner sat there, blinking, and hardly able to comprehend the
wonderful change that had so suddenly come over his fortunes.

Unable to speak he could only stretch out his hand to Paul, and then
turning to our hero looked at him with his very soul in his eyes.

After a little, when he became calmer, he asked many questions, and even
had a quiet little laugh at the expense of Darius Quarles.

"That's the second time yuh see he's ben knocked out a-tryin' to rob
me. Nancy done it fust a-fallin' into the water, and this time Darry
here cum to the front. Darius he must be concludin' he was borned under
an unlucky star, 'specially wen he tackles Nancy Peake. I'd give
somethin' to see the gal jest now," he added wistfully as he tried to
picture what she must look like when really and truly happy.

Long they talked, until an early supper was ready, and the men gathered
about the table, while the wind shrieked and sighed about the corners of
the station, telling of the severe labors the coming night would demand.

After the meal was finished nothing would do but that Darry must give
them some music ere the first detail went out on their arduous duties in
facing the cold storm.

Paul had known nothing of this accomplishment on the part of his new
friend.

He sat there as though enthralled while Darry drew such weird strains
from the little polished instrument in his hands that this young man,
who had doubtless listened to many masters of the violin believed he had
never in all his life heard such wonderful music.

Of course the strange surroundings had something to do with it, for
there was a constant accompaniment of howling wind, with the surge of
the wild surf beating time to the magic of the bow, and it seemed as
though the player selected just such music as would be appropriate to
such a setting.

Finally the first detail had to make ready for their long tramp along
the beach, and muffled in their oilskins they sallied forth.

Later on Abner and his companions expected to start out, for Paul was
determined to learn all he could about this hard life of those who
patrolled the coasts while the storms raged, a helpful auxiliary to the
lighthouse department.

The men should have sought rest and sleep while they had the chance, but
no one seemed desirous of lying down.

Tom, the poor fellow with the broken leg, was bearing up bravely, and
only bemoaned the fact that, if there should be any necessity for the
launching of the surfboat he could not do his duty.

Suddenly everyone started up.

Above the roar of the storm a sound had come that could not be anything
other than the boom of a gun.

There is nothing that startles more than this sound, heard upon the
shore as the storm rages, for it invariably tells of peril hovering over
some vessel that has been beaten from her track and is threatened with
wreck, either upon the reefs or the treacherous sands.

Instantly all was bustle and excitement.

Every man donned his oilskins, and as they had made all preparations
there was little time wasted in doing this.

Paul rushed out with the rest, eager to be "in the swim," as he said.

It was a scene never to be forgotten.

The waves were running high and breaking upon the beach with a
thunderous roar, while the wind added to the clamor; so that save for
the absence of thunder and lightning the picture seemed to be a
duplicate of that other so strongly impressed upon Darry's mind.

Down the beach they could catch glimpses of an illumination, and it
seemed as though some of the coast patrol might be burning coster lights
to signal the vessel on the reef.

Presently they would come back, when the lifeboat would be launched.

With material that was kept ready for just such an emergency a fire was
immediately started.

Mr. Frazer was looking anxiously down the beach, and Darry heard him
calling to Abner.

"I don't like the looks of things yonder. That fire is none of the work
of our men. Jim Dilks and his wreckers must be over here looking for
pickings. I pity any poor wretch who comes ashore and falls into their
hands. That scoundrel wouldn't be above robbing a castaway, and even
chocking out what little life remained in his body, if so be it looked
like he might tell. Keep a lookout for the rascals, boys. And all give a
hand here to get the boat out of the shed. We're going to have a hard
night of it, I'm afraid."



CHAPTER XXIII

DARRY IN THE LIFEBOAT


The boat was soon rolled out and placed where it could be quickly
launched at the word.

Mr. Frazer was not only the keeper of the station but the helmsman of
the lifeboat, which latter was a most responsible position, since he
must direct the movements of the men who pulled the oars, bring the boat
under the vessel in peril, manage to rescue as many of those aboard as
could be carried, and finally navigate the craft successfully to the
shore.

Darry looked upon him as a wonderful man, a hero, indeed, whose equal he
had never known.

There were signs of distress seaward. Through his night glasses Mr.
Frazer reported seeing a steamer in trouble. She had evidently gone on
the reef, having gotten out of her course in the wild storm, or else
because the wreckers further down the coast had deceived her navigator
by means of false beacons.

No matter, she was fast upon the treacherous reef and would likely fill
and be a wreck before morning, since her entire port side seemed
exposed to the fury of the waves.

It was a wonder how anything could remain on board and endure so
terrific a pounding; if later on she were washed free the chances were
there would be holes enough in her by that time to cause her to sink
like a shot.

The lifeboat could not get out to her any too soon.

Those on board were burning lights, and sending up rocket after rocket
to indicate that their need of assistance was great.

Still nothing could be done until the men on the detail came in.

Already it had been settled that unless assistance came speedily, in the
shape of a recruit to take the place of Tom, Darry would have to go.

The boy was in a fever of suspense, fearful that he might be cheated out
of the experience, as on the previous occasion.

Paul was quite useless because he knew so little about pulling an oar,
while as a sailor, with some years experience on a vessel, Darry was at
home on the water in any capacity.

"I certainly admire your grit, Darry," said Paul, shuddering as he
looked out at the heaving waves, the white tops of which loomed up in
the gloom.

"Oh! I'm used to these things. Dozens of storms I've been through, under
all sorts of conditions," answered the boy.

"All the same it's a big risk. I hope nothing will go wrong. That's a
mighty small boat to pit against the fury of the sea."

"But as safe as they make them. It's impossible to sink it, and the
ropes are there to keep us from being swept out, even if flooded. All
around the outside you see ropes, and if a fellow goes over he holds on
to one of those until another wave sweeps him back in his seat again,
and there you are."

Although Darry spoke so lightly it must not be assumed that he failed to
realize the gravity attending the passage of the surboat out upon such a
troubled sea; for accidents do happen to the crews of these life-saving
craft, and many a daring soul has gone to his account while trying to
rescue others.

But just then the patrol came running up, almost out of breath.

From one man Frazer learned that his surmise concerning the appearance
of the lawless wreckers on the shore was well founded, and that they had
been up to some mischief further south, where signs of lights had been
noticed by this coastguard.

The word was given to take their places, as the boat was about to be
launched.

They had waited a brief time to allow the newly-arrived men a chance to
recover their wind for they would need it presently, when once upon the
heaving bosom of the deep.

Paul squeezed the hand of his young friend.

How he envied him this chance to prove his courage and to pull an oar in
a life-saving trip.

The rockets had ceased to ascend as though either the supply had given
out, or else conditions had become so bad that there was no longer a
chance to carry on this work.

Then came the word:

"Go!"

There was a simultaneous movement on the part of the entire crew, and as
the sturdy men put their shoulders to the task the surfboat shot forward
just at the proper instant when a wave expended itself upon the sloping
beach.

Its prow entered the water, and those furthest ahead sprang into their
places, whipping the long oars into the rowlocks for a struggle against
the force of the next onrushing billow.

Darry was one of these.

He had not watched that other launching for nothing, and understood just
what was required of him, as though through long practice.

Now they were off!

The oars dipped deep, and hardy muscles strained back of them.

Slowly but surely the boat gained against all the fury of the onrushing
tide, and foot by foot they began to leave the shore.

Paul was shouting, swinging his hat, as Darry could see while he tugged
at his task.

Once fully launched upon the swelling bosom of the sea, the progress of
the surfboat was more rapid, though every yard had to be won by the most
arduous of labor, the men straining like galley slaves under the lash;
but in this case it was a sense of duty rather than the whip of the
tyrant that urged them on.

No man but the helmsman saw anything of the steamer that was fast upon
the cruel jaws of the reef, for it was against orders for anyone to turn
his head.

Such an incautious movement might throw him out of balance in the swing
of the stroke and bring about disaster, or at least temporarily
disarrange their regular advance; they had to trust everything to the
wisdom and experience of the man who hung on to the long steering oar,
and blindly obey his shouted instructions.

Many times had he gone forth upon just such a hazard, and thus far his
sagacity had proven equal to the task.

They began to hear human voices shrieking through the storm.

That meant they were drawing close under the lee of the steamer, and
that those on board must have sighted them, and were consequently filled
with new hope.

Above all else came the awful pounding of the sea upon the side of the
doomed steamer.

Darry knew the sound well, for many a night had he gone calmly to sleep
while the chorus of the elements was beating close to his head.

He had pulled well, and held his own with the brawny men of the crew,
just as Mr. Frazer had known would be the case when he allowed him to
take the place of Tom in the boat.

Abner was next to him, and the surfman had watched the manly efforts of
his adopted boy with secret delight.

Few boys indeed of his size could have proven their worth to the crew of
the lifeboat in time of need as Darry had done.

He could indeed be reckoned one of the life savers from this hour on, if
so be they came back again to the shore that had witnessed their
departure.

Now, as they swung around temporarily the rowers were afforded their
first glimpse of the imperiled vessel.

It was undoubtedly a steamer, one of the coasters that pass up and down
the Atlantic seaboard, bound from New York to one of the various
southern ports, or _vice versa_, and usually keeping far enough out to
avoid the perils that hover about Kitty Hawk and Hatteras.

She was in a bad position, having gone ashore, or been washed aground,
so that her whole quarter was exposed to the sweep of the boiling sea.

Through the flying spray they could see numerous figures along the lee
rail of the vessel, hanging on desperately, while now and then the water
would sweep over the deck, and at such times a chorus of screams told
that there were other than men there, women half frightened out of their
senses by the peril.

The surfboat was, after some maneuvering, gotten in such a position
under the lee of the steamer that a rope could be thrown aboard.

Then a woman was lowered by means of this, and safely stowed away.

As the rope had been fastened to the boat there was no longer necessity
for the crew to strain at the oars, consequently they were at liberty to
assist in caring for those sent down by the steamer's crew, working
under the direction of a cool, level-headed captain.

Darry had cast off his oilskins, as being in the way.

A wetting was of small moment anyway to one so warm-blooded as he, and
the cumbersome garments impeded his movements, since they were meant for
a big man.

The sleeve of his shirt had also become torn in some way and flapped
loose until he tucked it up out of the way.

All unconscious of the picturesque figure he made he continued to work
with all his might, helping to receive the women and children as they
were slipped over the side.

Many an eye was attracted toward him as seen by the light of the
lanterns that were held over the side of the steamer to aid the workers,
and more than one wondered how it came that a mere lad was to be found
keeping company with these hardy men of the coast, seasoned to storms,
and able to defy the rigors of the cold.

It was no easy task to take on a load of the passengers under such
conditions.

Only when the surfboat rose on a billow could they be lowered, for at
other times the distance was so great that the deck of the steamer
looked as far away as the roof of a tall building.

Yet, thanks to the ability of the steamer captain, and the experience of
the surfmen below, the shipping of the women and children was
accomplished with but a single accident.

One child dropped off the rope, having been insecurely fastened, and
with the shrieks of the women fell into the sea, but hardly had she
reached the water than with a splash Darry was over, and had seized upon
the little one.

His companions immediately reached out friendly hands, and both were
drawn into the plunging boat, amid frantic cheers from all who had seen
the daring rescue.

One woman seized hold of the boy as he pushed his way through the crowd
to his place at the oars, and looked wildly in his face.

He supposed she must be the mother of the child he had saved, and not
wishing for any scene just then, when he was needed at his place, as
they were about to cast off, Darry gently broke her hold, leaving on her
knees and staring after him.

Although he little suspected the fact it was something else that had
chained the attention of this woman passenger; and even as she knelt in
the bottom of the boat, which was beginning its perilous passage toward
the shore, her eyes continued to be riveted upon his face, and she was
saying to herself over and over:

"Oh! who is he, that boy? I must see him again if we both live. Can it
be possible he had any connection with Paul's telegram? I have come far,
but I would go over the distance a thousand times if only a great joy
awaited me. Yes, I must see him surely again!"

From which it would appear that the friendly fortune that seemed to be
attending the affairs of our young hero of late had again started work;
and that even in gratifying his wild desire to serve as a life saver
Darry had been advancing his own cause.

Now the lifeboat was headed for the shore, and sweeping in on a giant
roller.

Great care had to be exercised lest the boat broach-to, and those in her
be spilled out, when some must be drowned, for having taken so many
aboard they lacked the buoyancy that had previously marked their
progress.

Standing in his place the steersman carefully noted every little point,
and high above the rush of the storm his voice rang out as he ordered
the crew to cease rowing, or to pull hard.

It was well worth experiencing, and Darry was glad he had at last found
a chance to go out with the crew.

Abner knew that at least one more trip would have to be made, in order
to take off the crew of the steamer, and he was determined that if there
should have arrived any substitute on the beach while they were away
Darry must not be called upon to undertake the second voyage.

The strain was terrific for a mere stripling of his build, and only old
seasoned veterans could stand under it.

There was no need of questioning the willingness of the lad to volunteer
again; and if it seemed absolutely necessary Abner would give his
consent, but he hoped circumstances might change and another hand be
provided.

With the women and children they had several of the crew who had come
along to relieve any oarsman who might give under the great strain; the
more sent in this load the less remaining for the next, and among these
Abner had picked upon a certain husky fellow who seemed able to do his
part if called upon.

Now the shore was close by.

The fire burned brightly, fed by Paul, and the steersman could see
several other men at the water's edge, proving that they had crossed the
sound in some sort of staunch craft, or had come down from above,
knowing the wreck was close to the life-saving station.

At last the boat mounted the last billow on which she was to continue
her voyage to the beach.

The crew pulled heartily to keep her perched high on its foamy crest,
and in this fashion they went rushing shoreward.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE AWAKENING


As the boat shot forward and her keel grated on the sand the crew were
over the sides like a shot, seizing upon her in order to prevent the
outgoing wave from carrying her along.

Then one by one the women and children were carried to the shore, and
hurried to the shelter of the station, where a warm fire and something
to drink in the way of coffee and tea would put new life in the
shuddering mass.

The woman who had been so strangely agitated at sight of Darry seemed to
be a lady of refinement, but she was almost perishing from the cold, and
did not resist when they forced her to seek shelter.

Once she turned around and looked back to where Darry was busy; but when
inside the house she swooned from exhaustion, to come to later and find
Paul Singleton bending anxiously over her, with words of affection on
his lips.

Meanwhile Darry was ready to again take his place with the rest, but
Abner had been busy, and spoke to Mr. Frazer, who in turn engaged a
stalwart fisherman to fill the vacancy caused by Tom's absence.

Although disappointed, Darry did not insist, for he knew the tax upon
his young muscles had been severe, and if he failed it might throw the
whole crew out of balance.

So he saw them set out again, with his heart in his eyes.

When they had vanished from view he walked nervously up and down the
beach for a short time; then noticing the presence of a moving light not
more than half a mile down the shore he remembered what he had heard Mr.
Frazer say about the wreckers being abroad, looking for anything of
value they could lay hands on.

Usually these men make their living by gathering up whatever may be cast
on the beach after a vessel has gone to pieces, and thus far their
calling is legitimate, but as a rule they are a bad class, and at times,
when fortune frowns upon their efforts, many of their kind resort to
desperate means for accumulating riches, even robbing the dead, and it
was hinted in connection with Jim Dilks' crowd, going still further.

When a vessel is in danger of going to pieces, the passengers usually
load themselves with what valuables they may possess in the hope of
saving these in case they reach the shore in safety; so that these
ghouls frequently find a little fortune upon the persons of the drowned
travelers.

Darry had heard the crew of the lifeboat talking about these wreckers so
frequently that he was more than curious with regard to them, and as he
saw the lantern moving to and fro along the water's edge, now
approaching and again retreating, he felt a sudden desire to look upon
their methods of work. It was not a wise move on his part at all, for
such men are as a rule desperate characters, and resent being spied
upon, since such action savors too much of the law and justice in their
eyes; but Darry was only a venturesome boy, who somehow never knew the
meaning of the word fear, and a little saunter along the beach would
pass away some of the time until the boat came in again.

So he started off, telling no one of his intention, though one man
noticed him walk away, which fact proved fortunate in the end.

As he drew nearer the moving light he saw that, as he had suspected, it
was a lantern held in the hand of a big man who was passing along as
close to the edge of the water as he could, and surveying with the eye
of a hawk each incoming billow, as though he expected to discover a
floating form that must be snatched away ere it were carried out again.

But it was no errand of mercy that caused this human vulture to keep up
his unceasing vigil; for should the body of a luckless passenger come
ashore his first act would be to rifle the pockets rather than attempt
to restore life.

Darry caught a glimpse of several other figures beyond, but their
lanterns had evidently given out, so they were trusting to their eyes
alone for seeing in the dark.

He had never as yet met big Jim Dilks, but something told him that this
man was now before him, and he wondered if the son might not also be one
of the other prowlers beyond, since he evidently possessed the same kind
of savage instincts that characterized his father.

Darry had come as close as he deemed prudent when he saw the man start
forward with a sudden swoop, and seizing some object from the inflowing
wave drag it up on the shore.

There was no outcry to call the attention of others, for evidently this
was a game of "every man for himself," though possibly a division of
spoils might be made later on.

Horrified, Darry pressed closer, for he fancied he had seen a feeble
movement on the part of the figure drawn from the waves--doubtless
alone and unassisted the swimmer could never have crawled out on the
beach, but now that he was beyond reach of the waves, would the man who
had snatched him ashore do the slightest thing to keep the spark of life
from going out entirely?

He saw Jim Dilks bend eagerly down.

Closer still Darry pressed, unconscious in his eagerness to see that he
was placing his own life in danger.

The man who would not hesitate to rob the dead might go even further in
order to conceal his crime.

He saw Jiw Dilks hurriedly search through the pockets of the figure,
transfer a number of articles to his own person, and then with a growl
lift the body in his arms, giving it a toss that once more sent it
afloat.

The terrible nature of this act brought out a half-stifled cry from the
watching boy, and the wrecker, startled, wheeled to see him there.

He darted upon him like a wolf, and ere Darry could lift a hand to save
himself he was struck a severe blow on the head.

After that he knew nothing more.

When he opened his eyes later he found himself in the life-saving
station, and for a minute or so wondered what had happened, for as he
started to rise there was a severe pain in his head, and he sank back
with a sigh.

Then it all seemed to pass before him.

Again he could see the savage face of big Jim, as he turned like a
sheep-killing dog caught in the act, and once more Darry shivered with
the terrible thought that life had not wholly departed from the wretched
passenger from the ill-fated steamer at the time the wrecker tossed him
back into the merciless sea.

Who had found him, and brought him here, when evidently the lawless man
had intended that he should share the fate of the doomed passenger, and
thus forever have his lips sealed?

Someone must have heard him sigh, for there was a movement close by, and
his eyes took in the eager face of Paul Singleton.

"Bully for you, Darry! We were getting mighty anxious about you, but I
can see you're all right now. It has been hard to keep Abner at his duty
watching the shore. Every little while he appears at the door to ask if
you have recovered your senses yet. Why, he couldn't be more fond of you
if you were his own Joe," said Paul, running his hand tenderly over the
boy's forehead.

"I don't understand how I got here," declared Darry; "the last thing I
remember was being struck by the fist of that brute, big Jim Dilks. He
had just robbed a passenger from the wreck. I saw him pull the body out
of the water, clean out the pockets, and then throw the poor fellow back
again. And, Mr. Singleton, it's a terrible thing to say, but I'm most
sure there was life still in the body of the man he robbed when he
tossed him back!"

"The scoundrel, I wouldn't put it past him a particle. And that isn't
the first time he and his gang have done the same thing either. But
their time has come, Darry. Even now I chance to know that the
government has sent agents down here to make arrests, urged on by the
women of Ashley, and before another day rolls around all of those
rascals will be in the toils. You may be called on to give evidence
against Dilks. But please forget all about this gruesome matter just
now, my dear boy. There is something else of a vastly different nature
that awaits you--some delightful intelligence, in fact."

Paul paused to let the half-dazed lad drink in the meaning of his words.

"Oh! Mr. Singleton!" he began.

"No, from this hour let it be Paul--Cousin Paul, in truth. You know, I
said I wanted you to look upon me as an elder brother, but now it seems
that we are actually related, and that I am your full-fledged cousin."

"My cousin! Oh! what can you mean?" gasped the bewildered Darry.

"I'll tell you without beating around the bush, then. You are no longer
the poor homeless waif you used to believe yourself."

"No, that is true, thanks to dear old Abner and Nancy," murmured Darry,
loyal to his good friends in this hour.

"But there is someone who has a better claim upon your affection than
either Abner or Nancy, kind-hearted though they undoubtedly are. It is
your own mother, Darry!" exclaimed the young man, leaning over closer as
he said that word of magic.

"Mother! My mother! How sweet that sounds! But tell me how can this be?
Who am I, and where is she? How did you find it out, and, oh! Paul, are
you _sure_, quite sure? A disappointment after this would be hard to
bear."

"Have no fears, Darry, there is no longer the slightest shadow of a
doubt. The minute my aunt set her eyes on that crescent-shaped mark on
your arm she knew beyond all question that Heaven had granted her
prayers of years, and in this marvelous way restored her only child to
her again. She saw you leap overboard to save that little child, and she
recognized in your face the look she remembered so well as marking the
countenance of her husband, now long since dead. She says you are his
living picture as a boy."

"I remember some lady seizing hold of my arm after they dragged me
aboard the lifeboat, but at the time I believed it must be the mother of
the child, and I was anxious to get back to my place, for the boat might
upset with one oar missing. And that was--my mother?"

How softly, how tenderly, he spoke the word, as though it might be
something he had only dared dream about, and had difficulty in realizing
now that he could claim what nearly all other boys had, a parent.

"Yes, that was my dear Aunt Elizabeth. I wired her away down in South
America, where she was visiting cousins, and it has taken her quite a
while to get here. She had to change steamers twice, and meant to come
back here from New York by rail, when a strange freak of fortune sent
that vessel upon the reef, and placed you in the lifeboat that went to
the rescue. After this I shall stand in awe of the mysterious workings
of Providence, since this beats anything I ever heard of. I could see
something familiar in your looks, and after hearing your story sent for
her on a chance. That was why I dared not tell you any more than I did.
If I had only known about the history of that scar on your arm I would
have been positive. She asked me immediately about it, and when I told
her it was surely there she fainted again."

"My mother! how strange it seems. Go on please, Paul," murmured the boy,
reaching out and possessing himself of the other's hand, as though its
touch gave him assurance that this was not one of his tantalizing
dreams.

"I went in search of you, and one of the men told me he had seen you
walking down the beach, as though attracted by the light which he
believed was a lantern carried by a wrecker, perhaps the feared Jim
Dilks. I engaged him to accompany me, and securing a lantern we hurried
along. And Darry, we found you just in time, for the sea was carrying
you out. I believe that wretch must have cast you into the water just as
he did the body of the passenger."

"Then I owe my life to you--Cousin Paul?"

"If so it only squares accounts, for I guess I'd have gone under out
there on the sound only for your coming in time. But Darry, do you think
you feel strong enough to see your mother? I forced her to lie down in
the little room beyond, but she cannot sleep from the excitement."

"Yes, oh! yes. Please bring her. I shall be a long time understanding it
all, and trying to realize that I am truly awake. To think that I
really have a mother!"

Darry drew a long breath, and followed Paul with eager eyes as he went
through the doorway into the other room.

It was dawn now.

In more senses than one the day had come to Darry.

He heard low voices, and then someone came through the door, someone
whose eyes were fastened hungrily upon his face.

Darry struggled to sit up, and was just in time to feel a pair of arms
around his neck and have his poor aching head drawn lovingly upon the
bosom of the mother whom he had not known since infancy.



CHAPTER XXV

CONCLUSION


Later on, in fragments, Darry learned the whole story. It was all very
wonderful, and yet simple enough.

The old man whom he remembered so well, and who had told him to call him
uncle, was in reality a brother of his mother.

He had quarreled with his sister Elizabeth's husband, after abusing his
kindness, and to cancel what he called a debt, had actually stolen the
only child of the man he had wronged and hated.

An old story, yet happening just as frequently in these modern days as
in times of old, for men have the same passions, and there is nothing
new under the sun.

Everything that money could do was done to find the man and the little
boy he had kidnapped, but he proved too cunning for them all, and
although several times traces were found of his being at some foreign
city, when a hunt was made he had again vanished.

So the years came and went, and the child's mother was left a widow.

Hope never deserted her heart, though it must have grown fainter as time
passed on, and all traces of the wicked child-stealer seemed swallowed
up in mystery.

Paul had known of her great trouble, and it was the remarkable
resemblance of Darry to a picture he had seen of his uncle Rudolph as a
boy that first startled him.

Then came the story about the waif, and this gave him strong hopes that
by the wonderful favor of Providence he had been enabled to come across
the long-lost boy, his own cousin.

Their happiness was subdued, for there had been lives lost in the storm,
a number of passengers and crew having been swept from the deck of the
steamer by the giant waves before the coming of the life savers.

As the storm subsided by noon, our little party, increased by Abner's
presence, was enabled to cross the still rough sound in the staunch
motor-boat of Paul, and to Nancy's amazement appeared at her humble
little home.

She heard the story of Darry's great good fortune with mingled emotions,
for while she could not but rejoice with him in that he had found a
mother, still, in a way, it seemed to the poor woman as though she had
been bereaved a second time, for she was beginning to love the boy who
had come into her life to take the place of Joe.

Still, the future appeared so rosy that even Nancy could not but feel
the uplift, and her face beamed with the general joy as she bustled
around and strove to prepare a supper for her guests.

In the village they had heard news.

Jim Dilks and several of his cronies were in the hands of the United
States authorities, having been arrested on serious charges.

Later on they were convicted of using false beacons in order to lure
vessels on the reefs for wicked purposes, and of robbing the dead cast
up on the shore.

A more serious charge could not be proven, though few doubted their
innocence.

Darry, or as he was compelled to call himself now, Adrian Singleton,
being summoned to give evidence, helped to send the big wrecker to his
well-earned solitude by telling what he had seen on the night of the
last storm, and as some jewelry was found in his possession, which was
identified by the wife of a passenger who lost his life, and whose body
was washed up on the beach later on, there was no difficulty in securing
his conviction.

As for his profligate son, he was not long in following the elder Dilks
to confinement, being caught in some crime that partook of the nature of
robbery, and was sent to a reformatory, where it is to be hoped he may
learn a lesson calculated to make him a better man when he comes forth.

Since these happenings took place only a few years back, young Jim is
still in confinement; his boon companions Sim Clark and Bowser vanished
from Ashley and doubtless sought congenial surroundings in Wilmington,
where they could pursue their destiny along evil lines until the long
arm of the law reached out and brought them to book.

True to his word, Paul saw to it that Abner Peake was placed in charge
of the big farm he owned, not a great distance away from Ashley, and
here the former life saver and his family have every comfort their
simple hearts could wish for, so that they count it the luckiest day of
their lives when the cabin boy of the lost brigantine, _Falcon_, was
washed up on the beach out by the life-saving station.

About once a year Abner visits his old chums out on the beach, spending
a couple of days in their company and reviving old times, but on such
occasions they often see him sitting by himself under the shelter of
some old remnant of a former wreck, his calm blue eyes fixed in an
absent-minded fashion upon the distant level horizon of Old Ocean, and
at such times no one ventures to disturb him, for well they know that he
is holding silent communion with the spirit of poor little Joe, who went
out with the tide, and was seen no more.

Somewhere upon that broad, lonely ocean his little form has found a
resting place, and so long as he lives must Abner drop a tear in his
memory whenever he sets eyes upon his watery shroud.

But the Peakes are happy, and the twins are growing up to be buxom
children.

There is another little laughing Peake now, a boy at that, and at last
accounts Darry--it is hard to call him by any other name--heard that he
is destined to be christened Joseph Darry Peake.

After all, Paul and Darry did have a chance to spend some part of the
winter cruising together on the sound, although our hero later on
decided that he must start in to make himself worthy of the position
which was from this time to be his lot, and enrolled at an academy where
his fond mother could be near him, and have a home in which he might
find some of the happiness that fate had cheated him out of for so long.

No one who knows the youth doubts that he has a promising future before
him, and many prophesy that he will eventually make a more famous
lawyer than his father was before him.

Often Darry loves, when by himself, to look back to the days that are no
more, and at such times he thinks with gratitude of the friends whom a
kindly Providence raised up for him in his time of need.

Among these he never fails to include Captain Harley, the skipper of the
_Falcon_, whose widow Darry had communicated with while he was still
under the roof of the life saver's home, and whom he later on met
personally, as she came on to hear all he could tell about her lost
husband.

And the brave life savers on that desolate Carolina beach have not been
forgotten by the grateful mother of the boy they had adopted, for during
each winter there always comes a huge box filled with such warm clothing
as men in their arduous and dangerous profession greatly need.

At Christmas holidays Darry, Paul and Mrs. Singleton make it a point to
spend a week at Ashley, during which time they live again the stirring
scenes of the past, and find much cause for gratitude because of the
wonderful favors that were showered upon them in that locality.

THE END





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